Memories of 43 years ago

The 4th November 1978 seems such a long long time ago.
43 years ago today in another lifetime I married the love of my life.
I was young, not quite 22yrs old & Tim was 29, but we’d known each other for over 7 years and I was absolutely sure this was what I wanted.
I was blissfully innocent & ignorant to what the years ahead would hold.
Thank goodness we are not given that insight!

Tim & I were married in the cute wee Anglican Church in Renwick New Zealand.
The Church of the Annunciation was consecrated on March 5th 1896, and was sadly destroyed by arson in 2002.

It was a beautiful service with Tim’s Uncle Ian & my Uncle George conducting the service. My friend Cynthia and old family friend Mrs Cecily Gee playing the guitar & organ. I had chosen the music and it was venturing to the more modern side of Anglican at that time as I used the ‘modern’ Songs of Praise books as reference 😉

I have a few memories of the day

I rode to the church in a horse & cart with my parents and sister. Driven by local identity & motelier Rod Eatwell. The cart was decorated with climbing roses from the trees next door to us.
But on returning I rode in the cart with Tim to have our photos taken by neighbour Graham – leaving my parents stranded with no ride home – oops!

This is my favourite photo from the whole day – taken by friend & guest Les Sparrow


We walked over to my parents house via a visit with an elderly neighbour who was delighted to see us in our wedding finery.
The photos look serious but there was a lot of hilarity going on behind the scenes 🙂

Everything was done locally
My parents didn’t have a lot of money so the wedding was not extravagant but my memories are fairly positive of a wonderful day.
I only recall one negative upset and that was a difficult aunt who decided to make an issue about attending but it all worked out in the end and who cares now!
Oh yes – there was a major near disaster on the day!!
I’d done a very radical thing and had a perm only a few days before – shock! horror! why oh why? – it was awful.
My cousin Clare thankfully came to the rescue and did my hair for me
She put all to rights and made everything all perfect
I will always love her for that – plus the fact she’s my big cuz and I’ve always loved her 🙂

My friend Cynthia and I sewed all our clothes over the weeks prior – my dress, Tim’s 3 piece suit, shirt AND tie, and my sister’s skirt & top.
Our clothing styles weren’t appreciated by Tim’s father as the colours were a tad non traditional LOL
I am definitely a non conformist from early days 😉
I remember we were also amused that his Mum wore black to our wedding too – just as well she and I got along well or I’d have thought there was more to it lol!

The food was catered by the local tavern using produce we had all supplied. Including fresh fish we netted, and fresh mussels Tim & I had harvested off the rocks on Te Ekeatekonganui / Reef Point at the back of our farm.
Note that this was the only Maori word that Tim could successfully pronounce and he was most proud of that fact – which is saying a lot as it was 43 years ago when pronunciation was perceived as difficult & unimportant and not pursued by many.
This was also several years before mussel farming was a thing – who knew what was ahead!

The flowers from local sources but my specific memory fails at this point.
I remember my grandmother carefully nursing her neighbours lily of the valley bulbs to last long enough to be picked for my hair
The photos were taken by our friend Graham at the beginning of a long illustrious career for him.
No such thing as videoing but there is a tape recording packed away somewhere in my treasure boxes.
The cakes were baked by my mother and iced beautifully by a neighbour from across the paddocks.

We had a weeping elm in our front garden so a huge marquee was erected over the top of it extending over the front door decking
This caused many questions during the evening of how exactly did the tree get inside the tent??
We had to carry the cakes outside for a mock up of the cake cutting due to lighting. Our bestman, also Tim, tripped on the guy rope but thankfully the cakes were saved – whew!
The top tier of the cake was saved as per tradition for cutting at the christening of our eldest child just a year later
The All Blacks were playing Ireland with a final winning score of 10-6 that same night so most of the guests ended up inside watching on our old box shaped B&W TV which balanced precariously on top of the roll top desk in our living room.
Funnily enough on the night of my 2nd wedding there was also a rugby game playing in Nelson of major importance – Crusaders vs Warratahs
Thankfully there was no TV at our venue to interrupt our celebrations 😉

I did find out later that one of our guests choked on a bone during the celebrations but thankfully help was on hand and she survived – whew!
The weather turned rather cold that night and unfortunately my health suffered as I got very chilled and I had a relapse of glandular fever during our honeymoon.

We spent our wedding night at what is now the Scenic Hotel Marlborough in Blenheim, and much to my grandmother’s surprise we turned up late the next morning so Tim could eat leftovers as he wasn’t going to pay for food at the hotel
He was used to living very frugally and if he couldn’t pay cash he didn’t buy.
A good principle to live by which wisdom many would benefit from today.


We headed off south westwards on our honeymoon that day but that’s another story for another time…

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 🙂