The Eyes of a Stranger

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Another recurring dream I’ve had since I can remember is one of falling. I climb up and up reaching a very high peak. I look over the edge and then slowly let myself go, I plummet to the earth but before I hit the ground I always wake.

As with most scary and emotional dreams this has always seemed so very vivid and life-like.

People read a lot of things into dreams. There are books written about dreams and what the meanings of those dream are. I’ve never been convinced how that is truly reflective of your dream as I believe things can always be interpreted in a way you want to interpret them.

My dream always meant to me that no matter how high you climb, no matter how much you try to get away, the past is always there waiting for you at the bottom slowly creeping upwards.  It may have taken me years to reach that summit but you can also plummet downwards in a matter of seconds.

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The events of the last few years have resulted in a catastrophic melt down in my brain, triggers have been coming and going resulting in flashbacks that I didn’t know were there let alone how to manage. I tried to survive it on my own, I told myself “you have managed this abuse for over 33 years now you can do it again – look at yourself you have a job, you have a house, you have a car and a lovely family – you can do this alone, you don’t need anyone else”. 

I thought I had beaten it and that I had reached the top of my summit but over the last 10 months I have fallen back to earth with the heaviest of crashes which have psychologically scarred me very deeply and some of those closest to me.

But scars do heal and I am damned if I won’t also heal and get to a better place. A place where I can take back power from my abuser and try to have some degree of a life back I can maybe control better.

For the time being and on this Monday, after a 10 month police investigation and court case I begin my life as a criminal and a registered sex offender. Guilty of having 2 indecent images of children amongst my 4.7 Million files on my computer network.  The intent of having them and actively downloading them  is questionable but they were there.

I’m at the bottom again but I am going to climb slowly back up and this matter isn’t over by a long shot.

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The Greatest of Escapes

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One of my big liberations when growing up was immersing myself in either my fantasy computer world or my books.

I wrote previously that once my family had moved into what I call my “safe house” then occurred some of the best moments of my young life. This house where everything stopped abuse wise and I became a young boy with a life ahead of him was a special, special place.

I don’t know how I done it, perhaps counselling will explain, but even as an 11-year-old, the past firmly was the past and the future was as new and exciting as the magical house seemed.

There’s such a strong emotional feeling and an association with those bricks and mortar keeping me safe and giving me a chance again – it’s just a house I know that as an adult, but its way more than a house to my child brain. That part of me is always going to associate the house with being my safe haven and saviour.

At my house I loved nothing better than to go to my bedroom and disappear into the amazing world of The Hobbit on my ZX Spectrum with its crude but immersive graphics, or to wander around a World War 2 prisoner camp in, rather fittingly, a game titled The Great Escape.

My parents probably understood it as me being very geeky, I understood it as putting myself into completely different universes, where, if I were harmed, it wasn’t physical or too traumatic and I could simply rise from the dead to try again and again.

When taking myself away from my computer my books of choice were The Lord Of The Rings and the Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe. Those amazing fantasy worlds of Middle Earth and Narnia with their hobbits, wizards, lions, orcs and ring wraiths. I could just totally lose myself in those books.

My late Uncle Tony was one of the first people to give me his old copy of the Lord Of The Rings book which was tattered and well used “You’ll love this” he told me as if he knew I craved an escape from reality. Even the cover of his old book spoke of mysterious lands and strange creatures and I was already fascinated by what laid inside for me. Thank you Uncle Tony for that book I still treasure to this day.

As a young boy trying hard subconsciously to block out a part of his life, my computer and my books were an essential part of escaping. They are for any young boy I guess, but I had learnt from an early age I couldn’t rely on anyone except myself for escape, safety and protection.

If only life were that simple now and we could all choose that perfect fantasy world to transport ourselves too when we can’t cope. Unfortunately we know as an adult the reality is there is no escape, there is no fantasy world such as Narnia to lose yourself in, there are just light days and there are dark days.

Lots of dark days.

 

 

 

 

 

Echoes of Blue Mars

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So the final part of completing my confession / story of telling my family about my sexual abuse is complete. The final person I needed to speak with was my younger brother.

I had put it off for quite some time really, he has gone through a huge bereavement losing his wife to cancer so very cruelly and has been emotionally trying to make sense of that. I just didn’t want anything else being on his mind really but the time had come, with everyone else knowing it was unfair that he didn’t know.

As with when I spoke with my Sister,  I told my Brother some of my story and of course he had questions. How long for? Where? When? Why to you? He was upset and I didn’t want him to be upset. I explained a little more to my Brother, about some of the things I had to do to protect him. I was told that if I wasn’t a good boy and didn’t do these things he would ask my Brother to do them.

What a messed up choice for a 7-year-old to make. Either your 3-year-old Brother touches this man (man used loosely) and is touched, or you do it. What choice did I have? I didn’t want my Brother in any way being hurt as I had been and I stepped up to the mark, I was the big Brother and part of my job is always protection.

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How confusing a decision that this was is highlighted by the fact that until counselling this year, I always believed that my protection and promise counted for something. I actually believed as a child and then as an adult that I was offered a choice, Me or my Brother, I made the choice and it was always me to play the tickling game, I kept my Brother from harm.

It was only when my counsellor pointed out a while back “But what happens if you were lied to? What happens if your Brother also suffered some form of abuse?”

I had never ever considered that. My childlike response and trust had carried through to adulthood and I didn’t think it a possibility that I may have been lied to.

This thought also added some anxiety with regards to speaking with my Brother – if he told me anything had ever happened to him I would have such anger and pain, I was worried about how I may react.

My Brother told me that nothing had happened to him. Nothing that he remembered anyway and I will admit I was both very relieved and also very angry.

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My relief was that my suffering hopefully did count toward something, that I stopped my Brother being subjected to things that, as a young boy growing up with the world at his feet, he should not be subjected too.

My anger inside paradoxically was that my Brother wasn’t subjected to these things. That I had indeed protected him and so why just me? Was I that stupid or naive? Was I a willing participant, was I craving attention because my younger Brother was getting all of the attention from my Mum and Dad? Did I put myself in a situation where I was easy pickings for being sexually abused? My protection counted for everything for my Brother but I have no one to corroborate my story with if I was possibly the only person.

I feel ashamed to say this, but knowing some of the things I participated in, a part of me, just a very small part of me felt a little bit jealous of my Brother because he won’t be aware of the sacrifices I made.

 

Echoes of Blue Mars is a digital streaming radio station playing some amazing chill out and relaxing music. I have turned to it a lot over many years at nighttime when the darkness sets in and I’m on my own. 

Running through the rainbows

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As the end of the week arrives what an up and down week it has been.

Life for a normal person can be challenging enough, that’s fair to say. Life for a person experiencing flashbacks, dissociation and anxiety is a pain in the arse I can tell you!

The amazing things your mind can do when you concentrate are evident –

Difficult task 1) Start the day at 06:20 and drive 204 miles from Suffolk up to Leeds. Do that no problem at all and very focused = passed with no problems.

Difficult task 2) Try and act normal and professional with new work colleague who’s assisting you setting up new office. New colleague asks you all kinds of valid questions about your children, family, whether you have been on Holiday yet this year and what your plans are for the future? Find questioning overwhelming and lose my head for a short period of time and dissociate in front of colleague = epic fail!

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We spend the rest of the afternoon acting as if nothing happened after I confirm I’m OK (I don’t elaborate on OK!) and continue to work together.

Difficult Task 3) Drive back to Suffolk from Leeds – Passed with flying colours. I feel safe in my old car and back in control.

Thursdays counselling session begins as it always does, “Are you OK” asks Laura, “I’m fine” I respond, “Are you really fine?” challenges Laura again with that wry smile.

I think it’s our comedic moment as we start every week the same. I always think to myself  “why the fuck ask me if I’m fine, you know I’m not!” While I’m sure Laura thinks “Well if you tell you are fine, why the fuck are you here then?!”

I explain Tuesdays episode in Leeds and Laura tries hard to get me to remember exactly what we were talking about before I triggered. But I can’t remember exactly. I think it was something to do with holiday and my children which made my mind very conscious of how far away I was from them and BOOMMMM I just shut down and didn’t want to talk or think anymore.

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Then Laura asks “Do you remember what we spoke about last week?”. Which normally with that type of question from her means I won’t, so I refer to my notes –

“I spoke about talking to my sister, about my uncle being in hospital and about my friend being killed in a road traffic accident” I look up to see if I get her approval.

“No, not that” she says. “Do you remember what we spoke about near the end?”

“No I don’t remember” I say.

Then Laura mentions a name and it literally sends a shiver down my spine, it’s a name I haven’t heard for a long, long time. A name that you wouldn’t just mention by chance. I’m quite stunned, “How do you know of this person when I had forgotten him myself for so long?”

Laura’s’ quite calm but matter of fact “You told me yourself last week, or rather you dissociated and your 18-year-old self told me all about him”. “Your 18 year old self isn’t you though, he has a different name and we spoke last week”.

My session ends very cruelly at that point and I’m confused and a little disoriented, Laura asks if I’m ok getting home, “I’m fine” as I always answer her but I leave with more questions than answers about everything. It goes through my mind for the first time whilst walking home if counselling really is any good for me or me it? Is Laura really any good for me?

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The man of a thousand faces

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Some graphic description warnings. 

How do you explain to friends and family, things that you do not understand yourself?

How do you try and explain to people in authority that not everything is always as black and white in this world as they think.

When you have a mini-meltdown miles and miles from home and rock back and forth for comfort, telling yourself over and over that “everything will be OK, everything will be OK”.  What do you say to your new work colleague who watches you as this unfolds and asks if everything is OK?

How do you tell that colleague that you’ve spent over 40 years repairing yourself and making yourself into a human being only for people who have no care or concern for you to strip you of all your pride, dignity, hope and recovery.

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How do you repair yourself after being compared to a child rapist by the police and social services? After being shouted at down the phone by social services “How the hell can you tell us you can keep your Son safe at the house where you were abused”or on another day by social services that “I don’t believe you were abused, your story makes no sense”.

A lot of things don’t make sense. Smearing blood and shit up the toilet wall at school when I was 5 because I was still hurting after the weekend and having my mum called as I’d been “naughty”, faking having Asthma when I was 8 so that I could pretend I couldn’t breathe so that my mouth wasn’t used as a place he could put his penis, smashing my mouth to pieces on a slab of concrete when I was 9 so that I became ugly and had false teeth fitted, drawing lovely pictures in my school books of beheading policemen who had let me down. There’s an awful lot of things that don’t make sense.

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But please, please, never question the validity of someone who has been violated and abused over the course of several years because you have never sat with me during the flashbacks, you have never had the blank spaces in your mind, you haven’t had to console me when I have sobbed and you haven’t ever had to sit with me and speak to me as I turn back into a scared child.

I’m not perfect far from it, I’m broken yes but I don’t need you to break me further.

 

When you reach for the brake but it’s far too late.

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So Thursday came and went. It’s just like any other day really except Thursdays are my day where I don’t have to hide my emotions and feelings. For an hour or so I can talk freely and openly, I can cry, I can laugh, I can dissociate, I can be scared and I can be angry. I can be young Me, I can be old Me.

Thursday is my “survivors in transition” counselling day.

I’m not sure I’m entirely comfortable with being a “survivor”, I’m not comfortable with being a “victim” either. I just don’t like the need to label and have to compartmentalise everything to try to make neat sense of things. Anyway what’s in a label / name, that’s just a personal gripe!

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I think I trust my counsellor Laura. I’ve been seeing her since the beginning of June now and she is very calming and patient with me during my sessions. She also spoke with me a couple of times before she was allocated to me when I dropped into the centre with no appointment. She gave her time up for me when I was upset and others didn’t want to listen. I really appreciated that.

Laura always asks how I am. I always tell her I’m ok, she then ask’s with a sly grin“but how are you really?” and our session begins.

My list of updates was fairly long, she’d only been gone 2 weeks! I wanted to inform her that I’d spoken to my sister about my abuse and that just leaves my brother to speak with, my friend and wedding photographer had been killed in a road accident and I felt terribly guilty, my uncle had been admitted to hospital, my hands and legs had a weird pins and needles type scenario going on (not that she needed to know or could do anything!!) and that I’d done the screening for dissociative identity disorder and got the results but I didn’t / couldn’t want to look at them on my own.

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Laura explained to me she had suggested a diagnosis for DID after speaking with her senior session counsellor at the practise. She explained that both of them were furious at how I had been treated by the police and social services.

I could tell that Laura was angry about how her patient (me!) had been treated, spoken about, lied to and bullied. I was really, really humbled. For a lot of the public services, everything is either black or white. Everything is either good or evil, everything is either right or wrong. There’s no middle ground, “There’s no grey” as Laura explained “But here I am working with you in this very grey area of abuse and mental health”.

Here was someone in a professional capacity willing to stand up for me and I was quite overwhelmed to be honest. I wanted to give her a big hug.

“Getting a diagnosis could really help your court case” she explained to me “But you didn’t hear that from me ok?”

Did I bite her hand off for assistance? Did I beg Laura to help me with my court case and try to explain things from someone professionally treating me for years of brutal sexual abuse? Did I say “Lets go and get this diagnosis then and everything is sorted!”

No I didn’t. I calmly told Laura that “if the powers that be can look me in the eye and lock me away for crimes they say I have done but I haven’t done, if in their hearts they think that it is the best for society, best for my young children and best for my wife and family to lock me up then I will not argue. If they can go to bed and sleep at night satisfied they got it right without having all the facts then I will not fight them right now because I don’t have the strength too”.

For once Laura looked like she was crying rather than me. Her eyes had welled up and I think she knows I have had enough and I think she was upset for me.

After today, I really do trust Laura.

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Digging in the Dirt

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I’m writing this the day before it gets published. I normally write and publish on the same day. Just my little thing I do so I know that my thoughts and feelings are truly what I’m feeling at the time. The day this comes out though I have a counselling session and after a couple of weeks break, I imagine it’s going to be hard.

I’m already feeling guilty that Laura will be coming back from Holiday hopefully nice and refreshed and then I step back into her world with all my issues. I don’t like burdening people with my problems, that’s just who I am. But I think most people are generally like that aren’t they?

I am gradually telling my family one to one about what happened. The last person I spoke with was my baby sister (well she’s 34!). We spoke for 3 hours where I explained things to her. She was unsurprisingly supportive and upset about what we talked about. One poignant moment though was when she said “I don’t know how, but I always had a feeling something had happened to you”.

One of the questions raised by my family is “Why didn’t / couldn’t you tell us about the abuse that happened? We could have helped, we should have known”.

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It’s such a hard question to answer as an adult and makes me think and question myself even more as to why’s and what ifs’. And to give an answer means I have to think back to events, scenarios and people I don’t want to think about.

I’ve had so many questions for myself the last few years and it’s been such a paradox of events. The happiest moments of my life emotionally have occurred over the last 3 years, my two children have been born and I’ve married the person who, without a shadow of a doubt, has saved my life with her warmth, kindness and love. My wife’s heart and smile, even during difficult times, can light a million stars and colour a million rainbows.

But all these moments conflict greatly with spiralling continually downwards into an abyss, I’m reaching out to grab at these happy emotions but I’m only able to pull back dark and dangerous feelings and memories. It’s been so overwhelmingly difficult the last few years and until recently I’d done nothing about it.  I’m so guilty of not doing enough to help myself and ignoring the warning signs that it makes me feel even more guilty. That downward spiral.

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The point to all this? I don’t know, I’m anxious about seeing Laura again and delving into the past to try to get “better”. But my brain knows that you can’t just get better from years of being fucked around with by someone everyone loved and laughed about. To quote my mum “He loved you children so much”.  So again a little paradox there for me to work on as my Mum doesn’t know who it was, all she knows is he loved us all so much. Some much more than others as I know 😦

Where too next is the question we are asking ourselves? We need to find that metaphorical ladder to try to climb out of this dark hole. I just didn’t find one for sale on Amazon though.

Operation: Mindcrime

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I so wish my Grandma was still around. She was one of the people I turned to during troubled times when I was younger. I loved her and I miss her.

I’ll never know if she fully understood what I was trying to explain to her when I spoke about being touched and molested. I was very young, Grandma would have been in her 60’s and I can’t imagine as an adult now how that conversation would have gone?

One conversation I do remember having with Grandma is explaining that I’d be moving over to New Zealand. I’d not long returned from 3 weeks in this amazing place and I knew this was the place for me. It was the the place I could escape too, be free from anyone ever asking me questions and be so so far away nothing bad could ever happen to me again.

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The strength, energy and confidence that whole journey gave me was incredible. Being so far away from home, family and friends maybe a frightening prospect to some but it was invigorating for me. We did it, and we did it all on our own.

I didn’t want to return home and return to the unhappy me, I really had enjoyed spending time with the happy me, the happy me was as a really decent chap!

I am lucky really. I’ve had some amazing opportunities in life and I’ve always focused my brain intensely to try to take them. I’d closed and locked the doors on the dark moments from part of my childhood and they remained securely locked for a long time.

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When life finally caught up and the locks were undone I simply wasn’t prepared for what we had kept behind those doors.

Previously when things did get hard I’d always be told “The past is the past” my strong me always said. “We can beat this and I’ll be there and I’ll guide you” the strong me told myself.

But now that strong person is nowhere to be seen, the weak me can only focus on rape, violation, mistrust and feelings of being alone and vulnerable. Why oh Why, when I need to be strong is he nowhere to be seen? I don’t understand, I really need him.

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Does it look good from where you stand?

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I needed this weekend to come. After a very tough week a weekend means I have time to spend with my children and try to be some kind of Dad again. Boy did I need it, the difference in my mental state from being alone to being with loved ones is quite dramatic. It is like I’m a different person, the negative thoughts go, the reasons for being alive come flooding back and when I smile with my children it is a genuine smile of happiness.

In comparison the rest of the week feels like solitary confinement, it feels like a battle to keep going and everything is either a very high or a very low. I find myself disappointed with myself because I yearn for an average, boring week. I want to worry about things like what I’m cooking the kids for dinner, what I’m going to do about the weeds in the garden, what shorts I’m going to wear on a particular day.

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But then it registers again, I’m not home. I haven’t been allowed home since October 25th 2016. One week I’m a perceived danger to my children, the following week I’m no danger at all, one week I’m threatened with community service, the next I’m threatened with a prison sentence. The way that authorities twist your words staggers me, I feel a constant battle with the authorities because no-one is listening. Well they do listen in fairness, but they hear just what they need to hear and then they don’t want to hear anymore.

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It’s a harsh reminder to me that everyone’s out for themselves, everyone’s out to cover their own arses and fuck the consequences – that’s someone elses’ issue.

I know you should never have regrets but my one and only regret in life now is that I never officially reported being sexually abused to the police. I spoke to a policeman about it, he sent me home. Yes it was a different time in the 80’s I appreciate that, but he sent me home.  I did nothing further with it and so there’s no official record. Police talk nowadays for we don’t believe you.

It’s the hardest thing in the world to take when people don’t believe what happened to you, when it’s the authorities themselves it makes you feel even more worthless than you already do.

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Forever comes to an end

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Before I start with ‘depression daily’ (it’s a joke but I like it!!) I found a brilliant cover of The Killers doing The Smiths “There is a light that never goes out”. Thank you Brandon Flowers (He touched my wife once you know. Legally I mean!!).

And yes I know the Smiths can be melancholy and depressing but I love that song for many personal reasons 🙂

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While my counsellor Laura has been away on holiday, my reading of choice she has left me with has been “Managing Flashbacks”. It’s hardly Lord of the Rings granted but can I please ask you kind people, are you successfully at the stage where you can and are managing your flashbacks? I’m very early on in trying but I just can’t do it, I don’t understand it and it’s upsetting me that I can’t. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr (that’s angry english speak for fuck it!)

This is what the book tells me –

“The first step is for you to notice and understand what happens to you while you experience a flashback. Think back to the last time you had a flashback or alternatively, wait until you experience the next one and try to remember the following and note them down

  • When did it happen?
  • What else was going on when it started?
  • Was anybody else with you?
  • Can you recognise any similarities between your current situation and the situation that you were transported to in your flashback?
  • Can you remember when you have felt this way before?
  • What do you think triggered it? (For example – thoughts, smells, sounds, pictures, feelings, tastes or reminders such as conversations, media or special events such as anniversaries.)”

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My problem is I don’t see them coming yet and I don’t remember why they came in the first place so I can’t easily link them meaning I can’t easily manage them. I also don’t constantly have a notepad attached to my arm so I can’t note things down quickly all the time before they are lost. Perhaps I’m just giving up far too easily? I don’t know and it’s very frustrating that is all.

Seriously though, anyone mastered this? Do flashbacks go once they have been “dealt with” so to speak or are they forever following you around like a dark figure ready to pounce?

Thank you in advance 🙂