Control And The Fear Of Freedom: Why We Find It So Hard To Let Go And Trust

“We trade freedom for control because control allows us to manage our fear, and we have become so accustomed to control as a means of governing our lives that we are afraid of the outcome if we were to relinquish this fundamental tool of survival.

We fear what will happen if we were to let go of control—that we will swing wildly out of control—but this is rarely the case.

The truth is the less we seek to control the parts of ourselves we do not trust, the more we are led to radical acceptance of ourselves, and eventually in this space, we will find freedom from the things we fear.”

Read all of my latest article over at Elephant Journal x

They’d Be Better Off Without Me: Inside The Mind Of Depression

Image via favim.com

This morning, Autumn sun filters through the window as magpies gather on the grass and call to one another with their song. I gaze outside and watch as geese stroll in their clumsy line while only the hum of dishwasher and crackle of fire compete with the silence of the house. There is life and movement and sound, and I am present and grounded in this moment.

It’s difficult on days like this, when I feel so stable, so balanced, to imagine I can be anything other than this. It’s easy to believe I can, and will, always stay in this place of lucid rationality. But I have battled on the frontline of depression for long enough now to accept its relentless stealth, the way it rests in my blind spot and edges in without a sound when I am unprepared and least aware. The way it leaves me powerless to fight against the heaviness of its grasp.

I don’t know how to get away from it, from the darkness that falls upon me. I scratch and claw at it, but it lands and it lands and it lands and I am smothered by it until there is no more light but suddenly the darkness is no more my enemy, it is no longer feared, I welcome it and embrace it and tell it to make its home here for I too am darkness and cannot — do not want to ­­— fight this anymore. 

I stumbled upon these words in a journal the other day; words I wrote in the midst of my worst depression a number of years ago now. I read them back and in all honesty, I’m scared by them. By how trapped I felt under the weight of darkness. By how hard it was for me to fight against it.

It’s difficult to articulate what goes on in these moments of despair. People, in their ignorance, often talk of suicide being selfish. Yet I’m quite sure the heart of those who take their own lives all beat to the same conviction: they’d be better off without me. These are not self-indulgent words spoken in the hope of attention and appeasement, but words that rise from the darkest corners of the soul and fill bodies and rush through veins and sit upon bones until we become so laden with the crushing weight of these words we cannot fight against them any longer.

The days that led up to those words I wrote were filled with darkness, heaviness, bleakness, numbness, hopelessness. I felt like failure. I felt like inadequacy. I felt I could do nothing right, that nothing I did was good enough. I felt I was letting everyone down, that I couldn’t keep up, that I was a disappointment to those around me.

Mostly, I felt consumed by my own self-loathing. Because in my times of darkness, I cannot love the way others need me to love them. This is part of my brokenness, part of my PTSD, part of the unhealed wounds I still carry from childhood trauma. I simply do not have the capability to love others when my heart becomes so numb. I have nothing. I see the way those who love me are hurt by this. They think this is a choice I make; to not love. They have no idea of the pain and grief it causes me. They blame me, and I blame me, and I am left even more isolated and alone in the ways they will never –  could never – understand my heart.

And in these times of darkness, it only seems logical that others would be better off without me. That those who love me would never have to suffer a love that is often only returned with ambivalence at best. That I would never have to look into the eyes of those around me and see my own failure and disappointment reflected back at me. That I would no longer hurt those who least deserve it, because I am incapable of being anything other than a broken, f*cked up mess.

Of course, none of this is rational. But it never is.

And the thing is, if you’d seen me during that time of deep depression, you would never have known. Maybe I’d have seemed a little distant, a little distracted. Not quite myself. I’d likely have still smiled as we said hello, only to look away a little too fast before you noticed anything was amiss.

Depression is something we don’t talk about. It’s something we pretend isn’t a thing, at least not one we suffer with. We say words like fine and good and okay as a shield to deflect any possible further questions that might expose our shame. Because secretly, we lug around the stigma that something is wrong with us, and our worst fear is that someone will see our depression, and confirm our fears are right.

We carry the burden on our own because we fear the weight of it, and are loathe to break the back of another by asking their help to carry it too. We fear being misunderstood, being seen as self-indulgent or self-pitying. We fear the risk of vulnerability in the face of potential dismiss or disregard. We fear we are just too much. Too much emotion, too much pain, too much sadness, too much darkness. Too much trouble.

They’d be better off without me.

Depression doesn’t play favourites. It doesn’t discriminate. It is you. It is me. It is insidious and we cannot take it upon ourselves to assume who we think should or shouldn’t suffer this relentless darkness. It cannot be hoped away, prayed away, sent away with token words and a pat on the back.

What it needs is to be understood.

To know depression is not failure. To know it is not weakness. To know there is no fault and no blame. To know how strong we really are to continue the fight when every breath is a battle won. To know we are doing the best we can, and that will always be enough.

To know, most importantly, we are never alone.

You are never alone.

I Want To Talk About Men

I want to talk about men.

There continues to be an onslaught of social media posts hating on men, and I get it. Right now, we have very little reason to hold men in high regard. Just when we think it can’t get worse, each day we are presented with more evidence of how abhorrent men in our country have acted; proceed to act. I could go into details, but we all know them. I could recite statistics of women who have been victims of abuse, violence and rape but we know these too. I could tell you how many women die each week at the hands of their partner but knowing these numbers won’t change anything.

I understand the anger. I am angry too. I have every reason to be angry. I have every reason to hate men. I was the victim of sexual abuse and rape for most of my childhood; have since suffered physical, emotional and verbal abuse all from men who said I could trust them. Who said they loved me. Who are respected by all who know them. Their lives go on; I will carry the trauma for the rest of mine.

But I saw another post today that said there is no such thing as a good guy and my reaction was this: enough.

Because I also know good men; men who are doing the work, men who advocate for women’s safety and rights and equality, men who would never hurt a woman, men who are asking how they can do better and actively taking steps to do so.

I know what it is to be loved by a good man; to know without a shred of doubt I am held safe, protected, valued, cherished, adored, seen as an equal, and above all – respected.

I know what it is to have raised good men; to stand in awe of my two sons who have grown into young men I am so immensely proud of. Young men who will walk a girl home safely and not take advantage of her. Who will protect her. Who will respect her. Who will treat her with kindness. Who will honour her needs and boundaries and no’s. Who understand how women have been dehumanised and objectified through porn and our hyper-sexualised society and who choose to rise above this culture and value women.

I understand the fallacy of the good guy. Every guy who has hurt me has been one. But there ARE good men who do not belong in this category; who deserve to be recognised, who deserve the same level of respect, value and honour we demand from them. There ARE good men working damn hard to change the culture toward women and fighting for our fundamental rights and saying, “Hey mate, that’s not cool,” when sexist jokes are being flung around the bar on a Friday night.

Yes, we have a right to be angry at men who deserve our anger. Dare I say, however, this is #notallmen. We aren’t fighting against a gender, we are fighting against a culture and THAT is where our anger needs to be directed. We must recognise the difference between feminism and misandry; that the core of feminism has always been the belief that people should have an equitable place in society regardless of their gender. It is equality we seek, not the rise of one gender at the destruction of another, and we must remain mindful of this.

To the good men out there doing the work: you are seen, you are valued, you are appreciated and you are needed. Thank you.

K x

This Is Why Our Stories Matter

I recently received a handwritten letter from a woman in the States who is in her seventh year of a 28 year prison sentence.

I do not know what she’s in there for. I do not know what she has done, or what has been done to her. What I do know is she was given a copy of my book and wrote to tell me how much it meant to her.

To read words that helped her understand her own pain. To feel seen and understood. To know she is not alone in what she has suffered. To know the life and beauty breathed into us when we read poetry. The way it changes us. The way it softens us. The way it heals us.

She also wrote to ask my help in creating a proposal for a book club/recovery program for the other women in her facility whose lives have been impacted by abuse; many of them still in abusive relationships, because of the impact my book has had on her life and recovery.

I have no idea how a book I wrote four years ago ended up in a prison across the other side of the world. And it’s funny, because I rarely talk about, or promote, or market my book anymore. I’m so much further along in my journey than when I wrote it that I struggle to reconcile who I am now with the words in that book; both on a personal and professional level.

But the thing is, it was still a part of my healing journey, written to help other women on their healing journey. When the book was first published and I talked about the why of writing it, I talked about how I had lived most of my life silent and ashamed of the abuse I had suffered. I said I wrote the book for those who still lived in the silence; to give them a voice. I’m so incredibly grateful and humbled that four years on, women are still finding their voice through mine.

Our stories are powerful and important. Our stories will reach people beyond what we could ever know, or imagine. Our stories are the very thing that will heal this broken world, if we have but the courage to speak x

I Haven’t Been Sleeping Again Lately

I haven’t been sleeping again lately.

This is the hardest part of living with Complex-PTSD. That the body remembers. That for most of my childhood, throughout so many years of trauma and abuse, my nervous system existed in fight-or-flight. That even now, whenever I feel stressed or overwhelmed or not in control, my nervous system is conditioned to respond with that same fight-or-flight and cannot switch off, so remains in a state of hypervigilance for days; weeks on end. Sleep deprived in a way that no amount of yoga or meditation or exercise or nature or rest or the 3,694 different sleeping supplements I have tried seems to be able to overcome.

No matter how much healing I have done this is still the one thing I cannot seem to defeat. It’s cruel and unfair; that those of us who suffered in childhood have already had so much taken from us yet decades later continue to suffer in ways most people will never see, or understand.

This kind of exhaustion is debilitating and affects so much of my life. It makes me unable to feel I can manage anything in my life. It makes me want to hide from the world. It makes me want to cancel plans. It makes me unable to work, or be creative in any way. It makes me irrational and anxious. It makes me feel incapable of finding the beauty and joy in each day.

It makes me want to give up.

Instead, today I got dressed. I put makeup on. I worked for the amount of time I felt capable of. I video called a friend. I walked on the beach. I kept an appointment. I went to yoga. I did the things because I’ve learned NOT doing the things leaves me feeling in complete despair. It wasn’t all easy, and there were moments of tears. But I did the things.

It isn’t about pushing through to the detriment of my physical and mental health. It’s about showing up for myself. It’s about making the decision to not be defeated. It’s about doing the best I can with what I have to give, no matter how minimal. It’s about acceptance; letting go of the anger and grief and sadness over the life that has been taken from me and instead choosing to honour the life given to me each day.

It’s still beautiful, even when it’s hard.

It’s still mine x

The Work Of One Season Is Always Preparing us For The Next

Last year, due to Covid, I lost most of my freelance work. I found myself home all the time fighting to get published and struggling to make an income. With this I also felt like a failure, felt inadequate, and grasped for my self-worth, believing the woman I am was inherently tied to the work I was – or wasn’t – achieving. I found myself lost in a dark night of the soul with no purpose or direction or motivation to even want to face each day.

Because of this I decided to take a break from writing and work as a barista. There have been many things about this work that I’ve loved. I truly love making coffee and being part of creating a small piece of joy in people’s day. I have loved chatting with people and hearing their stories. I’ve loved having a sense of achievement at the end of each day and knowing I have an income that isn’t dependent on finding work in what has been a volatile industry.

However, living in a crazy popular tourist town sees summer become the busiest and hardest time of year. More days, longer days, exhausting days. This summer I found myself working more often than not. On the days I wasn’t working I was so tired all I wanted to do was flake on the couch and never move. My stress levels went up, my health came crashing down; both physically and mentally. I stopped exercising. I stopped eating well (or some days, barely ate at all). I stopped journalling and writing and meditating and being out in nature and doing all the things I need to do to care for myself.

Most of all, I stopped having the time and energy to spend with my children over their summer holidays. My younger ones especially felt this and struggled with my absence at a time in their lives they need me present the most.

It was a difficult decision but after much consideration I resigned from my job. I have been unsure of whether I made the right call or not; unsure whether working full-time from home was going to be the right thing for my mental health, or not.

But this morning I set my 6am alarm, made coffee, and went for the first morning walk I have taken in months. As I breathed the cool morning air I felt myself unfolding; opening up to this new day and all the possibilities and opportunities laid out once again before me; both peace and hope expanding inside me.

Walking back into my office this morning was a feeling of coming home. And I realised this hasn’t been about starting, and stopping, and finishing, and failing. It’s just the ebb and flow of seasons in our lives. If we can learn to move in and out of them effortlessly; to surrender to our winter that we may find renewed strength for our spring, this is where we will find our peace.

I needed the time away from writing. It has been the ultimate reset. But I find myself today filled with anticipation; relieved and excited to have already found work and once again be able to write and create and feel myself living again, not just existing.

The work of one season is always preparing us for the next.

This is my today. I can’t tell you what my tomorrow will look like. But I know in this moment, I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

Australia Day – A Day Of Mourning

I woke up heavy of spirit today.

In my news feeds, horrific stories of invasion; rape, stolen children, stolen land, families torn apart, destruction of culture, genocide. Unspeakable atrocities carried out upon the Indigenous ancestors of our country. A country where most of us take for granted the freedom and privilege of which we live, with little regard for blood spilled upon the soil we stand upon and call our own.

I cannot claim to understand the pain, suffering and grief of the generations that have come before. But I understand invasion. I understand what it is to have everything taken from you without consent. I understand how it feels to suffer at the hands of privilege and power. To have no-one there to protect you; or worse, have those who should have protected you instead choose not to. I know what it is to be left without a home, or family. To be rooted in a history of shame and be handed down only the weight of generational trauma to carry in weary hands. I understand what it is to grieve for that which you can never get back; what a lifetime of grief can do to a person.

Which is to say, today I grieve with our Aboriginal brothers and sisters and want to help carry the weight of the grief held in these hands. I acknowledge the suffering of our First Nations people. I seek to understand and recognise the ways white privilege caused, and continues to cause, division and destruction. I seek to learn more and do better that healing and reconciliation may be seen in our country.

In saying this, I cannot deny I am a proud Australian, nor do I want to be afraid of speaking this truth. I am not proud of the actions of my white ancestors. I am not proud of the way we, as a nation, have treated our Indigenous. I am not proud of the way we have always handled things. But I am proud of the way we are learning how to listen and validate the suffering of our First Nations people. That we continue to try and educate ourselves on how this suffering still affects our Indigenous people today. That we acknowledge today is not a day of celebration but one of mourning. That we seek change and compromise to find a date that will no longer divide but bring inclusion to ALL Australians.

Because to me, this is what it means to be a proud Australian. That no matter our heritage, our history, our colour or race, we will never stop fighting to do better x

(Link to full poem here – https://youtu.be/QwGhU-dRJVQ)

To Those Who Are Here To Break Cycles Of Generational Trauma

Dear heart, I see you.

I see the path your weary hands forge into new territory. I see the struggle inside this wilderness of change—the resistance you feel as you work harder than anyone will ever know, or see, to be the catalyst for change. To be the one who liberates others from the heavy chain of dysfunction, abuse, and trauma dragged down from generation to generation. The one who places her flag upon newfound land declaring, this ends with me.

There is nothing easy about breaking generational cycles. The responsibility of change carried in often-weary arms. The battle to not only heal your own wounds, but to not inflict those same wounds upon others. The overcoming of all that has come before you, the defeating of all that still tries to find its way back in.

The recognising and severing of toxic patterns. The need to take responsibility for past actions. To seek forgiveness. To learn boundaries. To reparent yourself. To fight against years of unhealthy relationships, addictions, coping mechanisms, and means of survival.

It is heavy work. Backbreaking work. Thankless work. Exhausting work. It is scraped knees and blistered hands. Faces marred with sweat and tears. It is lost sleep and unheard prayers and always wondering if it is enough. If we are enough. To do this. To be the catalyst so desperately needed.

Read more over at Elephant Journal and please remember to “heart” my article and leave a comment, would love to know your thoughts x

As a Trauma Survivor, Here are 8 Things I’m Done Apologising For.

Maybe it’s because of 2020.

Or maybe it’s because I turned 40 this year and my I-No-Longer-Give-A-F*ck-What-You-Think-Of-Me attitude has amped up a notch or two.

Either way, an undercurrent of change is churning inside me, pulling me to a place where I no longer feel the need to explain, justify, or apologise for the woman I am. For the ways I have been broken by trauma. Changed by it. Shaped by it.

I’m done trying to be who I think I should be. Trying to please. Trying to conform. Trying to be normal, like those around me. Those who have not walked in my shoes. Those who have not lived the life I have lived—suffered the way I have suffered.

I’m done saying sorry for all the ways I fall short, for all the ways I disappoint others and let them down. I’m done believing I am broken—that there is something inherently wrong with the woman I am. I’m done believing I am something to be fixed. I’m done feeling that who I am isn’t enough.

Read the rest of my article, As A Trauma Survivor, Here Are 8 Things I’m Done Apologising For, over at Elephant Journal x

To Be Honest, I Didn’t Much Feel Like Celebrating Christmas

This year has taken so much. I’m tired in a way I’ve never been tired. More than exhaustion. More than burnout. Existential, perhaps. I don’t know. I just know it has been a year of very few highs, many excruciating lows. Even more losses. Fear, uncertainty, grief. A year we will all remember, but for reasons we wish we could forget.

It’s been difficult to find joy, and today was no exception. But as I soak up the late afternoon sunshine, the sea breeze rustles the leaves and the birds call their melodies to one another and the sound of my children’s laughter rises from somewhere below me and for a fleeting moment I grasp hold of something inside me.

Maybe not quite joy, yet.

But hope.

A knowing that there is strength to rise above circumstance.

A knowing that joy may falter but still exists within us.

A knowing that in the stillness we can find our way back to peace.

A knowing that all will be well.

A knowing that love wins. Always.

For those struggling this year know you are not alone. You are seen and loved.

May hope find its way into your heart today.

Merry Christmas x