This was a post I wrote on March 19, 2016, almost two and a half years after leaving direct animal care work for good. A Facebook memory (which I attached at the bottom) triggered me yesterday with a photo of another dog similar to the one I wrote about in this blog post. My post trigger one of the volunteer who worked with that dog and the one I wrote about in the blog. And her post reminded me of this blog I wrote. Even after all the triggering, it was a good way to reflect on all the work I have done to heal, and how much more work I have to do. It’s still a struggle for me not to be apart of the animal welfare world any more.
The other day I was at my favorite children’s consignment shop looking for potty training supplies for my toddler. In the midst of strollers, clothes and toys, there was a woman I recognized browsing the aisles. I was instantly taken back almost 4 years ago. It was everything in me not to run up and wrap my arms around her, but she may not have remembered me, or she may not have the same feelings I have about our past encounter.
You see, in my past life I spent 15 years working in animal welfare and I met this women at the tail end of that career. Throughout those 15 years I practiced no self-care or self-love. I worked with every last ounce of strength, compassion and conviction I had in me advocating for animals.
After spending several years as an animal cruelty investigator, I thought the opportunity as a kennel manager at the local humane society would offer some relief and sanity in my life, but I was so wrong.
This woman at the consignment shop was one of those angels in human form, that would occasionally walk through the shelter doors to remind you that there were still good people in the world. One summer day she came to my shelter and adopted a dog that was challenging to place. The dog was a middle aged hound, with a high pray drive, very little focus or interest in people, and a loud bark.
This woman and her family took a chance on this dog. They spoiled and lavished him with love, attention, toys, and long walks. They included him in all their family activities. After a few weeks, he became very reactive and possessive of his things and a bite occurred. Even with training, all the love they had, and all the forgiveness in their hearts, they could not risk the safety of their children. They sadly brought him back to the shelter. My team and I conducted extensive temperament testing, and had a behavioralist work with him. Due to the severity of the situation and his history, we found it best to make the hard decision to euthanize him. We included the family in the decision, which was hard for them, my team and me. Honestly, it would have been easier not to tell them anything. But it was the right thing to do, to give them the opportunity to grieve and have closure. This family had such grace, compassion, and forgiveness, not just for the situation but for my team and me.
During my time at the shelter I struggled with guilt and feelings of failure everyday. Was I making the right decisions? Was I being an effective leader for my team? Was I doing enough? I sometimes felt I had a very different view of rescue after spending so much time as an animal control officer and cruelty investigator. I spent many hours in the hospital photographing and taking statements from adults and children that had been severely bitten. My job at the shelter was not only to advocate for the animals but to protect the community as well. Needless to say I was always second guessing myself, full of guilt and doubt, and could not look at myself in the mirror.
I left the animal welfare field a little over 3 years ago. After a lot of self care, soul searching, and healing, I am at a place that I love myself again. I am proud of the time I spent advocating and caring for animals. Did I made mistakes? Of course! I did the best I could do in the situation and with the resources I had.
So maybe seeing this women really wasn’t meant for me to have a face-to-face encounter, but a gentle reminder to honor my years advocating for those without voices and to continue to advocate for myself. She was a reminder to continue to be compassionate and gentle to myself.
It doesn’t matter what career you’re in, the challenges of every day life can make you feel like your barely keeping your head above water. We all need to cut ourselves some slack and give ourselves forgiveness. We would do that for a friend, why do we find it so hard to do it for ourselves? Let go of the guilt of not being able to do it all and practice self-care on a regular basis. Self care is not something you do only on the weekends, it’s something you need to do every day in little increments. Even it’s it’s 5 deep breaths. Find the things that make your soul giggle with joy and do them often. Get creative, play, dance or just take a moment of silence to honor your humanity.
Thank you to that human angel that came into my life not once, but twice. Thank you for not only taking a chance on an old shelter dog and giving him the best days of his life, but for the reminder of how far I’ve come. I paid for my potty training supplies and walked out of the store with a bag full of elastic waisted pant and undies, a heart full of joy and a smile on my face.
I have been craving chocolate lately. I don’t normally deprive myself from what I am craving. Since cleaning up my diet and tuning into my body, cravings have become an indicator that I am lacking something in my diet. I try to figure out what it is I’m lacking, then eat the healthiest nutrient dense version of what it is, to satisfy my need. However, I am doing a 28 Day Cleanse, so this is ALL mental.
I decided to whipped up a cleanse friendly treat. BUT there was a bit of a casualty…. my beloved Vitamix, Zippy (yes I named my Vitamix) crashed!! We’ve shared 6 long years together. I am truly crushed! She seems only to have enough oomph to mix up liquids. I have used Zippy every day for the past 6 years, unless I was traveling and sometimes she even traveled with me.
I was able to complete my mission, however the batter wasn’t as smooth as I like it to be, but it tasted just as good!!! These Donut Holes go really well with a Bullet Proof Chaga Tea!
There’s a link below to print of a PDF of the recipe.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Combine dates, black beans, chocolate protein powder, pumpkin seed butter, sea salt, and cacao powder in the bowl of your food processor. Process until smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary.
Roll the dough into 1-inch balls, then roll in unsweetened coconut flakes and place on the covered baking sheet.
Refrigerate at least 1 hour to set. Enjoy! 3 balls equal one serving.
October is INTENSE!!! For me has a whole lot of energy! It holds space for a lot of wonderful things, but for some reason, it’s the time when I dig down and work on my shadow side. Perhaps it’s because October represents a significant seasonal change. The waning of the warm sun, the retreat of the wildlife, the death of vegetation. October holds the energetic space of death and ending. A time to turn inward and retreat. For me it holds a lot of traumatic memories in my a personal life and from former animal welfare career.
This is sweet girl was one of them. Seeing her photo pop up earlier this month on Facebook opened some unresolved feelings and deep wounds. This dog was my breaking point and the realization that it was time for me to leave animal welfare because I was so toxic and so damaged. I felt guilt, shame, hopeless, grief, and really pissed off, ALL of the time. I was withdrawing from the world, yelling at my family, and stewing in my own negativity. BUT I got up every morning at 4 am to put in a 10-12 hour work day, bringing critters home over night that needed extra care, sleeping 2-4 hours a night. Then up to do it all over again with a fake smile and a broken heart. I was cruising through the world on auto pilot. The joy in life was swallowed up in the dark grungy pit of darkness I kept myself in- a self induced prison. I wore it like a badge of honor, with a sense of entitlement, that I had the right to be angry and sad because I was taking care of society’s stupidity, bad choices, and lack of compassion and commitment to the animals they had failed. Sure, I had every reason to feel this way. But living in this vortex of negativity lead to a serious health crisis.
I loved this girl deeply and wanted more than anything to keep her. But a tragic accident that happened at the shelters “under my watch” took her life. It was something that could have been prevented, in fact, I had brought the issue up a few times, but there’ were always other priorities.
After that incident I no longer had it in me to continue to fight. I felt I could not do my job effectively. I could not lead my team and be in integrity with myself while working against a broken system within the shelter, and the animal welfare field. I was broken too! I carried so much of the trauma of the animals I rescued, the trauma of the people I worked with, along with my own suitcase full of hurt, neglect and pain from my childhood. I never allowed the space to recognize or process the trauma I was exposed to everyday. Nor didn’t think it was important enough (at that time) to do so. I thought that would show weakness and failure on my part, if I couldn’t “handle it.” Perhaps I was too deep in my own anger and playing the victim card, that no one could possibly understand how I was feeling. The truth is, there WERE and ARE so many that do. I suffered 15 years of not knowing how to manage or live a life while working in animal welfare.
Does this sound familiar to you?
For those of you that work in animal welfare, or in a job that requires you to take care of others, put your life at risk, or are exposed to trauma regularly! Please, please, please…. take care of YOU! You can only show up and give your best to the world, if you take the best care of yourself! Self-care is not just about massages, pedicures, glitter night with friends, but those activities can definitely be included in your self-care plans. Self-care is making sure you are addressing your basic needs. That includes your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual wellness. What are you doing to practice self-care? Are you eating real food and drinking clean water? Are you supporting your digestion and adrenals? Are you getting enough sleep? Are you experiencing joy and playing? Are you mindful of any toxic and negative thoughts and doing something to process and change them? How are you showing up in the world?
Are you an animal advocate that needs help with creating a self-care plan? Do you need help with knowing how to eat to support your body while working in a chaotic and stressful environment? Feel free to reach out to me and we can chat about your needs. firstname.lastname@example.org
YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!!! There is help, all you have to do is reach out! And here are some great resource for help and support.
My dear and brilliant friend Jessica Dolce, offers amazing webinars, online classes, and resource on dealing with compassion fatigue. You can find her HERE
One of my very dear friends passed away a few days ago. He had been battling cancer for a while, and I had the opportunity to see him when he was sent to the hospital near my work a month and a half ago. We live 5 hours away from each other, and our lives went in different directions many years ago, when he got married and I moved away. But we still kept in touch via Facebook and over coffee dates when I was in town.
The week before he passed away, he had been on my mind a lot. So I sent him a message just to say I was thinking of him. A few days later I got a garbled message back from him, telling me, he was in hospice care and he would write later. I immediately wrote back letting him know I was praying for him and how much his friendship had meant to me all these years. But he didn’t write back. Thankfully Facebook tells you when someone has seen your message.
I also got to say the same things to him in the hospital that day I paid him a visit. It had been at least a year or maybe even longer since I had see him. But at that visit we reminisce about old times, movies nights, driving around northern Maine listening to Jimmy Buffett for hours, taking the class to get our motorcycle license, the time I helped him move and clean out his apartment…. I should have gotten the “Friend of the Year” award for the gallons of change I had to carry! I got to tell him how grateful I was for the time he stayed with me after a break up with a crazy ex-boyfriend, whom I had to get a restraining order on. And how if not for his generosity, I would not have been able to attend a semester of college, which I’m sure had I left then, I would not have completed my degree. He always had my back when I worked as a Humane Agent. Whenever I had concerned about some place or someone I received complaint on, he was always there to look them up and let me know if I should go with law enforcement. And he always checked in to make sure I got home safely. I have a lifetime of precious memories of this amazing man, that I am so grateful for.
Although my heart is burdened with such great sadness from the loss of my sweet friend, I feel amazingly blessed to have had someone like him always having my back, protect me, and be an unconditional friend. The world was a better place because he lived. I am a better person, because he was my friend.
I am so very grateful that I had the chance to say good-bye and tell him what was in my heart. I have suffered the loss of MANY important people in my life. Most of them suddenly. And death of a loved one is so hard to navigate, especially when its sudden or unexpected. I was reflecting today on the losses I have suffered, and two that I have the most “peace” with, is his and the passing of my mother’s mother.
In both of these losses, I have experienced a sense of closure. With his, I got to tell him how I felt and what he meant to me. The same with my Gram. I was there with my family surrounding her with love until her last breath. And I was there to bare witness when her soul left her body. The weekend before she went into the hospital, with what we thought was the flu. I was suppose to cut and perm her hair as I did every other month. I promised her when she was home I would do her hair. But she didn’t go home. I kept my promise though.
One of the most humbling, sacred, spiritual and magical experience I have ever had, was doing my grandmother’s hair for the funeral. To be completely honest, I was TERRIFIED of doing it. Our society makes death a very scary and dark thing. But once I got over the fear of walking into the funeral home and with the kind support of the funeral director, it was a beautiful experience. One that had such an profound effect on my life and the way I view death.
What I have learned about death, is that it’s not something to keep behind closed doors. It’s not something to be feared. It’s inevitable. Death is something thing to be discussed and by doing so, it will feel less awkward and frightening. It’s hard not knowing what to say, worrying about saying the wrong thing or upsetting someone. Be gentle with yourself, be open to have the conversation, and say what’s in your heart.
Death is SAD and HEART WRENCHING. Losing a loved one, is hard, REALLY hard. Don’t suffer with the regret of not having the chance to tell those you love how important they are too you, and how much you love them. No one is promised tomorrow.
The one thing I love about Facebook (and probably the only thing), is the memory feature. I do enjoy being reminded of what I was doing on the same day years before. Today I didn’t need reminding.
Seven years ago today, I said “good-bye” to the Animal Welfare Program which had become my identity, and my passion, or I should say obsession.
There is a fine line between passion and obsession. Passion fulfills, energizes and gives you joy. Obsession is ego driven, drains your energy and leaves you feeling depleted.
After leaving my position as a Humane Agent, I stayed in the animal welfare field by taking a job as a kennel manger at one of the largest shelter in Maine. I LOVED working with a team and being connected with those that had the same mission I did. But I hadn’t dealt with the trauma I had suffered from the years of conducting animal cruelty investigations. At the shelter I had experienced a whole other level of trauma, and most of it ended up crated in my living room, kitchen, and bedrooms night after night.
I pushed through 2 more years in the animal welfare field, a year at the shelter, then another year at IDEXX Laboratories, until it became too unbearable and I really feared for my well being.
I HAD to learn the art of Self-Care.
During my time working in Animal Welfare, if someone told me that I needed to practice self-care, I would have told them to “go pound sand.” I did not have the time or the finances to get a mani/pedi, nor would that be practical in my line of work. My hands were bitten, scratched, bleached and smeared with the joys of parasitic poop every day. (so maybe a manicure would have been helpful).
The bottom line is, self-care is NOT getting manicures and massages. That can be part of you self-care practice, if that is something you ENJOY! Self-care is much deeper than that.
Self-care are the practices and activities you do to take care of your physical, emotional, and mental well being. Practicing self-care reduces stress and anxiety. If you can’t afford a massage or manicure, or are repulsed by the idea of being touched by a stranger, it will only add to your stress. You have to find what feels right for you. And for most of us, we NEED to put it on our calendars!!!
For me, the most important practice I incorporated was being still. Call it mediation or what have you, just sitting in silence and checking in to see how I was feeling, was extremely helpful. For years, when I wasn’t working 50-60 hours a week, I would find things to keep me busy, especially when I felt anxious. Instead of checking in with myself to find out what I was anxious about and addressing it in a healthy manner, I ignored it with “busy” work.
The foundation to self-care is boundary setting. This include setting boundaries on how we interact with others, but more importantly how we interact and treat our self. How can you set boundaries when you don’t even know how you feel or what you want? So being still, checking in with yourself, and allowing time to process your experiences and feelings, really helps you identify where you need to create boundaries.
For me it looked like this:
I got a good therapist, which really helped me stay accountable to my bullshit. So no excuses, created plans, and worked through the emotions and feelings of all that I witnessed. My first experience in therapy in was a disaster. I basically ended up spending most of our sessions teaching the therapist how to train her dog. My next time around, I did my research and asked a lot of questions. It’s really important to feel safe with the person you are working with.
For every negative thought I had about myself, I needed to find 3 things about myself that were positive. When your job requires you to always be responding to disasters, it’s really hard to feel accomplished and/or successful because you know there’s another disaster waiting for your attention. There were a lot of times those disasters couldn’t be saved. This left a dark emptiness in my heart most of the time and feeling like a failure.
I create the space for more alone time, to check in with myself and process what I was feeling. Most of the time I was just reacting to the world around me without thought or intention. My alone times included a long drives, walks, hot baths or anything that didn’t require me to be taking care of someone or something.
I didn’t say “Yes” right away, and said “No” if that was immediately how I felt. I am a people pleasers, and I genuinely like to help people, but I have a tendency to say “Yes,” without looking at my schedule. Leaving me overwhelmed, exhausted and angry, trying to accomplish all that I had committed too.
Healthy nutrient dense foods and lots of water. In struggling with my weight my whole life, I reached a point that realized I order to have a healthy body, I needed to support a healthy body. Starving myself, binging and purging, eating food in wrappers – laced with gmos and chemicals, and going to drive-thru was not self-care. This required getting rid of processed foods, sugar, gluten and eating organic foods. Eating foods rich in vitamins and minerals also helps with relieving anxiety and depression.
Movement everyday, even if it was simple stretches. Movement was the key to pushing the trauma I experienced, out of my body. There were days I couldn’t get out of bed and face the world, but I would lay in bed practicing yoga poses. Now I find dancing is most healing for me.
Journaling. I can sometimes spend hours writing. But when I first got started I would just write everything that came to mind. Even if it didn’t make sense or sounded silly. A lot of the time I would just grab a piece of paper, write down the a list of things I didn’t get done, or perhaps a “To Do List” that I knew wasn’t humanly possible to complete in the day, then light it on fire. There was something powerful in not only releasing those thoughts from my mind, but then burning them up. Plus, no one would ever see it!
Getting good quality sleep! During my time as a cruelty investigator, I slept maybe 3 hours a night if I was lucky. Lack of sleep can quickly lead to mental health issues, especially anxiety and depression. Sleep should be a priority in your self-care plan.
Practicing creativity. For me, this could be dancing, writing, painting, sewing, drawing, baking, whatever sparks my interest. It felt healing just to create something.
Spending time with people I LOVE. Working in Animal Welfare, I saw the scum bags of humanity most days. I forgot that most people are really good, kind, compassion, caring folks. If you work in a field where you are always encountering challenging people, it is so important to surround yourself with good people. Even if they don’t “get” your work. This is were I failed. I was so consumed by my own misery that I felt like I couldn’t relate to anyone, or they wouldn’t understand what I did or how much my heart hurt. The truth is, unless you live in a rainbow bubble your whole life, EVERYONE experiences trauma at some point in their lives. Though the experience of our trauma is individualized, the feelings of anger, loss, mistrust, violation, sadness, despair, and so on, are intensely felt. And it’s not a contest of who’s trauma is worse or more important. We are ALL hurting, and it’s extremely healing to share our story with others that are safe, kind and compassionate.
Self-care is NOT a luxury. IT IS A BASIC HUMAN RIGHT! By not practicing self-care, you rob others of experiencing the best version of you.
I am still sorting through some of the trauma I experienced while working in Animal Welfare. There were also some REALLY AMAZING memories as well. I am thankful for the experiences because it taught me what self-Care really looks like, and now I am better equipped to show up in the world as my best self. I’m so grateful for that.
I got 4 chickens a few weeks ago. I knew I would enjoy having them, but I seriously have become a CRAZY CHICKEN LADY. Yes, I’ve even looked at sweaters for my chickens online!! They are the first thing I think about when I wake up, and the last thing I think about when I go to bed. I LOVE my chickens!!
My girls have been good to me, producing 3-4 eggs per day. So needless to say, we’ve been eating a lot of eggs and been giving some away. The other day I did a trade with a friend. She has some beautiful collard greens she traded me for some eggs. I knew I wanted to use them to make a wrap of some kinds, so I decided to put a spin on egg salad and it came out delicious!
Avocado Egg Salad
4 Hard boiled eggs mashed
1 Avocado mashed
1 Tablespoon of Avocado Oil or Olive Oil
4-5 Sprigs of fresh Dill
2-3 chopped scallions
Salt and Pepper to taste
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Simple as that! You could eat this on it’s own, in bread, on crackers or like I did, wrapped in greens and added some tomato.
An easy nutrient dense meal, which was great when I needed a quick lunch. It has been so hot here, I haven’t have much of an appetite. This has been the prefect meal to enjoy on those hot days. Especially when you don’t really feel like chopping up veggies for a salad or using the oven.
Do you have a favorite egg recipe? Feel free to it share below.
Seven years ago today, I took an extreme measure to what I thought would regain control of my health. What I thought would be the cure to my increasing weight and what I thought would bring me to a place of self-love. That was NOT the case. Up until 5 years ago, I had always equated my weight to my health. And up until seven years ago, I was considered morbidly obese. = UNHEALTHY
Seven year ago I had gastric bypass surgery. I entered this world of weight loss surgery (WLS) on April 26, 2011 after attending an informational meeting explaining how the surgery was done, what tests and other specialist I would need to see and in about a year’s time, I would be having surgery. From the time I was sixteen, until I was 34 I had used every diet plan, work out program, hours at the gym, ran 2-5 miles a day, tried every weight loss supplement and drugs on the market to try to control my weight. I was also hiding a very serious eating disorder.
I met with surgeon the week following the informational meeting and was scheduled to see the dietitian, do a sleep study, have an endoscope, and meet with a psychologist.
At this point in my life, I was vegan and for several periods of time, I was a raw vegan. I which meant I only ate plant foods in their raw form. I thought by eating a vegan diet, I was being healthy. But most vegan diets consist of eating processed food, lots of grains and lots of fruit, which is a whole lot of sugar! I was really missing some essential nutrients by following this diet for several years.
Since I had no comorbidities, what was usually a year long wait for surgery, turned into less than 4 months. It was at this time I began my dive into learning about holistic health to treat the other problems I was having. Not only was my weight an issue, but I was battling anxiety, depression, insomnia, along with a host of other symptoms. I began researching ways to help with the laundry list of aliments I had. I believe at that time they were related to my weight, and by losing weight they would go away. I now know that my weight was just another symptom, and these problems were cause by the enormous amount of stress from my job, as well as the lack of nutrients in my high sugar vegan diet (mostly smoothies and juices).
At the time I had WLS, I was working as an animal cruelty investigator. I was on the road for about 10-15 hours a day, many times knocking on doors of violent criminals with no way to protect myself, eating in my truck, not sleeping, suffering from panic attacks, binge eating and purging. I was a mess!
The first few months after WLS was a real struggle. Nothing prepares you for the physical or the emotional challenges you face. From the moment woke up, I knew this was the wrong choice for me. I knew my weight wasn’t a health condition, it was a symptom of something much deeper going on in my body. But the surgery was done and there was no turning back. I just needed to figure out how to heal my body and get my health back. I knew this surgery was not going to be the answer to heal myself.
The first year after WLS I lost weight, A LOT of weight. I lost over 100 lbs. My highest recorded weight I was 290 lbs, which is when I went for my first appointment with the WLS surgeon . I know the year prior to that I was over 300 lbs. It’s shocking to me to think about, and even more terrifying to share. After the surgery I was down to 145 lbs, which for my large 5’7″ frame, was really too thin. I was sick all the time and had no energy due to the lack of nutrients my body was able to absorb. I was a mess physically and emotionally. I felt guilty and ashamed of having the surgery. Feeling as though I was a failure because I couldn’t get my life and health under control. As the years went on, and I became a health coach, I felt like a fraud.
I followed the “rules” that the dietitian had given me for the first year, but after studying and researching, I quit the low fat, high protein, low carb diet. The biggest improvement I saw was after incorporating lots of good quality fat into my diet. My skin, nails and hair improved. I had more energy, my mood swings diminished, and overall I felt better. This help with vitamins absorption. Having a compromised digestive system that struggles to absorb nutrients, then taking fat out the diet, really makes it a challenge to absorb fat soluble vitamins. I began implementing an ancestral diet, asking myself what would my grandparents or great grandparent eat?
My diet became simple: locally source grass-fed meats, organic produce, raw dairy, non GMOs and Gluten Free foods. I learned how to fuel my body and because of that, I was able to heal my gut and maintain a healthy weight for the past 7 years. I have had my challenges with weight gain after surgery, but when I practice self-care, which the first practice is good nutrient dense food, my weight is not an issue. Will I ever be posing in the next Sports Illustrated? Haha, NOPE! But I am happy with my weight and comfortable in my own skin. That for me is true wellness.
There very few studies providing data on the long term weight loss success of WLS patients. All the studies I have read, report that more research is needed. I can tell you of my personal experience, along with working with others that have had WLS. WLS is not the answer. Most of the people I know, including myself that have had WLS, after 2 or more years, regain some of the weight. Many of them regain it all and then some. For myself, I no longer have any kind of restriction as I once did for the amount of food I can consume. Believe me, I can eat a whole Otto’s Gluten Free Pulled Pork and Mango pizza all by myself. What has been the key to my success is putting my health first, by feeding my body with nutrient dense food, checking with myself, spending time in nature, with loved ones and moving my body in ways that I enjoy, advocating for myself and knowing my limits, and the biggest thing of all setting boundaries. That includes with others, myself, the hours I work do, what I put on my to-do list, and so on. Boundaries keep us healthy.
As anyone that has undergone any kind of weight loss surgery knows, it’s NOT the easy way out. It’s not a decision I regret, but a decision that if I had to do over again, I would make different choices. I would have first found a functional medicine doctor to get to the root cause of my weight gain and inability to loose weight, to treat my adrenal fatigue and hormonal imbalance, my sleep issues, and anxiety, which were ALL related. I would have run a complete thyroid panel, tested for parasites, viruses and gut infections. I would have nourished my body with nutrient dense foods, stopped working out like a maniac, and incorporated gentle movement. I would give my body time to rest and recover from the constant flow of adrenaline and process the trauma I was witnessing on a daily basis from my job. I would be gentle with myself… All the things I practice now because of what I have learned from this journey, so for that I am grateful.
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.
It’s been almost 5 months since I had to say good-bye to my beloved best friend Daisy. My heart has been too broken to write about it. I’m still deep in the grieving process, but I wanted to honor my sweet girl’s memory.
Daisy May… next to my kids, was the greatest love of my life. I honor our friendship, love and the deep devotion she had for me. Daisy walked me through the grieving process so many times, and even walked me through her own transition from this earthly plane. I truly believe that her slow decline in health was her way of preparing me for this heart aching loss. Had it been quick and abrupt, I couldn’t have handled the trauma. She had always been my greatest protector, friend and guide!
We spent lot of our last days with our old girl just laying around the meditation room or out in the hammock. She spent most of her time sleeping, and Elliot was never far from her side. Elliot and I slept down stairs, since Daisy couldn’t climb the stairs any more. It’s was nice sleeping in the meditation room with the big picture windows and the door open. Being able to feel the breeze, smell the trees, hear the stream, and see the stars and moon. We were completely supported by Mother Nature. As hard as it was to watch her decline, it was an honor to assist her in her transition to the spirit world. To hold space as she rested her weak body, to walk next to her while she enjoys the breeze and sunshine and just being in the moment. My life will be so empty with out her physical presence, but our souls with be forever connected.
Daisy was by my side for the past 14 years of my life. She truly was a gift from heaven, and even though I rescued her and her siblings from a horrible place, I really believe she rescued me. I am so blessed to have had this girl grace my life with her companionship, devotion and deepest love. I will LOVE you FOREVER Daisy…