Epiphany

I was sitting here tonight, trying to keep myself safe, because the urges have been strong tonight, writing and reading poetry, when all of a sudden I had an epiphany (at least, it felt that way).

All night I have been caught in the crossfire between the rational and irrational sides of me, wondering how I can make the incessant desire to kill myself disappear. I started with music, with music blaring in my ears, I wouldn’t hear the thoughts, right? Wrong.

Next I messaged the friends I knew were most likely to still be up at this time of night. After no response, I turned to the fridge for help, more specifically, the alcohol in the fridge (I rationalized by telling myself I wouldnt take my meds tonight, because I know not to mix the two).

None of it seems very rational, does it?

With a couple beers less in the fridge, I turned to the next thing that usually helps let the thoughts pass on, writing. Two unpublished, and one published poems later, I started to feel a little better.

Where is the epiphany, you ask? Well, after posting the latest poem, I started reading other blogs. It turns out, I’m not the only one feeling this way at the moment, so I left some comments of encouragement – things I would like someone to say to me, when I am like this. The epiphany came afer receiving replies, advising I had helped them feel better. The thoughts disappeared instantly, and all of a sudden, the last eight years flashed through my mind, and I realised helping someone else always gets me out the other side.

Let’s hope I don’t have to rely on that realisation too often.

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Buckle Up

It is day 14 on the new meds, and I have a whole new level of compassion for animals shot with tranquiliser darts.

Today is the first day I have had real trouble making my muscles move. I would be more than happy to sit in a corner and stare at the wall. This is a state of being I do not enjoy, and I do not like. Part of me is rebelling. Part of me knows the rebellion will be short-lived. The knowledge does not bring comfort.

There is also anxiety rising.

People who don’t know the old me, who have only seen the confident, competent me, are seeing my weakness, and it is making me uncomfortable. It won’t be long before excuses are made to avoid contact, and distance themselves from me. It is already happening. There is nothing I can do about it.

I feel beaten. I feel like I have lost the battle. I feel like the last 3 years of growth, the 7 years of intensive work before that, and the 20 years of work before that, have all been for nought. I may as well be right back at the beginning of the process. I hope the feeling passes, or I may end up right where I was 15 days ago, that led to me being here.

As always, it is a never-ending cycle.

I am tired. I still have no reserves to draw on. I have no one who has any real understanding of where I am at, or what it is I need. Yes, I have people who care, but for the most part they are still saying “just get over it” in the back of their minds and under their breath. If only I could. I would give anything to get over this instantly and permanently.

Instead, I have to meet me where I am at, hold my own hand, and walk beside myself to either the other side of this, or to the end. I don’t know what the final outcome will be, all I know is that I need to buckle up and hold on as tight as I can, because it is still a rough road ahead.

Stigma, Seeking Help, and Angels

I should know better than to think my past will ever let me escape it’s grip. I might have had a new view a couple of weeks ago, and have been celebrating (internally) at how far I have come, but as is often the case, the past roared to life and knocked me sideways within days of my last post.

Unfortunately, (or fortunately, but we will get to that later), three weeks of incredibly long days at work, followed by a week of anniversaries surrounding the legal process and my father’s death, and providing support to other family members having their own struggles with the past, and a number of other ‘stresses’ I had no reserves left to keep my head above water, when I started to drown.

The short story is, I was hospitalised for two days after seeking help from my GP to keep me safe from myself, until the strongest urge to suicide I have yet experienced, had passed.

Those who know me, and those who have followed me from the beginning of this blog, know the desire to take my own life is not new, it has been an ongoing struggle since I was 12. I have had a long period without any suicidal ideation, however, so I think I have become complacent. I am not sure if this impacted the intensity this time, or the amount of planning I managed to do in the minutes it took for me to leave work and arrive at the doctor’s office, once I knew I wasn’t going to make it on my own, but I am grateful to the part of me that acted in opposition to the desire to die.

I learnt a lot from this experience, particularly in regards to stigma, prejudice and discrimination against people with a dysfunctional mind, and more so against those who seek help during crisis.

I have been aware of the ‘badness’ of people who present in a hospital’s Emergency Department following a suicide attempt since I was about 15, when my mother (a nurse) came home from work ranting (that is how it seemed) about the stupidity, cowardliness, and waste of time of a patient who had tried to take their own life. As my mother was angrily expressing her feelings on the matter, I remember thinking to myself, “you have no idea what it is like”, and I often wondered afterwards what she would do if I told her that I fantasised about suicide all the time.

If I had a dollar for every time I have heard someone say people who suicide are cowards, I would have the financial freedom to do and have anything I desired.

When my father took his own life, I heard all sorts of things said about him choosing death over life.

All the while, suicide, and how to achieve it, was front and centre in my mind, from the moment I woke up, to the moment I lost consciousness to sleep each night.

I have written about it endlessly, from Sweet Temptation back in 2010, to my most recent poem Hold My Hand on Poetry From The Ashes.

So, my point is, I knew before I went to the GP twelve days ago, that there was stigma, prejudice and discrimination against anyone so weak they can’t control their own, dysfunctional, mind. Even though I knew, I was not prepared for how difficult asking for help outside of family or friends would be. I was not prepared for the disgust and loathing aimed at me by, so-called, medical ‘professionals’. I was not prepared for the lack of awareness, in this era of organisations such as Beyond Blue, Sane.org, the Black Dog Institute, and Lifeline, who are constantly encouraging those of us considered mentally ill to seek help, by people who are meant to be the ones doing the helping. I was not prepared for the escalation and desperation that rose in me to escape and carry out my plans to end my life. I was not prepared to have to fight so hard to be heard. And I had no reserves to draw on.

I was not prepared.

I was, however, extremely lucky to have some guardian angels on my side.

Angel One was the GP. When I rang to make the appointment, I asked specifically not to see the doctor I normally did, because I knew he would be one of those looking down on me for my weakness. I was given an immediate appointment with a doctor I had not seen before. My initial intention when making the appointment, was to get a certificate for some time off work. By the time I had reached the doctor’s office, I had a fully-fledged plan of what, when, where, and how I was going to end my life. I was expecting to have to push to get the time off work – what I wasn’t expecting was a compassionate human being, who heard the things I was not saying, and who prodded just enough to get me to expose my plan, without having to fully explain the reason for it. By that time, I had broken down completely. The doctor phoned my mother (who was on the otherside of the country) to tell her he was sending me to hospital, and then called for an ambulance.

Angel Two was the surgery nurse who sat with me while I waited for the ambulance, and who allowed me to get my work bag out of my car and change out of my work uniform, before the ambulance arrived. I was crying the whole time, and she took it all in her stride and conversed with me as though I was a fully functioning person, even though I was mostly incoherent.

Angel Three was the female ambulance officer who gave me a running commentary throughout the trip to hospital, and who did her best to calm my rising panic at the thought of going to an Emergency Department as a ‘suicidal maniac’ – images of my mother’s anger at her patient played on loop in my mind, in full HD colour, and her voice rang in my ears. The ambulance officer also explained I was being placed under an emergency order for at least six hours. At the time I had no idea what she meant, but basically I had to have a guard if I needed to use the bathroom, go outside for a cigarette etc.

Angel Four was my brother. He had visited me the night before, and had arrived at his home, a couple of hours away, not long before I asked my mother to call him and ask him to come back. Prior to his arrival, the resident doctor at the hospital had tried to question me on why I was there. At the time, there was a male patient in the room with me, and I did not want to have to try and explain anything if there was no privacy – my mind was racing and confused, I was having trouble breathing, let alone thinking, and I became mute as her anger increased. Eventually she huffed that she couldn’t help me if I didn’t tell her what was wrong, and then stormed off.

So, there I was in a room with a man I did not know, struggling to retain any grip on reality, and I was on the verge of a panic attack. The male patient was taken away a few minutes later, and as soon as he left my body went into anxiety overdrive. All I could think to do was phone my brother to find out how much longer it would be before he arrived. He said an hour. I told myself I could hold on for one more hour, I had to. I huddled in the corner, behind the supply cabinet, crying hysterically, feeling my brain fracture.

Some time later I heard a nurse walk to the door of the room, and I guessed she was either talking to my brother or my mother, as she told them I was fine.

WTF? I wasn’t in any way even close to fine. She didnt even enter the room, and would not have seen me from where she was standing.

I discovered later that it was my brother the nurse had been talking to, as he had tried to get someone to check on me.

Between then and when my brother arrived, I met Angel Five. She had given me a warmed blanket and a pillow when I first arrived, and she had come back to check on me. I was still crying, shaking, and curled up in a ball. I asked if she could get my guard so I could go outside for a cigarette. She left for a moment and then came and said she would take me. Outside, I kept saying I was sorry, over and over. The nurse asked me general questions about where I lived, where I worked, and got me to focus on any thing except the current situation. She said the doctor would be back to see me. I begged her to not make me talk to that doctor. She asked why, and I explained. She asked if I wanted a hug. I declined.

A few minutes after we went back inside, she came and asked to speak to me in the hallway (the male patient was back in the room), and told me the doctor wouldn’t be back, and that the mental health team was sending someone over to see me. I thanked her, then asked if I could have that hug after all. She left, but returned with a cup of tea for me.

A quick look at my watch told me I only had to hold on for 20 more minutes and then my brother would be there to speak up for me, and I could let go and rest.

It was a tough 20 minutes, with another nurse coming in to look down on me. I was ready to give up. I tried to assess how difficult it would be to use the curtain to hang myself. The thought sent me spiralling downwards.

Finally, my brother arrived. He had brought with him Angel Six, my niece. If anyone had any idea of what I was going through it was those two.

Eventually, Angels Seven amd Eight arrived in the form of a psychiatrist and a mental health case worker. They took me to a private room to assess me. At the end of it, I was told I would be admitted overnight. I was so grateful I would not have to face the night alone.

Angel Nine arrived the next day – my daughter. She is a trooper that kid. She has seen the best and worst of me and still loves me.

While the night nurse was compassionate, the day nurse was definitely in the “you should just get over it” camp, and her loathing was palpable. Thank goodness for the angels.

Angel Ten was my mother. She arrived at my bedside later that day, and said she would be here for as long as I needed. Mum has come a long way since that ‘rant’ that still rings in my ears. In the last eight years, I have seen her struggle to understand my dysfunctional mind, but she tries her best, and her willingness to grow is greatly appreciated.

I was released after a second night in hospital. I had a night at home with my daughter and niece, and then my mother whisked me away to the tropics for a week of recuperation.

And what of the view that all of this may be fortunate, or a blessing in disguise, as I mentioned early in this post? Well, I have a new diagnosis, I am on new meds that seem to actually be working, I know my family loves me, and for the next 3 to 6 months at least, I have a team of professionals who are helping me help myself.

I have a much better understanding of why people in crisis don’t ask for help. Of all the hard things I have had to do along my healing journey, my experience of asking for help outside of family and friends, and of the Emergency Department and some hospital staff, is ranked right up there with things like going to the police about what my father did, and making a pretext phone call as part of the legal process.

However, overall, I encourage anyone who is in crisis to seek help. If you are in Australia, use the links to any of the organisations listed above, or if you are standing right at the edge, call 000.

New View

As always, it has been quite a while since I have written here, but as time goes on, I have less and less to write about, in regards to my childhood, and my journey so far. But this post is relevant. It shows just how far I have come.

It was six years ago, yesterday, since I last saw my father, and last heard his voice. Yesterday, was the first time I have thought about June 28, 2012, in terms of my father and it being the last time I had seen him. Until yesterday, I had always thought of the date as the anniversary of the day my daughter, who was 14 at the time, showed me she had more strength than her mother, and pre-recorded her testimony for the trial. It was the anniversary of the start of her always blaming herself for my father’s death. It was the anniversary of the day I would name as the day my hatred of my father surpassed any previous hate I had felt by a thousand-fold – how dare he put my daughter through that!

But yesterday, I viewed it as the anniversary of the last time I saw and heard him.

The day is burned into my memory.

My daughter and I had been staying in a motel for a week leading up to that day, because there was a possibility the session would be moved forward. We were on edge and nervous, because we knew my father was also in town. On June 28, 2012, we went to the court house. My mother, step-father, brother, sister-in-law and niece met us there. We were asked to wait in the foyer in front of the court rooms. I immediately had a panic attack, because I knew my father was going to walk past us. I was terrified of seeing him.

Thankfully, the court staff were understanding, and found us an office to wait in.

Then my daughter and I met with her PACT support worker. By the end of that meeting I was falling apart emotionally and psychologically, and physically was not too far behind those. Going back to the office without my daughter, knowing what she was about to do, was too much for me to bear, as a person and as a mother. I knew in my heart my daughter was so much stronger than me. And in the time she was in the court, I came to understand I was not going to survive giving evidence and being cross-examined. It would cost me my life.

When it was over, and my father had left the building, we left the office and waited in the foyer to give my father time to leave the area.

At the front of the foyer was a wall of windows. I glanced out them, and my heart stopped – my father’s car was parked directly across the road, facing the building I was in. Almost simultaneously, I heard someone call out my father’s name. Moments later, I heard my father’s voice. My knees buckled, there was a roaring in my ears, and the ground tilted beneath my feet, at least, that is what it felt like.

That was the last time I heard him.

His conversation seemed to go on for hours, but eventually he walked across the road to his car. He got in and sat there, while making a phone call. again, it seemed to go on forever. Finally, he drove away.

We all went downstairs, and stood on the footpath while we discussed where would meet next, and my father drove past.

That was the last time I saw him.

And that is what I thought about yesterday.

Releasing My First Book

Along with everything else going on in my crazy life, I am working towards the release of my first book, Poetry From The Ashes. All the hard work is done, I’m just waiting on a release date.

I’ve been talking about writing and publishing a book, for almost 8 years now, so it’s been a long time coming. At first I was focused on writing a novel, then moved to short stories, and have ended up completing a poetry anthology. Talk about a journey!

The writing of this book, was a journey in itself. Expressing emotions and memories – sometimes quite graphically – of recovering from child sexual abuse, was at times quite triggering. Or was it?

Sometimes it wasn’t the content triggering the anxiety, sometimes it was the anxiety triggering the content. While I would tap into the fears, thoughts and feelings I had during a panic attack, and use them to delve into the murky depths of my past, the panic attack itself had an unrelated trigger.

It has taken almost exactly 12 months from when I first decided to change to publishing a poetry anthology, to where I am today. In that time, I have also amassed enough other poems to fill 2 more books – if you would to read some, visit Poetry From The Ashes – so it has been a very productive period. However, the next goal is, at least at this point, to complete my novel.

I will have an announcement soon, about when the book goes on sale, and how you can go about purchasing one.

Love

Love is a funny thing.

In an ideal world, we love our parents, our siblings, children and extended family. We love our friends, our pets, our neighbours. We love celebrities we have never met. We love our lovers, our partners, and spouses. Sometimes, we love ourselves.

How is it that we love in so many different ways?

But what about a love that just exists, with no rhyme or reason, so completely and unconditionally that we do not get feelings of jealousy, hurt, anger, disappointment, regardless of what the other person does or does not do? A love so pure, it doesn’t matter if we are loved in return? A love that enables the object of our love to feel free and unrestricted? How rare is such a love? And what are we meant to do with it?

Reflection Of Me

I had a conversation yesterday, and in it, I said some amazing people had come into my life in the last couple of years. The response from the person I was talking to was, “that is maybe a reflection of you.”

Their words have been swimming around in my brain for a while, and I’m starting to think they may be on to something. 

The people who have come in to my life have, for the most part, been respectful, adventurous, willing to explore the world, life, and themselves. They’ve predominantly been open and willing to share their experiences. They have all taught me something, and helped me grow as a person. They’ve helped make me who I am.

Many people have described me in very similar ways.

But there is a deeper level of similarity emerging. All these people have been attached, or detached in some way, unable to give of themselves completely, hiding behind the image they project to the world, their fears, their pain, or even something undefined. Just like me.

So, perhaps it is true that we attract what we project. Perhaps all these amazing people really are a reflection of me.