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The Highway of Hope

I’ve been on a journey. I’ve wandered many trails. I’ve lost my way, then found my way, and then lost and found my way again. My feet have felt the red earth and my eyes have gazed at the stars, and the road trip to Self has sent me down many dead ends, many circular exits from unmarked paths, and many halting steps forward into uncomfortable unknowns. Such are the conditions when one consciously chooses to cast one’s being on the entry ramp to the Highway of Hope.

Some time ago I wrote a book called JAGGED. It was written by an untreated man. It was written by a man who was desperate to escape depression, addiction, and strong feelings of inner inadequacy and hopelessness. It was written by a man buffeted by a maelstrom of storms within. It was written by a man who was unknowingly preparing himself to embrace the ending of all things for all time.

The book contained a hellish description of the damage, the legacies, and the pain contained within the mind of one Survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I do not regret writing the book and I never will. Prior to writing it I had thought that my journey to that date had been far too much for any human being to have to bear, but looking back I now see the book as the necessary catalyst that was needed to throw me far deeper into the abyss than I had thought possible. There are depths beyond depths below the bottom of the abyss, and on one of those levels I glimpsed in my plummeting a tiny little signpost pointing vaguely in the general direction of the Highway of Hope. I could have so easily missed that little sign.

In August 2020 I ended up in a mental health ward for a period and I had no idea how I had arrived there, I had totally lost any sense of self. Because of the nihilistic state of my mind, and perhaps because the mental health professionals there recognised that I had carried my maladies and legacies and PTSD for sixty two untreated years they took a bit of a gamble, and they offered me a year’s worth of weekly psychotherapy sessions with a Psychiatric Registrar. I say that it was a gamble on their part because my mindscape was so fractured that there was no assurance that I would even turn up.

It doesn’t hurt to occasionally have a laugh at one’s own hubris. When I was discharged from the mental health unit I though that I was well on the path to recovery and that my life was finally on some sort of healthy track. What actually happened is that I fell further apart at an ever accelerating rate. Hubris always comes back to bite you on the arse.

It took four long months for the psychotherapy to be organised. It took that long because the right kind of Psychiatric Registrar had to be found, one who could deal with an untreated Survivor of multiple instances of extreme abuse and rape. During the search for the right person I lost my love for writing, I felt that I had nothing to say and nothing to comment on, and I had lost touch with the person who used to write about so many whimsical and quirky things. The feel for writing, as of January 2022 is slowly coming back, but it has been preceded by quite a roller-coaster of ups and downs.

And so to the psychotherapy … I have about three weekly sessions to go, the year of treatment is almost up.

Psychotherapy is hard work, very hard work, there are no magic bullets or miracles or easy gains. Even the smallest of changes have to be fought for, and re-fought for. Setbacks are legion, and the exposure of past events and emotions and the dissection of legacies is very difficult. It was one thing to write JAGGED in the safety of my own room, it is altogether another thing to unpeel such content face to face with another person.

At first I could not open up, I could not trust the Psychiatric Registrar. It took months to establish real trust. It took so long because I had to learn to trust, I had to learn that in a general sense there really wasn’t a predator creeping up silently behind me with horrible things in mind.

Trying to unpack multiple instances of childhood trauma is no easy task. When I was a child I could not process the first instance of abuse, let alone process the multiple instances of abuse that followed. So it was difficult to define a clear starting point for the therapy. My past, the events and the emotions of my past existed in my present. My thoughts erratically jumped between events as though they were being experienced in real time – and so it had always been.

The only answer to all of that was to disconnect myself from my past to an extent. Not easy to do. Instead of nurturing the Child Within (which seems to work for many people) I had to choose a different path. I killed off the child within, which took some time – he was irretrievably damaged and his presence mired me continually in the morass. I am glad he has his freedom from me, and I am glad that I have my freedom from him. My past experiences are no longer like a film running on re-loop in my mind, they are more like a photo that I can pick up if I so choose, and then put down and away if I so choose. There’s a sense of freedom in finally having a choice.

During the psychotherapy I didn’t much concern myself with the Catholic Church. Apart from sending a well deserved rocket up the arses of two Brisbane Bishops I was happy to let my attentions focus on the psychotherapy.

September 2021 was a landmark month. The psychotherapy had been progressing slowly but well. Out of the blue I mentally collapsed and ended up in the mental health ward for another two weeks. It ended up being a seminal moment in the life of this black duck because Change, Real Change, stood up and asked how about you give me a solid go for a change?

It all came about in an unexpected way. While I was in the ward they conducted all sorts of health checks and it was discovered that I had a lesion on my, shock horror, very swollen prostate – ah well, old man stuff and all that. After a few ultra-sound sessions and an interesting trip into the bowels of an MRI I was placed on the Cat 1 Waiting List for urgent surgery within 30 days. As an aside it is interesting to note that Health Department spin merchants crow about how Cat 1 Waiting Lists are largely up to date … mmm … I’m about to hit 90 days. However in this matter things are looking up. Tomorrow I’m going in for the pre-anaesthetic appointment, and on the 11th I’m scheduled for the surgery … a biopsy of the lesion and a re-bore of the prostate … makes me feel like an old car whose engine is about to get a makeover.

However, the seminal moment I was talking about has to do with a different matter, and all of you who have a prostate are probably going to wince a bit while reading this paragraph. Having a swollen prostate means that peeing is not the absolute joy that it used to be, and that means, you guessed it, the entrance so to speak of the dreaded Catheter. Now the insertion of a Catheter is a pretty straight forward procedure in the vast majority of cases. In my case there were, um, blockages, and the prostate was so swollen the poor tube didn’t stand a chance. The nurses had a few goes, a urology doctor had many many goes, the head of the urology department, finally after 3.5 hours got the pesky thing in. The pain was unrelenting and atrocious and somewhere amongst all that arrived the seminal moment …

It is pretty well known that some Survivors of extreme or multiple instances of trauma have trouble re-integrating mind and body. The pain was such that I had no choice but to be in the present. Thinking about the past simply flew out the window as my body and mind shook hands and agreed to work together – bear the pain, don’t move, focus solidly on one thing for 3.5 hours (not that I knew it would take that long). When I eventually collapsed back on the bed the film in my head had stopped running. There was no Flicker, Flicker of the film frames. I’ll leave you to muse on how such a thing could come to be. Was it a forced re-integration of mind and body, was it the eight months of psychotherapy prior to the catheterisation, was it simply going to happen anyway? Who knows? I don’t, but I’m sure happy with the change.

So what are the words that are about to come out of a man who has been solidly helped by a year’s worth of psychotherapy.

My therapist (the Psychiatric Registrar) and I met and entered into an agreement together. She and I both committed to a year long process no matter what lay ahead of us – the pain, the re-living, the gains the failures, the fear and the joy, the excruciatingly uncomfortable moments, the shredding of comfort zones, the separation of current fact from emotional memory, the facing of fear, the embrace of change, and the many lettings go.

Psychotherapy is a long process, and both participants are deeply changed by the experience. Thank you Dr. H – a heartfelt thank you. I suppose I should also thank JAGGED, it belongs back then but it did help to lead to now.

I can only speak for myself. There are things about me that will never change. I carry some legacies that will always be with me and I embrace that fact.

I now know that there is nothing wrong with my brain. It reacted in a very normal manner to the trauma that it saw and experienced. It sought to protect me and it succeeded in that role for a very long time – but it had to unlearn many things and had to realise that the circumstances that led to the need for protection ceased to exist well over 62 years ago.

So what do I want? Acceptance of myself as I am now. I want a simple and happy life. I don’t care how tentative my footsteps are along the Highway of Hope, I’m simply glad that I’ve learned enough to take them.

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18 comments

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  1. Kate Ahearne

    Thanks for sharing this, Keith.

    Best wishes for your journey on the Highway of Hope.

  2. Keitha Granville

    courage and internal strength, more power to you.

  3. Topenda

    Keith, you are a brave and tenacious man. I suspect you would disagree, arguing that you had no other choice in life but to continue despite your trauma. I would beg to differ though; at the end of the day we all have the choice to not continue. I don’t disparage anyone’s choice either way, having been tempted by the opt-out option. I have read many of your writings over the years, including ‘Jagged’, and my heart broke for you, as it does for my family members and friends who have experienced similar traumas, mostly with little relief beyond self-medication. I’m teary as I write this, because I am so very relieved for you that you have found some peace and relief from the constant torture of the replay. It gives me hope also that my loved ones may still find it too. Thank you for sharing, and I wish you peace and life-joy evermore.

  4. Michael Taylor

    Keith, I cannot add much to what has been said in the preceding comments, I can only repeat them.

    Stay strong. The world needs people with your strength.

  5. New England Cocky

    Well done!! Thank you for sharing again.

  6. Phil Pryor

    Good luck to Keith, who has a harder run than most. It is not a satisfying world, not safe, sound, secure. Collectively, we seem to know, feel, guess, imagine, a better way and a more honest process for decision making for our national community. Only expert work, professional research, scientific assessment, clear and well discussed processes, can then allow a satisfactory political decision making process to occur. Current political professional career perverted politics, usually conservative, selfish, blinkered, partisan, unfair, has developed over time to a rotten position. Talking turds triumph!!!

  7. corvusboreus

    Keith,
    It heartens me to hear that the flicker-frame flashbacks have abated, I can only imagine the relief that brings.

    Thank you for sharing what others would have kept suppressed.

  8. Kaye Lee

    Every time I go to write a comment here, I erase it. The words aren’t adequate.

    My husband was sent to a Catholic boarding school in Sydney when he was 11. When yet another of his teachers was gaoled in November, it started an email chain from the men he went to school with – terrible reminders of the brutality they each endured alone. They could not stand up for each other against these men, and their families either did not believe them or felt it made their boys into men somehow. Heart- rending tales of a 12 year old snapping and hitting back at the brother who was punching him, running away to a public phone to ring his dad, who told him to go back, look the brother in the eye, and he won’t ever do it to you again ie he will pick someone weaker next time. Another who told of spending two weeks in the infirmary after a beating my husband vividly remembers witnessing to this day. On Xmas Eve we got word of another of their teachers dying. The response was good riddance to another pedo bastard.

    These men are in their mid-60s and the pain and anger is still raw for many of them. I wrote a response to them but do not feel I should intrude into their conversation, just as I am hesitant to comment to you too Keith. I cannot know how it feels.

    This was what I wanted to say to them….

    My heart breaks for what you endured. I applaud the courage of those who are finding their voice and am truly warmed and heartened by the support network you provide to each other. Your lifetime friendship, kindness and solidarity are the best ‘up yours’ to those pitiful cowards.

    To you Keith, I truly hope your journey takes you to a peaceful place. You have shown remarkable resilience and strength. I am so so sorry that you have had to. It makes me weep but it also encourages me – the highway of hope can be a rocky road but it is preferable to the dead end of despair.

  9. Michael Taylor

    Carol and I had the pleasure (and honour) of meeting Keith a few years ago. He is such a warm and beautiful person. It cuts me up knowing the horrors he’s endured, but I admire his bravery in opening up as he has done on these pages. It also warms my heart that he knows there is no better place than The AIMN to do so.

  10. Michael Taylor

    I too have scars from my childhood, some of which still reduce me to tears. But unlike Keith, I don’t have the courage to talk about them. I wish I could be like Keith.

  11. Kaye Lee

    Michael, my husband is the same.

  12. Michael Taylor

    I’m lucky to have Carol, and I’m sure that your husband is lucky to have you.

  13. HENRY RODRIGUES

    May your onwards journey be lighter and hope shine brighter. It must have been very difficult to share your troubles and trauma, but you are amongst friends and well wishers and nothing is as comforting as that. That, and hope.

  14. Florence Howarth

    Maybe we have the choice but from one who knows, there can be no energy to do so. The norm I suspect it takes a tragedy to make that move or maybe someone caring enough to make the decision for you. Keith, thanks for this story. At eighty, I just realise I no longer lead my life in different departments, where none meet. I am now a whole person. What’s more, I like where I have ended up.

  15. corvusboreus

    i first started reading ‘jagged’ with expectation of dosages of disparity (even though i admire how Keith places his words).

    For context, childhood raised by OK mum & dad, never subjected to abuse within cloistered corruption.

    Keiths words pulse, flutter, dart, weave, fracture, coalesce, (flicker) i begin to glimpse effects upon brain when all trust in care, nurture, need, is abused by dose after dose of unimaginable pain and shame, subjected to what you know and feel is wrong by those you are taught without question to know are right.

    Keiths words start cutting someway through my dissonence.

    Then came passages concerning serious contemplation of ending the constant intrusions of pain by extinguishing the receptical source of the self.
    Autoeuthenasia, the ‘sin’ of suicide.

    Flicker.

    Seeing no hope beyond the tearhaze,
    Feeling nought but threadbare carpet under arse, and steely cold and inside lips and right thumb,
    Tasting sharp iron oxides and stale cordites.
    Finding no voice of veto within cacophonous internal discord,
    Pushing forward against suddenly alarmed instinct.
    ……”Click”
    Salvation can come through combinion of piss-poor maintenace of a triggering mechanism and shoddy work in a bullet factory.

    Reset

    Reflecting upon the depths of painful endurance behind anothers words can help dry the shallow tears that sometimes blind one’s own vision.

    Keith, in gifting a glimpse into his journey of pain and healing, has helped me in finding greater gratitude.

    For that I offer thanks.

  16. Anne Byam

    Keith … I read many of your articles which were heartbreaking and shocking in so many ways, back when you had the courage to submit them to the AIMN for publication. They were dark days for you.

    It is with much pleasure I can read this latest article / personal story from your good self, which contains so much hope, clarity, courage and optimism.

    Cannot describe how happy I am to read this today. Many good wishes to you, in your continued journey on the Highway of Hope, ( even though at times that may get a little rough ) I believe the rough times will never get to you again, as they did in the past.

    Your strength, courage and persistence over so many years, is awesome.

    Many many good thoughts your way, Keith.

  17. Keith Davis

    I would have to write a Novella to fully respond to the content of the comments sent in for ‘The Highway of Hope’ … so I will respond to all with a general comment of my own.

    Firstly, thanks to all of you for responding, for taking the time to lay out your thoughts, and in many cases for having the courage to air your own inner truths regarding your own experiences or the experiences of your Partner or those you love.

    One of the strengths of AIMN is that exposure of truth, no matter how difficult, more than often elicits truth in return. It is fair to say that many of you understand the subtext when I open up – no matter the difficulties and obvious failures and setbacks, never give up – and I would like you to know that when I read your comments I get the message that I am not alone, and in responding to your thoughts I’d like you to know that you are not alone either.

    Sometimes a truth hits you on the bum when you least expect it … corvusboreus took the time to think out a description of my writing style ,,, ‘Keith’s words pulse, flutter, dart, weave, fracture, coalesce (flicker).’ That is actually a clear description of how my brain works. Over the last year psychiatrists and psychologists bent over backwards in their efforts to facilitate small and real changes for me … but none of them could match corvusboreus’s bang-on description of my brain function. Amazing!

    I am not more tenacious or brave or resilient than any of you are. We are all human and we all deal as best we can with the odds or cards sent our way – I simply think it is part of our nature to do so.

    Given the dartish nature of my brain function – right now I am hoping that the monumental cock-up re RATSs and Covid testing in general acts as the final trigger point that leads to the electoral demise of the Morrison Government – that’s just a little hopeful side path spinning off from The Highway of Hope.

  18. Michael Taylor

    Hello, Keith. I too have been humbled by the wonderful responses and words of encouragement to your story.

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