I am still in Katherine. There are several obvious reasons including being sick and barrow repairs. There are also a few other reasons.
Part of this walk is raising awareness about wellbeing and suicide prevention. I promote talking about it, not being ashamed of being unwell, seeking help and using therapy.
Today I needed to do all that to prevent PTSD relapse.
It has been a rough last 5 days. I arrived in Katherine tired. My barrow needed repairs. A migraine knocked me off my feet for 2 days and I took another day to recover from it. Yesterday admin and PR started piling up and I felt a bit strange, uncomfortable about walking so I used these as an excuse to stay another day.
This morning I woke before 6am intending to walk and immediately started getting the first warning signs of a panic attack. Something was wrong. I have laid low all day, reading, writing, chatting with people I trust, analysing why I am starting to feel scared about leaving Katherine.
There are the obvious physical things like remoteness, distance, lack of phone range, heat, headwinds, flies. There are the psychological aspects such as too much time alone. Yes, there it is, I love solitude, lots of solitude, but when I hit a wall of exhaustion it turns into isolation and being alone becomes loneliness. I am too familiar with this kind of exhaustion. It is possibly the hardest part of this walk, especially knowing I am walking into it again.
This morning, when it was obvious my reluctance to start was connected to PTSD, I felt embarrassed. After the many years and thousands of kilometres of solo wilderness and highway walking around Australia I get hung up on something as insubstantial as fear.
Unfortunately, there is a lot more to it than isolation and exhaustion.
Fortunately, after some heart work, looking deep into the cause of this discomfort, I see how far I have come in my recovery, especially the last year, there has been a lot of healing.
Darwin is the source of a lot of trauma. On New Year’s night 2007 I was raped with a pig hunting knife held against my throat. Later I had an abortion. I was not able to report it because the rapist (since convicted) threatened to hunt me down and cut me open like a feral pig if I squealed. I lived in fear for my own life and for the lives of other women. I was pregnant with a monster’s child in my womb. I had to go through all this alone in silence. For years Darwin was the darkest place on Earth.
When this happened I started falling apart and was subject to workplace bullying and discrimination which resulted in a couple of serious injuries including a dislocated shoulder and fractured hip.
Each time I visit Darwin it gets easier. Last year a friend flew to Darwin to help me, he was like my bodyguard, wouldn’t leave my side. Again, this year there were always friends nearby. I felt safe but the memory was fresh in my mind.
Some of the side effects of this trauma are experiencing flashbacks when I smell testosterone, hear a male voice or smell a particular kind of body odour, when I come within 3 blocks of the crime I start shaking. I fear meeting the people I worked with. For a long time I was scared of police in case the monster found out I was talking to them, in case the police saw I was broken and asked questions.
The paper I appeared in yesterday had a disturbing headline on the cover about a rapist who escaped from Darwin. As soon as I read it my mind and body began shutting down. I had to force myself to relax, breath, self-talk, remind myself that I am safe. What I experienced yesterday carried across to today. My hesitation is PTSD.
I have come so far since I started recovery in 2010. Depression and complex PTSD dragged me so low I tried taking my life 3 times that year. I look back now and wonder who that person was. I am not that person anymore. Darwin is only a small part of the complex PTSD. I have been subject to trauma since 1978. Healing began in late2010.
My recovery will take some time but it is days like this which encourage me because I can see how far I have come. If this happened in 2014 I would be in a relapse and have Lifeline ready on speed dial, if it happened last year I would go into hiding for a week. This year I am taking a day off and moving on.
One more little hiccup early this morning was the discovery of some stalkers on my facebook page. Over the last couple of years I have attracted some interesting people. I have been harassed, gaslighted and abused. I report, block, ban and warn people who don’t want to play nice. Today they caught me with my guard down, found an exposed gap in my armour.
There is a bit of trauma history here too. In early 2010 I did a controversial solo walk for shark conservation in a very volatile place years before the “No Shark Cull” movement. As I walked beside the highway I had people yelling abuse, throwing glass bottles at me, some of them stalked me on the road following in their cars telling me what they would like to do to me. I had invitations out on shark fishing boats so they could use me as bait and death threat emails. That walk was supposed to be 1,400kms but I had to abandon it after only 450kms. I flew back to the east coast in such a bad state of mental health and tried to take my life. Finding a few problems on facebook today brought back those frightening memories again.
It has been a rough day but I will bounce back. I have thousands of great supporters, many have my back. I don’t ever walk alone with you all walking beside me. Thank you.