“In the 1957 school photo at age seven she sat in the middle of the front row. Her legs crossed with simple leather sandals on her feet. The black and white photo does not show that her dress is made in her favourite colour lavender . There is a tie at the waist. A bow with a circle ‘diamond’ brooch holds the tie neatly. Her mother had made the dress and the girl loved it. It felt so special. No one could tell that this young girl had suffered sexual abuse by a paedophile in the recent school summer holidays, by who trusted employee of her father’s.”
January 29, 2016 dawned. This day was an auspicious day. It was my late mother’s birthday and my brave blog launch day. Over the last five years since mum’s death I had been healing my soul. Why blog about it? Well being a complex issue and having kept secrets for years I couldn’t really say why. Perhaps I felt if I was brave and put it out there it would be another healing pathway. After years of bullying myself I had devised a plan for healing me and believed it was working. The blogging and sharing ideas to work through to happiness had been developing in my unsettled brain a couple of years before.
I had been mulling over the prospect of sharing my journey. There was a feeling that it might help me and may help another. So why not? Give it a go. Let the secrets spill out so they are not secrets anymore. Maybe the bottom line was that knew I had not managed the secrets well by never seeking help and had effectively turned myself against myself. I had taken way too long to hit on a way to help my damaged soul recover. So it just might be useful to someone in a similar position. Give it a shot.
My mother died at home in January 2011 as I sat in vigil beside her. Mum had fallen into a coma at four in the afternoon before the carer came to help with the wash. The carer and I bathed mum together me with hot slow tears drizzling down my cheeks and into my mouth, hot and salty. I knew she would not be waking from this. Then I took up a steady vigil at the bedside. I gave my brother who lived with Mum and his son who was visiting and my family next door updates until at 10pm when our mum, their grandma; took her last breath. Quietly, with no fuss, gently and sweetly as she had always lived her life.
By the end of 2011 I was in emotional free fall and collapsed in tears asking for professional help. I arrived on the doorstep of the Dr’s office like an automaton robot, crying quietly, at my wit;s end and needing the help I had denied myself for decades past. That my Dr immediately referred me for counselling was a wise decision. That the help was available in the form of a year of funded counselling through the Accident Compensation Commission (ACC) for early childhood sexual abuse was a blessing.
In New Zealand there had been an avenue for free counselling for sexual abuse for many years and this had interested me. could I be eligible? after finding out that it was available so I went about contacting the people to enlist this help. during counselling I worked out that sending positive messages to my brain to change the way I was thinking about myself may just be the key to changing my inner critic. I saw the need to achieve the goals and new rules which I had attempted every year of my life since early adulthood. over decades I had tried unsuccessfully to gain happiness to release the feelings of inner sadness and despair shame blame and grief. I desperately needed to find the switch to turn on change.
With counselling I developed my own way of self help. over the subsequent years I developed a sort of plan, a theory about it which I have since named LIFELONG BUDDY. the lifelong buddy is my brain which constantly supports me when I programme it to.
The name came to me after helping a friend who needed time out from her one year old. In early 2013 we became buddies for exercise. She needed to get out of the house but was ‘trapped’ in a way with a baby and no appropriate caregiver. I had enrolled at a local gym but was having difficulty getting into the habit of regular attendance.
So the plan emerged. I would look after her baby while she was in the gym then it would be my turn and I achieved my exercise goal. “Win Win!”, my friend said. After a year we were both successfully attending the gym and had seared a deep friendship. I made a discovery which I had actually read about on various blogs. A buddy can help you keep to a new habit. This is especially great when the buddy is actually more motivated than you. In fact my friend was. She loves the gym. I have come to ‘like’ the gym. My real love turned out to be Yoga which was practiced at the same gym.
Buddy became my buzzword. Helping the friend by being a buddy lead me to successfully instigate a personal habit change. Wow! Habit change is awkwardly hard. It could be made easier with a buddy. What? Who knew? Well it turns out that’s new not news its a well-know device. It was news to me. I really used to think “yeah, yeah, buddy. No. must do everything myself. I have to be strong and do it otherwise its not truly doing it!” Wrong. I was wrong. Help with a buddy is a precious gift to me and the buddy.
Throughout the previous year of 2012 I had started the habit changes. Changes to re-message my mind. Changes to lead to raised self esteem. Innately I believed that if I could successfully give my brain new good messages about myself that would set in place a new plan and stop the bullying. Basically the time had come to tell my brain a new story.
With the support of the counsellor I inched my way through. Each month I would decide on a new goal a new ”rule. The new month would arrive and the decision would be made then. The first year was hard. I was determined and resilient. Deep down I knew this was my chance to change. If not change – then what? I had to stop the self= bullying.
Bullying myself was dragging me down into a depressed state. I would just do the minimum. Get to work, make a few meals, support the kids and hubby and unwell mother, have confusing angry shouting outbursts with my brother and then collapse on my bed and procrastinate everything else. Oh, and then the bullying would start. I was hopeless, worthless, useless, fat, unfit…….. and on and on. I would eat huge amounts and make myself feel worse. Food had been my comfort through decades of unresolved shame and guilt. Also alcohol was a go-to product to lift my spirits – no pun intended. Unfortunately as many well know, alcohol does not only lift you up – it then dumps you down further.
Over time and thinking it through I realised I could try simply giving my brain a new message. The message was “we are thinking differently about me now. Positive loving thoughts.” I needed to persistently remind my brain of the new plans, set out for each month and then wait for my brain to message me. I felt confident that my ‘life long buddy” my brain would guide me towards my goals with the ‘new’ rules. Then it was just up to me to carry them out. So I would no longer be ‘voluntarily’ doing my own thing, being ‘lazy’ procrastinating, then feeling bad about myself. I would leave it to my brain to suggest the activity. I just needed to comply.
Watching this happen is intriguing – I guess it could be called our ‘conscience’ speaking. Anyway, definitely my brain kept messaging me to alter my behaviour to that which I had identified and I could choose to agree or disagree. But over time with continuing to review daily the goals, the new rules, writing them down daily consistently and thinking them through I let down the barrier. I agreed and did it. Simple as that. Simple yes, but I had to actively stop myself putting up the barrier and trying to disobey my LIFELONG BUDDY’s suggestions.
There it is. My introduction to this book. Take the time to read this terrible tale and how after decades there was a way to cope. I guess many would have managed to get through this years before I did and made the appropriate changes. In my defence I believe that the lack of ability to tell an adult about the paedophile’s crime set me up for shame and blame so when at 19 I unexpectedly became pregnant I was again the victim of shame and blame. That just cemented my self hatred and lead to a slow decades long depression followed later by anxiety and panic attacks. All because the first unspeakable crime was not dealt with. This is my analysis. The crime went unacknowledged, the intense feelings of shame fear and blame were unvalidated and eventually my deeply damaged soul became unable to contain the pain. The emotional crumbling and eventual treatment lead to the development of a self help plan called Life Long Buddy and the repair is largely complete and but one may never take ones hand off the tiller.
Change doesn’t happen quickly. You have to be resilient, persistent and consistent. Every day is started with reviewing your goals and your daily plan. Additionally every day it is important to appreciate three things accomplished that day. plus every day be thankful for three things you have in your life. The love of your family, your functioning body, the delicious friendships you’ve developed are three that always top the list. Inch by inch and slowly I have re-messaged my mind. I have stopped telling my brain I am no good. My brain is essentially very pleased with this information. My brain knew ‘it all along. It just took me a long time to sort it all out and get a system in place to change the message I was sending. Still a work in progress and I am happy with small improvements.
It was my intention to regularly blog about some of the challenges, the funny stories, the adjustments I’ve made and the ahaha moments along the way. Life got in the way of that . So here I am writing a book instead. You see I just have to get this story out. To finally release the demons. To share the journey. I see this as a ‘random act of kindness’ and hope that it may help someone out there who is in deep sadness through their similar difficulties in life and may find this helps on the road towards their inner happiness.