Understanding trauma: I can't let anyone in

For nearly three decades, Ross carried a burden that he kept to himself.

By not speaking of the trauma he experienced as a child, he hoped it would become nothing more than a memory. But his anger would bubble away, sometimes beyond his control. And it was in his relationships with others he saw just how much the trauma was affecting him.

Studies have shown that remoteness can be a major risk factor contributing to suicide, and that people in regional or rural areas face more barriers to accessing health services.

With men in particular, mental health issues may be seen as a sign of personal weakness, or an inability to cope. It took a long time, but Ross, a proud farmer, came to realise that vulnerability had the power to unlock him from his pain.

This episode is about the far-reaching impact of trauma, and why it's never too late to seek help. 

Photo of Cliff with quote, “I felt like I was in this sealed glass box that just moved where I moved.”
 

Subscribe to the series in Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts to be notified when the next episode is released.

Transcription

NARRATION

This season of Not Alone was made possible by Australia Post, proudly supporting Beyond Blue.

CONTENT WARNING

Just a heads up, this episode of Not Alone contains a firsthand account of mental health issues and sexual abuse. If you or someone you know needs support, visit beyondblue.org.au, call our support service on 1300 22 46 36, or call 1800 RESPECT, on 1800 737 732.

NARRATION

Hey there, I’m Marc Fennell and this is Not Alone, incredible stories from everyday Australians talking about their mental health, to help you with yours.

And this episode is all about trauma and its impact on intimacy.

(music - Sense of Home by Harrison Storm)

MONTAGE

FEMALE VOICE 1

The idea of me ever being able to make a connection with someone is near impossible.

MALE VOICE 1

I have struggled to feel love.

FEMALE VOICE 2

I am terrified of physical contact…

FEMALE VOICE 3

I can’t help but feel our relationship is wearing thin.

FEMALE VOICE 2

…I can’t even bear being hugged.

MALE VOICE 2

I only have a few close friends.

FEMALE VOICE 4

I know instinctively that my friends and family love me…

MALE VOICE 3

I push people away.

FEMALE VOICE 4

…but I don’t feel anything.

MALE VOICE 4

There was nothing I could do to snap out of that headspace.

FEMALE VOICE 5

It just feels I’m never going to have the experience of forming a relationship.

(music - high pitch drones)

ROSS

I’m sure there’s a lot of women out there I’ve confused, between the ages of 17 and 23, just wondering what the hell is this person about?

NARRATOR

This is Ross. He’s a dairy farmer who grew up in central Victoria. It’s where he still lives now with his family. And for Ross, a farmer was something he always was destined to be.

ROSS

Always as a little boy, I think it was just natural, you know, just always been with dad. So it was kind of wherever he went, I probably went as well. So…

MARC

What are your memories of watching your parents farm?

(Sound effects - farm ambience; birds)

ROSS

It was tough. I still remember droughts in the 70s I remember watching on TV cows being shot and you know, pits being dug and cows worth 50 cents, and watching your parents kind of go through that. But I think they always tried to protect you from that sort of stuff. Always trying to make sure we had what we wanted. You know, they would always go without before us.  So, you know, it was always always about making sure we had what we needed.

MARC

So in 1995, you took over the farm with one of the brothers?

ROSS

Yeah, so oldest brother Colin. You know, I was pretty excited to be farming with my brother. So you know, extending the family legacy of next generation, third generation of family farming. So I think it made dad proud that he had his two boys home.

(music - slow, drawling country twang)

NARRATOR

But underneath the surface of his rural life, Ross had a bubbling anger.

(Sound effects - birds; swarming bees)

ROSS

I suppose I was always angry. I always had this sort of short fuse that would kind of just go off. You know, I just rant and rave at cows and something just went wrong, I just explode and punch and kick and…

Once you’re just… I was going off, I had no control. It was just me venting and it was just me letting out everything that I could at that point. So whatever was frustrated at, that cow, or that tractor, or whatever else I was angry at just took the whole brunt.

And I suppose it was just me. That’s… I just thought that’s how I am.

MARC

Did the people around you, did they pick up on that anger?

ROSS

No, not really. It was just, you know, Colin my brother would just walk the other way. Mum or dad would probably just absorb it. They just thought I was angry because the cow was doing something wrong. And thought, “oh well, that’s just Ross being Ross and his short fuse.”

(Sound effects - buzzing bees)

MARC

So you’ve already got quite a lot going on underneath the surface, and then the drought hits. How does that change everything?

ROSS

Yeah, so we took the farm over about 95/96. 2003, we expanded the farm. We bought the next door neighbour’s 360/380 acres. The drought had just started by that stage - 2001/2002. But we were on, you know, at the time we were saying “oh well, you know, the drought will go another 12/18 months.” That’s usually, you know…two to three year droughts probably all that we’d seen, previous to that through dad’s history and everyone else’s. So we thought, “all right, well, we think we can knuckle down for that. And then we’ll come out the other side and away we go.”

NARRATION

But by 2008, the drought hadn’t lifted. By this stage, Ross had a wife, Paula, and two young boys, Mattias and Hamish. And the impact of the drought, coupled with his bubbling rage, put a strain on his family relationships.

ROSS

You start to get angry at them and then you just think it’s all starting to get a bit too hard, I suppose.

MARC

And at that point did you have any inkling that it might be linked to something that had happened years past? Or were you quite focused in the present?

ROSS

No, I, I thought I was over that.

MARC

Right.

ROSS

I probably thought all my worries were over when I was married and had kids. But that was probably not the right assessment.

NARRATION

Realising that his stress and anger were getting to a level of concern for those he loved, Ross decided to reach out to the family GP, Alan.

ROSS

And I say, “look, I’m not really well. You know, Paula and I are going through troubles and you know, the farms really a mess and, you know, drought and we’re losing a heap of dough and just not sure what I’m meant to be doing. And I think it’s all Paula’s fault.”

I was kind of in this mindset that it’s all Paula’s fault. And I was kind of thinking that if Alan said “yeah, it’s Paula’s fault”, I’ll get Paula to come in and I’ll tell her what needs to be done. And that’ll fix all the problems. And like a good GP he just sat there and didn’t say a word you just kept waiting for me just to keep speaking.

And then I just said “oh, by the way, I was abused when I was a child. And I think I really need some help.”

(music - Ross’ theme; guitar and piano; sad, country feel)

ROSS

So it started when I was probably about five. And that’s… it might have been a bit earlier, but that’s kind of my timeframe of what I can remember. And so, it started when I was five and finished when I was about 12-13.

MARC

And did you recognise it as abuse at the time?

ROSS

I didn’t recognise it as abuse. I knew it didn’t feel right. It was just what happened.

NARRATION

When the abuse finally ended around the time Ross started high school, he thought that would be the end of it. He thought that would be the last time he would have to think about what he’d experienced.

(music - high pitch drones)

ROSS

But, over the next year or so it was kind of, you know, becoming a teenager and puberty, and just trying to find myself, it got harder. I felt, I felt the shame because I think it started to dawn on me that really what had happened wasn’t right.

And I couldn’t tell anyone, so I just…it was not wanting to get people into trouble or you know, because mum and dad never knew. So it was kind of trying to protect them or not wanting them to feel guilt and shame. It was probably me just say, “well, I’m going to take it all in myself and I’m going to wear it and own it.”

It was kind of this just wall that I put up. It was kind of just that separation of, you know, these childhood that I was a normal kid, with this secret, I suppose, that I just couldn’t really talk about.

And if I don’t have to talk about it, it’ll go away. And so yeah. That’s what I did. For years.

MARC

Were you good at hiding it?

ROSS

Exceptional. Because I think, you know, I think as a kid, even in high school, like I think, my reports, they said, “look he’s a really lovely kid to have in class. He’s a joy.” It was just me hiding. And I would just use my imagination to make up stuff to try and help me get through those tough years.

MARC

Did school get harder over time?

ROSS

Yeah, it did. So when I was 14, I had meningitis. And I missed a full year of school and I missed all of Year 9. When I had meningitis I remember I was in hospital, and that was one of the points where I really just wanted to die. Because I thought “well, this is a way out. I don’t have to tell mum don’t have to tell dad.” If I died, no one will know my secret.

MARC

And that’s what you’re thinking at Year 9?

ROSS

Mmm.

MARC

That is an incredible pressure to put on yourself.

ROSS

Yeah. Yeah.

(music - atmospheric, low drones)

NARRATION

When Ross finally came home from the hospital, he was plagued by persistent headaches. He tried to return to school, but he found it hard to concentrate.

ROSS

And for probably a few good months, I’d end up just on the farm. So I’d go help mum and dad milk cows or I’d be doing stuff on the farm and I’d be fine. They tried to put me back at school and I’d crash.

MARC

Why do you think that was?

ROSS

Because I was hiding the not-being-able-to-deal-and-relate-with-people. Because they weren’t like me.

But the real reason was just the anxiety and I was just petrified because I just couldn’t ask the teacher for help. Because I thought they’d think I was stupid; it was showing a sign of weakness. And I think from the abuse and feeling threatened, I’d put that wall up and just hide. And so I just couldn’t break out and just ask and say, “can you help me with this place? I have no idea what I’m doing.”

And so that started again, the running away. So the answer was, “well, this is all too hard. I can’t do this. I’m not smart enough. Let’s just drop out, and we’ll go home and be on the farm.”

NARRATION

Ross quit school during his final year, months before end of year exams. And being away from school released this pressure valve, and for awhile things started to improve. But he still kept everything to himself, and his underlying issues went unaddressed. And as he became an adult, it began to present additional problems.

ROSS

I couldn’t be intimate with people. I had probably one or two girlfriends, if you call them that. They were more just friends, because it never went anywhere because I never could let it go anywhere. I just didn’t know how.

I remember having one girlfriend, and we’re sitting on a bench. And the only way I felt I could be intimate was by slapping her on the back saying, “oh, you’re a good mate.” I just I couldn’t hold her hand. I just couldn’t have that intimate touch, because the only intimate touch I had was with the person who abused me.

And so I would say “I don’t know how to do this, because you’re being too nice. You’re not abusing me. I don’t know how to have a relationship with you.”

MARC

So that whole exchange has in effect been poisoned?

ROSS

Yes. Yep.

MARC

Right.

NARRATION

On the advice of one of his brothers, Ross signed up for an agricultural exchange program, where he would work on and experience farm life overseas. As part of the induction, he headed along to a welcome, sort of get-to-know-you BBQ, hoping to meet some people and maybe even make some new friends.

(Sound effects - BBQ ambience; people chattering, laughing; meat sizzling)

(Music - upbeat country-rock intro)

ROSS

Probably 10 minutes before I was about to leave, because I had to go home and milk, this girl just came up and started talking to me. And that was Paula.

I thought, “mmm, that’s nice.”

So that’s where we met. But nothing happened for 12 months.

(music - upbeat country-rock song kicks off)

NARRATOR

Ross chose Canada for his exchange, while Paula opted for the UK. Both were gone for the year. When they got back and reconnected, things moved slowly, cautiously. Intimacy was still a barrier for Ross that even Paula’s very obvious affections couldn’t help him overcome.

Then they went down to Melbourne together to attend a ball celebrating the end of their overseas exchange. They headed down the day before, with plans to stay with a friend of Paula’s after a night out. Ross wanted to go to the footy with his brother.

ROSS

And I said to her, I said, “would you mind…? Do you want to come to the footy with us?” And she said, “oh, no, I’m catching up with a girlfriend. I’m going out to the tunnel”, which was a nightclub back in the 90s. And I was gutted, because I just wanted her to come to the footy with me.

(Sound effects - big stadium football)

NARRATION

So they went their separate ways for the night, Paula off for some dancing and Ross off to watch his beloved Hawks get humiliated by North Melbourne. After the game though, Ross went back to Paula’s friend’s place just as they planned. But when he woke, Paula still hadn’t arrived back.

Now Ross liked Paula, but he hadn’t made it known to her. He couldn’t even find the words to say, or the signals that would let her know. And so his inability to navigate even these tiny moments of intimacy resulted in a very familiar response.

ROSS

I was just angry. Just so damn angry. I thought, “I really like you. And how dare you not come home.” And so she’d met someone and that was fine. So…well, it wasn’t fine. I wasn’t fine by it, but anyway. So I think she got home about 10 or 11 o’clock the next morning. She could see I wasn’t very happy.

And we just left it at that. That was it for a week or so. And then we ended up having part of the AgriVentures alumni, and we were going to be involved in that and support the next lot of kids that were coming out from overseas, and help them while they’re over here. And there was a camp down at Lorne, down on the coast.

And so, at that weekend, it was very clumsy and awkward. And… And then we come back home. And we talked. And so I told her, I said, “look, I’ve been abused. I just, I don’t know where I’m going, what I’m doing.” And she said, “that’s fine. We’ll get through it together.”

(music - slow, happy country-rock)

ROSS

So we started dating when I was about 24. And yeah, dated for six years. She would come over to our place on the weekends. And then that got a bit awkward because mum and dad was next door. And then we moved out and rented a house and we lived there for a couple of years and then got married in 2000.

(music - slow, happy country-rock ends)

MARC

How were things between you just after you got married?

ROSS

Things weren’t really right. I got married because I thought that was the right thing to do.

MARC

How do you mean?

ROSS

I don’t know. It’s probably, Paula, got me opened up to experience life like a typical, normal man. But then I hadn’t had any other experiences with anybody else. And so I wasn’t able to find who I was. But it was this sort of maybe guilt or… of Paula, you know, doing me the favour or supporting me in my journey that I felt I owed it to her.

MARC

That’s a lot of different emotions kind of stacking on top of each other there.

ROSS

Yeah. So, I loved her. But there was a nagging, there was a doubt. And I suppose there was jealousy there from me.

MARC

Why jealousy?

ROSS

Jealousy because she’d had experiences that I could never have. And so, we had huge fights over that and bringing stuff up that had no relevance to our relationship going forward.

MARC

How did things change when you had kids?

ROSS

I think for me, it was an evolutionary step. It was kind of what I wanted to do. I love kids, I thought this will solve another piece of the puzzle. And you have so many stories of dad saying, “there was this moment of emotional feeling of love for your child.” I remember sitting in the birthing suite, and Mattias was born. And I didn’t feel anything. It just felt like, “ah, I need to go home. I’ve got cows calving. I’ve got to get home.”

MARC

What were you afraid of?

ROSS

Paula and I had a discussion. So, with Mattias being a boy it was whether we’re going to circumcise or not circumcise.

MARC

Okay.

ROSS

So Paula was a “no”, and I was a “yes”. And I said, “well, if he’s not circumcised, you have to wash him, you have to bath him.” And Paula said “why?” I said, “I’m just too scared. I’m gonna abuse him when I’m washing him.”  Which is totally ridiculous. But that’s where my head was.

(music - slow, plodding heavy bass with ominous harpsichord)

So it was this fear of perpetrating what had happened to me. And I suppose, as Mattias grew, he looks like me, acts a lot like me, all I could see was me. And so all I could see was me being abused. So that just got harder and harder.

MARC

That’s a lot of pressure on a relationship, between you and Paula. Even if you take out the complicating factor of having two kids, which is stressful enough at the best of times. How are you two coping as the kids got older?

ROSS

I think like all marriages and all families, the dynamic changes. When Mattias come, it was light bulb for Paula, and so she just turned her full attention and effect onto Mattias. But I think because I was having issues with seeing him as being me, me fearing I was abusing him, I think this started resentment with him being there.

And so, it was this sort of, thinking about “well, do I find somebody else, you know, have that affair or that emotional connection with someone else?”

Because I hide things so well, I don’t think she knew.

MARC

Which makes it very complicated for her to navigate you, I imagine.

ROSS

I think for her and I think for most people, they… I think most people on the outside would see these really great strong couple with a lovely little boy running their own business and growing and, you know, saying, “oh, gee, haven’t they all got it together.” Not knowing that it just seems to be you know, chasing the tail of one thing after another, and it hasn’t…I haven’t solved anything along the way. I’m adding to it, but not processing it.

(music - harpsichord concludes)

ROSS

It was March 2008. Paula and I had gone away with the boys. We were going to my younger cousin’s wedding. We went to the wedding, it was down in Mt. Gambia. One of my cousins was going straight back home. And I just said to Paula, I said “you take the two kids and you go home with our cousin. And I’m just going to shoot up and see my brother Trevor, in Adelaide for a couple of days. And then I’ll shoot home.”

(Sound effects - car driving)

ROSS

If I had to say I was…that was me planning to runaway, leave. Ended up shooting up to Adelaide, sitting down with my brother, because my brother and I had gone through a lot of our childhood stuff together.

And then you got that four or five hour drive from Adelaide. And that drive, I suppose it was the starting of me, I suppose being on my own and my thoughts starting to run away with me, or thinking of whether I really wanted to farm or not farm or…

(Sound effects - car idling; indicator on; windscreen wipers back and forth)

So in four hours of driving, I got to this T-intersection. And I remember the sign in front of me was arrow to the left saying to Sydney, and the right was going back to Echuca, Shepparton. And I would have sat at that intersection for a half an hour or so just deciding which way. For me, the left turn to Sydney was to run away. I just didn’t think Paula really understood, it’d be better off if I wasn’t there. My two boys would be better off if I wasn’t there.

MARC

Why was that idea so attractive in the moment?

ROSS

Because I think it comes back to that moment when I had meningitis laying in a hospital. It just solved all the problems.

And then the role playing from that was saying, “well, if Mattias and Hamish didn’t have a dad, how would they feel?” And that’s probably the adult conscious saying, “well, how are they really gonna feel? And they’re not gonna feel great.” Which brought me back to turning right.

(Sound effects - car drives off)

NARRATION

Taking that right turn, back to his family, back to his life, filled Ross with this recommitment to work on all of those issues that had been plaguing him. He vowed to go with Paula and seek professional support for their marriage. And for himself, he made a promise to visit their GP the very first chance he could get. And it’s that visit to Alan the GP where Ross opened up about that trauma from his past.

MARC

When you said those words to the GP, what did it trigger in the rest of your life?

ROSS

It was no turning back. I opened it out of a secret of being just in the family, so to speak.

MARC

It couldn’t be stuffed back away.

ROSS

Couldn’t be stuffed back away. So, by telling Alan, he wasn’t going to stuff this back in a box and say, “oh, well, we’re not going to talk about that. We’re going to try and solve this. And, how do we take that next step?”

NARRATION

That next step was to see a counsellor. And the GP recommended Jenny, someone he thought would be perfect for Ross. And on his first appointment with Jenny, Ross, well he unpacked everything.

MARC

What were some of the lessons that you learned about yourself coming out of those. Because I mean, that first purge is one thing, but at a certain point, Jenny, I imagine started to give you some framework to understand what had happened to you and the effect, and how your body and your mind had started to react to it. So what are some of the things you’d learnt?

ROSS

I live with three or four people, so to speak, that makes Ross up. So there’s a pre-abuse kid. I describe him as a quite confident, he likes the attention, he likes standing up.

And then we have that boy at seven or eight that was abuse that shut down, and said, “right, we’re going to protect you, Ross. We’re here to look after you. When the abuse is on, we’re going to close everything down, we’ll shut everyone out. We’ll just sit and hide.” You know, “we will lock you down and we’ll protect you and it’ll go away. And it’ll stop and then you can come back out.”

And then there’s that adolescent boy that’s trying to find himself. But he’s got this little boy stopping him because he says “no, don’t, don’t stick your head up, because it’s gonna get knocked off. You need to stay and be safe.”

So, I think I’ve learned that when I go into crisis, see if I’m getting threatened by somebody or something, or a feeling, is that to take that breath and understand what’s driving that, who’s driving it? It’s that little boy that scared it, and give it a reference and then the adult me, who I am now, to be able to sit down with that boy and say “it’s okay. You’re not going to get abused.”

(music - slow march; drums and guitar; hopeful)

NARRATION

Ross has been seeing Jenny for the better part of the last 12 years. It hasn’t been every week - like sometimes he goes months without seeing her - but she will be a constant in his life. In fact, it was to Jenny that Ross and Paula went when they were finally ready to sit down and talk about their relationship.

ROSS

By us sitting down with Jenny, we are just more honest with each other now. I think we’ve got over our…well, I’ve been able to deal with my anger. And that’s the one thing I noticed now is…I still got a little short fuse, I can’t find something, I’m blind for looking, I’ll get the bloke thing. And I’ll get frustrated. But the anger is not…that’s just me, just frustrated that I can’t find something, not that anger that’s sitting underneath it.

MARC

It’s situational anger. As opposed to a deep well of rage that’s just popping out of nowhere.

ROSS

Yeah, yeah. So it just keeps you on track to be honest with each other that, yes I can be a jealous person. But some of that jealousy was of actions of Paula doing that she didn’t realise where it was coming from me. So to understand my journey, and, you know, abuse is a lot more complicated than the physical act.

For me, I don’t think about the physical acts anymore. Well, if I wanted to, they’re there. But they’re not front and centre of why I am who I am now. It’s all the other emotional baggage, and anxiety and fear and all that that comes. It’s not the physical component.

(music - slow country feel; two guitars)

NARRATION

Ross and Paula’s boys are now teenagers, 17 and 14 years old. And as many might argue, raising teenagers is no doubt a trial in itself, but even more so for Ross.

MARC

And how would you say relationship with your boys has been? Because I mean earlier we talked about early on there was a lot of anxiety around bathing. How would you say your relationship was with them?

ROSS

With Mattias, it has always been a little bit jagged and tense. And I was feeling guilt of not being honest with him. And also probably guilt for Hamish as well that he’s so much like me that…and Jenny spoke a little bit about when we did some earlier counselling that if you don’t go through the process and understand who you are, you can transfer your issues on to your children. Because it’s just the way you will react with them and treat them, and you’ll give them baggage. And they’ll be thinking “what the hell is this baggage that I’ve got?”

And I didn’t want to leave a legacy of ‘what ifs?’ I wanted to have that honest conversation, I wanted them to be able to be comfortable to say, “if I need to go see someone at a point in time. It’s fine.”

MARC

So you wrote them a letter?

ROSS

Yeah.

(Music - slow country feel continues)

(Sound effects - Ross letter reading; bassy and roomy)

ROSS

Hi, Mattias and Hamish. I’m writing you this letter as part of my work I’m doing with my counsellor. I’ve been keeping a secret from you both that has been weighing on me heavily for a long time now. Between the ages of five and 12 years, I was sexually abused. This has had a huge effect on me growing up especially during my teenage years through to my late 20s and early 30s.

(Sound effects - Ross letter reading fades out; still faintly audible in background)

ROSS

And I think probably over the last few months, what I’ve noticed is, it’s opened up an honesty of that we check in with each other now. That even like coming and doing this today, both them were saying “ah, it’s okay dad. We’ll touch base tonight. And we’ll check in and see who you are.”

(Sound effects - Ross letter reading)

ROSS

I’m not wanting to pass on my shame, guilt and lack of self confidence. I’m not wanting to pass on the experiences I had as a teenager. I was bullied and picked on at school and struggled to stand up for myself due to being abused.

(Sound effects - Ross letter reading fades out; still faintly audible in background)

ROSS

It’s just opened it up that now we don’t…there’s no lies, hopefully. So when they’re experiencing things as they get older, they can come to us. And we can have that honest conversation. We don’t have to hide. And if something bad happens to them along the way, they can come to us. Because you just want to protect your kids.

(Sound effects - Ross letter reading)

ROSS

Earlier I said that you both would be better off without me. Please never think this is the truth. When I’ve been in my most darkest moments. Deep down inside of me it’s always the both of you that has dragged me out and drives me to be a better person. I cannot love two people any more than I love you both.

Love Dad.

(Music - slow country feel ends)

NARRATION

Ross experienced a horrible trauma with impacts that were far and wide-reaching. It polluted his relationships, it poisoned his capacity for intimacy, and it nearly cost him his family and his life. But when he opened up, when he gave himself over to the vulnerability of admitting he needed help, things began to change.

Ross’ recovery journey is long, and he will admit to you himself, it will never be finished. He knows the challenges with his mental health aren’t over, but for him, it’s about being prepared. And that’s something that a good support network, a loving family, and yes, even a farm can help with.

ROSS

The farm is a great place to collect your thoughts. And I really think for those early years the farm did save me. Yes, it was a means of hiding, but it allowed me time to grow, allowed me time to build some confidence.

But I think sitting on a tractor: thinking time. You’re by yourself, you got the humming. I think as a little boy, I would sit in the dairy. And the pulsators would be clicking away, backwards and forwards. And if you rest your ear against the metal work, it would vibrate. And so I just fall asleep, leaning against hearing that noise, clicking away. It is, it’s just that sort of, it’s that sort of safe space.

(Music - Ross’ theme kicks off into an upbeat country song)

NARRATION

The interplay between trauma, anger and intimacy can be a really difficult one to understand and navigate. So I sat down with Beyond Blue’s Lead Clinical Adviser Dr. Grant Blashki to unpick what was going on underneath the surface.

(Music - Ross’ theme ends)

MARC

Dr. Grant Blashki, welcome back.

GRANT

Yeah, great to chat to you, Marc.

MARC

Just listening to Ross's story, a symptom that's very much I think present throughout Ross's journey has been this anger, or this short fuse, as he calls it. Is it common for people who've experienced trauma to have that kind of short fuse? Does that sound familiar to you?

GRANT

It really did. As a GP, you see people who are getting themselves in all sorts of trouble with uncontrolled anger; effects relationships, sometimes legal trouble, the guilt afterwards, and actually can affect them getting on with some therapy and actually sorting it out. Which is a bit of a shame because the therapist can be great to help understand the anger, develop some circuits, some short circuit strategies to actually head off that anger. And help them anticipate what are some really anger provoking situations that I've got coming up. So there's a lot to be gained from people getting help for under-managed anger,

MARC

Totally. I mean, Ross's recovery journey really started in a GP clinic, and even for something as serious as the abuse and trauma that he suffered, the GP can be a first port-of-call for anybody listening, can’t it?

GRANT

Look, as a GP myself, I can tell you, often it's quite a good spot for a trusted, non-judgmental sort of chat with someone who's often known you for years or decades, right? So we're a good start.

Having said that, most of us GPs, me included, we're not going to be experts on managing a really complex sexual abuse problem or, you know, a level that really requires the specialist mental health person. But as a start point, GPs can be great. And it was lovely to hear how that GP was able to just give him the space, and he was able to talk to him.

MARC

Yeah, I think that trust counts for a lot, doesn’t it?

GRANT

Definitely, definitely.

MARC

Are there specific support services out there for people who've experienced sexual assault that you think are worth people knowing about?

GRANT

Absolutely. So there's a national service, 1800 RESPECT, which you can call. Confidential advice for sexual or family violence. There's a particular group that looks at childhood trauma and abuse called the Blue Knot Foundation, and you could find them on the web as well. And then all the various states and territories have their own assault services with various names and you can find them pretty quickly online.

MARC

Dr. Grant Blashki, thank you so much. It's lovely to talk to you again.

GRANT

Great to chat.

(Music - show theme)

NARRATION

Huge thank you to Ross for sharing his story, and to Paula, Mattias and Hamish for supporting him to do it.

You can join the conversation and share your story at beyondblue.org.au/forums

And if you or someone you know needs support,  you can visit our website or call Support Service on 1300 22 46 36. We’ll put some info and resources in the show notes.

Not Alone is a Beyond Blue podcast, hosted by me, Marc Fennell, produced by Sam Loy, and executive produced by Darcy Sutton and Sarah Alexander. It was recorded by Ryan D’Sylva, with sound design and mixing by Que Nguyen.

This podcast was produced on Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung, Boonwurrung, Gadigal and Dja Dja Wurrung Country, and we pay respect to the traditional owners of these lands.

Thank you for listening to Not Alone.

Auslan translation

Not Alone is hosted by Marc Fennell, produced by Sam Loy and executive produced by Darcy Sutton and Sarah Alexander.

Our theme song Sense of Home is by Australian artist Harrison Storm.


Helpful resources

  • You can join the discussion on our Beyond Blue online forums
  • Beyond Blue has a dedicated webpage providing information and advice on coping with trauma
  • 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) is a 24-hour national sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line for any Australian who has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault.
  • MensLine Australia (1300 78 99 78) is a 24/7 telephone, online support and information service for men and boys who are dealing with family and relationship difficulties.
  • Relationships Australia (1300 364 277) provides support services for individuals, families and communities to achieve positive and respectful relationships.
  • Head to Health can help you find digital mental health services for men from some of Australia’s most trusted mental health organisations

Suicide and crisis support:

  • The Beyond Now suicide safety planning app helps you stay safe if you're experiencing suicidal thoughts, feelings, distress or crisis.
  • The Suicide Call Back Service provides professional 24/7 telephone and online counselling to people who are affected by suicide. You can access this service by calling 1300 659 467.
  • Lifeline provide crisis support and suicide prevention services – they can be contacted 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 13 11 14.
  • If you are in an emergency, or at immediate risk of harm to yourself or others, please contact emergency services on 000

 

Back to Not Alone home page

 

ap_secondarylogo_stacked_red_rgb_no white space

Season Two of Not Alone was made possible by Australia Post proudly supporting Beyond Blue.

 

Crisis support

If you are in an emergency, or at immediate risk of harm to yourself or others, please contact emergency services on 000. Other services include:

Stay in touch with us

Sign up below for regular emails filled with information, advice and support for you or your loved ones.


Sign me up