Warning, this will upset some people
I denied my experience for over 50 years, and even then, it has taken me well over a decade to penetrate my walls that I installed around myself.
I had totally denied it because it happened in my home at the hands of my mother.
My physical and sexual abuse was consistently along similar lines, as a cruel punishment, occurring about 8 – 9 times, starting when I was about 18 months old.
I recall the last time being excruciatingly painful, to the extent that I sometimes still experience that physical pain and emotional block I put in place from it 60 years later.
I was sexually abused and assaulted by my mother as a cold and cruel punishment for being a typical boy.
It felt like revenge…
My experience of sexual and physical abuse and my attempts to understand the levels of trauma associated, are insignificant compared to how cruel and unbelievably debilitating denial or “gaslighting” by family and community can be, and even decades later still has considerable impact.
Even though the sexual abuse act itself is a level of trauma, I found the denial, disbelief and isolation associated even deeper and more damaging.
Being told, “don’t be ridiculous” or ” She would never do that” was my normal.
Even to this day, as a result of my experience, I am still uncovering and dealing with decisions and beliefs that I adopted and I made about myself , especially in my relationships with woman.
I have encountered disbelief, denial and even rejection from many different people, from family to professionals, that a woman, especially a mother could do something like this.
The act of abuse was bad enough, but is still insignificant in comparison to the self destructive beliefs that I chose to take on about myself as a result, especially from a place of low self esteem and feelings of rejection and isolation.
I am still working through these, including sexual shame over half a century later.
As a result of my own personal journey, I have learned how to deal with sexual abuse properly and thoroughly in my journey back into “normal” with this website articles and book as testimony to my healing experience.
For this reason, professionally, I am very sensitive to any forms of abuse in both men and women, I have no filters that “deny” perpetrators.
Sexual abuse is a life sentence, a punishment for living
My childhood was during a time, and in an environment were this type of trauma was, and still is denied, with any form of emotionality regarded as a signal to “lock and load…”.
I can remember at times feeling totally overwhelmed with emotion, especially fear and being bluntly told to “grow up and stop being a sook”.
On top of all this, I still had a consistent and deep seated fear that this was an opening, a beginning, that there was more to go.
I soon discovered that when I summoned up the courage and chose to go deeper into my vulnerable self that there was more, an even earlier trauma that was coming to the surface, and try as I did to deny it, this was even more scary.
The signs were there, regardless of how much I tried to deny them, my fear of water especially hot water; my inability to have anything touching my face; a certain type of dust; chewing my nails; my ability to hold my breath (asthma); my fear of intimacy and the big one was the same reoccurring nightmare for over 50 years.
I had no cognitive memory of this earlier experience, only body memory that in certain circumstances, every cell in my body would be screaming out in terror.
This felt very dark, solid and highly toxic.
The more I started exploring this deeper place, the more I felt intense fear or terror like nothing else and dug in, denied everything, hung on and avoided it at all costs…
Being told to “get over it” or “move on” was, and still is one of the cruelest phrases I suffered as a trauma victim, my response was to believe that I was dysfunctional, fucked up and obviously had something wrong with me.
I just buried it all deeper…and any conversations I had, I talked about my abuse experience and left the real terror alone.
This was my upbringing and how I was treated when I attempted to ask and talk about what happened, a struggle between the intensity of emotion within, and my stuff seeping to the surface coupled with shame of feeling dysfunctional.
Motivation into uncovering my past and dealing with it was seriously kick started into action after marriage breakdown @ May 2001. I struggled, avoided, denied and was in a terrible way, plus losing access to my children, (because I was told that this was the way it was done and soon discovered that access was determined financially…) pushed me into a very dark place.
I found myself one morning in early August, out in the paddock, sitting in the front of my farm vehicle with a loaded gun ready to end it all.
I was moments away, when the family dog found me and jumped into the front of the vehicle.
That broke the spell, and I ended up out on the ground vomiting.
I blacked out for a while…
A close friend who was a counselor “threw” me into a personal development workshop that began my healing journey.
During this workshop, I first met Annette, and this was late August 2001.
Since that fateful day in the vehicle, and starting with that ground breaking workshop, I have endured thousands of hours in many different modalities of therapy in my journey of uncovering my past and making some sense out of it all.
I would and did try anything, and will continue to do so.
It surprised me in what therapies worked and what didn’t.
Uncovering my past was a challenge, but untangling the intensity of emotion that I had bottled up still is my greatest challenge.
I always knew something, but simply struggled in comprehending and understanding, I refused to go there at all costs, especially the earlier trauma.
I trusted my ability to keep it all locked away…
I often remember times with family and friends when I was seeking answers, but I didn’t even know how to ask questions which most often didn’t go well for me.
I have memories of my behaviour at those times and still feel shame in how I acted.
I remember asking parents when I was an early teenager, and each time I was shut down, being told “don’t be stupid”, or “there is something wrong with you” etc etc.
What I didn’t understand during that time was my awareness and questions were intensifying during early my teen years.
40 years later, during another session, I realised that this was my age when my youngest brother was born.
I was troubled and failed to understand why he was treated so differently from my own recollections of how I was treated as a child.
This realisation was a turning point, as I became increasingly aware of memories that were intensely fearful and painful, and again chose total denial to the extent that I couldn’t sleep, as my nightmares became relentless.
This intensity gathered momentum, particularly after I sold my farm and moved into town….
The process that helped to uncover and deal with this emotional mess is simple and safe, yet highly effective, called Breathwork
And, always the same nightmare.
During this time, @ 2005, I would wake up, sweating from fear, get dressed and walk down to the local 24hr servo for a coffee, usually around 4 am.
This went on for months.
During another therapy session, I was challenged to accept the nightmares as real and to try and connect with my body memory experience and have a look at what was in there.
There was some scary shit in there, that occurred earlier and separate from the sexual abuse, and the only thing I will say about it, was if that was true, then it is pure luck I am alive today.
For as long as I can remember, I have always woken up @ 4.35 am. I still do, but no longer in a gut twisting fearful cold sweat.
In 2007, I participated in a workshop with a high profile psychologist from the U.S.
The exercise consisted of groups of 3 people , taking turns with one being wrapped tightly in a normal bed sheet, like a mummy.
The other 2 watched and supported with safe words and a quick exit if needed.
As soon as this was announced, I froze, seriously panicked, complete with a shaking cold sweat.
I said to her that I cant do this.
The rest of the group went ahead into the exercise while I froze in my panic attack.
Eventually, I went ahead and instantly the sheet was soaked with sweat, the fear was like nothing I had ever experienced before.
I was staring death in the face…
It felt like I was dropping down through layers, falling into oblivion.
I eventually realised that I was still blocking something and the psychologist asked if she could place a pillow over my face, I agreed…
This was frightening beyond words, but was going somewhere deeper. I suggested something bigger and a bean bag was placed over my face with the psychologist leaning on it.
The psychologist suspected what had happened to me and instinctively knew what to do, she was brilliant in her skill, empathy and encouragement.
That really nailed it for me as I connected and unlocked something deep inside, I screamed as if my life depended on it, I chose not to use the safe word…
I kept screaming for what seemed like ages, but I was told it was only 10 seconds or so.
This whole experience felt like it went on for a long time, 30 – 40 minutes, but they said it was less than 10 minutes.
Her debriefing afterwards was life changing for me and finally gave me a context to accept what happened, an understanding into some of the other aspects or signs that finally made sense.
She was also reassuring for me, as she also saw that women are just as capable as men of abuse.
I also realised that I had a long way to go, a lot of work to do and as Annette was also present, I didn’t need to explain it to her.
I felt incredibly lighter after the debriefing, free from something dark and with a room full of people sitting around watching…
This old trauma was been my normal from a very early age, because I didn’t know any difference I didn’t know how to look after myself.
My cold hard reality in life was my mother tried to kill me,
and on more than one occasion, which I have only recently eventually come to terms with by accepting this happened, but it still took until 2018, with my standing at the foot of her grave watching her coffin lowering into the ground to realise how true my experience was for me.
I have vomited from pure fear during sessions exploring these places.
I still experience and regularly feel fear and anxiety, as apparently I experienced so much intensity at that early time, that how I survived was to compartmentalise those experience’s and not feel emotions, particularly fear, a genuine fear for my life.
I did my best for over half a century at avoiding owning that this was my reality, something in me wouldn’t accept it, I think because it was beyond my comprehension.
As I was standing at my mothers grave, my gut feeling was all the confirmation that I needed before I could finally accept that this really happened.
The only way I could accept this was understanding where mum was during this time in my life.
I had a recollection of a conversation I had with mum when I was in my late teens, where she said that she had “severe and undiagnosed post natal depression after I was born….”.
That was all she said, and it was never mentioned again, although in later years it started to make sense as I was able to piece snippets of information together.
Several months after her funeral, I caught myself having a conversation with her, were I was asking her what happened and how she felt about it and why didn’t she talk to me about it.
I was in tears at how much life was avoided by not talking and placing all energy into denial.
I was driving a bulldozer at the time, as one of my main therapies is driving large earth moving machinery….(really works..you should try it some time…)
These past feelings are retained physically in my body, with no cognitive recollection.
Today, those feelings are still surfacing and have gathered momentum after the funerals and they’re still intense, but are finally making sense.
How this has played out in my life, is I have carried this trauma physically as body memory, with no cognitive memory at all.
This body memory of pure terror comes out when I am in intimate heart space, as it is in this space where the body memory resides and has always caught up with me the deeper I go. This has caused me and those around me a lot of hurt, frustration and anger.
My first life lesson in life was not to trust love
To survive, I invented shadow behaviour that worked for a while, but the more intimate, the more intense my feelings of terror.
Not surprisingly, my most powerful moment of clarity, was simply standing at the foot of my parents grave and looking at my mother’s coffin.
There would be a lot of shocked people there if they c only know what was going through my mind and especially my feeling body..
I am still a runner and run most days and have found this to be one of my main coping and integrating strategies, it is my active meditation that still really works for me.
During 2017, I contracted Ross River virus, which really knocked me around, but I also discovered that underneath I was also suffering from chronic fatigue.
I was so fatigued and tired from holding all this emotional intensity, that it had become a physical struggle, aggravated by Ross River Virus.
My bootcamp instructor suggested techniques for moving through the chronic fatigue, which have really worked.
Accepting my past experience’s as real have stopped the nightmares
Many years later, these nightmares have not returned, although my fear is still very real, usually intensified in intimacy….
At my grandmothers funeral in the early 1990’s, I saw that I was named after my mother’s father, my grandfather.
I asked mum about him, and her answer was intense, she said “ he was a drunk and a no hoper…”, but it wasn’t so much the words, but the intensity and venom with how she said it, that really stuck with me.
Again, nothing more was said.
By the time I had some sort of understanding with all my stuff, mum was into dementia.
After mum’s passing, I asked her brother about his father, and his response was that he was “strict, hard working and they had a good life..”
Making my Story Public is Important for me
Writing and accepting my story and making it public is a significant part of this journey, as I had kept it too secret for too long.
I had decided years ago to keep all this to myself, but I now see that this has been to my detriment.
Standing at the foot of their graves after their funerals was a pivotal moment for me in coming to terms with my trauma and finding peace.
My answers came in the form of a deep knowing and acceptance of my past, and that there is nothing more for me to do about it, except find and accept my own clarity.
It was also clear that I speak about what happened to me, as I carry shame about my past, that there was something wrong with me that I deserved being treated this way.
I have felt some sadness at their departure, but mostly sadness and grief in missing out on having loving parental relationships.
I have finally been able to stop biting my nails, for the first time in 61 years.
I have been told many times to simply stop it… and finally I have, with the anxiety and fear constant and unrelenting.
Several weeks into “simply stopping biting my nails”, I have been able to seperate the anxiety I feel and see it for what it is, pure unexpressed fear that I shut down many years ago and simply biting my nails was a way of shaming myself and avoiding feeling.
Those were my formative years and my early experience of woman.
I chose to stay in this family environment because I so wanted to be a farmer and firmly believed that I would survive by closing down emotionally and keep denying everything.
I did not know any difference, this was “normal”and I truly believed I could ignore my past, “put it all behind me and move on”.
That is the biggest bullshit statement that is possible to make to someone like me, who was suffering from trauma, anxiety or depression and I bought into it and did a great job on myself in the process.
I had created the perfect emotional shit storm to keep myself locked down .
During my middle teenage years, I went to boarding school, which gave me a much needed break, and also gave me another experience outside of my normal, although, in the first weeks, I really struggled.
I had the fortune of having relatives close by and spent a lot of time with them that also gave me another and safer experience.
I had always wanted to be a farmer and that’s what I became,
I chose to go home on the family farm.
At the end of my schooling, I was into alcohol and did some really stupid things, including pranging a car, I am grateful that was during a time of pre internet/social media….
This woke me up big time and I dropped alcohol totally and never really came back to it.
The alcohol did numb down what was underneath and that was attractive, but I found something else to channel into and it was called hard work.
I loved farming and threw myself into it, and soon became highly skilled across many areas.
Several years later, a farm nearby came up for sale and we bought it.
I was under 21 at that time and the property couldn’t go into my name, so it was held in trust by my father, with the deal being that as soon it was paid off, it would be transferred.
The perfect carrot dangled in front of a very stupid donkey…..
Well, I seriously got stuck into it, I took my opportunity with the utmost seriousness, put my heart and soul into it and paid it off in @ 9 years.
During that time, I married and built our new home on the property as well.
My parents reneged on the deal.
Looking back, the writing was on the wall, though I was committed and only had one direction with my Dad’s regular “do as you’re told or I will sell you up..”
That attitude might work with small children, but with a 30 year old who was heavily invested, successful and innovating, it was crushing.
I didn’t realise at the time, but mum was behind the scenes with my wife playing it down, with “he doesn’t mean it etc etc..”
I felt even more isolated and desolated in dealing with this tyrant all day and coming home to “he doesn’t mean it..”
I was devastated, deeply conflicted and all communication with parents closed down.
There was some half cocked arrangements made, including a share farming arrangement, but was unsuccessful.
I didn’t understand what was happening,
I did the “right” thing and got it right, and was punished for it, relentlessly.
I had basically worked for over 10 years for next to nothing.
I agreed to share farming, but only on the condition I did it my way.
From the first year’s crop, my parents received their share of 30% net, which was greater than their previous best 100% result ever.
We even employed a consultant for advice, and his advice was simple..”get the hell out of there…”, as he could see what was happening and that change was not going to happen.
I mistakingly believed parents would be happy, instead they made it nearly impossible for me to continue and eventually, I walked away, confused, frustrated and deeply conflicted.
At this time, I had no understanding with what I was up against.
During this time, I had created a good share farming leasing business with other farmers and continued doing so.
Another farm came up for sale and I wanted to purchase it, and was in an excellent position to do so.
I was cashed up, and parents were not.
To me, this was proof I knew what I was doing and was good at it.
The night before the auction, my parents came down and announced they wanted this property as well, and said that if I refused to purchase the rest of “my place” (the original land I had already paid for) from them, they would sell this next property to someone else.
They wanted this next property themselves and my youngest brother and expected me to pay for it.
I was devastated with their black mailing offer, as if I refused, they would sell the land I wanted to someone else.
I believe my wife was discussing this with them behind my back and told them we were in a good position.
I remember pointing out that I had already paid for my own land and asked why should I pay for it a second time, and at double the original price?
This fell on deaf ears, and my wife bought into the debate saying this was a good plan and would resolve this issue.
I caved in.
My decision to agree eventually cost me my marriage and business.
I did not recover from these intense feelings of of betrayal and blackmail, and to this day, I am still unraveling this one..
Several years later, divorce arrived.
After paying 50% for the divorce settlement, I lost all interest in farming.
After my marriage ended, I remember going up to parents, totally distraught and saying that I had my kids taken off me, I had lost access and was limited to 4 days a month.
Their immediate response was “..she wouldn’t do that..! ”
I left without saying a word and realised, that once again, I had created the perfect shit storm to drop myself into..
Mum, wanted a daughter and ended up with 3 sons, the youngest being their final attempt to get it right.
This definitely worked for them as parents, as their relationship with my youngest brother is totally different to mine and my other brother.
To me, it seemed like they got it wrong with the first 2, so try again but lets cover up how we stuffed it up and kick them both out of the nest.
My ex was the daughter that Mum never had, and she filled this role admirably, and again, sides were taken with Dad ensuring that Mum got what she wanted, with grandkids in tow.
I didn’t even try and compete with this, especially as the divorce had become a very toxic affair.
I refused to fight or be baited, and this encouraged her and her solicitor to achieve new levels of creativity.
I remained silent to protect my kids, but still was forced to pay half the cost of this stupidity as well as 100% of her capital gains tax, on top of 50% of our business.
At that time, I couldn’t afford to pay this 6 figure tax bill, so I kept rolling it over, which eventually ended up in being pivotal in my decision to declare bankruptcy in 2011, for a minimum of 3 years.
Many years later, my son commented that it was good that the divorce was “amicable”.
I thanked him for saying that, as that is the only validation I have had as a successful parent and keeping them seperate from my past.
25 years after purchase, and 3 years after the divorce, I chose to sell.
At that point, and also after 3 droughts, I was as far from owning that farm and paying it off for the third time.
I was also reeling from the loss of over 10 years of my labour, risk and innovation that was invested into that family farm that I was blackmailed with.
I had lost my confidence in myself in business.
I remember having a conversation with Dad shortly after selling the farm and why I made that decision.
I owned that I had no chance of succeeding in working with him.
Dad was also the product of his upbringing, and being the youngest of 7, he always carried the belief that he was hard done by and that his older siblings got ahead and he didn’t.
Me, being the eldest, with a brother who was 12 years younger, there was no way he was going to let me succeed.
For years, I fought against this prejudice and all I achieved was burnout
Decades later, this has finally played out, with the closing chapter being that there is only one beneficiary in their wills.
My youngest brother being the sole beneficiary, and I don’t even know if my ex wife was included as I now live half a continent away and have no interest in pursuing.
My second youngest brother, who was 2 years younger than me, was also caught up in this meat grinder.
He is smarter than me and got out earlier and left the district, and is also left out of the will.
We have talked extensively since and I am confident he only experienced the cruelty and emotional abuse with none of the physical abuse that I copped.
I clearly remember having this conversation with Dad, and he did not comment.
In my decision to sell my farm, in 2004, I firmly and also wrongly believed that selling the property and investing into my civil earthmoving business would resolve my issues.
I even directly asked my parents for help at this point, and their response was also direct…
Boy, did I stuff that one up….
After @ 6 more years, my emotional wheels seriously fell off, I was tired, deeply tired from holding this toxic crap in without a break. I collapsed inwards and took my business with me.
I had a good business with good people, but I was the problem, and becoming a bigger problem as I was slowly and relentlessly collapsing inwards..
Mid 2010, I couldn’t hold it in any longer, my remaining deeply buried past was relentlessly on the move and was coming out.
Again, I approached my parents for help, and again their response was no.
I had nowhere else to turn to, as I didn’t trust myself to sort out my business issues, as the biggest issue with the business was me.
I chose to go into voluntary administration and trade through the funding challenges post GFC, by signing total control of everything over to the administrator.
I chose the wrong administrator, another predator, who promptly closed it down and paid himself a fat fee in the process.
At that time, I had sold my home and everything I owned was in the business, I lost everything and the administrator knew I had no funds left with which to counter his actions.
I had no fight left in me
I clearly remember leaving the region and the time leading up to my departure, I just couldn’t stay there any longer, I had to leave and I seriously bolted.
I felt like my past was going to crush me totally if I stayed there a moment longer.
The sense of release and freedom was intense, but so was my grief and sense of loss.
Once I got into the vastness of the Hay Plains, I really enjoyed my powerful bike…..
I had everything with me and arrived and had $30 to start again.
People ask why we chose this area to start again, it is hard to explain this was as far as I could go and only had $30 left.
I would have liked to go much further away…
Annette remained in Horsham to finish her training and came up 2 months later.
During the next 5 years, the hardships were constant and intense.
Unfortunately, this was what I needed to penetrate my armour that I had created in protecting myself from the early trauma.
I was unemployable, as I was an emotional mess.
During March 2011, we were reduced to $10, no car, jobs or place to live.
I had lost everything with the business and bankruptcy, including my confidence, I was on my knee’s, start again time and in my mid 50’s….
I remember comparing notes with my children at uni, they were better off than me.
I don’t think they understood…
This time certainly focused things.
I chose bankruptcy in 2011 to put to put a line across the page, so I could start again.
I did actually managed to keep that $10, but didn’t trust myself to be able to keep it, and asked a friend to hold it for me.
I recognised in that moment how much I had been blackmailed with that farm and how deeply the outcome of my choice had impacted my confidence in my working life and my relationship with money.
Losing my business was insignificant compared to what came to the surface during that time.
It took all of @ 10 minutes to recover from loosing my business.
I had been doing some really deep work that was immensely beneficial but my challenge was to keep moving deeper but also keep moving forwards and creating a new life for ourselves.
It was a journey to keep that $10 note for several more years until I could afford to have it framed, and it is now hanging in our lounge room.
A comment from someone who shall remain nameless ..”in case of emergency, break glass…”
More importantly, I had succeeded in keeping my stuff separate from my 3 children, including the ugliness of the divorce ,while still retaining my integrity and dignity, even though, it still copped a beating…
I did not interfere with their having a “normal” relationship with their grandparents, and kept my angst during the relationship breakdown out of their lives.
It was important for me that what happened to me wouldn’t happen again or be passed on but they did get a sense of “something”..
I was grateful for the way their mother treated them, as I remember when our first was born and seeing the connection deepening between mother and her children, something that was totally alien to me.
I was deeply emotional at that time and it would be years later before I recognised the significance of that moment.
I have shared this experience with my daughter and I was quite emotional in my sharing.
During the beginning of my current relationship with Annette, when it was my turn to have the kids, I always asked them for their permission for Annette to be with us.
This story is the tip of a very large and ugly iceberg….
I am often asked how come I ended up as Oztantra, and “what happened in my life journey for me to go from tractors to therapist”
My choice of current work career with Oztantra is a direct result of my healing journey and most importantly, why I am very good at it.
My healing journey, coming back into normal has been challenging.
At the time, when Annette and I took over our business called Oztantra, I had no idea how significant this decision would be for me.
Oztantra has given me direction and a reason why I have to unlock my past and deal with it, not just simply put it behind me and move on.
I am hugely grateful for what we have and what we do, as I am making something useful out of the trauma of my past, creating something that is life changing for me as well as people who come into our network.
We have many success stories with couples who felt like they had nowhere else to go and have had life changing experiences with us.
This is the most satisfying thing I have done and why Oztantra has also changed my life.
I have chosen to sort my own shit out and still create and develop a loving intimate relationship with Annette. (although I do wonder at times, why she has tolerated my antics…)
We have a book coming out soon, titled “Coming Together”
which is focused and written about what we have learned during our relationship healing journey.
This book is written mostly by Annette and is based on what we have learned from our own journey as well as with 000’s of our clients along the way.
The book doesn’t include our personal journeys, only what we have learned.
I am now in a place where I feel thankful for my past, and can see it as a pathway into what I am now doing with my life, placing my past traumatic experiences to good use in supporting others.
I made my peace with my parents a long time ago, along with my actions, I felt clear at their funerals and also in my choice up to that point in keeping most of the details of my story to myself.
I have achieved my ideal career and lifestyle that is hugely satisfying and personally rewarding while making major difference’s in lives of our clients, with this website and book as highly visible profiles and examples of our work.
I am comfortable talking about my past, as I find it healing in sharing
I know I would not have chosen to be where I am now and accept that I have been exploded out of my complacency and denial along each step of the way, which has been a far from gentle journey for me and those around me.
Out of all of this, I have a really good relationship with Annette and our shared passion in our work and lifestyle.
I am happy and relieved to own that my children will have their own stuff with me that is separate from my traumatic past.
I understand that my traumatic past is mine and that my children have very little if any understanding of my life before them.
In the past, this has caused pain for me in not being heard, but how then, could I possibly expect them to even understand or comprehend my experience.
I have since come to an understanding that I have been successful in breaking that vicious and unconscious cycle I was born into, and that tmy children are far better off not knowing.
I am happy with that.