I left my career in animal welfare almost 5 years ago. Since then, I have done A LOT of work to heal not only my body, but my heart and soul, which suffered the most trauma. It’s only been last few years, mores specifically the last 6 months, that I have done some real healing around my trauma.
The other night I was having a conversation with a friend’s husband, and he told me where he had grown up. On my drive home, I was thinking about that conversation, and then remember the town he was from. I.GOT.TRIGGERED.
My very first large animal hoarding cases had taken place in this town. I suddenly began to spiral into a panic attack, my mind racing thinking of all the things that may have been missed, the animals we couldn’t save, wondering if that person has accumulated more animals, and on, and on.
Rather than fight the panic attack, I sat with it and allowed the unpleasantness to settle into my body. Letting the sadness, pain, guilt and shame to rise up and be, then it released. This is much like the process I did in the journal entry I wrote below, after being triggered by seeing a video online. I had shared the journal entry back when I wrote it. I have found writing to be so healing on this journey. The process of tuning in and acknowledging what is going on in my body, identifying it, writing it down, gives the pain a physical presences outside of my myself. Writing allows it to escape from body.
*Warning this is a journal entry I captured from being triggered into an anxiety attack by a Facebook post. I just began writing as I felt the anxiety coming on and thought it would be healing if I shared. This was a raw emotional moment of an old wound that I had been pushing away for a very long time, which was in desperate need of healing. I have included the post that trigger me in a link below. I wouldn’t normally share an article like this because I don’t feel that I need to flood people with tragic photos and stories, especially from the animal welfare field, because most of my friends are still in that field and they are bombarded by this everyday. But I feel this is a healing opportunity for me and the video does have a happy ending. But please be advised in my entry I do share some details of a case that might be triggering to someone who has experienced trauma.
~August 30, 2016. I don’t know if it’s because that Mercury is in retrograde, if I’m taking on other’s energy, or if I’m just out of alignment, but my anxiety has been through the roof over the past several days. I’ve been taking time to help manage it, and doing a lot of self care. But today an article came up on my Facebook feed that opened the flood gates. I know there are many unresolved issues I have around my past work in animal welfare, and this post of Facebook really triggered that today. The post, was of someone finding a puppy in a plastic bag, tossed out like trash on the side of a road.
After leaving my job as a Humane Agent, I suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. One of my biggest trigger to anxiety besides the phone ringing, was seeing trash bags on the side of the road. One of my cases involved the beating, sodomizing and killing of 3 dogs, that were then dumped on the side of the road. It has only been the past 3 years that I have been able to drive by a trash bag on the side of the road without stopping to open it. I didn’t want anyone to know how effected I was by this, so when I was driving with someone, I would note where the bag was and go back to check later. Today, I don’t have to stop or go back to check, but I am aware of the physiological effects it has on my body. My muscle tense up, my breathing shallows, and many times I hold my breath as I pass a trash bag on the road. My mind races, wondering if there is an animal in the bag.
As I write this now I can feel the tightness in my muscles, and my breath becoming shallow, tears welling up in my eyes. But this is a chance for me to heal. So that is why I am writing this. I WANT to heal this. So I will sit with these feeling, as uncomfortable as it is. I will let the tears flow.
This feeling is so uncomfortable, and I want to get up and find something to do to busy my mind and push this down. But I sit. Feeling the empty pit in my stomach growing. My heart breaking opening as I remember collecting those dogs off the side of the road. Their bodies badly beaten. Opening the bags to reveal the white and liver colored Britney spaniel, it’s body bloody and bruised. I remember being very disconnected with my emotions. Looking at their lifeless bodies and being so focused on collecting every piece of evidence I could, so I could find out who did this. I did not cry, I remained stoic, professional, and completed my job. I shut of my emotions to carry on the work I was doing. Most of the time the only emotion I felt was anger. And I’m sure that most people that work in animal welfare would say the same.
My chest feels so tight. My teeth clench and my mouth becomes dry. My palms start to sweat and my fingers are cold. The tear are really starting to flow. I cry now for the lives of those dogs. I cry for the pain and suffering they endured. I cry for myself, that I had to witness such monstrous torture. I cry because a job like this is needed. I cry for the person(s) that did this, because of how tortured their soul would have to be to do this to an innocent creature. And then I feel the anger palpating in my neck, and my hand and teeth clenching, my breath is short, and my skin tingles, especially on my face and around my mouth. Perhaps a physical manifestation of not voicing my anger and hurt. My mind starts racing through all the possibilities of how something like this could happen? Who could have done such horrible things? Then I start second guessing my management of this case. Did I collect the evidence correctly? Was there something I miss, or got left in the woods? Did I ask the right questions? Talk to enough people? I am sobbing uncontrollably.
I sit with this pain and discomfort for what seem like an eternity, but it has maybe been 30 minutes. I begin to feel my body soften and then release of anger and guilt. I am beginning to feel the tension release in my muscles and my lungs can expand to take a full breath.
I go back to April of 2006, to the girl who wanted to save the world. I stand next to her as we look at the tailgate of her truck on the side of the road. Starring at the muddy trash bag encasing the beaten body of an innocent dog. I tell her, “I am sorry.” I am sorry for not protecting you by setting boundaries. I am sorry for not providing you the coping mechanisms needed to do this gurgling work every day. I am sorry I did not take care of your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs. I honor, recognize, and love your heart and spirit. I honor the work you did, the sacrifices you made to help save the lives of animals, and to help change the lives of people. Thank you. Thank you, for all that you did.
I also give a moment of gratitude to the Sheriff Detective that took me seriously and assisted me with getting evidence to the crime lab, and the police officer from one of the surrounding towns that tried to get finger prints. I give thanks to the supportive colleagues and supervisor I had at that time. They were the only ones who truly understood the struggles of my daily duties. They struggled along with me. In those days it was so hard to relate to the outside world. My days were full of abuse and neglect. Everyday, no matter how hard I tried, I felt overwhelmed by my case load, like I was a failure, inadequate and incompetent. I continue to sit with these feelings and allow them to flow through my body. It does not feel good. It hurts, it’s uncomfortable, it’s dark, it’s empty, but I’m healing.
I hold space and honor the memory of these dogs that where so violently tortured. I surround their memory in compassion, and send it into the light of the universe be consumed by eternal love. I forgive myself for not being able to find out who did this. And I forgive the person who did this to these beautiful creatures. I pray that your soul has healed since this happened, and that you have received the help you needed. I hope that you have found a way to heal those dark and dangerous spaces in you mind. I send you light, love and peace.
~I am freed.