Once Bitten, Twice Burnt

I should be grateful right?

One for the mother and 'a dog' of a plight.

But I should be grateful, right?


These sins for the things that I crave.

It's the strings that are sent for a soul in remission.

Thoughtless decisions take shape with unconscious ease.

Whilst everyone sat in front of the television, bowls on laps that contain all the sugary pain of a low energy release.


Where's the intermission?


A Grandmother that inspired slow motioned blinds with a 'kind of blue.'

She saw through the curtain twitchers, 

fence snitching bastards.

Her values stick me like the pins with which she sewed our mittens.


Her husband, the opposite of a riot, quiet.

Like the fells that saw his spirit rise. 

The wood, could or should have 'beens' led to an 'almost' connection.

One that on closer inspection left me colder than the November day that heralded this arrival.

He was culturally 'smoke' and running, but his legs kept him stuck in London.

Was it the threat of an 'A' bomb, or just a world where he didn't belong?

An ancestral legacy.


We are from dirty streets, more likely to hear austerity versus poverty tweets than the whispers of sweet alternatives on a horse drawn breeze.

All of this brings me to a halt on knees.

Ain't no ones fault. 


It's just the way it is.

But I ain't finding smooth gratitude.

Or seeking the platitudes of those that judge the crutch that I beat myself about the head with.

I am a thinker, analyzer, self deprecating miser, how I crave for the mind of the peasant that I weren't.

Sometimes, but not always.

Once bitten, twice burnt.

Suicide Secrets

A few weeks ago I was on a train. It stopped short of the station and sat idle for a while. A message from the female driver told us there'd been an incident at the level crossing and the emergency services had been called. She sounded a little shaken.


Another ten minutes passed before we were informed that we would have to leave the train with the assistance of ladders and firemen.


Forty minutes later I found myself walking on the shingle beside a towering train. As I approached the crossing I noticed a large piece of blue tarp had been erected, presumably to shield myself and others from the horror of what had occurred.


I immediately wondered if this had been an accident or a suicide. Apparently incidents of train related suicides are on the rise, this article from a couple of years ago suggests one a week on average. Two thirds of them are successful. I dread to imagine the consequences for those that survive.


Our local train network are now spending millions on making suicide hotspots more secure. They're also building a special bio train wash to deal with the grisly task of safely removing bits of victims from the undercarriage.


I've lost count of the amount of times I've stood at a train station and thought about jumping. These fantasies started when I was about six. However the thought of the incredible physical  trauma that would be caused by such a large piece of metal rolling over my body has always stopped this from being a real possibility.


How much emotional pain would someone have to be in to execute such a terrible plan? 


I know well the severity of emotional pain required to produce consistent and frequent thoughts of suicide. At times it's been so severe I've 'experimented' and researched different methods. But I've obviously not experienced the darkest void of hopelessness that leads to the termination of ones own existence. 


Probably I've have enough support and connection to help me avoid such an outcome. Perhaps fate has played some part.


In the days following the incident I searched the media for some news. I wanted to offer the person my thoughts of empathy and respect. Particularly if it was a suicide. I found no mention of the incident which seemed odd. A few weeks prior to this two women were killed when their car was struck by a train at a different level crossing. A horrendous accident that received extensive coverage across multiple media formats.  


I began to wonder if the media would make a conscious decision to not report a suicide?


I found an article by Tod Maffin that confirmed my suspicions. As a young journalist Tod was told the media don't report suicides. With the exception of the rich and famous.


Tod attributes this to a study that shows people with existing suicidal tendencies are at increased risk of suiciding when exposed to news reports about people who've taken their own lives.


This idea resonates with me. After watching the Professor Green documentary 'Suicide and Me' I began to fixate and fantasize about hanging myself in the back yard. The program was definitely a trigger for my own suicidal thoughts. In truth I don't have the same response to news reports. But I understand that articles about suicide could be a strong trigger for others.


In contrast this information from a suicide prevention worker who believes being exposed to stories about suicide has "actually encouraged some people to go get help,"


I'd say the argument for both sides of the debate is somewhat unconvincing.


The down side to not reporting suicide is the continued invisibility of this devastating affliction. In some quarters suicide remains a taboo, a godless act, a smudge on the community/family and occasionally an unlawful act.


It also remains an area of health that is grossly underfunded. Perhaps suicide needs to be in our collective consciousness before our governments will act? Maybe that's the reason we should report suicides. In Australia road safety funding is double that for suicide prevention. Yet deaths from suicide are twice the road toll. This disparity occurs across the world.


Where I live road deaths are reported in a way that encourages us to feel proud of the reductions. Over a recent public holiday weekend we had zero road deaths, everyone was patting themselves on the back. And rightly so, lots of money and hard work has gone into heightening our awareness and educating us on the dangers of driving. Why can't we do the same for suicide? I'd like to feel proud about a reduction in deaths from suicide, from living in a society that offers its most vulnerable citizens the services and support they need. Unfortunately this doesn't fit in with the capitalist concept of austerity. Likely the money available for road safety is underpinned by the billion dollar automotive industry.


One suicide that received extensive coverage recently was that of a ten year old aboriginal girl. The response to her tragic story was predominantly active. It brought the plight of victims and the reasons for their actions into sharp focus. Some Politicians called for a Royal Commission. They wanted to know how a child could feel so hopeless. How politicians have the gall to ask such a question is beyond my comprehension. Isn't it obvious?


Let's start with the systematic decimation of the indigenous culture by European settlers. Then move onto the governments cuts to indigenous social programs in 2014. $534 million over five years, including a $160 million cut to the indigenous health budget.


Access to mental health and community services isn't just an issue for indigenous people. Support is lacking across all areas of society.


At the centre of my suicidal thought process is a deep pain, a sense of hopelessness that one may only be able to appreciate through experience. Herein lies the problem. I have no understanding of what it would be like to have grown up in a stable family environment, where my physical and mental well being were a priority. A place where I felt safe enough to engage with and explore life's opportunities. I also grew up during a time of high unemployment, very high amongst the youth in London's working class communities. 


Conversely how would somebody who experienced a healthier 'functioning' life understand the complex issues that impact those who've been abused? Peter Hutton makes a similar point in his ted x talk about education  he questions how teachers can relate and help students that struggle with school when the majority of teachers are from the group that thrived under the very same system ? They have no 'lived' experience of the devastating impact of abuse, domestic violence, poverty etc etc. The same is true for politicians I'd wager. But when a child experiences trauma functioning, striving and achieving become secondary at best, or non existent. Life becomes about survival. Dealing with the anxiety and depression, self doubt or loathing, shame and isolation.


Of course practical aspects of life compound the sense of hopelessness. No job, no money and insufficient services are a recipe for increased risk. The statistics tell us that suicide in remote aboriginal communities is four times higher than it is in non aboriginal communities. Coincidence?


The black dog institute supports this rationale  they state that volatility in suicide rates can be attributed to environmental factors, such as unemployment and economic adversity.


I am now more fortunate, I have a job and can afford to see my therapist once a month. Though it took me years to acquire the tools I needed to function in the workplace. So what happens to those those that can't afford the help they desperately need? Perhaps they take their own lives, use drugs to mask the pain, live in a world of perpetual self abuse and lack of self care. One that is mirrored to them by society.


We need more than telephone help lines and rhetoric from those that have no lived experience of the pain that causes suicide.


We need more money for more services. But that won't happen until our culture becomes enlightened enough to understand that our individual perspective on living is personal not inherent, we need more empathy. Maybe then we can drop the judgment and punishment and find a way to empathize with people whose lives are different to our own.


Maybe reporting suicide could help us move towards this?

Aufentic

I'd like to write something beautiful. But finding the beauty inside myself is challenging. And one should never 'fake it.'


I'm also unavoidably working class and from London. I struggle to escape the bawdy, cynical, mildly prejudice but nonetheless socialist tendencies of my youth, culture and family. I embrace and fight it with equal intensity.


Subjected from inception to a fate of domesticity and thunder, I slid like land into sea. One spirit missing presumed buried. Where's the beauty in that?


My stricken weak face worn and adorned with basin like tears. Ask the child I was or became to express the truest part of self, then watch the stung thoughts creep their way to this rotten core. 'Who am I? A fucking idiot, a useless, worthless, vile cunt.' Where's the beauty in that?


Panic driven masked flowers. Self deprecated sugar induced self hatred. Eat, prey, contract, expand  waistlines, hairlines and spirit. Addicted to a solitary aspirational twisted value. One that kept the shadow from the door. Where's the beauty?


Sadness, loathing and despair accompany the unnatural disaster I never wanted to be. I ain't an 'against all odds' success. Nor a victim under duress.


I'm an aufentic fucking mess. Am I O.K with that?

Hibernation

My view obscured by wind forced streaked rain. Through this window a soft focused  grey vista moves slowly to the right, everything has moved to the right. The political dogma of money forces urban renewal. I witness it from the train that takes me to my 'worthy' job.

Renewal is just another word for gentrification. The cafes that sold affordable food of poor nutrition to the badly paid descendants of the industrial revolution, are now occupied by degustation stations and gold and platinum cardholders. Those on the lower economic rungs  haven't vanished they've been 'moved along,' further from the centre's of privilege, power and opportunity. Back to where they came from? And yet I'm not angry like I would ordinarily be.

My general disgust at the injustice of capitalism is sitting some distance away occupying a sedentary space. It's gone to the chill tent to watch the end of the world in peace. To the fore is a need to simply deal with my own disabilities. 

My strongest instinct right now is to sleep for a significant period of time. A longing to be wrapped in feathered bedding for weeks or months while I let go of the trends that have plagued me since my own inception. 

Perhaps one of the most important transitions from caterpillar to butterfly is the journey before the chrysalis. We are all too often focused on the period of change or the beautiful conclusion to appreciate all that has passed.

No one ever told me a caterpillar has to digest itself into a soup before it can fly. In some ways I feel that is what has been occurring for me. Metaphorically consuming and liquefying my grief and shame to make it more edible, palatable. Not for others but for myself.

I want to be in a cocoon and let go of every tear, fear, error, success, fault thought, post, article, conflict, punch, scream and skewed hope.

What might emerge? Not even I can knowingly say with any conviction. Perhaps a more positive, capable, functional spirit will flutter towards the next challenge? Or maybe a more selfish, dismissive and protective man? I simply don't know but I'm content to be changing because I'm not sure how much longer I could have lived with the extreme debilitating thoughts and feelings that fucked me only weeks ago.

Maybe I'm doing better at the moment, because eventually something had to give. The body and mind can only take so much anxiety and the only other option is termination of the organism that carries the pain.

But whilst that's a part of this it's not the primary reason for my shift. My spirit had ignored its right to grieve for itself. That ignorance ended about eight months ago. 

I've been running from my grief for ever because I knew it would initially destroy me. What I've learnt is that without destruction there can be no rebirth. Yet one can only attempt such a dismembering of the soul if the tools for the rebuild are to hand. Acquiring such tools is a long and arduous process.

Challenges are marginally more bearable now because I am more able to 'accept' the way I am in the world. There is an improved sense of safety. Enough for me to begin an exploration of the world outside. I am perhaps on the cusp of 'living.'

I wouldn't say I was 'happy' with my life. My instinct is to avoid social engagements. Comparisons between me and others rarely favour the self.

I struggle to understand others. I am consistently disengaged from the parts that make up the whole of society. There are a few exceptions. However I cannot comprehend the brutality of our 'race.' 

Perhaps 'connection' in a wider context is beyond me. I am finding ways to feel less desperate about being on the outside.

I will of course keep trying to find a way 'in' because that must be preferable to isolation?

E Minor Flat

Intro.

My therapist told me I should be writing about my 'story.' The one he heard last week. About the sounds of domestic abuse that echo all around.

This has been a particularly difficult task. I feel I'm stuck in a loop, unable to escape the narrative of abuse. Telling the same old stories.

I'm desperate to move on though I struggle to do so. Perhaps because I've not yet fully accepted what happened. Or I'm not yet 'living' to my fullest potential.

That process cannot be forced. Acceptance requires the resolution of grief and shame to name but two components.

Without further ado I present these words for our consideration.

Main text.

On this chill spring Thursday I'm asked how was I beaten? I am honour bound to recall and share. I'll begin.

I cannot recount which Queensbury rules were discarded or which were adhered to. Or the frequency with which the torment persisted. Not that it matters.

I do not recall the shape of hand, bound knuckled fist or flat and straight for a sliced connection. You see I only ever saw the beginning of any assault, the ones that were all my fault.

Once his arm had been wound back and his gaze settled upon a suitable spot I squinted. For all of this I wished for a place to run or a way to hide. Any hole to render my small frame invisible to all the strain.

I didn't want to know where or when it might happen. Despite not 'seeing' the sounds and feelings are stored within. The audible and sensory interruptions that occurred amongst the confusion, put downs, darkness and panic. All these aspects have shaped my absurd sense of what it is to 'be.'

His hand was the same size as the side of my skull. I still remember the force of the slap and the stumble to the side or back. Hanging on to balance by a thread, determined not to go down. Byron Road was the only venue for these bouts of insanity, the poetry of the place was lost on me.

The shrill of a tuning fork rang stabbed silence. I wished he'd punch me so hard I'd die. Perhaps then he'd be sorry, find some compassion for his disappointing but dead son.

My response to the first strike may surprise you but try to understand I wanted him, more than anything, to be proud of something I did. "It didn't hurt" I'd say. What could be better than a son that could take a beating without bleating like a little bitch? Maybe one that didn't exist?

The effect was undesired. An increased fire, stoked by the very defiance I thought might forge a father/son alliance. The ringing sound from the next impact was often a whole octave higher than the last.

That wasn't enough to stop my tongue. I said it again, perhaps this time he'd be more impressed. "it didn't hurt." He wasn't. The third and final blow would eclipse another tiny part of what was left of my soul.

When I cried he stopped and left my side temporarily to fetch something from the freezer. Though perhaps this was unnecessary he could have used his fucking heart. The coldest thing known to me.

Abated swelling would be accompanied with a timely lecture. One that absolved my father of any wrongdoing and left little me with all the associated responsibility. If only I hadn't have been such a useless bastard then he wouldn't have to shout, beat, bully or hate me, would he? Does that mean my mother was a useless bastard too?

As absurd as this might sound the physical scars heal without much trace. It's the complete absence of safety and underlying fear that decimate a child's sense of here. This has affected my ability to function in a healthy mental capacity, how wouldn't it?

Often I contemplate his perspective. I'm sure he thought nothing of this, to him it may have been a small clip around a sensitive child's ear. An everyday occurrence in a working class environment. The behavior that distinguishes a man from a queer.

For me it was everything. He showed and told me I was unworthy of dignity, respect and care. Forget the love it wasn't there.

Now here I am decades on still unraveling these baffling traumatic events. Digging in this rubble looking for my spirit. Still struggling to be the person that's in here somewhere.

I saw it briefly a few hours ago then he freaked out and scurried back into the shadows. All I can do is operate with empathy and wait until he feels safe enough to come out once more. When he does I try desperately to offer him the love, care, respect and dignity that was absent from childhood. There is no other way, for I am him and he is just as deserving of love as you are.

A Parallel Narrative

This feels like bullshit (that's the teenage part of me speaking.) But I think that's why I have to do it. To challenge every pre conceived idea I have about myself.

This is the alter ego of my trauma narrative. This is focused on the spirit that was crushed by my father but is slowly emerging as I travel this painful healing journey.

This is the perspective of those that see my spirit. My grandmother, my partner, my daughter and my friends. Sometimes I know what they mean when they tell me I'm a good, funny, caring, clever and deserving man. As occasionally I have access to my truest self.

It's true I can be very funny. A mix of working class London cynicism, political frustration and a awareness of how absurd the human race is has conspired to produce some successful humour. Of course I die regularly, but that's a part of taking risks and tackling subjects others won't touch, or just saying something that only I thought was hilarious. A friend refers to me as the elephant in the room.

Following on from that I care passionately about human rights. I don't seek retribution because it doesn't send the right message to society and it doesn't work. Rehabilitation, understanding, compassion and empathy are some of my greatest values. I do not understand how the hatred of 'difference' works or the revenge of an eye for an eye. I have often seen this as a negative personality trait, like I was just too idealistic and didn't understand how the world is, but it's not. This is the difference between real justice and injustice. I should be proud of the side I'm on and increasingly I'll become more able to advocate for myself and others. Again I am not perfect and I sometimes struggle to afford others dignity and respect. But I constantly work towards this.

I am capable. This is a tough one. Long have I believed that I would never amount to anything. But in truth I've done well. I've made mistakes some of which I still need to come to terms with but given where I started from I'm proud of how fucking hard I've worked on myself. I've never quit and I never will. I've felt like quitting on thousands of occasions but I know my spirit has much to offer me and others. As I sift through the debris of abuse I see the man others see. Reaching out for a hand to pull him clear. I'm not sure how much longer it will take to reach him but it feels closer than ever before.

People like me. The people I work with, live with and my friends. Not all people I meet but that's fine. I don't connect with everyone I meet. I fight to see things from others perspectives. I've managed to accept and feel compassion for people I once reviled. Not because they changed but because I work so hard to.

I deserve help. Sometimes I don't cope well with life's stress. That's understandable and it's fine for me to feel unstable. During these times I need assistance. There is no shame in this. I deserve to feel proud not ashamed. I've come through some very hard times. I don't deserve to have my feelings minimized, no one does. If someone isn't prepared or equipped to respect my struggles then I'll be with people that can. These are my kind of people. I'm lucky enough to be surrounded by quite a few of them.

I'm allowed to be angry when I'm treated with a lack of dignity and respect. I'm allowed to express my dissatisfaction at injustices against myself or others. This is my right. I do have rights. But I need to fight for more. I want to live in a more compassionate world.

Visualization

Visualization is a tool that's been very useful for me during my 'healing' journey.

In my last post I talked about how significant it could be to learn to try and parent oneself. Which is necessary (though virtually impossible) if one hasn't had access to a model of effective coping strategies.

For me the first significant stage to achieving this is being able to separate the adult self from the triggered child.

The Parent Inside

Last night myself and my partner went to couples Counselling.

On the way home I asked her if she knew who this quote was by, 'Never underestimate the pain of a person, because in all honesty, everyone is struggling. Some people are just better at hiding it than others.'She hadn't heard it, then she said this; "That's true to be human is to suffer and feel pain. But in childhood we develop strategies to deal with that suffering, some strategies are more successful than others."