The Reverse


I was feeling adrift on Good Friday. Wistfulnes came upon me and I was listless. Thinking of this world and the tragedies which occurred the past week…My mind was insisting that I curl up in bed and not move. I know enough about myself by now to defy this edict. I ended up doing the reverse. I took my daughter down to the river and went for a walk. I was joined by friends and as the kids played, we chatted. On my way back home, I met another mum, who was trailed by two little boys. Her face was cast in sadness, and she disclosed that she had only been at her in-laws for fifteen minutes and already they were irritated by her gorgeous sons. Rather than stay and become more and more upset by their cantankerous  behaviour, she walked to the river. The boys burnt off energy and we had a lovely time, picking up sticks and errant treasures. 

  
My daughter was overjoyed to find that the Easter Bunny had been Easter Sunday ! There was a trail leading to the backyard, a little girl with a basket, hot on the scent. We lit a candle at breakfast time, and stated what we were thankful for. Afterward, we went to church, and were greeted by many familiar faces. This place is about love, and about service. You can be real here, and the relief is palpable. 

We messaged a friend, and found her to be depressed. She was alone in her unit, and I said that we were coming to see her. “when you are feeling despondent, you sometimes have to do the opposite of what your brain is telling you to do,” I insisted. I know from personal experience. If you feel like isolating yourself and staying in, you have to do the reverse. If you feel like drinking or binging, the same applies. Holidays are a cruel reminder of what you are missing out on, if you are alone. You see the myriad of families enjoying each other’s company on Facebook via status updates and photos. You can’t even watch TV without ads appearing, showing you how it is meant to be. Feelings of rejection, abandonment and fear emerge from the recesses of one’s mind. It is hard to escape. 

   
 I mentioned to our friend that we were going to Vaucluse House, so my daughter could take part in an Easter trail. To my delight, this friend wanted to come along. It takes guts to do the opposite of what your mind is demanding. We watched my daughter and her friend playing amongst the ancient trees, and had a Devonshire tea afterward. It was a perfect afternoon. Next time you feel like isolating, or are pressured to stay inside a home with people that make you feel unwelcome, do the reverse. 

Easter 2016


Firstly, I want to wish you a peaceful Easter. For me, it is a time of contemplation and restoration. I wrote the following for Siren Empire about the season, and what it means to me.

I took my daughter to the Royal Easter Show at Olympic Park yesterday. It was a glorious day; the sun was beaming down and we had to find shelter to coat ourselves in 50+ sunscreen. The Australian sun is unforgiving and you can burn quickly!

My daughter fell in love with these hermit crabs, which we simply had to adopt! The little shop ‘crab-sat’ them until we were ready to leave. They are amazing little critters, and can run fast when they want to!

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These pictures capture the mastery of the cakes that were on display. Aren’t they stunning?

  
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We had a tour of Sydney’s upcoming Metro Rail. It is spacious and well-designed, inspired by the system in Singapore.  I can’t wait to go on adventures on it!

 

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My daughter was entranced by the art on display.




We ate strawberries dipped in chocolate, talked to a myriad of fascinating people, and admired beautiful animals and fresh produce! The food on offer was too tempting, and I was as gleeful as a child when we reached the show bags! I now have enough toiletries, tea and snacks to last a year! Our Sydney Royal Easter Show has a proud history, and I love the feeling of connection you receive from being there. You meet people from all over Australia and the world. You can ask questions of authorities on anything from gardening to food security.

I love this city, and am proud to call it my home. It has at times, been a love/hate relationship. I lived in the city, though for the years I was a hermit, I didn’t engage readily with it. I was a hermit, in an(albeit colourful), shell, much like our hermit crabs. Sydney seemed cold and hard and unapproachable. Now it feels like home, and I feel like I have a place in it. At Easter, I tend to reflect on what has transpired; on the people whom I have loved and are no longer here. I think of survival, redemption and being rebuilt. I think of fresh starts and hope. I pray for peace. This Easter, may this peace descend on us all, and remain in place.

Brain Week, University and Hope


We have had a dizzying week, filled with grace, learning and love. We had a mum and her son come to stay for a little while. They have been on the road for almost a year, and are finding it difficult to locate permanent housing. One day we shall look back with horror that a single mum and her children found it so tough to secure housing. I could think of nobody with such a vested interest in being the perfect tenant. They are travelling South, and I pray that they find what they are looking for. Everybody deserves a permanent home.

My daughter attended a robotics lecture and tour at Sydney University this week, and also went to a Brain Week Open Day at UNSW. She loved being on campus, and was fascinated by all she saw.

IMG_6521This is a picture of her exquisite and beautiful brain activity! I love the violet!

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Casula Powerhouse, Paul Trefry, 'Homeless Still Human.'
Casula Powerhouse,
Paul Trefry, ‘Homeless Still Human.’

My daughter felt emotional as she observed this sculpture, looking deep into his eyes. Everybody deserves permanent housing.

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I attended dinner for a dear friend’s birthday and was delighted that Hannah Erika Music were playing. It was a sublime night. I met a designer, who disclosed that she is dyslexic, and her dream is to empower young people who have dyslexia. I can’t wait to see the glorious clothing she produces after she sets up her business. It is important that dyslexic kids hear of such adults, and have the chance to tour universities, attend workshops and see all the opportunities that are available to them. By ten, most have had deflating experiences and had trials beyond what an adult could comfortably endure. My child loves science, art, music and drama among many other interests. I know she will succeed in whatever she chooses to do in life, not in spite of her dyslexia, but from it. She already thinks outside the box, is extraordinarily creative and curious. These qualities will hold her in good stead.

We also saw a beautiful performance at the Seymour Centre, of Huang Yi and Kuka My daughter asked if the performers had fun coming up with the choreography between themselves and the robot (Kuka). Huang Yi answered an emphatic yes, and went on to tell her that he believed in his dream, and found others who did too. He told her to never let go of her dreams. It was lovely advice to give a little girl with a bucketful of hope.

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Lastly, I had to share the recipe for these fruit balls that my friend made. They are amazing! Mix Coconut, Almond Meal, Honey, Vanilla Essence, Lime juice and peel and Chia seeds together and roll into balls.

 

Your Well-Being Matters!


Love this wise lady.

Erika Kind

I inspired myself to this post when I had to set priorities in my currently busy life. I learned that many years ago when I found myself surrounded by too many activities. It happened step by step unnoticed until it got too much. It is related a lot to the lesson of saying No:

You love what you do. You really love it. You are proud of what you are achieving ever day. You are versatile, doing this and that. There are so many things you want to do in your life and you are not only talking about it, you are doing it. Things work out, projects succeed and grow. That is wonderful but all of a sudden the many projects can get too much and I don’t even threw life in yet. When everything grows it can be overwhelming because you are still only one person. You still have…

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Love from Raphaela


Thankyou so much for the support! It has meant the world to me! It has been a very busy week here! I took my daughter to see an excellent documentary on conserving our reefs at the IMAX Theatre. If you are in Sydney, you have to see a documentary here! They give you glasses which only work at IMAX, and you feel as though the animals are reaching out to you. It gave the kids a clear idea on what is happening to our coral reefs, and how we can help thwart the damage being done.

I saw a friend in hospital, and it happened to be one I had surgery in at seventeen. I got completely lost, and ended up at the ICU doors. I stood there for a  moment, remembering how I fought to keep my lungs inflated. How I fought for my life. There was joy and pride in the remembrance. The hospital looked so little compared to how big it had seemed. Due to a skilled surgeon, my life was saved. It is bizarre; I have met so many people this year who had been operated on by the same doctor! We have our own little fan club going! He is now retired, much to our frustration. He was a genius.

There have been art and science classes, as well as drama, leaving little time to plug away at my manuscript. It will get there, slowly but surely. I have a time frame and am determined to reach it! Home schooling my daughter is one of the greatest joys in my life. I believe that every life has a season. As she grows, I wont be needed quite as much to help with her lessons. I will have so much time when she turns eighteen, that I shall be able to write a hundred books! She is only this young for such a short while.

We are experiencing a very hot March, even though we are meant to be in Autumn. There are still some beach days left in Sydney! 

We have a full house this coming week, with a few precious ones staying. I have stocked up on snacks, wine and games. The birds have been told to be on their best behaviour! May you all have a wonderful weekend.

10 ways I put myself back together after trauma


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This is me at 17 years of age

I can’t tell you how much the response meant to me after I posted Til it Happens to you. The support was incredible! I was too overcome to respond for a while. People have asked how I got through it all. I suffered status epilepticus at 13, meaning I had continual seizures which couldn’t be controlled. I stopped breathing and was in a coma. It took a long time to recover from this event (it was predicted I wouldn’t). The next year, I met a monster, and was abused. The finale was being thrown off a building at fifteen. My healing has taken over twenty years. There are some things that have helped.

1. I can’t handle violence of any kind. I can’t discuss literature, nor movies, let alone view them, if they are violent. At first, I didn’t want people to think I was fragile. I didn’t want them to see the distress that talking about violence (parcelled as entertainment to the masses), conjured. I would pretend that it wasn’t hurting me. Nowadays, I don’t pretend. I gracefully bow out of conversations and invitations which would bring me into this sphere.

2. I couldn’t leave the house by myself, even to go to the letterbox. It has taken many years and many small trips to gather the strength to go farther afield. I plan ahead, and the apps I have on my phone make my preparations easier. If you are agoraphobic, be kind to yourself. Every little step is a triumph. My major incentive was that I had to get to the IVF clinic early in the morning, and simply had to do it. It made me braver than I actually felt! Now I take my daughter everywhere, and the freedom is liberating!

3. I have had to confront my deepest fears. The ones I was frightened of encountering, as I would surely fall apart. My fears included rejection, loneliness, being left alone and finding out that people weren’t as they appeared. Confronting these fears has been terrifying, and it has hurt. I have uncovered that people I looked up to were abusive behind closed doors. I have been let down and let go, but I have survived. I learnt not to leave myself behind in the process. Comforting myself became of premium importance.

4. People see a smiling, functional adult when you are out and about. They don’t recollect the child kept alive in Intensive Care on a respirator. They came into my life during a different chapter. I know what it took to get to here. The hundreds of hours of physiotherapy, the scores of surgeries… I have to remind myself of my achievements and give myself a quiet pat on the back.

5. Boundaries are a big one for a survivor. I felt as vulnerable as a newborn when I started to make a life for myself. I believed anything anyone said, and believed everyone was a friend. It has taken trial and many errors to come up with boundaries, and to trust my judgement above all else. It was a revelation, to give myself the space to honour my instincts. If a person or situation doesn’t sit right, and makes me uncomfortable, I walk away. It is imperative to do so, as I have a little girl watching me. I need to display good boundaries so she knows that its okay to be in touch with her own. It has sometimes taken me being struck mute in the company of somebody who is toxic, for me to comprehend that my body is trying to protect me by producing physical symptoms. I am free, and thus I get to decide who stays in my life. It may not be anything that anyone is doing. Rather,  they remind me of someone from the past. I still have to honour my discomfort.

6. Things will trigger me on a daily basis, and much of it is out of my control. It could be a song coming on in the supermarket, an aftershave I detect in passing. It might be a conversation, or visiting a friend in a hospital where I had prior surgery. Deep breaths are required, and sometimes a visit to the lady’s restroom to compose myself. I tell myself that my anxiety is a natural reaction, and I am doing fine. If I am with close friends, I will tell them that a memory has come up. If I am not, I will breath deeply, find a focal spot to concentrate on, and reassure myself quietly.

7. I will not drink to excess, nor take tablets to blot out a bad day. Sometimes, the memories hit hard, and along with the massive amount of pain I suffer, it becomes overwhelming. Alcohol is a depressant, and thus, is disastrous as an antidote. I will only have alcohol when in the company of friends at dinner, or as a toast of celebration. It only compounds the depression which inevitably comes after overworked adrenals have crashed. Instead, I go for a walk, swim or am otherwise active. It helps tremendously.

8. I will space out at times. When you hardly sleep, and are in pain, it happens naturally. When you put flashbacks or a panic attack into the mix, let’s say I am sometimes  away with the fairies! Writing (and preparing for a writing task), also lends itself to spacing out. If you holler at me on the street and I don’t respond, that’s why! I am escaping into my inner world, which is expansive and magical. I nearly jump out of my skin when I am walking along and a car beeps me. I remain jittery for the rest of the day. I am hyper vigilant; always scanning a crowd for danger, even when in my own world. It’s quite a combination!

9. You are allowed to say “no” to a request. You are allowed to rest. I keep going until I can’t, and at that point, I retreat for a bit. I have to. It is a revelation, when you learn that you can keep free spaces in the calendar. Even thirty minutes to sip tea and daydream is heavenly. I need time alone to restore and reboot. Time is precious, and I try to use it wisely.

10. My survival has been an odyssey of epic proportions. I tried to run from the memories. I attempted to smother them, as one instinctively does a fire. The smoke streams from underneath the cloth, and then the flames explode forth in a cacophony of rage. It is like burning off disease, only to have damaging adhesions form underneath. Running doesn’t work, and it certainly doesn’t help. Over many years, I have visited my places of trauma. I have wept and I have released at each site. I only did so when I was ready. You have to be ready. My natural instinct is still to run when triggered, but now I have tools. They come in the form of a laptop, a paintbrush, a pastel. They come to me as bird song, my walking shoes, my friends and my music.

When I was a child, I had big dreams. I had a determined spirit and an acute awareness that what was being done to me was not only wrong, but evil. I felt as though a cannon had ripped through my psyche, smattering me into pieces. Over time, I have laid out all the pieces, and put them into place. I am glued, sewn, fused and grafted together. I was once a china doll. Now I am reinforced and can never be broken again. It takes time to heal. You will want to give up. You will consider yourself beyond repair. You will want to run and you will try to escape your own mind. You will want to give up. Please don’t. The joy of finally accessing the tools to help you cope are worth the fight.

Til It Happens To You


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I  had my hair done yesterday by a professional.  I can’t tell you how decadent it felt to have someone wash and style it. I had previously painted my hair in turquoise and aqua tones with fudge, and cut it myself, much to the amusement of the real hairdresser. She was a beautiful young woman, and confessed that she wants to write. I hope I convinced her that she could; that she had many untold stories begging to be shared. She watched my daughter dancing to the music over the salon’s speakers, and quietly wondered what her children would be like. “It is a delicious surprise,” I smiled. “They will bring more joy than you ever anticipated.” After my hair was done, I bid this angel farewell. I had Lady GaGa’s song, Til it Happens to you in my head. I had watched in awe as she performed this extraordinary song at The Oscars. For over twenty years, I have tried to articulate my experience, and damn, this song said it all. I was rendered speechless after hearing it.

I boarded the bus home, and a news bulletin came on the radio. Cardinal Pell had been speaking in Rome, and essentially proclaimed that children weren’t believed back in ‘those days.’ He wasn’t even sure that he knew it was a crime. He took no responsibility. A lady seated near me called out to the bus driver that she was infuriated by his response. The driver grimly nodded and I stroked my little girl’s hair, silent. I wondered how many on that bus had been abused as children.

13 years of age
13 years of age

I recall the dread I felt when I needed to go to the toilet after being repeatedly raped. I would cry and shriek in pain, my kidneys infected and my ureter bleeding. Still, nobody helped. Everybody knew and the good people that were trying to make it stop, were syphoned far away from me. I was urged to drink more water. Day after day after day of being abused. Death seemed a more attractive option than living at the time.

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I was in the clinic with a decorated photographer. She shot for Vogue amongst other publications, and her mother had a title, by order of the Queen. She handed me a beautiful green journal, and urged me to write. “Song lyrics, words and sources of inspiration,” she advised. “One day you will open it, and see how far you have come.”

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Oh yes, I have come a long way. I don’t quite know how I pulled it off. I was pounced on like I was game and he was the hunter. When I was bloodied and damaged, I was discarded. There will be one indelible image seared into my mind when I recall the Royal Commission of 2015-2016. It will be a spouse’s retort to a columnist who had defended Pell. This is Clare Linane’s eloquent response.

It is always there, waiting to be triggered. I tiptoe through life, roaming the vast, wild coastline, visiting Sydney’s Islands and watching theatre. Perennially searching for beauty. It helps. Everyone who has been alone with the horror of abuse as a child can take comfort at the outrage today. They are being held accountable. At last! At last! It doesn’t take away the pain and anger stemming from the years of silence. I hope that in your search for peace, you stumble upon things of beauty too. We shall never be silenced again.