No Direction. No Closure. No Bloody Idea.

It was always used against me, that I was so determined.  That I was a good student.  That I was so enthusiastic.  That I seemed so confident.  They pat you on the back with one hand and stab you with the other.

The passion I once had came from following my heart – I was born to be a teacher.  It’s as simple as that, really.  I was a mature age student, I’d travelled the world and worked in a variety of roles which seemed to naturally lead to this point.  I have (almost) always had the pleasure of being taught by teachers who were there for the same reason.  Students can tell!  Parents can tell!  Other like-minded educators can tell.  It has been such a crushing blow to discover the hard way how many school employees are there for other reasons – and they are usually in positions of power.  An accident?  I think not.

I can’t remember what I’ve called Him on this blog before but He explicitly said, “I’m a teacher now because I have a penis.  I’ll be principal before you’re an Accomplished teacher” (pay level after Graduate).

But graduates are always extra enthusiastic, you say, that’ll change.  Even if you allow for the fatigue of years in the role versus Brand New Enthusiasm, there is a genuine difference in motivations to teach that affect professional behaviour, values and workplace interactions.

In the early stages, they lapped it up from me, as they did the other graduates.  She wants to volunteer for that extra role?  Yes!  You’ve learnt about this new way of team teaching?  Great!  You can help lead the reluctant ones who just want to do it their way!  You bring new life to this school!  We are all better for it!

Until you speak up about something.

Until you say ‘too much’.

Even when what you’re talking about is criminal behaviour that everyone saw and commented on UNTIL you took it further, outside The Group.  It should have stayed Just Between Us.  You’ve just Ruined Everything.  How could YOU do that to US?

Then you’re trying too hard, cocky, speaking “above your station” and “talking about people (they’ve) worked with for years so you’d better watch out”.  But that’s just the beginning.  Warnings.  Subtle and blatant warnings that you don’t want to be A Troublemaker here…Mud Sticks…You’ll Never Work Again.

You always acted like a Slut.

Cocktease.

Over emotional.

Misunderstanding.  This is all just crossed wires, yeah?

Why was it such a fucking horrible, drawn out experience?  I can hardly choose one reason.

Because I was followed, touched, undressed, physically penetrated, cornered, bullied by a senior teacher?

Because it all happened around a primary school, on a camp with your young kids?

Because the children themselves witnessed so many inappropriate things that they voted to put a sign on the door of the classroom banning Him from entry?

That their parents approached me, saying that their kid was worried about ME and what He was like?

That I endured so much on my own because I loved my job so much?

That every single staff member in this small school found Him inappropriate, unprofessional or had questioned him before but when things became formal they vanished into thin air and lied during each level of investigation?

That the people; teachers of small children, that I eventually begged for help to be safe, that I’d cried and shared humiliating truths with; turned it back on me with the click of fingers?

That they used every clichéd slur and excuse in the worn out book?

That they bullied me and talked about me, told staff NOT TO SIT WITH ME AT LUNCH?

That the cumulative result of their actions was eventually to break me?

That despite my confidence, belief that I was meant to be a teacher, letters thanking me for the difference my efforts made with individual students…I wanted to be dead?

I said I was determined.  I moved to another school.  But information like that makes its way around, too.

He pled Guilty.  And I was the one disgusted with MYself.  I was revolting, a failure, a joke.  Everything I’d worked for.  Gone.

I thought I was in a different place.  That I had purged it all.  It’s 8 years this year since He started what he did to me.  I am still at home.  I still have no job.

I have had all the counselling, medication and researched every goddamn way to process and progress towards something.  Anything.  But this shit is like a cancer in your guts.  It’s toxic and it’s scary.  If you’re really unlucky, it’s wrapped around the core of who you are.  You can’t really get away from it, because you are it.  It has become you.

I have to live.  I have to earn money at some point soon.  And I can’t picture that woman in my head at all.  To be out there is to be extremely vulnerable again.

There’s obviously more I need to do yet.  What spurred me on until now was the idea that I could one day tell the story.  That they couldn’t gag me or threaten me then.  And I could shout it from the rooftop.  Mostly because they said ‘you can’t tell anyone’ so many times that I thought the only way to beat the shame was to tell – put it out there and it loses some power.  Or they lose some power.  Now I might have that opportunity and I’m frozen with fear/excitement.

Maybe one of the worst things they managed to do is make sure I never knew when to trust anything again, even myself.

Possible Possibilities

It’s been nine months since I was here last. I’ve been studying for my Masters and working on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy ideas. It’s been wonderful to fill my brain with new theories and texts but reality bit when it came time to do field placement in the workplace. I freaked out. What I’ve been telling myself is progress may also be distraction…until now. I have another six months before I have to face that demon again. Maybe I’ll volunteer somewhere first? Baby steps? *teeth clenched* A new career possibility was my new dream…power in being useful and contributing again.

But actually I just want to be a teacher. Still.

I’ve braved some primary school functions for family members and once I determined that there were no familiar faces, I felt the same thrill. I’ll say it. I enjoyed a whole-school assembly.

Fuck it.

I felt like it was my home planet. I smiled at the students. Bit my tongue so as not to redirect some behaviour. Tossed out a few encouraging ‘thumbs ups’. School feels NATURAL and full of potential. Like it used to. Once.

So I did something the other day.

I printed out the application to Enrol To Teach.

It’s been more than five years since I was assessed by VIT standards so I would have to start again as a Probationary teacher. That means extra work but I’m not that bothered.

I don’t know whether I’ll go through with it. But I met a *lovely* school Principal recently and it occurred to me that a different experience in the workplace is possible.

Possible.

I don’t know where I will end up yet but this has been a big step.

Oh, and my beautiful lawyer sent me a christmas card this month, which marks one year since the YES on the financial settlement. What has the money enabled? I’ve avoided homelessness. I’ve paid for immediate help rather than going on waiting lists. I’ve set up a new home which is free of the drama and paranoia associated with a long work cover case. I’ve paid for text books and internet to keep me connected. I have paid for lots of relaxation massages to battle the physical tension.

I’ve started to lay the foundations for the version of me that I didn’t want to become – I was happy where I was before this – but that I’m now very proud to be.

Ode To Mental Health Professionals (And Their Funding)

Mental Health Awareness Ribbon

Mental Health Awareness Ribbon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On this International Day of Mental Health awareness it seems apt to pay homage to the two people who have saved my head, and almost certainly my life, on some very hard days.  This is not your typical Thank you Speech.  No one can play the music to hurry me up or cut to an ad.  And Kanye cannot take the mic from my hand.

Through the combined efforts of my GP, Worksafe and the insurance company of my employer, I have sought the help of/been mandatorily sent to see a few professionals over the last five years.  The first GP I saw looked terrified and had a generally nervous demeanour which given the subject matter was problematic to say the least.  I saw his neighbour at the same practice and here we are today.  My GP is always in a hurry, as so many are, but he is one in a million.  When you have to see someone every month for a ‘mental health update’ and a new Medical Certificate for Worksafe you get to feel comfortable.  Our meetings are routine.  A part of my schedule. Every time I go, I think, huh that’s a month gone!  There are other times where I think Dear God, it’s soooo long until I can tell him this. My son has grown up in front of his eyes along the way.  My doctor has an eye on us both and was so amazing when I was pregnant and trying to stay on at work.  I would be crying so hard and refusing a Medical Certificate until he just said NO MORE one day.  I am grateful he was there to stop me when I couldn’t stop myself.  He is always on at me to exercise more and I’m like, Dude…still trying that gym thing?  I don’t know how many people see their local doctor and get to laugh like I (almost always) do.  He’s a gem.  And I am virtually unable to try for a laugh from any crowd, clearly.

There’s one other professional who has been integral to my mental health for a couple of years now.  I have seen so many random counsellors, psychologists and ugh psychiatrists that I know a good egg when I meet one.  This woman is one of the best.  We fit beautifully.  And she knows her shit.

The person I am talking about is a Mental Health Nurse.

Mental Health Nurses work in collaboration with your GP to provide supportive care through a range of services including counselling, home visits, mood and medication monitoring, group work and community integration.  MHN work with people who require long term support and engagement.  You can access the services of a MHN through a referral from your treating doctor.   In my experience, appointments are flexible, forgiveness always forthcoming when you forget the time again and they are always contactable via mobile phone.  There is more about the MHN Incentive Program here.

My gorgeous MHN works from a variety of locations and makes home visits.  I am permanently wondering if I’m at the right place (possibly, so is she) but I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the flexibility and accessibility of such a service.  Now most days I am pretty together and making myself presentable is a large factor in feeling confident enough to go out and be seen in public (lest any of the school community argh see me).  I don’t mean that in a rude or patriarchy-victim way – just to say that it is a part of my coping mechanism and how I work.  The people a MHN sees in a day make up one motley crew, I can tell you.  The needs and quirks of each person would cover such a spectrum that a Mental Health Nurse requires broad training, experience and a personality that is able to engage with all of us successfully.  This woman: she’s got it in spades!  This isn’t a love letter but here is what she offers me.  She is so warm and gentle, always smiling and engaging.  In her eyes I see focus, on me, on what I’m expressing.  I see empathy.  Genuine care and concern.  Once or twice I have seen them get a teeny bit watery when I’m really getting raw.  I cannot speak for anyone else but when you are raging about being silenced and lied about and there you are, just a pile of stripped back hurt, to see some feeling reflected back in the eyes of the person you’re confiding in is extremely important.  Acknowledgement.  Validation.  Life.  Thank Christ!  you think, It does sound as shitty as I think it does!  I’m not imagining it!  And you don’t want to tell just anyone about what Your Weakest feels like so it is important to know that they have human feels.  (I’m giving a nod here to the psychiatrists in the Worksafe system.  Well done, you, on becoming robots with prescription pads!)  My MHN also wears jingly-jangly silver bracelets and asks if she can eat her mandarin in front of me and I completely adore her.

The critical difference I have found that sets this service apart from the rest (when I’m not dazzled by shiny objects on her arm) is the combination of supportive counselling practice and a genuine knowledge of medications and therapies.  Supportive Therapy as opposed to Prescriptive (hi, psychiatrists!) or simply Analytical (Worksafe – how you doin’?).  She cares.  She hears me.  She notices little things that may be cause for celebration or alarm…she keeps tabs on me.  She explores new avenues of help, ideas from her colleagues and frequent training and I also benefit from the wide range of service users that she works with.  People young and old, intellectual and physical differences, addicts working on getting sober to war veterans with PTSD.  This broad knowledge of mental health practice and human experience she bears witness to through her work makes for a completely wonderful form of medicine.  Human Medicine.

Who’d have thunk it, eh?  People do better when they are treated by and as…individual people!  Hurrah!

Dear lady, whose name I can’t use (and it’s killing me, Mum always said “‘she’ is the cat’s mother!”), I am so grateful for your presence in my life.  You have helped me in so many ways.  I am better and stronger for having spent time with you and whoever else you work with is equally blessed.  Your positive impact on lives cannot be measured…who knows how working with you may affect my ability to make changes, take risks and build a new identity for myself?  It cannot be quantified nor given monetary value.  Which brings me to my next point.  This.  Australian.  Government.

The MHNiP is facilitated by Medicare Locals and Federally funded.  I pay nothing (nor does Worksafe or the insurance company, mind) for this assistance.

Introduced in 2011, there are 61 Medicare Locals in Australia — independent, federally-funded offices that co-ordinate primary health care at local levels.  That may sound like bureaucrat-speak. But it’s a solution to the fact many communities have disconnected health services that don’t really talk to each other or share information.  Medicare Locals bring them together, facilitating things like after-hours GP care. They also tailor services to individual community needs — think non-English speakers, Indigenous Australians, the socio-economically disadvantaged, the elderly, and so on.

Source: PolitiFact website
 

In 2012, the Liberal Party (that’s conservative for you international folks, not ‘liberal’ as you may know the word) announced they would “not proceed with” the Medicare Local system if elected, questioning its validity and suggesting it was an unnecessary “layer of bureaucracy”.  By May this year the position was officially that the system would be “under review” by an incoming Liberal government. I think we know what that means *arched eyebrows*  The future of Medicare Locals, after so much work to introduce them without disruption to service users and umpteen changes to the workplace for the Mental Health Nurses themselves, was raised during the recent Federal Election campaign.  The man who would become our next PM (that’s Tony Abbott #sadface) stated to a surprised audience that he guaranteed no Medicare Locals would close under his government. Abbott said they had initially wanted to abolish the program but now would concede to conducting a review – but no offices would close. At the official launch of the Liberal Party Health Policy (Australians, LOL with me here) it was declared that official health policy launch that “while the Medicare Local system may not be shut down, individual offices weren’t guaranteed” (source as above).

I don’t feel full of confidence – do you?

Medicare Locals provide frontline services in consultation with GPs and other healthcare professionals which are flexible and seek to meet the needs of the diverse Australian public.  Programs such as the MHNiP support vulnerable people with a variety of mental health needs to remain functioning parents, employees and even tax payers. They assist soldiers and returned servicemen and women.  This should appeal to a man who created an entire portfolio for a Minister for ANZAC Day, should it not?  These services actually save dollars by diverting users away from other, potentially more costly medical interventions.  There is also the preventative aspect which you cannot measure.  Early intervention.  Immeasurable benefits in dollars and human lives.

That I may not have had the opportunity to work with my Mental Health Nurse and make such progress with her support is a terrifying thought.

That another person may not be able to access this help after “review” and “possible individual office closures” from this government is plain dangerous.

As we talk more openly about mental health and seek to encourage people to ask for help before a crisis, now is no time to be playing semantic games about cost cuts and fiscal policy.  Look elsewhere for your savings, Mr Abbott.  While Mental Health Nurses and Medicare Locals go about their business of saving lives.

 
 

More Information

http://www.acmhn.org

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Next Stop…SleepyTown

A positive from the recent psychiatrist’s assessment was her suggestion to make use of sedatives to deal with nighttime anxiety.  I’d been offered a ‘sample pack’ during the ill-fated attempt to see a psychiatrist of my very own.  I tried this medication a couple of times and fell down like I’d been shot with a dart.  Problem was, I couldn’t get out of the fog until the next afternoon.  That’s quite impractical with a child on your own.  Also, I really did not like the feeling of being in a virtual coma.

Photo credit here

I want to stop the extreme anxiety and on many days I have considered any way to shut my brain up – but I want to be able to stand up.  The psychiatrist who assessed me told me that this medication would quickly have less of an effect within a few days as the body gets used to it.  In my personal experience psychiatrists are pretty keen prescribers so I didn’t necessarily buy her spin but I had been assessed by her before and she’s the only one who’s struck me as even slightly in tune with me as the patient.  Because you can certainly tell when a doctor is not!

I’ve been taking half a tablet a night, about 8pm-ish, and by 9pm I curl up in bed in a delicious marshmallowy comfort.  It’s been just a fortnight and I don’t plan to be a long-termer.  I am surprised at the difference in my sleep, and how little I have been surviving on until now.  Or how poor the quality.

Now when I go to bed I don’t scroll through twitter or play word games on my phone until my eyes close.  I don’t wake up in the middle of the night.  I do wake up if my child needs me.  I would rather sleep in a little longer in the morning than he wants…but I can get up with a clear head.  These are all positives which you would recognise if you have ever tried something to help you sleep.  I am in a slightly better mood during the day, too.

I know I’m feeling better because I took my little man to the Zoo this week.  For the first time.  You know, where other people could SEE ME.  I have not been able to do that until now.  Not even close.  I am seriously proud of myself.  It was a big deal.

Guess which animal captivated my interest…

So now I can add experiencing the Zoo through your child’s eyes to my list of mini-cures.  I felt such happiness, which has eluded me for so long now, and for a couple of hours I was living in the moment.  It was so very lovely.

Another of my mini-cures is a bit more accidental.  Reading the words of someone who has experienced something similar to you, especially deeply personal and often negative feelings – that’s life changing.  I am a reading ADDICT so I have found a few things that have helped.  From text books to spiritual journals and very often, twitter 🙂  My latest find?  How I Got My Wiggle Back by Anthony Field.  Yep, the Blue Wiggle!

He’s already on my list of mini-cures with the rest of the band because a) I have a preschooler b) I have always wanted to be one of the hosts on Playschool c) Being a clown is super fun and d) I love everything to do with kids and their experience of the world.  Hence the teaching thing.  Plus there’s no way you could not love The Wiggles.  Even clinically depressed ex-teachers can rock out to those songs.  That’s some serious entertainment.  Do yourself a favour!

Dance like nobody’s watching…and hope like hell they’re not…

I had to go on a waiting list at the library to get my hands on the book if that is any indication of its popularity.  By page 40 I already had a tear in my eye.  It is very well written.  Anthony’s writing is tender and loving, self deprecating and cheeky.  And he explains his depression and battle to come out on top in a way that has you nodding your head with a sad smile.  Because they are the exact words you would use if you shared the feelings with someone.  I’m halfway through the book (just today) and I’m saving the rest because I don’t want it to end yet.

What has really struck a chord with me personally is two-fold.

On one hand, it seems we have similar personality types and er, quirks.  Shy, like to clown around and put on a show, and care passionately about children being nurtured, encouraged and supported to experience growing up with joy.  They way Anthony described his driving force to bring happiness through performance for families made me cry because it is at once both inspiring and painful; I wanted to be that person as a primary school teacher.  But instead I am writing here tonight.

On the other hand, he talks about the cycle of depression, self loathing and hopelessness than hounds you when you are fighting depression on a serious scale.  And I nodded along with that, too.  Reading the words from somebody else’s heart somehow lightens the load a little.  I’m not a freak and I’m not alone, because at least one person has felt that same darkness.  It is strangely comforting.  But he would know that – it’s why he’s sharing his story.  And why I’m telling mine.

The way Anthony’s book is written reminds me of another man I admire, one who helped me to seek help and go to the police.  Maybe it’s their similar approaches to life.  Jim Stynes.  They both come across to me as passionate, determined individuals.  They care deeply about their work, their ability to connect with kids.  They have both had their struggles and battled…well…themselves, really.  They have both shared some of that battle honestly – with us.  They’re not perfect and they are man enough to go there.  Because they both wanted to be the best men they could be.  For their families, for their role in kids’ lives.  And because that’s what life is for, isn’t it?  Striving to learn and try harder?  Use this chance at life?

 

Photo credit here

So, I am grateful for the brave, the passionate and the storytellers.  They make my path a little clearer, the journey less lonely.  It is an extraordinary thing to be able to change someone’s experience of life.  In related news: the library is my happy place.

I am grateful for lions (!), orangutans and seals.  I am grateful for smiles and feeling happy.

I am also grateful for resting my very busy mind.  So I’m going to make like Jeff Wiggle and go to sleep now.

Goodnight.

http://today.ninemsn.com.au/article/8427286/how-anthony-got-his-wiggle-back

http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/music/blue-wiggles-black-dog-20120121-1qb7b.html

Torch The Moon

Torch the Moon

Torch the Moon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I moved some cds around and my little one was going through them.  He has long been able to operate the stereo and loves changing cds.  His first choice was Whitney Houston.  “Great music, Mum.  Let’s dance”.  Irresistible.  This morning, my little DJ chose The WhitlamsTorch The Moon.  I was chuffed, as The Whitlams have brought me much happiness.  I’ve had the utter pleasure to see the band (or Tim Freedman) play in the flesh.  I’ve never heard this song like I heard it today…

Torch the moon,
Burn the schools.
She wrote in red
On her bedroom wall

Nothing’s pure
The paint runs to the floor.

She laughs too easily and
Cries too hard (Cries too hard)
Shouldn’t drink alone
The colours run.
How can she forgive?
When we know well what we do.

Feather scratches
On her wrist
Dry run with a bread knife
For a final twist
It wouldn’t be for show
If it should come to this

She laughs too easily and
Cries too hard (Cries too hard)
Shouldn’t drink alone
The colours run
How can she forgive?
When we know well what we do.

She was born to feel it all
(Born) to see it all
And when I feel so lightly
It’s still burning brightly
And she won’t look away
(ooh, ooh, oh)

She laughs too easily and
Cries too hard (ooh, ooh, oh)

She laughs too easily and
Cries too hard

Torch the moon
Burn the schools.
Why’s it a man?
Making all the rules?

Frida Khalo poster on her door

(OK, so it’s Ruby The Riveter, but close…)

She laughs too easily and
Cries too hard (Cries too hard)
Shouldn’t drink alone
The colours run
How can she forgive?
When we know well what we do.

And when I feel so lightly
It’s still burning brightly
And she won’t look away
(She won’t look away)
She won’t look away
(Aaah, oooh, aaah)
(She won’t look away)
She won’t look away
(She won’t look away)
She won’t look away

Total Recall

**The contents of this post, like all of them, may contain descriptions and scenarios which may be triggering to sexual assault/rape victims**

There are some things you hope you can avoid in life. Meeting an Anaconda.  Contracting Bird flu.  Surviving a helicopter crash.  You know, because they sound like bad experiences, right?  Traumatic.  Dangerous.  Scary.  Certainly unforgettable.  What if you had to face them TWICE?

I am going to add to that Things You’d Like To Avoid List being cross-examined in Court.  Hands up if you have been in the witness box..?  I don’t know about your experience but I can tell you about mine.  And how close I came to having to do it again the other day.  Which was TERRIFYING.

When the man who sexually assaulted me, ok, raped me, was charged, the case was heard in the County Court in the city.  I had to testify.  And I had to be cross-examined by the defence.  I can remember such acute details of that day.  In other ways it feels like a hazy bad dream.  I was very anxious about testifying.  In one way I knew that it was my one chance at being heard.  Yes, the chance to roar.  But what a way to go about it!  The police officer who was with me from taking my initial statement to that day in court (she was amazing) helped as much as she could.  But there really is no preparation for being a witness in your own rape case.

The night before Court I had one of my younger sisters stay the night at my house.  She talked to me, held me and let me cry.  That’s something no little sister should ever have to do.  But I needed her and she was there for me in the perfect way.  She can summarise people so succinctly that you would think she was twenty years older.  Wiser.  From a young age, my sister could see right through anyone and tell you what you needed to do.  Her six-year-old self told another sibling one day, “Look, get a job.  Clean your act up.  No one can take you seriously when you’re not helping yourself”.  I like to think we have that in common.  So she was the right companion for a really shitty time.  I had a notebook at the
time (many, really.  First, I was a teacher and they are mostly stationary freaks.  Secondly, I had Court notes, inspirational quotes, counselling notes…anything and everything).  This notebook was mine to help me get through the experience of testifying.  In it she wrote on a random page ‘Every Dog Has Their Day’.  She was referring to HIM being a dog in the derogatory sense and that his day was coming, and I was the one who held the power.  Pretty smart, no?  My siblings don’t read this blog but my mother does, I’d say.  She knows who I’m talking about.  Bravo, again, mother.  Job well done there, too.  That girl is a winner and most of the time, wise beyond her years.  I still have that piece of paper.

The policewoman took great care to keep me out of sight in the Court foyer but the OTHERS, my colleagues who KNEW what I had gone through and how I had come to EACH OF THEM over time ASKING FOR THEIR HELP, walked past me in a pathetic group.  They had to ready to be called to testify and it seemed to me that they clung to each other like the yellow-bellied cowards they are.  Our eyes met once and I like to think that my glare was like lasers, cutting them down.  It was probably more like a sad little puppy at the pound, watching their family leave them, abandoned and facing death.  I tried for daggers, though.  I really did.

I consider myself very lucky that I was able to testify via video link (or however they do it) from another room in the Court.  I think I would have fainted at the very least if I had been able to see his eyes.  I imagined leaping out of the stand and throttling him.  Spitting in his face.  Screaming, ‘You know what you did!’  But I really just would have vomited, I think.

It was bad enough knowing he could see me.  Someone told me that his wife was sitting next to him in Court.  That made me feel all sorts of things.  Was she there because she believed it all to be a lie?  What would it be like for her to see me describe what her husband did to me?  Would she hear something I said and in an instant, know I was telling the truth?  Know that he would say that?  Do that?  Would he watch the screen and see my face?  Or hang his head?

I hugged my sister as tight as I could and was led into a small room far away from the Court room they were in.  There was a lady who was in the room with me, a minder of sorts.  She explained the screens in front of me and what would happen when Court was in session.  It seemed to me to look like the control room at a tv station.  There was a monitor on which I could see the Magistrate and another where the lawyers would be visible as they questioned me.  I sat at a small table and the minder was to my right.  The door out, the one that called to me ‘here I am, in case you wanna run’, was to my left.  I remember I wore a blue shirt that day, buttoned up all the way.  I held a small teddy in my hands, hidden from anyone’s view under the table.  My very little brother had given me that teddy and I squeezed the hell out of it, held it tight.  Of course, I still have that teddy.

I don’t remember the prosecutor questioning me, to be honest.  I will never forget the defence.  He was a round-ish man with grey hair.  Pompous looking.  An air of arrogance and contempt for me.  The inference in his very manner was that I had caused a lot of trouble and he thought my words a joke.  I had wondered if Court would be like it is in the movies.  It was.  Except nobody leapt to yell ‘Objection!’ and save my skin when the questioning got out of control.  I remember the female Magistrate’s face – a floating head on her own television screen – peering at me with her brow furrowed.  I noticed when the Defence became cruel, she moved forward, trying to read me.  Was I handling this?  Did she need to stop him?  I remember thinking she was quite compassionate and her face showed a human interest.  Unlike the Defence barrister.  That pig of a man.  He was rude, vile.  He pushed me.  Mocked me.  Accused me of lying.  He described my body parts.  He described my genitals to the Courtroom.  Yep, my vagina.  How I had described my genitals in my statement.  WHAT HE DID THEN.  It was revolting.  They let me take breaks.  Maybe I looked too upset.  I sipped some water and howled.  My sister told me later that hearing my guttural moans through the wall but not being able to get to me was torture.  I can’t imagine.  The minder was very nice considering she was not there for me, just to ensure I was safe from myself and the technical side of things was working.  I had my head between my knees and she lay a gentle hand on my shoulder, just for a second.  It was a comfort that she felt my pain.  What a job to do!

I was questioned for most of the day.  When I was done (well after I’d passed done, I’d say!) the Prosecutor and policewoman came in to see me.  They explained that HE wanted to change his plea to guilty if they would remove the Rape and Stalking charges, leaving two counts of Indecent Assault and thereby suspending a probable jail term.  They said that this was a good outcome given the difficulties in getting a successful conviction in a rape case.  I knew the statistics well.  I also knew I just wanted to get the fuck out of there.  I knew that the other people from work, including the woman who’d been a party to it all and gave new meaning to the term slut shaming, would lie on the stand to protect their negligence.  I went to my boss about HIM, then eventually about HER as she bullied and degraded me.  He warned me they were friends and I’d ‘better watch what I said next’.  In the end I had to go beyond the workplace – which also failed.  But that’s another topic.  The legal system, however, did NOT fail me.

Though this experience undoubtedly sounds shitty, and it was, I want you to know that I do not regret testifying one bit.  I would encourage and support any other person in a similar situation (for which I am sorry) to be heard if they can.  You don’t feel brave or strong at the time.  You indeed put yourself at the mercy of another abusive person in the defence for a time.  But what you MIGHT do is slap that bastard in the face with the TRUTH so hard that he changes his plea.  In the midst of the tears and exhaustion, there was a part of me that knew I’d had a victory.

I wrote a Victim Impact Statement for sentencing which took place the next day.  I asked the Police if I could be there but they said no.  I wanted to read it out myself.  The policewoman did, however, call me to describe what had happened.  She told me that the Magistrate had read out my statement to the Court.  What I wrote was pretty raw.  It is also an empowering thing to do if you are ever faced with the same situation.  Another chance to be heard.  It’s never enough but you have to take what you can get.  Apparently the Magistrate said in her sentencing that she wished that the Plea Bargain had not been struck because she felt HE deserved jail.  I can’t tell you how much that matters to me.  So HE got a suspended jail term of 12 months and a fine (I scoff at the fine…I mean, seriously?)

It is possible I will have to testify/explain myself about this issue at least once more before this is done.  This I have reconciled myself with.  Er, in a fashion.  As much as one can.

What I was not at all prepared for was facing the witness box again for something else.  Recently I found myself facing the possibility of this helicopter crash in Family Court.  The similarities between the two experiences are actually disturbing.  I didn’t realise as it was happening (eternally optimistic or deliberately in denial?) but when faced with being cross-examined the other day it hit me like a familiar Mack truck.  And I fell apart.

Knowing you are telling the truth can take you pretty far in life.  Helps you ‘fight the good fight’, though you’d rather be out playing somewhere.  I told the truth then, and I was telling the truth in this other personal battle.  I was feeling pretty strong and (unfortunately) had a routine of sorts to get my mind ready for Court because of what happened to me before.  But there was a second in time when the lawyer was talking to me the other day and she mentioned taking the stand and I said, “Well, I really want to avoid that actually because oh my god I’ve already done it before and I …”  That lawyer didn’t know what I was talking about.  Oh, the feelings inside me.  I firmly believe in cellular memory.  Your body remembers experiences, even ones the mind works had to forget.  Well, my body remembered my first cross examination.  And it FREAKED OUT.

It passed, though.  I survived.  Court is done for now.  A deal was struck – again.  But I am left with a couple of thoughts.

My own ability to move on is more impressive than I thought.  It feels like I’m stuck in this trauma many days but really I am only troubled by SOME (read: more than enough) things which affect my day to day experience.  I don’t think about the legal process all the time.  I couldn’t.  I’d be hiding under my bed.  (If you are/ have been that person, I’m not mocking it.  I understand why you could feel that way).

At the same time I am so fucking angry that I was rendered unable to be a witness in Court FOR THE SAFETY OF MY OWN CHILD due to what these people had done to me in the first place.  I was shaking, crying, ashamed, having flashbacks.  Shit!  In lots of ways, I try to forge a new path and keep on trying.  Life my life and be happy.  Some days I run, some days I drag my ass and wish I had a teddy bear to hold.  The other day in Family Court was a stark reminder that while these experiences can make you stronger, some parts can really just kick your ass.  Damn it.

PS  Really, if you can do it, standing up in Court IS WORTH IT.  You can do so much more than you think you can (and so much more than you should have to!)  Take a swing at the bastards if you can.

A Funny Thing Happened At The Park Today

Something funny happened today.  I’ll try to explain it as simply as possible but I’m a terminal rambler…

Little dude and I were on the way to a meeting for his daycare but I could read the signs that he was not in the mood.  Given that the signs were mostly vocal, everyone could tell.  He was hysterical and usually he can be calmed using typical toddler distraction but today, not so.  As we passed a park he held up his “puddles” (gumboots, wellies) and cried out, “Jump in puddles!  I didn’t get to jump in puddles!”  I’d promised a rainy day adventure the day before but we spent most of it inside the car.  So I took a sudden left and we pulled up at the park.  If my little man wants to jump in puddles, damn it, we will.  This was the first funny thing.  My desire to soothe him and make him feel happiness overtook the orindary urge to hide from the general public.  It felt good.  As it should.  I’m still the all powerful Wizard in his world.  I make shit happen.

Today was a sunny, mild winter day in Melbourne.  It was delicious on the skin and helped ‘outside’ feel a little less scary.  So we wandered around looking for puddles to jump in.

Little dude’s excitement was growing.  His teary eyes cleared to reveal a perfectly honest grin.  He was simply and innocently happy to be there.  He pointed out the “bootiful ducks”, “luffley water” and blue sky.  I had an ache in my chest and tears threatened to escape.  Second funny thing.  An overwhelming sense of the beauty of simplicity.  Dare I say it, I was in the moment.  I was inhaling it, absorbing it, just being.  For about a minute.  Then my thoughts went something like this,

‘This is amazing!  Look how happy he is.  Just being outside and observing.  Like every little thing is brand new and amazing.  This feels good.  Oh shit, I feel good?  Oh God, how long is THIS going to last?  Stop!  Hold on to the moment!  Why do I PANIC when I realise I am having a pure, happy moment?  That’s pretty stupid.  God, this feels so RAW.  Ouch.  Here comes the waterworks.  You can’t cry here!  Who cries because they’re at the park?  You’re just doing what mothers are supposed to do.  Bloody hell, get a grip!’

So I ruined it a bit.  And then I was a bit hard on myself for thinking I’d ‘ruined’ anything.  I was still standing in the sunshine, holding the hand of the greatest little being ever to grace my life with his presence.  “Mum, the ducks are laughing!”  And he answered the ducks quack quack quack with a slow ha ha ha.

‘Jesus, I love him so much.  He just makes my heart swell.  I feel so full of love for him.  It’s almost overwhelming.  Oh God.  I’m going to cry again…’

We talked to the ducks.  I pointed out shapes in the environment and leaves and he just said everything was “bootiful”.  Which made it so.

As we walked around the water  (a few more times than I wanted to, but it was his treat) I had to take deep breaths.  I was experiencing waves of emotion.  Funny thing being that they were so raw, deep and the kind that remind you what a gift life is.  It shook me.  Am I allowed to feel good like this?  Is this a blip on the screen or is this the moment that marks a new chapter?  Am I on the way to allowing myself to feel good?  Could I have a life that feels like this all the time?  Do I ask too many effing questions about things that I should just acknowledge and be grateful for?

Mindfulness is the greatest challenge I face.  I had a racing brain before this all happened.  Now it races and swerves and freezes and snaps…*screams*  I thought to myself,

‘No matter what happens in my head, the ducks are still swimming here.  No matter how I worry about what happens next, they will still bob their heads under the water to feed and stick their bottoms in the air.  No matter if a parent or student SEES ME out somewhere, the garden will still grow, the mountains will still stand tall on the horizon here.  If I take antidepressants until next week or next decade, other things remain constant.  Simple and constantSome things remain as they were.  It is not the whole axis of the Earth that alters, just a bit of mine’.

And the beat goes on…

I can’t emphasise enough how reassuring and calming this was to me in that moment.  Not a flippant, ‘Life goes on, mate’ which deflects and demeans.  It was almost a meditation.  A chant.  But such a simple thought.  Straight away I thought, ‘I should get a tattoo saying something like that!’ because I know I need reminding.  I’ll settle for this post for now 🙂

We neared the car again and I kissed and cuddled my baby boy and basked in that love.  You know, briefly.  But oh so intensely.  We stood at the edge of the water and I looked down at our shadows on the surface.

Yes, he is kissing my hand.  No, I am not Mary Poppins, despite the outline. 

“That’s it.  That’s what I have that no one and no trauma or trial could ever take away from me.  This boy that holds my hand and looks up at me with all the love in the world…for me.  He has no reason to believe that I am weak, scared, hurt or less than I was before.  He sees me through my old eyes, the way I used to see me…as anything I wanted to be.  Infinite possibility and promise.  About to be unleashed on the world :)” 

What a beautiful thing to realise.  To feel.  To my son, I am still the best of everything.  So why not go with that?  Like getting an A+ at the start of the semester, and I just have to maintain it.  Can I?  Hmmm.  Not all the time.  But I felt today more than ever that there’s a good chance I can do that.  He deserves nothing less than that.  He deserves the world.

We got to the car with many loving goodbyes to the grass, ducks, rocks, sky.  And the ducks again.  I turned around one last time and this is what I saw…

I thought, ‘Are you bloody serious?  All these profound feelings and realisations and then, like a movie scene, I turn to face an open door.  Symbolic much?  I got into the car with a wry smile on my face.  Something funny happened today.  I’m cautious and a bit scared but I think, just between you and I, it was a taste of what’s to come for me.