UNDER LOCK AND KEY.
Part 2 by Narelle Osborne
“And just as the Phoenix rose from the ashes, she too will rise.
Returning from the flames, clothed in nothing but her strength,
more beautiful then ever before” – Shannen Heartz
For as long as I can remember, I have hidden within.
I guess this could have started with the words my parents often told us when we were little…… “children should be seen and not heard” or “you shouldn’t speak unless spoken to”. The childhood birthday parties that my mother would organise without knowing what I liked or who my friends were….yet I needed to “smile….and be thankful you’re having a party at all”.
When I was sexually assaulted just weeks before my twelfth birthday, I completely retreated within myself. I had decided to lock the door between my true hidden self and my physical self when it was decided that the charges against the person that had violated me, were to be dropped. By 13, I had turned to drugs and alcohol to numb my hidden self and to mask anything that may sneak through to the physical.
Needless to say, my first major relationship was everything and more of what I was trying to run from, trying to hide from. Emotional abuse and physical abuse were the foundation of the relationship. During one of the beatings I received for looking at a male we walked past, I realised that I had backed myself into a corner. My only way out of the relationship was going to be in a pine box. Not long before my eighteenth birthday, he had dropped me off at my Mum’s place while he and his mother attended a family Christmas function. My mother and brother also had to go out that day. While they were gone, I decided that I wanted to take control of how I leave this world. I took a razor blade and cut into my arm. I was taken aback when my skin just peeled open and there was no pain. Surely this should be painful….. shouldn’t it? As the blood flowed freely, my only thought was “if I don’t succeed, Mum will kill me for getting blood on the precious carpet”. I went outside and thought that I was hiding to wait for my fate, then Mum showed up screaming and yelling. I was taken to the hospital and because I was still under 18 years old, I had to see a psychiatrist for the next two years. I chose to stay in the relationship because any physical pain was easier to deal with than living with my mother. I didn’t get beaten again because we were being “watched,” but sex was expected on demand as usual. As a result, I fell pregnant with my son almost eighteen months after my attempted suicide. Thankfully, four months into the pregnancy, I was given an ultimatum…I needed to choose him or the baby. Of course, I chose the baby and moved back home.
Moving back home had been tolerable, as my brother had moved interstate, so Mum was constantly worrying and fussing over him. While he was away, for the first time in our lives, he and I had become close. I am so incredibly thankful and blessed that our relationship had changed. He was excited to be an uncle and would often call and tell me all the amazing things he wanted to do with the little one.. especially if it were a boy. My brother was two months shy of his eighteenth birthday and I was seven months pregnant when he took his own life. Yet again, my mother had taken away my voice. She was grieving and behaved like she was the only family member to feel the loss. It was time to hide again. Time to lock anything and everything that allowed me to feel, away in the deepest darkest corners of my being. Two months later I had a beautiful baby boy.
My son and I spent the first three amazing years of his life, enjoying each other’s company. This was the first time in my life that I can recall ever experiencing what it was like to feel loved…. unconditionally.
Right around my son’s third birthday, I was invited by my cousin to attend a casual work function that his work was holding. As my cousin, his wife and myself walked into the function, introductions were made, and at one table was the most rude and arrogant man I’d had the displeasure of meeting. He continuously tried to join in the conversations we were having, though at the time, I would give him a look of distaste and strike up a conversation with one of the other attendees. Without realising it at the time, I had become a challenge for him by being the rude one. His manners surfaced, and the effort to win my attention was massive. We started dating. We had only been dating a short amount of time when I had found out that I had evidence of cervical cancer. A biopsy was done on the Monday and the next day he was notified that he was being sent away for work for eight weeks. They were to leave the following Monday, so the guys organised a romantic getaway for the weekend. We had all had an amazing weekend…and it had indeed been very romantic. The guys left on the Monday morning as organised and I received the biopsy results that afternoon.
Surgery had been organised in six weeks time. The week before surgery, I had been feeling unwell enough that I went to see my doctor. I found out the Friday before surgery, that my doctor had cancelled the surgery. I was pregnant. A week later, the guys returned home….a week early. I broke the news of the pregnancy and was pleasantly surprised by his reaction. We were living in a regional area, and he wanted to move to a capital city where the hospitals had a better reputation. I was six months pregnant when he gave up his job there, and we moved to the city where he had family. Once he was around the familiar surroundings of “home”, his true nature exposed itself. The rude arrogant man I had met at the function was back. I was his party joke and his emotional torture began. Again, a part of me retreated and his in the dark shadows with the other versions of me that remained there. I gave birth to our daughter and that evening he proposed. I would not have said yes if I had not been in such a vulnerable and medicated state. We were married for a little over seventeen years. The last ten of which I had grown and my confidence blossomed. I chose to close that book abruptly when I realised that we had nothing at all to offer each other anymore, and I was no longer prepared to accept the lies and deceit.
About a year and a half after this, I relocated and started fresh in another country. Unfortunately, I had spent so many years locking away almost every part of me that felt anything or had a voice and married someone I thought I knew, that I thought was a friend. There were so many red flags and so many internal warnings, however, somewhere along the line, I had started to hush my own voice…just as so many others had done before. Once I had been made painfully aware of the dangers involved in this relationship, I had to hush myself completely as a form of survival purposefully. I had worked so hard at keeping this up that when it was noticed, and a lifeline was thrown to me, I couldn’t speak properly and sure as hell couldn’t speak my truth at first.
That angel, that lifeline, brought me back home, and as soon as I knew I was safe, I fell apart. What had I done to all those beautiful versions of myself? I felt so disconnected from myself, and I was frantic to reconnect. I sought help from some amazing people and they helped in ways I can’t even begin to explain. I was somehow guided towards two amazing men. One has all the qualifications in the world and helped me identify where in this life, the founding relationships that had forged my beliefs. The second man offered me the tools to break down my own walls, doors, barriers and old beliefs. I chipped away as the woman I am today and I felt a shift. It wasn’t until I started to chip away as the little me, as the teen me, as the young adult me, that I felt the ashes truly get hot. It wasn’t until I acknowledged and called forth every version of me that I had hidden in my shadows, offering them a heartfelt apology and an opportunity for them to address the situations in which they played a part, that I felt my phoenix emerge from the ashes and take flight. By God, it’s astonishingly beautiful and every day, when I look in the mirror, I shine light in the darkest corners of myself!