TW: This post features themes of abuse, trauma and suicide. It may make difficult reading, however it is, ultimately, hopeful.
Support is vital in all our lives. Appropriate support is paramount to survivors of abuse and trauma, and people living with mental illness.
I’m both, and know many others in the same boat. It is notoriously difficult to obtain – for reasons including, but not limited to, funding cuts; policy; limited awareness; and the constraints of symptoms and circumstances.
Last year I gained appropriate professional support for the first time, the resulting impact was life-changing.
Finally, I could do more than survive, more than fight, more than exist, more than toil, more than tolerate, more even than live. I could begin to thrive. I could, for the very first time be entirely myself … more than four decades into my life. I am rarely lost for words but there are none to describe how that felt. There was intense, profound, unadulterated JOY, but so much more.
In early April my trusted GP, the first to have seen and heard ME, relocated to a new city. A week later my housing support officer was withdrawn overnight, with only 24 hours notice.
At the beginning of that month I’d come to understand that now that I finally knew a sense of safety and some peace of mind, my mind was beginning to unlock trauma, pain, grief, anger, all yet to be processed. Also, thriving at last, I came to realise the extent of what had been stolen from and kept from me, for so very many years, and the impact of opportunities, such as motherhood, forever lost.
I must grieve. These are necessary steps on the road to healing. It was a process I welcomed and was at ease with, as far as one can be with these things. It began happening at a gentle pace, but a deluge was be triggered. On top of the loss of support and the ‘unlocking process’, unexpected and significant stressful incidences occurred – not least the sudden re-emergence of a figure from my childhood, who then turned out to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The combined impact was devastating.
My housing support had been approaching its natural end, with my housing crisis over, and related financial issues close to resolution. However, I was not in a position where it was safe for me to be left without any support. A phased ending to housing support and a supported transition to new support were required, to safeguard my well being and my safety. Instead, the ending of my housing support was extremely poorly handled and these measures, although agreed, were not implemented. A number of other vital assurances were broken and my trust betrayed.
Betrayal sounds dramatic. To have the trust of a survivor of abuse is a privilege, to willingly compromise it is to betray it and the person who gave it. For me, it triggered latent symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and resulted in an incidence of self harm. Such harm was never common for me, and had not occurred in many years. The betrayal of trust has also had a negative impact on my friendships.
I have now been without any professional support for more than nine weeks. I am presently unable to access any because I am terrified to trust again. I know I must, somehow. I’m working on it. I’m working very hard.
A survivor of abuse is vulnerable in the extreme. Like abusers, there are many who will exploit that vulnerability to some extent, sometimes maliciously, often not, but instead as a result of carelessness. It’s likely, as in my case, that an abuser(s) will not be the last to betray a survivor’s trust. After damaging experiences of professional ‘support’, it took huge nerve and a gargantuan leap of faith to try again last year, ten years on from my last encounters with support professionals.
I was experiencing my worst depressive episode for a decade and increasingly suicidal. I don’t lack courage and I’m commonly quite gung ho. Regardless, I had to reach rock bottom before I dared allow a support worker into my life. I was blown away by the quality of the service, and it was good. It’s perhaps worth noting that I have a tendency to focus too much on the positive and be too grateful, so may not fully appreciate negatives.
As the impact of appropriate support was profound, so was that of the betrayal.
Eulogy is inspired by these recent events and my experience of them. It’s told from the perspective of a support professional. It describes how it was for me – only the death (by suicide) and the worker’s thoughts are imagined. It could have been my reality in its entirety.
I live to fight on …
I welcome comments and discussion. I’d love to hear from health professionals and professionals working in the field of support and encountering clients who are survivors of abuse and/or experiencing mental illness. This post is NOT intended to berate or malign those professionals in any way. I write it seeking only to be seen and heard.
To the funeral he came
Inside it a bell tolled
He felt guilt, yet he bore none
She knew and was grateful
Her suffering appalled him
Now she was at peace they said
She found peace with me, he thought
She was happy then and safe …
Long buried pains sought freedom
Let them come and be processed
And so the key was turned
Fear not, now the time is right
She could not cry, could not feel
She longed to move through it
Freedom she knew lay that way
The hose not blocked, free-flowing
It came, drip by drip at first
Meaning was not always clear
Not all dots could be joined
Slowly her vision cleared
Sudden withdrawal, word broken
She braced and held tight
She alone would be enough
Her tenuous grip weakened
Without safety net, she hung
Tears flowed, fears grew, hope died
Reinstate support, she said
Amid increasing swell she clung on
Trusted support is vital
I’m at risk, no longer safe
You must understand they said
We can no longer support you
He didn’t reassure her
Had he cared? Did he still?
She longed to know safety
They misunderstood her now
They judged, her trust collapsed
She couldn’t make herself heard
When it came she was ready
The torrent swept her away
No lifeboat or rescue came
Few knew it to be a loss
He came to show respect once more
He remembered her light
For once he couldn’t cry
He endured, just as she had
He hoped she had known he
Might even have been her friend
He wished she could have lived
Believed, enjoyed and thrived
She knew that, he told himself
Could not dwell, he must go on
He left, head bowed once more
Inside she smiled, he cried
Copyright ‘heartsetonliving’ May 2016