Tag Archives: Panic attack

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.

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Being true, being vulnerable

Being true, being vulnerable

Being true, being vulnerable

I am currently working on an ethics assignment for my Bachelor Degree, and although I am having difficulty with all the theorising and waffle, it has had me thinking about how we make decisions and be true, or authentic, to ourselves.

Being true, unfortunately, also has the consequence of being vulnerable.

In 2010, on receiving confirmation that my father had abused a fourth victim, one much younger who had been abused much more recently than the other three, I felt I had been forced into a dilemma – do I remain silent, or do I take action?  Typical of all dilemmas, I had the capacity to choose either option, but only one of them.  Both choices had severe consequences attached.

Although my journey towards speaking out had, in hindsight, begun much earlier than the catalytic phone call I received, it was not until during that phone that I took the first step that really left me no option but to act.  you see, it was only during that phone call, that I actually stood up and said, “What about me?  What about what I have been through?  What about my life?”  It from these three small statements that I came to understand that for the previous thirty-eight years I had believed I, me, did not matter.  Whatever had happened to me didn’t matter, because it was just me.  Whatever my father had done to me did not matter, because it was just me.  Whenever anyone told me I was volatile, volcanic, miserable etc., did not matter, because it was just me.

I cried, really cried, for the first time that night – for me, for the little girl I had been, for all the things I had lost and could never get back, for the others that I knew my father had abused, and for the desperate hopelessness that had followed me all of my life.  Crying left me exhausted, but that exhausted state gave me time to think about my father’s life at that moment.  He still had regular and prolonged access to young girls in what appeared to be his target age group.  His wife (not my mother) had a number of nieces that would visit and stay at their house, their friends had young girls who would visit and stay at their house, and his family had young girls who, although at that time too young, would one day hit that ‘golden’ age and who would visit and stay at their house.  What was I going to do about that?

My options, as I saw them was to do nothing and stay silent, to confront my father directly, or to make a stand and go to the police.

Doing nothing really wasn’t an option.  I was already feeling guilt, because if I had spoken out sooner, the other three victims may have been saved.  This was no longer just about me.  Confronting my father directly, I felt, was not an option, because it did not guarantee the safety of those young girls he still had regular contact with.  That left going to the police.

I had first seen a counsellor when I was twenty-one – I had been almost literally dragged their by a co-worker because I had a ‘melt down’ (now known to be a panic attack) at work one day, and I had blurted some of the story out to her in the bathroom.  Anyway, that counsellor told me that because I was twenty-one, if I didn’t make a complaint to the police at that time, I would never be able to.  Being in crisis at the time, I was in no fit state to make any major decisions, so i never made a complaint to the police.

So, twenty-odd years on, when the only choice I seemed to be to take action and go to the police, I remembered that first counselling session, and thought there was nothing I could do.

I already had plans to pick my friend up from the hospital the following morning, so, after a sleepless night I tried explain what had happened and what I was thinking to my somewhat bewildered partner, I collected my friend and we have breakfast together at a cafe near the hospital.  I explained to my friend what had happened the previous night, telling him for the first time about what had happened to me as a child.  I explained how I felt I only had three choices, and how two of those were not really an option.  We sat for an hour, him listening, me talking.  Then, he said he would support me in whatever I decided to do.  He suggested, however, that I should consider those young girls who may currently be in danger of my father.

I was already beginning to focus my thoughts along those lines, but I was terrified of actually doing something, of going to the police and putting into motion who-knows-what type of consequences.

My friend was very aware that I am an ‘if-it’s-meant-to-be-it-will-be’ type of person, so he suggested that we stop at the first police station on the way to his place, and if it didn’t feel right, we could stop at the next one etc.

I don’t know how many stations we drove past that morning, but we got to the very last station and I knew it was now or never.  We walked to the door and immediately I was drawn to a poster that had my birthday on it (good sign), then we walked inside and there were posters everywhere about protecting children from sexual abuse (good sign), then I rang the bell on the counter and waited for an officer to arrive.  When he did I almost ran back out the door!  It took me five minutes to say, “I need to talk to someone – my father sexually abused me as a child.”

As luck would have it (or fate, or the Universe, or God, or whatever), the Child Protection Officer just happened to be at that particular station, at that moment (GOOD sign).

That momentous step was my first public acknowledgement of me being true to myself.  It didn’t matter if I was going to be killed.  It didn’t matter what anyone thought.  It didn’t matter if the world was going to disintegrate into a thousand different pieces.  All that mattered was that I was making a stand and saying, “I WILL NOT BE SILENT ANY LONGER.  I WILL NOT PROTECT CHILD ABUSERS.  I WILL NOT LET MY INACTION LEAD TO ANOTHER CHILD BEING ABUSED!”  And yes, it felt like I was screaming it from every fibre of my being.

Since then, I have been learning every day how to be true to me, to my values, and to what I think is morally right.  I do still find myself saying and doing things that aren’t ‘really’ me – for example, in a recent conversation with a friend I made a comment about how we might not have a ‘normal’ friendship.  She responded by saying, “It seems pretty normal to me.”  This made me stop and look at what I had said – did I think it was abnormal?  No.  Then why did I say that?  Because I was still holding onto someone else’s idea of friendship that was masquerading as my own.  Time to get rid of that and embrace my own ideas, thank you.

So, how does all this make me vulnerable?

Being true makes me vulnerable because I can no longer use the excuse that these are not my thoughts, that these are not my feelings, that these are not my beliefs.  I am putting myself out there in the world, and that’s quite scary.  For so long, I didn’t matter, but I do matter, and every day I have to prove that by being ME.  For so long, I believed everyone hated me, so by being me, and putting myself out there, I have to be able to accept that others may disagree with me, and might not even like me, but that’s okay because I am who I am, and if someone doesn’t like me, it’s no reflection on me as much as a reflection of them and their values, their morals, and their beliefs.

As long I am being true, being honest, behaving with integrity, and being open and vulnerable, that is all that can be asked of me.

The Truth

Truth

I discovered this short story in my draft folder from September 2010.  

Collapsed in the corner, Tanya feels raw and exposed.  She feels like her skin has been stripped from her body.  She has carried the burden of The Truth inside for thirty years and it has eaten her alive from the inside out.  Her annihilation will be complete when the shell of her body finally gives way to The Truth’s crushing weight.

Tanya knows she should be feeling relieved.  She knows she should be proud of what she so recently accomplished.  She knows her family expects her recovery will now be complete and The Truth will no longer matter.  She knows others think she has weathered the worst and she has come out the other side beaten and bruised, but relatively intact.  She knows they are wrong.

Confronting her fears and taking The Truth to the one person that can validate her memories has used up the last of her strength and energy.  Tanya is barely able to breathe.  Her brain is low on battery power and the signals are not reaching their destination.  The pain streaming from her pores is all she can focus on.  The pressure of The Truth across the back of her neck and shoulders feels like a yoke.  Cries of anguish emit from her lips, but Tanya is oblivious to the sound.

Denial would have been easier to handle.  Tanya had planned contingencies for that.  Even anger would have been better than the calmness she had just encountered.  His lack of regard for the enormity of the impact The Truth has had on her, even after Tanya gave details, left her hanging onto life by one miniscule thread of hope.  A thread that seemed certain to snap at the slightest application of pressure.  A thread so frayed and stretched to capacity, it could be argued that its attachment to life did not exist at all.

A part of Tanya is fervently wishing the thread will break so she can enter the promised oblivion of non-existence.  However, out of nowhere, another part of her is praying in equal measure for survival.  Trying to ignore the vague hope within, Tanya wraps herself in loneliness.  The invisible cloak stings her exposed flesh, and it is almost too much to bear.

Tanya knows she will soon have to face the world.  She imagines her responsibilities hanging over her head like an executioner’s axe.  One false move and the blade will fall.

Distracted, her brain engages in this fantasy, and Tanya visualises her corpse being picked over and analysed.  She knows they will only see a body – headless and bloody.  No-one will know or understand the terror she has experienced.  Physical signs of torment will not exist.  Her mental and emotional scars will not be seen by even the most experienced scientific eye.  So, will that mean that her life has been wasted?

Tanya feels desolate at the thought of having lived for nothing.  Has she existed only to carry the burden of The Truth, and to drown in its pain?

The tiny thread of hope shudders and grows a little stronger.

Tanya’s keening stops and she struggles to sit.  On auto-pilot, she begins to draw deep, slow breaths and to still her mind.  Her meditation practice kicks in and her breath becomes endless – no beginning, no end – just a gentle flow of life, in and out.

The calming effects are almost immediate.  Tanya feels her muscles begin to relax and her mental strength begin to increase.  She allows herself to rest for a few more minutes, and then she pulls herself up.  She leans against the wall for a moment, takes a deep breath in, and moves to the nearest chair.  Her legs are shaking as she walks and she stumbles, falling into the chair rather than sitting.

Once seated, Tanya again questions the reason for her existence.  What if her years of torture caused by The Truth have been for a reason?  What if there is a purpose to her life after all?

The thread of hope grows stronger as she contemplates the possibilities.  The pain is still there.  How can she use her emotions to achieve something positive?  Tanya considers this change in her thinking.  Moments ago she was seeking oblivion, and yet here she is contemplating moving forward into life!  Is it possible there are others like her in need of someone who understands?  Pondering this question, for what seems like hours, Tanya arrives at the conclusion that there must be.

Not caring if this answer came from fact or wishful thinking, Tanya dries her eyes and starts to formulate a plan in her mind.

Insomnia

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Insomnia

Please don’t make me go to bed,

the night is just too scary,

I’ll sleep tomorrow, in the light,

when I won’t be so wary.

 

I close my eyes and lay my head

down softly on the pillow,

but darkness brings the pain again,

like bathing with a brillo.

 

His touch, his smell and memory

is too much for me to bear.

So, out of bed, no sleep tonight

For I sense him everywhere.

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.