Water Light

My Story

Early years

Trigger Warning – please be aware that the content below could trigger you if you have had or witnessed similar experiences.  However, I am sharing parts of my story in the light of experience, strength and hope, that no matter what happens in our lives, we have the capacity to heal and grow into extraordinary people!

I suffer with a lot of childhood amnesia, but one of my earliest memories, is awakening in the middle of the night and peering through my bedroom door to see my mother in the distance being bent over a bed by two people in uniform.  I think I saw blood, but can’t be sure.  Then a policeman looking down at me with a horrified expression on his face.

Domestic Violence

I was four years old and I instantly believed I had done something very wrong.  I should not be there.  I was going to get into trouble for being there, but what was happening?  I remember feeling this coldness blasting in my back.  A sense of blackness everywhere, nothing felt contained or made sense.

The policeman picked me up and carried me away down the stairs as I desperately tried to get a last glimpse my mothers saggy body.

Then Blue lights, police cars, strange people, strange places, and practically no other memories, other than witnessing my older brother staring into space, or kicking and screaming at people in rage.

My mother was in intensive care. Maybe it was 2-3 weeks.  Then when she came back, I knew I needed to look after her and keep her well.

No one ever spoke to me about what I witnessed that night.  I was buried, I was not allowed to know anything, it was a very dark and spooky memory that I would see all the time, but I never said a word, until years later.

I had also been taken to visit my father in prison, but told told I was visiting a hospital.  Maybe I was only five, but even then, when I had to climb through big iron prison doors, I knew it wasn’t a hospital, but I felt guilty and bad for knowing it.

I knew in my bones it was a prison.  My father had tried to murder my mother by smashing her head with a mallet that night, because after downing a bottle of whisky, he was convinced she wanted him to kill her. 

But she was convinced it was a one off.  She brought him back into our home when I was nearly 7 and then his violence spread to my brother and myself.  He could roar with rage when he got going.

Yet my father was an extraordinary man,  He was a charming genius.  So if he ever got violent, I knew it was because I was a very bad child, as was my brother.  As a parent he was a God to me, and when he was happy, it was Macdonalds and musicals, song and dance, I felt like the most special girl in the world.  In my mind and body, I just had to make sure, every moment, that I did not anger him so he would not attack  me.

The first suicide – My Grandmother

When I was eight, my fathers mother killed herself.  I had never been allowed to meet her because she was so violent and mentally ill.  By the time I was ten, my father also disappeared to kill himself.  He left my mother a 20 page letter to explain what to do with the house and finances once he was dead.  My mother read this to me.

I was thrown into my Convent boarding school while my mother flew around the world in search of my father.  Abandoned again, I was terrified trying to sleep in scary dorms, desperately needing my mother to come back to me.  I was not so attached to my father, but ever since the attempted murder separation, I became hysterical whenever my mother left me overnight.

After a horrific suicide attempt (not the first, it had also happened before the attempted murder) my father was sectioned.  I used to sit in the car park at the mental hospital, trying to do my homework, whilst having severely mentally ill patients aimlessly walking around staring at me through the car window.

Witnessing Mental Illness

On my eleventh birthday, I sat in the garden of a mental therapy unit, a bit like an AA Rehab centre, while my father was enrolled on a 6 month recovery program.

After 3 months, he began and affair with and 19 year old woman, they left the rehab centre and moved to London.  (Possibly she extended his life for another 14 years, before he finally killed himself).

When my father left us I was heartbroken, I just wanted my daddy to come home.

Even as we crossed the Marylbourne Road in London to the registry office, I was convinced he would change his mind and come back to me, rather than remarry.  I was wrong.

Here began endless times of isolation.  I had no confidence, I struggled with study, I was in a school that only had 23 kids in each year group and I struggled with friendships.

I was terrified of the Nuns.  I did whatever I needed to to not get into trouble.

At home I was dealing with a violent brother and a mother who I had to sleep next to, because for two years, at night, or any time for that matter, she was on so much valium that she would pass out and smash her head.  I used to put her to bed with brandy coffee and pills!  Terrified I was going to lose my mother as well.

Delusion, Denial, Dissociation

Yet here is the rub.  I lived in a beautiful home.  There was always food on the table.  I was impacably dressed, and I 100% believed I had a normal life.  If I saw other kids with home troubles, I would think how sad it was, and how lucky I was to not have problems at home like them.

I had also learnt that children do not have feelings.  Only adults do.  Also, adults get to be ill and depressed, and that is what gets you attention in life.  My job was just to be a good girl.  I would become hysterical if my mother left me, or when my father left, other than that I just lived in this strange nothingness.

I learnt the only way to get attention was to be ill, depressed or violent.

I actually wished I could get sick.  I was jealous of kids at school who got the chicken pox, they got the attention I craved.

There are many other events that took place, too many to mention.  Some I can never repeat publicly.  But there was every kind of abuse, only it was all normal, ok and as far as I knew, it happened in every home.

Teenage Years

Life improved once my mothers dating led to her meeting a lovely man, who brought sanity, stability, security and fun to our lives.  They announced their engagement on my 15th birthday and I was happy.  I sat in the care eating MacDonalds, listening to Live Aid, (My birthday was the same date) and it felt like life was good.  Both parents seemed happy.

My capacity to study just sky-rocketed, suddenly I was top instead of bottom of the class.  I boarded at school, but that was ok.  Although I was very shy, it felt like I had things to talk about.

The Second Suicide – My Grandfather

I passed all my qualifications, moved schools to do A’Levels, then my dad wrote a book about his life called ‘Images of Destruction”.  The next thing I knew my Grandad, (my only grandparent left who a loved very much), killed himself.

My mother announced it, but she had had nothing to do with him for 5 years. 

I went to the funeral, then thrown back into boarding school immediately.  A blackness descended.  I remember a lockdown in my chest.  A sense of total blackness and disconnect from the world.  I did not understand why my wonderful Grandpa had felt life to be so terrible that he needed to die.  Was it because I did not spend enough time with him?  What could I have done?  Was it my fault because I wanted to go Christmas shopping for my boyfriend more than wait for longer with him a few weeks ago???  I remembered leaving him on the bus in Oxford Street.  If only I had known…..

My father saying he didn’t care, my step-father and mother saying ‘what a coward’.  Then me, utterly distraught.  I thought the trauma and tragedy was over….   but here it was again

Here started 20 years of drug use, in an attempt to suppress feelings that I literally could not live or cope with.

School Drop-Out

Suddenly I was bottom of the class again.  I would literally bang my head against the wall.  My brain could not focus, I felt chronically depressed.  Insomnia. Anxiety.  I dropped out of my A’Levels.

I got a job at a bank, whilst I watched my peers go off to University.  I felt total shame, I was such a failure and I hated what I was doing.  More drugs, only harder ones.  I left home at 18.  Within 6 months I was i the midst of a horrific nervous breakdown. 

Mental and Physical Breakdowns 

Doctors looking at my family history had just piled me up with valium and other meds.  I slowly took myself off them, only to have a total physical breakdown when I was 20.  By this point I thought I was a hypochondriac.  Sleeping and smiling were alien to me.  Depression, anxiety, illness…. while my peers were living this other life, that normal existence I had never known.

Once my GP told my mother I was practically in a coma and must not even move, my mother got a private consultant.  Internal tests were done and I was Coeliac.  I was told not to eat Gluten and that in six months I would be a different person.

Coeliac Disease

This was true!!!  After six months on a gluten free diet, I could sleep, I could smile, I could concentrate.  I felt validated that I was not a total loser.  I had actually been chronically ill for years.

Early 20’s – London Life

I felt like I had been given a new lease of life.  I moved to London from Brighton, and walked the streets looking for a job, and ended up working as Sir Dennis Thatchers Secretary for two years.

If felt like the universe was giving me an experience to balance out the fact that my education had been destroyed by tragedy and severe illness.

Again, I began to feel like I had some kind of normal life.  Many of my friends had left University and were in London, so our lives converged again.

I struggled with  being stuck in work I did not enjoy, because I had had no sense of who I was, and had missed out on University Study.  I would always go to evening classes in an attempt to catch up.

 

Despite my addiction to cannabis, my priority and the thing that made me most happy, was still to try to make my father proud.  Everything was about, ‘Will this make my dad happy’?

The last years of my father

His episodes of aggression with me had been far more psychological since he left my mother.  He would inform me I did not love him at all, or that something I thought I wanted to do was ridiculous.  Or he could just as easily praise and support me for the very same thing on a different ocassion.

His struggle with Manic Depression was endless.  The piles of pills by his bed was like a security blanket to him.  To me it was normal.  He had always had pills.

He would impose thoughts and feelings on me that were not my reality.  They came from his mentally ill high or low state.  Yet he was so intelligent and so credible, I would believe whatever he told me.

I would continuously question myself and have a sense of total confusion.  My way to deal with this was to just get high!

He would sit and drink and roar at me over the dinner table.  I just never knew when would be ok, and when he would explode or which Dad I was going to get when I saw him.

Then he would have months where he could not get out of bed and would not talk to me.

One time he warned me that if I did not listen to him very carefully something very serious was going to happen.  I screamed at him that he could not do this to me anymore.  I ran away, and we did not speak for months.  Yet I felt so guilty.

In my own life I was deeply isolated and alone, I had no idea what I wanted to do.  Yet I was not allowed to not be OK.  Just like when I was a child, his mental health seemed to control everything.

Yet I loved him, but was so scared of him.  I did not even realise at the time I was so scared of him, it was just normal.  But when he was good, the fear did not make sense, and when he was bad, I would literally rock backwards and forwards from my gut, waiting for his roaring to stop.

I would be mortified when friends came to London to stay with me at his home, and they would ask me how I let him talk to me like that.

As, I began to stand up to him, I began to lose the fear, to give it back.  One time even telling him ‘Come on then, hit me’!!!

He pulled back and perhaps then he knew, he could not do it anymore.

The same with my brother.  I would feel so ashamed when my friends would be shocked at the way I let him treat me.  I did not understand, as I thought this behaviour was normal in every home.  The physicality of it at times was traumatic, but so long as I didn’t annoy him, he would be nice to me.  

I have learnt now, that victim shaming, is as bad as the abuse itself for the victim.

Nowadays, I have an understanding of gas lighting and narcissistic abuse.  At that point in my life with my father and brother, I had no concept of the damage this was going to cause in my relationships for the future.

A road less travelled

In 1995 I travelled to India for a friends wedding.  During this time I realised how desperately sad I was in my life.  I was working in the City, every hour I could, but I had no respect for what I was doing.

I realised I felt like I was selling my soul to the devil.  I got myself into an escapist romance in India and decided maybe I could also disappear to India and live happy ever after on a mountain in Kashmir, just like my friend.

When I returned, I told my father, he was devastated, yet I thought I cannot live my life trying to be the thing that gives him a sense of achievement anymore.

I made a decision to just work the hours I was contracted to do, which is a kiss of death to any job in the City of London, within weeks they pulled me in with a warning.

A few days later, I bumped into my father in Synagogue on Rosh Hashanah, (The Jewish New Year).  I had not seen him in a Synagogue since he left my mother.  I went home and told my flatmate I had seen him but that he looked like a ghost standing there on the balcony.

Little did I know this would be the last day I would ever see my father.  He took me for lunch, he told me ”I hope you know how much I love you’, I shrugged it off, ‘yes of course I knew’.

I told him about the warning at my work.  My father told me it sounded like constructive dismissal.  He asked me to go back home with him, but I explained I had to get back to work to prove I wanted my job.

He dropped me off at Baker Street Station, the same Marylbourne Road where I had desperately wanted him not to get married 13 years earlier.

For the next two weeks I sat at my desk, I kept worrying about my father.  I would see him lying dead on the floor in his flat.  I felt like I was going mad.  Why would I see or think that.  My Step-Mother was sitting in the next room not saying my father was dead.  I would telephone him to check I was going mad.  He would answer and it was fine.  I hated myself for imagining such things.

Finally, despite my best efforts I lost my job, I was terrified of telling my father.  I called him the following day.  He was supportive and asked what I was going to do.  He was convinced I was going to India.  As if he knew he was powerless to stop me.

Two days later I decided I was going to go to Israel.  As I travelled from Sussex back to London, I was rushing home to call him, knowing how happy he would be if I said I was going to Israel and not India.

The next hour of my life was to change me forever.  My direction, my focus, my capacity to trust, my ability to grieve.

The Third Suicide – My Father

I never got to tell my father the news he would love, because that afternoon he killed himself.

Life after Death

People tell you not to feel guilty, that you could have done nothing.  You know in your right mind that this is true.  However, your feeling body has a different imprint. the feeling of trauma, powerlessness, hopelessness and helplessness.  The rage, the loss, the regret, shame and guilt.

The gut wrenching sense that you could have done something to keep someone alive, a father you loved no matter what.  Despite quite frankly, the most despicable behaviours they exhibited and inflicted  throughout your childhood, without every giving you an apology.

Surviving the suicide of a loved one is a painstaking endurance phenomena.  Living with the ‘i don’t know’, the loss of a last conversation, and the sudden unexpected severance of a relationship that has been part of every day of your life up to that moment.

If mental illness is an excuse, it is a bitter pill to swallow when this same person could be so charming, charismatic and supportive to so many others.

An hour before my father killed himself, he called my mother and told her he was not going to let his daughter upset him anymore.

As a 25 year old young woman, no matter what your cognitive brain tells you, it is like a baseball bat has launched itself into your gut, but that impact never leaves, you just have to learn to live with the pain.

My way of living with this agony was to smoke as much cannabis as I could to numb out.  My mother told me ‘I just need to put it all behind me and get on with my life’.

There was never mention of some counselling, or support group.  No-one and nothing to help me process what was the most excruciating experience I had yet had to suffer.

The Great Escape

The payoff from losing my job, and a small inheritance from my father meant I had the opportunity to escape and travel the world.

The leaving the Rat Race of the city and exploring the world, was no longer just a change of lifestyle.  Now I desperately trying to find some kind of internal comfort and freedom, rather than just be burdened with the sorrow and torment of my fathers suicide.

The isolation I felt when surrounded by my closest friends in the UK was unbearable.  The emotional overload that made it almost impossible to converse or feel able to function doing day to day normal stuff.  So leaving the country at this point  seemed my best option.

Travelling around the planet

For 18 months I travelled.  First I went to Israel, and spent two months in the country that my Jewish and Convent upbringing had always taught me so much about. 

It was here that my love for the desert was born.  The Sinai, The Negev, and also Jordan.  I lived in caves with the Beduin in Petra and sat by the Red and Dead Seas.

Safety at last

I began to discover a strange phenomena, even though I was totally alone, in the middle of nowhere, meeting total strangers from different cultures, I had never felt so protected and safe.

The experience was like a first ray of sunshine at dawn, showing me that the threat of the loss of either my father or brother was all based on an untruth.  I had believed I needed their protection to survive in the world.  It was now becoming clear, that it was the dynamics of those relationships that I had actually needed protection from.

I wept, I wrote, I numbed out with smoking cannabis, 24 hours a day.

Grief and Beauty

There were times I just did not know what to do with the pain, yet I balanced this with the extraordinary environments that this incredible planet was revealing to me.

I then moved on to India, and got to the highest point of the Hymalayas.  Ladahk is like a desert in the sky.  I continued to smoke, write, and find incredible people and places.

When my body could take no more

I began to get sick.  The impact of smoking so many drugs to anaesthetise the emotional trauma, combined with the natural sicknesses in India meant I was getting weak.  My throat was also struggling.  Yet I pushed my body, self-care was not on my radar, all that mattered was my mission to numb out and get as far away from pain as I could.

My life was worth nothing to me

I had no zero value on my life.  I actually welcomed the idea of death.  In Israel, there had been bombs going off on buses, and I had felt totally immune to the fear of being blown up. 

For years I had been terrified of travelling, especially alone.  Now however, nothing could touch me.  I was numb to the core.  The most terrifying thing had happened inside my psyche, and nothing could be harder to deal with than that. I hitched alone with Indian truck drivers, I took risks with my safety that would terrify me if my daughters did the same.

Spirituality seeped into my Soul

I met incredible spiritual teachers, I lived in tribal communities.  Slowly in India, a sense of spirituality, beyond the forces of religion began to seep into my soul.

After two months of Kashmir, Ladahk, and other beautiful places, I landed in Dharamsala, the home of the Dalai Lama.  I was exhausted.  Mentally, I was still living with the stinging sensation of the suicide.  My strategy for not feeling it was running out of steam as my throat was wretched to the point I could barely swallow from all the smoking.

When East Meets West

I went to a Doctor to get anti-biotics.  Being sick was not working out well for me at all.  I couldn’t smoke, my hair was full of lice, the anti-biotics made me feel like I was on the edge of total breakdown.  I was alone and in turmoil.

I was caught outdoors in  thunder and lightning, and I literally fell to my knees and a voice inside simply wailed ‘God Please Show Me How To Stay Alive’ I wept and wept, ‘Show me what I need to do, to not do what they did’ ‘Show me how to not kill myself, I have no idea how to not do what they did, please, please help me’.

Have you ever had a moment where your very soul is crying out for life?

I saw a door, in the midst of the downpour and fell into the room of a Tibetan Doctor.  I asked him to help me.  I told him I always smoked but my throat was destroyed.  That I was taking medication for it, but it was making me feel even worse.  He could see I was broken and overwhelmed.  He lay me down and gave me some acupuncture.  I had never experienced needles before, but I would have tried anything at that point.

He told me to go to the Dalai Lamas Doctor and that I would be ok.

That day was the beginning of my learning about ways of healing that are separate to medication, or self-medicating with drugs.

The big shift

The thunder and lightning was a time when something in my world was dramatically shifting.

As ever, I was not alone.  I was blessed, held and shown the way to recovery.

The Tibetan Doctor I met the next day, was a beautiful woman.  She gave me potions and rituals. 

She explained that Coeliac is  what they call Liver and Spleen Disease and that those organs needed tonics. Within a week I felt well, and healthier than I had since my Coeliac diagnosis.

A stronger body can contain more emotion

I still used the cannabis to ease the emotional torment, but my body felt stronger.

I stayed in India for another 5 months.  I checked in with the Tibetan Doctors in Mumbai to get more of their  Medicine.  Tibetan Medicine looks like rabbit droppings, but it is made up of minerals and herbs.

I began to learn the power of these natural substances.  I was introduced to the art of rituals.

My journey continued, I was mentally stronger.

A Period of Grace

I travelled in India for 9 months, I had been blessed with a period of grace in my life, to also absorb the incredible majesty of the planet.  Whilst navigating levels of trauma in my heart and nervous system, I was able to bathe in the collateral beauty of nature.

I watched sunrises in Nepal, Sunsets in Thailand, Arrangatans in Sumatra, Volcanos in Java, Dolphins in Bali, and the Oceans in Australia.

I began to wind up my journey in Fiji.  Eventually arriving in San Francisco and New York.  I was dreading returning to the UK.

The End Of The Road

I had no idea how I was going to function.  I was meant to be going to Manchester University to do a Professional Qualification in Human Resource Management.  The Degree I had always wanted to do.  

This was so alien to the journey I had been on, and the truth of who I really was.

My journey around the globe had informed me of a different aspect of working with humans.  Their Body, Mind and Spirit – The Healing Arts.  My focus was still the same as on that Thundery Day.  How to stay alive and actually want to be alive!

In India I had a friend who wanted to give me Reiki.  She was a beautiful woman and I let her give me some.  I thought it was all a bit odd.  By the time I was in Australia, I trained in it.  This was the beginning of my destiny to be a practitioner.

Meltdown

I do not remember exactly how it happened, but when I returned to the UK, the people at the unemployment centre in Sussex decided I was not fit for work.

I have no recollection of how this was established, which is perhaps exactly why it happened. 

What I do remember clearly is the interview with the Incapacity Benefit Doctor.  He told me I was going to need to open up a can of worms, and that it would take at least a couple of years to process.

When I told him my family history, and that I dropped out of my education, and did not get to go to University like my friends, he very gently said to me, ‘Victoria you went to the University of Life and now you need to recover’.  “You have experience that no University can teach’ He confirmed I was suffering with severe and chronic anxiety.

I think this was the first time, the seriousness of my childhood was validated.  I came away from him feeling a disconnect with my family, because the state or ‘normal’ and ‘you just need to get on with it’ had been quashed.

I managed to get myself on a Holistic Therapies Course at a College in Brighton and a small cleaning job so that I had something positive to do with my time.

Housing benefit paid my rent.  I had never used benefits before.  I always worked from the time I dropped out of school, so this was strange to me.  Far from the world of being Sir Dennis Thatchers secretary or working in the City of London.

I started to feel a little bit happy, for just a little bit of time, I was allowed to do something I wanted to do.

I was struggling with putting down the Cannabis.  I smoked less nowadays.  The more stability and structure, the easier it was to let go of my crutch.

I also went into one-to-one and group therapy and opened the can of worms.

Rage No More

The first relationship to slide was with my brother.  His first rage at me after my return was so shocking.  Having travelled the world and not have one person direct aggression towards me in that way, I could see it now, the most unsafe place I had ever been in was my home.

My brother was abused by a father who was a bully, he learned the behaviour and acted it out with me.    He would rage and abuse me, simply because he knew nothing else, so it became our normal.

My brothers use of drugs was constant.  We got on best when I joined him in his world.  For my health and sanity, I could not do this anymore.

Mother Love?

The next relationship to take a battering was with my mother.  I became furious that she allowed a violent man back in to our home to parent us.  I was incredulous that she was complicit to his violence after what he had done to her.

I was 27, I did not understand trauma bonding, I had no level of compassion.  I did not understand that in 1974 there was only one womans refuge in the whole of the UK.

I wanted to blame my mother for not protecting me, and for teaching me to love a father, and then making me feel guilty and ashamed for loving him once he left her.

My mother immediately became ill, and I was incapable of kindness.  I felt cold.  My fathers suicide had decimated my heart.  On one hand my mother was telling me  to shutdown and just get on with my life.  

My mother is an incredible woman.  She survived a brutal attack.  She never got councelling, she simply buried the whole thing and got on with her life, doing the best she could with what she had at the time.

Whatever decision she made would have been wrong in some way.  However, to this day, I wish she had been strong enough to not bring my father back into our home when he left prison.

 

I beleive my life and that of my brothers would have had a better chance to develop.  However divorce was not normal then, and my mother is the Queen of needing to look good!

 

A fledgeling Therapist

I finished my holistic therapy course in 1998, but I knew I was not fit to practice.  I still had an addiction I could not shift, and it felt inauthentic to put my hands on peoples bodies when I could not fully care for my own.

Shamanic Training

I progressed with a Shamanic Rites Of Passage Course, which helped ground aspects of seeing or experiencing things that did not make sense to me.

This practice has remained dear to my heart.  It was not something that became mainstream in my life, however, my stones, my drum and my vision has remained.

My husband and children

In December 1998 I returned to Israel.  I was visiting my Aunt in Jerusalem, and had many friends from my travels to reconnect with.

One special man I had met in India offered me a bed for the night.

This was the beginning of a 23 year relationship.  We had two daughters born in 2001 and 2004.

I do not want to go into detail of our marriage here.  It had very good parts and very bad parts.  Unfortunately the latter took over.

During our time together my work always needed to accommodate the priority of childcare.

12 Step Fellowships

In 2006 I entered 12 step recovery.  My struggle with putting down the substance that had been my companion had come to a head.

My first 12 Step Fellowship was Al Anon, for families and friends of Alcoholics.  I had never seen my father as one, but actually he always drank and his suicide attempts always used alcohol.

I wished I had found this fellowship 10 years earlier.  To sit and listen to others.  To get the identification to help me understand my trauma and continued struggle with life and relationships.