Breaking Free - May 2022

From the editor

Welcome to the May edition of Breaking Free.  This month we focus on the important role that family, friends and partners can play in a survivor’s road to recovery.  It can be challenging as well as rewarding, but supporters need to build their knowledge and tools to help them support a loved one.  If you are not familiar with the possible impacts of trauma, it can be confronting to see your loved one triggered or experiencing physical or emotional reactions. We can help you feel better equipped to offer compassionate support.  We talk about possible reactions survivors may have and importantly how you can look after yourself throughout the process.

Supporting a loved one with dissociative identities can be especially challenging.  We partnered with Infinite Mind, Beauty without Bruises, Systems Speak and ISSTD to develop a fact sheet specifically for family and friends supporting a loved one who is dissociating or who has dissociative identities.

We thank John Cowell for his poem reflecting on his childhood experiences, and for sharing some of the powerful emotions that have followed him into adulthood.

In recognition of National Sorry Day last Thursday 26th May and Reconciliation Week we share some of the heart-breaking story of Aunty Julie Black a 64-year old Barkindji woman who was taken from her mother as part of the Stolen Generation. The National Reconciliation Week 2022 theme, “Be Brave. Make Change.” challenges all Australians to Be Brave and tackle the unfinished business of reconciliation so we can Make Change for the benefit of all Australians.

Finally, the deadline for registration for a private session with the Disability Royal Commission is fast approaching, with registration finishing on June 30th.  Blue Knot is contributing to a webinar seeking to answer any questions and concerns around this.  We encourage you to register now for the free webinar to be held early next week.

Until next time, take care,
The Blue Knot Team

Supporting a loved one who is impacted by complex trauma

Woman in Black Framed Eyeglasses Sitting Beside Man in White Dress Shirt

It can be both challenging and inspiring to walk alongside someone you care about who is living with the effects of complex trauma. It can be confusing and unpredictable for you as well as for them. It is important to remember that people can and do recover from even extreme early trauma, although at times, it can be hard to hold onto that hope. That’s why your role is so important, but equally important is the need for you to look after yourself as well. If you don’t stay healthy and well, you won’t be able to be there as you would hope for your loved one.

People who have experienced repeated violence, abuse or neglect often in childhood, have grown up in danger. The world has not been safe, and their nervous systems are primed to detect threat. Detecting threat can become habitual, even when there is no real danger in the present. This can mean that the person stays on high alert, is jumpy or anxious and readily triggered by something that to you does not seem significant, or is barely noticeable. It can be hard to support someone who seems to react without warning – they are often reacting to a situation or a cue which has reminded their nervous system of a time of danger or trauma in their past. Some people can even be thrown back into experiencing flashbacks, in which they relive and at times, re-enact traumatic experiences. This is often terrifying for them and can be very confusing for you if you are not aware that this can happen.

Some people withdraw a lot, stay isolated, or shut down altogether. This is another reaction to trauma experiences from the past, and a way a person unconsciously protects themselves from danger. Again, this can be bewildering for loved ones, especially if you are doing your best to be there, to listen and be compassionate. It can be hard to not take things personally, and to remember that the person is reacting to something from the past. Learning to manage strong changing emotions happens over time.  You can play a role in this by being consistent, calm and present while supporting your loved one’s nervous system to calm through a process we call co-regulation. It’s helpful to learn more about the nervous system yourself, the stress and trauma responses, and how to support your loved one to recognise stress reactions, along with strategies for grounding and self-soothing.

This webpage provides a lot of information to support you to support a person through triggers:

People betrayed in childhood or in intimate relationships can find it hard to trust even those who are closest to them. It can be confronting to believe that a loved one might not fully trust you at times, despite you being a consistent reliable presence in their lives. Relationships are hard for people betrayed in prior relationships, and many survivors anticipate that they will be hurt again if they get too close to anyone. Building trust takes time and patience, and once, again it is important to not take any reactivity personally. Be as empathic and compassionate as you can with the person you care about and with yourself, as well. That said it is important to keep healthy boundaries in your relationship together, and treat one another with respect.

Shame is another common impact with many survivors blaming themselves for their perceived weakness for somehow inviting their abuse or not stopping it. Abuse is never a child’s fault, but the self-blame and shame survivors feel can stop them reaching out for help or sharing their experiences or feelings with you. Survivors can struggle to feel good about themselves and to feel worthy. Their often-negative view, of themselves and of the world, can cause survivors to struggle with depression and other impacts on their mental health. It can also erode the hope of possibility that things can improve with the right support. It is important to know that there is support available for both survivors and their supporters, so please reach out for help. The Blue Knot Helpline and Redress Support Service has trauma counsellors who can provide you with tools, strategies and referral pathways to help you support your loved one. Please call 1300 657 380 between 9am-5pm Monday to Sunday AEST

You can find some more information here about providing support:

Supporting a loved one with dissociative identities

Blue Knot Foundation partnered with Infinite Mind, Beauty without Bruises, Systems Speak and International Society for Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD) earlier this year to deliver a DID Awareness Day webinar – Supporting Someone Living with DID.

Watch the webinar here on the right:

At the same time the following support sheet was released, developed by the above partners – Supporting a Person who Lives with Dissociative Identities:

“DARKNESS” by John Cowell

I am consumed by a darkness, that occupies my Soul
I have touched a depth of despair that not many people know
My life is filled with sadness, tortured by my past
A sadness so profound, sometimes I don’t want to be alive

Once upon a time I think I was a child
I can’t remember when, I can’t remember why
I do remember the bullying, every day and every night’
And that no one ever cared or came to help me out

I believed that I was worthless, just a piece of trash
abandoned and unloved, what kind of life is that.
Reaching out for love, nothing coming back
So many tears, so much pain, slowly driving me insane

It all began so long ago, at nine years old how was I to know
My secret alone for seventeen years suddenly exposed all of my fears.
Too much damage had already been done
Still a scared little boy at age 61.

Disability Royal Commission countdown: Private sessions 101

The deadline of June 30th 2022, to register for a private session with the Disability Royal Commission is fast approaching.

On Monday 6 June, join Your Story Disability Legal Support, People with Disability Australia and Blue Knot Foundation to find out everything you need to know about private sessions and how to get free support to share your story with the Disability Royal Commission. 

Representatives from each service will answer frequently asked questions about private sessions and talk about the free support they can provide to anyone considering sharing their story with the Royal Commission.

The webinar will answer questions such as:

  • What is a private session?
  • How am I protected in a private session?
  • What is the current wait time for a private session?
  • When do I need to register by?
  • What support is available to me?

Attendees are invited to submit their own questions to the panel via Eventbrite and can also ask questions during the Q&A section of the webinar.

You can join this webinar using Zoom or Facebook, please register to receive a link.

This free online event will include Auslan interpreters and live captions. If you have additional accessibility needs, please include this information in your Eventbrite registration.

Date and time: Monday 6 June from 1pm-2pm AEST
Location: Online (please register to receive a link)
Cost: Free to attend
Register: Please visit Eventbrite to register

Telling Our Stories – Our Stolen Generations (Aunty Julie Black)

May 26th was National Sorry Day followed by Reconciliation Week. Between 1910 and 1970 an estimated 10-33% of all Indigenous children – now known as the Stolen Generation were forcibly taken from their families. The cumulative impacts of the complex trauma experienced has affected not only individuals but entire communities, individually collectively and intergenerationally. As Australians we must come together to not only acknowledge the significant trauma experienced by the Stolen Generations and many other First Nations people but to work together to support healing and true reconciliation.

Watch the story of Stolen Generations survivor Aunty Julie Black, a 64-year-old Barkindji woman, who was taken from her mother shortly after birth. Aunty Julie’s story is heart breaking and courageous and reminds us that behind the Stolen Generations policies there were people, and children, who are still alive and in need of support.

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