Relief

I’ve been holding a lot of stress in lately.

It started with the doctors appointment. Previous doctors have been unreceptive to the list of symptoms, going so far as to tell me that if I want to get better then I just have to lose weight or that I’m making shit up to get medications. So I went in STRESSED, and I think I only really started to let it go today.

The doctor was actually great. She listened to me, went over the family history, made sure I got my flu shot before I left, and referred me to a physio and dietician after making sure that I had support for my mental health still.

The physio is ok. Reassuring in some ways, but I get the impression he doesn’t quite believe me when I say it all hurts. At the end of the day though he’s only looking after the acute pain in my back, and the exercises he’s given me are doing so much to help that I have zero complaints.

But the dietician… I adore her already. She was wonderful. Went over my full health history, made some suggestions of things to chat to my doctor about in regards to possible causes for current issues, and walked me through the process we’re going to take for the time being. I have her email and assurance that it will be no bother if I email her to clarify or check anything. Mostly, though, I think the best thing was having someone tell me to stop worrying about my weight. Just to stop, that tending to my diet and digestive problems, working on lowering my pain levels, and improving my sleep will take care of that so just stop worrying about.

I almost cried then and there. The sheer relief of having someone else say it after being constantly bombarded with ‘lose weight, there is nothing wrong with you’ was overwhelming.

It’ll be a while till everything has been ticked off the list of possible causes and an actual cause located, but in the meantime I feel really supported by the team of medical professionals I’m dealing with, and finally like I’m a bit more in control of what’s going on.

That said I give it 24 hours till I’m swearing blue-murder about being back on the full fodmap diet. 

A little sting

I was meant to go to a party today. A welcome back for a good friend who has been over seas for sometime.

My rapist was also invited.

My friend asked me if I wanted an invite in advance. They were perfectly polite and considerate about it. I put serious thought into saying no. I don’t want to be anywhere near him for good reason, but it’s been a few years and there’s been a lot of therapy…

And the friend had been away for so long. I missed them and wanted to be there to say hi again. So I accepted with the caveat that I may pull out last minute.

I made it to this morning. A few hours before the party was due to start (not long after I woke up) my stress levels had hit the point where my hands were shaking and I was on the verge of a panic attack. I let my friend know, I am a polite guest after all, and went back to bed for cuddles from my Wolf. Stress eased off pretty quick and all.

Which isn’t the point of this.

The point of this is that I hate it. I hate so much that he has any power over me still. I’m not stupid enough to force myself into the position of being in a room with him when I’m already at that stage hours in advance. I know it may take time before I can deal calmly with it… If I ever get to that point at all. But I hate it.

All he ever wanted was to have power over me, and he’s succeeded. Maybe not in the way he intended but he did succeed. That just makes my gut churn.

 

I take back what you have stolen.

“I take back what you have stolen, and in your languages I announce I am now nameless. My true name is a growl.” — Margaret Atwood

The past few months have been difficult ones, internally at least. Life has rolled on, work has continued, The Wild One is ever present and finances have fallen together as needed. Internally though… Change is the hardest thing. Effecting true, long lasting, change is equal parts exhilarating, terrifying, maddening and agonising.

I sit in a small, comfortable office every two weeks and talk for an hour or more. Together with the warm, gentle, woman across from me I dig through my past and my present, through my fears and long held beliefs, through my fears, and begin to slowly, ever so slowly, to untangle the knots. The knots are complex things – fear entwines with shame, shame twists around anger, anger tangles into anxiety, anxiety wraps into grief and sorrow and so on it goes. We work at it, picking apart the emotions and events that caused them slow and sure. This has been the hardest work of my life. I can tell you that without a second thought to it. This is HARD. And like most things that are truly hard work, it is  worthwhile.

If the process of exploring the events and the emotions around them is complex then dealing with the long held beliefs about myself that I hold because of them is near impossible. Worthless, valueless, incompetent, powerless, small, broken, fragile, useless, damaged. I have always been waiting to be dumped, to be turned on, to be betrayed. I have felt unloveable and unworthy of anyones time for as long as I can remember. I fake having self worth so well that almost no one has never realised how absolutely and utterly worthless I have felt for the entirety of my life.  Mistaking my careful and precise public image of control and confidence for a sense of self worth rather than the survival instinct it was. I have always had power. For every bit of grief this body of mine has bought upon me it has made up with with the power to manipulate – and like every born survivor I have played my advantage and protected myself.

And now, the dots have connected. One and at a time and some so subtly I didn’t even realise until it was pointed out. I’m shedding a skin I’ve worn for a very long time. It is terrifying, and yet…

I don’t know this woman.

She is so different from the one that sat here and typed a week ago, let alone months or years ago. There is a quiet confidence built of an understanding of where she has been, and where she is. She looks forward and knows where she wants to go. She knows what she isn’t, what she is and what she wants to be. She no longer needs to be anything for anyone else but herself. She will be accepted and loved as she is or she won’t be and that is ok. She is me, all the same.

I have been put through hell in this life – I have raped, beaten, mocked, shamed, battered, bullied, assaulted, betrayed over, and over, and over again since I was a small child. There are things I simply do not know how to do that are basic formative skill that I never learnt and I have been left isolated and afraid.

I’m not scared anymore, and I don’t feel alone anymore. There are so many ways I have changed, and so many ways I will continue to change… and so many more ways that I want to change.

At the centre of it all there’s just this quiet calm ‘Hello, this is me.’

Stephen Fry is my Hero and Other Things About Depression

Stephen Fry is my hero. Really. Which is funny because I actually have no idea what he’s even famous for, but every time he opens his mouth about depression I just want to hug the man and thank him.

I live with depression, and by live I mean it’s my baseline, my daily existence. As opposed to going through bouts of depression which most people will at least once or twice in their life I live under the cloud almost all the time. Some days I get flashes of sun, on a rare occasion I’ll have solid periods of sun, but most the time the sun is behind the clouds and there’s a low drizzle of rain.

It’s not too bad, truth be told. I don’t do the random spikes of manically up and then crash like someone with bipolar has to deal with. I don’t have a baseline of happy to compare back to so I don’t necessarily feel truly horrible the way someone who is going through a bout of depression in their otherwise mostly ok life would. It’s just a fact of being for me.

I sleep a bit more than most people. Frequently 10 – 14 hours a day if I have no reason to be up. I often have trouble doing basic things like dishes, laundry and cooking… I forget to eat a lot (and sometimes wish my waist line would show that really). For the most part I get by. I have had to learn to focus on what I do get done so I don’t fall into a bottomless pit of feeling like a waste of air for not getting shit done. I go out often, even if it’s just to sit in a cafe, because being out helps keep me balanced. I try to see people, and I try to not hide how I feel without being angsty-pants-the-angsty at the same time – it’s a bit of a balance but achievable.

Mostly it just spoils things a little. I can’t quite raise the enthusiasm, I don’t feel as inspired by life, I get tired and worn so very easily…

Sometimes shit gets bad though. The clouds get so thick and dark that I go from feeling a little numb and sad for no real reason, disconnected from the things and people around me, to a place where hurting myself is an option, killing myself is a good idea or where I want to simply cease being. These periods are the worst because it’s hard to ask for help when you feel completely disconnected and/or feel like your very being is wasting oxygen.

The wonderful illustrated blog Hyperbole and a Half put up a very accurate representation of how these times feel, up to and including trying to explain to the people you care about, in this post… although I tend to not get the laughter bit, but rather get irrationally angry instead. It made me cry. I had therapy today and then went and talked to a good friend who is struggling with some of these same issues at the moment, and then read that post on the way home and cried.

It’s my life in a blog post.

I’ve sat here a number of times, quite recently, and simply wished I didn’t exist. Not even wished I was dead, just that I did not and had never existed. Like my very presence is fucking shit up for everyone around me. It’s not a nice place to be at, and it’s a long slow process to get back to a baseline of overcast and just a little bit rainy. When people tell me these are brave words I feel a touch lost…

It’s not brave.

It just is. It’s a fact of life like going to work so you can keep a roof over your head. You deal with it because you have to… that doesn’t take bravery or courage. It takes, perhaps, a little strength. It requires a certain level of iron in your soul to deal with this shit day in and day out without letting yourself sink… mostly it takes a lot of self knowledge and the willingness to believe against all odds that tomorrow will be better.

So yeah, Stephen Fry is my hero, because he doesn’t sugar coat it all with saccharinely positive self help bullshit. It hurts, and it’s hard, and you can not control it, but you’ll get days with the most beautiful blue skies if you can wait out the storms.

Don't mistake me for fragile…

Note, this post may be a trigger to some people and simply a really cold harsh shock to other. These are the moments I remember with a crystal clear clarity…

I remember the first time I was fingered. Down the back of the yard in the cubby house. He was in his final year of highschool. I was 6 years old. 1st grade of school. I never told my parents, I would have got in trouble for letting him.

I remember the first time I was told ‘it’s because he likes you’ about the boy who would beat me and scream in my ears while I read a book in recess. I was in grade 3, I was 8 years old. I learnt to love the librarians at that school.

I was 9 when my ‘friends’ would take my lunch, hit me, blame me for anything they did. I had already learnt to sit quietly and take the punishment.

I was 10, in a new school, when I began to get breasts and curves. I was tall, and skinny, with red hair, and glasses and new to the school. I was bruised and insulted and friendless.

The librarian suggested I needed to spend less time alone in the library that year.

I was 11 when she and I played out on the flats – now a housing development – and talked about fairies. I was 11 when believing in fairies became another thing I had to hold close to my chest and never admit out of fear of what others would do to me.

I was 11 when Hayley moved to my school late in the year. She would be my first friend. As odd as I was, and utterly unashamed by her own intelligence.

I was 11 the first time I was accused of chasing someone else’s boyfriend. A boy who I hated for grabbing at my breasts and ass, and calling me names. She was popular, and if I was simply a nobody before then now I was hated.

I was 12 when I noticed older boys straring at my chest.

I remember the first time I was catcalled from a car. I was 13. He almost caused a car accident. It would be years before I stopped hiding myself under baggy shirts.

The year after a blue eyed boy started visiting my house. Only when he and his girlfriend weren’t getting along. I didn’t care, I was so starved for any kindness and contact by that point.

When I was 15 I would be stalked by an older boy for 6 months. Driven home each afternoon by a friend’s father in the police force or walked by his younger brother and a friend – who didn’t know what was wrong but cared that I didn’t want to be left alone with him. I never told my parents. My father would be angry at me, my mother had two young boys hitting puberty to deal with.

I was 15 when I called out a boy in class, in front of everyone. He called me a red headed rat rooter. I, with absolutely perfect composure, suggested he bring his insults out of grade school given I’d been called that and worse since I was 7. My teacher nodded to me, a gesture of approval that I had stood up for myself.

I was 16 when two older boys would fight over me. One who would come and go as he pleased, and one who would possess me.  I had no idea what to do and no one to ask.

I was 16 when Shannon, a gay boy a few years older than myself, would look at me and tell me I was brilliant and not to let anyone tell me otherwise. I didn’t quite believe him, but he talked to me about art, books and my dreams. He will never know that he saved my life that year.

When I was 16 I would wear ankle length skirts to school.

When I was 17 we moved to Melbourne. I had no friends. My grades suffer. I sink into a depression I only survived because I HAD to be there for my brothers… Someone had to be.

When I was 18 I was stood up in a bar. I met people. A few weeks later I slept with a man with a partner who would succeed in turning me into a possession. We would fuck for years on and off while he told me he loved me… I was his dirty little secret. Years later he would be the reason I would hide myself, my sex, my sexuality, my love, my strength… because I was nothing.

When I was 23 I met my first long term partner. He who would manipulate me, turn everything into my fault, who knew exactly how to keep my long past the point where I wanted to, needed to leave.

When I was 26 I lost my mind, and started on the path to healing myself.

When I was just 27 I stopped being a dirty little secret. I would instead by that girl he used to have an affair with… In short he would make me his slut and shame me when I told him to back the fuck off.

I was closing on 28 when I began to say enough, began to get angry. I was told I was being unreasonable over and over.

When I was 28 I got drunk at my birthday party and was raped by the friend I met when I was 18 later that night. I fuck him a few days later in a desperate attempt to take back the control. It would be months of grief and anger before I could acknowledge that I had made it clear he was not welcome to my body in that manner and that he had abused my drunken state to get what he wanted. That it was rape and there was no excusing him for it.

I am 29. I am told I am sexy and bold, smart and intimidating. I have fight depression every day, sometimes it’s an easy battle and most times it is not. I have learnt to wield that anger as a weapon. I hurt.

I also know my own worth and I love with everything I have. I refuse to let fear rule me, and I have so much I fear in my heart and mind. I will acknowledge that I am seen as an object of desire by most and that I will be treated poorly for it for the rest of my life, and that I can wield it as a weapon should I so chose.

You look at me and see confidence, beauty and strength. You see what I let you.

I look in the mirror and see a woman who is both broken and brave in the same breath.

And when I look at you, especially those of you who are just beginning to really fight with what the world has pushed on them, I see people who are so much bigger, bolder and braver than they will ever realize.

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