This feels a little like my first day of school when I was five, which I loved. I was so happy to finally be with the bigger kids. I had wanted to start school a year before, when my brother started, but of course I wasn’t allowed. But finally I got there.
This is of course, my first post for Canvas, and that is equally exciting. I’m not 100 per cent sure quite what to expect but I know some of the ‘kids’, and am very happy to be here. This has been something I have wanted to do for a while, but the time wasn’t quite right. Now it is, and so I’m here.
I do something a little different from most bloggers. I use my own name. No pseudonym for me. While there are definite advantages in using one, and for most people it makes good sense, for me, using my own name is too important.
Remember playing hide and seek, as a child? I admit I hated it because as I was usually the youngest, I always had this fear that I would be off hiding in some cupboard and the rest of the kids would decide to end the game. They just wouldn’t tell me, and I would be left in that cupboard for the rest of the day wondering why they had never found me.
I was only just a teenager (fourteen) when I began another, more sinister, ‘game’ of hide and seek. It would stretch on for some fourteen years before there was any hope of the ‘game’ being over. Two men (not linked to each other) simultaneously stalked me, while I hid.
I became pretty good at the ‘game’ of hiding. I knew to always look over my shoulder to see who was behind me, I learnt to scan a crowd to check who was, and wasn’t, in that crowd. One of the men rode a motorbike and I could spot that bike from a distance. I knew which friends it was safe to visit at their homes, and which were not safe. I learnt who would watch my back, and who could not be relied on to do that. I learnt who my real friends were. I learnt never to answer the phone, never answer the door. I knew that once I left home at 18, it was going to be pretty necessary to keep on the move, so that I would never be caught up to. I had to be one step ahead, always. And while I had friends who did what they could to protect me, I realised that no one else was affected by this, and so no one was going to help me end the ‘game’.
This ‘game’ of hide and seek ended when I was nearly thirty. By that stage I had fled to the other end of the country and changed my name. Oh, and I had married someone (as part of changing my name) but married him mostly because I was terrified that if I didn’t, he would eventually become another stalker. By that time, everyone was a potential stalker to me.
I was also very sick. My mental health had finally crashed under the weight of the ‘game’ and I was diagnosed with depression, Anorexia Nervosa, and not surprisingly, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). That’s what one (very long) ‘game’ of hide and seek could do to me. I’m sure the effects on the other ‘players’ were not quite so dramatic, although admittedly one had a diagnosis of schizophrenia and his stalking efforts would escalate as his level of mental health went down. Unfortunately his mental health workers were entirely uninterested in working with this issue (another story!).
PTSD has a habit of going on and on, so for years afterward I still felt stalked, even though I wasn’t. The trauma in my mind simply kept repeating itself and I still didn’t feel safe. Even now there are things I do to protect myself. It’s just natural to me, although I guess it’s a strange sort of natural. I had spent years not wanting to be me. I didn’t want to be Cate Reddell, because these men had wrecked my identity for me.
But as I started to heal, after a whole lot of treatment, I wanted to be me again. The first step was to change my name back. To take back what was mine.
And so writing in my own name is really important to me. I am allowing myself to be me. Does that make sense? I don’t want to spend any more of my life hiding, so the last thing I want to do is write under a pseudonym.
I know there are some risks involved, but you won’t find my photo on here and you won’t recognise me in the street. The benefits of being proud of being able to be me again, far outweighs the risks for me. I recognise it’s not like that for everyone, and I totally respect that. I’m not in any way saying that others should do what I’m doing. But for me? It’s perfectly right. No more hide and seek.
I am Cate Reddell, and I’m really happy to be joining the Canvas team.
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