Hello Jingle Jammers!
It is surreal to me that this is our 9th year! I remember meeting with my friends in my living room in 2011 and talking about all the things we would do if we had our own race. We talked about having cheerleaders, entertainment on every mile, a costume contest, something Christmas-themed, a dope swag bag and an EPIC Overall Male and Female prize package. I had no idea that this many years later, we would be able to do everything we planned and the community would embrace us with open arms. More importantly, we are able to bring domestic violence awareness to the community and bring to light some domestic violence-related issues that are rarely talked about.
This summer, my husband and I went to Thailand for my 40th birthday. While we were on the island of Koh Samui, we visited the Samui Elephant Sanctuary. The goal of Samui Elephant Sanctuary is to provide a happy home in nature for the herd where they are free to express their natural instincts and receive the care and respect they deserve. The elephants in their care have previously endured a hard life working long hours for tourist’s entertainment or in the logging industry (read: beaten and tortured); a stark contrast to the dignified, peaceful lives they now enjoy. As we walked the grounds of the sanctuary, we were told horrific stories of physical abuse these majestic creatures endured. They had been starved, neglected, tied up, and beaten. One elephant had her eyes gouged out because she protested her master cutting off her tusks. Almost all of the elephants at the sanctuary were presenting symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Watching the displays of PTSD in the elephants surprisingly triggered my own abuse-derived PTSD. I spent the final hours of the tour hidden in a bathroom crying and using the coping mechanisms I learned in therapy to combat having a PTSD episode.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape or other violent personal assault. People with PTSD have intense, disturbing thoughts and feelings related to their experience that last long after the traumatic event has ended. PTSD is extremely common in victims of domestic violence. Unfortunately, many victims of domestic violence who have PTSD remain undiagnosed and suffer from PTSD symptoms without knowing what they are and how to cope.
What is a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder trigger? Triggers can include sights, sounds, smells, or thoughts that remind you of the traumatic event in some way. They bring back strong memories. Domestic Violence survivors may feel like he or she is living through his or her abuse all over again. Some PTSD triggers are obvious, such as seeing a news report of an assault. Others are less clear. For example, a trip to an elephant sanctuary. Knowing your triggers can help you better cope with your PTSD.
What is a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder episode? It can take many forms, actually. Sometimes it looks like a panic attack: a feeling of intense fear, with shortness of breath, dizziness, sweating, nausea and racing heart. A PTSD episode can also look like depression: persistent sad, anxious or empty mood; loss of interest in once-enjoyed activities; feelings of guilt and shame; or hopelessness about the future.
How do I help someone who is a domestic violence survivor with PTSD? Domestic violence survivors with PTSD need your presence and your patience. He or she will need you to understand that while he or she is going through a highly stressful and anxious time in their life, you need to be their constant reassurance and that may seem taxing on your emotions and your time. Please be patient with us. We don’t know how to rush our healing.
Please do not push us to talk about our trauma. We will talk about it with you when we are ready and we will only share what we are comfortable sharing. Talking about our trauma and abuse can be a trigger for a PTSD episode so please protect us from that.
Relationships and trust may be difficult for us but, once again, please have patience. With therapy and a good support system of friends and family, we can learn to trust again and be vulnerable in relationships but that will take time. Please don’t take it personal when we need space and seclude ourselves. It is fear that drives our emotions and sometimes we have a hard time communicating that to you.
When someone hears of PTSD they may think someone suffers a short flashback or an elongated panic attack. But the truth is that there’s so much more to PTSD. Episodes are never short, and the effect of an episode has on a person lasts for days afterward. These symptoms are the after-math manifestations following his or her abuse.
It has been 12 years since my last physical abuse and even after years of therapy and an incredibly supportive husband, I still cope with residual symptoms of my abuse. I developed insomnia which I still suffer from and I have to constantly protect myself from triggers, like watching movies or television shows about domestic violence. That brings me to my final revelation, my therapist at the time suggested that I find a way to channel my energy to create something positive from the negative. And that, Jingle Jammers, is how Jingle Jam 10K was born.
Jingle Jam 10K is our annual gift to the victims and survivors of domestic violence, their friends and family members, and to those who did not survive his or her abuse. Jingle Jam 10K is also one of the most vital components of my own healing and I cannot thank you enough for being a part of it.
With Warmest Regards,