When loyal MyTreat subscriber, Sarah Hoogenberg, left us a heartfelt comment via our March subscriber survey that read: "I have learnt so much about self-care through MyTreat. I can’t think of anything you could do better (actually, more honey chocolate please). You have helped contribute to my recovery from PTSD in such a positive way. So thank you," we had to reach out and ask her to share her full story.
Thankfully, she said yes! And managed to share her story of strength through self-care. From trauma to triumph, here's how Sarah overcame PTSD:
"In 2006, I started my dream job [in the police force], my forever career until 2021, when it all came crashing down. I was diagnosed with PTSI, anxiety and depression, as much as I loved my job, I was incapable of doing my job and I made the decision to resign.
In that time, I had met my husband, travelled overseas, bought a house, and had kids. I was (and still am) a full-time working Mum of two young kids, whose husband also worked shift work. Exhaustion became second nature. I was unaware of how this was starting to affect my life. There was no time for “self-care”. Self-care? What is that? I was just doing what I could to survive and often on my days off I would sit for hours on the couch, staring at the TV, because I just did not have the energy to move.
How did this happen to me? It is likely that constant exposure to countless traumatic situations over the course of my career, contributed little by little. Then, in 2015, while at work, I was punched in the face. My ability to communicate was my superpower. But this came out of nowhere. I saw this girl walk towards me, my Spidey sense tingling and told her to stay back. But, bang!!! Pretty sure I even saw stars. That was it. Just one punch.
I spent months reliving this event. My words failed me that day and I lost my superpower. Why was I so stupid. I should have done this; I should have done that. If I did this any differently, this wouldn’t have happened.
I am lucky. I had a huge amount of support from work. I was offered counselling, but why would I need counselling? I always talk about my feelings. She’ll be right mate and life carried on.
Looking back now, I can see this was the start of my downfall. It became harder and harder for me to take my kids out on my own for fear of them being uncontrollable. Of course, they weren’t, they were way easier out of the house than in it. But that fear, the panic that would build up inside me was enough to keep me home. I would find excuses not to go out with friends. I complained all the time about how tired I was. So tired I could feel it in my bones. I noticed that I was constantly fighting my adrenaline, even with the basics at work. I now know this to be hypervigilance.
The nail in my coffin was nothing exceptional. While working, a man I was speaking to became very abusive towards me, making threats, all in front of a school-aged child. My heart raced, my mouth went dry, my hands were shaking, I had no words. I walked away, sat in my car, and cried. I drove to my boss and told him I quit. If only it was that easy. I was immediately put on stress leave and referred to a psychologist.
What surprised me the most was I honestly thought if I could take a few weeks off work, the tired would go away. It took nearly 6 weeks before the weight started to lift off my shoulders. During that time, I was told to do nothing. To treat it like I had the flu. That it was ok to just sit and breath. We went through breathing exercises and that is when I started to learn about self-care. Before this, there was no self-care, just tired and self-criticism.
I would like to tell you I made it through all this without the help of any medication, and I tried. In the end, I needed the help. Within a week, my head stopped screaming at me. I never realised how loud and intrusive my thoughts were. Slowly but surely, I found it easier to be kinder to myself. I was able to dismiss negative thoughts more easily. I had a more positive outlook on life. The only way I can describe the change is to tell you that before, everything was grey and now the sun has come out. I had no idea I could be this happy.
If I feel overwhelmed, I remind myself that it’s ok to just stop and take a break. I find now that when I give myself permission to just relax, I achieve more. On days like that, I try and set myself little goals, like putting away something that has been bugging me for days. When that is done, I can go back to my time out. It’s funny how that one little thing can lead to doing another little thing and before you know it, you achieved a whole lot of little things and it feels great.
I do my best to make time to exercise. This is one of the hardest things to fit in to my day, likely because I am not that person. What I did learn is that I really enjoy yoga. Because it’s low impact, mentally, for me, it is easier to do. Plus, it’s not just about building strength and balance, it helps me set an intention for each practice and reminds me to breath.
The best decision I have made in recent times is subscribing to MyTreat. It’s by far my newest and best addiction. Each box comes with a little something that I can add to my daily routine. Yes, I now have a daily routine. Like, in my past life, I often had no energy to even brush my hair. It’s not just the amazing products but the articles that promote self-care. Something I think we all need a reminder to do. MyTreat IS self-care!!
Lastly, what does my future look like? What am I looking forward to? I’m looking forward to life. When I left my job, I was lost. I had no idea how to transfer my skills in the real world. It was in this moment that my husband told me to take my time, to wait to find my perfect job. I’m not patient and I didn’t listen, I jumped into the next job I thought would fit. Funny how life works out because a little over a month later, the perfect job landed in my lap. It’s not the easiest job, I am now self-employed, but I work from home. I love the view from my office, I am able to take better care of my family and most importantly, myself."