We Are Not Behind, But Exactly Where We Are Supposed To Be

“The people in your age group who did not experience life-altering trauma absolutely had an advantage over you, our brain was focused on survival and they were free to grow and develop. You may feel behind but it’s because you were doing your best to survive.”

~ Zoey Anne @shaktirevival

I didn’t have a childhood where I was free to grow and develop. My childhood was defined by trauma; my focus throughout my developing years, survival. I left home during my teenage years — lived in a hostel, worked after-school and weekend jobs to support myself to the end of my school years. Though accepted into a journalism course at university, I deferred for 12 months and worked two jobs to earn enough to be able to move to the city for study, often working until 11pm at night without a break.

As it turns out, I never made it to university. Life took a different trajectory and I made choices that — while I do not regret them — were choices I now recognise as coming from a foundation of unhealed trauma, that I may not have made otherwise.

Though a high achiever who has worked hard to overcome much adversity, I have still spent most of my life feeling behind. Feeling inadequate. Feeling unaccomplished. Comparing myself to others and falling short. I don’t feel as intelligent. I don’t feel as creative. I don’t have the qualifications. I don’t have the experience. I don’t have the university degree.

What I have, still, is the disadvantage. The repercussions of trauma that still continue to show up in my daily life. The PTSD. The hyper-vigilance. The insomnia. The anxiety. The health issues. The cognitive issues. The battles I fight every day to continue to overcome that which most people will never know, or understand.

And I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t get to me. It does.

Every day that I sit here and write my book I am faced with the knowledge of what I am up against in this industry: people who have not, and do not, exist with this disadvantage. People who were free to grow and develop; who have degrees and qualifications and prefixes such as “professor”. And I wonder — who am I to think I can do this?

But then I remind myself that I am here, writing this book, because despite everything, I have proven I deserve to be.

Trauma changes us. Trauma takes from us. But if we allow it, it will also makes us stronger. Resilient. Determined. Persistent. Strong-willed. Courageous.

It matters not that our progress may be slower than those who have not known what it is to simply survive. It only matters that we keep going.

We are not behind, but exactly where we are supposed to be x

This Is How We Heal

When my GP asked why I wanted a mental health care plan to see a therapist again, I answered:

Because I have Complex-PTSD which I manage until I can no longer manage it, which is where I’m at.

That’s really the simple, and not so simple thing about mental health. We manage it until we no longer can.

Until we have consistently put other’s needs before our own too long.

Until we have burnt ourselves out by emotionally caretaking for others too much.

Until we have stretched ourselves too thin, to the point we feel we are likely to break.

Until we have pushed down our unresolved issues so long they start to make us sick and sad and anxious and depressed.

Until we have stopped sleeping enough and getting enough fresh air and exercise and taking our vitamins and washing our hair and eating food that’s good for us and reading books in the sunshine and playing with our kids and doing anything that makes us feel alive and connected to ourselves.

This is when our nervous systems become dysregulated; when we struggle to cope with things we once could cope with, when we become stuck, when we lose creativity, when we feel anxious and angry and scared and lonely, when we exist in survival mode and life loses the joy it once had.

And it’s okay to admit we aren’t managing as well as we’d like to be. It’s okay to go to therapy, to have someone listen and validate and help us become un-stuck and find the joy again. It’s okay to prioritise our mental health and not be ashamed that we are finding things hard.

This is self-care, when we’ve forgotten how.

This is self-love, when we’ve forgotten what that looks like.

This is how we break the silence and stigma around mental health, when we learn there is no shame in saying out loud we can no longer manage on our own.

This is how we change ourselves. This is how we change our families. This is how we change future generations. This is how we change generational cycles that no longer serve us. This is how we change society.

This is how we heal.

F o r t y T w o (eat the cake)

F o r t y T w o

Honestly, there’s so much I could say about being a woman who can no longer deny being “in her forties”.

It’s an ambivalent season of life where I find myself constantly fluctuating between being okay with ageing, and struggling with what it means to become an older woman in our society where youth and beauty are glorified.

Where I want to be cool with wrinkles, but some days I’m not. Where I don’t want to be concerned with the sudden inundation of grey hair yet every day I still contemplate whether I should dye it, or not. Where I refuse to succumb to diet culture and starve and punish my body into compliance like I did in younger years, yet find myself afraid of the repercussions of age on my body if I don’t. Where I am thankful for wisdom gained from lived experience yet grieve for younger years I will never get back.

I don’t have a lot to offer when it comes to getting older; it is something I continue to grapple with and find my way through one day at a time.

What I do know is every year I become more myself; the truest version of who I am supposed to be. I heal more. I grow more. I give less fucks about things that don’t matter and invest in only the things that matter most to me — the people who matter most to me. I shed more of the weight of expectations and obligations I no longer choose to carry. I learn to trust more and love more and open my heart to the belief I am worthy of being loved in return.

And above all else, I choose to damn well eat the cake, which is really the most important thing of all.

Thanks for another year of love and support x

“I Didn’t Need To Be Stronger. I Needed To Be Safe”

I’ve seen these words come up a few times on my social media lately. Every time I read them I have a visceral reaction where I have to stop and catch my breath.

For most of my life I have repeated the mantra we get taught to say as trauma survivors: That my trauma made me stronger. That it made me more resilient. That I am who I am today because of what I experienced. That I am THANKFUL for my experiences because of what I learned from them.

It’s taken me this long to understand this is just another way of adapting — another way to people-please, another way to seek acceptance, to stay small, to stay quiet, to stay under the radar, to stay safe.

Be a survivor, but make it palatable; god forbid we make anyone uncomfortable.

There is so much damage done to survivors when we tell them their trauma will make them stronger and more resilient; that one day they’ll be thankful for who they became because of their suffering.

There is so much damage when we dismiss and invalidate the necessary grieving process.

“But it made you stronger” bypasses the entirety of the process a survivor must go through to fully and completely heal. For years I pushed my trauma down and told myself I was stronger for it; better for it. I didn’t allow myself to grieve — to feel the anger and rage and sadness and injustice. I was too busy trying to be the good girl. The good Christian. The good wife. The good mother.

The good survivor.

Instead, I turned my grief inward and eventually destroyed myself. Such is the price we pay for suppressing that which we need to feel in order to heal.

Being good will bring acceptance, but it will never bring healing.

Being a survivor will make us stronger, but not if we bypass the process.

We must allow ourselves to walk through the grief. Through the darkness of it. Through the ugliness of it. Through the parts of it that aren’t pretty or comfortable to those around us.

I was a child who needed to be safe, and wasn’t given that. The result of this is not *strength*. The result of this is trauma. And only when we choose to first acknowledge and heal the trauma do we then move toward the strength x

This Was My First Week Back As A Freelancer. I Achieved Nothing.

This week was my first proper week back as a self-employed, working from home writer/freelancer.

I achieved almost nothing.

Past me would have struggled so much with this; with feeling inadequate and ashamed of my lack of achievement. With feeling like a complete failure. I used to base my entire worth on what I did or didn’t accomplish each day. Would never stop until everything was done, no matter how exhausted I was. I was a slave to perfectionism and if things weren’t done perfectly, they weren’t good enough.

*I* wasn’t good enough.

So much of that thinking was steeped in shame. I truly believed I wasn’t a worthy person because of what I had been through and the trauma I had suffered.I believed it made me someone who was “less than”, and it was only a matter of time before everyone else discovered this too – and that maybe, if I could just keep up the facade of being perfect and productive long enough, no one would ever find out the truth about me.

There were people in my life at that time who made me feel this way about myself, but mostly it was a belief system I had internalised – one that cultivated in self-destruction before I was finally able to get beyond my internalised shame enough to get help to work through these false beliefs and discover my worthiness. A worthiness that I do not have to fight for, or work for, or prove.

I am worthy simply because I exist.

This week there has been moments of frustration and struggle and a resurfacing of some of these old feelings. Working for yourself can be challenging in many ways, and I will always find it hard on the weeks my reality doesn’t live up to my expectation.

But working for myself also allows me the opportunity to recognise my limitations. To accept I’m feeling tired, restless, unanchored, not quite ready to settle into a work schedule after such a hectic summer and life in general remaining in a state of unrest. To take whatever time I need. To listen to my mind and body and honour my needs.

To know that no matter what gets done, or how much is left undone, I am always enough x

I See You, Fellow Warrior

“You deserve to celebrate not only who you’ve become, but who you could’ve become and fought not to.”

Read this sentence again.

You deserve to celebrate not only who you’ve become, but WHO YOU COULD’VE BECOME AND FOUGHT NOT TO.

We don’t think about this often enough.

We don’t think how much it has taken for those of us who came from dysfunctional or neglectful or abusive upbringings to not become a product of the environment we grew up in.

We don’t think about how much easier it would have been to follow the examples we were set; how much less exhausting it would have been to not have to do the work of change. To not have to fight so goddamn hard with everything in us to be the ones to break cycles, to end generational curses, to leave a better legacy than was left for us.

To be the history changers. The history makers.

Not many people know what it has taken. They have not seen the dark days. The hard days. The days you have wept. The days you have crawled. The days it has all been too much. The days you have wanted to give up; to give in to the easy, to the familiar, to the path of least resistance.

The days you have fought the days you have fought the days you have fought.

Warrior, take a moment to celebrate everything you have fought so hard not to become. Everything you CHOSE not to become — because it didn’t just happen; you had to MAKE the choice to fight for the person you are; for the life you wanted and for the legacy you will now leave.

And you did.

You made the choice to do the work. And maybe nobody will ever know what it has taken; what it has cost you. But you know. And you deserve to acknowledge that, honour that, and celebrate that.

I see you, fellow warrior. And I’m so damn proud of you x

And Still, We Write. And So, We Write.

Today is my last day with Writers SA. Feeling all the feels. I never thought when I started this job five months ago — a job I have dearly loved and will greatly miss — I would be leaving so soon, but such seems to be the fallout of pandemic life.

In my farewell email to the Writers SA community I quoted this poem by Amanda Gorman from her poetry collection, Call Us What We Carry:

“What we have lived
Remains indecipherable.
& yet we remain.
& still, we write.
& so, we write.
Watch us move above the fog
Like a promontory at dusk.
Shall this leave us bitter?
Or better?”

I’ve been thinking about these words this week. Often when we are too close to something — when we are in the midst of its chaos and turmoil and madness — it becomes hard to decipher its context and we struggle to find perspective until we are able to distance ourselves from the closeness of it all.

I wonder if we will look back at this time and realise there are things we could have — should have — done differently. If we will look back with a sharper awareness of the collateral damage from lockdowns and restrictions and mandates; none of which have perhaps made any difference, anyway.

This pandemic remains indecipherable — incomprehensible, even — but it won’t always. I leave my position with Writers SA with sadness, but not bitterness. We are all just doing the best we can with what we believe to be right and true in this moment.

I don’t know where to from here, but I do know that still I remain, and still I write, and so I write.

Here’s to the unknown and its endless possibilities x

Farewell 2021 — It’s Been A Year

It’s been a year.
There’s not really another way I can think to articulate how I feel about 2021. I’m glad to be leaving it behind, yet 2022 doesn’t really have that fresh hopeful shiny new year feel about it either. I feel as though this year has taken more than it has given; I’m not entirely sure next year will be any different.

I made the decision at the start of 2021 to work as a full-time writer again and once summer holidays finished, settled back into the role but was soon to find that like all things, Covid had changed the landscape of the writing and performing industry. There was less work around, more writers who had lost jobs now working as freelancers, and getting published anywhere had become increasingly difficult.

Performances I’d had lined up, both local and interstate, continued to get cancelled as everything moved online and people stayed home due to ongoing lockdowns. Despite gaining small amounts of traction here and there, I found myself frustrated and burnt out and feeling as though I was getting nowhere.

So, when a position as Limestone Coast Coordinator for Writers SA became available, I jumped at it. Leaped with arms wide open, more like it. Amazingly, I got the position and began my role there in August. While it has been quite the learning curve, I have loved the position — it honestly felt as though someone had scripted the perfect role for me — so it is with much sadness I share that my role with Writers SA will be finishing on January 13th.

The decision to end my position there has been one which has caused huge amounts of angst and grief and heartache but unfortunately with the requirement that all staff must be double vaccinated — and as someone whose health issues don’t allow for this with the current vaccines available in Australia being only mRNA vaccines — it was the decision that needed to be made.

And while I don’t want to delve too much into the political clusterfuck of a mess that our country is currently living in, I do not believe in mandatory vaccinations. I do not believe anyone should be put in a position of not being able to feed their family or pay their bills or keep their homes for wanting to choose what is best for their own health. I do not believe people should be backed into a corner where they have to choose between being forced into something they do not consent to, or lose their entire livelihoods. So as difficult as the decision was, I know it was the right one for me.

So, once again a new year stretches out before me filled with uncertainty — unemployed, a little unanchored, and wondering where this year will take me. I find myself unable to plan or commit to anything right now in the midst of this tumultuous pandemic-ridden sea we are still getting swept back and forth in. I find myself with pandemic fatigue and wanting to sleep for weeks and hope it will all just be over when I wake up. I find myself wanting to do nothing but read books and lose myself in other people and places. I find myself wanting to be in the sun; soaking warmth and light into every cell of my body to somehow feel more alive.

I find myself not without hope, but without stamina — surrendering to no longer being in control but setting sail and waiting to see where this next year will land me.

Sending much love, and one of my favourite poems (because there is always room in the world for more poems).

Happy New Year ❤️

On New Seasons, and Farewelling Five Years of Freelancing

Photo by Oliver Pacas on Unsplash

This morning I opened my computer to six half-started (or half-finished depending if you’re a glass empty or full person) articles. Some have been there days; others more like weeks heading into months.

I’ve been telling myself I just need a day to work on them. That if I could just grab some hours without interruption I’d be able to get them finished. But today, I had that. So I opened the articles. And then I closed them again.

Because here’s the honest to God truth I’ve known for a while now:

I don’t want to write articles anymore.

The first article I ever published was with Huffington Post in 2016. From there I was lucky enough to be taken under the wing of an editor who later moved to Network Ten and took me with him. In the last five years, as well as writing for Huffington Post and Network Ten, I’ve written for Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, news.com.au, Mamamia, Kidspot, Essential Kids, SA Life Magazine and numerous platforms overseas, including being one of the top writers for both Elephant Journal and Medium.

It’s work I’m proud of — work I built from the ground up, work I accomplished in the midst of raising four children, work I have poured myself into, and work that has formed much of my reputation as a writer. But it’s also work I needed to do to generate an income. Work that I know now, without any doubt, no longer brings me the joy it once did.

And it’s difficult to admit that. It’s difficult to step away from something that has formed my identity as a writer in so many ways. It’s difficult to look at the number of readers and followers I have, and to think of the amazing community I’ve built, and wonder if stepping away from that is the right call, or not.

But I’ve always believed life to be seasonal — that things come into our life and serve us for a season before we move onto the next thing. Being able to freelance for the last five years has been a wonderful blessing for me, but has also left me with little time and energy to work on the more creative/artistic projects I’ve been wanting to explore that have patiently remained in my peripheral for the right time to be pursued.

My new role with Writers SA has provided me with two (among many other) invaluable things. Firstly, a regular income. Secondly, it has reminded me how passionate I am about being a creative artist and keeping the creative arts alive and flourishing in our society — now, more than ever.

What I want is to write poetry that speaks of the human condition and its response to our society. I want to write spoken word poems again; to explore the richness and beauty and heartache of what it means to be alive and have the opportunity to perform them across the country (when the world allows for that to happen again) and meet and share words with other wonderful creative humans. I want to tell stories, to lose myself in the glorious world of fiction. To write the book(s) that have been on my heart forever that have begged to find their home on the page.

None of these things will pay the bills, which is precisely why they have been pushed aside for so long. But now I have a job I absolutely love which also provides me with an income, so nothing I write anymore HAS to make money. It only has to bring me joy and fulfillment, and that’s something I haven’t felt in my writing for a long time.

And it’s not that I’ll never write an article again in my life. But saying out loud that freelancing will no longer be my main focus as a writer gives me a feeling of much peace; a deep knowing in my spirit that this is right for me at this time. Because, we know. We know when we’re not living authentically. When we’re not aligned with the calling of our soul. We know when our current season has come to a close and trying to hold onto something that no longer serves us will only ever be detrimental to not just who we are now, but also who we are yet to become, if we but have the courage to walk the untrodden path before us.

Thank you to everyone who has read my articles over the last five years and responded and encouraged me, I can’t tell you how thankful I am. I’m not going anywhere and will still be here but just in a somewhat different capacity — still sharing words but less articles and more wherever the creative breeze blows me on any given day. No doubt I’ll still throw in a good rant here and there because, you know, it’s me.

But for now, I’m going to take all the pressure and expectation of the last five years off myself. I’m going to remember that I do not need to be seen to be producing to call myself a writer. I’m going to remember that I do not need to be paid for my work to call myself a writer. I’m going to remember I do not need to show up on social media to justify myself as a writer.

The only person I need to show up for is myself.

It’s a little scary. But mostly, I am so excited to be stepping into this new unknown.

Much love,

K x

PS — If you haven’t already done so and would like to keep in touch, sign up to my newsletter here as this blog will soon begin to self-destruct. Kidding. But this page WILL be expiring soon so I’d really love you to sign up and stay connected.

Subscribe To My Newsletter (Or Don’t — Either Way)

Hey all!

Just a quick post to let you know I’ve got some big changes coming up soon that — while are wonderful and I’m so excited — are going to leave me stretched a little thinner, so I’m spending this wintery week (and the remainder of time in lockdown) working on how to better organise my time and streamline my life and work/writing — starting with setting up a newsletter of my latest articles and updates delivered straight to your email!

Hopefully this will help keep things all in the one place, but also allows for those who aren’t on social media (or who are choosing to spend less time on social media at the moment, such as myself) to still be able to easily connect with my work. I’m not sure yet whether it will replace this blog on my website, but there’s a really good chance that’s the likely outcome as I feel I’m just simply trying to maintain too many social media/website pages and not doing any of it well lately.

I’m unlikely to be one of those people who send you a regular email every Tuesday afternoon at 4pm because I’m kind of like that pen pal who always intends to write but somehow keeps getting sidetracked but I’ll be doing my best to drop into your inbox as semi-regularly as possible, so I’d really love you to sign up. If you’d like. No pressure. I’m cool with you choosing not to. In fact, it’s a really good time to bail if you decide you’d prefer to end our relationship now. Totally up to you.

However, if you’re keen to stay in touch just subscribe to my newsletter at the link below and thanks for being a continued part of my community, I truly value each and every one of you who have joined me on this journey x

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