“My Name is Flic.” A short story by Suzanne Burke. From my upcoming anthology. “Front-Line Heroes” @pursoot

FIRST RESPONDERS BEST LARGE

What follows is one selection from an Anthology I’m working on.

The books title: “Front-Line Heroes.”

I want to pay tribute to ALL the Front-Line Heroes. The Soldiers, Paramedics, Police Officers, Firefighters, Doctors, Nurses, Drug Enforcement Agents, Teachers, Foster-Parents, Counsellors and Carers.

The selfless angels that work the streets every night from all the marvelous charitable organisations. They are the Front-Line Heroes … every precious one of them.

I hope my stories assist in further understanding their utter devotion, and undeniable humanity, and how they may need to deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

These are all works of fiction. However I hope that each reader will recognize these people, and give thanks that they exist.

***

My Name is Flic.

A Short Story.

By Suzanne Burke

Some people grow into the name they were given at birth by a mother caught up in hormone driven, wishful thinking. I wasn’t one of them. She named me Felicity. Now, I’ll grant you there is nothing wrong with the name. But, you know, sometimes people have a visual image pre-ordained in their heads that have all the Felicity’s as golden-haired, blue-eyed and sunny-natured, shining examples of goodness.

So, everyone that knows me understands that I prefer to be called Flic.

It had always been strange coming into this office. Trepidation was my constant companion on those days. The smell of the furniture polish never changes, nor does the light penetrating the squeaky-clean glass of the double glass doors.

It’s lonely here gazing down at the quadrangle, knowing I can see so clearly, without being observed.

I feel like an intruder in other people’s guarded moments, yet I need the comfort that observation will grant me right now. I needed to know what’s waiting down there in the quadrangle. I need to prepare.

The new intake of girls stand segregated for now, whilst the teachers act upon predetermined decisions on who to pair them up with. Each newbie will be partnered with an older, more experienced member of this community of discarded young people. A mentor to help ease them in to the difficult period of adjustment that lay waiting.

I watch the body language of the group, I need to identify them for my own satisfaction … I’ll know better how to move among them that way.

Four of the young people are quietly standing, eyes downcast, shoulders slumped. They have long believed themselves unworthy of being loved. It would take time, and patience before that could change … if it ever did.

Three of the new intake are afraid. They have been suddenly taken from their comfort zones, their sanctuary. No matter how bad it had been, it was familiar, and something they had lived with all of their lives … until now.

Now the courts had made the choice to remove them from that environment. To place them into the care of people trained to help them redefine who they were.

Definitions were difficult in those early weeks and months as both teachers and students struggled to be accepted. I knew that.

I recognized two of the girls standing to the rear of the assembly. These girls were not new. I know them. They had been placed in foster homes and returned when they had proven too difficult to keep. The haunted look in their eyes battled with the sadness, as they accepted finally that the only home they would ever know … was this one. Until and unless they found the courage it would take to make it alone. My memory was rippled with the scattered bodies of these kids.

I knew their anger seethed just below a surface they created to expel any thought of comfort or human contact. They had long ago witnessed just how their skin could be stripped from their bones with words used like weapons on their fragile defenses.

I knew that anger. I also knew that it could and would explode into violence, unleashed by any one of a thousand trigger situations they could suddenly find themselves in …utterly unprepared.

The other girls stood out clearly, they didn’t walk to assembly, they strutted. Tossing long hair and smiling as if they held a secret that only they could ever see. These broken babies flirted with everyone, irrespective of gender or position in the pecking order. You were human and breathing and that was enough to force them to offer you themselves in return for whispered lies of love. Learning to stop equating sex with being loved was a lifetime of counseling away.

I knew too that the teachers burned out fast here. Some managed to survive all the pain they witnessed daily; but it was the support network they had outside these walls, that offered them their only tangible comfort.

Those that tried to absorb all that they witnessed in the vain hope they wouldn’t get flamed into nothingness by it … they crumpled like singed tissue paper and burned to a cinder. Many of them would never be able to teach again.

I looked on as a few of the youngest students started to cry. I watched them comforted by the others that had enough heart still left in them to offer it.

It all came down to the look in the eyes of both students and teachers. There was a hunted and haunted look that ate into your soul and remained there … indelible, immovable, and endlessly sad.

The door opened and Margot the school secretary caused me to turn away from the window.

She glanced at her wristwatch and gave me what passed for a reassuring smile, “It’s time, Flic.”

I nodded and answered, “Be right there.”

She smiled in acknowledgement and left the door ajar.

I gathered my scattered thoughts and wrapped them around me as I walked downstairs, and caught brief smiles of recognition from a few of those assembled.

I stepped up to the microphone. “Good morning, everyone.”

And sixty voices echoed back at me, “Good Morning Principal Flic.”

I had traveled full circle. I had come home.

 

 

 

Celebrating the newly edited edition of “Empty Chairs: (Standing Tall & Fighting Back Book 1) #Memoir On sale now at $0.99.

The following trailer and the contents of my memoir are very confronting. Because they absolutely must be. Child abuse will never cease if we continue to turn away, seeing nothing … doing nothing.

HERE IS THE TRAILER Created by my dear friend Sessha Batto.

PREVIEW EMPTY CHAIRS BELOW.

Contact me Contact me on TWITTER!

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My BLOG

Two weeks ago I was taken to hospital. One week ago I was asked a question I should have been prepared for, but wasn’t. “Do you want to be resuscitated, Suzanne?”

It would appear that I’m not six-foot-tall and bullet-proof after all! I’m not looking for answers my friends, not here. What I am doing is sharing with you what my world looks like at the moment, in the hope that by writing it down I can gain more insight and clarity into something I have steadfastly avoided thinking about for most of my crazy chaotic life. I’m not throwing a pity-party here. I’ll indulge myself with the poor-poor-pitiful-me stuff when I lay in the dark and try vainly to sleep.

I have always bounced back. Something in me refuses to stay down for the count. I have never allowed myself to think differently. That changed nine days ago.

For the last six weeks my already poor health has taken a nose dive. Up until six weeks ago I could still manage to walk unassisted from my bedroom at the front of our cottage to the bathroom at the rear.

To venture outside has required a wheelchair for over three-years now, I had adjusted my mental attitude to that fact. Hell, I hated the loss of my independence, I fought against it … hard, but I had to accept that the wheelchair was now an integral part of my life. Like everything else in my crazy life to date my sense of humor rescued me from the depth of the depression that I was sinking into. My daughter and I managed to find ways to still get out and I was able to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine with my darling daughter steering from behind and my small grandson perched precariously on my lap, not to forget the picnic basket we always took with us.

I became hell on wheels, at least in my own fertile imagination.

The onset of winter is never a good time with my advanced C.O.P.D always wavering in the face of the cold. The winter here in our new location has been very severe, we Sydney dwellers are accustomed to the mildest of winters with minus degree temperatures unheard of.

The day I was admitted to hospital just over two-weeks ago it was -7 degrees Celsius, that’s around 19 degrees Fahrenheit. I had been struggling to breathe for over two weeks beforehand, needing to use the nebulizer far more than I should have. Until finally the worry on my daughter’s dear face registered with my stubborn refusal to accept the inevitable, and I asked her to call the Paramedics.

Long story short … Double pneumonia, which had sent my insulin dependent diabetes out of control. My health issues are many and complex, and four of them are individually life-threatening. I know that.  I have known that for a very long time, but as long as no doctor sat me down and had ‘the’ talk with me I was able to convince myself and everyone else that Soooz would always bounce back. I always laughed it off. I can’t do that now.  Nine days ago my doctor came into my room, I had been moved from ICU to a private room  because my coughing was keeping the others in a shared room from resting.

He closed the door behind him and pulled a chair over to my bedside.

He looked weary and dispirited, and little wonder, he’d been on duty for seven-very-long days. I’d seen him early every morning when he’d done his rounds, all throughout the long days and late every night as he’d pop his head in and take a look at my chart before heading home to what would have only been very little sleep.

I did my usual, “So … what’s up, Doc?” I smiled at him. He gave me a tired grin.

“Suzanne, there is never an easy way to approach what I need to talk to you about.”

I looked at his face again and saw the sadness there. “Well, Doc, straight talking always works best for me. So okay, go ahead.”

“I need to talk to you about your wishes regarding resuscitation in the event that you go into arrest.” And there it was. There was no punch line.

I felt like I’d been kicked in the guts by a mule.

I struggled to stay in the moment, and not shut out his words because they were words I didn’t want to ever be asked.

“How close did we come?” I heard a voice ask, surprised that my vocal chords were working at all.

“I won’t lie to you. It was damned close, my dear. You need more information which I’ll have the chronic care team go over with you when you go home. I’ll arrange for them to come and do a home visit. Your daughter is your carer, yes?”

“Yes, yes she is. Are we talking full life-support here?”

“Full life support would be necessary, Suzanne. With all the possible problems associated with its implementation. We can go over the ramifications with you to help you make an informed decision. I’m so sorry, Suzanne. This is never a conversation that any doctor wants to have with his patient. I’ll answer any questions for you that I reasonably can, but keep in mind every situation presents us with a unique set of circumstances.”

I think that’s what he said.

My mind was already searching for ways to make all this go away.

It didn’t succeed.

He came across to the bed and squeezed my shoulder. “We’ll talk when you are ready to. You are still a long way from well, but certainly in better condition than when they brought you in. I’m ordering something to help you sleep. We’ll leave the oxygen on tonight.”

“I need to wean off it. I don’t want it at home. I’d rely on it too heavily.”

“Let’s discuss that further tomorrow, shall we? For now I think it best to keep the oxygen levels at an acceptable level to allow you to sleep. It is far better to make decisions when you are well rested, my dear.”

He stood at the door for a moment, then without saying anything more he nodded slowly and left the room.

I couldn’t think. Or more accurately I refused to think. I needed more information. The one thing that did keep pummeling at my head was the knowledge that IF I chose to be resuscitated  and placed on life-support, it would then fall on my child to make the decision to turn off the machines if and when the doctors advised her to do so.

How in the name of all I hold dearest could I ever place her in that position? I know my girl, it would be something she’d never fully recover from.

I’ve had close friends with family members on life support, I’ve been with them on two occasions when they were called upon to make the decision to switch off the life-support keeping their loved ones alive.

I’ve seen the devastation of the guilt that overwhelmed them, and then held them tightly as they also expressed their relief that their loved one would suffer no more.

I didn’t sleep in spite of the medication, I lay there in the dark listening to the hiss of the oxygen as it helped me to breathe.

I had so many questions, and needed answers to them before I could even begin to contemplate discussing this with my daughter.

Two days later my doctor came by with a colleague and I asked if I could return home. He agreed, but hastened to tell me that the chronic-care-team would visit me at home to discuss my home care needs and answer any questions I needed to ask. All the follow up appointments were made; he shook my hand, wished me well, and I came home.

It’s been nine-days now. I made one attempt to discuss the current situation with my daughter and she responded as I knew she would. “You will absolutely be resuscitated, Momma Bear!” She then teared up and needed to leave the room.

I discussed it with her again, and she understands that this must be my decision. I understand that this must be my decision, and it will be made armed with the best information I have.

Today is Wednesday August 9th 2017. The Chronic-care-team will be here in an hour. My daughter will sit in until I ask the questions about life-support. I’ve asked her to leave the room then, and I will give her the Reader’s Digest version after the team have left.

They have been and gone and it was a productive hour of discussion. Home help is being offered to my daughter for a period of six-weeks. At the end of that time I should hopefully have improved sufficiently not to require her to be on constant alert all the time. She is a single mom raising a five-year-old boy, I’m so grateful that she will have help for a while.

The team were lovely dedicated folks, and I have an enormous amount of paperwork to read through before I can make the final call on the decision to either allow resuscitation and life-support … or decline it.

My child, will I think, rest a little easier tonight. She deserves to.

The road ahead is not going to be easy, I know that. I’m already leaning toward the do NOT resuscitate option, but I’ll make that call after I’ve become as well informed as I can be.

What I do know with absolute certainty is that if pure cussed pigheadedness has anything to do with me getting back on my feet, then I’ll do it. Spring is fast approaching, and then our glorious summer … the warmer weather will grant me hours sitting outside in the sunshine. I look forward to that.

One thing my daughter and I have discussed and agreed upon is what I’ll finally have on my gravestone. It’s not original but I know that it will make her smile each time she sees it. I want her to smile.

And what have I decided upon? Simply this … “She’s not going to take this lying down.”

I’ll give this my best shot, my friends. I have too much remaining that I have yet to achieve. Wish me luck and thank you so much for caring enough to stop by.

 

 

 

 

 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Being held hostage by your memory. #Flashbacks.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Being held hostage by your memories. #Flashbacks.

Definition of Hostage

If you say you are hostage to something, you mean that your freedom to take action is restricted by things that you cannot control. Such is the force of PTSD.

Memories are something unique to each and every one of us. They are perhaps the only thing apart from our DNA that truly sets us apart from any other of our species.

They can be triggered by the sweet joyous sound of a baby’s laughter, the scent of a freshly baked cake, or a scene from a movie that we watch over-and-over again. All our senses take part in the remembering process.

The lingering refrain of church bells on Sunday morning and the butterfly touch of a spring breeze on our faces may all take us to places we once inhabited in real time.

But not all of our memory is sweet.

The darker times of loss, the time a love ended, the tragedy  that life hands out … but never in equal measure, all those times remain there in that memory and at our weakest moments they will surface, to test our strength, or to force us to become aware, finally, that we are  no longer in that place of weakness.

Our memories hand us our self-knowledge, and at times, those memories are the very things by which we judge our own self-worth.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has as a bi-product its own unique way of enabling our darkest memory to surface. These are the FLASHBACKS  … I have experienced many. I will share with you one that it still shakes me to recall, in the hope that in some small way I can help shine a light into the darkest of places.

When it came, there was only a fleeting moment of recognition before I catapulted straight back to hell.

It was a crisp August morning, mid-winter here in Australia. I was beyond excited, anxious and happy that morning. I wore a new business suit, my hair was freshly cut and styled and I was ready to attend my second interview, at a firm of Merchant Bankers that were well known and respected, located in the Sydney CBD. I really wanted that job. Hell, I really needed that job. Blowing the funds on the new clothes and hairstyle was done in the belief that I had what it took to nail this position. I had worked in the field for a good many years and my reputation was solid. They had now compiled a short list of five possible candidates, including myself. I liked those odds.

I arrived at the tower of power that rose high above our beautiful harbor, and joined the throng of workers lined up for the elevators.

I have always hated elevators, but twenty-two floors up was my appointment location, and my lungs already knew that stairs weren’t an option.

My life long claustrophobia clung hand in hand to my inability to stand at the front of the elevator … my unease at having people behind me unseen won the argument. I entered the elevator and went to the middle against the back wall … my ass was covered. I smiled, remembering my dear Jamie’s favorite expression, “Always cover your ass, Sass!”  The other occupants soon created a wall in front of me, which I escaped by keeping my eyes closed and only briefly glancing up as the lift stopped and disgorged people on each floor.

I believe I had a handle on the claustrophobia, and just breathed deeply.

We stopped again, someone else entered. I watched an older woman, well attired, and confident looking stand just in front of me. She loosened her colored scarf and her perfume was captured and sent in my direction by the movement.

I inhaled that scent. My guts clenched so tight I could scarcely breathe. The nausea was my second warning sign that something was wrong. I took a deep breath to quell the wave of it as it rocked me. That is when it truly began. That smell … the woman who gave birth to me always wore that perfume. I was shaking and attempting not to throw up; I couldn’t move my limbs, for they were weighed down by the concrete of fear.

The fight or flight reflex kicked in and I lunged forward and hit the next floor button. Those brief moments seemed endless, and I had wet myself as I had as a small child when that scent of her would linger long after a beating. That odor had me back in a hell I had long run from. A hell that held me hostage with the memories that even the smell of a perfume could bring back into being.

I was that broken child again, kneeling on the floor and then placing my mouth at the light coming from underneath the locked door in the darkened room. The forty-year-old woman that I now was simply ceased to exist. I was four-years-old again. My back so sticky with crusted blood that the singlet I had been wearing for days stuck fast to the surface. I could feel my control slipping away and could find no logical thought that would both stop it and me from spiraling deeper into that remembered nightmare of pain and darkness.

The lift door finally opened and I half fell out in my haste. I don’t know what floor I landed on, my only coherent thought was escape. I needed a bathroom but couldn’t open my mouth to ask for directions. I headed to a corridor that I hoped would contain public washrooms. I threw up all over the plush-pile carpet in the corridor, and all over myself, not knowing or caring if anyone bore witness to my humiliation.

I found a washroom and locked myself into a stall. I sat down on the closed lid of the toilet and searched for the ability to breathe. I sat with my head down and focused on the tiled pattern on the floor until I could at last see it clearly, that gave me a route back to the immediacy of the moment, the now time, the real time where she had no power over my life … except in my memories. I had no idea how much time had passed. It had for me, seemed like a lifetime. I didn’t think to check my watch. Such is the nature of Flashbacks.

I cleaned myself as best I could, using paper towel and soapy water. I had nobody I could call to come and pick me up from the city. At that time in my life, I was living alone. I inspected myself, grabbing reassurance from the adult face reflected in the mirror, surprised to discover not the child I’d once been, but my grown self. I looked at my reflection for a long time …  until I had gathered as much of me together as I could hope for just then. I lightly sprayed on my own signature perfume, in the hope of hiding the stench of my clothing and my fear from the Taxi driver on the twenty-minutes it would take to him to drive me back home to safe haven.  I tipped him well.

I recall unlocking the door and resetting the alarm system before sliding down and sitting with my back firmly in place against that door. Nothing and no one could come near me … for now.

I showered, dressed, and then rang the folks that had expected to interview me. I apologized of course. I’d simply told them that I had taken suddenly ill. They thanked me, but they didn’t suggest a reschedule. I was distantly grateful for that, for I knew with absolute certainty that I would never take the risk that that woman could possibly share any space whatsoever in my life. I rated the chance of her working there far too high.

It took me a couple of days to regroup. I thought about and then tried not to think about what had happened. I knew I didn’t want to take the option of isolating myself … not again.

The temptation to reach out for alcohol to numb me against everything was resisted, this time. Being under the influence of the large amounts of alcohol I knew I could consume would make me a loaded weapon placed in the hands of a terrified four-year-old child.

I didn’t sleep fearing the nightmares that experience had told me lay waiting. I needed to cry it out, but I could not.

Finally, after almost three days of constant vigilance, exhaustion claimed me, and I slept. I awoke on the morning of the fourth day and knew that, I had,at least for now, regained control.

I refocused my attention on finding a job.

And life went on.

For those who suffer from P.T.S.D, and for those loving, caring folks that have someone in their lives that are trying to deal with the challenging packages P.T.S.D hands out, please know this … there are people out there in the now of your world that can help you. They will help you go to battle … and they will cheer you on as you win.

Reach out. There will be many loving hands ready to take yours.

I have listed below sites that are available world-wide, it is by no means a complete list, but if anyone reading this needs to learn more, these sites will point you in the right direction.

Depression Alliance U.K

ABeyond Blue Australia. Information and help

Anxiety and Depression Assistance America

Police Post Trauma Support Group | PPTSG | Post Traumatic Stress

Help line. 0432 569 589. 7am – 10am. The PPTSG is a not-for-profit organisation, … Its aim is to provide support to those who are suffering from PTSD, anxiety, … officers, and emergency workers, PPTSG provides a family and spouse support function. … He has been through the system & suffers ongoing medical problems of …
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can cause fear, anxiety and trauma memories that persist for a long time and affect a person’s ability to function.
Blue Knot Helpline (formerly ASCA Professional Support Line) provides help, … The MindSpot Clinic does not provide an emergency or instant response service. … health conditions, such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, …
Posttraumatic stress disorder (sometimes called PTSD) is a form of anxiety … Ask your doctor about any concerns you have, or contact the SANE Helpline on …
PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) can cause fear, anxiety and trauma … information, online programs, helplines and news on mindhealthconnect. … PTSD is a treatable anxiety disorder affecting around one million Australians each year. …. (000) for an ambulance or go to the nearest hospital emergency department.
Trusted information about complex PTSD, including symptoms, causes, diagnosis and … If someone has attempted, or is in immediate risk of attempting to harm … Complex posttraumatic stress disorder describes the long-term effects of …. Helpline 1800 18 7263 Home Mental Health & Illness :: Facts & Guides Get Help …

Find help for the effects of trauma – Phoenix Australia

phoenixaustralia.org/recovery/find-help/
This page lists Australian helplines and websites. For urgent support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 for confidential 24/7 counselling and …. PTSD and trauma.
People with posttraumatic stress disorder often experience feelings of panic or extreme fear, which may resemble what was felt during the traumatic event.
  1. Confidential online assessment. Free to Australian adults.
    Dedicated IT Team · Free & Effective Service
    Steps: Learn, Get Assessed, Treatment…

 

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) | Mind, the mental health charity …

Explains what posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complex PTSD are, and provides information on how you can access treatment and support. Includes …

It is normal to experience upsetting and confusing thoughts after a traumatic event, but … The Combat Stress 24-Hour Helpline 0800 138 1619 is for the military … trauma in military and emergency service personnel and also complex PTSD and … Rivers offers treatment for the whole range of post traumatic disorders with the 

 

 

 

 

Book REVIEW Video “Empty Chairs” by Suzanne Burke writing as Stacey Danson. Reviewed by Gwen Plano. #RRBC

How marvelous it is to have my book reviewed in this way. I am so honored to have  Gwen Plano feel strongly about my work. Please, pop over to the YouTube site and leave a comment on her video.

Thank you for dropping by.

 

 

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