How can you tell who you might have been?
What would have made a difference?
I often wonder who I might have been.
What would she be like?
How would life have been?
I know it would have been different. And just accepting that has been a big hurdle.
For over 40 years I lived with the mantra that I was 'lucky'. That my past hadn't affected me.
But then there is that old saying that, in my case, proved to be true.
And that is, "you can run, but you can't hide".
Of course we all have our fair share of 'what ifs?' Just like in the movie Sliding Doors.
But when brain chemistry is involved it becomes something different to synchronicity.
It's not just fate.
It becomes something that needs to be processed and understood. At least it did for me. Understanding has had a major impact on my recovery. Understanding the psychology and the physiology. Understanding that childhood trauma has changed the wiring of my brain.
And accepting that. Not fighting that. There was a reason. And that made it okay.
Apparently I have a high IQ. But I know now that hyper vigilance and the effects of trauma were always going to limit my academic abilities. I have maintained my Emotional Intelligence though. And I am more proud of my EQ than I ever would be of my IQ.
Hyper vigilance is an abnormal, heightened awareness of the environment and detection of threats. It's living your life on 'high alert'. It is constant. It is unrelenting. It is exhausting.
It is a common thought pattern of those who have been abused. Of those who have experienced trauma.
Psychologists and psychiatrists have a ranking system for degrees of damage caused by trauma. It is dependent on the age the trauma begins and the length of time it is sustained. Trauma apparently has the greatest effect on children because their brains have not fully developed.
And trauma disturbs brain development. (Which is why being told to 'get over it' or 'look at the bright side' isn't too helpful).
For more detailed information regarding the damage which occurs to the physiology of the brain a great FACT Sheet is available on the ASCA website http://www.asca.org.au/About/Resources/Impact-on-the-physiology-of-the-brain
This is a must read for teachers and anyone wanting to understand the links between trauma and mental illness (particularly self-harm, anxiety, suicide and depression).
Also in this article it sites research which establishes that there is a 113% (!!) increase in the rate of limbic (the emotional brain) abnormalities for children who experience a combination of abuse. By it's very nature sexual abuse often also includes physical abuse and emotional abuse and neglect.
Whilst this article is written within the context of abuse, it also applies to trauma. And trauma for children can include so many things. It can be being involved in or witnessing an accident, being hurt, being involved in a natural disaster, war, experiencing the loss of a significant adult either through absence or death, lack of attachment as infants and many other circumstances, both known and unknown.
Of course this is very dependent on individual circumstances. But what is certain is this.
We must look after our children. All children. We must protect our children. All children.
Our children deserve to grow to be who they were meant to be. That is a right. A right that should not be taken away by adults who perpetrate physical, emotional or sexual abuse against children. Because it doesn't stop when these children grow up. It never stops. But the great thing about having all this information and starting the conversations like the one we are having now is that things can change. With the support of trained well-informed professionals recovery is possible. We cannot delete memories or change the past but it can find it's rightful place. It can stay exactly there. In the past. No longer in the present. No longer to be carried into the future.
So the aim of this blog and this conversation is to encourage those we care about to seek help.
It is never too late to seek help.
So, back to the original question. Who might I have been? Who might you have been?
I have no idea of who I might have been. But I do know this.
I have no desire to be anyone other than who I am now. I love the life I have now.
I have fought hard for it.
My name is Karen Synnott and I am 58 years old. After a long, successful career in education I now have the time to follow some of my passions. My passions include attempting to reduce stigma around mental health issues. I do this by writing and speaking about my own personal story and experience living with a chronic mental illness. My aim is to give a message of hope and support to the many others who also experience and/or know someone with similar issues. I also hope that, by hearing my story, there may be those out there who are encouraged to seek help so that they too may manage or recover from this illness.
I have started writing a blog which can be found at www.writestrong.blogspot.com.au and I enjoy public speaking on this topic.
Aye so, another blog, a few paragraphs of wisdom, an insight into my personal experience of post traumatic stress disorder and the symptoms associated with it, the depression, the anxiety, the feelings of failure, the need to stay safe, the loneliness, the turmoil that would flow through my mind. To be honest I can’t really remember half the symptoms and to me that’s a result, another reminder of how far I have came and the victories I have achieved since my first blog in May 2013.
If you’re that interested in the symptoms and my battles you will find all my previous blogs via firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @weaselblogs. If you are suffering from PTSD or other mental health conditions they might be worth a read, they’ll let you see that your demons can be beaten, controlled, I’m not really sure what the best term to use is but I’m pretty content with where I am mentally now.
I don’t even know why I am attempting to write this blog, previously they’ve been used to get thoughts out of my head that is haunting or controlling me, stuff that I needed to say but couldn’t or found too hard to. I’ve also used them to give some practical advice to others that are going through similar but haven’t been fortunate enough to receive the professional help that I have. I also like to use them to give others hope, hope that one day things will get easier for them. Hope that they too can win their battles and find this contention mentally. I’m not going to do that with this one as I think it’s just going to get repetitive.
I think I want to use this blog to highlight the importance of being open and honest about your problems and the benefits that come with this honesty. I know it’s hard to open up, it would feel like a defeat, a sign of weakness, a failure, it honestly isn’t. It’s been the single best decision I have ever made, it’s led me to being the most confident and content mentally that I have ever been.
It took me to get to the lowest I could get to before I could admit I had a problem, I was forced into opening up and admitting my problems, sharing my fears, telling the people I love why I was acting the way I was and how my mind was out of control. Who wants to tell someone that they believe they are going crazy and that the world and everything in it scares you.
Maybe if I didn’t get that low I would never have opened up, I’d maybe never have sought the professional help that I did, I’d maybe be spending the rest of my life battling my thoughts and believing I was weaker and inferior to everyone else because I had all these irrational thoughts, I had all those social anxieties and all those fears that were stopping me from living.
I’m not saying I am the man I want to be now that I’ve dealt with my demons but what I am is content mentally and I have belief and confidence in life, myself and the world around me. My mind now works as logically as it has ever done and my thinking is calm and under control. I’m maybe lucky that PTSD can be a temporary condition; maybe mine wasn’t as severe as it can be, maybe I just got a right good psychologist, who knows but I’m in a great place mentally and I never ever thought I would get here this quickly or get here at all.
I’ve learned along the way that most people have anxieties, fears, worries, it’s perfectly normal, it becomes a problem when it takes control of you and stops you acting the way you truly want to act and when it stops you doing the stuff you love and enjoy.
When I started my psychology sessions, I decided to be as honest as I could with my psychologist, this was my chance to get everything out of my head and find out why I was acting and thinking the way I was, I wanted answers, I wanted to be normal again, I wanted to be able to compare myself to my peers and feel on equal par again. We talked through my fears and my way of thinking, Laura my psychologist explained why I was thinking what I was and acting the way I was. In that first session she diagnosed what I had, explained all the symptoms and told me how I was going to beat it.
I came out of that first session and I knew I had to be as honest with everyone in my life, friends, family, and my girlfriend at the time, my work colleagues. I didn’t know how to go about this but I needed to. I needed them to know what was going in my illogical mind. The only thing I could come up with was one of these ramblings and soon I had my first blog.
Within minutes of sharing my first blog, I received incredible messages of support and some amazing words of wisdom, people who I believed to be far stronger and greater than me would tell me about what they feared or told me they felt similar. They told me how brave I was to be as open and honest, I didn’t feel brave I just felt this feeling of pressure lifting off of me, my mind slowing down a bit, a sense of pleasure that I had took this action and it was so positive.
This is where I believe being open and honest has been a massive help to me. People couldn’t wait to offer support, an ear to let off steam into, words of wisdom or simply to tell me that I was loved and a far better person than I believed myself to be. Since that first blog I continue to be open and honest and I shall for the rest of my life. I’ve realised It’s just me that can make me feel inferior, only me, can deal with my thinking and keep it under control.
I believe if I am going to stay on this path, where I am positive and living the way I want to live I need to continue being as open and honest. The lies I told to stay safe when I was ill will probably frustrate me for a while yet, that’s why now I am so honest. When am having a bad day, which has been very rare, I’ll talk about it, I try to share the wisdom and knowledge I have gained from my experiences to help others.
I ask you that if you are toiling open up and you will see the love and wisdom people can give you. The ability to stay connected and talk to your friends and family is part of the solution in terms of things getting easier and better for you. I’ve managed to help a few other people who have issues with my honesty and that’s what it’s all about, giving that wee bit back and breaking down the stigma. You soon realise that you aren’t alone, depression and anxiety are more common than you imagine, it’s just some people hide it better than others or have the skills to keep it under control.
Anyway, I’m not really sure I’ve achieved what I wanted to with this blog and I don’t feel it’s as strong as my others but maybe that’s a sign of where I am and how positive I am feeling. It’s hard for me to recall the feelings, the fears, the symptoms, it all just seems like a journey that I was meant to take in order for me to help others and learn so much about myself, love and life.
It has been two years since I got discharged from my psychology sessions, in that time I’ve completed my first year at university studying psychology and I’ve regained my life and had so much fun with friends and family. Life can change in moments, my attack and breakdown demonstrates that but it can also change for the better. That moment I tweeted my first blog was a massive help to me, the moment I walked into that room for my first session my life started improving again. What’s the worst thing that can happen if you try opening up? I guarantee you it probably won’t be as bad as you think. The human race can be an understanding and caring lot when they need to be. I rely on them when I do have my moments of anxious thoughts, they don’t happen that often but when they do, I’m not long in discussing my irrational and illogical thoughts.
Anyway keep on keeping on
Love and peace
Kevin I sufferes from PTSD and got a bit lost for a while. He's now trying to spread the word regarding mental health and breaking the stigma. Connect with Kevin on Twitter: @weaselblogs
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