I feel I owe it to my site users to relate these details; however, they are the most difficult details to tell anyone -- for now, this is an early draft, "the facts", devoid of attempts at explanation, diagnosis, or even much in the way of detail
-- they are not the complete story:
"Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad."
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Above photo from Otago Daily Times 2012 An End To Silence LINK
Born 1955, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, but raised initially in Mt Isa
First "memory" (a memory "re-membered" many times over the years), age about 2 years -- my parents arguing, my brother and I (5 years older) "asleep" in our bedroom, my brother highly anxious with me trying to reassure him that "everything will be alright"
not long after the above, my brother falling over in the garden, gashing his knee, being taken to the hospital where my father was a radiographer, yelling at my mother "you know I don't want you coming here"
not long after, going to the City Council library, collecting books to read -- I would later keep the book and value it -- something about King Arthur's Knights of the Round Table -- on the way home my parents arguing, both my brother and I pretend to ignore it, but both afraid
age around 2 -- suffering from pneumonia, receiving the last rites in hospital, receiving a scapular, from nuns in hsopital
flight from Mt Isa where we were living to Brisbane, and then going to Toowoomba by train -- my brother and I going to my grandmother's to live, though for the time being, my mother will live in a separate flat in the same block, though my brother and I are warned we are to be in my grandmother's flat no later than 9pm every night
I was never to see my father again, but I do know he evaded being tracked by Social Security so he didn't have to pay child support -- I was to later learn, when I was in my thirties, and working in a hsopital, that my father had died, and had had two other families after my parent's divorce
age 4, being told to sit quiet, "shut up", to not ask questions, while my mother, "her boyfriend" (Bill G), and later, first time I had met her but had "known" about her, my mother's "boyfriend's" wife, "argue" / explain my mother is to leave him alone -- the shame of it. I learnt my lesson well -- I kept my mouth shut -- so much so that my grandmother sent me to a psychologist for assessment before I started ash she was worried I might be "slow" -- my brother was attending special school, after all -- she was very surprised, I think, when I turned out to be "bright". My way of "staying safe" -- stay quiet, alone, be strong in adversity, but don't let anyone know what you're thinking -- hardly surprising that my childhood heroes, no one in my family, but heroes like Shane, James Bond, Gary Cooper in High Noon!
age around 5, mum having a live-in boyfriend, Ken, seeing him with a bandage over his throat, mum with a bandage over her eye -- for some reason it was obvious to me what had happened, but it was only explained as an "accident" -- but Ken had "obviously" hit her and cut his throat (or perhaps she had cut him after he hit her, I shall never know!)
age 5.5 -- my aunt and her lesbian partner (she was the one who always seemed understanding, "validating") to live with us -- from the first my aunt lets me know how unwelcome I am with them -- something she was to remind me everyday for the next 18 years
though I wouldn't know it until many years later, the first "physical abuse", a hiding, age 6.5 years, with a belt, for being "naughty" -- enough to leave blood blisters, repeated several times over the years, either as hidings with a belt, or an outstretched hand over the "earhole" at dinner time, many times
it became apparent to me over the years that my aunt had "a drinking problem", though it wasn't apparent to me until I was about fifteen that this extended to her drinking on the job -- "oddly enough" when I became aware that the women who would leave the religious order that ran the hospital in which she worked (St Vincent's Hospital, Toowoomba) were more than "ordinary friends" with her -- though I can remember overhearing my grandmother discussing this with my aunt only once -- Nan was warning my Aunt that her friend Betty (who had moved in with us when I was so young
age around 6.5 years --to school for the first time, often feel strange, "ashamed"(?), spent many a lunch time hanging around the school fence
age 6.5, starting school late, now for many years -- till around the age kids stop asking these questions, ashamed to be asked what "my parents" did for work -- ashamed at my parents being separated, ashamed at "dubious" nature of my mother's work --though she was a bar attendant
age around 8, I learn that Ken, Mum's boyfriend, had been in trouble for claiming some medals as his own as a result of his "war service", when he had never been in the Army
age around 8.5 -- mum and Ken go to live in Brisbane -- we're to visit during the holiday times
on one of my holiday visits Mum told me she had "left" my father due to his alcoholism, and his physical violence towards her, and my brother (then aged about 5, remember?) and she left him because she was afraid he'd be violent towards me too
age 9, walking home, alone, from my First Holy Communion, thinking "there's nothing I can do to make sure I have a decent life but I can commit myself to making sure others have a good life
age around 11 -- Kerry has left living with Nan (grandmother) and my aunt and goes to live with my mother -- I visit Mum for Christmas -- have heard that Ken has died -- Mum tells the story: one night Ken had taken overdose and she's so proud of Kerry -- he had dealt with everyone -- she had woken Kerry -- "he had to really struggle, he's so short-sighted", but he called the ambulance and the Police -- "Ken had taken enough pills to kill a horse!"
age around 12 -- -- "a big year" I recall now -- Kerry has gone to join the Army (Mum's latest boyfriend is in the Army) but has gone AWOL -- Mum gets drunk,I know she's been taking pills as well -- I find out she's been doctor shopping -- she makes me give her another pill -- "No more than ONE per day" it says on the bottle -- I'm in tears, shaking, Mum's boyfriend "reassures me" --"it'll be OK, she does this" ??????????????? -- to my great surprise -- Mum recovers OK
also age around 12, start attending new school -- I'm in the habit of attending school as early as I can - 6.30am, to avoid being around my Aunt, but an older student "seizes the opportunity" to sexually assault me on a number of mornings, until I start attending early morning Mass -- it's a Catholic school with a chapel -- who was I going to tell? I already had more than enough doubts about myself, enough feelings of disgust and self-loathing -- I've really only started "putting it together" in very recent times, but this was also the time I became really interested in girls, or would have if I had been more "secure" around them -- hardly surprising when you consider how I started at the new school, but there was a girls school down the rolad ;-) -- for further discussion of the impact of sexual abuse on developing male sexuality, male "identity", see here -- [link] -- I didn't realise it at the time, but the experience of sexual abuse would have profound effects on me for many years, increase my vulnerability to re-traumatization, and to have continuing effects even today -- that page doesn't tell the "whole" story, about me, or anyone else, but is still a "work in progress"
same holiday period as above, sleeping in bed on closed-in verandah, separated from main bedroom by curtains and glass louvres -- Mum and boyfriend in bed, can remember their sounds of having sex -- didn't feel "normal" or comfortable mum was having sex with "that man"
age 13, we get a visit from a parole officer, asking about Kerry -- he's been in prison in New South Wales
best subjects at school are English and Christian Doctrine, and Biology -- especially Biochemistry -- even won some prizes for being best in clsss in several years --- but never get any positive comments, only ridicule, from my Aunt for my achievements, but I feel study is a way out of my "situation"
age around 14, Kerry, my brother visits at Christmas time, we spend some time alone, walking and talking;; later, when Kerry tries to enter the house, my Uncle Eric calls him out to the yard, yelling at him, telling him how he has shamed the family -- Kerry goes away -- the last time I will ever see him -- he had told me while we were were walking that I was the one he looked up to
age 14, Confirmation in the Catholic Church, took the name of Luke, after the apostle, St Luke the Physician-- to minister to people's spiritual selves -- never really interested in being a doctor -- until grade 10 I wanted to be a guidance counsellor, before I really knew what one was, but always interested in Psychology, at first in Biological Psychology, until I fell in love, for the first time, late in my Honours year, then became interested in the "touchy feely", helping, side of it
age nearly 15, have dream a number of days in a row, building stepping stone towers across a barren landscape, until one after another the towers topple over and there's nothing I can do to save myself -- I wake up before "The End" -- I know it's based on a cartoon I've seen but I can't help feeling it's prophetic -- what'll happen if I can't rely on my studies??
had a shuddering "spiritual" / psychic experience -- I still remember it clearly, forty years later -- the next day I hear that my mother has died -- a week later my Uncle Eric takes me to her place -- he "reassures me" -- "Your mother didn't kill herself, Russell" -- I've wondered that many times over the years -- I know she died in poverty, dependent on yet another man, who had left nothing of value, even of sentimental value, behind -- Kerry has never been able to be told, as far as I know
age 17, Grade 11 at school, began volunteering -- collecting money for school, for coommunity agencies, did some time at the local mental hospital
- age 18 -- leave "home" to go to University in Brisbane -- Science degree, majoring in Psychology, with minor in Biology subjects -- though Psychology was a career often scorned by my Aunt
visit my Grandmother at Christmas times, but every time I visit my Aunt makes it obvious I'm not welcome -- "You make a lot of assumptions, a LOT of assumptions, when you come here, Russell" (never, when you come "home" I remember now -- in truth I probably never really had a home).
age 24, it's been obviously last couple of years that Nan hasn't beem quite "without it" when I've visited, ?dementia, but she dies when I'm away in Brisbane, working for the phone company -- I don't hear about her funeral until the week after it's happened -- "couldn't contact you, didn't know your number", my uncle tells me, but I had made sure my Aunt had my phone number the last time I had gone "home" -- now I wouldn't get the chance to attend my grandmother's funeral, and I hadn't attended my mother's -- I hadn't wanted "to lose control" -sob - in front of my aunt.
It has only been in recent years that I have had to face some unpleasant conclusions:
given that my grandmother always forbade any discussion of my grandfather and my mother's unstable sense of self, her self-harm, and her intense yet unstable relationships with men, she had probably been sexually abused by her father, my grandfather
my mother supposedly died of advanced arteriosclerosis, at the age of 38, but with the combination of prescription drug abuse, alcohol abuse and dependence, and smoking, she did kill herself, one way or the other
Some things I have always known:
what ever way I have turned out till now, what ever way I end, the good is due to Nan, and my mother -- I always loved my mother, and could realise, on some level, how badly hurt she had been, and in her own way, how she had loved me as well as she could
After going to University, I ended up with Honours and Masters degrees in Clinical Psychology, and have worked as a clinical psychologist in Australia, New Zealand, and England. I have also visited and "worked with" (conjoint sessions) psychologists in Canada, the United States, and Scotland. In recent years I have worked as an alcohol and other drugs clinician. Intimate relationships have been particularly difficult for me and breakups have often preceded or coincided with depressive episodes, heavy alcohol consumption, and suicidal ideation. For all of my life, I've enjoyed travel, certainly as a reward, and as a spur to further my learning-- my life really has revolved around, and been for the purposes of study and work.
Submission on Trauma Informed Care (TIC) to New Zealand Ministry of Health on need for more TIC in Physical and Mental Health Settings [LINK].
This submission was provided to Dr John Crawshaw, Director and Chief Advisor on Mental Health to the Minister for Health, New Zealand Government. Dr Crawshaw took up the position of Director and Chief Advisor of Mental Health in November 2011. He is the Government’s principal advisor on Mental Health and is responsible for fulfilling several key statutory functions. The submission was provided to him at the last meeting of Nga Hau E Wha [LINK] for calendare year 2015. Dr Crawshaw noted that there were mentions of TIC in other government documents -- frankly, I, and I hope most others interested in the quality of health provided to New Zealanders, and those concerned about the parlous state of New Zealand's health budgets, would not find his response inspiring.
- Submission on Workforce Issues to MoH [LINK] -- due January 20th, 2016, for planning 2015-2020.
- Planning for the introduction of a TIC-informed Peer Support Service in Dunedin -- see flyer [LINK]
"Life's unfairness is not irrevocable; we can help balance the scales for others, if not for ourselves." Hubert H. Humphrey