Abuse survivor escapes darkness to find light and changed her life.
Trena Wall grew up in a tiny French town in northern Alberta, home of the world’s largest bee. At just 17, she moved to Calgary and spent 11 years there, until moving to the Okanagan. In this time, she has become a hairstylist for (11 years now) and in the last 4 years she’s been doing creative makeup. You’d think this is what makes her a perfect picture Canadian, right? Well that’s not quite the case. Wall, suffers from PTSD and she’s on a mission to educate about this difficult mental health disorder.
“I think what stands out about me the most is that I’m a quiet person, always been really shy but I always feel the need to stand up for what is right, stand up for others even if I end up standing alone”, says Wall.
At just 16 years Wall met a boy, little did she know that was the second her life would change, and it would never be the same. She was 17 the first time he hurt her, he tried to smother her with a pillow. She tried to leave him, but everyone made her feel like it was her fault, which is often the case.
“Everyone around me made me think I was the bad one for hurting his feelings so I fell for the ‘I’ll never do it again’ and went back to him”.
And so her story began…
By the age of 22 she had already been raped by him five times and sexually assaulted more times than she had fingers to count. Those years were paved with his drugs and his anger. Trying to please him and living two separate lives took its toll. Wall tired to to hide everything that was happening to her from her family and loved ones. Never once did she think to call the police. She was young and vulnerable, and felt she was “stuck in this life forever”. No one came to her cries for help, and without adequate resources or education on abuse, she stayed.
“I’ve been through everything imaginable. From hiding in hall closets, while dealers were at the front door with guns, to watching someone almost die from getting their head smashed in by glass, being scared of getting arrested by SWAT for having drugs in a car I was riding in, to being stranded in a city with a meth dealer while pregnant.”
These are just a few examples of the many horrific experiences Trena faced in her younger years, a sad reality of what many impressionable and vulnerable youth are dealing with on a daily basis.
The last time Trena’s ex was able to put his hands on her, she had already long left him, but he found her. He had pinned up against her kitchen wall, choking her with both of his hands. 12 years of Trena’s life involved violence and abuse. What the public called a “relationship”, Trena called her own personal prison in hell. It was her own worst nightmare.
Today, at 30 she suffers from PTSD and panic disorder, that itself has been one of her biggest struggles. Not being able to sleep, being in extreme fear of death for way too many days in a row, in her first years of this, there were days and even months where she couldn’t not check her pulse every few minutes just to see that she was in fact still alive. “I probably should have paid rent at the hospital, I was there so often”.
Now, Trena has two goals in life. The first one is to just simply be happy, and the second is to help others. It’s very important for her to be able to spread awareness about sexual assault and violence, and how extremely important it is to talk about it. She believes it’s a one of the hardest strengths to find – to be able to tell others, and more importantly to be able to leave an abusive life. However, she has learned, you do have that strength in you to leave, and if telling her story over and over can give someone else the hope and strength to leave, if it saves even one person, it will all be worth it.
“I want someone who is or was in the same situation as I to hear my story and not be afraid to get help, not be afraid to tell someone and if you have to keep telling someone, do it.”
When asked, Trena stated she realized she had the power to do something meaningful, last year. It became very concrete to her when someone stated that talking about it doesn’t make you powerful it makes you look crazy and desperate. In that very moment, she didn’t feel hurt or angry of a sudden it became clear that the reason why people don’t speak up (or when they do), they are faced with stigma and judgement. She knew in that moment that she needed to be the face of change and to talk, talk, talk and to keep talking.
“In telling my story I’ve been called many names, I’ve been threatened, I’ve be slandered and I’ve had this happen over and over, but none of those things have ever stopped me. They have truly helped me fight harder”.
Trena spent many years exhausted, scared and confused trying to get justice and it just wasn’t ever happening. She was trying to understand why she just couldn’t be happy. Last year she came to accept that she was never going to be the same person she used to be, and instead, she was going to be a better person by helping others. She finally came to the realization that she’ll always have this mental health disorder, but the stigma didn’t need to follow her. Trena was making it, she was getting better, she was learning, she was healing, and most importantly, she was happy again.
I was meant to do more than just be that abused girl. I had come so very far and gone through so much. I knew in my heart I could and needed to help people, I wanted to inspire. Being quiet and moving on just wasn’t going to work for me.”
Today, Trena is that picture of a StandOUT Canadian. Having soared through life’s obstacles, and has learn so many lessons along the way. She learned the importance of “awareness” the hard way, and why it’s so important to speak up, speak out and to stand up for yourself. These are strong lessons that she promises to pass on to her children every day.
Most importantly Trena’s learned that the bad things in life that happen to you, do not, and should not to define who you are. Healing and living with a mental illness is very difficult, there will always be the bad days, but that it doesn’t mean it’s going to be a bad life.
“I’ve learnt that not every step is going to be beautiful but not every step has to be dark either”. — Toran Lanthier