Peace and patience while the stormy season rolls in
We live such fast paced lives now - technology, instant news, social media, have it now pay for it later incentives. These all feed into our natural state of experiencing a lack of patience or really delaying gratification. I know myself I can become gripped by this - want more, be more, move on to the next thing. So in the grips of a storm - naturally we don't like it - we will do everything we can to move it on, change the course, push ourselves forward, escape the pain we are feeling, allow our anxieties to feed and fuel us.
I can pinpoint the day that my perfect storm started - Mother's Day 2015, my first one. It was not at all what I expected it to be and this would paint the trajectory of the four and a half years to follow. In these years, I experienced emotional pain beyond what I ever thought was humanly possible, I felt the grip of our Australian court system suffocate me as I stood firmly trying to fight a battle - a battle that, without shame, I can now say I had no idea what I was fighting for at times, I was in it and I had to come out of it. Was I fighting this battle within the court for my own grievances, was it for my children, was I their voice when they were too young to fight for themselves, was it for other women who couldn't find their voice or perhaps it was for the women who have had their voice taken. To this day, I, at times still remain very uncertain of these answers - but here is something I do know - I learnt patience, I learnt how to let that storm brew over my head and find small rays of sunshine, I learnt how to be dumped under the weight of a wave and come up for air.
For context, not only was I trying to heal and recover from mental illness, significant trauma throughout this period and learn how to be a mother to two under two, I also had hearings in the Family Court of Australia, the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, the ACT Magistrates Court (both civil and criminal), NSW Local Court and the ACT Supreme Court. You name it, I've probably been in it! I had my word questioned, my character demoralised, my voice unheard in some of these moments and a large portion of my life, parenting choices, choices as a woman laid out within court documents for others to read and pawn over.
Here are some things I noticed in these four years:
1. Patience is physically uncomfortable - when you are trapped and cannot move yourself or change your situation - it makes you feel unwell in the stomach, it's a longing to change it, a longing to have control back the way you want life to be.
2. When a storm brews - the body and mind will find ways to resist it. This can be different for everyone - some people try to outrun it, some people try to go through it, some people try to match it. We can almost be assured that whatever method we use, at some point we will feel shame and disappointment in oneself for some of the choices we have made. I felt shame for writing something on social media in a moment of emotional weakness that led to a defamation lawsuit that hung over my head for 18 months. I wasn't ashamed of what I said, but I was ashamed I made the mistake of allowing myself to be so exposed and creating further angst for myself.
3. When people say 'don't worry the storm will pass' it is little to no help in that moment. This statement only makes it feel more frustrating as this cloud doesn't stop following you. It looms in behind every ray of sunshine that etches through in these dark moments. You know it's there, you know it's ready to engulf you - it's just the when.
4. A big sense of 'lost' wraps around - others look to have settled lives, they seem to be experiencing less stress, they seem to know where they are going, they have goals and are doing. Going through a stormy season feels as though you can't achieve anything. You certainly do, and can, but it doesn't feel quite right - again it feels like there is a big shadow over it. For every success, you also know there is another battle you are fighting that is sitting in the forefront of your mind constantly reminding you that you are not quite free right now. You are not in the drivers seat and you really don't have control.
5. You try to tell yourself that at 'X' moment this will all be over - it will all be better. I think this is our way of being able to cope if I am honest - I know for me, if I told myself there was an end date then I could go on - the alternative would just crumble me. I couldn't fathom living in this darkness for much longer so I needed an end date - they would always come and pass and I would set another one, but it allowed me to survive the moments I thought I couldn't.
While these are the major things I noticed, I always found new solaces, new appreciation for even the simplest things in life, new ways of getting myself to put one foot in front of the other.
I found my greatest peace at the beach - I was away from my home, I was away from the daily reminders of what I was facing. I would let my feet sink into the sand and the warm sun shine onto me. I can't really describe the feeling I would get - it was a mix of feeling as though the sun was warming up the parts of my soul that felt cold and dark and also a sense of release at the simplicity of it all. In those private moments - I didn't have to fight, there was no armour, no ego - nothing. It felt like it was just me.
I also cemented an amazing group of people around us throughout this period - in the early days I lost friendships, some from my own doing and some because I needed to because I knew I needed to protect my family on every level. Physically, emotionally and mentally. I retreated inward and would only allow a handful of people truly close to me and my boys. They were my circle around me when things became fierce. They were the ones that protected us when moments came like potentially losing my home. And they were the ones that bought me some laughter, wiped my tears with me, expressed outrage on my behalf, they poured too many glasses of wine to count, drank too many vodkas with me and spent many a night out dancing when I needed to escape. Here's the thing, I don't drink to cope. Drinking is a slippery slope for many experiencing grief, pain, hardship, mental illness etc - for me, it was always just an outlet to have a laugh and let my hair down. I am lucky in that respect - it was never something that became a crutch for me.
I read and studied - it was my only control. Like a toddler with a phone or ipad - I could hold it - it was my escape. My books became times when my brain would stop thinking about the things going on around me or how I was going to do what. Because I suffer with anxiety, my brain moves very quickly. It is always overthinking, analysing, what if-ing etc. Books and study MADE my brain go elsewhere and books particularly, gave me another world to exist in, even if it was just a little while.
I became confident in my writing and watched the legal team around me and listened to their advice and guidance. When you write dozens upon dozens of court documents over the years you become quite fast in moving the words from your head onto paper.
And to finish it up but certainly these were not the only things - I threw myself into motherhood. I decided I would give my boys every muster of emotional support I could - how is this different to all mothers people probably ask - it is a little different when your storm comes in their early years. The storm takes your emotional strength, it takes your thoughts, it takes your commitment and drive. You are trying to weather this massive beast while being a mother attempting to give them what they need. But I made a point of getting out of bed for them, being at every school or daycare event I could, changing my work hours to suit them and their needs for any particular moment in time. Every part of me would take a backseat while they were home including money and my career. I had enough money for us to survive and otherwise everything I did was about them - they had to be my focus, they had to be my drive. Nothing else was strong enough to push me through these years - they were the reason for my existence.
The biggest storm of my life so far started when I was 26, it taught me more than I could have ever expected. I don't expect it will be my last storm but what I am grateful for is the strength it taught me, it taught me how to dig within myself to find my way through it, it taught me to strip back the material things in life and learn to find peace in unlikely places, it taught me to accept there were times when I didn't like myself but I would keep moving forward until I found a place where I did and most importantly, it didn't stop me from loving and trusting in people.
I hope whatever season you are in, my sharing parts of my season has helped or given some perspective or food for thought for whatever you might be going through.