Of monsters and men

Anyone else a fan of “Of monsters and men”? They’ve got some great music, but that’s not what I’m writing about. Last time I blogged I talked about scribble writing in my journals because, although I’m pretty open, I don’t share everything for the reasons I wrote about then. 

(Trigger warning: abuse, domestic violence)

I follow Grant Shimmin on Twitter and he wrote an excellent article this week, which has made me speak out a bit more. If you follow me, you know I’ve had weight loss surgery and as part of the journey I’ve done 2+ years of counselling and am still unpacking the shit in my head. Part of that is realising how awful my first marriage was – something I carefully hid from myself (and others). When we separated most of our friends were completely unprepared because we seemed so fortunate except for my infertility.

My ex-husband wasn’t a monster. He was an ordinary man who could be difficult and had mental health issues (severe, crippling depression). It’s really only this last six months or so I have started to admit I was abused. Not physically, but there are ways to abuse people where the scars aren’t obvious. I am dealing with the impacts of that abuse now thanks to counselling and other support.

Does Tony know the extent of the abuse? No. Will I tell him the details? No. He fell in love with the product of that abuse – I don’t mean he was/is abusive. Far from it; he’s one of life’s gentle supportive people. But the things that make me “me” – behaviours, actions, ways of being – are a product of that abusive relationship and he’s dealing with a changing me. That’s enough for anyone.

As I said, people were shocked when we separated. Because men who abuse others – physically, emotionally, sexually and financially – men who rape and attack – get away with it because of their seeming normalcy. They don’t wear a sign saying “hey, I’m a monster so be careful”. My ex was probably Tony’s best friend, we all used to hang round together. He had some great friends, who are no doubt very loyal and would say I’m lying – one of the reasons I have never spoken up, and also out of respect for his kids.

When the Courts, media etc say men have “acted out of character” or are “good men who suddenly snapped” they are wrong; this narrative enables men to keep abusing, and silences victims. I know from personal experience that abuse is insidious and increases over time, but often remains hidden because of shame and an attempt to maintain a sense of (admittedly damaged) self. When women say they’re abused, believe them. When someone says a good man “snapped” call bullshit…

 

 

One Little Word for 2019

Every year I join #olw – One Little Word with Ali Edwards. This year my word was ENOUGH. You can read about it here. As always happens, the word turned out to have more connections and meanings for me than I could have imagined. I ended up in counselling, getting to the heart of some issues, working towards a point where my heart – not just my head – knows I am enough. I’m a work in progress.

I’ve put quite a lot of time into choosing my One Little Word for 2019 and tested four out by writing down what they would mean to me. Aware and connection were pretty good but, in the end, DEEP was a clear winner. As we get into 2019 I know, from previous years, more connections will become clear, but for now DEEP resonates for me because:

  • I want to understand myself at a deep level
  • I am prepared to dig deep emotionally
  • I seek friendships that connect at a deep level
  • I aim for a deep understanding of key issues at work
  • I aim for a deep understanding of national issues that are aligned with my interests
  • I am prepared to dig deep to get fitter, even when it hurts
  • I am willing to dig deep to reach my goals

Normally I make an index card piece of art and put it in my office at work This year I’ve gone for a square format and made two, one for at work, and one for my home office, to keep me even more focussed on my word and what it means to me.

My One Little Word for 2018…

My ‘One Little Word’ for 2018 was ENOUGH. You can read about it here. It’s been a good word for me this year, as I start to reflect on the year that’s been.
One of the things I talked about in the original post was ‘Imposter Syndrome’. We held staff training this week and I talked a bit about imposter syndrome, without naming it – relating to something that happened when I was at Christchurch’s new library recently.

This year I choose to go to counselling to sort a few issues that arose after I got past the 2 years of post-weight loss surgery psychology appointments. I’ve talked about it before, so won’t bore you with the details, but in thinking about this post I’ve realised part of what counselling was about was accepting that I *am* enough. Hmm.

So, was ENOUGH the right word to guide me through this year? Absolutely. There’s something quite magic for me in choosing a word, writing about it, creating it on a postcard sized artwork to have in my office, and letting it guide me. Will I be choosing a word for 2019? Yes. But not just yet, I need to dwell on the possibilities a bit longer…

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New exhibition & mental health

I’m excited to be exhibiting with Eltham artist Dimmie Danielewski during this year’s Arts Fest 2018. As part of this new body of work, I have changed my bio to read:

New Zealand mixed media artist Cath Sheard’s work bring a lightness to, and shines light on, the often-untold stories of women. By focusing on topics such as anxiety, chronic illness, and sexual violence the artist hopes to open up a safe space for discussion. Her work also records memories, especially of the landscape of her youth, as well as her internal dialogue.

The new bio feels right to me; my work has changed in the last few years and my bio didn’t really capture that. The idea of bringing lightness to a subject, while shining a light on hard stuff, is increasingly important to me.

I said in my last post that I had decided to go to counselling to continue the healing journey. I started counselling last week; I like Shanti and feel we have come up with a good plan. Basically, she works on getting people sleeping well first, so their mind starts to relax and heal, then formulate a sentence that captures one thing to work on, and teaches the tools needed to keep repeating the process.

Shanti and I talked about some of the issues I’d discussed with the weight loss psychologist. I’m realising I can’t even identify some emotions, and certainly don’t express them, nor am I good at saying what I want outside of work. We think my first sentence to work on will be something like “I am able to identify my emotions and verbalise my feelings and wants”. As she said, that alone will make a huge change to my life.

I’m always quite open and honest on my blog but even I am going to redact a bit, mainly to protect other people because I can’t tell some stories without impacting their privacy too. What I am discovering is how much unsolved stuff is in my head – things like the miscarriages, but also things from my youth, sexual & emotional abuse and stuff from my first marriage. Issues that should have been sorted decades ago … so now it’s time to get it done.

 I’m fine – there’s no crisis, but it is stuff I need to work through. I think it’s important we talk about our mental health otherwise the stigma will never go away. I have cut back my time online, especially Twitter where it can be quite political and intense, while I look after myself.

 body of work