Tag Archives: Depression

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.

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.

 

 

Peer support through blogging

Peer Support

Peer Support

One of my reasons for returning to study is that I would like to set up an organisation whose sole purpose is peer support for adults (both women and men) who experienced abuse as a child.

After making the decision to take action instead of remaining silent, I sought answers to all the questions I had about going through the legal process, as well as general questions relating to whether I was ‘normal’.  I wanted to know, for instance, what happened during the legal process, how I could help ensure the safety of my step-mother, how I could help ensure the safety of others at risk from my father, how do you write a victim impact statement, how do I keep functioning when all I want to do is fall into oblivion…

First I approached one of the most prominent organisations in Queensland for victims of child sexual abuse.  Their reply was, “I’m so sorry to hear about what you have been through, and particularly what has happened for you and your family recently. Breaking the silence about child sexual assault is very difficult for victims and dealing with the impacts of this takes a lot of courage…” which sounded promising, but they then went on to advise they were unable to assist me, and had I heard of this other organisation that was based interstate.

On contacting the said interstate organisation, I was again advised, “sorry, we can’t help you.”

I was blessed to have one of the most amazing human beings, in the form of a detective, looking after my case, and following his suggestion, I contacted an organisation that supports victims of crime.  I received a number of fact sheets in the mail that contained all the information I was already aware of, and no specific information that could help me find the answers I was looking for.

I felt totally alone.

Yet again it seemed as though I was going to have to fight hard to get through the living hell I was experiencing, and to do it under my own steam and initiative.  I was so tired of fighting.

I was extremely lucky to have a circle of family and friends that supported me, but there was only so much they could do.  Unfortunately, they were as much in the dark about what was happening and what was coming my way as I was.  I knew no-one who had already ‘been there’ to help guide me and keep me in touch with my sanity.

At my lowest point, my partner quite strongly advised I should call Lifeline.  Very reluctantly, I did.

For an hour there was a person, a total stranger, at the other end of the phone, trying to help me hang on to the small thread of strength inside me that wanted to live.

The degree of difficulty in telling my story, yet again, to a total stranger, can not be described in words – it is something you have to experience to really understand.  However, I am so glad that I managed it, and I am ever so grateful to that person who did not judge me, who did not tell me I was stupid for wanting to die, and who helped me onto the path of understanding just how much I really wanted to live.

Within hours of that conversation, I received a call from a family member who was having severe difficulties of their own.  My immediate reaction was to go to their aid.  My partner was concerned about me doing so, given that only hours before he had taken me to the hospital in a suicidal state.

What I came to understand, however, was that helping other people also helped me.  Listening to their perspective helped me see my problems from a different point of view.  Understanding how they were impacted by the environment I grew up in allowed me to start putting the pieces of me back together.

From this small beginning, I became determined that one day I would create an organisation that would not turn people away if they needed someone to talk to.  A safe place in which people could share their stories and help each other help themselves.  Somewhere people could contact others who had similar experiences that could shed some light on how you get through it – can you really get out of the darkness?

This organisation is still my dream.  Every day I am working towards it.

What I am finding, however, is that there is already an amazing peer support circle in existence – it can be found through blogging!

There are some incredibly courageous souls out there who are breaking the silence and sharing their experiences in online blogs.  Some are just starting the healing journey, some are in the deepest depths of darkness, and others are emerging on the other side of ‘hell’ and finding there really is light in the world after all.

The stories that I read, the people I converse with, and the information I am gathering has been amazing.  Strong, brave, men and women, are already out there, selflessly and unconsciously providing peer support for others.

You are all my unsung heroes, and I salute you!  Please keep writing, no matter how alone you feel, because I assure you, you are not alone, and the things that you write about are, and have been, experienced by others.  Your blogs not only help break the silence, they provide hope for others along the way.

Becoming whole by finding all the pieces

Pieces of me

Pieces of me

One of the difficulties we have in ‘becoming whole’ is that others hold pieces of our story.

As children, we do not have the capacity to understand the full context in which our abuse occurs.  As we get older, and start to question who and what we are, we sometimes feel we are not ‘whole’ – that we are not normal, and there are parts of us missing.

It was not until I wanted to heal, (as opposed to just trying to get through each day), that I discovered other people often held the key to real understanding.

Over the years, I had received snippets of information from relatives, friends of my parents, people who were children when I was, but I had never consciously put these pieces into the jig-saw that was my life as a child.  It was only when I had made a conscious decision to become ‘whole’ that these pieces of ‘me’ fell into place.

My perspective was that of a child.  The perspective of others was the background and context.

Going through the darkest years, at times it really did feel like someone had upended a box of jig-saw pieces, scattering them everywhere.  For quite a while I did not have the energy or the inclination to sift through them and start putting the pieces together.

Once I started, however, I noticed subtle changes in me even after placing only a few pieces.  Suddenly things were starting to make sense.  Things like why my family was the way it was, how others could not see the monster I could see, why my cries for help went unnoticed, and why I always felt so confused and angry.  All of this understanding relied on the information others had given me.

No longer was I trying to make sense of my life purely from a child’s perspective, with a child’s limited understanding.

Although that statement might, at first, seem strange, the truth is, I was trying to comprehend what had happened, but the only knowledge of it I had was through the eyes of a child.  Even as an adult, the only experience of it I knew was my own.  Because I was a child living through it, I did not have all the details, all of the context, or all of the broader understanding that comes with age.

The years of painstakingly seeking out, and sorting through, all of the pieces of the puzzle were hard (a HUGE understatement), but I did, eventually, get through it.

Actively seeking the pieces of me held by other people, left me open to hurt, embarrassment, and shame.  At times it felt as though I was once again a child experiencing abuse – and in a sense I was.  I found I had to revisit what had happened to me time and time and time again to make sense of the new information – to see what was happening through the eyes of the person supplying this ‘new’ information.

There are still pieces that are missing.  There are still things I can’t make sense of.  There are still questions I need answered.

The difference now, however, is that the hardest work has been done, and new pieces of information no longer push me to the brink of oblivion.

A large percentage of the puzzle is together.  There is now room on the table for the rest of the pieces to lie separate from each other, instead of piled in a heap with no breathing room.  I already have a good sense of the background and context, so the correct placement of the new pieces occurs more quickly than before, and I don’t need to revisit and relive what happened in order to make sense of it all (well, not as much anyway).

These days, I can function reasonably similarly to a ‘normal’ person.  I can look at the sky and enjoy it’s blueness and not be triggered by it.  I can smile.  I can laugh, and really mean it.  I can do most of the things I want to without feeling like I need to have someone else’s permission.

Yes, there is still work to be done, but it is no longer vital to my survival like it used to be.  There is no longer real risk of harm to myself if I can’t get the pieces together.  There is enough of the puzzle completed to be able to stand back and see the bigger picture.

Who holds the pieces of you?

The ‘Survivor’ Label

"Survivor"

“Survivor”

I first encountered the term ‘survivor’ when I saw my first counsellor when I was twenty-one.

I hated it.

I didn’t feel like a survivor.

I felt depressed, suicidal, confused, hopeless, useless, disgusting and ashamed.  Survivors don’t feel those things, do they?

In the decades since that first encounter, I have come to accept that I did ‘survive’, but I still don’t like the label.

Labels confine people.  Labels promote stigma, prejudice, and judgement.   Labels pressure us to conform to the associated social norms.  Labels do not respect and value individuality and the uniqueness of experience.  Labels can lead to external control.

I am a person.  My experience of life is my own – just as your experience is yours.  Don’t place a label on me and judge me by it, and I will afford you the same respect.

He won

He won!

I don’t have any one to talk to that is going to understand this, so I will have to write it because if I don’t get it out somehow it is going to kill me.

He won.

He wasn’t a dumbass – I think he knew exactly what he was doing and what the outcome would be. Unfortunately, the dumbass is me, for taking so long to realise what his death means.

In many ways, and probably all the ones that count, I am now in a worse place than I was two years ago.

Back then, if I had a bad day, if I suffered from anxiety, depression, panic or whatever, it was my problem and my fault. (Just another day in Hell).

Then, for the last two years, I have been surrounded by people wanting to know how I am, saying they care about me, and telling me how brave I am and how strong I am.

Now, of course, Dad is dead, and with him died the court case – and it would seem that most people think that all of my problems relating to what happened to me died with him. “It’s all over now.”

Well, no, it’s not all over.

Now, not only am I some crazy bitch with a temper and mood swings and God knows what else, because now many people believe that I am the cause of my father’s death.

People still don’t know what he did to me. People still don’t know all of the ways it has affected me. But apparently none of that matters now because he’s dead.

If it was so easy to stop being affected by what happened, don’t you think I would have hit that switch long ago?

So, now I guess it goes back to being my problem, my fault, and all in my head. Now it means I am stuck in ‘No Man’s Land’ – I can’t grieve for my father because people don’t understand that even though he did terrible things to me he was still my father. I can’t talk about what happened because nobody knows or wants to know – and it doesn’t matter now, does it? I can’t have anxiety, a panic attack or depression because the cause of my problem is dead.  At least two years ago I could go through all of these things and I was just ‘crazy’ because no-one knew why I was like that.

I guess that means the last two years have been a complete waste of time.

And, I guess that means Dad won.