Celebrating Women: Janni

In continuing our Celebration of Women, I’d like to introduce Janni. When I first began blogging many years ago, she was one of the first bloggers I met online. I am so grateful that I met her.

When I say she is a survivor, I mean that sincerely. She has overcome an abusive marriage, suffers from PTSD and copes like a warrior all while dealing with some serious health issues as well as the many stresses life can throw at us. She has through it all maintained her dignity and grace, a wonderful sense of humor and is truly one of the sweetest souls I have ever known.

Before we get to the interview, I’d like to share some nuggets of wisdom from Janni. I asked her to give me her favorites. They are:

“What goes out always returns, remember to be kind to yourself.” ~ Janni Styles

“Assuming is always wrong and asking questions is always right.” ~ Janni Styles

“Peace is not found by seeking it but in simply letting it be.” ~ Janni Styles

Be sure to read until the end for links on how to learn more about her and how to get her books!

Thank you for being part of this celebration, Janni! Much love to you!

You have for years amazed and inspired me on at least 1,000 different levels. It’s hard to know where to start! How about we begin with the many different roles you’ve had in your life. Share a bit about your background.

First of all, you flatter me so. But I love it, haha. So glad we met those many moons ago, your kindness and wisdom saw me through a nightmare few years I am just becoming strong enough to actually write coherently about. Hmmmm. My roles in life. They began as a big sister who is credited with half raising some younger siblings who sent Mother’s Day cards, Mother Birthday Cards and Mother Christmas cards to me for years. Apart from starting out in life as a caregiver helper who at age 9 made “Easter” for the little ones (when they arrived home later that day our parents brought us chocolate bars and we were happy), I went on to work in what else, childcare and am a very loved, appreciated and honoured “auntie” to this day to a family of three – two girls and a boy who might not appreciate me sharing that I potty trained them all lol. They are all in their thirties and potty training and raising their own babes now. Just as these “kids” do, their parents include me in everything to this day and are family to me with their mom often jesting, “I knew I couldn’t stay home with you guys, that’s why I had Janice.” I was a wife for 32 years but I never had a “husband.” My value as a wife was only in relation to what served his orbit. Scratch that. I was a damn good wife who not only worked part time 27 years for his business but singlehandedly ran the home, worked full time in highly responsible positions from social services to government and bought us recreation property which I carried the mortgage on all by myself in addition to shouldering parts of the mortgages on the four homes we owned together. Working for years in the justice system with victims of violence had me believing I wasn’t one of them. I was. Violence is as much about invisible bruises as tangible evidence. That’s another book though for another day (laughs).

What was your least favorite role? What was your favorite?

My least favorite role was being a “false wife.” Not that I was false but the whole marriage was false because addictions and the lies that go with those rendered me a “storefront” wife. That was a façade I tried fruitlessly to alter but never could because, as with all addictions, only one person is the power holder. Maybe it’s just as well because my life is in such a place of peace now. My favorite role in life is “friend” largely because it isn’t really a role at all but a way of life that means whether you are related or not, whether you have a long history or not, you can build and maintain loyal, loving meaningful relationships of magnificent layers and depth with every single human in your life. If you want to, that is (smiles).

You’ve had a successful blog, you are a creative writer and you’re a published author. Is writing something you have always enjoyed? When did you begin writing?

As soon as I was introduced to the world of reading and the magic of books I was hooked. So hooked was I that I told my First-Grade teacher, “I want to make books when I grow up!” Writing came naturally to me. Not writing well, still working on that as we writers are wont to do all of our days but writing in all forms, typewriter, cursive handwriting, couldn’t stop myself from writing as soon as I learned to print or rather, write. (smiles) This lovely interview with you is providing the catalyst for possibly reopening my blog. Last year I closed it temporarily but am thinking sharing your interview may be a good way for me to get back in that loop. Writing is when I feel most “me” doing what I was put on Earth for, it is like an inborn need. I suppose all artists feel this way or there would be no art or literature in the world at all.

What part of the publishing process was most difficult? What part of the process did you enjoy most?

The most difficult part of the independent publishing process was technology itself. Technology and I do not blend (haha). Luckily, I had the good fortune of support through the process from people who know a heck of a lot more about it than I do. My favorite part of the publishing process was choosing the book covers, the layout and fonts. I love all things pretty and tried to keep them attractive. PTSD saw me initially make some odd cover choices even I don’t understand now but professional friend’s eyes saved me from myself on that one.

What advice would you give writers who want to get published?

Advice for writers who want to get published, hmmmm. I think probably the best advice is don’t give up. Just keep working at it and don’t give up. Today there are many ways to publish. When I was a younger writer the self-publishing option was almost unheard of. Of course there are still big publishing houses requiring agented works but, as we all know, getting picked up by one of those big publishers is not always possible. I think the advent of the internet is both helpful and harmful. On one hand, we can get anything we write “published” pronto which, in my mind, can also be a detriment to publishing house interest. Already published works are just not attractive to most publishers. Finally, I would say enter contests. Reputable, long standing writing contests are the best leg up in an industry overwhelmed with talent. The awards I won for fiction, poetry and non-fiction not only boosted my writing profile but provided wonderful encouragement to continue doing what I love best. A side story here is I know of a well published author whose first book was snapped up by an agent who advised the writer to enter contests before the agent pitched the book to publishers. It worked, the book was published by a well known publisher the next year. Proof that placing first in writing contests can really help if you are trying to get your work published.

In the past you have spoken openly and honestly about your marriage and divorce. Would you share with our readers what you endured?

I am frank about my marriage because I hope to spare others the pain and because it is the truth. There is power in truth. I know the weakness of living the lie too well, always trying to tell yourself you are not hard done by, others have it worse, you never know what goes on behind closed doors, etc. The power of truth is so strong it will repel people. Those are not the right people anyway. Truth requires an honour those types will never comprehend. My addictions riddled ex could keep a good “front” going because he was very educated, mannerly and likeable. While I may not have appeared so, I was a nervous wreck internally from constantly dealing with the consequences of his choices. His mother said I was his anchor and I was for 32 years. It nearly cost me my own life in more ways than one. When they thought I had cancer in 2007 that was the final death knell, I knew I just could not die there. Owning four homes and having good paying jobs meant nothing. Gone. All gone in a heartbeat and it really can happen to anyone. The blame was the worst, to constantly be blamed for his ill choices because I grew up being blamed for “the way the little ones are” and “it’s your fault your father left us.” I share this not to tattle on my mother in any way but to show that our patterns really do form who we are drawn to later in life. If anyone blames you for anything you feel is not your doing, seek help immediately. If younger, there are school counselors and help lines to get you through it without shouldering blame that is not yours and winding up in similar situations in future just because it is, sadly, “familiar.” I heard it all for over thirty years, “it’s your fault I drink, I have to ___”, “look what I am married to!” and even keeping me up all night yelling because he had “nobody to talk to.”He used to say, “I own you, you are mine.” Though I never believed that. Some days I am surprised I am as intact a human being as I am. The advent of the internet brought a very vile new addiction into the mix which was, I was told repeatedly, also my fault. There is more that I endured but that’s another book. Or two or three, realisticallly. In 2009, I left him. My mother was ill and it was a rough year because she died the next year. I left him with over a hundred thousand equity in the last home we owned together, RRSP’s, almost all of the furniture, no debt and a brand-new truck. He threatened war and by then I was just so exhausted I only wanted my freedom. I thought my nightmares were all behind me. The ultimate nightmare had just begun because a long-time bestie of approximately two decades had taken my place in my marriage bed unbeknownst to me. For two years after I left him, she feigned friendship, studying me, buying  things for my former marriage home that I had bought for my suite, visiting me often, even staying overnight with me. It was him who finally told me. He owed me nothing. She owed me loyalty and common decency. Instead she physically assaulted me into PTSD when I refused to accept her cries of “you don’t know what true love is” and “I love you!” Befriending people who do not deserve our friendship and loving people who do not deserve our love is a very common human folly, I have come to learn. Add to that two of your sisters and their adult children siding against you with him and her, defending them both, and you realize how utterly cold humans can be. The thing is, they didn’t even have the full backstory, there is so much more than I have even shared here that they never knew until after I was assaulted and yet they chose not to believe those facts. I had tried to exit neatly, cleanly and only shared the “behind the scenes” facts with a select few. The physical assault that left my bladder with issues for two years after and with PTSD meant I owed nothing to anyone anymore. Truth became my strength. This is why I say people should never judge because what you think you see is never what you think you see. Oh dear. I did a mini novel for you, haha. A psychic once told me I had a very, very hard life and would continue to have a very hard life until after I was sixty. So far, she was right and let’s hope the after sixty part materializes soon because I sure don’t relish the thought of waiting till my next life for it, haha

The title of this post is “Celebrating Women: Janni – A Survivor” for good reason. You are a survivor! You have suffered and continue to suffer from PTSD caused by your ex-husband. What are triggers you deal with and how do you cope with them?

Thank you for celebrating survivors. Not all of us do survive. A friend’s sister was shot to death by her narcissistic abuser husband. Kim (my friend) writes of this on her blog My Inner Chick and every time I read about her dear sister Kay, I am reminded that I am one of the lucky ones. PTSD is so complex. Some professionals believe I had PTSD in the marriage from all the shocks I endured. A lot of people who survived childhood trauma can get PTSD later in life and I certainly had that but that’s another book for another day. After he and my former friend thrust me into PTSD, I was incapable of speaking, just stammered and stuttered. She, who in her former work successfully spoke to large groups of people in related fields. I was incapable of digesting or processing information. She who won awards and accolades for research and writing in jobs held and personal writing challenges. For two years after the assault I would awaken sobbing, sometimes screaming and have massive scars on both shoulders from clawing myself awake out of nightmares. She who seldom had nightmares was now living them both awake and asleep. Triggers are different for everyone as I learned in two years of trauma classes, workshops for survivors and trauma counselling. For six months the trauma counselor asked every week: what one thing makes you want to get up in the morning? Nothing, I would say every week. Then six months in, approximately a year after the assault because I was on a long wait list for counseling, I woke up one day wanting to write. Thus, a book of mostly bleak poetry and a collection of already written stories are both out there now with the love and guidance of internet angels who helped me get those two books out there. This was very healing for me. I may have PTSD the rest of my days and can still be triggered but the nightmares only rear up under high stress now. Recently under high stress, I started clawing my shoulders open again but it seems to be settling now, thank goodness. My own personal triggers are mean people, rude people, cruel people, unfair people, too much noise for too long, high stress, aggressive driving (not my way but not a good passenger with aggressors who take chances I never would), being startled especially from behind. Shock is the worst for me as in the recent shock of unfair eviction in year five from landlord who was only interested in money while fixing nothing (hand wrung every second load of laundry last 3 years there) and disobeying Residential Tenancy Laws at every turn including living without a fire alarm for the past year and a half. Couldn’t even reason with him, he would not listen or hear me in any way, even brushed off my years of impeccable tenancy for his almighty greed. Though long time professional friends believe there may be cultural issues in terms of attitudes toward women and his overly prideful erroneous thinking that home ownership deems him ‘King of Everything’ which is just not so here in Canada. His threat of eviction three months prior if I didn’t pay what he wanted (all without proper paperwork or legal increase amounts) meant, they said, I would likely win because that crime ridden area is also known for landlords doing this and they are really clamping down on them. I could have been awarded a year’s worth of rent because I have proof and a witness to the fact that he threatened eviction over the increase he wanted three months before following through on that threat. My failing health meant no stamina to see the case through, fortunately for him. I could re-open it but have no desire to even though he basically let it slip just days ago he is not using my old suite for the purpose he claimed in the eviction notice. Eyes may be on him now but no longer mine. I was also advised to never go into a basement suite again because this treatment by “little” landlords is so rampant in that area, was told apartments are best where they don’t “micro manage” 1 or 2 tenants and everything is legal at all times. The thing is it was very hard to live there, living there also frequently triggered my PTSD.  It is a terrible area worsening daily, couldn’t even go out by myself when I wanted or needed to, crackheads freaking on our very street, hookers and drug dealers, frequent shootings with at least one innocent bystander per year in the past three years dying of a stray bullet. The suite was 15 steps down into the ground “bunker” with no real day light and your only view a solid concrete “prison” wall, no stereo/radio reception and no cell phone reception no matter the provider. It actually made me very sick physically to live there and I know this because I am finally starting to feel a bit better each day in my new home.  Life ironies abound in this story because living there made me so ill I was too ill to proceed with the much deserved eviction appeal.  Angels also abound in this story because I am ‘serendipitously’ back in my seaside community in a beautiful apartment building with pretty views, see the ocean every single day, walk every day, can walk to my doctor, dentist, services and many friends I have sorely missed. So, my PTSD is currently in check. If it is triggered, I try to cope by using basic techniques of breathing, counting objects in a room, decompress to some beautiful comforting music and if I can’t cope, I know to see my doctor as soon as possible. There are help lines people can call, too, both in the U.S. and here in Canada, I just don’t know what they are off the top of my head.

Having known you for so long, I know you have a really great on-line support system with friends. How valuable do you feel an online support system is?

An online support system is of immeasurable value. I am in Fibromyalgia Groups (yes, I have that, too, along with many other chronic health conditions), suicide support groups and I have connected with many beautiful hearts over the years including yours. I truly believe I would not even be here if compassionate voices like yours had not steered me through some of the blackest roads of my life. My personal friends and loved ones are brilliant, too, but not always available. Online there is always someone able to chat or just listen. As a long-time curser of all things internet because of the divisiveness I see occurring between humans, I have had to eat my words many, many times. It is a lifesaving tool for many who cannot get out or who may not have any other resources available to them. It saves lives. It really does.

You’ve also dealt with cruel/negative comments. How have you dealt with the negativity?

Dealing with negativity and cruelty is something many of us must do. Whether online or not, I have found it exists everywhere. I was dogged on my blog and called swear words by adult nieces that left a cousin in tears after reading a single message of many written to me. Nobody seemed to see the wrongness of this ugly behavior from grown adults and many still don’t. Go figure. It finally ceased when I threatened police involvement. I was also repeatedly lectured on the use of Facebook until I dared answer back and was promptly blocked. Go figure. I really wish people would not swallow fabricated agenda driven garbage and take the time to truly get to know who someone really is as a human being before “deciding” who they are. The world can be unfair but we don’t have to be. My main way of dealing with the cruelty and negativity is to distance myself. Or avoid those “gang think” mentality types. My theory is if you need any validation from even one other “gang think” type, you already know you are wrong. However, if the negative comments provide a teaching opportunity for a better way to be in the world, I will use that opening as I see many on and offline do, to try to impart some wisdom about being better and doing better. One small thing, one person at a time and voila, positive change instead of total dead ends as happens all too often when some are overly invested only in being right instead of being human.

What advice would you give those suffering from PTSD?

Not a fan of giving advice unless asked for so because you asked, here you go (smiles). For anyone who has PTSD know there is help, know you can get through to the other side and use whatever resources are available in your area. PTSD is cruel enough to contend with, don’t be shy about reaching for help from online support groups to phone helplines to the medical system or even by letting those close to you know what being triggered looks like for you and the little things they can do to help you through it. Ironically when I was in the depths of despair with PTSD and suicidal thoughts, the people I thought loved me most would be there for me but they weren’t. I don’t think they were being cruel to me at all, I just think they have such high needs issues themselves they were simply incapable of supporting me through my PTSD crisis. Keep reaching is what I learned. There will be someone or many someone’s who will reach back. Just don’t stop reaching. People I least expected or could not have foreseen proved my touchstones for healing. Without them I am certain I wouldn’t even be here. Wherever I felt safety and comfort, I stayed with that on my journey and am now doing much better than those initial two years after getting PTSD. It is one disorder that affects everyone differently. Yes, there are some commonalities including a high startle response but not all PTSD survivors are the same. Figuring out what helps us is challenging but don’t give up. I know I may never be fully healed from PTSD but I am able to lead a calmer life thanks to learning what works for me. The final message I would like to impart is that the world really is becoming much more knowledgeable about PTSD and as this knowledge continues to grow, more help and resources are being made available. Not long ago not everyone knew what PTSD even was. Now, in just the seven years since getting PTSD myself, I see so many more understand it better and that can only be a good thing for those of us living with it. As with all things, I believe raising awareness by using our voices and sharing our experiences will continue to improve everything for all of us.

If you or someone you know is suffering with PTSD, please visit the PTSD Alliance or https://cmha.ca/documents/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd for valuable resources.

In addition, if you or someone you know is in an abusive situation, visit The National Domestic Abuse Hotline or http://endingviolencecanada.org/getting-help/ In any situation where you or someone is in immediate danger, contact your local law enforcement.

From Janni…

Thank you so much for this interview, dear Lisa. I just want you to know that I have been unable to write much for a very long time and you just started my writing engines again. I appreciate all your time and effort and now that you have me wanting to open my blog again, I will be sharing this interview there as well. Thanks again from my heart to yours.

Though I don’t use any online sites with any regularity anymore, here are some links to my books and soon to be running again blog:

Books and author interview link:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/475450

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/475640

https://www.smashwords.com/interview/JanniS

Janni on Social Media:

Twitter

Blog (Coming soon, please check back)

Goodreads

Wix