Lockdown = trauma brain triggers

My brain has been all over the place during this tumultuous period of our lives
There have been so so many triggers
I have really been struggling to process them all
My emotional state has been highly disturbed and at a very low ebb


Modern technology has been both a curse and a blessing
The curse of information overload
what to believe
what to not
who to believe
who to not

I have learnt to use Zoom which has been such a blessing as the one certainty each week has been my hour with my therapist
It is the 9am appointment that I have to get out of bed and show up for
She has helped me unravel my trauma brain amongst all of this confusion
The first week was so bad
I was drowning in isolation
I did not cope
with being locked in
with being controlled
with being silenced
with living in fear

Unraveling…
Taking it back…
Processing…

As a child
I was mind controlled
I was silenced by fear
I was isolated by fear
and I was locked in by the knowledge that if I spoke up I would destroy so much
By keeping silent I was protecting everyone else
but also protecting myself
I found strength enough to hold the abuse
But I wasn’t strong enough to endure the consequences of breaking silence

My brain was fighting, struggling with being taken back down that dark trauma rabbit hole
I was drowning

Once I was able to process and identify
I spoke up
Voiced my fears
And I was heard
My friends and family heard my cry for help
And through video coffee dates and phone calls
And walks in the sunshine & lots of supportive cuddles from my love
I have made it through thus far

“My life is so blessed with some of the most amazing people. Thank you for being part of my journey.” – Unknown

Living with the myself ain’t easy

I never recognised depression or anxiety within myself for many many years
My perceived strength didn’t allow me the grace to recognise or acknowledge them
I was too strong
I had to be strong
to survive
Along the way there were times
When I cracked
just a little bit
But not enough for me to acknowledge the causes or the effects
It took me a very long time to completely break
But in breaking I then began learning about myself
Learning that my strength was what protected me
Helped me endure
Helped me cope through all the traumas
But even the strongest things become brittle over time
And brittle breaks

And despite all the therapy over the past 8 years
all the self learning
all of the self care I am allowing myself
Yes – I still have to negotiate in my head that I need and deserve to love myself enough to care about myself
that I deserve to put me first
I still break
But each time it is a less substantial break

I give so much of myself
I still put myself last
I still struggle to stand up
and speak out
for me
I am so good at standing for others
speaking up for others
advocating for others
But I am total shit about advocating for myself

And that is classic victim mentality
Damnit!

On the home front here in New Zealand
Sexual abuse victims are able to access therapy via ACC sensitive claims
Part of this involves undergoing psychological assessments to ascertain authenticity and then ongoing treatment / well-being plans
Some fight this process
They perceive a stigma attached with mental health diagnosis
I don’t have an issue with it
If my legs were broken or paralysed I would accept help
So if my inner being is damaged I also need to accept help


Since I broke eight years ago I have undergone two assessments
I got to a place where I was so broken I needed to accept help
No matter where it came from
And no matter what strings they attached
I was initially diagnosed with PTSD
that’s an easy one
yeah, well not so easy really
It’s actually a bloody nightmare to live with
but I’ve managed to wrap my head around that over the past 8 years
and I’ve been learning to understand myself within it
But during my recent assessment there was an added diagnosis
Recurrant Depressive Disorder
Great!
Another official stamp
I so hate being put into boxes
But officialdom decrees that to fund my ongoing healthcare I have to tick boxes
So anyways…
Combine these two along with the constant sleep disorder that delights in being part of the party
And the results are at times not pretty

Several weeks ago the tears began
The sleeplessness revved up
I was breaking
Life was attacking me from so many quarters
It is like I have 69 different people demanding from me all at the same time
But each of those 69 do not realise that there are 68 others
It is like a relentless attack on my brain
My nervous system goes into hypervigilance
I become incredibly anxious
My sleep becomes fitful
exhaustion, migraines, physical pain, irritibilty, all increase
I become hyper alert, hyper aroused, anxious, fearful,
And the tears just wont stop

I know that living with me is hard
but
Living with my self is nigh impossible

I am becoming more aware now though
And trying to be more proactive when I feel myself breaking
Recently I just had to shut down
I allowed myself to
Take time
Pull back
Unload
Accept help
Increase self care
And, the biggest hurdle of all
Ask for help
Sometimes talking with my therapist is not quite enough to get through these patches
This time I have started taking natural ‘meds’
Personally I struggle with taking medication
I have fought it for years
But now, after a consultation, I am taking 5htp, B6 plus some extra strength multi vitamins
They seem to be helping
I am feeling changes
A few days in and I realised
I was smiling again

I am also making a resolved choice to pull myself out of this current hole
I’m not out of it yet
But I sure as hell am a heap better than I was several weeks ago

And I sure as hell am so grateful for my BFF’s who carry me through these dark days in their own special ways

and to my incredibly supportive fiancé who holds the umbrella during my storms, he not only encourages me to go lion buying – he goes with me 🙂




Robot on the loose!!

Arggghhhhh!!!!!!
Processing through another massive trigger attack
Trying to describe what happens within
to explain the outward displays of apparent irrational behaviours

Well they seem to be irrational
to those who are not living in my skin

But in my head Robot is blindly circling amok yelling
‘danger! danger! danger! danger!
do not compute!’

distressing my brain even more
exposing every nerve ending
until they are bleeding raw pain

Every part my body is fraught
on edge
skrieking at the slightest infraction
Fear rises to the surface

I’m frightened
of everything I perceive as threatening
anything that might possibly compromise my safety
of loss
of death
just. plain. scared.

I cry
all the time
tears flow too damn freely
uncontrollable
I hate myself
for being like this

Processing deeply
trying to understand myself
Trying to understand myself so others might try to understand me

How can they
when I struggle to understand myself

Where is our Manaakitanga

Recent events in Aotearoa / New Zealand stunned our nation – again
A young English backpacker was murdered here just before Christmas.
We were devastated – again

Standing amongst the Nelson crowd
All of us mourning this young woman
Each one of us there for different reasons but for the same reason
Sadness
Grief
Anger
This should not happen
This should not keep on happening
Not here
Not anywhere

People were speaking out against violence against women across the nation
Naming and remembering the women killed by the hands of another person here in Aotearoa
Giving these women back their mana
Not mentioning the names of their murderers
We will not give them that power
Statistics say at least 13 women and 10 men will lose their lives to domestic abuse every year here in Aotearoa
14 women this past year
Countless women over the decades….

Yes, we have to stand up and speak out and stop this violence

But my inner heart was screaming…
It is not just about women
It is about inhumanity towards fellow humans
It is about respect – or lack of it
It is about responsibility towards each other
It is about Love

Since this heinous violent act was committed we have seen many more here in NZ
So much tūkino
So much whakarekereke
Too much whakarekereke ā-whare
Violence against our wāhine
Violence against our tamariki

We need Aroha
Where is our respect?
Where is our kindness?
Where is our love?


In memory of these young visitors who did not receive the Manaakitanga they deserved in our land
Grace Millane, 22
Kayo Matsuzawa, 29
Birgit Bauer, 28
Karen Aim, 27
Dagmar Pytlickova, 31
Margery Hopegood, 32
Jae Hyeon Kim, 25
Urban Hoglin, 23
Heidi Paakkonen, 21
Monica Cantwell, 24

Scars – we all have them, but what do we do with them?

Scars – we all have them.
Physical, emotional, mental, spiritual….

Some we can live with and others we abhor with intensity.
It is how we embrace them that matters.
1. we can cover them up and be unaccepting of ourselves and our self perceived ugliness.
Or
2. we can be completely unabashed, and unashamedly display them.
The first is our natural instinct
The second takes work, a hell of a lot of work.

When I was quite young I had an altercation with a barbed wire fence.
It left a raised horrid scar on my upper inner thigh.
I hated that scar with a passion
for years
But now I barely ever think of it
It is still there
still the same as it ever was
it is not a concern to me anymore
Time has healed.

I have other scars
hidden soul scars
Too many of them
I chose the first route for years
but there was so many toxins festering beneath them
I finally realised if I didn’t choose the second route I would never ever heal completely.

I have only recently chosen to confront and display my scars
And in so doing am coming to a place of positivity
And a place of content peacefulness.

A year ago I had a most fortuitous encounter with a lovely woman who has since become a friend.

Sera lit up my life 🙂
That encounter unleashed so many opportunities.

Looking back I love seeing the unfolding of chance encounters.
Is it really chance?
Karma?
Fate?
Coincidence?
We used to say that a ‘coincidence is just a miracle in which God chooses to remain anonymous’
Whatever way you look at it
that meeting was the beginning of so many positive things for me.
Sera was wearing the most wonderful jacket.
Being someone who loves mixed media I was immediately drawn to it and to the message it was portraying.
Be Still My Sacred Heart
That resonated so loudly in my damaged and vulnerable soul.

That jacket and it’s branding is the baby of Amanda Betts
She began Bridge the Gap Project to support and empower young victims of abuse.
The Heartspeak Collective allows victims/survivors to tell their stories through art and fashion.
I was so inspired and absolutely delighted to finally meet and spend time in Auckland with the dynamic and enthusiastically energetic Amanda a few months later.

I then began communicating with Sera about creating my own garment with her.
When I began talking with her about Heartspeaking a garment it seemed a natural progression to use my tattoo as part of my creation.
My phoenix is in a fairly private part of my anatomy
Only comes out in summer 😉
My eldest son reminds me often that scars are the tattoos of the brave.
The Phoenix is my Brave rising from the ashes of my abuse and heartbreak.
Perfect!

I also loved Sera’s cocoons so decided to combine those two loves.
We physically connected a few weeks ago and began working.
We spent the day choosing, cutting and piecing fabrics.
It was so much fun working with her on the project
I was so in my element
Back in my happy space that I haven’t been in for so long
It was feeding my creative mojo and incredibly therapeutic

I had to leave Sera to finish it as I needed to return home.
The following week I was transiting through Auckland airport and Sera delivered the finished garment to me.
I was blown away
So rapt
Ecstatically happy with the results.
It is absolutely perfectly Me 🙂
Thank you Sera
And Thank you Amanda
You have touched my heart and helped towards the healing of my soul
 Each Heartspeak garment has a heart tucked in it somewhere.
Mine is the large orange flower – of course 😉
And the words in the banner – also from my tattoo
illa alis volat propriis 
(She flies with her own wings) I was also delighted to hear Amanda exclaim that the blue/orange flames were cut from one of her old dresses.
So I feel like am carrying a piece of her and Sera with me where I go.

Turning Wounds into Power

This year has been one of immense growth for me.
I have finally found my voice
And now that I have, my wounds have become words that hold so much strength and power.

Since I came completely out of my closet back in May life has really gained momentum
There’s been some really hard times but the positive things are outweighing those.

Early June I was interviewed by the lovely Megan Bowers-Vette 
She was wanting to portray abuse survivors not as victims but as people with renewed strength & life
The US Project was begun with a photography exhibition in Whangarei
Then released in the most amazing heart rending book
I am so proud to have been able to work with Megan in this project
She has done a brilliant job depicting 50 people in NZ & Australia who are daily living with the consequences from the experience of rape, and other forms of sexual abuse.
She has now published The Us. Project Book of Stories
It is a tremendous book portraying so much heartache, and yet so much strength.
Such a powerful communication
I would encourage you to buy this book
Read, pass it on, share it around
Open peoples eyes to truths
Where so many refuse to see and choose to stay blinded.

I was interviewed by UNICEF a couple of months ago.
It was an incredible privilege to work with Shelley on this project.
To be able to speak out on behalf of other children
Children like me who are being silenced
Not by violence
But by emotional headfucking
Which is more silencing
Because of the lack of ability that people have to see and understand what is happening
The support which has come from the video and article has been huge.
My hope is that it reaches and helps many young ones to speak out and find help and to prevent so many more from experiencing what I did.

I know that this is a really tough subject
It is very confronting to so many
Especially those who are connected in a vicarious way to a victim
But what has to be remembered
When dealing with this type of trauma
Is that the victim
Is the victim
and
The victim
should not
is not
to be blamed
or shamed
or accused
or doubted
No matter how difficult it is for you to process

You have to stop
and think
and just listen
and actually
hear
their pain
hear
their truth
because it is their truth
and you cannot dispute their truth

You have to stop
disbelieving
victim blaming
victim shaming

You have to stop
supporting
encouraging
allowing behavioural continuance
to the perpetrators
Just because they appear to be
so good
so important
so squeaky clean
so -‘oh they would never do anything like that’

You have to stop
questioning
why didn’t you disclose earlier
why didn’t you say something at the time
why did you wear that
why did you go there
why did you drink that
and the worst one of all
why didn’t you confront your abuser?????
Seriously???

Unless you have lived the pain
You have absolutely NO IDEA
of the why
to any of these questions
You have absolutely NO IDEA
of the re-traumatising that happens
from your questions
from disclosing
from the doubting
from the demands
You put on us

Please just stop
and love us
hold us
and give us space
and time
to heal
in our own ways
in our own time

We so need you
If you can do this for us
We can heal
We can become strong
We can face the world again
And we will totally kick arse and become even stronger than before!

Therapy

Therapy
-a treatment that helps someone feel better, grow stronger,
-the act of caring for someone

Origin

I used to think therapy was the difficult stuff
the hour long sessions spent with my therapist
But
it’s not

Therapy has
many colours
many forms
many shapes
many times

Therapy
for me
is writing
is meeting a friend for coffee and and one on one time
is time & fun with my children
is taking the dog for a quiet meander along the river walk
is impulsively popping in for a chat with a friend
is sweating up a steep hill track and taking in the spectacular views from the top of my achievement
is impulsively shopping
is leaning into the arms of my closest tribal members and sobbing my heart out
is allowing them to feel my pain
is receiving their love and encouragement
is watching movies that make me cry, and laugh, and think
is sharing my innermost soulful thoughts with my best friend
is spending a day in bed with Netflix just because I can
is messaging my lover in the early hours of the morning
is sharing belly laughing crazy wine drinking sessions with my tribe
is creating art
is accepting the love and understanding of my man
is being held safe in his arms
is sitting at the beach and soaking in the sunshine
is planning my garden
is clambering around slippery river rocks with my children
is walking beside others who have also experienced my journey
is creating something joyous and wonderful and beautiful
is dancing wild and free
is making love
is gloriously wonderful food
is coffee

is orange :-)Therapy is caring for me in a way that restores my soul
But
I find
it tends to come delivered on a roller coaster
I delight in the parts of the ride that are slow
easy
soothing
cruising
but
while I am enjoying them I don’t tend to notice that the car I am riding in is beginning to climb…
Until I am perched at the top
rocking
waiting
then….
horrifyingly
the ride it gets to be screamingly scary
Situations arise
Events happen
my carriage plunges
down
down
down

and the therapy becomes
brutally intense
it makes me writhe in pain
I feel as if I am being torn apart
the anguish of the years
comes pouring out of my eyes
without permission
and when I think
I just cannot bare another moment,
when I am totally emotionally spent
the roller coaster reaches the bottom
and quietly cruises again
I gasp and gulp and reel
from the carnage wrought on my soul
I nurse my bruises
then realise
I made it through
that time
I begin the gentle soul soothing nurturing
knowing that this time
I have been made stronger
so that the next time my carriage reaches its peak
the pain won’t be as raw
the screaming not as loud
the ride down not as intense
nor as long

Nayyirah Waheed expresses it so well

recovering
healing
from abuse
is not an easy journey
it is wrought with hard seasons
but it is not an impossible journey
if you are willing to reach out
and accept the hands
who want to love you
but the hardest thing of all
for us
is

Aggrandizing of self

When the Japanese mend broken objects,
they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with GOLD.
They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful.

I absolutely fell in love with this concept when I discovered it.
As someone who has been broken
not just once
but many, many times
I know what it is like to be shattered into so many pieces
that it feels like I will never ever be whole again

Aggrandize
such a marvellous word
I love how it rolls off my tongue
it has such
a beautiful tone
a wonderful feel
an importance even

It derives from the Latin grandis – meaning large
It is an enlargement or increase
in power, status, wealth
In this case
it is enlarging the worth of a broken object
by making it
even more beautiful
than before

Over recent months I have been picking up my broken pieces
I have been spending time
working out how to fit all of those shattered fragments back together
It has taken me years to understand
that no matter how hard I try
I will never be the whole that I was
way back before
I was broken

But I can be whole again
even more than I am now
By piecing together the best parts of me
the healed and healing parts of me
and aggrandizing them
with the gold that I am discovering along the way

Gold that comes in so many forms
true ‘stay with me forever no matter what shit I put them through’ friends
new members of my tribe
new experiences
deep emotional discoveries
and
new love 💖

I can be whole
I can be a new me
Aggrandized into a far far more beautiful self
than I ever believed possible

And that
to me
is
Pure Gold

Continuum

For too many years I was frozen into silence by shame
Shame that was not mine to carry
I was also silenced by loyalty
Family loyalty
But I know now that was all bullshit
Because the only one that was being damaged was me
And I was the one
In my child’s mind
Protecting everyone else
Because don’t you know
Family has to stay loyal
Family has to cover up the dirt
Family is more important than the abuse of a child
But now…
I am saying enough!!

I am sick and tired of being the victim
Tired of being victimised
I will not be shamed into silence again

For too long I was under the impression that I was the only one
But as I have broken my silence I am hearing more and more from others who were victimised by my father
It is daunting and horrific
And I am sickened by the extent of his depravity
Yes, I know he is dead and gone
Yes, I know he cannot defend himself
But I know that as an adult I personally challenged him and he never denied a thing
All he said was – as he brushed it under the carpet
Its all in the past
All in the fucking past!!
Yeah Nah!
You cannot abuse a child for over 10 years of her childhood and think you have left her unscathed.
It doesn’t work that way.
It will never be in the past
Yes I have worked on my healing
Yes I am still working on my healing
Yes I am on a new journey
And Yes I am in a really really good place now
But the damage he inflicted will never ever be forgotten.
I will not allow myself to be swept under a carpet again.
I know now that I am far too valuable for that.

My childhood memories are not all scarred with depravity.
I am the first one to admit that there were some great times along the way.
My grandmother was a true feminist, way ahead of her times, and I loved her for that
I spent many holidays with her and my ‘not so much older than me’ uncles who I adored like surrogate older brothers
She was a strong influence in my formative years
My mother was educated, a teacher, always a teacher – I understand that because she passed that trait on to me
She provided me with a wonderful understanding and appreciation for music and culture and the arts
I will always be very grateful for that
And for the sacrifices she made to ensure I received those piano lessons, the precious books, the records she could ill afford.
From both these women I inherited the love of words and the ability to express myself passionately in my writing.

Unfortunately my memories of the great times are pretty much all tainted by the undercurrents of what I was experiencing under the covers, behind the doors, when no-one was looking, when no-one was seeing
On the surface everything in the garden was very rosy
It was beneath the surface where the rot was lying.
And when there is rot it eventually weakens the foundation and everything collapses.
It took many years for this rot to work its way to the surface
And now I am burning it out and rebuilding my foundations with new wood.

I do have many happy times that I recall
As a preschooler my mind casts back to a carefree spirited little girl
and I see snapshots of me pre the age of 7 that easily spring to my mind
In those snapshots I see myself, but I also see my carefree little granddaughters reflecting in their similarities to me
I just hope and pray that my little girls will never, ever, ever, have to endure what I did.

By breaking my silence
By bringing the rot to the surface to be dealt with
I am allowing discussion and freedom to talk openly
I have had so many friends and family come to me in the past weeks saying
‘Thank You’
‘Thank you for sharing’
‘Thank you for opening the door to allow us to talk’
‘Thank you for giving us the ability to share our pain’

It has taken every ounce of strength I have to come to this point in my journey
The emotional exhaustion from writing has been immense
I began to spiral down the tunnel again last week
I allowed myself a day of recovery time
I was tended to by empathetic friends
But I knew I couldn’t allow myself to fall too far
I will not let myself go there again
I woke the following day with resolve
I put my armour back on
My warrior self kicked the black dog fair out the door
And I faced the world again
Brave
Courageous
With my smile
I will not allow my smile to be stolen from me again

This is my story
My journey
My truth
and in front of me
is
My future
And I am writing it myself
I will not allow anyone to corrupt my shine ever again

‘Angry is just being scared’

I went to a one man show on Sunday night
I actually went so I could take my lad
Because I thought he would gain more understanding and clarity about depression
After 35 years of home educating I never stop do I??
Always looking for the educational opportunity for my kids 😉

But, as I discovered once before, 27 long years ago
And I remember the moment with extreme lucidity
I was the one who came away with the insight and clarity
I was the one who needed to hear the message

27 years ago
I still remember the night
I had organised/arranged for us to visit with a local guy who was well known for his evangelical relationship ministry.
And I was so incredibly sure that Tim needed sorting
Oh my!
Was I so wrong??

That evening
Not long before we were about to leave
All hell blew up
A random anonymous phone call
To this day I have no idea who it was
But that person had information
And that person told my mother what my father had done to me
And like every other thing that she couldn’t deal with in life
She never spoke another word about it from that night on
She literally swept it under the carpet
Leaving me a total mess
Once again
I was abandoned by my mother

I remember arriving on Jack’s doorstep – an emotional hysteric
I was a Mess!
It wasn’t Tim that needed sorting
It was my shit that needed unfucking
That was the first step I took in my healing journey
27 years ago
It was a very tiny step in the scheme of things
But that man I thought needed sorting out
That man
He stood by me the whole journey
He was my rock
And I am ever so grateful for him for all those years
He rescued me when I was a damaged teen
And then he protected me for all the years to follow
He always had my back no matter what
And that ‘no matter what’ was extensive
I had no idea back then what PTSD was
I had no idea why I was so angry
Or where the anger was coming from….

Rolling forward to last Sunday night
‘Shot Bro – Confessions of a Depressed Bullet’
Rob Mokaraka’s one man performance was insightful and challenging
Dark humour, Maori humour, confronting, energetic and powerful in his presentation of his life battle with depression,
He had us in tears and laughter
But what hit me deep within my heart
was when he said
‘Angry is just being scared’

Oh God!
The tears are still pouring down my face as I type this
Just being scared
How much of my life have I lived being scared
So much
Too much
The anger covered up the scared little girl cowering in the corner

Looking back I can see that every time I feel my life is out of control
The anger surfaces
But that anger is covering up the scared
As a child I was scared so much of the time
Scared because I never knew when my father would ‘want’ me
Scared because I knew that if anyone found out our family would blow to bits
Scared
Just plain honest to God scared for pretty much most of my formative years
But from the time I escaped at 18
I lived life on a high wire
I was a thrill seeker
I was out there
But I only went as far as I could without losing control
If I lost control then the scared took over

Throughout my life I can look back now and identify all the moments
All those moments when the control was taken from me
And the angry me had to protect the scared me

This morning when those words were going around in my head
‘Angry is just being scared’
‘Angry is just being scared’
‘Angry is just being scared’
the tears were trickling down my cheeks as I lay on my pillow

I need to let that anger go
I have been angry at so much in the past years
Angry at my father for abusing me
Angry at my father for mindfucking me
Angry at myself for allowing that mindfucking to ruin so much of my life
Angry at my mother for not protecting me
Angry at my mother for not hearing me
So incredibly angry at Tim for abandoning me
Angry at the Police for screwing up and covering up
Angry at the kids not seeing my pain because they were so embroiled in their own
Angry at myself for not being able to be all I need to be for my kids
Angry at the immense weight on my shoulders
Angry at all the crap I have had to wade through to get me to today
And today
I am angry because….

NO!!
I am not going to be angry today
Because
Today I understand
that ‘Angry is just being scared’

Today
I will voice that yes I am scared
I am scared of what today will unfold
I am scared of might happen – duh! how stupid does that sound!
I am scared that my dreams for my future will be taken from me

But in this moment
I am going to allow the other part of me to become the stronger part of me
The other part of me is going to embrace the future
The other part of me is excited about stepping out into the unknown
The other part of me is going to ask for help when she feels scared

If you do see me angry
Please put out your hand and just ask
What is scaring you?