From the Sky down

How did the world get so full of information 

every minute of every day reality tv and 24 hour news

and who thought it would be a good idea 

to fit it all right here in the back pocket of my jeans

all the information and the miss information 

and all the truth is out there but it’s hidden buried beneath the propaganda and the curated lies 

don’t get me wrong sometimes it is the good

but it’s mostly just the bad and the ugly with a filter slapped on that’s supposed to convince us that we want it

and everyone has an opinion on everything hiding behind their keyboard with the belief they’ve earned the right to share it

and no one is brave enough anymore to just admit when they don’t know

because what does it mean if the whole world fits inside your phone and it’s smaller than you are but you’re still not big enough to contain it

So we shrink ourselves down trying to make ourselves bigger

because it all so conveniently fits inside the palm of our hand as we loose time we can never get back scrolling on the device we built for connection that’s causing all this separation

while they tell us over and over again that if we would only keep on striving to do everything they said

while they sell us this dream that if we just invest enough hope and we sacrifice our mental health we can get lucky enough to go viral and catch a break or two that will turn this life around

and if that happens someday we could maybe have an Instagram feed that makes us look like we’re the one that’s normal

if we start again from the ground up maybe we could could be enough to fit inside their mould and that would make them proud

and I tried for a while I really really tried 

to shrink to conform to fit to fit in but fitting in just made it clear I didn’t have anywhere I belong

when it all came down to it I wasn’t built for this and it was a little late in the day I’ll admit but I realised I’m a bird

and I couldn’t spend my life swimming inside their fishbowl

and if those of us that are born to fly really want to change the world if we want to overcome

We have to be far too busy building something beautiful from the sky down to ever stop and listen to the voices that want to cage us.

– Louise Alexandra Erskine

When the beginning isn’t at the start

When the beginning isn’t at the start

There’s an argument to be made that our stories begin at birth, as we enter the world outside the womb and gasp for our first breath. There’s an argument to be made that maybe it’s even earlier, maybe our story begins with our conception, if procedural traumatic memories can be traced back as early as the second trimester of pregnancy that certainly seems to support the idea that birth isn’t the beginning. I’ve heard an impassioned speech or two suggest life begins at 40 or 50 or 60… I would say there’s also a fairly solid argument to be made that mine began at 2 years old when I should have died but God saved me and set me apart but I’m not going with any of those, no, my story or at least the one i’m living now began at 31, sitting wedged in a tiny space on the floor between my bed and the wardrobe hiding from my husband, broken to the point I didn’t know how to survive another day, desperate and Googling, normally I’ll admit that’s a bad combination but just this once God saw my need and used Google to save me rather than convince me I was dying of some obscure disease to which there was no cure – seriously never google the symptoms of anything!

I had not long given birth to my third baby, my second son and a honker of a surprise, God I’m fairly sure sent him to save me and give me the strength he new I’d need to leave, because I certainly wasn’t planning on bringing another human being into the mess that I was living in. At first two kids under two, no sleep in two years, a 7 year old that also seemed to be slowly loosing himself and no one to help me navigate what was going on, or why it was we all seemed to be spiralling was a little overwhelming and more than I could bare. I want to say my husband at the time in question was slowly loosing his battle with drinking – I’m not sure why I want to say that I guess I want it to be like it was outside his control and that he couldn’t help it, because for a lot of people that is true alcoholism is a disease it was for my dad and for my grandad and it really takes the sting out of it when that’s the case, but the truth is it wasn’t a battle, he wasn’t fighting it and he wasn’t loosing it he was chasing it, as hard and as fast as he could, the reasons for this choice are long and complex and ultimately his is not my story to tell. 

The truth is it hurt so much to watch because it wounded my pride, its like when you see people on the news and they always just say ” I know it happens but I didn’t think it would ever happen to me” I’ve always known that children of alcoholics are more likely to be in relationships with alcoholics, it’s something about finding security in the familiar and knowing it won’t kill you because you’ve already survived it. My grandfather was a mean drunk the war messed him up and there was no ptsd support back then so he tried his best to drink the demons quiet but only ever made them scream louder. My dad on the other hand had a big kind heart you’d have to be made of stone not to fall for but he too had his demons and tried to escape them in a bottle that ended the day as empty as he felt.

I knew all of this and foolishly thought knowing it would protect me somehow from becoming the statistic. It didn’t. I wound up repeating history and learning the hard way that if my children weren’t going to loose their lives to the same generational curse I was I’d have to be the one to break the chain. 

So here I was starting my story at the end hiding behind the bed like a scared little girl hoping my husband wouldn’t find me and reading a blog on how to survive being married to an alcoholic, I didn’t even realise I was being abused at this point I just knew I hurt and I couldn’t figure out why, like I was drowning and couldn’t find where the water was coming from. No mater what I did how fast I scooped up the buckets, or how many holes I found and tried to plug the water just kept on coming until it crashed over me and just kept knocking all the air from my lungs.

So here I was reading her story thinking it was just the drinking that needed fixing and everything would be okay that maybe if I changed something or did something or was something different it would all be enough to go back to how things used to be, to when I was enough and not too much, when we had something good that made him happy and that somehow the white picket fence family dream I was sold wasn’t dead. I related to her story and was glad I read and found the 12 steps helpful but honestly I don’t suppose it would have made much difference in my life if it weren’t for one thing, a little grey box about halfway down that read

You intended it to harm me but God intended it for good what is now being done the saving of many lives.

Genesis 50.20 

I read it and something in my soul grabbed hold of it and threw itself on board. Maybe just maybe the God of my childhood was still with me, and maybe just maybe he could save me again. This wasn’t just a word it was my life raft in the storm, it was my moment and it became my purpose as I grew into my journey, it wasn’t a big sudden change where Jesus rode in, snapped his fingers and fixed everything, it took a long time learning to keep my head above those waves, and I still don’t always but it’s the reason I’m no longer hiding behind the bed scared out of my mind and praying not to be found but out here bleeding ink for the world to read.

The Space to Receive

The Space to Receive

The space to receive

Yung Pueblo once wrote that being able to receive love is as important as being able to give love, the trouble with that is that I’ve never been any good at receiving. I didn’t grow up with the tools to know how and life taught me there was always an ulterior motive and that the sooner I figure it out the better chance I have of surviving it. I have struggled deeply with asking for help and then learning to accept it when it comes, the idea I can’t do everything alone and that that’s okay has been a heck of a journey and its an understanding I have come to rather later in life than is ideal.

Love is a complicated thing to often associated with things that aren’t really love at all, the trouble for instance with people telling you you’re beautiful is that it sounds good and people think it’s nice but in a weird way it completely undermines your confidence, its got nothing to do with who you are, it’s out of your control and it fades easily. You can’t build your spirit on something that exists only at the surface. I was used to people wanting to consume me because they fetishised my hair or liked how I looked, and then pretending to be interested in the parts of me that meant something or made up who I am just to get what they want, and then I got used to watching them walk away when they didn’t get it and also when they did, and I got used to letting that reaffirm my belief that those parts of me that were deeper weren’t enough or were too much, or sometimes both at the same time.

A long time ago, or at least it feels like a long time, truthfully I don’t remember when it was but at some point in I guess the past year I asked God to teach me how to receive love, because all I knew at that point was that I had never truly been loved and the pain of that was unbearable and I didn’t want to die with it still being true. I didn’t want to live forever only being half loved because its more survivable somehow, it isn’t and I wasn’t willing to spend the rest of my life living in fear of being vulnerable.

The thing about receiving though, is that in order for it to be possible you have to have the space for it, if you don’t create within yourself the space to receive then it doesn’t matter how good what you’re given is because you won’t have the capacity to hold onto it. You can get a beautiful new coat but if your closet is full you’re either going to have to clear something out or you’re going to leave the new one on the banister and the dog is going to chew a hole in it (true story). If you have no clue where to put the gift or what to do with it then you won’t be able to look after it or protect it and it will break, and some of those little shards will cut you and will be just insidious enough to fit into the space that you did have. The same space that good thing was too big a blessing for and wouldn’t fit into. So the hurt is something you’ll carry long after you loose the gift and all of the joy is gone.

Slowly I’ve been learning to receive grace, I’ve been learning by making space, I’ve been making space by letting go of all the unwanted things that were filling me up and taking up real estate inside me they didn’t deserve, I’ve learned to let go, I mean not instantly it’s still a process but I am finding my peace so much quicker each time I do. I’ve had to learn how to let go of not just my anger and my resentment, even when they seem justified but of my responses in those situations. I’ve learned the hard way that pushing someone away preserves nothing least of all me and hurts more than waiting on them ever would have. 

I’ve had to let go of offence and learn that someone else’s words aren’t what hurt but the wound already in me that those words touched. I’ve had to let go of my defensiveness, my need to prove everybody wrong and how easily I take on board the opinions of people that haven’t earned the right to give them. I’ve had to learn to stop building walls, to stop isolating myself and to stop running, self sabotaging and pushing people away in some sort of misguided test where I don’t believe they’ll fight for me so I create my own self fulfilling prophecy where I’m disappointed that they don’t stay even though I told them not to.

The hardest things to let go of were the lies I believed about myself that I wasn’t worth anything, that I didn’t belong anywhere or have anything to offer that anyone could ever want, and that I never would, the belief I didn’t deserve to be valued or loved or cherished because I was never going to be enough. And I had to first accept and then heal the part of me that sought out relationships that affirmed those beliefs.

This as with anything in life that we have to overcome can be a daily battle and a daily, sometimes hourly choice to see the good in it and to keep holding on. The story I make up when it’s all feeling too much is that I was wrong about everything that I ever have been, am now or could become, and that I’m just stuck again in some toxic cycle where I hurt all the time, am too much to handle, am completely unloveable and will be alone forever and that nothing I feel matters so I should just numb it all out and listen to the same old lies as they fall from a new tongue as I settle for any available arms that I can just lay in for a while even if it means ignoring everything that’s important to me. I’m not going to pretend that those days aren’t dark or scary and that I don’t ever let them spiral but I can let you know that I’m winning against them, most days are good days and the darker moments don’t last that long, that the joy of the lord really is my strength and that no matter how long the night may feel the dawn always comes.

This leads me to the other important thing I’ve had to learn, and that is to be intentional with how I am filled, nothing exists in a vacuum and the job I have had alongside all the letting go is to strengthen the parts of me that need holding on to, to nurture my gifts and talents and set healthy boundaries. I’m learning to speak to my self with love and compassion and be gentle even in my mistakes, allowing myself the freedom to fail is important and i’ve learned there’s no use crying out for the chains to break if I don’t let go of what they tethered me too. 

I learned this past year that you can’t give without judgement what you are unable to receive without self criticism, if you can’t receive help without feeling weak you can’t give help with perceiving weakness and the same goes for love if I can’t stop treating myself like an unfinished product that has to meet certain requirements to be deserving of love then I can’t embrace all the beautiful scars and flaws that make someone else who they are.

Fast forward to now and honestly there are so many ways life is so good and I fall asleep long before I finish my gratitude list each night but there are areas in which at times I’m also feeling pretty empty, there are days where I struggle to pour out what I don’t have.

I know they say you can’t pour from an empty cup and there are ways that can be true, I know that sometimes you feel like what you have is so small you don’t even count it amongst your blessings anymore, and that we have a natural tendency to want to hold on tighter to what we have left because we have this misconception that it’s easier to give from abundance. I wonder though, if we haven’t first learned to give when we have little whether the more we have the more we can be afraid to loose when we still feel its not enough, but I also know that so often with God the action creates the provision and choosing to keep on pouring is how you get filled up.

I know that there’s hope in feeling empty because I finally have the space to receive what is meant for me and I know that it’s immeasurably more than I could ever ask or imagine. 

So I can’t tell you what’s coming next but I can tell you already in faith that it was worth the wait and each and every lesson along the way.

Dating with CPTSD

Dating with CPTSD

Dating with trauma is complicated there’s no one size fits all option for how to deal with life. Sometimes you can meet someone that aligns with you in ways you daren’t have imagined possible that fits you like a glove, and sometimes that still isn’t enough because you aren’t both in the same space when it comes to overcoming triggers or because you are or because you just aren’t brave enough to let each other in far enough to see past it.

Dating with trauma is I guess something I underestimated – we could easily have gone on for months without a bump in the road and maybe then we could have faced one together when it came, but timing being what it is that wasn’t our story here. We both hit triggers incredibly early on which I maybe we should have expected but we didn’t and we were both blindsided by it and it broke my heart at a stage I probably shouldn’t have even been that invested but rightly or wrongly I found someone that I could see myself falling for and more importantly building something with, and that’s hard because in a lot of ways it’s no one’s fault it didn’t work out that way nobody is to blame, there’s nobody to be mad at and I felt powerless so I did the only thing I could and gave God a good telling off he didn’t deserve, secure in the knowledge he could handle it and I wouldn’t break him.

I’m sure if I wanted to I could blame myself or I could manufacture some reasons to blame him or blame my ex or his ex for causing the trauma we couldn’t see each other past, but that wouldn’t change anything or fix anything and at the end of the day I know the thing that broke me also built me and I don’t regret the journey that led me to become who I am today.

The woman I’ve become is incredible and I love her but I’m also under no illusion that she has a long way to go and needs a lot of grace to get there. 

I made the mistake of interpreting my present through the lens of my past and so did he and that hurt us both. We dragged pain and resentment and insecurity into a situation it didn’t belong in. So while what we had was incredibly good and should have been something we were celebrating we fought all the wrong battles on all the wrong levels and pushed each other away.

All I can do now is attempt to understand my part in it all and how and why I reacted to things the way I did in the hope that I won’t ever make these mistakes again, but allowing for the fact I probably will and if not these then new ones and I have to remember to be gentle with myself and with others and remember that tough love doesn’t work on hurting people including me.

I understand a little better now that when you’ve never been allowed to need anything there’s a complicated bag of emotions involved in admitting that you do – it’s hard to ask for something you’ve never been allowed, it’s harder still to figure out how to do that without treating the person your asking for it from like they’re the same one that intentionally deprived you of it not just someone that doesn’t understand you yet. It’s hard to know if you’re allowed to call or text, and when you have to fight a huge battle inside yourself to reach out to someone first and they don’t reply it can feel like an unbearable rejection even though it isn’t.

I understand now what a giant chasm there is between knowing your own worth and trusting someone else to see it and trusting that they don’t need convincing of it and that not everything has to be fought for. When conflict is all you’ve known and you’ve only been told that you’re worth nothing and shown that you mean nothing it’s hard to let go of feeling like you have to prove that you are – so that’s what I did I fought a fight that didn’t exist and broke the thing I was so desperate to protect.

I didn’t just break it either I pushed it past breaking point, I needed a reaction to feel like I mattered I lived too long on a rollercoaster where being hurt meant the same as being loved and I needed to be yelled at or punished somehow to feel like I mattered. So when I wasn’t and someone else’s pain wasn’t being thrown at me I felt like there wasn’t any there because he didn’t care. And it felt that way even though I knew it wasn’t true and even though he explained that he needed time to process and was sorry he shut down.

Trauma bonding is no different than any other addiction so even though I’ve been a long time out of that situation my body still doesn’t quite know how to not need it and I guess maybe it’s true that addiction never goes away you just learn how to control it and that scares me because I so deeply want this part of me gone. Inadvertently in the end I didn’t mean to but I I guess I was testing him or testing God because I wanted to be fought for, but the painful truth is I shouldn’t have needed to be. 

For a little while I thought I found someone that could see past all of that in me, that somehow because so much of my story is out here for everyone to see that he would somehow have enough insight to be ready and understand what he was getting into, he didn’t and that wasn’t his fault it was mine. I know I needed to learn all of this but I wish beyond everything else there had been a way for me to learn it without hurting him. Not just because I have to carry the weight of that with me now but because I know he does to.

Now I have to live with knowing I broke something so good and hurt someone incredible that didn’t deserve it because I couldn’t just give it time and not pick it apart, in the space of the uncertainty all the voices from my past resounded like clashing symbols inside my head – relentlessly all day every day until I drove myself out of my mind and in the end it hurt so much and it felt like no one cared that it hurt or wanted to understand why it did so I killed it on purpose because I talked myself into believing it would be easier. I ran away foolishly hoping that somehow he would see through it and ask me to stay. It isn’t. He didn’t. I was wrong and now it’s so much worse.

Disappointment hurts and so does hope all I can do now is own my mistakes, learn from them and take the time to heal again. If I’m being honest after I’ve done that I don’t want to try this all again with someone new, I don’t want someone else to make me feel any of the things I felt with him I want to save them and protect them because they’re all I have to show for the heartache, but in time I suppose that will change and until then I refuse to live life afraid of leaning into the storm when it comes. 

Somewhere out there is someone that will be ready to face all of this with me and for now I am grateful to have learnt a little bit more about who I can be, I’m grateful I learned I could enjoy affection and that I could feel safe with someone and that just for a moment I could rest my face in their neck and breathe them in and they could feel like home. I’m grateful I learned how much courage I have even if I don’t always show it in the right way and I’m grateful all of it happened even if it was too short and hurt like hell because I’d rather drown walking on water than not get out of the boat. 

I didn’t leave because he was hurting me…

I didn’t leave because he was hurting me…

After my second child (my first in my second marriage) my husband began studying for his degree, as well as working full time. This led to a level of stress with which he simply could not cope, no time for his family and a lot of resentment towards me (everything was always my fault), and the slow unravelling of the twisted web of lies that was our life together.

My husband had always had an addictive personality, but so do many people who manage without great consequence so I didn’t feel any cause for concern. However, as the pressure began to mount without a healthy outlet, he began to depend on alcohol more and more to unwind. What started as a couple of beers after work, before the kids went to bed and he could concentrate, quickly became 6-8 beers and a couple of strong mixers to keep him awake as he sat alone into the night to get his assignments done. As he became more and more dependent on alcohol it became less about study and more about escape. Drinking was his release from the stresses of life. Soon his emotional escape became a physical one, he would return from work dump his bags and off to the pub he would go.

Every day I was left alone and baffled, there I was baby up jumper(Zebby our third had arrived un planned before Lily was even two), house a bomb site, toddler picking leaves of herbs as I tried to include her in cooking a gourmet hello fresh meal, he wouldn’t bother to eat but regardless, and a broken record of a seven-year-old enquiring how much longer it would be playing in the background.

I stood every day just the same, completely at a loss as to how a man that claimed to love his family could walk into this chaos and instead of helping, instead of taking over the dinner for 10 minutes so I could get the baby down, he was angry at me that this was what his life looked like…

That’s the thing I finally Learned about narcissists, they only care about how things LOOK not how they ARE! They would rather impress a stranger than be loved by their own family, and I just wasn’t built for that. So, I broke. One cold, heavy snow day in February we were trapped in the house together and I called time on our relationship.

Shortly after this I began the search for a marriage councillor that could help us find a way through the mess we were in, with the hope that one day with enough work our relationship could be restored. I found one and booked a consultation. I was so filled with hope that we were going together even driving in the same car. I thought this is it we are going to be okay, boy was I wrong! We argued right there in front of the head of the counselling program. He kept niggling me with all those comments narcissists are so skilled at, the ones that sound good to everyone else but are designed to hurt you and make you react so you look like the crazy one. I of course took the bait and was devastated when he then refused to attend counselling together and demanded we see separate councillors until I learned to be reasonable. Needless to say, my husband quit very soon after, but I stayed with my councillor and saw her weekly for several months.

.

It was during this time that I came to realise I had been abused. It seems ludicrous that I hadn’t known all along but these things start so subtly and you get into the habit of making excuses for their behaviour until in the end you don’t even realise that your hiding it from yourself. It started so small, nothing I said or did was good enough, he would comment on the smallest perceived flaw, and drag up my past as if it’s something I should be ashamed of. Slowly these things become more frequent and I was left feeling constantly wounded, ground down, emotionally beaten and torn, all the while he would swan about like God’s gift and how dare I be so ungrateful! As time went on, I stopped realising that he was violating my boundaries, that he didn’t care about my feelings or have any respect at all for the word NO!

I was left feeling unworthy and ashamed of who I am. Eventually my self esteem was shot and anxiety sparked over the tiniest of things I was a broken shell of a woman.

Narcissists often begin to subtly cross over into other forms of abuse you quickly learn that there’s no point saying no to sex, its far simpler and ultimately hurts less physically and emotionally to just do what they want, but its more than that. Narcissists often intersperse their abuse with periods of kindness, this was how my husband managed to be physically abusive without me even realising. It was when he was saying loving things and being sweet to me that he would also be holding me in a way that was painful and often bruised my arms to the point I was planning to see the doctor and have my blood checked. This is all part of how they condition you so that you become trauma bonded and feel like you need them and their abuse to be happy, so they keep you coming back for more. This went on for almost a year even after I had left my husband and we ended up getting back together for a few short months and you know what the first week was incredible but that’s all there was a week at most before things were nastier than ever culminating in him having a melt down on Christmas day that scared me and which I very much pandered to for the sake of my children but by new year’s day I had the strength I needed to leave again. This time for good.

I received streams of cruel and delusional, abusive messages for a long time afterwards to the point I was advised not to be home alone if he is picking up the kids. Then he would change tact and I’ll get messages saying he’s crying because he misses me – it’s not real – not a single word. Not the good ones or the bad ones, it’s all just part of the manipulation, that’s all there ever is.

I no longer receive these kind of messages very often but that’s because I’ve finally after 3 and a half years learned to identify when he is bating me and not give him what he wants but I still keep a file of evidence on my computer just incase. Even though I know all this and recognise what’s happening I still do what he wants more than I would like, slowly and I’m still not all the way there I am learning to archive his messages and not look at them, over analysing every word (because you can’t just block their number when you have kids together). I’m learning to set boundaries and he is learning to push them a little less. Little by little my confidence is coming back, I see friends more and do what I love, little by little I am growing strong and becoming the kind of woman sons can respect and daughter can look up to, and in all of this mess I am starting to learn how to manage not just my own trauma but how to face the on going issues it causes for my children, because that’s the thing the advice you find on online doesn’t cover how the hell do you break your trauma bonding and still co parent?

All of the Ocean

poetry collection

He was all of the Ocean

and she was drowning in a single drop

Louise Alexandra Erskine

Take me beyond the break water

let me dive beneath the surface

swimming through your ocean

until exhausted

I wash upon the sand

Louise Alexandra Erskine

She was alone

Lost out at sea

&

broken by the storm

But

As each wave battered her

It bought her closer to the shore

Louise Alexandra Erskine

He was her Ocean

She was his Moon

&

Together they changed the Tide

Louise Alexandra Erskine

Meet me at the shoreline

let the ocean kiss our feet

Take me by the hand

& lead me

My naked soul

Cleansed in the water with you

Louise Alexandra Erskine

Safe in your harbour

I forgot

A ship belongs on the ocean

Louise Alexandra Erskine