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#Excerpt from INSIDE/OUTSIDE : A #Memoir by Jenny Hayworth @JennyHayworth1 #SexualAbuse #Women

In 2004 I had commenced studying for my bachelor of nursing degree at university. I completed nine units over a twelve-month period and then decided it was not for me. When considering other careers, I decided to transfer to social work as I was allowed to do eight subjects of another discipline as part of the degree, so I wouldn’t have wasted a year of study. However, the university had closed the midyear intake, and I did not wish to wait until March the following year to commence studying. I looked at psychology and transferred my nine subjects over to that degree and commenced straightaway. I was living in a small town and working part time at the local hospital as well as studying.
I read an advertisement in the local paper asking for volunteers. I had not forgotten in the past years how many times the Lifeline counsellors had been there for me in my darkest hours, and I was determined to give back for all I had taken. It was an inner force driving me. I had always known, from the first time I had been encouraged by the mental-health support nurse to enrol and do the course, that I would return one day and work on the phones. Now, looking at the advertisement in the paper, I decided it was time.
I applied to do the telephone-counselling course and was accepted. During the following three months, I completed 120 hours of role play education and learnt the art of reflective listening. My journey of personal growth at that time was extraordinary. Once again I felt in awe of this agency, set up to help normal, everyday people help other everyday people in distress. I loved the fact that it didn’t matter what faith or belief you had; as long as you agreed with the foundation principles, you could be trained to be a telephone counsellor.
I completed the course and loved every minute of it. I found much of it challenging, as we had to learn to listen actively and reflectively and support people who were suicidal, self-harming, or in dire need of a listening ear for all different reasons. People who had been victims of domestic violence or sexual assault, or who suffered from mental illnesses, came and spoke to us, which personally challenged any preconceptions and biases we might have held. I learnt so much from the role playing and having a group reflect back to me about how I performed. The feedback from others, on such things as tone of voice and my effectiveness in how I used each of the skills we needed to learn, was invaluable.
I learnt how I had to put aside my own experiences, background, and preconceptions even if I had experienced some of the issues that clients raised on the phone. I had to truly listen and be there with people, by their sides, as they poured out their personal pain. I learnt so much about myself and more importantly, about how to truly be with someone else who was going through personal crises or was in emotional pain.
I passed the course and was approved to move on to practical experience on the telephones. There were plenty of support people on hand to sit with me for as long as I required. I found that knowing what had helped me the most when I had been the one calling helped me now to a certain degree, but the most important thing was to be fully available emotionally to the person on the other end. The Egan method of counselling, which is the basis of Lifeline training, is a person-centred therapy. The tools they taught us in regard to how to listen and guide another actively through the maze of often-conflicting options and emotions were invaluable.
I encountered every situation you could think of in these few months. Most who were suicidal had attempted suicide before and been in hospital, or they felt suicidal and were in extreme emotional pain that they didn’t feel they could share with their families or friends. Some had actual suicidal plans, and yet something had made them ring instead of carrying through with them at that particular time.
Many were just plain lonely to the bone and had no one to listen to them or to talk with. I was surprised that just a hearing ear was what most people wished for. Nearly all who phoned had no trouble talking, and they let me know when they had talked enough, felt better and more able to cope, and could carry on.
Many people said they had told secrets they had kept for years—things they had done they were ashamed of and didn’t feel they could live with if anyone found out, conflicted emotions about partners and children and parents. They spoke about things they were scared to voice out loud to those around them but needed to be heard and to say. They needed to have a chance, in a safe place with a safe person they couldn’t see, to say the words and work out their own path in the telling.
Everyone had a story.
One particular night I went on my shift as usual. From the time the phone rang and I picked up the call, I knew I had a young woman on the line that was serious about taking her life.
“Hello, Lifeline. How can I help you?” I answered.
At first there was only silence. I sat quietly listening as I had been taught, and I could hear music in the background, and the soft sounds of someone breathing.
“It’s okay, take your time. I am right here when you want to start talking.”
I heard the sound of a deep intake of breath. Gulping, ragged sobs filled the earpiece of my phone, and the sound of someone trying to suck back in all the pain echoed in my ear. I could identify it was a female crying although no words had been spoken by her yet.
I allowed about fifteen more seconds to go by whilst I listened to her crying.
“You don’t have to start at the beginning. Sometimes it’s too hard to know where to start. It’s okay not to know,” I said. Sounds of more crying filled my ear, louder now and less controlled. It was the sort of crying that occurs when someone is absolutely bereft, exhausted, and in despair. The wailing was coming from the depths of someone’s soul, the sound of someone who had lost everything and had nothing remaining.
I allowed a few more seconds to go by until I heard a lull in the crying as the person struggled to get their breath. “I am right here with you. You are not alone,” I said. The wailing was less intense, and I could tell she was listening to me. “I can hear you are in enormous emotional pain. It is okay to cry. You’re not alone anymore.” I stayed quiet for a few seconds. “What is your name?”
“Karen.” Sobs started slowly building up intensity again.
“Karen, can you tell me what is happening for you right now? What made you pick up the phone and ring me tonight?”
“I just want to die. I just want to die.” The female voice wailed loud and high, frantic and nearly shouting. “I can’t do it anymore. It’s just too hard. I just want to die. I can’t take anymore. It’s too much. It’s all too much.”
I identified exhaustion, slurring, lack of hope, and the clink of what sounded like a glass. I pushed the “alert” button and, at the same time, dialled the number for my supervisor on the mobile phone I had next to me. I left the phone on the bench and kept talking.
“Where are you right now? Are you at home?” I asked.
“Yes.”
“Where is home, Karen?”
“It doesn’t matter. I want to die. I just want to die.” Her voice rose again to a crescendo.
“Karen, have you been drinking?”
“Vodka. It is my favourite drink. I’ve nearly finished the bottle.” Her voice was slurring, and my concern elevated another notch as her ability to self-moderate and respond to reasoning would be compromised. Suddenly her voice slipped into the hushed sing-song tones of a little girl. It was so soft, and her words so slurred, I was finding it hard to pick up the meaning of what she was saying.
“I’m touching me. I’m touching me. Oh, there’s blood all over everywhere. I can taste it.”
Soft moaning filled the air. The strains of music in the background muffled her voice. “Daddy, Daddy. Oh, I am so turned on. Why are you doing this to me? Why?” Her moans changed to a high-pitched sob, and her gulp for breath filled my ear.
“Karen, are you cutting yourself?”
“Yes. There is blood everywhere. I am going to die. I want to die.”
“Karen, can you please put the knife or razor down whilst you are talking to me? Karen, have you put down what you are cutting yourself with? I need you to put it down whilst you talk to me.”
“Yes.”
“Karen, I hear that you want to die. I believe you. But part of you picked up the phone and rang me tonight. Part of you must want to live, as you rang me tonight. I need to talk to that part of you that wants to live.”
“No, I want to die.” Her voice suddenly changed back to that of an adult. “All of me wants to die. I can’t take it anymore. My daughters will be better off with me dead. I’m no good to them. They should stay with their father all the time. They would be better off. I am useless to them.”
“I hear you say you believe your daughters will be better off with you dead. I hear you say you want to die.” I allowed a few seconds’ silence. Her breathing was noisy and raspy. “Why did you ring me tonight, Karen? Why did you ring me on the night you want to die?”
Her voice, interlaced with sobs, shouted down the phone at me. “Because I’m scared. I don’t want to be alone when I die. I want someone with me.” I waited a few seconds until her loud, frantic sobs started to die down.
“I hear you’re scared, Karen. Karen, if I could wave a magic wand and take all your emotional pain away, would you still want to die? If all the emotional pain was gone, would you still want to die?”
“No, but you can’t. No one can. I’ve tried. I’ve tried everything, and nothing works. This is going to work. It is all going to end tonight.”
“Tell me about your emotional pain, Karen. Tell me why it feels so bad.”
Everything else in the room and in my life ceased to exist except for her voice, her words, her story, and the phone against my ear. I tried to stay with her as she went to some dark places and took me with her.
She was currently separated and had two young daughters. They lived with her full time, but this weekend they were staying with their father. She said he was a good father, and her daughters enjoyed going. She sometimes spoke in a normal-sounding voice and then would switch to a voice that sounded like a little girl’s as she regressed in time and was living a reality back from when she was a child. She was drinking vodka as we spoke and sometimes masturbating. She kept on picking up the razor and cutting herself. She was in her bedroom with loud music playing whilst she was cutting the top of her leg deep down to her femoral artery.
She wanted to die.
She had made up her mind that it would happen this weekend, and her ex-husband would find her on the Monday morning after he had dropped their daughters at school and come around to drop off their gear. She was a victim of long and sustained childhood sexual abuse by her father. She kept drifting in and out of consciousness toward the end of the call. She was in an altered reality because of emotional pain, intoxication, and sedatives and was cutting and masturbating to try to alleviate some of her tension while stating she wanted to die. Her memories of childhood and adult emotional pain intermingled.
My supervisor had come in and had called the police in the caller’s area twice already. Unfortunately, as police had taken her suicidal to hospital some months previously, they were in no hurry to get to her. They were prioritising other calls, not realising the seriousness of the situation. This was not an unusual situation for us on the phones. Many police were escorts for the mentally ill and suicidal, taking them to hospital, and most had regulars in their areas that they got to know well. This sometimes made them act with less urgency.
However, my supervisor kept ringing and conveying to them that I was an experienced counsellor, and she trusted my instinct that this girl was actively attempting to suicide and would bleed to death if no one reached her soon. All my gut instinct was screaming out to me that this was so. I channelled all my energy and every fibre of my being down that phone to her; I was a hundred percent focused on trying to say the right words to convey to her to live and not to die, and that I was there for her.
I appealed to her as a fellow human being, through her daughters, through the young self she kept slipping into, that there was hope, there was a reason to live, there was a way out of this pain, there was a way to have the emotional pain stop and end without her having to die. She wanted the emotional pain to end, but that didn’t mean her life had to end. Her daughters would not be better off with her dead. When she didn’t have the emotional pain to deal with, she could be there for them. She could be the mother she wanted to be. She could build a new life once the pain was gone. She could trust people again.
I asked her what had happened this particular weekend that was the final straw that had made her decide to kill herself. She had received a bill in the mail that she said she could not pay. It was added to the other bills, and it was the breaking point for her.
It was all too much. She had no one to share her pain with or to support her through her marriage breakup, being a mother, or her own abuse memories that were flooding her now that she was on her own. She did not feel she could cope as an adult in this world any longer. She did not feel she could be an adequate parent and role model for her daughters when she could barely get out of bed each day. She didn’t want them to see her like this. She didn’t want to frighten them. She was starting to behave in ways she did not like. She felt they would be better off without her.
I tried to ask her what had helped her get through these times in the past, when she had previously been this distressed and suicidal. But it was nearly impossible to reason as an adult with her when her rationality was not in charge, and her younger, seemingly emotional self was in charge.
I therefore said that Karen the adult needed to look after Karen the child. Her child self didn’t need to be cut and hurt. Her child self didn’t need sexual stimulation when she was drunk and scared. Her child self needed the adult Karen who had rung Lifeline to put down the razor, put down the alcohol, and just let her sleep, let her lie down and rest, as she had been through enough.
She stopped talking, and I no longer knew if she was conscious. I just kept talking and talking, hoping she could hear me and hoping something I was saying in a calm, soothing, nonjudgmental voice was getting through to her.
The police arrived at the house; I could hear through the phone that they were breaking down the door. One of the police picked up the phone and started talking to me. He said she had cut down to the artery, and it looked like she had nicked it. There was blood everywhere. She was unconscious, but the paramedics had arrived, and they were taking her to the hospital.
I was so relieved.
He hung up the phone, and suddenly there was just silence where there had been intense energy and focus. All the energy just drained out of me, and I felt myself start to shake. She was alive. She was going to make it—for that night anyway. I prayed and hoped someone at the hospital would relate to her and help her. That she would find a doctor or therapist who could help her find a way out of the maze and trap she had found herself in with no hope.
On the way home, in the dark and quiet, I suddenly had to pull my car over. I thanked the whole universe for letting me be the one to sit with Karen during her pain, for the police and paramedics who had gone to her assistance, and for the doctors and nurses who would be attending to her. I had intensely related to her. I understood her switching between her child self and adult self. I understood her use of masturbation and alcohol to try to alleviate the intense aloneness and emotional pain. I understood the cutting and thumping music for the same reasons.
Then I just sat in the dark, in the stillness and the silence, and with my whole heart wished and prayed she would find a way in the coming weeks and months through her emotional pain so she could find a reason to live again and be wholly there for her daughters as she grew older. As people had been there for me when I was at my lowest.
I felt something click together in my head and heart. It was a physical sensation and a feeling of completeness that washed over me. Something closed up in me that I had not realised until then had still been open. A feeling of fullness and wholeness filled me.
I prayed to the universe to watch over the young woman, and in my mind’s eye I handed over the responsibility for her healing and destiny to the universe. I trusted that her journey and mine had collided for a reason, but that reason was completed now. I let go of her figurative hand. I felt the anxiety connected to what might have been happening with her leave me.
I started the car again and drove home. I felt deep within my bones that I had fulfilled a karmic debt, and the circle was complete.
I was released.

***Award winning book (finalist) in 2014 Beverley Hills International Book Awards***
Jenny Hayworth grew up within the construct of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, which she describes as a fundamentalist cult-like religion. She devoted her life to it for over thirty years. Then she left it. The church “unfellowshipped” her-rendering her dead to those family and friends still committed to the church.Hayworth is a sexual abuse survivor. The trauma changed her self-perception, emotional development, trust, and every interaction with the world.
Inside/Outside is her exploration of sexual abuse, religious fundamentalism, and recovery. Her childhood circumstances and tragedies forced her to live “inside.” This memoir chronicles her journey from experiencing comfort and emotional satisfaction only within her fantasy world to developing the ability to feel and express real life emotion on the “outside.”
It is a story that begins with tragic multigenerational abuse, within an oppressive society, and ends with hope and rebirth into a life where she experiences real connections and satisfaction with the outside world.
Those who have ever felt trapped by trauma or circumstances will find Inside/Outside a dramatic reassurance that they are not alone in the world, and they have the ability to have a fulfilling life, both inside and out.
Foreward Clarion Review – “What keeps the pages of Hayworth’s life story turning is her honesty, tenacity, and sheer will to survive through an astounding number of setbacks. Inside/Outside proves the resilience of the human spirit and shows that the cycle of abuse can indeed be broken”
Kirkus Review – “A harrowing memoir of one woman’s struggle to cope with sexual abuse and depression while living in – and eventually leaving – the Jehovah’s Witnesses”
Readers Favourite 5 Star Review – “The book is an inspiring story for those who are going through traumatic times…”
Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre – Memoir
Rating – PG-13
More details about the author
Connect with Jenny Hayworth on Facebook & Twitter

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