A Name is just a Name, or Is It?

I took a lot of care when choosing my own children’s names
It was important to me that they had names that meant something strong and positive
They are another story for another time…

I know Why I was named but due to my young life experiences
all of my three names have held very negative connotations

Recently whilst discussing my innate ability to help others my therapist suggested I was a human rights activist
“No – more of an advocate”
‘What other descriptives do you think of yourself?’
“Warrior” popped into my head
and with that our talk wound its way down a rabbit hole which has turned my perceptions of my names and myself upside down
In a good way

I have always hated my second name
My parents had friends
An elderly childless couple
They named me after her
Hilda
I have always hated the name but joked it out by saying at least I saved my brothers
His name was Percival!
They were reprieved from that – they really do need to thank me for bearing the burden 🙂

But when my therapist began leading me to explore further
I knew Hilda meant Battle or Battlemaiden
And even though we both have similar Shetland / Scandinavian roots she did not know about the Valkeries
So we began exploring the stories,
The Valkeries carried the chosen dead from the battlefields and carried them to Valhalla for Odin
They were fierce, determined, caring,
Hildr was one of the named ones
she was recorded as being of importance
The name was written
Hilde
Hildr
With my Scandinavian roots and my lifelong battle to overcome the effects from my childhood abuse this really begun to resonate with me
Maybe a spelling change could change my perception on my name?

My first name also has held a negative tone for me
I was named after my father
I was supposed to be a boy – Raymond – his second name
But I was born a girl so I was Raewyn
This is a made up combination name
and is uncommon outside of New Zealand
and generally it is found in my age group
In fact statistics show it doesn’t appear as a birth name after 1971
There was never a specific meaning
White doe is the closest I ever got and that seemed very twee to me

Once I began facing the demons of my past I really struggled with my name
I hated that he was responsible for it
That it tied me to him
Or I felt it identified me with him

Here in New Zealand we are encouraged to give our mihi or introduction when greeting
And within that we disclose our ancestral journey
Identifying our forebears, our origins,
I so struggled with this as I did not want to identify with him in any way
A Maori friend helped me to process this in a way
that really helped me identify in my present past
not my damaged past
So I could mihi safely

It wasn’t until I became friends with international friends who commented how unusual my name was.
In fact a young American friend messaged me a few years ago and asked if I’d mind if she need her daughter Raewyn
I was honoured
It was then I began to realise how unusual it was
special even!
And since marrying my American and traveling there with him
I am embracing it more positively and confidently
In fact I had a lot of fun with their inabilities to pronounce or spell it when I say it 🙂

Then whilst down the rabbit hole I began some researching and discovered that in the 1890’s when the suffrage movement was in full swing here
1893 NZ was the first self governing nation to give women the right to vote!
Anyways there supposedly was a woman named Rae Wynn who was involved in the suffrage movement which could’ve sparked people honouring her by calling their babies Raewyn, Raewynn, Raewynne,…

I also know that my paternal grandmother who carried that name must’ve been an amazing woman
So I try now to look beyond that previous generation and identify with the women in my family tree from before who were pioneers
Women who must have had so much strength & resilience

It feels good to be discovering strengths and positivity in my name
Empowering even!

My maiden name has left a very sour taste in my mouth
I struggle to identify with anything pertaining to my father
I married at 21 so I have carried a different surname for over 43 years
That has eased my aversion
But I still become very triggered when forced to fill out paperwork with that name
Or if I am identified as part of the family who carry that name


Names are important
Never underestimate the power of your name
And if you meet someone
Never Ever Assume you can shorten their name
Or use their familial nickname
Unless you have their permission
Or I might have to send my Valkyrie to deal with you 😉

Loneliness

No matter your age or abilities or situation
Loneliness is
it just is

It ebbs and flows
you can be the happiest busiest person
and still be lonely
feel lonesome
feel so alone in the midst of a busy room
be alone in a crowd
feel empty

Loneliness
is an emptiness
it is tears escaping for no apparent reason
it is a void
a blackness
abandonment

Loneliness can begin
through no fault of your own
from grief
loss
estrangement
abuse
physical proximity
social isolation
emotional isolation
feeling different
feeling unacceptable
feeling misunderstood
removing yourself in your head because it hurts
removing yourself before it hurts again
self protection
not allowing anyone in
building barriers
closing people out

Loneliness
can be just there but you don’t know
until you do

Understanding behaviour



Most people who read this know my story
(If not then cruise on back through my posts and you’ll soon figure it out)
And you will know that I have been in therapy for over 10 years now
it was actually quite a cataclysmic event that I am able to pin point my breakdown to – the Christchurch NZ February 2011 earthquake happened exactly one month after I broke.
Not sure if there is any rational transcendent reasonings behind that timeframe but its definitely a hinging point for my memories


I have learnt and am still learning about me
And how the traumas have affected and altered me
I’m sure it has been beneficial
No, I know it has been incredibly beneficial
It hasn’t changed my past
But it has altered how I deal with my future
My trauma based brain that I operate from still sends out triggers on a daily basis
But I have learnt to how to identify them and cope with them more readily

I’ve also learnt a whole heap of new vocabulary
And for someone like me who processes in the written word
Who loves words
Who loves to research
This helps me immeasurably

Recently I was talking with my therapist about how people perceive me and how I see myself
I am usually seen as being strong and outspoken and independent
But inside I am often a quaking mess, unsure, afraid of being hurt and afraid of upsetting proverbial boats

I present this exterior persona of being strong and in control
Which I also am
I’m both
Because the me that is now I
Was shattered into pieces
And I am trying to meld my pieces back together again
Confused much
Yeah me too



This quote pretty much sums it up though

10 years of therapy sounds a such a long time
But so much else has happened within those years that have rabbit pathed my focus so my therapy has been often stretched sideways
I relaxed into it more easily once I was told in the earlier days by one of my case managers that my abuse/trauma would take a very long time to heal from


So anyways, recently my therapist shared these words with me when I was asking her how the hell do I present so together when I’m actually not…

Firstly
Dissociation
(when we numb out or block painful feelings)
I’m already very familiar with this
I do it often
It makes life so much easier to cope with
But it makes others feel like you don’t care

Over identification
(when swamped and overwhelmed)
oh my Lord!
This is way too familiar
I know one of my ptsd cover ups has been, and often still is, to keep very busy
So I do
And then there gets to be too much happening in my brain
And I start spinning
And one small trigger tips me over
And my brain crashes
Like the wheel spinning on the computer screen
And I blank out drowning in an absolute lost mess



But the third one is the word I needed to understand to answer my question

Disidentification
(when keeping at arms length and know it’s not about me)
This is the word I had not heard before
But it sure is a good one
And it is most definitely me
A lot of the time
It’s the suck it up and do what is deemed right part of me
It’s the brave face
It’s the masks I wear to protect me
And it’s the masks I wear to actually protect others
Because no matter how much I break my silence there are still those who do not know, who can not know, who I still protect

This was the me that was able to stand up the front of the church and speak at my own father’s funeral
I never understood how I did that
But it was expected of me
I was the eldest of the siblings
Eloquant
Strong
Someone who gets shit done
So I did what was expected
And I spoke
I remember absolutely nothing
My mother of course kept all the words and on her death I probably inherited them along with all the other words she passed on to me
I choose not to go searching for them
I choose to stay in a state of insulation to protect my very vulnerable self.

Did I speak at my mother’s funeral
I absolutely cannot remember
I know I organised her funeral
I know so many intimate details of the day, the weeks prior and the weeks & months following
But I have completely buried that part of the day
My mother was an important part of my development but her ultimate betrayal is still too painful and deeply embedded so dissociation wins


But I do know
I stood and spoke at my husband’s funeral
This was the me that was so broken, so lost, so overwhelmed with pain
But I did it
Cuz I had to
For me
For him
For the kids
I disidentified and dissociated

I am so good at it

Words matter

Abuse
How do we speak about it
How do we own it
MY abuse
or
THE abuse

Do we absorb it
make it our own
Do we try to remove it from within
disown it
disassociate from it

How do we process those words

Does It become part of me
– we become consumed by It
– we allow It to absorb Us
– we struggle within It
– we surrender to It

Or

Do we hold it at arms length
– the thing that was done to me
– the thing that has affected me
– the thing that has crippled me
– the thing that changed my life forever

We each develop systems to cope with our individual situations
Those systems in turn become mechanisms
The mechanisms which allow us to continue to live
Some of us ‘appear’ to live well
And others of us don’t

No matter what the outside world perceives of us
The trauma
The abuse
has infiltrated our very core
pierced our soul
And created such damage that we will never ever be the same ever again

But one way we can alter the effects
Is to change
MY abuse
to
THE abuse
And in so doing
We remove the onus
From us
And give it back
To the Abuser, the Perpetrator
The one who did things TO us

Words matter
Context matters






…anything that is mentionable can be more manageable…

“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.”

― Fred Rogers

I was watching the movie “A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood” recently and these words really spoke to me
They are so true
So wise

We have had so many taboos in societal exchange
And those taboos create so much
stress
trauma
generating room for abuse of many kinds to perpetuate

If we cannot talk about
death
life
sex
mental health
relationships
etc
in normal fashion
using real terms and real words

We create
prohibitions
secrets
silences
darkness
damage

Allowing misconceptions to exacerbate
Allowing lies to spread
Allowing abuse to continue

Let’s manage our (un)mentionables
Let’s talk honestly
Let’s talk openly
Let’s be supportive
Let’s be trustworthy

I know if I had had just one person
Just one
Who could’ve seen
Who could’ve been supportive
Maybe, just maybe, life would’ve been so different for the little girl that was me

Unfortunately
The one person that spoke up for me all those decades ago
was just another small person
a witness
but also a victim,
yet another victim
Whose parents
couldn’t hear her
wouldn’t hear her
couldn’t see
wouldn’t see
And because of their inability to manage the unmentionable
she was unheard
she was physically abused
she was verbally abused
she was ridiculed for saying such unmentionable dirty things
she was silenced

one victim
became two victims
and on
and on
and on

until decades later
the ripples in the pond of abuse that my father began
have become so big
and so far reaching
so damaging
in so many realms of my life

Ever since I found my voice 8 years ago
and began mentioning the unmentionable
I have been hearing from more of his victims
and from other victims who have found their voices cuz I found mine
Finding your voice empowers others

Sadly I am still hearing stories from other victims today
It is never ending
But as we manage our humanity
we find support
we find we are not alone

Trust me…

My trust has been broken so so many times


Trust me
I’m your Daddy
I won’t hurt you
Bullshit

Trust me
The landrover’s not gonna go over the bank
We’ll be fine
Bullshit

Trust me
I’m just gonna go to town today
I’ll see you tomorrow when you come out with the kids
Bullshit 

Trust me
I’m your friend
I’ll have your back
Bullshit

Trust me…

Trust me…

Trust me…

When I hear those words…
My stomach churns 
I’m feeling sick
My heads pounding
I’m crying inside
I’m breathing deep
Trying to contain my fears
My whole body is fighting
Trying to release my fears

Trust me…
It’s not that I don’t trust you
It’s that
I can no longer trust myself
to trust

Re-Writing my CV

We are all asked at some point in our lives to write a CV or a resume
It is actually a really tough call for many of us
Some of us who have dedicated our lives to our families
who have not ‘worked’ outside our homes for decades
Some of us don’t feel comfortable blowing our own trumpets
selling ourselves isn’t easy in this society of diminishment
to embolden ourselves is not something we are comfortable with

But try writing your life CV
Wow!
Thats another story
Where do I begin
What do I write
What do I hide
What can I say

There are some things that are on my life CV that I unfortunately can’t do anything about
Things that have damaged me
Things that have caused me trauma
Things that hold me back
Things that silence me
Things that make me angry
Things that scar me
Responses I have made
Behaviours I have inflicted
Words uttered in haste
Words delivering pain
Those things are there and only I can choose how I use them

I heard a great quote from Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl who went through far, far more than I could ever imagine but his words resound loudly

Everything in life can be taken from you except one thing 
The freedom to respond to the situation you are in
This is what determines the quality of the life we live, not our circumstances

I am learning to control my reactive emotive responses
Those damn ptsd reactions…
Trying not to respond to a situation immediately
When I do it is often with unthought out reaction
A reaction coming from my ptsd or my anxiety or my child self

I am trying to stop and breath and allow time
Time to think
Time to try and view the situation from the otherside
Time to diffuse

I am learning how to rewrite my CV
I cannot erase the pages already written
The past of damages I have lived
and damaging I have caused
Those pages have already been delivered & read
Burning my copy doesn’t erase the copies received
I cannot cancel that history
But I can begin writing new pages

The pages ahead are still clear and clean
My pencil is sharpened
I am aware and on guard
I know there will be blots on the pages
From inadvertant reactives I unleash
But I can choose
React or retaliate
or
Respond

Whatever I choose will predicate the outcome
It is my choice

Invisible wounds

Living with the results of trauma is something many of us do
Many more of us than you can imagine
Trauma response is very individual
No one can relive your trauma
No one can tell you how you ought to respond
No one can tell you what you feel
Or how you should feel
No one has the right to make you feel guilty
No one has the right to tell you to forgive


There are recognised symptoms that cover the wide variety of PTSD’s
Not all will apply to you
Or to him
Or her
They are a generic guide for diagnosis
The base though is that they are/can be your bodies response to trauma inflicted on you that you could not control
The wounds are very often externally indiscernible
But the responses are embarrassingly visible
And can often be emotionally, physically and socially crippling

For me personally I can identify with most of the above symptoms and at least half of those would be affecting me on a daily basis

Trauma changes our basic brain functionings
Thats a fact
No argument

One of my sorrowful questions has often been
What/who would I have been if I hadn’t endured 10 years of childhood sexual abuse?
Who would that little girl have become?
What would her life have been like?
Would she have been a better mother, a better wife?
Would she have had more confidence in herself?
Would her experience of sex and relationships have been more healthy?

I know I am the person I am today because of my abuse
I don’t want the abuse to define me
But in an intrinsic way it has
I had no choice in that
But I do have a choice now
I have a choice to do the best I can with who I am now
I will not let my abuser win this
I am inherently stronger because I have had to be
I had to fight from such a young age to hang on to my identity


Childhood incest inflicts such massive confusion on a child
Love
Loyalty
Respect
Trust
All things that should be an integral part of a safe normal parent/child relationship
Are confused by
Manipulation
Secrets
Emotional bullying
Passive agressiveness
Powerlessness
Conflicted loyalty
Guilt, blame & shame
Betrayal

When you finally escape you don’t know how to experience real love
You are so used to your body being used as a ‘love tool’
That you unwittingly continue that toxic behaviour


According to research
the younger the age the abuse begins,
the frequency of the abuse,
plus the longer the duration,
effects the intensity of trauma response.
The average length of incest abuse is 4 years – when I read this today it blew my mind,
I am crying as I type, I feel sick to my stomach as the reality & roots of my constant fight is hitting me…

My recollections are that I was around the age of 7-8 yrs old, the frequency was almost daily, and I wasn’t able to escape my abuser until I was 18 years old.
10 years of almost daily incestuous abuse…

No wonder I struggle to support my inner child
It is a constant
Daily
Overwhelming fight
To separate my adult self from my child self
To not be her anymore
I just want to grow strong enough to build a healthier relationship between us.



https://ct.counseling.org/2018/03/understanding-treating-survivors-incest/

https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/84873517.pdf

Meltdown looks like…

Please note – below is not where I am now – it is a description of where I have been.



I was processing a very distressing time with my therapist recently when she stopped me and asked me to describe what a meltdown ‘looked like’ to me?


She stopped me in my tracks.
She knows me too well.
She knows I ‘paint with words’

But I’d never been made to actually ‘paint’ this painful picture before. 
Normally I’m a vibrant colour lover. But in times like this the only colour I see is black. So I tend to stop ‘painting’.

What does it look like for me?
And what does it look like for others looking on?

Heaven forbid! – I never stopped to think what it looks like to others. I guess I look like a total psycho mess. I hide a lot so only those closest to me see the real truth of my emotional crises. 


So describe what’s happening within me during a meltdown.
Whew! 
…well the days/months preceding I’m slowly descending into depressional darkness, at the same time (and unnoticeably I thought but now I know my closest can see what I can’t) I’m getting wound up internally like a top. And then something, (usually relatively minor but linked inextricably to a past trauma) will trigger me which snaps the now very taught rubber band and everything in my head starts spinning.

Physical agitation builds, I can’t sit still, I have an overwhelming need to run. Then my brain just implodes.
Feelings of hopelessness, fear, stupidity, anger at myself for my inability to cope… Tears which have been building below the surface erupt uncontrollably, and then are constantly there for days, sometimes weeks. 

I feel weak, hopeless, out of control, lost…


There’s usually two outcomes depending on the circumstances and the reactions of those nearest me. The length of recovery is somewhat determined by them too.

‘Before therapeutic education & understanding’ I would usually run straight into ‘fright/flight’ – retreat to the inside of my head. On the outside I now know I would appear bitchfaced, sad & angry. But inside I had just shut down because I didn’t know how to process and communicate my pain. Because of this inability my meltdown could take days or weeks to recover from. 

Definitely not pretty & much less of a reaction now. 

The second is outcome is 95.9% better and is only possible due to the past 10 years of therapy which has slowly helped me understand the how’s & whys of my traumas & responses and how to manage & communicate them. 

If/when meltdown crisis hits and those nearest me can see & embrace me in my pain, which is hard for them because like most hurting trauma sufferers I push away those trying to help me, then my reaction changes momentarily to ‘freeze’ until and I can allow myself to feel safe. Being held and not questioned is imperative. Then I collapse into fetal and rest. Rest in a quiet safe place with all stresses removed is essential at this point because I am emotionally & physically exhausted.

Recovery from a crisis meltdown is not immediate but once the dam breaks the tensions & tears lessen and the colours begin returning to my world.

PTSD is a hidden trauma inflicted disability which is exhausting to live with. It’s a constant daily fight that I have been living with for decades 🥺
But now my fight is be that victorious survivor not to just survive.

I’m so grateful for the recognition & understanding I received from my very first ACC case manager who gave me permission to take as much time as I needed when he said ‘this could take you many years to heal from’

Here’s to celebrating being this Beautiful Mess who has successfully climbed out of yet another dark hole
Thank God my sun is shining again and my colours are vividly happy today 🙂

Clarity of your own narrative never fades

Each of us has our own narrative
We can be part of the same story
But we see with clarity only our part of it

I remember my part of the story that broke us all
I remember
A day of normalcy
A day of planning ahead
We were all going to town the following morning
But Tim decided to go alone on Monday
He wanted to go help Graham pick vegetables because Graham always brought us bins & bins of seconds which he gathered up on his own and brought down for us to process to help feed our large extended family
He wanted to do his bit towards this incredibly generosity
So
He did some mussel ropes with Azzan, some boat work with Seb
I remember he raced through the shower and I helped him pack an overnight bag
He packed up the Safari
I remember we were alone at the back of the 4WD as he loaded in bins of mussels to give away
It was to be my last moments with him
But neither of us knew
I kissed him goodbye and arranged to meet him in town on Tuesday afternoon.
He took Seb & Phoebe home and left around 2pm on Monday afternoon
I was to drive out with the 3 youngest the next morning to meet him in town.

I remember relaxing with Anson & Marah before they went home
Having dinner with the kids and putting them to bed
I remember enjoying a peaceful evening

Then with incredible clarity
I remember receiving a text from Anson just before 9pm saying he’d heard there had been an accident on our road
In my mind ‘our road’ meant anywhere from Port Ligar to Rai Valley
I remember making phone calls
I called David where Tim was supposed to be staying
‘No we haven’t seen him’
I called Graham
‘No I haven’t seen him, call the police’
I phoned Ian at Okiwi Bay who was our local ambulance responder
‘No, we had a call out but were turned back because the choppers were flown in. Call the police’
So I called the police thinking I would get our local station
I remember talking to a lady who had no idea where I was
She was in Wellington
I remember her telling me she would ask and call me back
I remember the heightened fear, adamantly refusing to let her hang up
I remember the lightbulb moment whilst waiting for her return – ‘Anson heard it was on the news’!
I remember racing to my computer and typing in Stuff.co.nz
I remember seeing the news bulletin
A lone male was killed on the Port Ligar-Te Towaka Road

I knew instantly
I absolutely knew
I was hyperventilating
I was holding my breath
I remember her returning saying she would transfer me to Blenheim Police
I remember the voice of the police sergeant…
I remember his name
I will never forget his name
…confirming without compassion or hesitation that yes Tim was dead & had been taken to Nelson
I remember frantically asking him where he was and what do I do??
I remember him saying
“I don’t know. I’m going off duty now and have handed over to Picton police.”

I remember texting Anson saying Please Come Now!
I remember screaming
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO


I remember the 3 little ones coming out thinking I was laughing at a movie and their confused faces in total disbelief at what I was sobbing
I remember Marah holding me
I remember Anson bravely making the worst phone calls he would ever ever have to make
Telling his siblings the worst news
I remember Seb & Phoebe coming by boat
Still numb from losing their wee one only 2 weeks earlier
I remember them sitting outside in stunned silent pain
I remember having to call Australia
I remember Jesika answering, she was so happy at her dance class
I remember the anguish of having to tell her
I remember her screams as she collapsed
I remember the pain of not being able to hold her

I remember receiving a message from a Blenheim cousin at 9:30pm saying how sorry she was and discovering she had heard it from a local person
I remember the disbelief that obviously so many others knew long before I did
I remember our neighbours Liz, Harry & Jude arriving an hour later
I remember them telling me their story
Their story confirmed how badly the sergeant had handled the whole situation
That Tim had died over 6 hours before only 20mins from home

I remember my pain was so intense that even though I was trying to be everything for everyone that night I completely failed

I have carried all my children’s pain along with my own
It has been an incredibly heavy burden
I have felt torn in so many directions
Grief is a tortuous creature
It attacks us all at different times and in different ways

I have watched each of them walk their own journeys, process their own trauma, and know they hold their own narratives of that night
Some have vocalised
Others have kept theirs hidden deep
I cannot tell their stories
Just as they can’t tell mine
But we can hold each other and listen