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RADJournals: Jessica Payne on childhood trauma, PTSD, and running community

When I think of PTSD I think of those in the military, not childhood trauma...and surely not me, just an average mother runner chasing down the endless miles of pavement. But, as a childhood trauma survivor that's exactly what I had been wrestling with unknown to me.  Every time I lashed out in rage at my family, kids, and husband, every time I attempted to end my life (three times and once nearly successfully) I thought my hormones were just imbalanced or that I was just one of those "emotionally hyper" people. Even people who were supposed to be in my corner just labeled me "over-emotional" or even selfish. And every time I popped out another kid, I would spiral down into suicidal thoughts again. I cannot stress to you how scary these times were for me.

It wasn't until I got pregnant with my third child in 2019 that I realized something was way off and it was not just my hormones.  After my third attempt, driving like a lunatic in a mad rage down the road ready to smash my car into the next pole I could find (sidenote: what stopped me at this moment was the thought of the devastating consequences this could have on my teenage son's mental health and well-being--a love for others), I decided I was tired of feeling this way. Tired of raging at my kids, tired of the constant merry-go-round of rage, guilt, sorrow, and regret. What was wrong with me? Why couldn't I just be...happy??

The very next day I called our local Women's Center as they had made me aware counseling was available at no charge. The Center connected me with a licensed therapist who specializes in family trauma. After that first session where she told me that my feelings of rage were not my fault, I buckled in tears and relief.  We dove deep into my family history: I had been sexually abused as a young child by a family member, psychologically and nearly physically abused by stepfathers, and emotionally abandoned by nearly everyone it felt.  My biological father rarely, if ever, reached out to me. He drank too much to care about me. My rage stemmed out of a sense of fear, entrapment, and feelings of being out of control. In a sense, whenever I was triggered (for example: when my husband left for work it used to trigger a sense of feeling abandoned and I would just create a fight. Without even knowing why)my brain sent me into childhood coping mechanisms. I was essentially still that 8-year-old little girl hiding behind the couch in fear of being hit with a two-by-four piece of wood because my stepfather at the time was raging drunk.

Instead of being protected, valued, and loved by the people in my life as a child and young teen (mainly father figures) I had been trashed, abused, and hurt time and time again. Over and over. If I could go back in time, I would hug that little girl so hard and tell her just how loved and beautiful she was and is now.

Also, as a side note: if you as a female have been sexually abused, giving childbirth "traditionally" can trigger major PTSD. So, what is supposed to be seen as a blessing may feel like a very intense punishment.

It was a major relief to discover why I struggled with such intense emotions.  Since then, I no longer feel rage. I still feel many emotions but after about 18 months of therapy, and I still continue to go to today, I have learned how to recognize my triggers, manage my emotions and how to effectively communicate.

My life is not perfect. In fact, there have been many more speedbumps and mountains to move since the beginning of my counseling journey. But, I now have the tools to move forward in grace and with confidence.  And it is my life's purpose to bring others that same hope I have found.

And one of my favorite ways to do this is through the running community! I am full of joy when I'm running and racing! It has brought me many opportunities. I am now a NASM Certified Personal Trainer, VDOT Certified Distance Running Coach, marathoner, and occasionally an overall female winner at some races.

Running gives us the gift of moving forward, a deeper drive in life, and motivation to create the best version of ourselves we can be.

My hope for 2022 is to get back to my sub-3:00 hour marathon quest this fall at the Richmond Marathon.  As a former "oops, I left my gym shoes at home" girl, running her one-mile personal best at 14:xx minutes, this is what life is all about. Changing ourselves from victim to VICTOR. 

What happened to you is NOT your fault. But, how you choose to move forward is within the power of your hands.

You are loved. You are worthy. You are valuable. 

Thank you rabbit for spreading the gift that is a community in running.

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