My Abuse and My Ongoing Recovery – Kim Cubbon
As a child, I had no voice. Especially back in the 1960s. I tried to speak up and I was pushed aside and I was crying inside for someone to listen and I was treated like I was nothing. This made me feel like I should never have been born.
Now I realise it was the adults saving face and they didn’t want to be made out to be terrible people or people who were struggling. It was all about presentation. We had to present to be the perfect family and that everything was ok. I have forgiven people but I will never forget.
As an adult, I have found that I need to have my voice. Sometimes, I feel like I have a million thoughts at once and have to just get them out. Luckily, these days, I have a lot of people who will listen to me.
Be kind to yourself. Take a break when you feel like you need to. Surround yourself with positive people who understand what you’ve been through and how it has affected you.
People can be very critical of me because of the mistakes I’ve made in my life. It’s hard to forgive yourself when you have people telling you all the things you’ve done wrong. I’ve made mistakes and that’s ok because I was struggling with trauma and a hard upbringing with abuse. Don’t let those people put you down. Surround yourself with people who aren’t critical and can forgive. People who see you.
Sometimes your mental health can play big tricks on you. Be comfortable taking a step back and say it’s ok to do that.
Don’t make big decisions when you are in a bad place. You can make really harsh decisions from this perspective. I didn’t know what was happening to me and I have made poor decisions in this mindset. This would only add to my depression and anxiety. So take a break as needed.
When you’re going through a stressful or triggered time, try to stay away from people who would further trigger this. This could be a family member or someone you rely on for validation. Sometimes you reach out to the wrong people and people aren’t healthy themselves. This pattern can make things worse. Be mindful of this.
I also find that after discussing my issues and mental health I get very tired. I have to sleep afterwards. After I do this, I feel much better. I suppose it is a way for my brain and body to recover from everything I’ve had to process. Do what you need to do. Again, be kind to yourself.
People have told me just to get over my issues. However, this is what I’ve been trying to do since I’ve been aware of them. I don’t want them to affect me forever, so I analyse my problems in the hope that I can move on and be a more evolved person by dealing with them. Some people don’t analyse their issues or have them on the surface and they can come out in other ways, affecting both them and other people in negative ways.
Trauma can make you say and do bad things on bad days. It’s like you want to stop the pain, so you lash out at other people or even try to get validation from them to stop the pain or take away the nagging feeling. However, your healing comes from the inside and from you. Take the time to understand your pain and how it affects you, such as coping mechanisms that might be harmful to yourself and your relationships with other people, such as using alcohol and other drugs.
Sometimes you just have a bad day. Hopefully, people around you will understand that. If not, explain it to them. I know it’s hard to explain but try but if those people don’t understand, they may not be the right people to be talking to.
Loss of identity
I have found that because of the abuse, for a long time, I just went along with everything and was not myself. I was scared of people’s reaction. I was scared of trusting people with the way I feel and think. I wanted people to like me and I didn’t feel strong enough to have my own identity.
When I was diagnosed with mental illness, I also felt like those labels were all that I was. I was just anxious, depression and traumatised. I felt these labels gave me restrictions on what I could and couldn’t do. I felt like I just wanted to give up, and I was nothing. But we are more than these labels.
If you think you need to say something, then say it. Express your point of view. This will make you feel stronger and sometimes you just have to get your truth out. This can come with complications some people might not like what you are saying, but follow your heart and you will feel better for it.
Also, express yourself with your personality and in your house. If you want purple hair, then have it! Dress your house to feel like you. A place where you can feel like yourself and where you feel comfortable. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. It doesn’t have to be the nicest thing. Just the things that you like. Be who you are and use it to make you stronger.
I had been looking my whole life for help or an answer to why I was the way I was. I feel like I tried everything.
When I first realised that I really needed help, I was 18. I felt like I couldn’t cope in the world and felt empty. I checked myself into Shortland Clinic. I stayed there for 5 days but just couldn’t relate to the other patients there and felt like it wasn’t helping, so I left. Then when I was 23, I had my first child and looked for help, I went to GPs and I was told over and over again that I had post natal depression. I was put on many medications that just didn’t help. At that point, I started to self-medicate with alcohol.
In my 30s, I had an incident where I drank alcohol and took some medications and had an episode which led me to get in contact with the Salvation Army. I went once a week and visited with a Captain and I found this helpful. However, she soon got busy,, and I couldn’t see her consistently.
Just after this, I tried to take my own life by taking a box of anti-depressants. I ended up in hospital with my stomach pumped. I believe I tried to take my own life because I wasn’t instructed that I had to wean myself off one kind of medication before I started another – I just stopped one cold turkey and it did not help my mental state.
Shortly after, I tried to take my own life again and ended up in the Mater Hospital. Around this point, I was accused of being a drug addict, too. This was because I was so unwell. I was thin, my eyes were sunken in, and physically and mentally, I was just so unwell. Again, at the Mater, no tests were done and I was just told I had depression. They just sent me home.
When I was around 42, I started seeing a GP and after speaking with me, he decided to put me on anti-anxiety medications. These medications finally helped me a little bit. However, I still felt like things were not quite right. The GP then tried Bipolar medication, believing that I had bipolar. These medications really affected me negatively, and I was sleeping all the time. I was also suffering from panic attacks and ended up in hospital frequently with those.
I was still self-medicating with alcohol every day. I was having verbally aggressive outbursts with my family.
At this point, I went to the John Hunter Hospital and I spoke with a social worker and then I got checked into James Fletcher Psychiatric Hospital. I went through my life story there and they did several tests and they worked out that I suffer from trauma, PTSD, panic attacks, anxiety and Rapid Eye Movement. Finally, at 45 years of age, some diagnoses that made sense and fit what I had been going through!
I believe you need to always go by your gut instinct. Suppose something isn’t working for you, like a medication or a treatment, then try something else. Keep trying until you find what works for you. Don’t give up. It might take you years to find the people that can help you, but you will find them.
Where to find help
• VOCAL – Victims of crime
• Tree of Life – Mayurmarry – Survivors working with survivors
• Crisis team
• Mission Australia
• Newcastle and Wallsend Support Group
I have been accused of lying in the past. The problem is that with any lies that I’ve ever told, I feel like I had to protect myself. This was the case when strong personalities would put strong views on me and I felt weak and like I could not stick up for myself. The only way I knew was to sometimes tell some fibs to get through it. I used to feel like this made me a bad person but I can now see that I was just trying to survive. When you feel weak, you resort to all sorts of techniques to try to help your situation. Sometimes these techniques are not helpful in the long run, and you can’t do them forever. At some point, you need to face your fears and find your strength.
It’s not black and white
Oftentimes, I think people think of abuse in black-and-white terms. Like ok, she was abused, so she should have reacted in this way and should be like this, and that’s that. However, there are so many different factors that come into play. For me, it’s not just about the abuse itself but everything leading up to that point and after. For example, how it was handled by people and how my brain processed it at the time and after, what resources were available to me, and how I had a tendency to blame myself and even go into denial for some time. The abuse and how I handled it made me turn to alcohol and make poor life decisions. They then created their own complications.
Trauma and abuse issues are far-reaching and complicated. They infiltrate all parts of your life and your mind and influence your life in so many ways. It’s easy to just feel like a bad person over things you’ve done and said and the coping mechanisms you’ve used but you need to look at the big picture. What would you now say to a person who has had your life and felt the things that you have felt? You need to learn to see yourself objectively and give yourself a break.
Pet Therapy – Marlo, the rescue dog
I have a little dog that I rescued and worked with to help him overcome his own trauma. I worked with building his trust for a long time, and we really have a bond. This bond has got me through some really hard times and he is my best friend. He is there when I wake up, when I go to sleep, when I come home and that consistency is really helpful.
Animals are amazing healers. My Marlo is very intuitive and often knows when I am upset or having a hard time, and he will lay with his head on my chest. This unconditional love is just so healing and helps me in my everyday life.
Need to know your triggers
Anger from people triggers me. It could be a harsh word I have overheard when I am out or a neighbour yelling at their child. It can take me back to a really bad place.
Another trigger for me is being talked over and not being listened to. It makes me feel like what I have to say is not important. I have always struggled with this.
It also really upsets me when I get called a liar. Because I didn’t get heard as a child. In order to protect myself as a child, I had to lie about little things just to get people to stop and leave me alone. But I have never lied about anything big and important and it’s hard that people don’t see the difference.
Confrontation is also really hard for me. I feel like I’m being put in a corner and that no one is really listening. It reminds me of being a child and the feelings I felt then. I always know what I want to say but I feel like it doesn’t come out the way it should. Sometimes I offend people and I don’t mean to, I’m just feeling like I’m being attacked, and I feel like I need to defend myself.
I even feel like today for people to love me, I have to do things for people to make them love me.
I am guilt-ridden. I feel like because I have never stood up for myself. I feel like I have let people guilt me my whole life. People insinuating I couldn’t look after my kids, instead of sticking up for myself, I swallowed it. I feel guilty about so many decisions I have made when always I have been trying to do my best and do what’s best for everyone. I feel like I can never make people happy.
I feel so angry, but I think I feel angry with myself. I feel like I have done so much for other people but at the end of the day, here I am, sitting alone. I feel like I don’t know who I am or where I belong.
Family members can so easily make me feel bad about myself. I have so much guilt about who I am and the things I’ve done. However, when I think about it, I was always taking care of people. Cleaning up after my stepfather hurt my mother, and keeping my brother and sister safe. I would be cleaning the house while my brother and sister played. It was like, in a way, that I was the mother. I took beatings and was the one sexually abused. It’s like no one sees this at all. People are scared of this truth.
If you have been exposed to abuse in the past, you may be able to get compensation from Victims of Crime. To do this, you should get yourself a good solicitor. I got a solicitor who only took payment if I won my cases. Once I won my cases (some on appeal), I was given some compensation and also was awarded assistance to see a psychologist. This also assisted me with securing the NDIS for ongoing support, which has now led me to some fantastic people.
When you are having an anxiety attack or an overly emotional time, it is hard to explain to people what is happening to you. I feel that the police and some services assume the worst. Like in my case, I was drunk and just another looney. I had not been drinking at all and was having a panic attack. I was treated roughly by the police and, in my opinion, without dignity. I feel like the police and these services need to be better educated.
People come in that don’t know anything about your circumstances and they assume things and just treat you like you are nothing. They don’t get it. Mental health is real. We are not second-rate citizens. We are just struggling and deserve to be treated with dignity, and respect and with the care of someone who is unwell and needs help.
Abuse comes in different forms
There are many different kinds of abuse that can affect you, such as mental, physical, sexual, abandonment and spiritual. For me, the hardest to shake that is always sticking around is the mental abuse. Being screamed at as a young child and being so confused and scared, that feeling never goes away.
How to be with someone who has been abused
I am single these days as I like my own space. In the past, I have struggled with relationships in ways like sexually and also mentally as well due to abandonment issues. My partners in the past perhaps have not been understanding of what I have been through and have pushed me too hard.
Thinking of what a partner should do when someone has been abused, I think it would be giving me space when I need it when I am having a bad day, loving me for me and having no expectations and also having the ability to pick up the slack when I am not having a good day.
Finding my first support group then led me to other support groups and a community. Support groups help me access different areas of support for myself and my kids. I found that Mission Australia were the best with their services. In support groups being with other people who have experienced the same thing is really powerful, they are like brothers and sisters who understand without explaining. It was great to be understood, and it was really healing. It was great not to be judged for the first time. You belonged there; you were not an outcast.
I was fortunate enough to secure NDIS funding. This means that I have access to a support worker and some different services for support. This has been really helpful in terms of maintaining my well-being and helping me stay independent.
Never stop asking questions and learning about yourself.
You never stop learning. Even at 60, I am learning different things about myself. I feel like it’s been the last ten years, since I have been living alone and have had time and space for reflection that I am really understanding and knowing myself. I know this will continue, and I welcome it.