So here I am, the other side of that painful story.
It has taken almost a year to write so very little and yet such a massive part of my personal history and now I need a break from the deep and painfully bleak writing.
IT’S NOT WHO I AM.
MY STORY DOES NOT DEFINE ME.
I AM SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT.
And, there is so much more to the story.
So who am I?
I have a name, but that’s not who I am.
I have a beating heart, but that’s not who I am either.
I wear many hats-wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, friend and so on…
I have often questioned myself about why I am here?
What is my purpose?
What is life all about?
I feel so deeply and am forever questioning the world around me. I don’t see life as black and white and I believe that we are all connected on some level.
In 1986 having just turned 18, I qualified as a Nursery Nurse (NNEB) and then travelled to Chicago to become a live in Nanny which only lasted 4 months. That’s a story for another day!
I worked as a Nanny for several different families whilst starting out on my career path and then progressed to supporting young single Mother’s with children and often times, children at risk.
Over the years, I have worked within a specific needs capacity, intensive behaviour support and learning support.
I have also run three small businesses part time whilst being a stay at home mum and not forgetting all the extra jobs to earn money whilst caring for my young family-working in a shop, taking in foreign students, cleaning, care in the community and ‘out work’ which consisted of putting screws in to tiny plastic bags.
I have certainly have had a ‘varied’ working life.
Continuous personal development has always been a fundamental part of my growing and evolving and for many year’s I have continued to attend training courses and study many different schools of thought.
In 1999, I was so blessed to have been given the opportunity to travel to the USA and complete my Practitioner training in Humanistic Neuro-Linguistic Programming (HNLP) and then the following year, my Master Practitioner.
What I learned blew my mind away and challenged my core beliefs and values.
I literally felt like I had woken up and my thinking changed phenomenally. I began to see everyone and everything around me, from a completely different view point and this led to my ability to have a greater understanding of who you are and why you do the things you do.
The difficulty for me was that I had made such a significant change and was ready to take onthe world but the world (the tiny Island I live on) wasn’t ready for me and I was often met with hostility and sometimes humour when in conversation with others about this modern and new way of thinking.
When I look back now, it was never really a modern way at all… I believe that the world just needed to catchup and wake up.
Over the past 20 year’s I have worked independently 1-1 with adults and young people in a therapeutic, support and mentoring role. Awareness about the possibilities for change for each and everyone of us is crucial if we are going to thrive and maintain a happy, healthy life.
My passion for my work is insurmountable.
My commitment to lead my client to a greater resolve has always been and will always be a humbling and profound experience.
I am full of gratitude to be able to serve.
My commitment to myself remains to be chaotic and I don’t use that word lightly. I am fully aware of the difficult path that I am choosing right now.
There are many lessons that I still have to learn…
Everyday is a new day which is met with new learning curves for me and that’s okay. I know that when I fully commit to myself, allowing my life to unfold gently without my pushing my past in front of me, then I will serve an even greater purpose to others.
For that… I am excited.
With studies of human potential and the mind body connection, we are beginning to reawaken and remember what we have always known…
My Father was born in 1934 in Malaya. He was the youngest of three children and I believe they lived a fairly wealthy life. Somewhere, in the boxes that are still piled high in my garage is a photo of the house that they lived in and I will add it here when I find it. It is an amazing property and a huge contrast to where I lived during my childhood.
There is a child missing in the family photo above. My father had another older sister who passed away from contracting TB. I was told that the house keepers, who lived in a small cottage on my grandparent’s land, had a daughter who was taken ill. My young aunt had gone to visit her and take some fresh fruit to the little girl. Sadly, she too caught the infectious disease and died soon after.
My father had already experienced an horrendous trauma at such a very young age.
As I write this now I have had the realisation that my father must have been older than 4 years old when he was detained in the POW camp because Singapore was taken in February 1942. Having a January birthday, would make him 8 years old.
He remained in the camp for 3 years.
My Grandfather was born in Scotland and was an engineer in the either the Navy or Merchant Navy and I believe his parents were tea planters. I have no idea where my Grandmother actually originated from but do know that she was a school teacher and had two brothers and two sisters whom were all very well educated. I was told that my family owned a small town in Malaya but I really don’t know how accurate this is!
They were living in Ipoh when Singapore fell.
I wonder now, if there are any descendants of my family still living in that area of the world?
I was blessed with having the chance to meet my Aunt Joan in 1996. I travelled with my husband and my 23 month old son for a four week holiday. It was an incredible journey being able to meet and spend time with my family on my father’s side. Joan was able to share some stories with me about their childhood and in particular, fragmented parts of their POW experience. I am sure that there was so much more information that my Aunt could have given me and I feel that she only scratched the surface with what she did share.
It was just too painful to revisit.
That was the only one time I met Joan and she passed away about 9 years ago.
I never met my Grandmother.
This is is Joan’s story;
My grandparents, Joan and my father were living in Malaya when the war broke and along with many other people, were evacuated by ship from Singapore. The ship came under attack and was bombed. forcing my family into life boats fighting for their survival. Joan shares in part, the scene of horror and devastation that her and my young father had witnessed. Surrounding them in the water were dead bodies, burning people, screaming cry’s for help-just utter chaos etc…
Joan recalls one memory of seeing a burning baby and how terribly that had affected my father after the event.
Some of the evacuee’s survived and made it to a near by island where they were taken care of by the local people for a few weeks. The Islanders took a huge risk in hiding my family, knowing that if they were caught harbouring them, they would be killed instantly. Eventually, they had to hand the evacuees’s over to the Japanese soldiers in order to save themselves and my grandparents, Joan and my father were taken to the prison camps.
I just can’t imagine how frightened they all must have been…
On arrival at the camps and during the separation period of men and women, my grandfather lied about my father’s age in order for him to be allowed to stay with his mother and sister.
The family were separated.
My father never saw his father again.
My Aunt didn’t really say much about the camps but what she did share, was enough for me to understand the mental and emotional damage that was inflicted on my father at such a young age.
My grandmother Alice used to grind banana skins down into powder and give it to my Father for the nutritional benefit as food was not of the plenty and he was the youngest. Joan tells of women being raped openly and that the children would watch. Men were beaten daily and left for dead, some actually not surviving the beatings. If the children disobeyed, a swift punch to the stomach was a familiar punishment, especially the boys.
These were the experiences that were shaping my father as a young boy and his view of the world and also later as he became a man.
Whilst in the camp, my father learn’t to trade items to get different things that they needed. Joan told me how at times he would take risks trading with particular guards and through doing so, he learnt to speak some Japanese.
As a child, he taught me how to say the rhyme ‘Hickory Dickory Dock’ in Japanese.
I guess you can come to your own conclusion about how a traumatic past can effect a person’s mind. I know that for my father, he went on to repeat the patterns of behaviour that he had learned from such a young age, inflicting it on his own children.
He used aggression and violence to control when he felt so out of control.
He used punching my eldest brother in the stomach as a form of punishment, seemingly for no reason but to apply force when he couldn’t contain his own demons.
He stole my Mothers jewellery and traded it for other people’s medication to feed his own habit.
He would pull my trousers down, hold my hands behind my back and slap my legs until it would sting as a reminder, not do do the very thing I was being punished for, again.
He would force us to eat every scrap on our dinner plate, telling us how lucky we were to have food because so many others didn’t.
And… my Mother told me years ago that when he wanted another child he enforced it.
Saying no to him wasn’t really an option.
The prospect of going home again scared them. They couldn’t imagine how they could ever settle to it. How they could just walk around the streets and pretend to be normal, look women in the eye again after what they had done and seen, ride on trams, sit at a table with a white cloth, and control their hands and just slowly eat. It was the little things that scared them. The big things you could hide in. It was little ones that gave a man away.” ― David Malouf
I have no recollection of what happened and it was sometime later that I found out my Father was at my Godmothers house when he made the call to us.
I wonder what they talked about?
I wonder if Aunty Barbara was able to console him?
I wonder if she held him just for a moment so that he knew he was loved?
I wonder what was going through his haggard mind?
He had lost everything, his wife, his children, his self respect-his mind…
At some stage, either that day or the next, my brothers went home to collect some belonging’s for us.
This is their account of what happened;
They awoke the sleeping Giant when going upstairs and his rage was tenfold. My father tried to stop my brother Ashley taking clothes from my bedroom and demanded to know where we were. He refused his fathers enforcing and all hell broke out.
The dog was going crazy once again, confused as to whom he should protect and somehow during the eruption, the younger of my two brothers, who was only 17, had his head jammed in-between my wardrobe sliding door by our father.
A scene of commotion.
My brothers have said that he would have killed them to get to us.
They escaped the house and took the dog with them.
Everything that he had ever loved was gone and now his home was not his home, it was his external prison too.
An unbearable prison.
During a conversation with my Mother not so long ago, she added another layer to the story that was kept from me for many years. On entering the house, my brothers were hit with the stench of gas. My father had opened the oven door, left the gas on and gone upstairs to lay down.
I have no words to describe the pain that is inside of me now that must have been inside of him at that very moment, to arrive at a place in his life where he believed he could no longer live.
I felt that feeling for a split second some time ago when driving home one day in floods of angry tears. The thought crossed my mind at how easy it would be to drive the car at speed off of the downs and end all of the overwhelming inner turmoil that had been plaguing my life for so long.
Just for a split second…
and I reached out for help.
Depression, drugs, trauma, loss, grief, devastation, abuse, loneliness, self disgust and anything else you can throw into his dark pot, had WON the emotional and personal battle that he was fighting.
It didn’t take much for my Father to find out where we were staying and I am surprised that he didn’t come to the house and smash the front door down.
He wasn’t the kind of man to follows rules and I think he had finally broken.
Going to school that Monday morning wasn’t really an option because of the severity of our situation and I remember quite distinctly, what I was given for breakfast;
Scrambled egg with ketchup.
“Go on eat it up, it’ll do you good to get something in your stomach and stop all that worrying, worrying won’t get you anywhere.”
Said the friend!
I had never tasted it before and I really didn’t like it-so I didn’t eat it.
The phone rang. It was my Father asking to speak to my Mother and that look upon her face returned… the one that she momentarily, had a reprieve from.
I can see clearly in my minds eye, her standing there holding the phone up to her ear. Words are coming out of her mouth and I can not hear what she is saying… but I do know that she denied his begging for us to go home.
He asked to speak to me and she handed the phone over and this time, was the very last time I heard his voice.
Hello darling, it’s me Dad.
Please come home I can’t live without you and Mum.
Please Shellie, please… it won’t happen again!
I’ll get help.
I don’t want to hurt you or Mum, she won’t listen to me just come home.
He was sobbing.
I was sobbing.
I didn’t know what to say, I had no words, just tears, uncontrollable tears, I could have drowned in them.
I couldn’t breathe… my father was pleading with me to come home and I could hear his desperation.
I could feel it…
His words were clear,
he was coherent,
he was present.
I told him that I was scared and sorry but I couldn’t come home.
There was silence-even though we were crying together and then he told me that he loved me and followed with, “I will always love you, you are my everything.”
I stare at this wall with crumbling stone the hard texture stares back at me I can not see a way through it seems impossible A crack appears a tiny space of light and if I pull each side the stone may fall or at least loosen It seems a mammoth task albeit the strength I think I have my arms are weak my body is tired my mind consumed I close my eyes and imagine a mighty gust a powerful force rising up from the earth and with one fair bash the wall is loosened if I dare to dream the wall may fall
I don’t recall the small moments of time that Sunday morning but I do remember that something finally snapped mentally for my Mother as she couldn’t take it anymore.
It was time to leave...
Years of her life had been spent nursing a mentally ill husband and saving him from the brink of life, time and time again.
Years of aggression, physical abuse and living in fear had ruptured her ownheart and mind and she was at the point of no return.
I can’t say exactly what happened during the course of the morning, I just remember my Mother’s friend arriving at some stage, to take us away.
I so want to tell you that I went into my sleeping father and kissed him once more, whispered I love you in his ear, told him I was sorry for leaving him like that but I don’t think I did!
I can’t remember…
I want to remember…
I just recall feeling sick and frightened, with my stomach in knots as we drove away.
She left our dog behind.
The lady that came to rescue us seemed to be quite harsh in her approach towards us fleeing without looking back. I never warmed to her coldness throughout my younger years and I remember her disliking my father. She too had broken away from an abusive marriage and her response to my mothers anxious and somewhat guilt ridden demeanour for leaving him, was both matter of fact and resolute.
She was a survivor and layer upon layer of personal pain was striving her forward to get us out whilst the sick man was drugged.
She called the police.
The safe house was about a ten minute car drive away from where we lived and I felt completely out of sorts being there. It was uncomfortable and felt awkward.
After all it was her house not mine.
I wanted to go home and sleep in my own bed.
I wanted it all to stop and not to feel afraid anymore.
I wanted my Dad to be okay and not be sick.
I wanted my brothers to come and be with me.
I felt so afraid and so alone.
The police came and my mother gave her statement, her friend, driving home the fact that my father was dangerous.
I am beginning to realise now, how angry I still feel about ‘the friend’ and the role she played. I know she came to my mother’s rescue and yes, it was the right thing to do.
Of course it was…
I am grateful even if you think I’m not, they just never protected me from hearing their cruel yet honest words.
I was taking it all in deeply and damagingly.
My father was served notice of an injunction, restraining him from coming anywhere near us.