Monday 9th December 2019

Women Of Courage Series. #25. Anonymous. 112/2019.

Women of Courage Series. #25. Anonymous. 112/2019.

Trigger warning: Domestic Violence, Family Violence, Mental Illness.

 

 

Woman of Courage #25  has chosen to be anonymous.

There will be no replies from this poster.

She will, however, be reading and I will be responding as I always do to readers’ comments.

Thank you for your understanding.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda.

I do know the person who has chosen to be anonymous.

I am in awe of her courage and was honoured when she decided to share this in this on-line space.

 

What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

In the recent past, I was a victim of family violence. (Not of the intimate partner variety, but of the extended family variety – I’ve learnt a lot since it happened, and one of the things that I’ve learnt is that if you’re related in any way, it’s still classified as family violence.)

It was a single terrifying incident, although with the benefit of hindsight I can see the years of conditioning and gaslighting that preceded it. There were two perpetrators, and my children and I were the targets. I had to be courageous in the moment, even as my mind refused to believe what was happening. And I have had to be courageous since, making decisions to protect us and taking actions that I knew might lose us other family members and friends who refused to hear about what happened.

 

How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

In the moment, I learnt that the fight, flight or freeze response isn’t an either/or scenario. My initial response was to freeze. My mind could not accept what my eyes, ears and skin were telling me. A scream from my children flicked the switch to fight (though not of a physical variety – I instead said what I thought the perpetrators wanted to hear) until I could create a path to my children and then onwards with them to flight.

In terms of diagnoses, this incident changed me by bringing the terms anxiety, adjustment disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) into my life. It also brought imposter syndrome back into my life. In the past, it had usually been related to career success; this time, it was feeling that my one little incident wasn’t ‘worthy’ of PTSD. How dare I compare myself and my itty-bitty incident to a returned soldier’s experiences of combat?

In terms of practicalities, well… I’m still working through it all. I went through the stages of grief, which is to be expected. But I spent so long in denial that I did not accept the truth and depth of the incident and its effect on me for months. It took me a long time to accept my experience as traumatic. It took me longer still to recognise and accept that there was no shame in the experience, and no shame in the label of traumatic.

The incident broke my trust. With the perpetrators, of course, but also with others. With everyone, at first. I’d been conditioned to doubt myself around the perpetrators, and that continued. My brain constantly told me everyone was on their side, everyone thought I was overreacting, everyone was going to set up another ambush, everyone was against me, and wasn’t that fair enough? Wasn’t I overreacting? Did I really remember everything correctly? I had to rebuild my trust in people who had never done anything to deserve losing it in the first place.

Other changes? Fundamental beliefs and truths I held – such as my belief in the inherent goodness in all people – were shattered. (I’m working toward believing it again one day. I’m just not there yet.) Meanwhile, my belief that everyone has a right to freedom and safety has been strengthened. It might be truer to say it was created: I had simply taken it for granted previously.

 

Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

The things I’ve learnt are not fun, so I apologise to anyone not ready to hear these things. But here are the main things I’ve learnt (or things I knew that are now cemented):

  • ‘Family’ is not an excuse for violent behaviour. (In fact, it should be a promise for good.)
  • You don’t owe violent people anything. Your time, your regrets, mediation, compromise, placation, forgiveness. Anything.
  • There is no such thing as neutrality in violence. If someone says they want to remain neutral, or don’t want to get involved or pick sides, it’s too late. Whether consciously or not, they’ve already picked a side. And it’s not the victim’s.
  • You can’t control what people think about you. If people want to believe the worst of you without even speaking to you, based on nothing more than the lies of the perpetrators, that’s on them, not you. It still hurts, but you’re better off without such people in your life.
  • Anyone who expects you to compromise your safety for them isn’t worth it.
  • There is no excuse for violence.

These don’t sound like tips for courage, but knowing these things – not just logically knowing these things, but truly believing these things deep in my bones – are what eventually gave me the courage to take legal action.

One other thing I’ve learnt: lean on your support network. (You might have to wait until you’ve relearnt to trust your support network.) Many see the development of courage as a solo endeavour, but in my case it was a team sport. With my wonderful husband as captain and coach.

 

Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?

I don’t think it’s a case of being more courageous. It’s a case of knowing what otherwise dormant courage I already have, knowing what I will and won’t stand for, and recognising it sooner. Violence toward or in front of me and my children grants you an instant dismissal from our lives, do not pass GO, do not collect $200. And when I say violence, I now mean violence in all of its forms, including manipulative, controlling and coercive behaviour.

I do think I’d have the courage to take legal action sooner if something like this happened again. Courage borne from knowing that seeing the perpetrators in court a few times is preferable to not knowing if they’ll pop up anytime, anywhere and constantly living with the fear of that happening.

 

Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

Courage isn’t a steely resolve. Courage isn’t determination or steadfastness. Courage is feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

I felt the fear. I felt the anxiety, the panic attacks, the self-doubt. And, eventually, with great support and understanding from the people I love and had relearnt to trust, I did it anyway.

And if I ever have to, I’ll do it again.

 

 

I so appreciate the thought and decision that went into this post from Anonymous.

Thank you for sharing this.

Please note: these numbers:

https://www.respect.gov.au/services/ Emergency: 000 or 1800 RESPECT

Lifeline: 13 11 14.

 

Denyse.

Joining each Wednesday with Sue and Leanne here for Mid Life Share the Love Linky.

On Thursdays I link here for Lovin Life with Leanne and friends and on Fridays, it’s Open Slather here with Alicia.

Copyright © 2019 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

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Comments

  1. Hello Anonymous – I, for one, am extremely grateful for your sharing. Thank you.

    I too have suffered from PTSD in the past, and I too did not feel worthy of the ‘title’, given that it is so attached to the identity of return soldiers and the like. It’s hard to fathom but the similarities in symptoms are undeniable… and just as brutal in their relentless fury. I can only imagine the fear you felt for yourself and your children.

    I truly admire you taking the step to trust Denyse and her community with your story (Denyse is a beautiful, caring human is she not?) This, in itself, must have been a big step for you to share your experience publicly. Bringing awareness through your sharing that family violence is not only contained to intimate partners can only be of great value to those who have suffered or continue to suffer in silence. Those who are wondering ‘Is this just me over-reacting?’. Most likely it’s not.

    I wish for you the feelings of peace and safety in the company and arms of those who love and care about you and your children. May it continue to bring you strength, love, worthiness and belonging.

    All my heartfelt love.

    Sandra Xx

    • How kind and caring are your words, Sandra. I can attest to my gratitude that Anonymous did agree to share this story as a Woman of Courage.

      I believe, as I have found out to my ‘surprise’, that we can deal with much in our lives and still come through OK. Changed and in some ways less naive but definitely stronger over time.

      Thank you for your kind and empathetic comment. I feel sure Anonymous will be buoyed by your words and understanding.

      Denyse x

  2. That was an incredibly brave story and showed what we are capable of when it comes to defending our children and keeping them (and ourselves safe). I’m so glad that there wasn’t a worse outcome, but the fallout will linger for many years to come.
    Family can be our biggest support but also opens us to incredible hurt if they betray our trust. Wishing you all the best in the days, months, and years ahead as you continue to heal and build strong boundaries to protect yourself and your children.
    Denyse thanks again for sharing this series with us at MLSTL

    • That is so true about the bravery AND what we will and can do to protect those who are more vulnerable – our children.

      I am sure my poster will be buoyed by your words of empathy and kindness Leanne.

      Thank you so much.

      Denyse x

  3. What an important post. I’m so sorry you went through this, but I’m glad you’ve reached the point you have. You sound like you’ve worked through the negative aspects and reached a position of power. And we all need to be the power holder in our life. I also think the issue you raise about knowing you’ll have to see them in court is preferable to NOT knowing when they’ll pop up and the fear and stress that creates. I would not have thought of that. I hope it continues to improve for you. As a doctor once said to me “So you’re related by blood? So what? That doesn’t mean anything.” You are right. Family requires to them to treat you with respect just like everyone else, or be shown the door.

    • How thoughtful and supportive of Anonymous this is, Lydia.

      I am pleased that someone sharing her story which is quite a challenge in terms of its content and intent has been viewed with compassion.

      I know that Anonymous will find your words very kind too.

      Thank you.

      Denyse x

  4. I read this yesterday and needed to think on it before commenting & you know what? I’m still lost for words. This story is so incredibly brave & I thank you for sharing it. Your learnings are absolutely spot on, yet also reminders. There is no neutrality in violence. Ever. Nor is there any excuse. Ever. Thank you.

    • Well-said and well-done on both sharing how you came to the story, then went away to come back. It shows that whilst we may not actually know someone, we can take much from their story and send back our support and kind words.

      Thank you.

      Denyse x

  5. Hi Anonymous – I completely understand why you chose to remain anonymous and I thank you for sharing your story and what you have learnt from what happened to you. I’m so sorry this happened to you. What a dreadful thing for you and your children to experience. I hope the days ahead are healing and happier. xo #TeamLovinLife

  6. Hi Denyse, thank you for sharing this courageous story from Anonymous. What a frightening experience and it shows that I certainly live in a bubble sometimes. Things happen in our community which we have no knowledge of or don’t want to know about. A very powerful story and I’m pleased you shared with us at #MLSTL. x

  7. Anonymous, thank you for sharing your story and starting this discussion.

    You are resilient, strong and also beautiful for allowing yourself to learn to trust again.

    SSG xxx

  8. I’m very impressed with the strength and honesty that your guest today has displayed Denyse. Thanks for sharing her story and I’m so glad she has managed to learn to trust again after such an awful ordeal.I am in awe of anyone able to come back from these sorts of events. #mlstl

    • Thank you Debbie. I am aware that this story has some awful realities of life there and I am also assured that the author is finding it helpful to see the kind and supportive words of others after reading the comments.

      Denyse x

  9. Wow, what a horrid experience. I’m glad you were able to get the help you needed to cope with what happened but you’ve obviously also got the strength within you to walk away and put your foot down. I think your point about our reaction / response (PTSD / anxiety / stress / depression) can be different for everyone. We all react to things differently and should never judge anyone else for how they do or don’t cope with crap life throws at them. I know it’s usually the small stuff that makes me crumble and I often feel weak and pathetic for that.

    And you’re absolutely right. Violence is never okay.

    • Thanks so much Deb for your words and observations. This is why I am finding the sharing of these stories of women of courage such a privilege.

      Denyse x

  10. Anonymous thank you so much for sharing your story. It’s such an important story to tell and I do understand why you preferred to stay anonymous. I hope the telling of your story helped in your acceptance of what has happened to you.

Denyse values & reads every comment written, thank you. There is always a reply.

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