Tag Archives: Anxiety

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.

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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.

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.

Still Breathing

It’s been such a long time since I wrote here, and I didn’t really have any intention of returning after leaving WordPress.com, but there has seemed to be quite a bit of interest the last couple of weeks, so I thought it wouldn’t hurt to say, “Hi.”

So much has changed, and so much has stayed the same since the last post on here. I left my relationship. I found myself, lost myself, found myself again, only to lose me once more. I found my sexuality, and lost it again. I have a manuscript ready except for the formatting. I stopped writing short stories, and started writing poetry. I’ve had three jobs, four different addresses, across half the State. I fell madly in love with a liar and a cheat, and I had a whirlwind same-sex relationship. Just normal, everyday stuff.

In amongst all of that, has been the omniscient presence of my father.

Panic attacks, nightmares, flashbacks, memory floods, body memories, and ever increasing anxiety has been in the background the entire time. Every mountain you think will be the last one, and it never is. But it does get better.

In the last two years I have learnt to smile, to feel safe enough to play and makes jokes, to trust myself to know I can look after myself, and I’ve broken many of the shackles. So, it can be done. The question is, at what cost?

I still have dreams to be able to help others. I still have dreams to write. I still love getting out and exploring the country.

I’m still breathing.

I just want to be normal

I Just want to be normal

I Just want to be normal

“I just want to be normal!” 

If only I had a dollar for every time I have said this, or any of its many variations, because I would be Rich, Rich, Rich – yes, Rich with a capital R!

My diaries are filled with this statement, along with “Why can’t I just be normal?”  “Why can’t I be like everyone else?” “If only I was normal!”

Guess what?  For what I had experienced in life, I was normal.  I was, and am, just like everyone else who has experienced some form of major trauma as a child.  The hell I have experienced while healing is the same hell others experience while they heal.  Yet, all the while, I just wanted to be normal.

What is ‘normal’ anyway?

For me, it was ‘normal’ for my father to have sex with me.  It’s just what he did.  It was ‘normal’ to never know from one minute to the next if there was a belting waiting for me when the next minute arrived.  It was ‘normal’ to not know from moment to moment if I was ‘loved’ or hated by my father.  It was ‘normal’ to show the world I was ‘normal’ according to society’s stereotypical standards, while at the same time asking myself why I couldn’t be ‘normal’.

The first time I remember verbalising that I was not normal was when I was 12.  My brother and I had been fighting, as we always did if ever we were in each other’s company for more than 30 seconds.  We were home alone and during the fight my brother had grabbed a large kitchen knife and started chasing me with it.  Eventually he caught me and knocked me to the ground.  As he held the knife to my throat I practically begged him to kill me.  I told him that he should do it because the world would be a better place without me because I wasn’t normal and should be in the ‘looney bin’ anyway.

He didn’t kill me.  In fact, telling him this had the opposite effect, and he helped me up off the ground and said, “No it wouldn’t Sis.”

My brother was 10 at the time.

It wasn’t until I started to understand what I experienced emotionally and psychologically was normal for people who live through child sexual abuse that I started to recognise how I continued verbally abusing myself.  I had fully taken on the role of abuser through my inner voice, telling myself I was useless, stupid, abnormal, crazy.  I came to believe, absolutely, that I was insane.

My only ‘insanity’ was the inability to process my trauma in a way that would release it, rather than relive it.

The process is long, slow, and unbelievably painful.  It cannot be expressed in words.  It is a very lonely road, because although you may be lucky enough to have a ‘support system’ unless those around you have experienced exactly what you have experienced, there is no way they can comprehend what you are going through.  Every moment of healing feels like you have to fight your way, kicking and screaming, to find even enough air to breathe, let alone find the strength to function in any ‘normal’ capacity.

For a while I didn’t want to be normal.  I craved complete loss of function.  I thought it an exceptionally cruel twist of fate that, although there were days when all I could manage was to pull the covers up and a pillow over my head, I was still able to hold down a job, be a mother, be a partner, and work on my healing all at the same time.  I envied people who could just withdraw from life completely.

In hindsight, I am glad I was able to keep going, even if it was in a reduced capacity.  I did withdraw from the world, but not completely.  I did want to die so very badly – but I didn’t.

So, am I ‘normal’?  According to some, I am not.  According to others, I am.  According to myself?  I don’t always conform to society’s norms, but I am not a complete deviate either – I am me – and for ‘me’ I am normal.

Thanks for thinking badly of me

Thank you for providing opportunities to learn & grow

Thank you for providing opportunities to learn & grow

“To all of the people along the way who hurt me, lied to me, betrayed me and broke my heart…

You unknowingly pointed me in the direction of my own North Star.  Without the messes, I wouldn’t have a message.

You gave me more than you ever take from me, so thank you.”

 

My friend posted this on Facebook yesterday.  I instantly connected with it because it is something that I have believed in, and lived by, for quite a while now.

People often tell me I should be angry – at my father, at other adults who did not protect me, at the family and friends that have, as a result of the legal process against my father and his subsequent death, turned their backs on me.

What use to me is anger?

I spent the first 38 years of my life being angry – angry that I had to live this life.  Every one of my emotions expressed itself as anger – even when I didn’t ‘feel’ angry – and it was a horrible existence.

For years I wondered ‘why me?’  What did I do to deserve all of the pain I felt, both physically and psychologically?  What had I done to cause my father to be so angry?  What was that I did that made him sexually abuse me?  Why did I have to be born?

From the very second I made the decision that I mattered, that I was important, and that I was going to stand up and do my very best to protect other children from experiencing what I had experienced, my anger started dissipating.  I started to look at the crap dished out to me by other people in a whole new light.  My perspective changed, and so did my attitude.

I no longer approached everything from the ‘why me?’ perspective.  Instead, I looked hard for ‘what can I learn from this?’  Let me tell you, it was hard, unbelievably hard, but it was so amazingly worth it.

Why was it worth it?  Because the more I looked for the lessons in what I was experiencing, the less others controlled me.  The more I learnt about myself – what were my thoughts, what were my feelings, what were my beliefs, what were my vales – the less the thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and values of others that I had unknowingly adopted as my own, impacted me.  The power of other people to hurt me reduced dramatically.

I had always believed the world would end if I dared to tell, or that Dad would make good on his threats to kill me, or that the family would implode if the secret ever got out.

Well, the family did implode – but I survived!

There are numerous people out there who would be horrified to know that I write about my experiences of child sexual abuse.  They are the family and friends who chose to protect my father and the family’s public image.  Not one of these people know all of the facts.  These are the people that will do whatever is within their power to stop me from getting my message out there, just as they have used a variety of actions and threats to try to stop me, and those who have supported me, in the past.

There was a time when having the possibility of conflict hanging over my head would have sent me into a tail spin, if not a complete melt down.  I would have been flustered, depressed, and upset, but mostly I would have been angry that others ‘just don’t understand’.

Now, however, I know that the actions of others are not a reflection of me.  In fact, their actions have no relevance to me at all, because the actions of others belong to them, and those actions are motivated by the thoughts and feelings of the people that carry them out.  Just because other people behave badly towards me, does not mean that I am a bad person.

About six months into the legal journey, I had to go on medication because I was barely able to keep myself breathing, let alone be a mother, a partner,  and continue to hold down a full-time job.  Over the next 18 months my ability to function improved, and my outlook on life had really started to change.  Everything went down hill very quickly after Dad passed away.

To be honest, I didn’t even really notice.  It was my partner that made me sit back and take stock and see how I was returning to my old,  comfortable, but totally unhelpful, ways of coping.

After much discussion, we identified the turning point.

My brother was speaking to one of my father’s friends the day after Dad died.  The conversation was going well until my father’s friend, thinking that my brother did not support my decision to speak out, said to my brother, “Well, your sister should have thought about the consequences before she went to the police…”

This statement from my father’s friend sent me right back to square one.

If other people said bad things about me, then they believed I was bad; if they believed I was a bad person, then it must be true that I am a bad person; if it is true that I am a bad person, then I must believe that I am a bad person.  So, if anyone indicated that they thought badly about me, I believed them.  This was the way my mind worked for 38 years.

The challenge was, did I want to go back to that way of thinking, or did I want to continue the work I had been doing and reclaim the progress I had made in the two years following my decision to speak out?

I had worked far too hard, and experienced way too much pain, to go back now.

This meant I had to analyse the way I processed things in my mind.  I had to ask myself, “Am I a bad person just because someone thinks or says that I am?”

The answer is a resounding, “NO!”

What other people think is just their opinion.  Just because they, or I, think something does not make it true.

The next step was to ask myself if I, taking away all of the opinions of others, thought I was a bad person?

No, I don’t.

I am generous, honest, loyal, trustworthy, open, friendly, loving… and a whole heap of other adjectives.  I say what I mean, and do what I say.  What you see is what you get.  I don’t say this to one person and that to someone else.  I don’t judge people by what they have or don’t have, do or don’t do, or any of their personal preferences.  I call a spade a spade, but I am also able to be tactful and understanding.

(Gosh, do you know how hard that would have been to say or write not that long ago?  I have come a long way!).

Anyway, my long-winded point is this – it does not matter what any one else thinks or says about you.  It is their opinion.  It is only your opinion of yourself that matters.

What the opinion of others is good for, however, is as an aid to identifying those parts of you that are not truly you, that you have taken on from someone else.

How do you know if something is truly you or not?  Sit with for a while and it will either feel comfortable or uncomfortable – it will either fit with your values or it will irritate and itch and not feel ‘right’.

It is in this way, that people who do not like us, who hurt us, lie to us etc., can teach us the most wonderful things about ourselves and our purpose in life.  So, just like the meme posted by my friend on Facebook, be grateful to those people for the lessons they lead us to, and in doing so, such people and their actions can no longer have a negative impact on your life.

 

 

Acknowledging the pain of others

Growing through pain

Growing through pain

People like me, who write about their experiences of child sexual abuse, do not intentionally set out to cause other people pain.  Unfortunately, however, we do.

When we are lucky enough to have people in our lives who are supportive, and willing to try to understand the impact of what we have lived through, it is sometimes difficult to balance the work of creating awareness and the desire not to hurt those we care about and who care about us.

Some may call us insensitive, or selfish, in our desire/need to speak out.  Personally, I am not insensitive to the pain I cause.  I know it is there.  It hurts me to know it is the result of my actions.  However, I do not deliberately set out to hurt people.

Why do I write?

I write because I have to write.  Writing is something I have done for most of my life, although until 2010, all of my writing was in secret.  During the darkest period of healing, from 2011 until recently, I tried to keep my writing hidden and yet still raise awareness of the long-term impacts of child-sexual abuse.  I did this because I know what I write can cause pain to people close to me.

Why did I have to ‘come out’?

Trying to write as someone else, using a fake name, and fake persona, really starts messing with your head.  Particularly when you have spent two and a half solid years smashing down the barriers and vowing to break the silence.  I found myself questioning my ethics and my values.  There I was, telling all and sundry about how important it was to speak out, but hiding my true identity.  I started to feel like I used to – that I had to have a face that I showed the world, and another that had to be hidden at all costs.  There was no integrity in that.

If I wanted to be true to me, and put my money where my mouth was, so to speak, I had to make a decision to either back off and remain silent, or be truly open and honest.

Honesty won.

The flip-side of this, of course, is now those close to me are confronted with my writing on a day-to-day basis.  The end result is pain.

Why do I have to write about child sexual abuse?

There are a couple of reasons for this – first, I write what I know.  It is so much easier for me to write from experience than to write from imagination.  Tied in with this, is the healing writing brings for me.  Yes, even my short stories are generally dark, but usually it is because something inside me needs to be fixed and it just appears on the page in front of me.

Second, I write about child sexual abuse to raise awareness – not that child sexual abuse happens, but that the impacts of repeated trauma as a child never go away – they do lessen in strength, but they NEVER go away.

Third, I write about child sexual abuse because I know that while I sit here, in my comfy chair, in a warm and cosy house, with all of my basic needs met, there are children being sexually abused, beaten, neglected, sold into prostitution, and having all sorts of other horrendous things done to them at this very moment.  I cannot sit here in silence.  Awareness needs to be raised.  Something needs to be done, and all I can do at this point in time is write.

Children are so very precious.

I am sorry for the pain I cause.  I am sorry that the things I write also brings back bad memories for you.  However, to those close to me, there are some  things I would like to say:

  • You are not responsible for what happened to me.  The person who abused me – the person that could have chosen not to abuse me – is no longer with us, but it is important to understand that the responsibility for what happened was his, and his alone.  The rest of us have been involuntarily caught up in the consequences of his behaviour.  Do not blame yourself.
  • I am well.  I know the last few years have seen me crash to the deepest depths, but right here, right now, today, I am well, and I have been for some months now.
  • Just because I write about what happened to me does not mean it is the only thing I think about – it no longer consumes me the way that it did.
  • The past cannot be changed – it is what it is.  All we can do is enjoy the here and now, and have hope for the future.  My way of doing that is by sharing my experiences.  You never know, someone else might find them useful.

I am truly grateful for the support I have around me.  Knowing that I hurt them is not a nice feeling.  If I could wave a magic want to erase it, I would.  For now, all I can do is love the people around me and support them as they have supported me.

My heartfelt thanks to the ‘inner circle’ who have seen me at my worst and are hanging in there to see me at my best.  I love you all from the bottom of my heart.