Fear and the freeze response(The Cornered Cat)

After I was mugged and started attending training to courses to learn how to shoot my gun I hit an all time low in my healing.

In addition to E outing me(if you don’t know the details I apologize. I am not going go into that again right now) the constant comments I would hear in the classes was enough to send my already extremely weak and guilty mind right to the edge of sanity.

It went something like this…

Instructor: What does every bad guy need?

Class: Silence

Instructor: A victim

Then he/she would pull out a list of all the “stupid” things people do to make them prime targets and the full judgement of stupidity was not only implied it was out right stated. Laughs and jokes about how someone freezes in the face of an attack or doesn’t scream would ensue. Usually the instructor would set up a scene where the bad guy grabbed a woman(always a woman cuz men never freeze or find themselves in bad guy situations) and goes to shove her in her car and she does nothing.

At this point everyone is class would say things like , “Who would be so stupid?” “I would never.” “I would fight and scream.” They may very well have. Many people without a single second of training do fight back, but I didn’t, so there I sat being the poster child for the stupidest person on the planet and those experiences began to build in the fibers of my being and I began to see myself as pure filth. I began to blame not the crime, but my reaction to it. For a few months I was so uncomfortable in my own skin, I wasn’t sure how I was going to continue to live in it. I was never not once suicidal and I never not once engaged in any destructive behaviors, but I sure as hell felt like shit. I think that if you go back and read those old posts you can easily find the ones where I was falling apart and fighting everyday not to.

Kathy, who was one of the rare instructors(there were others) who did not do this which is probably why it was in her class that for the first time I complete broke-down in front of others and why my mind started to open up a little and let me see more of how things unfolded that day, wrote an excellent article on fear and freezing. READ IT!

In addition to my experiences in class, in my free time, desperate for information I read blogs by woman like Tam, Brigid, Roberta X and Lima. Strong, secure,no holds bare, not gonna take crap from anyone women who while inspirational only seemed to highlight, in my own mind, my weaknesses and failures. I felt completely ashamed and completely alone.

Let me add that I am not blaming any instructors or any person in the classes for sharing their feelings about how they believe they would or would not react or how stupid the victim is(although I tend to put the full blame of the crime on the criminal and not on the victim). People have every right to say what they think and feel and share in these classes AND I certainly do not blame other women for being strong. Good for them.Those qualities are to be admired and encouraged. I am simply trying to explain how and why I felt how I felt and how certain things were interpreted in my mind.

The mind isn’t always easy to understand.

Other people have shared their stories with me, but I was always kind of the support to them. I did a lot of listening and offering of the shoulder. I was honored and blessed by this and continue to be and there were healing aspects in doing that, but for whatever reason none of those stories were ones I related to. Over the year(It will be 2 years since I was mugged next month) I found ways to heal and to move forward, but there always was a place in my heart reserved for that ugly emotion of guilt. While not active that guilt became a part of my make up and I learned to deal with it or more accurately force it to stay in the background.

I have tried to say this a few times and I can’t find the words. I have sat down to write Lima personally, but my words sound off. I try and try, but all I can come up with is somehow reading her story touched some part in me and helped me feel less alone. That feeling of not being alone helped me heal in ways that nothing else had. I don’t know how to explain it. Our stories are not the same, we are not the same…but something in her words helped me and for that I am grateful.

I have said this before. Each time I write a post like this or like I did the other day I get the urge to pull it down, but I don’t because I hope that maybe there will be something in my words that helps someone else to feel a little less crappy. I can’t do much, but I can try to help add positively to someone else and so I continue to try.

P.S. Only a few more days to toss your name into the hat for the giveaway Thank you to everyone who has shared about it and to those of you who already took the leap of faith to email me your story.

 

Quote Of The Day

“An important part of what we achieve through stress inoculation is
cognitive. The students experience in training helps to take some of the
surprise out it when the real situation arises. Effective training also
elevates the students sense of confidence, which is another cognitive aspect
of stress inoculation. The sense of personal effectiveness and
self-confidence created by realistic training is as much a stress reducer as
when the muscles go on autopilot. As the Duke of Wellington put it, No man
fears to do that which he knows he does well“. -Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, On
Combat

I read this quote this morning and I thought, yes, that pretty much wraps up my life’s motto. Not just in self defense. It applies to all areas of my life, but certainly I find great value in training and making that training as realistic as possible.

I train for so many reasons, but primarily because it builds confidence  The more I do and the better I do it the more I believe in myself and my ability to overcome in the face of danger.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to do much real life training in a while and that has had some affect on my confidence. I still do a lot to keep my skills up, but there is no substitute for putting yourself up against another person and testing one’s ability. When, lose or draw many valuable lessons are learned and each of those not only add to my abilities, but to my mind set.

People often think the mind controls us, but it only controls us if we let it. We can tell it what to do, what to think, what to believe and the more we tell it and back it up with our behavior the easier it is for the mind to respond the way we want it to.

In the face of a mortal threat, I want my mind to remain calm and clear and I can probably only achieve that if I practice it. I practice it by showing up when I am terrified to do so and by putting myself in situations where I am uncomfortable and have no real idea what is about to come my way. Of course I do it in the safest way possible, but knowing that I am “safe” gives little comfort as I stand there and prepare to get hit or kicked or knocked against a wall.

Sounds fun, no?

Funny thing. When I first started training my mind would be totally blank. I could not think. Sometimes I would just stand there and not shoot or punch. Then I could do whatever I was told to do, but nothing more, but now, I can not only think, but I can plan and do.

Here is the deal though…all this self defense stuff has helped me in my regular everyday non violent life. Remember yesterday when I talked about how after the attack I lost my confidence and was a mess at my NRA Cert class? Well, due to training my mind and forcing myself to be calm and to think things through, I gained much confidence back and for my EMT exam I was perfectly calm. I was able to control any nerves I might have normally had. I walked in without a single butterfly or fast breathing. I heard what was being said to me and I was able to access the patients and do what I knew to do. What I had trained to do.

EMT exams are not life threatening, but many people were paralyzed by their fears that night and were unable to perform(look Judy spelled it right:) and they did not pass. All of these little things like test taking, public speaking, making phone calls, taking risks, they add to our quality of life or take from it. Fear limits us so many times in our everyday average life. Being able to conquer it adds to a better quality even if one never ever has a bad guy encounter. Although, the skills come in might handy just in case one does have a bad guy encounter.

Wonder if my husband is in the mood to “fight”…

 

You Asked For it

I am often asked what I carry and where I carry it. I have received a lot of those types of questions lately, so here is the quintessential post on EDC.

This is my 80% of the time daily carry setup.

I wear my M&P full size 9mm on my left hip in my custom made leather holster by Michael Hast.

If I wear a back up gun it is my S&W Shield in my custom made White Dog Holster. I wear it on my right hip.

Some people have questioned why I don’t carry my BUG on the same side as my primary gun. The reason is that I am tall and thin and I do not have much room to pack a lot of equipment and it is much easier for me to conceal another gun if it is on my right side. I am equally skilled shooter with my right as my left hand and I am afforded many opportunities to practice, so I feel very comfortable carrying a BUG on my non-dominate side.

I don’t carry a BUG everyday or even most days, but when I do, it is on the right side.

I also carry a TDI knife on my left side appendix. I used to carry it on the right side, but with the BUG, my other knife, and flashlight all on that side I was beginning to walk a little lopsided. Plus, in practice I am better at stabbing with my left hand. Do not ask me why the ambidextrous skill I seem to have with my gun has not translated to the edge weapon.

So, as I just stated I carry a second knife (sometimes a third:). I carry a Benchmade Griptillian in my right front pocket along with a Fenix flashlight.

I also have some pepper spray on my key chain and a small multi-tool that was a gift fro a dear friend.

You don’t want to know what I carry in my backpack. There might be another knife and a larger multi-tool, a Gerber that my husband carried in Iraq. He gave it t me and I use it all the time. I honestly do not know how I lived without one. Also I have a crap load of first aid supplies. Most all of the stuff in my backpack I have always carried even before I was mugged. I have always had a pretty comprehensive first aid kit. I did add a few other things because I spend a fair amount of time on a range and so an Israeli bandage really isn’t all that odd to have.

The biggest change isn’t what I carry, but how I carry it. I carry a backpack now instead of a purse. I used to put my purse in the cart when I went shopping, but I no longer do that. Even though I carry my money and ID on body now, I still do not like to have my purse laying around. With a purse and shopping I found that the purse would slide off my shoulder when I reached down to pick up something from a bottom shelf and it annoyed me. Also, if I carried my purse on the left side it wasn’t comfy because of my gun and on my right it made me nutty because I wasn’t used to having it on that side and I was forever adjusting it, so I switched.

I always have my cell phone and my lawyers number (in my phone, but also on a piece of paper tucked into my wallet that is carried on my body).

I included a pic of our family heading out for a shopping trip to Target.

Pretty normal right:)

***OK, that really isn’t our family and that really isn’t our town. It is an article about of friend of TSM’s. Thank you to the men and women who are currently serving our country and fighting the good fight.

The Lingering Effects Of Crime

The anti-gun crowd basically views me as a victim of a victim-less crime.  I am not sure I understand that statement . Actually, I’m positive I don’t. If a person is minding their own business, bothering no one and someone decides that, by force they have a right to take something, anything, no matter how small that isn’t theirs to take, that seems like a crime to me and one with a victim. A crime against an innocent person, would seem to me to be, by definition, NOT victim-less

I get it though. How awful could it have been? A bad guy, not so bad really, approached me, asked me for some money,  I gave him some, not enough, he wanted more (which seems fair), so he took more and then more and a bit more and while I lost my money and my dignity I did not lose my life so no harm no foul. Plus how much did I need that money???  Really $20 bucks or so for a guy down on his luck compared to my vast riches…I think whatever it cost me is worth it because you know he probably needed it and I am still alive, so all is good.. After all the dude needed gas money. At least that is what he told me and I am pretty sure he wouldn’t lie.

So, looking back what did I lose? What price did I pay?

Not much.

Nothing really.

Well, perhaps my sense of security inside my own skin. Maybe a bit of my self worth and by self worth I mean how I viewed myself . Separate from whatever I got from my family or this community, the view I had of myself was perhaps one of the biggest things I allowed my attacker to take from me. I viewed myself as nothing. As Cowardice. As a fraud. As, well worthless.

Without even realizing it I lost all my faith in my ability to make judgments. Looking back I made the exact right judgment about my attacker. I knew he was a bad guy from the second I saw him, but I did not react in such a way. The problem wasn’t really my judgment so much as my reaction to what I knew to be true, but immediately following my mugging, somewhere in my mind I doubted my ability to make judgments and for the first time in my life I was seeking reassurance from those around me.  Sometimes I got it, but more often I didn’t.

Without even realizing it I spent a great deal of my time looking for people to tell me I was OK. It is so obvious in the posts I wrote after it happened. I couldn’t see it then, but it is patently clear as I re-read them now. For the first time in my adult life I doubted myself, who I was, and if I mattered.

I offer this only as a way to to give a bit of credence to what I am about to say. Some of the people who read my blog are people who have known me a long time. Way before I was mugged or before I wrote a blog. One of my former college professors (and dear friend) as well as a former college student of mine read the blog. I have people who knew me growing up and have seen me grow. I believe if you asked any of them, they would tell you as a young adult I lacked neither self esteem or confidence.

When I was in college I often had to stand up in front of a classroom full of people and interpret an unknown scenario.  I was never nervous and I almost always performed at the top of the class (more often THE top). I attended class, I studied, and I knew I knew my stuff and it showed every time I did just about anything.

As a college professor I was much the same. I did not try to be perfect or even care to be, but I knew the subjects I was teaching and I knew them well.  I had a very high rate of success with students who left my courses not only knowing the material, but knowing how to think.

Standing up in front of a group of people has never been my problem.

Fast forward to my NRA Instructor Course. That class, which I did not feel ready for (I was ready, but I lacked any ability to believe in myself) was just less than a year after I was mugged and I was a mess. Emotionally, I was an absolute wreck. Each time I got up in front of the class to teach my portion of whatever I froze. I literally could not function. I honestly had no idea what was happening. I kept thinking and saying, I know this stuff. I am comfortable in front of people. I kept trying to find a reason to explain my odd behavior, but at the time I had no clue what was going on.

I did not pass that course. The person teaching the course said he/she knew I knew the information but that I did not display it on that day. He/she was right. This person offered me an alternative because he/she knew me and knew I was not showing what I was capable of. This person said if you want to take some time to prepare yourself and send in a video to show that you can teach I will accept it. He/she gave me a month or so to prepare and  told me I could pick whatever subject I wanted. It did not have to be the ones that were expected of me on that day.

For whatever reason as I drove home something clicked. I thought to myself, what is wrong with you? You are not really going to let this beat you. I didn’t even know what “this” was, but I knew that whoever I was that day it was not me. It was not who I wanted to be.

I got in my car, called my husband and told him to get the video camera ready. I drove straight home, never stopped, never studied. I parked my car, walked into my house and began teaching the exact classes I was assigned. I literally walked in the door, put my bag down, hit play on the video camera and taught the courses I was asked to teach in class.  I sent the videos minutes later without one bit of editing, I passed and earned my certificate.

Now, you may be thinking, gee not passing an NRA class and having a few doubts about yourself is hardly a big deal. So what. In the scheme of things does that really matter?

Hell yes it does. It is all that matters. How one views themselves and how one thinks about who they are, that is pretty much all that matters. I can not be a very good anything while I am feeling worthless. All my insecurities that I didn’t even know I had were manifesting themselves in very ugly ways.

Except how I view myself isn’t all that matters. How my daughter views how I view myself, that matters. How she thinks I view her and her value, that matters. How my daughter views herself, yeah that matters too. I would argue that matters the most.

So many anti-gun, anti-freedom, anti-women people will tell me that I am lucky. The fact that I survived is a win and nothing bad actually happened to me. The fact that “nothing” happened to me proves their point that I don’t need a gun. If you look at me I appear to be ok, so no damage done, all is good. The bad isn’t so bad after all.  So you were raped (I was not), beaten, humiliated, tortured (never have gotten into the details except  finally with my husband and family because of E and I do not intend to).  Big deal, he didn’t kill you so be thankful. You are alive. Your kid is alive. Nothing else matters.

I didn’t die. E didn’t die. No “real” crime was committed  Nothing to see here. Moving on.

Not exactly.

Death is not the only consequence to a crime. I am not even sure death is the worst consequence to crime although you are gonna have to work mighty fucking hard to get mine. Outside of death, there are some very damaging effects to being victimized.

I have said it before, but I will say it again. I lost, at least for a time, my dignity, my self respect, my ability to sleep, my ability to make decisions, my ability to look myself in the mirror, my ability to look at my husband, and his ability to look at me. I was defensive. I was angry. Often not even knowing why. I was insecure, lonely, desperate. I was afraid. Constantly afraid. I lost the respect and trust of my daughter. My sweet E. I lost friends (although to be honest if they were really my friends they would be still be here). I lost me. I lost a huge part of who I was, who I loved about being me.

Of course, my story ends well. I am stronger. I am happier, I am more secure and more peaceful than I have ever been. E, by the grace of God is well, but the price of crime is high (as I have said time and time again) or should I say the price of being a victim is high. There is no such thing as a victim-less crime.

I cherish life. I am indeed thankful I survived. That my daughter did. I am thankful that when my attacker said to me you are leaving here with me that 2 cars pulled up and the bad guy took off running, but the fact that I am alive does not mean his crime was a victim-less one. I am no longer a victim, but for a time, myself and my daughter paid a very high price for not only what the bad guy did, but also for being unprepared to deal with the aftermath of such vile.

Any time someone takes something from you or me, something you or I are not willing to give, it’s a crime and I am here to tell you, you and I have a RIGHT to fight back. Before, during, and after. You and I have every right to stand up and say our life matters! I don’t know about you, but I will not lie down and let anyone, not the bad guy, not the anti-gunners, not the man in the White House, tell my what my value is.

I am not the criminal and I will not allow anyone to punish me as such!

 

 

 

 

It’s Easy

I read a post earlier today about this skilled paramedic who was so proud that he made a newbie feel bad.

I have been in the EMS field about a day and a half and I know less than nothing, but this really doesn’t have anything to do with being an EMT or paramedic or sniper or anything else.

It is easy to point out someone’s weakness, their inadequacies. It doesn’t take a special talent to make a snide comment about how much someone sucks or how “broken” they are. Sure it appears to be clever and brilliant, but really it’s just cheap and easy.

It takes much more of an effort and far more intelligence to be an example, to bite your tongue, to contribute positively to their life, to try. Some people will not get it. Some people are lazy and will make excuses and continue to make excuses for not achieving , but as a leader their behavior should have no bearing on yours. That’s kind of the definition of character.

As my husband(a leader of Marines) says, if you are in charge of others, if you happen to know more or by the grace of god are blessed with more talents and you feel a need to point that out, that doesn’t make you in better, it makes you an ass.

To behave in a manner that encourages change. That fosters growth. That makes others want to be better…that’s a leader.

Everything else is just an excuse to justify meanness. It’s not funny or clever or smart. It’s cowardice and it’s bullshit.

There are a million people who know more than me and I am eager to learn from them. Luckily, I am learning from the best. I happen to be a person who doesn’t much care if you’re an ass, you won’t stop me, but how very, very sad for the ones it will stop.

How very, very sad.

Saving Lives And Taking Names

I happen to be one of those EMT’s(I know not yet but almost) that just has life saving after life saving opportunities drop in my lap.

IMG_0283First, I found this young gal apparently having some kind of deadly laugh attack, then

IMG_0293

this sweet thing appeared to be choking. She didn’t seem to think I was helping much.

Finally, I saw a man in desperate need of CPR. It was an exceptional case, so I opted for mouth to mouth.

IMG_0296

Later that same evening I went to the rescue squad to run an overnight shift…not a single call.

Yeah people no worries I’m on the job!

 

A Big Thank You

Most of you know that for the past 6 months TSM and I have been enrolled in an EMT-B class. The class required us to be in class every Monday and Wednesday night from 7-10pm and every other Saturday from 9am-5pm. On the Saturdays we were not in class I was riding the ambulance and if not then studying. I studied a lot!

I absolutely wanted to pass the class and the tests, but even more I wanted to learn. I truly want to be able to posses the knowledge and skills I will need to serve the folks of my community well.

To volunteer is an EMT is a huge time commitment(and a decent chunk of money) and there is no way TSM and I could have done it without the support and sacrifice of our family.

We have 3 small kids who adore us(not bragging, just true). they missed us, but every time we went off to class they said good luck and I am proud of you. They didn’t act up or get snotty or make us feel like a guilty(Occasionally I did anyway ). That is pretty impressive.

M stepped up like a champ. She helped me get the little kids homework done before I had to leave for class. She picked up extra reading time with them. She helped make meals and was 100% joyful as she did it. A 14 year old, doing extra work without being asked with a smile just to help me and her dad…amazing!

My son and daughter-in-law came over every single Monday, Wednesday and Saturday to take care of the kiddos. They even spent the night when we had overnight shifts at the rescue squad. They have their own lives with a baby and jobs and yet never, not once did they complain about being tired or inconvenienced. They were happy to help out and were actually excited to be supporting us in a goal we had.

Out instructors and fellow classmates were unbelievable. Kind, supportive, helpful…

There is no way we could have completed the class without the most amazing people standing with us. I am feeling very blessed today!!

As an aside I just found out this morning that I passed all 3 of the state practical exams and now am eligible to take the written. Once I take and pass that, I will be a full fledged EMT!!!  I was voted in as a member of my local rescue squad, have my key and uniform, so the next time I run I will look like I belong!!

TSM’s test results are not in yet, but hopefully he will know by tomorrow morning! Fingers crossed for him! The testing was nerve racking to say the least. I am sure he wasn’t rattled as he is very calm, cool and collected most all the time.

Blogging will still be light and I apologize. I truly do miss the connection with all of you, but I need to focus on my written test(I am confident though:) and also getting through my precepting period.

So, once again…THANK YOU to my family. I think you know how valuable you are to me, how much I appreciate and love you all!!  Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!