‘Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.’
– Dr. Seuss
A review of: The Woman In The Window – By A. J. Finn.
The Woman In The Window
A. J. Finn
GET IT HERE:
‘The Woman In The Window’, by A. J. Finn tells the story of Anna Fox, a reclusive ex-psychologist who is afraid to leave her up-town, New York home. Diagnosed with Agoraphobia, Anna spends her days drinking wine and spying on her neighbours.
Anna’s only glimpse of the outside world is through her windows, where she keeps track of her neighbours movements. When the Russells family move in across the street, Anna becomes excited – but as she spirals into her depression and medicated delusions, she begins to question the strange things she sees from her upstairs-window.
With no-one to turn to, let alone believe her, Anna begins to investigate further.
‘The Woman In The Window’ is fast-paced and dripping with mystery from the get-go. The novel gives the reader a glimpse into the sufferings of someone so afraid of the outside world, they cannot leave their own home.
Anna is grasping at reality most of the time, struggling with loneliness, medicated sleep and a drinking habit she relies on to pass the time. The reader must decide if Anna is reliable and her account of the happenings in her street truly happened. Was she hallucinating? Dreaming? Drunk? Panic-stricken?
There are moments where the story takes dramatic turns, and the reader falls easily into the whirlwind of Anna’s confusion, fear and frustration, making the novel a true page-turner.
It is definitely worth the read, if you’re into fast-paced and page-turning, with a small dose of cliche to go along with it.
A review of: The President Is Missing – By Bill Clinton & James Patterson.
The President is Missing
James Patterson & Bill Clinton
Crime Fiction, Mystery
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What happens if a cyber-terror attack was to occur in the United States – on a scale that could take every electronic device in the country, and completely shut it down? There would be no phones, no internet. no television and no computers.
But what about the stock market? What happens if every person’s wealth dropped to zero? What happens if all the government’s data was wiped? How would we know who has healthcare? Who would be able to tell criminals from civilians – the rich from the poor – or even our own identities, all stored electronically? Who could access the nations nuclear weapons?
Without cyber-security the entire nation, and even the world, is at risk of rapid deterioration.
The President is Missing follows the story of the United States’ President Duncan, as he navigates the political minefield of his workplace and an immediate, imminent threat to his country. Enemies from around the world are planning a cyber-attack of epic proportions, threatening to completely disrupt civilian lives.
With time and lives on the line, the President is forced to question who in his inner circle is trustworthy, and who is not. And then, he goes missing, with an entire nation waiting with bated breath and an administration left in confusion.
I decided to go out on a limb with this novel. This isn’t generally the type of book that I read, but I decided that it could be interesting, as it was co-authored by a former President.
Although it is very obvious that James Patterson probably wrote 90% (or more) of this book, there were some interesting details and small snippets of information provided about what life might be like in the White House, which definitely came from Clinton himself.
The President is Missing was a better book than I expected, although quite predictable in some parts. It got me thinking about how scary things would get if we did fall victim to a large scale cyber-attack. The fact that there are people working day in and day out, both on our side and on the enemy’s side, is both scary and comforting all at the same time.
I liked this book, and if you’re into a generic kind of thriller, mixed with a little ‘something extra’, this might be the book for you.
A review of: The Nowhere Child – By Christian White.
The Nowhere Child
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Kim Leamy lives a quiet life – teaching photography in Melbourne, Australia, and keeping to herself. That is, until an accountant from America approaches Kim one day before class, convinced she is not who she thinks she is at all. The accountant believes Kim is actually Sammy Went, a child who went missing from Kentucky 26 years earlier.
Kim brushes the accountant off, unable to see how her (now deceased) mother – a caring, loving social worker – could ever have had a role in an international kidnapping. But Kim can’t seem to shake the encounter from her mind, and decides to meet with the American again, if only to prove him wrong.
As Kim delves deeper into the mystery that is Sammy Went, based on information from the accountant, she decides to travel to America to unravel what could, after all, be hers (or Sammy’s) mysterious past.
This story was a unique twist on a ‘cliche’ story line, telling the tale of little Sammy Went and her family of secrets. For a debut novel, this was quite a good read! The author, Christian White, manages to find a way to keep you guessing about Sammy’s past, filled with kidnapping, secrets and religious conspiracies.
I really enjoyed reading this novel. Funny story – I bought it at the airport when I had a few hours to spare, and read about three quarters of it during that time. But I LOST IT! But I enjoyed what I had read so much, that as soon as I had a chance, I went out and bought the book for a second time, just so I could finish it.
I would definitely recommend this book!
A review of: The Girl From Munich – By Tania Blanchard.
The Girl from Munich
Romance, Historical Fiction
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It’s 1943, and the war is turning against Germany.
Charlotte (or Lotte), has grown up in Hitler’s Germany, living a life of privilege in her upper-class family. Loyal to her country, she has plans for her future – just like everyone else. She dreams of a fairy-tale wedding to her childhood sweetheart, and working as a photographer. But as the war begins to ramp up, the life Lotte once knew begins to crumble around her, and she is forced to question everything she thinks she knows about love, freedom, her leader and her country.
Lotte is just a girl, with dreams of a career in photography that are cut short by her parent’s disapproval. She instead settles into her position as secretary for the the Luftwaffe (Aerial Warfare Branch).
As Germany falls to the Allied Forces, Lotte is forced to flee, not knowing whether she will ever see or hear from her family again. Her old life gone, Lotte is forced to create a new one, but has tough decisions to make in the process.
The story of Charlotte (or Lotte), by Tania Blanchard, is an incredible insight into what life was like amidst the chaos of World War II – from a German Civilian’s perspective.
When we are first introduced to our main character, Lotte, it seems she is a somewhat naive girl, sheltered by the world by her privileged upbringing. She dreams of travel and a lavish wedding to her childhood sweetheart, and making a living with her photography.
But as the war rages on, Lotte is forced to find work elsewhere, ending up at the Luftwaffe, while her fiance is sent to the front-line. As her story unfolds, Lotte is forced to grow up, accept reality and learn a new way of living in order to survive.
Blanchard shows us the ways in which war changed people and took away the normalcy of life and replaced it with unimaginable scenarios. She describes in detail the sacrifices people were forced to make, from a civilian perspective, proving that no-one was left untouched by the war.
Blanchard shows us, through the character Lotte, that there was so much lost and so much to rebuild, even in the years after the war. It is a sad reality, but one that encapsulates so much history, in such a meaningful way – shining light on the small triumphs and moments of happiness, and proving that even in the darkest of places, there is hope for a better life.
What (the Doctors don’t tell you) to expect when you decide to take Anti-Depressants.
The decisions to start taking any kind of anti-depressant medication can be very daunting, especially when you may not know much about the drug your GP is prescribing or recommending. Most of the time, in my experience, you don’t even really make the decision at all – your GP does.
And although Doctors/ GP’s are intelligent and educated people, they don’t always gets it right – much the same as us. Sometimes they forget that there is a human being attached to their diagnosis and treatment plan. It’s for this reason that I recommend always double checking a few things, and even perhaps getting a second or third opinion, before blindly beginning a long-term medication.
When I decided to visit my GP on the suspicion that my depression and anxiety was getting worse, this is (step-by-step) what happened:
All of these questions, and diagnoses, were completed by my GP within 20 minutes. And a lot of people have the same sorts of stories. So for starters, let me just note a few things here:
Every GP you see will be different, but just remember that if you have any questions, or doubt what your GP might be saying or prescribing, remember you have every right to ask questions. It is your body, your mind and your life.
You do not have to go into any details with your GP about why you’re feeling the way that you are – they are not a Psychiatrist. You have the right to ask to be referred to a preferred psychologist, or be referred to a psychiatrist.
You are within your rights to not take any medication without seeking a second opinion – this type of medication can sometimes be very hard to come off of, so it’s important you know what you’re getting yourself into. And you should always ask what the side-effects may be.
Within an hour of leaving the GP’s office, I had been to a chemist, had my prescription filled, and had taken my first pill, and that was that. Or so I thought.
When I hopped in my car to head home after visiting the chemist and doing a bit of shopping, I realised something was really wrong. I drove halfway up the street before I had to pull over. My head was spinning, my vision was blurry and I felt lethargic, like every muscle in my body was working in slow motion.
I rang my GP straight away and explained my symptoms. I was told this was completely normal, and that I would be okay in a day or so. I managed to get home safely, thank goodness.
But that information may have been better received before I tried to drive home.
I can not stress the importance of researching your medication enough.
The first night, I went to sleep very early. I woke myself up about 10 times that night grinding my teeth. By the morning, I was exhausted, my head hurt and I felt terrible. So I decided to look up the product information for my new medication, to see what else I might be in for.
It was hard to tell which possible side-effects I might experience, because there were quite literally hundreds of them.
And the GP never told me about a single one of them.
Beginning a new medication without being warned of the things I might experience, like common side-effects, was really upsetting and confusing.
Not only was I dealing with the issues I had before I began taking the medication, I now had a plethora of other sub-issues to contend with.
At one point, I was even prescribed a higher dosage of the same medication, when I explicitly explained the side-effects I was suffering from to a completely different GP.
It’s been over seven years since I was first prescribed my Anti-Depressants. I am still taking them, and I do still suffer from a lot of side-effects. I’ve learned to manage most of them, but more importantly, I’ve learned how important it is to question your GP’s opinion if something (no matter how small or how silly you think it seems) doesn’t feel quite right.
Anti-Depressants can be very dangerous medications, so it’s important you ask questions. For me, this medication rules my entire life. When I first started taking my medication, I wasn’t told much, so I thought I’d compile a list of a few things my GP didn’t tell me about:
My GP didn’t tell me much about the side-effects of my Anti-Depressant. The way they described it, I would take the medication, and I would feel better.
But I didn’t feel better, necessarily. I came to realise that the medication simply numbed my emotions. On the one hand, I wouldn’t feel very depressed. But on the other, I wouldn’t feel very happy, either.
It’s taken a long time to adjust to feeling very… well, bleak. Not too sad, but not too happy. Just existing, some days. Yes, not having overwhelming sadness is good. But not being able to feel joy and excitement can sometimes be hard.
A very common side-effect of Anti-Depressants is having a constantly dry mouth. And one definitely not worth overlooking. Dry mouth can lead to infections, soreness and a bunch of other oral-related nasties, including bad-breath.
While there are other factors involved in gaining weight – lifestyle, work, levels of activity – since beginning my Anti-Depressants, I’ve gained around 15kg. That might not seem like a lot to some, but weight gain can cause serious self-esteem issues and can make you feel even worse about yourself.
I would say that I was about average when it came to being sexually active, but as time has gone on, I’ve noticed my disinterest in sex. Which is another thing my GP failed to clue me in on. Sometimes I really have to force myself to have sex, and it’s not a nice feeling.
On the occasions where I do feel like sex, I also have to battle with the fact that it doesn’t feel as good as what it probably does without medication. It can really drop yours (and your partner’s) confidence, and it can be difficult to connect without that intimacy.
The right person will understand, of course, but it can be an incredibly difficult thing to bring up.
This is the biggest challenge I have with my medication these days.
If I go even six hours without taking my medication on time, the withdrawals start. And they’re not pretty. I wind up feeling like a full-blown drug-addict coming down, and I’m not over-exaggerating.
I get headaches, lose concentration, feel dizzy and nauseous and sweat so much people notice the marks under my arms and on my back.
If I go twelve hours without it, my anxiety kicks back in with a vengeance, my heart races and everything around me is suddenly overwhelming – too loud, too big, too close. The fine balancing act my brain plays on a daily basis is derailed and I become a nervous wreck. Every noise is terrifying.
Twenty-four hours without my medication is agony. The only reason this usually happens is if I forget to get a prescription filled and the chemist is closed for a public holiday, or I forget to pack it if I go somewhere.
It’s horrendous. I get brain-zaps, which are basically described as a feeling as if your head, brain or both have experienced a sudden jolt, shake, vibration, tremor, zap or electric-shock. You can find out more about them here.
Along with the brain-zaps, I start to get so wound up I can’t sleep, can’t talk properly and every muscle in my body is tensed. I don’t eat and I become paranoid. I can’t even begin to explain to you how much pain you experience, having to go through this.
And my GP never told me about any of it.
Even though my GP knew I was studying at university, they still failed to mention that a possible side-effect of my medication would be that my memory could be affected.
I became forgetful, unfocused, lethargic and wasn’t able to remember basic things, like what I did the night before. I couldn’t describe certain things – my mind would go blank. It was an awful feeling, realising my memory was becoming hazy. Even now, I struggle with words, remembering small things and even people’s names.
Again, you would think that the GP may have mentioned to me that I might get sudden urges to swerve my car into a tree, purposely do dangerous or risky things (like drugs) or think about how utterly pointless existing is on a daily basis. Nope!
Suicidal thoughts are a common side-effect of Anti-Depressant medication, and it’s hard work, reminding your brain every day that you don’t, in fact, want to kill yourself. Especially when you’re getting urges to do just that. Not to mention, it’s pretty disturbing and can feel incredibly invasive.
There have been loads of times where my medication has made me question my own sanity.
Every person will experience the effects of their medications slightly differently. You may find that you experience things I haven’t noted here, or perhaps there are things you don’t experience, that I have noted. There’s no right or wrong answer.
Deciding to take Anti-Depressants is a personal journey, and that’s why it’s so important to listen to your body, and ask questions.
Remember to keep an open mind, ask questions, don’t overlook your concerns, and remember that Anti-Depressants aren’t going to fix you. You need to use them in conjunction with therapy, healthy lifestyle habits and in a responsible way.
If you, or someone you know, wants to find out more information, there are plenty of places that you can reach out:
Headspace: 1800 650 890
Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800
MensLine Australia: 1300 789 978
QLife: 1800 184 527
If you enjoyed this article, feel free to check out more at: www.theartofoverthinking,com
A review of: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – By Gail Honeyman.
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine
Romance/ Psychological Fiction
GET IT HERE:
Eleanor Oliphant is about to turn 30, lives in Glasgow, drinks vodka every weekend, has worked in the same office for nine years and is perfectly capable of living her life, thank you very much.
Eleanor has lived her life her way. Socially awkward, she leads a solitary life, without a thought for her appearance, her bluntness or her work colleagues jibes toward her.
That is, until a series of events unfold around Eleanor that challenge her very way of life.
After discovering the love of her life, Eleanor begins questioning everything about herself – what she wears, how she acts and what she says. She makes an unlikely friend in (the deeply unhygienic) IT guy from her office – Raymond, helps out a complete stranger and navigates her way through manicures, bikini waxes and hair cuts in an attempt to find her place in the world.
However, as we get to know Eleanor, we begin to unravel the ‘method behind the madness’ and soon come to realise that Eleanor may not, in fact, be completely fine. Little by little, the author shares details of Eleanor’s past, which shed light on why she is the way that she is.
My initial reaction when I began reading this book was that there was an ocean of difference between myself and Eleanor. She was a complete social outcast with clear, unresolved issues from her past that she either wasn’t willing to acknowledge, or didn’t realise she even had.
Yet as I read on, I soon began to realise that the author (Gail Honeyman) was slowly showing me that Eleanor wasn’t so unlike the rest of us at all. The task of connecting the reader with a completely at-odds character was done amazingly well by the author.
Eleanor may be odd, eccentric and everything in between, but she is also quick-witted, knows what she wants and strong-willed about getting it. She says it how it is, and there were many moments throughout the book where I laughed out loud. One example of the type of narration you will expect from Eleanor is:
‘I think that it is perfectly normal to talk to oneself occasionally. It’s not as though I’m expecting a reply. I’m fully aware that Polly is a houseplant.’
By the end of the novel, I realised I had come to see Eleanor in a different light, crying for her losses and cheering for her small wins. The novel is well written and evokes a roller-coaster of emotions.
This truly is an excellent book, with a clear message of hope and resilience.
My story and the lessons I learned along the way.
Before I go any further, let me just say – it isn’t anyone’s place to judge another’s relationship, and that is not the intent of this article. This is simply a personal experience, and the things I found to be true for me.
The topic of a abuse within a relationship is often hard for a lot of people, which is one of the reasons I haven’t written about it until now. A lot of the time, the person that puts you through this type of thing has such a profound emotional hold over you, it’s hard to talk about your experiences, no matter how much time has passed.
For that reason, in this particular article, I’ll refer to that person as ‘He’.
For me, ‘He’ was the one. We had known each other for a couple of years, He was a social butterfly, He made me laugh and every time we hung out, it turned into some kind of fun adventure. People talk about the ‘Honeymoon Period’ of relationships – a brief period of time where everything seems perfect, you agree on everything and arguments are non-existent. This was the Honeymoon Period to beat any other – and I should have realised then that it was too good to be true.
I had suffered from Anxiety and Depression for a number of years before meeting him, and he helped me see the fun in life. He was smart and logical, but He had a spontaneous streak that was so much fun.
I truly believed we would get married, have children and live happily ever after. We had stupid nicknames for each other, we played pranks on each other, we stayed up late giggling and we took photos of each other snoring. We spent our weekends happily exploring the city and beaches and never fought about anything. Everything was fun and easy.
At that time in my life, I was a University Student, and he was a tradie/ labourer. It didn’t take long for us to move in together. He worked long hours and was the main breadwinner, and He was proud of that. I would spend my days studying, going to Uni, cleaning the house and making sure there was food on the table for Him when He finally trudged through the door.
Soon enough though, I could see He was starting to resent the fact that I didn’t have a job, although I was trying to work my way through Law School and look after things at home. I spent every penny of my Student Allowance on rent and things for the house, but it wasn’t enough. Before I knew it, I had picked up a couple of casual jobs working retail to try and even things out. I wanted to help. I loved Him. He could do no wrong in my eyes.
It wasn’t long after this that He came home and said He had been let go. At the time, I didn’t see it as too much of an issue – He was a robust and confident person, and I was sure He would pick up something new quite quickly.
I was wrong.
Ever since He was an apprentice, He had never not had a job, and His confidence plummeted. Something ‘snapped’ so to speak and He was never the same. Him being fired sent Him into a rapid depression, followed by paranoia and anxiety.
I tried everything in my power to help Him, but I was struggling too. I began taking my anti-depressants again, was stressed and taking on extra shifts at work to get us through to the next week. I eventually realised that I would have to drop out of University if I was going to help us get by. So I did. I deferred University to focus on looking after us. I loved him. I wanted to help.
I had heard about people developing paranoia, but His paranoia was something I had never experienced before, and I had no idea what I was meant to say or do to help Him. I tried everything. I listened to his rants without judgment, I offered my support, I told Him I believed Him when He said He was worried about people following him. I helped Him write job applications, introduced Him to new people, suggested He get professional help.
Nothing would calm him down.
He truly believed someone was ‘out to get Him’. Every conversation we had would go down the same path; ‘there’s someone following me’, ‘someone’s been in the house’, ‘they know too much’, ‘don’t talk about personal stuff over the phone’… it was overwhelming.
I came home one day and He was scanning the walls with a device that checks for ‘bugs’. He wouldn’t apply for jobs because he was convinced ‘they’ would sabotage him. He would constantly sat he was being followed in his car, or at the shops.
He started to become suspicious of me. I didn’t understand it, because I couldn’t see it. There was never anyone following us, nothing out of the ordinary happening in our lives besides His behaviour. I couldn’t find a way to help Him. All I knew was that I loved Him dearly and believed that He would snap out of it as quickly as it all started, if He just got another job and got back on track.
But it didn’t work that way.
Things went downhill. Rapidly. Nothing I would say would convince Him that there was no-one out to ‘get’ Him. I was so caught up with trying to help the person I loved, I failed to see I was becoming tangled in an abusive and toxic situation.
It was subtle at first, but by the end of our tumultuous relationship, the house was a war zone. Even now, years after, I experience the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Small things like someone grabbing my wrist, coming too close to my face, raising their hands or even the slightest raise in someone’s voice sets me off.
I’ve wanted to write this for a long time. And I wanted to list the types of warning signs I missed, but wished I hadn’t. It’s hard to recognise these things when you’re blinded by your situation. Because you don’t want to believe that the person you love is also the person destroying you.
Even if this helps one person recognise their situation for what it is, that would be enough for me. Keeping in mind that every relationship is unique along with the people in it, these are the 5 signs I look back on and wished I’d noticed:
I realised too late that I had distanced myself from many of my friends, probably at a time when I needed them the most. Once He became paranoid, He needed to keep me ‘safe’. He was scared someone was out to ‘get’ me too. He didn’t want me on Social Media, He was suspicious of visitors, new friends and even old friends.
I ended up cutting ties with a lot of people, all based on who ‘He’ thought was ‘safe’. Every person He met was a threat. He believed people who visited the house planted devices or stole things, and eventually it became easier to placate him by simply cutting people off.
Whether it was intentional or not, He made me believe I was going crazy. He used my history of mental illness against me, telling me I was the crazy one. He would tell me that I was a psychopath, that I was the one with no heart and that I had no idea how much I put Him through.
When we fought, He’d tell me to ‘take another pill, crazy’, ‘go cut your wrists in the bath’ or ‘do the world a favour and kill yourself’. We had a small unit, so I would try and lock myself in the bathroom to get away from the taunts. When I did, He would yell that I was crazy and why would I lock the door on Him? Clearly I was the suicidal one, and would kill myself in the bathroom. He’d break down the door to get to me, ripping the handle completely off, or making a hole in it – just so He could tell me to stop being an attention seeker.
If I tried to leave the house to get away from Him, He would stop me. He would stand in the door frame and tell me I was being dramatic. He’d tell me I had started the fight and that He hadn’t done anything wrong. He’d tell me I wasn’t leaving because I might hurt myself. He’d steal my keys, break my phone and threaten me. All the ‘help’ me.
He truly convinced me that I was the crazy one. That hiding in the bathroom to get away from Him meant I was the one with the issues. .
When I’d eventually open the door (or He’d break it down), He’d say things like: ‘I’m trying to help you’ or ‘I don’t want to have to break down the door again or call the police on you because I think you’re going to kill yourself in there’. He and I both knew that it was never my intention to hurt myself, but I began to believe that maybe I might. Maybe I was crazy. Maybe I was suffering from my mental illness in such a way, I couldn’t see how crazy I really was.
This is the stereotypical sign of being in an abusive relationship, but it wasn’t until the physical abuse became very violent that I realised it had started long ago.
It started with things like grabbing my wrists or arm to stop me leaving a room, or holding me on the ground or on the bed so I couldn’t use my phone. But it got worse.
Any time we had an argument and I tried to leave, phone a friend or go into another room to get away from all the verbal abuse and tension, things would go flying (me included). He would put things like my laptop outside in the middle of the road. He would take my dinner outside and tell me to eat out there ‘like the dog I was’. He would laugh when I cried and begged to be allowed to leave.
Arguments in the car were common, because He know I couldn’t escape. He wouldn’t get out when I asked Him to, and He wouldn’t let me pull over and get out either. I had no choice but to keep driving, while He screamed in my ear, spat in my face and kicked the interior of the car.
One day He was so out of His mind with rage, He ripped the radio clean out of my car, wires dangling, and threw it out the window of my car into traffic while I was driving.
I was constantly having to come up with stories to tell my family and friends about why my things were constantly damaged and broken. The radio had ‘malfunctioned’. My phones were always being ‘dropped’ or ‘run over’ or simply ‘stopped working and needed to be replaced’. Sets of glasses never lasted long, the holes in the doors were from ‘tripping’ and the bruises were brushed off as me being clumsy.
Make no mistake, all of these things are abusive and violent. But when you love someone, sometimes you don’t see them for what they truly are, and brush them off.
There’s a saying: ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me’. But they do. Especially when you’re told everyday how awful you are. When you’re told you’re fat. Told you’re a psycho. Told you need to go to a psychiatric home. Told that no one will ever love you besides Him. Told that you deserved all the bad things that ever happened to you. That you deserve to be alone. Especially when you’re told all this by someone you love.
Eventually these things get to you. And once you start believing them, you gain a sense of hopelessness that doesn’t fade, even after you leave. You truly believe you are defected, damaged and no-good. It has taken years to be able to look in the mirror without hating my own reflection, and even now, I suffer the consequences of the verbal torment I was put through.
This mightn’t seem as important as the other signs. But this is the thing that affected me more than anything else.
Every fight we had, no matter how violent, ended with Him saying things like: ‘I’m sorry, I love you’, ‘Please don’t leave me, you’re all I’ve got’ or hours of tears and promises to do better.
It was emotional torture. The man I once wanted a future with and who I loved so dearly, was hurting me in ways I never knew I could hurt. Of course I wanted to believe Him. Of course I wanted to brush off His behaviour as nothing more than a momentary lapse in judgment.
I remember the fights, and the anxiety crushing my chest. The tears, the fists and the threats. Then one day, His beloved Nan died. I knew this would make everything so much worse. If He was depressed, anxious and paranoid now, then this would surely tip Him over the edge completely. I wanted desperately to be there for Him. I wanted to comfort Him, to bring Him back to what He used to be, but I couldn’t do it anymore.
I was exhausted. I knew every fight we wold have from thereon out, every time he would hurt me, it wouldn’t be ‘His’ fault anymore. It would be because His Nan had died. Everything He did would be blamed away.
So I left.
Maybe deep down He was messed up and maybe He was sorry and perhaps He truly did need me. And I knew He must have been feeling very isolated and hurt too. But I realised much too late, that you can’t help someone who isn’t willing to help themselves.
I left Him after His Nan’s funeral. I would have left sooner, but again, I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt. I loved Him. I felt like I needed to at least get Him through the funeral. I didn’t want to be ‘that’ person.
But who is ‘that’ person? I stayed so long. Put up with so much. For what?
Leaving Him was the most painful thing I have had to do in a long time. I’m not going to pretend that it was easy. I was so emotionally broken, I could feel my heart breaking with every breath I took.
Even after I left, I paid the rent in the unit we lived in for months until He moved out. I cleaned up all the mess He had left once he finally did leave. I never sent Him the bill.
I called Him every day after He moved out to make sure He was okay. He would cry on the phone and tell me He was so sorry. I would drive past His new house and bring Him food, because I knew He hadn’t eaten for days. I took Him to appointments, kept in touch, made sure He was okay and wasn’t going to hurt Himself.
Once I would get home, I would cry by myself on the kitchen floor for hours and hours, wondering how everything had gone so horribly wrong. I had given Him everything I had, and I had nothing left to give.
He begged me to give Him another chance.
But I couldn’t.
Because you can love someone so much, but at the end of the day, you have to love yourself more. And sometimes it takes a long time to realise that. When I look back on what I went through now, I wish I had seen the signs earlier. It took me so long to leave. Because I kept putting Him first, making excuses for Him, allowing His toxic behaviour to continue, because I was more worried about losing Him.
We do so much for the people we love.
But in the end, we are all human. I’ve come to terms with the fact that we are all on a journey. And you can’t save everyone on the journey to save yourself.
And that’s okay.
If there is one thing from my childhood that I will forever be grateful for, it’s my Dad.
He taught me so much about this world, and how to treat the people in it.
I wonder if he knows just how much I remember. I shiver for the things I remember that he never knew about.
But mostly, I wonder if he knows just how much he means to me, and how thankful I am to have him.
Because being a parent is a largely thankless job.
Going to Dad’s house was like going to a completely different world.
The weeks without seeing Dad were longer than you could imagine.
I spent a lot of time in my room, staring at a tattered photo of my Dad. I would talk to him, hoping he’d somehow be able to hear me. When I was sad, I would hold that picture tighter than I’ve ever held anything else, and I would cry myself to sleep.
They say your childhood shapes the person you become. I guess when you begin to understand the horrors of this world, you also come to appreciate the blessings just a little bit more.
When Dad picked me up, I would be so excited.
We always got Hungry Jacks on the drive south to Dad’s house. I could never finish the burger in my Kid’s Meal, but Dad never minded.
He would point out things in the paddocks – windmills, cows, sheep… and I would tell him I loved him, over and over again.
‘I love you.’
‘I love you too, sweetheart.’
My Dad’s house was a parallel universe compared to my usual living conditions.
He would cook spaghetti bolognese on Friday nights, and I’d sit at a tiled little coffee table, and eat it out of the smallest bowl, with the biggest smile on my face.
He always had juice boxes for me, and they had stickers in the pack that we stuck all over the fridge. I liked the purple ones best.
We also stuck the stickers we got from the jelly packets, the local vet, WWE and RSPCA all over the fridge. And our apple stickers too.
He’d run me a bath, and try to comb my matted hair. He’d dry my hair by throwing a big warm towel over my head and ruffle my hair and plonk me next to the fire if it was winter.
Dad taught me how to use the stereo system in the lounge room so I could watch Saturday Disney in the mornings before he woke up. I’d do drawings to send in to the hosts, with pretty pencils Dad bought just for me.
He had an empty Moccona Coffee jar that he would fill with little fruit balls. He kept them on the table by the back door. I’d sneak into them in the mornings… when I wasn’t sneaking the dogs inside, or sneaking into the kennel with the dogs outside. The kennel was made out of an old metal water-tank, and it was always nice and quiet and cool in there.
I learned how to use the landline, and would call my friend Jilli, who lived a few blocks away. I remember laughing and laughing, until Dad would wake up and decide to organise my breakfast.
He always had different cereals for me to try in the mornings. And he always made me honey and banana sandwiches for lunch.
Dad always made sure we were doing something. Time was always so precious. We’d go to the beach with the dogs and pick up rubbish, or do paintings, or work in the shed. Sometimes we’d build trains with Dad’s old Lego, or we’d stay out in the garden digging away. There was always something for us to do.
Sometimes we’d go camping with Jilli’s family at a place called Scott’s Creek. We’d collect tadpoles and find firewood, and try and jump the streams in our gumboots. It was so quiet, and the marshmallows by the fire were always somehow better there than anywhere else.
Dad and I would go fishing down the Coorong in the boat, and he’d show me how to tie the knots for the anchor, and what to pack in case of an emergency. Sunscreen, flares, matches, spare clothes, first aid kit, towels – we even had a thin army blanket, which I would pull out of our big waterproof tub when it got breezy. He taught me how to put the cockles on the hooks without hurting myself, and how to throw the line in without catching on anything.
I remember seeing dolphins and seals and birds. We helped a pelican once, who’s beak was tied up with fishing line and hooks. The pelican sat with us on the shore for the rest of the day, and we fed him all the fish that were too small to take home.
At home, I’d have a little wooden trolley that had different coloured painted blocks in it. I loved building little towns for all the Matchbox cars Dad let me play with. Dad always built much better houses and castles than I did, but I never minded.
He taught me how to play chess, and never let me win. He would patiently sit through my tantrums, reminding me you always had to be one step ahead. Something I’ve come to learn is true in life, too.
I remember writing letters to the tooth-fairy, asking her to give me $20 to take Dad on the Cockle Train from Goolwa to Victor Harbour. She always delivered. The train ride was always so perfect, watching the ocean from the window. Except the day the Diesel Train was running instead, and its horn was so loud I refused to ride it.
We even had a little jar that we would put all the five-cent pieces we collected in. When it was full, we would count them by hand, and then take them to the bank and cash them in.
We’d watch ‘Hey, Hey, It’s Saturday’, and we always laughed. Nothing was ever too hard for him to do. He had a monkey puppet that I absolutely adored. He would give him different voices and I would laugh until I was exhausted.
When Dad had friends over, he would hold me, and I would put my ear to his chest as I fell asleep, and listen to his deep voice as I drifted off.
Dad taught me to appreciate the little things in life. But I’ve come to realise that those little things are the most important of all.
Dad had video-taped the Looney Tunes movie for me, so on Sunday mornings I could watch that instead of the boring shows on TV. I was always up early. When I was at Mum’s, I’d usually put myself to bed, so I was used to being awake early most days.
Sundays were always depressing, because we knew I had to leave. We’d drag the day out as long as we possibly could, but the time always came quicker than we wanted it to.
There was only one time that I remember when Dad came to pick me up, that I refused to go. It was after my end-of-year Kindergarten concert, and I was dressed as a little angel with a halo over my head. I don’t remember what Mum said to me, but I refused to go. I cried and cried and cried, and then when Dad left and I’d realised that I wasn’t going to Dad’s house that weekend, I cried some more.
My Dad never hurt me. He never made me feel unsafe or unloved. My Dad was exactly what I needed, all of the time. He was a teacher, a toy repairer, and gardener, a chef, a singer, a comedian… A hero.
After 7 years, multiple psychologists/ psychiatrists and ugly custody battles, being a missing person for 8 months, and a lifetime of trauma, the court finally ruled in my Dad’s favour. And I finally understood what true happiness was.
Happiness is getting to be a child.
Happiness is being able to attend school regularly.
Happiness is learning you aren’t dumb.
Happiness is learning you are valued.
Happiness is being able to have a packed lunch.
Happiness is having friends over after school.
Happiness is having a safe home to play in.
Happiness is not going hungry.
Happiness is not being cold.
Happiness is not sleeping on the side of a road.
Happiness is not something you have to do favours for.
Happiness is having a say.
Happiness is having clean clothes.
Happiness is having clean hair.
Happiness is being tucked in every night.
Happiness is going to bed safe.
Happiness is knowing there’s breakfast there for you in the morning.
‘But it was the kind of story that doesn’t go away after the first time you tell it so you have to tell it over and over until it goes away for good. If it ever can.’
– Jack Gantos