Cuckoos behind. Hope they’re not ahead!

“One day I shall burst my bud of calm and blossom into hysteria.”. Christopher Fry is responsible for this piece of wisdom.

Foreboding ? Perhaps. Insightful? Perhaps, Educative? Completely. I know it to be true because it happened to me!

In 202I I celebrated the 71st anniversary of my birth. In February I experienced an hysteria that nearly did me and my family in! Looking back on it now I have learned the following truths about myself.

  • I have not yet lived long enough
  • I have not yet loved enough
  • I am loved
  • I am valued
  • Unresolved/ unprocessed trauma is a nasty piece of work!

In 2016 I started to implode. Retirement became my desert of mayhem, my husband and family my oasis of calm – sort of! Professional and friendship connections dissolved into nothingness. A cradle catholic living in a one newspaper town, daughter of a journalist, a surname that screamed scandal every time it was mentioned and working for a diocese full of denial, furtiveness and fear, I went under!

When no one could hear me speak of grief, six years later, I went off my chops and started to call my world to attention. I had not acknowledged or tended to my mental health. Throw into that the pandemic, isolation, no hugs, stories, songs, laughter, face to face with three of my children and all of my grandchildren for three years, finally some part of me called “enough” and “inside me”, neglected for so long, blew up!

After attending a funeral at the local catholic cathedral on a very hot summer day, I arrived home, exhausted. I’d been anxious about clapping eyes on anyone from my professional past. I love to sing. I have a good voice and something in the acoustic of churches with vaulted timber ceilings makes my voice sound better. I was pleased with the “no singing in church” COVID restriction and grateful for the mask! It was a Friday. I remember getting home, feeling tired, going to bed and for the next 30 days, this “one” was doing loop the loops over the cuckoo’s nest!

In my delirium I encountered just about every person with whom I had issues in my professional life. Colleagues, principals, priests, bishops, some of my children’s teachers. I heard voices coming at me from the toilet basin, behind doors, through windows. I could see laser beams targeting my chest from the guns held by those outside my hospital room. I made notes. I rang 000. I contacted the local member. I heard helicopters buzzing around the ward. I watched as nursing staff and others created bullet proof shields designed to protect me from being shot. I was convinced some of the staff were trying to poison me. I refused to take medication unless it was my medication from home. They cooperated with this. However, refusing to take my blood thinners for a few days, four vessels in my brain became blocked resulting in four mini strokes!

The climax of my madness came at about three am one day, convinced that no one was listening to me, I decided to make them hear by my rousing renditions of “Land of Hope and Glory”, “There’ll always be an England” and , true to my cradle catholic tradition, my catholic sing-a-long party trick “I’ll sing a hymn to Mary, the Mother of my God, the Virgin of all Virgins….” etc. I have brilliant ability to roll my tongue as identified by my high school French teacher. So boy did I let them roll! I accompanied my performance with an ostinato bass from the lid of my walker! The finale was to yell out my concern that no member of any medical team had made any enquiry about the use of my bowels for fifteen days!

My family were distraught. My husband was admitted to hospital suffering from anxiety. I can still hear the agony in his voice as he pleaded with me to cooperate. For only the second time in our fifty years of marriage, I saw him weep. I did not realise that the medical staff were considering appointing our youngest son as enduring guardian. My older daughter travelled to visit and ended up being admitted herself for an emergency appendectomy. Our interstate son and his family must had been terrified and in agony. “No one is trying to kill you, Mum” was his constant message. Our younger daughter, negotiating her way out of her relationship with a manipulative narcissist, supported her Dad and her brother . Our younger son was stoic, in agony but magnificent!

I agreed to submit myself to all tests and interventions required. Brain scans, lumbar punctures, a smorgasbord of investigations and of course the “do you know what day it is today” survey. I agreed to new medications to “mood balance”.

Slowly I began to realise that all of this mayhem revolved around the agony of the years 2007 to 2016. As results from tests and interventions came back, the only indication of a physical issue was a slightly swollen right tonsil. I began to talk about the connections I was then making between people I felt were present all the time, willing me harm and the bits fell into place for those who lived through that trauma I experienced while being formed in the institution that educated me and mine.

I had fought with the medical staff. I had behaved disgracefully towards the nursing staff most of whom were young women from India. Patient, respectful and always professional. Lacking the arrogance and certainty that seems to come with the casual clothes and white coats of some of the registrars.They too were professional but lacked the humility of the nurses! I recall one of the registrars being completely surprised that I had lasted to the end of my brain scan without sedation.

“Did you really complete the test? I did not think you would, you know” “Well, you don’t know me then, do you?”

I knew I was on my way out!

Another came to see me and introduced himself, almost shouting at me. I asked him if he was talking to me and he replied in the affirmative! “Well, would you mind turning your volume down a bit?” “Oh! sorry! All my patients are deaf!” Channeling my mother I replied “Well, I am your patient and I am not deaf!”

I had six weeks of outpatient rehab. My final appointment was with the psychiatric team. The head of the team explained how the mini strokes had occurred. Bipolar disorder was ruled out. I had experienced a psychotic episode, possibly triggered by my attendance in the cathedral on that hot summers day, due to unresolved/unprocessed trauma.

I think on the words of Acknowledgement of Country. Words that go beyond the literal into the spiritual. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners of the land, to their Elders, past present and emerging. Words matter. People class me as elderly and my exterior certainly ticks all the attributes of that classification.

Now I realise who I am. A teller of stories. A writer of tales. A singer of songs. A woman of wisdom. An Elder

And today I think back 20 years when life lived seemed short and time left seemed long. I think forward 20 years and life seems to be going so quickly and time left, so short.

What I know is that the stories, tales, song, love and wisdom that I have accrued and shared will outlast me!

And that’s how it should be!

8 responses to “Cuckoos behind. Hope they’re not ahead!”

  1. Powerful stuff Louise. I will have to read it a few times to have it all sink in. But hey, you and your family have survived. And yes, you are “a teller of stories, a writer of tales, a singer of songs, a woman of wisdom, and an Elder”! And a woman of courage. And your brother would be so proud of you.


    1. Thank you Mary. I treasure your comments. He’s been in my head a lot these past days. He’s never out of my heart! He would have been at Elton too and LOVING it!


  2. What a fabulous, emotional, poignant, open read. I’m so glad our paths crossed x


  3. Thank you Louise. Others outside your family ie. me, were very worried about you during that time. Your bravery in sharing your story must be acknowledged . I am aware of the trauma you suffered but did not realise its depth or the magnitude of your inability to process what had happened. I am glad you are back


    1. Me too my best friend! Thank you!


  4. There’s so much I would love to say. At this point though I simply want to say your honesty and your amazing ability to tell the Stories – but more importantly your Courage to share your then Brokenness. Thank you for sharing & trusting us…….


  5. Dear Louise,

    It was so good to read your account of your state of health. When I last spoke to you I thought Louise is back it was reinforced after I read your post. So keep writing your wonderful stories. Please

    So please to hear you and *Trisha & Megan had such fun. Loved the photos.

    Take care, now you know and understand better when you made need help again. So try and find time in your day to do something you love. Helps to keep the madness of the world at bay.

    I love my walks and calligraphy, they help to keep me on an even keel. Plus a few prayers! Thats more than enough from me.🙂 Love to you all Mary💕

    Sent from my iPad



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