Posts tagged ‘post traumatic stress disorder’

AND I BET THE WHOLE WORLD THOUGHT THAT I WOULD GIVE UP TODAY.

Soon I will be trekking across the country again. This is a trip that I didn’t know if I could make happen and by myself it would have been completely outside the realms of possibility. Luckily for my children and I, we have the great gift of our family of the heart. The people who love and support us in so very many ways. There are some days they make cross country travel possible and some days they make getting out of bed possible, but there is not a day that goes by that I am not grateful they are there. Cheering us on, lifting us up, lighting our way.Not long ago the psychologist I first worked with after Daughter Number One died sent me photos of her gorgeous new puppy. Last week I had a phone call from the friend who rang me every day that I spent in a mental health unit years ago. Someone I’ve only ever met once in real life. Who I met through a friend I had met on Plenty of Fish. The other morning I had a message from Daughter Number One’s friend who shared her name; that is, until she recently got married! This trip, to pick up Daughter Number Two for the school holidays was made possible by, in no particular order;Another lovely soul I met through the same Plenty of Fish guy as above – THANKS GLEN MY FRIEND! The incredible mother of Son Number Two’s beloved Hope, who has been Daughter Number Two’s guardian angel on earth this year, One of Daughter Number One’s treasured school friends, who also recently made a beautiful bride, An extremely dear friend that I have really only known two years but feel like my heart has known forever, A newer friend still, who I met through the friend above, who regularly thrashes me at word games, A special friend who has had much travelling on many levels this year but has still made time and space to connect with me,A lovely and glamorous friend who has moved houses recently and mountains always,A friend who comes from my life before, before Daughter Number One died, who continues to fight the good fight for vulnerable children, The one I bought from eBay, despite their pricelessness,My dear ones who always give me a safe place to land,My favourite former housemates,My high school friend and regular bridesmaid, The sister of Son Number Two’s Best Friend and the Best Friend himself, who I trust to keep an eye out for Son Number Two when I am not there to do it, Son Number Two himself. This list above is just of people who have helped in concrete and measurable, practical ways. It is by no means comprehensive! From different periods of my life, across varying distances and on many levels we have a wealth of people checking in, supporting and encouraging us and believing in me on the days that I can’t. Every kind word said, every good wish expressed, every ‘I hear you!’ counts. I do not walk a day where I feel like I am doing this alone and the responsibility and privilege of knowing people are genuinely invested in us keeps me wanting to show up for them. With this support I am growing into the best version of myself I can be. More steady on my feet than I have been for a very long time. All these threads; old friends, new friends, dear friends, true friends; weaving themselves into this safety net/ security blanket that gives me enough confidence to fly. This week, literally. In my own ways I try to pay these gifts forward, in whichever way I can. Last week I attended Angelhands’ Guinness World Record Attempt and as often as possible I send the message, make the phone call, post a card, pay a visit; reaching out my hand to let people know that I am there and I that I care. For me, that human connection has been the thing that is worth sticking around for. As challenging as I often find social interaction – and I really do, in numerous ways – the not insubstantial effort is worth the rewards. Even as I sit here now, doing the things I didn’t think would be possible, it still feels surreal. It is overwhelming me a bit to grasp the reality of having such a huge wish come true. The joy, the utter relief, the continued anxiety of waiting for the next step to fall into place; I am looking forward to the pace slowing a bit so my head can stop screaming so loudly “WE DID IT!!!! WE REALLY DID IT!!!! THIS IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING!!!!”. We have the capacity to change people’s lives every day. Even our own. Especially our own. What you put out into the world matters. It counts. Sometimes in ways you don’t expect, many times in ways you will never know about. But in absolutely real ways that can make all the difference. Never underestimate the power of the little things. To my Dearest Hearts, my beautiful people, for every thing that you do and are, THANK YOU. I hope, even if just a little, you understand how incredibly huge this is and what we have accomplished together. We did it, guys. We really did. Safe onward travel x

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MAY YOUR GUIDING LIGHT BE STRONG.

Earlier this week a friend was taking me to an appointment and we were on the freeway. The traffic ground to almost a standstill and we were barely crawling along. I googled traffic conditions and the website said that there had been an accident resulting in partial closure of the freeway with no information about injuries as yet. The post was several hours old and I immediately thought that there must have been a fatality. As we crawled past no less than three lots of cars, who seemed to have run into each other in the barely moving traffic jam and were exchanging details, I was transported to another freeway and a rock faced wall. My hands sifting through sandy dirt at the edge of the road and finding a melted section of a car badge. Another freeway almost fifteen years ago.

In the present day my heart rate and breathing escalated and I started to cry. My phone vibrated with a message from a friend asking how I was going and I told her. Fifteen minutes later – maybe? It could have been quicker, everything was moving very slowly – another message from my friend. “No fatality. It’s a diesel spill xx”

Just over seven years ago I posted this post titled “With a little help from my friends”. This week, again, always, I have had much cause to be thankful for the beautiful people who surround my children and me. There has been so much going on, many layers of things. Those people who walk beside us make this life a gentler trip.

So this shoutout goes to ones who are there. The ones who get us. The ones who love us. The ones who pick up the slack and give us a boost. Who take us to concerts and give us safe places to land. Who know what to say and when to say it and when to say nothing at all. The ones who don’t give up or turn their backs. With all our love and thanks to you, because we seriously couldn’t do this without you! Which is really something I can’t say enough.

Safe onward travel x

THIS WOMAN’S WORK.

Content warning: Violence against women, Domestic Violence, sexual assault, violence against children, suicide.

This is not your regular Mother’s Day post. It’s not even MY regular Mother’s Day post, although it starts about the same. Earlier this week I was at an appointment and the doctor asked how many children I had and I answered her and I cried. Then I had coffee with a friend and there was a Mother’s Day promotion on a card in the middle of the table so I turned it around to face the window. So I couldn’t see it. So it couldn’t see me. Yesterday, on the phone, a stranger told me to ‘Have a happy Mother’s Day’ and I hung up my phone and blinked away hot tears.

It’s a SHIT time of year for me. Mother’s Day is about three weeks out from the anniversary of Daughter Number One’s murder. Fifteen years this year. And the day before that will be three years since her father killed himself. And the day before that will mark twenty years since a beloved friend killed himself – the fun never ends at this time of year.

Then the news broke of Australia’s worst mass shooting in decades; a murder suicide with four of the dead being children. There’s been a screaming inside my head and a dagger in my heart ever since I heard.

For the innocent lives lost and the friends and family they have left behind. The first responders and all who will be touched by this in a professional capacity going forward. To their wider community, in all the various communities they were a part of. My heart just bleeds and bleeds. The devastation and destruction and just incredible wastefulness. Happy fucking Mother’s Day.

I’ve had a post half written in my head for weeks now. The more usual, for me, Mother’s Day one. The one where I acknowledge the Mothers who are without their children and the children who no longer have their Mothers. Where I remember the Step Mother’s and the foster Mothers and all the women that step up in that capacity without deserved recognition. But in thinking about it I’ve realised it’s SO MUCH MORE than that. Because if you are a woman, whether you have had children or not you can be DAMN SURE you’ve been mothering someone! In fact, it’s not just women but girls too. If you are female the chances are you mother someone in your life; partners, siblings, friends, colleagues, parents etc. It’s what we are trained to do. It’s what is expected from us.

To mother, the verb, means “look after (someone) kindly and protectively, sometimes excessively so.” And we do. We do. I know my Daughter stayed silent about the sexual abuse she suffered because she thought she was protecting those she loved. She literally died doing so. It’s why I can’t shut up. It’s why I won’t. Until I literally die.

We use the word ‘mother’ to denote things of import – Mother Nature, mother load, mother ship – but where, exactly, do we pay more than lip service to the significance of mothers? To the significance of women? Unicorn slippers and breakfast in bed tomorrow just really don’t cut it for me!

Let’s get some perspective on this, shall we? Counting Dead Women Australia count every known death due to violence against women in Australia. As of yesterday the tally sits at 23, so far, this year. Which means we are currently SMASHING our national average of one dead woman per week in this country due to violence against women. And this tally doesn’t even include children lost to domestic violence.

Please keep in mind that I live in The Lucky Country. A first world country. A ‘civilised’ nation. And yet I also live in a country where my sanitary products are taxed under a goods and services tax – literally taxing me for being a woman! – even though condoms are exempt. I live in a country that will pay me less than a man for doing the same job. I live in a country where abortion laws vary from state to state and abortion is technically illegal in two.

Elisabeth Moss, who stars in and produces The Handmaid’s Tale gave an interview recently in which she said hates hearing that someone won’t watch the show because it is ‘too scary’. That she struggles with the idea of that because “This is happening in your real life.” There is no question that The Handmaid’s Tale is confronting viewing. There is graphic violence against women and sexual assault. Yes, it is scary. But what is even more petrifying? Is when you watch it and realise that we are not so far removed from that possible reality. So, please, be scared, be uncomfortable, Watch it anyway and then be OUTRAGED.

Tomorrow and all the other days after that, let your outrage inspire you to action. Speak your truth, shout it loud, share it widely. Support your local woman’s refuge or collective or your next door neighbour who’s struggling a bit. Read, learn, question. And take care of your own damn self.

Angelhands is currently organising a Guinness World Record attempt for the Largest Gathering of Angels. Angelhands provides support to people affected by violent crime. This event will be their major fundraising initiative for 2018 and is being held on Wednesday 27th June 2018. This is PTSD Awareness Day and June is PTSD Awareness Month in the USA. All details regarding this event can be found by clicking through to the Angelhands website here or to the Facebook event here.

Rest peacefully Cynda, Katrina, Taye, Rylan, Arye and Kadyn.

To all of you for whom tomorrow brings sadness, go gently.

Safe onward travel everyone x

MAY YOUR DAYS BE MERRY AND BRIGHT.

A few weeks ago Son Number Two came home from a movie night with The Boys. He said “Mum, there’s a movie we have to see!”. He went on to explain that he had seen the shorts for a film called’Goodbye Christopher Robin’. He said “Mum, we have to see it, it’s Winnie the Pooh”.

As I’ve said before, Daughter Number One loved Winnie the Pooh and her room was full of Winnie stuff. After her murder my Sons and I decorated her coffin with Winnie the Pooh stickers, messages of love, glitter and their tiny handprints. So, “Mum, we have to see it, it’s Winnie the Pooh” – Of course we did.

Off we went, on my birthday at the beginning of the month. It was a very good movie. Terribly British in a charming way; it had themes of the futility of war, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the mistakes we make as parents, forgiveness, family of the heart and how we carry on. It is the back story of bow Winnie the Pooh came to be. I didn’t have any knowledge of Winnie the Pooh author A.A.Milne outside of Winnie himself and it was incredibly moving and interesting to watch this film. I cried, oh, how I cried. And I unreservedly recommend you watch ‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’ too. I also recommend doing your own research around A.A.Milne and reading some of his other works.

Well guys, it’s been a year! Christmas is almost upon us and then another year. I don’t know about you but I’m tired. My plan is to spend my time and energy on the people I love, who love me. That’s all I’m sure about. As always I am tremendously grateful for those who travel with me.

Wishing you and yours health and happiness! Safe onward travel x

IT’S EASIER TO BELIEVE IN THIS SWEET MADNESS, OH THIS GLORIOUS SADNESS.

We are hurtling towards the end of the year and soon 2017 will be done.

To be honest, I’m not sure I will miss it. Next week, here in Australia, we find out the result of our criminally wasteful, hate mongering, progress delaying postal survey to see if some of us can have the same right as the rest of us. And still nothing will change, because this postal survey doesn’t actually change anything – except the degree to which people now feel free to spew hate about a certain group of us. Oh, and the millions of dollars less we now have to spend on silly stuff like education, health, the homeless, the environment. All those trivial things which can’t really matter much if we have money to burn on what is essentially ugly confetti at the end of the day.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe they are seeing how many more mass shootings they can cram in before the end of the year because gun control is a less attractive alternative (What. The. Actual. Fuck. ?????!!!!)

SIGH. If only we could use our powers for good.

Guys, I’m exhausted. The last few months have been intense. Good things and bad things, both, but intense and I’m weary.

Son Number Two graduated high school recently. This is a good thing. I am incredibly proud of him. I know how far he has had to travel and the obstacles he has had to navigate. I didn’t finish high school. I was pregnant with Daughter Number One by age seventeen. I went back to tertiary studies after having children but I didn’t finish high school. Son Number Two is the first of my children to finish high school. His graduation was a big deal to me, for his sake and for mine.

I don’t think I anticipated just quite how much of a huge deal it was to me until we actually attended the ceremony. Son Number Two had to be there early for a rehearsal so he’d gone ahead with his friends. I was attending with one of my friends. As soon as we entered the ceremony room tears started streaming down my face. Luckily the lights were low and I held on to my friend tightly as I struggled to compose myself. I managed to contain any sobs but the tears quietly snaked down my face for a long time. Before proceedings had even begun; before the graduating class was even in the room. Eventually, my tears slowed, then stopped. ‘Ok’ I thought, ‘I’m ok, I’ve got this under control.’ And I did. Right up until one of the speakers asked us to think back to when our students had started school.

I do remember when Son Number Two started school. He started school eight months after his big sister was murdered. My little boy’s world had been blown apart and at that stage we were still lurching between the inquest and other court proceedings. There was no security. There wasn’t even much familiarity. Everything and everyone Son Number Two had ever known had either been brutally ripped from his life or changed almost beyond recognition, including me. He was so small and so defeated. I remember standing beside his desk – was it an orientation or the first day? I can’t be sure. What I remember is the sheet on the desk and his downcast eyes as he said ‘It’s too hard. I can’t do it.’

It was too hard, because everything was too hard. Over the years I’m not sure things got easier. Times changed. Schools changed. Six times over the course of his educational career. It’s only really been in the last several years that Son Number Two has had any confidence in his abilities or discovered there were actually things he enjoyed about learning. He was lucky to have some help along the way, someone who cared enough to see his real potential. Someone who, one way and another, inspired my Son to start living up to that potential. Like me, he has very good friends. Son Number Two took the road less travelled but he got there in the end. I am so proud of the young man he is and so excited by who he is becoming.

I was completely overwhelmed throughout the graduation ceremony. My head was pounding. We were seated near the door so after Son Number Two had sauntered from the room like a rock star my friend and I went into the hall to wait for him. We found him as he and his friends went to get a photo together at the end of the corridor. The entrance to the building was at the other end of the corridor and, as we waited, the corridor started filling with people spilling out of the ceremony room. I could feel my throat closing over and my chest getting tight so my friend and I elected to head outside for some air.

Son Number Two finally emerged. We took some photos and exchanged hugs and wished him on his way. I was staying at my friend’s place so my Son and his friends could celebrate at ours. As soon as I got into my friend’s car the sobs I had been containing broke free. Noisy and ugly. We made the short journey back to his place where his daughter had dinner waiting for us. I went to get changed into less formal wear and then walked out to the back patio to sit with my friend. As I walked through his back door the nausea I had been trying to suppress all evening overtook me and I walked straight past my friend and threw up in his back garden.

There were so many conflicting emotions. My focus had been my Son but the empty space where Daughter Number One should have been felt emptier that night. As proud and happy for him as I am it is bittersweet for me that he is the first of my children to graduate high school. And I fruitlessly wonder how much more of his potential he would have realised, or how much sooner, if things had been different. I let the anger wash over me and let it go. It is what it is. And really, as far as he has come, it is still only the beginning for my Son Number Two.

I haven’t really been able to hit my stride again yet. There are lots of emotions at this time of year and this year has been a long one. Not the longest, to be sure, but still. Lots of first times. Lots of last times.

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I took this photo and the one below at Stockton Beach on the east coast of Australia, mere months before my Daughter’s murder and around a year before Son Number Two started school. In the top right of the photo of Daughter Number one dancing in the waves is a corner of the shipwrecked MV Sygna. You can see it clearly behind four year old Son Number Two here.

Last year, a few days after the anniversary of Daughter Number Ones death, most of what was left visible of the MV Sygna slipped into the sea during storms. Apparently there’s only a tiny bit there to see now. Soon enough you won’t be able to see it at all.

There are only so many days left of 2017. Try to fill yours with love. This too shall pass. All of it. Make memories, take photos, go gently with yourself and others. Travel safe x

I’VE LOOKED AT CLOUDS FROM BOTH SIDES NOW. 

In the last few weeks there has been the twentieth anniversary of the death of Princess Diana and the sixteenth anniversary of September 11. There were many television programs commemorating the anniversary of Princess Diana’s death. I watched some of them. I heard her sons speak of the last conversation they had with their mother; a brief phone chat. Their regret that they had not spoken to their mother for longer. Those poor little boys. 

There were also lots of articles commemorating the anniversary of 9/11. Tales of ordinary extraordinary people. Stories of brave survival and honourable death. Poignant conversations. Answering machine messages. We don’t generally have the luxury of knowing in advance when ‘last’ times come. The luxury of savouring each millisecond and commiting each moment to memory. We usually only recognise them when they are past. The last time we hear someone’s voice or see them smile or hold them in our arms. 

In between the anniversary of Princess Diana’s death and September 11th this year Connie Johnson died. Boy, that chick knew how to live! And how to love! Connie was amazing. Her public memorial service was held in Melbourne today. If you are not familiar with Connie’s life and her work you can read up on her at loveyoursister.org  Please do! Or, you know, google. Look up Connie and what she was about. She left quite a legacy for everyone who loved her, especially her sons. But I bet they’d rather still have their Mum. 

Anniversaries, anniversaries, anniversaries. Whether it’s an hour or a day or twenty years they pack a punch. That’s loss I guess. That’s life. 

Even without working it out exactly I know that I have now lived longer without my Daughter Number One than I lived with her. I don’t need anniversaries to still feel the enormity of that loss. It is the way it is. This cartoon references mental illness but could just as easily relate to grief and loss for me. 

It’s not that I am unaffected now. Far from it. Just that it is what it is. I have lived longer without my Daughter than she lived her entire life. And however wrong that is, , however unbelievable, however fucking unfair, that’s the way it is. Knowing that doesn’t mean I didn’t have a night last week, as I turned the tv off and locked up the house, when I glanced at a photo of my Daughter and a sob burst from me with such force that it bent me double and I found myself on my knees, with tears streaming down my face saying over and over “Please come back! Please come back!”. But however much I plead and beg and cry she is never coming back. And the world keeps turning and the sun keeps rising. 

This year has been another one filled with loss, for me and people I hold dear. But not ours exclusively. Loss is the flip side of love. I try to focus, as best I can, on the love. It’s what there is left to hang on to. When all else is gone love is what remains. 

So I guess this is what I want to say today; love hard. Take the photo, make the phone call, send the message. Connect with the people you care about in any way available to to you! We have the technology! Get the most out of it! Send a video message or record a voice message. Do a video chat! Or go old school! Send a letter, write a card, post a care package. Let those you love know about it. You, your time and energy, are the most important gift you have to give. So invest in the people who matter to you, while you can. As much as you can for as long as you can. Savour it all. 

Safe onward travel x 

LOVE IS WATCHING SOMEONE DIE. 

We are through the first half of 2017, and almost halfway through July now as well. I made it through the 14th anniversary of Daughter Number One’s murder but only just, regular viewers, only just. I am still here, still breathing, still putting one foot in front of the other. 

I don’t try to pretend it is easy. It really hasn’t been. During the first five months of this year two beautiful souls I had the privilege of connecting with died and in June another, most precious, followed. On top of my own personal grief, watching people I love in pain is almost more than I can bear. I say almost because there isn’t a choice. I love them and they are in pain. If the most I can do is bear witness then it needs to be done. But I have been so sad. For me, for them. It all hurts so much. My body hurts, my soul hurts and oh, I’m so tired. So very, very tired. 

In the week before the anniversary of Daughter Number One’s murder we had the bombing in Manchester, at Ariana Grande’s concert. An attack on children. An attack on music. Shortly after came the London Bridge attack, again involving young people on a night out and shortly after that came the Grenfell Tower disaster. Babies and children, whole families, living their lives, losing their lives and all of these events in quick succession hit me like a ton of bricks. The weight of it, mixed with the other losses in my own life. The pointless waste of snuffed out potential. The reinforcement of how tenuous our grip on life is. How quickly everything we have and know and hold dear can be gone. It was crushing. 

As always, during these times, we were offered the very best and the very worst of humanity. Stories of homeless men running to give aid and strangers holding children, comforting them as they died. But the overwhelming aftertaste was of man’s inhumanity to man. These are the things I try not to hold onto. I really try. Consciously. I choose to look for the good and to be better, not bitter. But every ‘Missing! Hasn’t been heard from’ photo on facebook and each confirmed fatality, each snatched glimpse of footage showing billowing smoke and bereft people before I quickly changed the channel, took me back to a policeman’s face and the sound of his voice saying “There is nothing to identify. We’ll have to use dental records”. Over and over and over again. 

I am still sad. I am still scared. I am scared because at some point, in some way, love will equal loss, because that is the deal. And I choose to keep loving. Is it better to have loved and lost? Still, yes, I guess. For me at least. But the loss bit is just so very hard. 

Still, I get up in the morning and I put one foot in front of the other. Some days are slower than others, but I try and I try because the best way I know to honour the dead is by living. All the dear ones I have loved and lost, none of them would want me to not live my life. It would not give them back theirs. 

I have spoken before of the privilege of being adopted by a network of ex servicemen and women of all designations; military, police, fire and ambulance: Their support and generosity of spirit are second to none. A friend wrote recently to share his positive experience with a new medication he was trialling. Traditionally a blood pressure medication, it is said to have the bonus side effect of getting rid of ptsd related nightmares. As someone who routinely screams herself awake this sounded almost miraculous. In truth, after all these years I cannot imagine what life might be like without them. I just know it sounds good to me. 

After using antidepressants for over ten years I stopped taking them four years ago. A doctor said to me that she didn’t think my depression was biologically based, rather a reaction to events. I thought ‘Abso- fucking- lutely’ and at that moment there didn’t seem to be much point in continuing to take them. I only speak for myself. I don’t make judgements about what does and doesn’t work for anyone else. I was under medical supervision. But for me, I have not had any more bad days or anymore good days since I stopped taking them. That’s what I know. 

Four years down the track from that decision, hearing about a medication that specifically targets the nightmares was pretty exciting! So I made an appointment with a gp and asked. The Dr I was seeing had never heard of using this particular medication in that way so she rang a registrar for more information. She confirmed what my friend had been so generous to share. So, I got my prescription. And I don’t know that it will work for me but I don’t know that it won’t. And hope is a fine thing! 

One foot in front of the other until you get to the other side, while sirens in the distance have me listening for the voice that will never come. 

Safe onward travel to all my lovelies, wherever you are and wherever you are headed x 

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