Follows on from JAGGED #8 – ghost-woman MOTHER
(JAGGED has contained some difficult material regarding suicide ideation and the legacies of childhood sexual abuse – this installment of the book contains perhaps the most raw example of that – and it is only fair to warn you. After this installment though, the material will be lighter and the book will start to work towards a conclusion).
Chapter 26: Locked up in my own Asylum.
On Saturday 1st August 2020 at 7.59 AM a shattered weeping mess of a man walked through the doors of the Acute Mental Health Ward of Nambour General Hospital (I know that to be a fact because my admission tag is sitting on my desk in front of me right now). The walk from the spot where I had parked my car up to those doors represents the longest walk, and the longest reach for internal change, that I have ever undertaken in my life. I’m glad that I did that.
I’ve mentioned at the odd time that JAGGED is a live document, that it is being shared with you as it is being written, and so it has been, and so it shall be with this Chapter no matter the personal discomfit felt by me. Since JAGGED is being written in the immediacy of the moment I’ve decided to write about my admission to the Ward before too much time passes, before I fall into the trap of watering things down or skewing truth in order to present things in a better light.
My voice is my own voice, but it can also be seen as representative of the legion of unheard Childhood Sexual Abuse Voices who ended their own lives when the legacies, the pain, the confusion, the depression, and the terrible carrying of an imposed shame, proved in the end to be unbearable.
On that Saturday, for me, after sixty-two years of trying to hold it all at bay, it finally became unbearable. I gave myself permission to let go. My strength ran out. It all felt like it was out of my control – like the air rushing out of a pricked balloon. I did not see it coming.
I would like to be able to tell you that I made a conscious decision to voluntarily commit myself – but it was nothing like that at all. Whatever drove my legs up the hill to that hospital it certainly was not my conscious mind. On that day my mind was in terminal spin down mode, totally fogged out – I just wanted it to end. People say that you have to hit the absolute bottom before you start to look upwards again – well no, things don’t work that way – hitting the bottom with velocity tears apart the landing pad and plummets you into the fucking abyss.
This is literal – on that Saturday I gave myself over to the Universe and said I give up, I’m yours if you want it, you decide. The harmed side of my mind defeated the unharmed side – and it did so with such an impelling rush that, and why hide truth, I faded away and fell apart under the assault.
Writing JAGGED and finally being able to fully open up about my abuse experiences did not by itself send me into the abyss. Nor did the death of my sister. Nor did the energy-sapping experience of litigation against the Catholic Church. Nor did the weightiness of the constant carrying of suicide ideation. Nor did the depression. Nor did the agoraphobia. Nor did the PTSD. I was able to hang on tentatively despite those things.
What ultimately tipped me over was the shame. That most least talked of legacies of childhood sexual abuse – that deepest of deep down feelings that one has no value; that inner core of immovable belief that one is simply worthless; that one deserves no better; that one brought it all upon oneself. The shame of the perpetrators, the shame that they should have felt but did not feel was transferred into my spirit, and my heart. It has white-anted me throughout my whole life where work and relationships are concerned and finally, on that Saturday, it led to structural collapse.
It is very easy for others to say that one should not feel shame for the abuse experiences one experienced as a child. Well, shame is one of the most intractable and insidious of legacies, and it does not shift or mitigate away over time. It clings around and compresses your heart and being with a strength that grows (if professional therapeutic help is not on the board) with the passing of time.
I spent nearly ten days in the acute mental health ward under suicide watch. The staff in there are beautiful human beings, they assisted me back out of the abyss – it was a gentle cajoling conducted over a number of days. Right at the start .. whoosh .. in went the Valium .. whoosh .. in went the Mirtazapine. As someone who has never used such things it threw my brain all around the shop.
I’ve heard about people being in a zombie trance-like state, and I can only suppose that I must have looked like that. I spent a lot of time in the first day or two crouched up in a foetal sort of state and gushing tears. Looking back on it now a lot of pain and hurt and other shit took the opportunity to vent out.
I cannot, any longer, be the man who walked into that Ward. I cannot go back to who I was before Saturday 1st August 2020. That person threw his fate to the Universe and the winds.
For the last sixty-two years I have lived in an imposed world. An Asylum that was crafted for me by the legacies of childhood sexual abuse. A world of darkness, a world of imposed mental ill-health, a world of fear, a world of shame. It is not surprising that that world ultimately sought to end itself, what is surprising is that it took so long.
This is not a moment of casual whimsy, this is not a floaty mind-fuck recounting of the last week and a half. It is an indicator of change that must happen. The man who walked out of that Ward and who is sitting here writing this right now is choosing to start off again, is choosing to reach for life, is choosing to accept help, is choosing to grasp upwards and outwards with all of my strength and claw my way out of this abyss. There is no other option.
I don’t kid myself that it will be an easy path to tread …
It is the most brutal of internal and external assessments of self to understand that a week and a half ago I gave myself permission to end things. I did not stand in the road of it. I reached that most terrible of spaces. Yet, my legs walked me up that hill to that hospital.
I rejected, not in any way in my conscious mind, the permission that I had given myself – and that is a position that can only be reached once, and it cannot be denied that once that sort of let go freedom has been offered and rejected there is only one thing left … stick out the left foot and take a plodding step, then stick out the right foot and take another plodding step … and receive any and all help that is offered.
For the first time in my life I am now taking a mild form of anti-depressant. I now have after-care support from Artius. I have decided to re-consider any further form of civil litigation against the Catholic Church and I’m pulling together an application to the National Redress Scheme (the civil litigation system simply re-traumatises and does not, and probably because of its adversarial nature cannot, ever deliver justice). I have set up a Mental Health Plan with my GP and I am slotted in to see a Psychologist who is familiar with trauma counselling and EMDR. In other words I’ve hauled myself up off my agorophobic arse in order to get out there and do something for myself.
My story, the story of my experiences, the story of the life I have lived and the legacies I carry as a result of multiple instances of childhood abuse ultimately has to have a point in the telling.
Before my young mind could even begin to process the first instance of abuse and the trauma of that first instance of abuse, it was then swamped by the next instance of abuse, and then the next instance of abuse, and then more of it over a seven year period. I was never able to process any of it. All of it has remained unprocessed and locked inside to this day. No wonder I describe my world as a dark universe, no wonder I say that it is my darkness.
Early intervention is key. Unpacking the trauma affects out of the young child or young teenager is key. There is no such thing as later in these matters. Later is dangerously capable of cementing legacies permanently into the mind/psyche of the abuse victim. Don’t just take my word for it as you sit and look at this – all you have to do is read JAGGED.
Early intervention in my era was not available, it was the era of chin-up and bear-up and don’t whinge. A jack hammer will be required in my case to let in light and beauty because the concrete has had sixty-two years to set – so be it, I’m prepared to fork out for a set of heavy duty ear muffs.
It is my current belief that all Survivors of childhood sexual abuse, whether they were abused in institutions or in their own homes, should be afforded free access to professional level trauma counselling for as long as it takes to unpack the trauma and the memories, to the best degree that is possible, of their unwanted earlier abuse experiences.
That will not be cheap, it will cost society some money. But think of the alternative. A tranche of unproductive lives that could never realise their potential and contribute fully to society, and a portion of that tranche of people who see no way out but to end their own lives. The cost of that, and the cost of the drug-masking and the alcohol-masking in order to blunt down the affects of abuse trauma, and the resultant drain on our health system creates a far greater monetary cost for society to bear.
If a young child or young teenager is abused today, there is no tomorrow in the mind of that human being, there is only today. Early intervention at the professional level gives them a chance of a productive and fulfilling tomorrow – it can create a tomorrow for them.
It tore my heart out to see some of the young people locked up against their will in that acute mental health ward. A proportion of them are childhood sexual abuse victims – they are at the beginning of their journey and I am well towards the end of mine in age terms. Their minds have been pushed to the psychotic verge by the strength and variety of drugs they took to try and push away their memories. Without help they are self-medicating to oblivion. I am not one to judge – in no way am I one to judge them – when I was young I could have so easily gone down that path.
I do not want anybody to live the life that I have led. I do not want a young person of today go on to live the kind of life I have led. It is why I plead the case for early intervention and free access to longer term professional level psychiatric trauma help for Survivors for as long as it takes.
Our public Acute Mental Health system does the best it can with the resources on offer. The one thing it cannot do is offer longer term therapeutic help. The system aims to guide the patient through the acute phase, in my case my wish to leave this life, and then tries to put in place post-care services. Real help, at the psychiatric level, comes at some considerable cost which is beyond the financial means of most patients who are treated in the public mental health system.
Closure is a word that people who have never experienced trauma like the sound of, and they genuinely hope that it will be granted to Survivors of the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. Closure is simply a word that does not exist in real life, there is no such thing as Closure.
However, the ability to subtly re-wire how the brain/mind processes past traumatic events is possible. Getting in early and mitigating down the affects of childhood sexual abuse is possible. Developing a gut-feel that one’s terrible memories exist in the past, and do not exist manifestly in the present, is possible. Except for the second sentence in this paragraph I intend to pursue those other possibilities on a personal level.
The legacies of childhood sexual abuse affect every breathing aspect of a Survivor’s life – work, relationships, and view of self. It is why mock apologies are worthless. Without professional intervention many Survivors live in internal and external worlds that mirror back and amplify the imposed legacies and from which, for those Survivors, there is seemingly no escape. Living that reality over sixty-two years ultimately threw me into the abyss.
JAGGED is my voice. Standing just behind me are the echoes of far too many other Voices that did not survive long enough to speak, or be heard.
I want to re-connect with health, family, love, and hope.
I want beauty and laughter back in my life.
To be continued …
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