Category Archives: Social Justice

$2.85 per day- reflections on Living Below the Line for a week

Phew!

That was quite a rough week. Living below the global poverty line was much harder than I thought it would be, in a lot of ways, and there were some really great moments too. I will share some of the important things that stood out to me over the week.

One thing I realised this week was that I must have a pretty high-energy lifestyle, because I spent the whole week feeling quite weak and exhausted. I didn’t quite realise the impact it would have to have less energy input, with the same energy output. But then my next thought was; I think MY life is high-energy!?! How about those people who work 10-16 hours per day doing hard physical labour, and live on $2.85 or less… I just have absolutely no idea what it’s like to really be exhausted and hungry. Doing this challenge certainly gave me insight, but I am aware that I still had it much much easier than many people in the world do.

Whenever I convinced myself that I couldn’t bear to eat one more lentil or grain of rice, I suddenly felt guilty, embarrassed, and ungrateful. Even living on $2.85, I was still eating more variety and probably more nutrients than most people in extreme poverty do. You know you’ve got life good when you’re complaining about the TYPE, not even the amount, of food you’re eating.

I had quite a few angry moments. I just can’t accept that people are dying of malnutrition and deteriorating from extremely hard labour for very  little or no monetary gain, while I am freezing my flat’s leftovers and getting paid $25 for sitting down in a library and tutoring a high school student. I am angry that there is enough food, safe water, and resources for shelter to go around the whole world, but that us Westerners are hogging it for ourselves, and pretending that dying, starving, over-worked humans are not our problem.

Since finishing the challenge, and going back to eating pretty much whatever I want, I am suddenly appreciating little things I’ve never appreciated before! Like, being able have tea or coffee instead of water, or being able to add flavours to my cooking, or being able to have something different for dinner than what I had for lunch. I actually got so in the habit of just not doing these things, that I was suddenly consciously making the decision to do them, rather than just doing them as if there was no other way. And oh the luxuries!! On Saturday morning when I could have a coffee when I woke up!! And an orange with my breakfast!! It was like I was in a five star hotel!! My fear is that I will go back to not appreciating these things again. That has already started to happen. I much prefer being appreciative of these small pleasures- it keeps life in perspective, as well as lightens my mood so easily and frequently!

Finally, I will add a more personal note. Another hard thing I found during the challenge was having to fight a lot of disordered-eating thoughts/voices/triggers. Friends had expressed their concerns, and I was aware of the possibilities of this happening, but I was feeling like I was in a good space and I hadn’t struggled with eating for a good few weeks, so I thought it would be okay. But, when consciously restricting my intake  for consecutive days, and feeling nauseous and tired from energy deficit, it was probably inevitable that unhealthy thoughts would present themselves to some degree. Luckily I am blessed with self-awareness, and processed my experience with a friend, and managed to (mostly) work through it and (mostly) avoid unhealthy behaviours. 

Overall, to those of you who have supported me towards this cause please know that your support (both in donations, and support of me doing the challenge) has not gone unnoticed. Not only have you given me encouragement and motivation to do what I committed to doing, but you have allowed TearFund to maintain the sustainable enterprise opportunities they are offering in Ethiopia, India, Phillippines, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, and Vanuatu. Because of you, women are joining self-help groups, where they feel empowered, collectively save in their groups, learn how to start small businesses, and loan small amounts of money for their children’s school fees or healthcare. Because of you, people are joining farming co-operatives, where they work together to improve techniques in agricultural production, and provide each other the opportunity to take their products directly to markets, providing them with more control over the prices they receive.

If, after reading my reflections, you feel inspired to donate, you’re not too late!! Follow this link, and it will take you through the necessary steps: https://www.livebelowtheline.org.nz/fundraisers/caraadler/live-below-the-line-nz

Arohanui xxx

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I am NOT traumatized

“Cara, you’re traumatized. You have trauma in your body cells that you can’t remove. But that’s okay, because when I pray just now, God is going to banish the trauma from your cells and you are not going to live another day traumatized.”

That was how I was introduced to PTSD. This statement did nothing for me but freak me out, which, for an apparently “traumatized” person, this surely is not a good feeling to have in front of a counselor; the very person who is supposed to make me feel better, not worse.

Worse yet, was the next morning when the perfume of the lady on the bus next to me sent me into an episode of flashbacks and dissociation(which I didn’t actually have a name for then as I didn’t know what was going on), and I realized that God in fact hadn’t “banished the trauma from my cells” as my counselor had said She would. So, alongside the normal fright, confusion, and exhaustion that follows flashbacks, there was now an illusion added to the mix that being “traumatized” must be my destiny, since the quick fix suggested by the professional hadn’t worked.

This initial encounter with (false) awareness with PTSD led me to stigmatize my own illness. I let myself wear the label of “traumatized”, which for me portrayed weakness and inability to cope with life’s obstacles. I also believed that there was a quick fix for PTSD, and that if I couldn’t find it or make it miraculously heal me over night, then I would diminish all possibilities of ever being able to undress from the “traumatized” label I made myself wear.

But fear not! This story gets better!

Now, after legitimate diagnosis and treatment, my understandings of my PTSD are much healthier and more truthful:

  1. Just because I have PTSD, I do not see myself as a traumatized person. Rather, I am a whole being who has experienced some traumatic events in my past, and sometimes my body and brain forget that these events aren’t still happening now, and like to default into coping mechanisms that helped me to survive at the time. This isn’t my fault. It’s just bad luck that my brain was affected in this way.
  2. There is no quick fix for PTSD. PTSD is a physical, chemical change in my amygdala and hippocampus that will not be magically healed over night. My brain needs re-training. It needs to be taught that it doesn’t need to activate the fight-or-flight response everyday anymore. It needs to be taught how to differentiate past memories with the present-day reality. This takes a lot of practice, patience, and love, just like training a puppy.

In saying this, however, I definitely do still have my moments. I have moments of wondering whether I will ever be able to fully escape my past. I have moments of guilt, self-blame, and self-victimisation. I have moments of convincing myself I don’t have the energy to face another day of differentiating reality vs brain-tricks; past vs present; healthy vs unhealthy coping mechanisms.

But each day I am coming to a deeper understanding of who I am without the trauma, and learning how to be more and more in touch with the reality of my present, rather than my past.

Just some facts that everybody should know:

  • Not everybody who experiences trauma develops PTSD, and those of us who do aren’t weaker or more “stuck in our past” than those who don’t. It’s just bad luck that our brains were affected in this way.
  • Not only war veterans suffer from PTSD, and it can develop from both an accumulation of experiences as well as from just one experience.
  • PTSD isn’t weakness. It’s an illness.

 

I’m not destined to flashbacks and dissociation for the rest of my life because of my experiences. I fully believe that one day I will be 100% free of PTSD.

Please bear with me a moment while I undress from my “traumatized” label, and banish it from every ounce of my being.

I will never be seen wearing it again.