38. I’m back…….

For those of you who have been following this Blog for a little while, you know that I’ve taken a break. We had the opportunity of a lifetime to take our children on a European Adventure, an effort to make up for all the holidays that we couldn’t take during our time waiting in the “Holding Pattern” between 2013 and 2016 when we finally made it to court.

I sit here today trying to put into words where we are at the moment. Most days, are easy enough to get through. Like many others, we are a busy family with two parents and 3 kids racing through life, trying not to miss the important “stuff”. Other days, like today, I can’t help but reflect on the past six years and wonder how we’ve managed to get to where we are “faking it till we made it”.

It’s six years ago today that Ruby uttered the words that would change the course of our life. Six years of ups and downs and everything in between. It’s difficult to explain the impact of this type of abuse in a way that helps people to understand that whilst you can make every effort not to live in it, sometimes, you have to let the thoughts and feelings take their course until you pick yourself up and start over. I won’t compare what our family has been through to the devastating events that happens to many other people around us, because being human means that there are too many variables to consider, to get an accurate scale of the impact of traumatic events.

Sometimes I have been accused of “living in” this experience. What people don’t understand is that this experience lives with us. Being abused by someone is different to the death of a loved one. Death is a reality that we each expect to happen to us one day- this isn’t to say that it isn’t devastating- because I know that it is. Unfortunately death is inevitable for each of us. When someone strips the innocence from your child, by choice, you are faced with the worst of humanity and sometimes it is hard to “suck it up”.

The long lasting impact of this type of trauma is difficult to navigate at times. This leads me to talk a little about where we are at in real time.

Kate has given me permission to share with you her battle with her mental health.

It became very apparent to us whilst on our holiday away, that Kate has been doing a remarkable job of “sucking it up”, “faking it till she makes it”, not “living in” a trauma that she did not choose to happen to her.

Spending 24/7 with your family for 5 weeks can be challenging for most people. Doing that with a mother who is determined to make the most of every opportunity available, in every place you visit, became downright exhausting for our Kate. Two weeks into our trip, Kate began to show signs that she was struggling to regulate her emotions- one minute she was up, the next she was down and there was absolutely nothing in between.

This came to a head in Paris. Walking on a bridge over the Seine River, towards one of the worlds’ most famous monuments, The Eiffel Tower, Kate was being completely unreasonable about something fairly mundane. She then said, “You don’t care about me, you never do anything for me; I’ve told you that I need to do something about how I’m feeling and you’ve done nothing for me. You just don’t care!”

I glanced up at the Eiffel Tower, back at Kate, looked at Brad and said, “I need a minute”.

I then got onto Doctor’s online and made a booking for her to see our GP the day we got back. Though from this point on we tried to make an effort to have “down time” each day, the holiday was mentally exhausting for Kate, not to mention the impact on Grace and Ruby. Sure enough, we returned to Australia, went to the GP who spoke about the importance of Kate re-engaging with a psychologist and then prescribed her with some pills to help her manage her anxiety and depression.

I don’t need to hear anyone’s opinion about anti-depressants, so please don’t share them. For me, it is a no brainer that if you require medical intervention to help moderate your moods, you take that help in the same way you would Insulin for Diabetes. The stigma around anti-depressants has existed for too long and been responsible for the poor quality of life of too many people. The reality is that, within a week, Kate was able to articulate that she felt better. She was able to say that she felt lighter and more even tempered. I’m just sorry that it took me so long to see how much she was struggling.

Our GP, a fantastic man with young adult children, has been aware of the struggles of our family since pretty early on. As I sat in his room berating myself for not noticing Kate’s pain sooner, he reminded me that we really don’t know if her need for a Mental Health Plan is because of the abuse or if there was a pre-disposition to be this way anyway. What we do know is that, for Kate, and all my girls, when things get hard, when they are challenged, when they are physically unwell- these episodes do seem to be triggers for flashbacks, memories and dark thoughts- despite how much we try not to “live in it”, because their experiences live in them.

For Ruby, we have watched our 5 year old warrior, re-learn the significance of abuse as her understanding of it has changed over time. She went from asking me to tell Leon to stop because she “didn’t like” what he was doing, to her feeling disgusted that she “let” him do that to her. Many people think that because of her positive disposition, that Ruby has been reasonably unaffected by Leon’s actions and that we were “lucky” that she was so young as she won’t remember it as much as the older two. However, that is not the nature of trauma.

Ruby’s gorgeous teacher called me the day after we returned from our European Adventure. “We have a problem”, she said. Apparently Ruby refused to bring a note home to me as she “will not be learning about that thanks”. Year 5 were beginning the topic of “Puberty”.

Ruby came into my office shortly after the phone call and I relayed to her the conversation with her teacher. Ruby looked at me and said, “What if I have triggers mum?”

While my heart was breaking that my 11 year old knew more about reproduction and intercourse than any 11 year old should, I explained to her that her teacher would be very conscious that some of the content of the lessons may be difficult for her, but that she would make a plan for her to leave the room if it got too much for her. Knowing that she is aware of triggers and how to manage is another unhappy product of her lived experience.

For Grace, she continues to navigate life with a smile and a laugh, most of the time. She worries about the next stage in her journey as a 16 year old, and still has so much in her head that, at times, she finds it very hard to make room for anything else. We just keep loving her through it.

So, though we are six years down the track today, we continue to cycle through the various stages of this journey, the ups and downs and in-betweens. The highs and the lows, the happiness and tears with as much dignity as we can. The lemonade is that we know that we can survive just about anything.

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