Recognition


I recognized him instantly, the young man seated at his desk. “Excuse me,” I stammered, “would you mind if I sketched you?” I was at the Correspondence School in William street, Sydney, to meet my teachers and attend classes for the day. These wonderful people would prepare lessons for me, in between my surgeries. The art teacher had suggested I approach his colleague to have some practice. He smiled as he turned around, which was quickly replaced with a look of horror. He had been in the clinic with me when I was fourteen. The last time I had seen him, he was catatonic, one of the patients in the long-term unit. He had been in for nearly a year, on a trajectory of hopeful recovery and devastating lows. He had been my friend, and I his. Now we were out in the world, he a twenty-five year old teacher, and I at sixteen, housed in a body brace. He pleaded with his eyes, not to let slip that we knew each other. The room was crowded, and conversation of a sensitive nature would be overheard. I told him with my eyes that I wouldn’t reveal his past. I sketched his profile as though he were a stranger. He formally bid me goodbye, and I went on my way.

The same thing happened at a department store in the city. A girl I was in hospital with served me at the counter. Her blue eyes sparkled and she smiled before her visage turned to horror. I had wanted to embrace her, and squeal, “you survived!” She had been molested by her Uncle, and her parents had disbelieved her. She had tried to take her life, and ended up in the hospital with me. She was funny, warm, kind and had run away to live with her older sister, before being dragged back. We were forbidden from seeing each other, and I had fretted over her fate. Once again, I promised not to let slip that we knew each other, without saying a word. I only had to look into her pleading eyes.

It happened time and again, my meeting people who had once been close friends. You can’t help but form an incredibly intimate bond with people whom you live with 24/7. On the outside, these people treated you like a stranger, and you were asked to treat them the same. Nobody knew of their prior admittance, nor battles, save for a few family members. It was a given that if people knew their history, it would ruin any chance of employment, let alone promotion. No wonder I had seen executives of well-known companies rescind into the shadows after having complete breakdowns. What a burden it is, to keep up appearances.

I shared the clinic with teachers, models, musicians, nurses, rock stars, people on the board of major hospitals, chefs, actors and many more aside. They became my family, and trusted me with their secrets. There was a disconnect when they went out into the world to regain their place in their industry. It was an unnerving dissonance that didn’t sit well. I instinctively knew that it wasn’t healthy. These were the days before social media, where a famous person could hide their struggles inside the walls of a private clinic.

This year has seen many stressors heaped on me in a short period of time. When one has seen hundreds of people rescind mid-way through their lives, and have heard them table their backstories, one has a tendency to be attentive to the health of one’s own mind. There have been weeks when my brain has been seized by anxiety so severe that I would spend days reading over the same sentence, or forgetting why I went into the kitchen. Depression so crippling that I would want to crawl back into bed within an hour of waking. Social media can help us to feel connected, but it can also make us feel dejected. Witnessing everyone’s highlight reels, seeing people having fun whilst we sit on the periphery of it all can be devastating.

A famous photographer was in the clinic at the same time as I, and I held her sick bowl and pressed cold face cloths to her forehead as she suffered withdrawals. She introduced me to Carrie Fisher’s writing, giving me a copy of ‘Postcards from the Edge.’ She also gifted me a diary, urging me to put anything that made me want to live in its pages. I included quotes, photos, song lyrics and my own musings, and I still treasure this thick diary with its art nouveau cover. She was a truth-seeker and was one of the rare few who didn’t give a flying fig who knew about her admittance, nor fragility.

As for myself, I feel like an Autumn leaf, blowing this way and that. It is time to have trauma counselling. Back when I was a teen, nobody I knew was diagnosed with PTSD, nor anxiety. It wasn’t seen as imperative that trauma counselling begin straight away, to reduce the severity of symptoms going forward. I have rung the centre that was organizing specialized counselling many times, as well as emailing. The trouble is, services are stretched to breaking point. The willingness to assist is there, but the sheer volume of people needing help is overwhelming. I am going to call into this place soon, and talk to somebody about starting this specialized counselling. Receiving what you need is a battle, and you have to believe that you are worth the fight. I know I am worth the fight, and I am also fighting for my daughter, so I can be the best mum to her that I possibly can. We adults need to lead our young to know that articulating our struggles and being honest with our emotions is healthy. They need to see us reaching out to one another, and advocating for services. Contact the health minister and local MP’s and persist until they respond to the call for more services. We are at crisis point in Australia.

I look forward to the day when people who have sought help for their mental health can embrace upon meeting outside of their initial contact. They can introduce their friend to their colleagues and share where they are up to now. The silence and shame and the hiding parts of ourselves is toxic. The older I get, the more I see of our fragility as a species. I know  that the parts of my body that were fused and reinforced with titanium are the strongest parts of me. The cracked and damaged parts are the strongest. It is the neck and shoulders, hips and discs in my spine that once were healthy, that are complaining. The same is true for the mind. The brain that can be pliable and work toward a glorious future, can also become stuck on replaying trauma, like a reel of film. It is exhausting to keep a smile plastered on, to disregard the damaged psyche underneath and to play pretend. It is time to stop. It is time to advocate and it is time for shame to be quashed.

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The Last Place…


I have returned to most of the places where frightful events took place… Buildings and hospitals, houses, parks and reserves. I have stood at these scenes and wept for the girl who suffered so. I wept for what transpired. I took my power back, and incorporated that young girl  into my psyche. No more feeling discombobulated, as though I had been blown apart, my ashes found all over Sydney. I became a little phoenix, rising with her wings outstretched. However, there was one place I hadnt been back to, couldnt go back to…

It was where I spent a great deal of my childhood, it’s gothic visage, cemetry and vast grounds  seemingly enormous and frightening to a child. I have visited friends at the nearby hospital, averting my gaze from the tower standing high amongst the trees at the end of the road. In the 70’s, the old hospital was turned into a mental health facility and school for children and teens. The family had many visits there, none of them ending well. So many memories; too many memories. I was to be placed there at fifteen, my third such hospital, but the only one catering to anyone remotely in my age bracket. At my pre-admission, an older teen threatened to rape me on my admittance. I couldn’t go there… I had been through enough. Besides, I wanted to work. I had left school a year prior, and my god, I had seen and been through more than most adults. This felt like going back to the beginning. I was to be held here, with nowhere else to go.

A series of events saw the story changing, and my back was broken. I ended up spending several months in an orthopaedic ward. This place is my Sliding Doors moment. What would have become of me if I had been admitted? Would my story have been better or worse? I wouldn’t have had my hip and ribs grafted into my back, to make up a replacement spine. I wouldn’t be in physical pain every second of the day and night. However, I doubt I would have healed emotionally. It was the wrong place in the wrong era at the wrong time. I would have been as vulnerable as before.

My daughter was looking forward to an upcoming camp, as was I, and we learnt where we were to be staying. Yes, it was the place I had been avoiding for over twenty years. Every cell in my body stood on a knife’s edge. Then, I breathed. I thought deeply about the timing, and whether I could face it. Memories came flooding back. The hallways and offices, the conversations and smells. How desperate I felt to live a happy life, away from all this. I believed this opportunity happened for a reason. I am now strong enough to go back, and reclaim that girl. Strong enough to go back and reclaim me. I packed for camp, and then I went to camp. I wasn’t afraid. This time, I was free to leave, and nobody would harm me. I faced the gothic structure with courage and was rewarded with my last retrieval of ash. The phoenix could now breathe fire. The phoenix could now fly.

I am Sorry…


People tend to find it hard to know what to say when confronted by another’s suffering, particularly if they don’t know the person well. They may inquire as to how many children they have, and when the answer is “three; two here and one in spirit,” they don’t know how to respond. It is the same when encountering grief, serious illness, infertility or a survivor of abuse. It is tempting to apply a verbal salve to the savage wound, usually in the form of platitudes such as “chin up,” “you can try again,” “it will get better with time…” These words hold no healing, and are rather like acid being poured onto a vulnerable soul.

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I went to a Bravehearts luncheon the other day, and afterward, one of the women divulged the abuse she had suffered as a child. Those gathered listened respectfully, and afterward, I went up to her, hugged her, and whispered, “I am so sorry that you endured such things; so sorry that you suffered so.” I did this because  kind folk had said this to me. Others wanted to know how far I had fallen when I was pushed off that ledge as a teen; they wanted to know the details to satisfy their curiosity. I treasure those who cradled me, and whispered how sorry they were. It is the ultimate recognition of trauma. You aren’t attempting to fix the situation with glib words, nor paper over what a brave person has divulged. You have acknowledged their pain and the unfairness of what has transpired. “I am so very sorry…” That is all that is needed.

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I attended a White Balloon Day luncheon, to raise awareness and funds for Bravehearts, an Australian organization whose aim is to prevent child sexual assault. Their services include counselling for children and adult survivors, advocacy and support, an education program for children, research and lobbying, and community awareness campaigns. The more we talk and educate our children, the safer our society shall be. I would love to be able to give the gift of safety to our kids, so they have nothing to survive from their childhoods. That is their right and our responsibility as a community. I have hope that the tide is turning. Even a decade ago, such lunches would have been rare. The subject would have been deemed unpalatable. We as a whole are becoming more cohesive, aware and supportive. May it flourish at the same time as predators fall.


PTSD-Understanding Yourself


This article by Pete Walker astounded me with the breadth of knowledge and detail entailed. I could identify with it, thinking no wonder I am tired! Recovery is a full-time job in itself, and by that I mean recovering who you were before the events, and who you were set to become. It is confronting (albeit healing), to uncover why you do the things you do, and respond the way you do. Your beautiful, brilliant mind conjured up all sorts of ways to cope!

Broken Wings and Healing


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A little bird came into my life on Valentine’s Day. She was found on the floor of a cage; her wings had been hacked with what appeared to be scissors. She had no tail and was ailing. Desperate to rescue her, she came home with us. Over the months, I have been in awe of her spirit. The feathers underneath her crippled wings would twist and bleed, causing terrible pain. When they fell out, I would pick them up, and feel how razor-sharp the damaged ends were. Despite the anguish she must have felt, she had a personality that was bigger than her. She whistled the Adams Family theme song, danced and chatted all day. She would run across the dining table when she saw food. Vegemite toast, pumpkin soup and cups of tea were her favorite. We named her Friendly, a fitting moniker.On shopping day, she would see you come in with the bags and dance from side to side in anticipation of a honey stick. She would lock the other cockatiel in their house, run away with Lego pieces when my daughter was playing and generally cause mayhem. She would even pick up a pencil and try to draw in my daughter’s workbooks, just as she had seen her do. When her wings hurt, she would cry, and come to me for comfort. 

Recently, she grew a proper tail, and her feathers grew strong. She became obsessed with flapping her mighty wings. To my despair, she got out the other day. Friendly flew to a tree in the park around the corner, hopping up on the farthest branches, annoyed at any attempt to catch her. We shared information about her on community pages and many kind people shared her picture, in case she flew from the tree. The fire brigade advised to leave her there overnight, as it was now dusk and she was settled in for sleep. They didn’t want to startle her. At dawn, the fire brigade came, and tried to catch her. Irritated, she flew off. My daughter and I combed the neighborhood for hours, whistling the Adams Family theme song, and calling out her name. Despondent, we had set off for home when my phone rang. She had been found! 

Friendly had flown a block away, landing in someone’s front yard. A group of teenage girls had been on their way to school when they found her, and notified the home-owner, who took her inside. They were having Vegemite toast for breakfast, and Friendly ran across to their plates and helped herself! She looked mighty proud of herself, without a hint of distress. After devouring a honey stick, she had a mammoth nap. We held our little bird, watching as she slept. Strangers as well as friends, celebrated her return. It touched my heart to know that so many people were celebrating alongside us.

Today she is singing and dancing, and as I watch her I shake my head, incredulous. I wouldn’t have thought that a frail little bird with butchered wings and no tail would ever be capable of flying as she did; nor of evading the fire brigade! Wings can be clipped and we may not have the rudder necessary to balance. It doesn’t mean that it will remain so. Balance returns and broken wings heal. Just ask Friendly. She has had her taste of adventure and I think (hope), she is now happy to stay put. She just wanted to see how far she could go on her healed wings, and the answer was a long way! The birds she hung out with and the friendships that were formed will remain a mystery, but with her outgoing personality, I am sure she charmed the native birds.



A Jar of Marbles


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We had seen a video on how to make fairy lanterns, and went to a discount store to find the jars, tissue paper and glitter required for our project. I had felt the need to apply a mixture of turquoise, blue and purple to my hair. Now, when you front up amongst a crowd in a quirky manner, certain people gravitate to you. The artists, the poets, the dreamers…They see in you a kindred spirit. I stood in front of an aisle of craft supplies, discombobulated at the wide array, uncertain of which to choose. I noted a lady facing the same conundrum, next to my daughter and I, and smiled at her sympathetically. She was tall, with bohemian clothing and a funky short hairdo. “Excuse me,” she said, “could you help me?” She had a bag of marbles in one hand and a jar in the other. “Do you think these will fit in this jar?” “Afraid not, especially the bigger marbles,” I replied. She explained that somebody very dear to her was facing a deluge of sorrow, and was hanging on by a spindle. They had expressed that they were afraid they were losing their marbles. “I want to present them with their marbles,” the woman stated. “I need them to know that I care; that what is taken can be replaced.” I squeezed her hand. “You are a good person.”

I guess my fairy lanterns are also thematic. Here are these little fairies, highlighted with a background light, illuminating the way.  When I was in the clinic as a teenager, I was privy to many stories. I recall that the term PTSD was rarely used back then. It was called ‘the horrors’ instead. I was fourteen, and quite naïve. I became friends with a gentle fellow called Denis. He was kind and funny, and also severely traumatized. He quietly told me that he had been a vet. “How wonderful! I love animals,” I smiled. “Bless you, kid,” he laughed. I learnt over time what he actually meant as I heard him scream throughout the night; witnessed him slip into catatonia for days on end. I was told I had a strong mind, which bounced back like an elastic band, no matter what I was enduring. I wasn’t even clinically depressed, according to the experts. Rather, I railed against cruelty and abuse, to the extent that I would prefer to leave this world than remain in suspended animation. As my own PTSD began, I thought about Denis often, how despite our generation gap, we had this horrendous condition in common.

My mind takes me to dark places and I regularly fall into deep depression. None is more surprised  than I. I am a genuinely happy soul, who can seemingly bounce back from anything life hurls at me. I call myself a smiling, laughing depressive. I have been around long enough to understand what my triggers are, and try my best to avoid them. I have a delayed reaction to triggers. I may explode a day or two later. I need time alone to process what has transpired. Alcohol is a no-go zone at such times, as it leads to dreadful melancholy when I already feel low. I have to get out in the fresh air and walk. I have to turn off the phone and not have too much stimulation. Now is the time to get out my first aid kit. It contains ambient music, books, exercise, essential oils, candles, soup, a fruit platter, gardening, art, writing, playing with my daughter, the theatre and retreat. I am a happy woman with a tortured soul. It is quite the dichotomy. I have had to save my life many times over. There have been mountains that have seemed unconquerable; events too awful at first glance to be survivable. I have had to make that choice.

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There is hope beckoning to me outside the bramble where I lay. There always has been. I cut through the brackets to reach my friends, and my life. Life as a smiling, laughing depressive can be confusing. It is concealed from other people, and felt behind the scenes. “You are always smiling and appear happy darling,” an elderly friend once said, “but I see the sadness in your eyes when you think nobody is looking.” I told her she was far too perceptive. I think my spirit animal is the phoenix. Ignited by passion and a love of life, and consumed by the same. Perishing and emerging in an endless cycle. You can be the most positive, joyous person around, and still be pursued by depression and anxiety. The two states eye each other off warily. As long as you have a jar of marbles, you will never lose your own. My fairy lanterns are visible proof of an illumination inside my mind which can never be extinguished, despite the odds.

We are stronger than we believe we are, and can survive what we thought we couldn’t. We are also fragile, and deserving of kindness. If you have been through trauma, your brain has been left battered and bruised. It needs love and time set aside in its quest for reparation. I can’t help being an extroverted introvert. It’s who I am. I love people, and socializing and I also adore being alone. The same is true for being a smiling depressive. I love this life, and have had to reconcile the fact I was almost destroyed by it. My path isn’t paved, and nor is it straight. At least I have my lantern to light my way.

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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.

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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.

Who am I?


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I carry a small girl on my shoulders. She grips on, her little hands threaded through each other, resembling a heart around my neck. She assumes that I have the strength to carry her. I hope that I do. I have been many things throughout this life. Misunderstood. A wild thing, a hermit, an eccentric. A school mum, a student, a broken girl. I have been a patient, a victim of violence, a train wreck and a phoenix. I have been a scorpion, a lamb and a lion. Reinvention has been borne of necessity.

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My hand brushes the right side of my torso. It is concave, the result of where they took two floating ribs to graft into my spine. The scars read like a surrealist map. This is where they directed her. This is where it led. This is where they operated, and this is what was said. Nobody tells you that anger can be directed into useful avenues. I am not okay with having been broken. I am not okay with not being able to fall asleep. I am not okay with living with chronic nerve pain and having shards of bone and metal piercing into my spinal canal. I am not cool with a lot of things. So unnecessary and nonsensical. The other day, I was sitting on a bench without back support. I tried to hold my frame up, I really did. Panic set in when I realized that I had to move immediately and lay down on the grass. My spine can’t support my weight when seated at a bench! The pain was out of this world when I attempted to. Here are some more labels, healed, a forgiver, getting on with things…


The pain is like rocket fuel, cajoling me to write. I want to help pave a tranquil path for my daughter and her contemporaries. It makes me strive and makes me determined. It is okay to be pissed off. I came to this earth without scars. I have had to design a life that is manageable and joyful, in spite of them. To devise experiences that go much deeper than the levels of scar tissue and adhesions. To have experiences that shoot through them like a laser and reach deep into my soul.

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I have been given a golden key, which only those with wrung-out psyches obtain. It is a marvellous compensation for having lived a dark dream. I am more than all the labels noted above. I have come to believe that labels are meant for containers, not people. I am a woman doing her best. I am a person wanting more for her daughter. I want her to know her worth. I want her to seek validation not from other people, but rather from herself. To trust her own impressions and honour her instincts. We are worth more than a few token labels, you and I. It is a lazy means to describe the intricacies of a person. We all carry a little person on our shoulders, and the way their hands lace around our necks, resembles a beautiful heart.

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