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Why it’s important to ask RUOK ?

Why it’s important to ask RUOK ?
Lisa Oldfield, with Victoria Rees

I found parts of Episode 3 very difficult to watch. Indeed, I had to stop a couple of times when reviewing the episode as I became extremely overwhelmed.

Not because I come across as weak and vulnerable (two feelings I am very uncomfortable exposing to even those closest to me) but because it brought back terrible memories.

My girlfriend Charlotte committed suicide a couple of years ago. I miss her everyday. And I will go to my grave with the guilt that I didn’t do enough to reach out to her, to be there for her in her time of need.

I should have recognised the warning signs. Charlotte was erratic. Charlotte was despondent. I just didn’t understand depression and anxiety. I didn’t feel comfortable or brave enough to have the conversation.

That’s not to say that I ignored Charlotte’s plight. I called her. I messaged her. We had coffee. I tried to make her laugh, to get her out of her rut and naïvely thought I could make her forget her problems.

I still remember that god-awful gut punch I felt in the supermarket when a mutual friend text messaged me with the news. I abandoned my trolley and walked back to the car, where I sat in stunned silence. I don’t even remember driving home. I cried myself to sleep. For a split second, when I woke, everything seemed ok. The sun was shining. But then I remembered Charlotte was gone and the world felt heavy and oppressive again.

Three years after Charlotte passed, I experienced first hand the helplessness that comes with anxiety and depression. I was sexually assaulted by a taxi-driver in broad daylight. The attack knocked the wind out of me. No longer was I the brave and fearless Lisa. I was a victim. I was weak. I was scared.

But to hide my weakness and vulnerability, I tried to compartmentalise it. I tried to rationalise it. I thought if I ignored it, it would go away.

The hardest part of the experience was the police investigation. The detectives who managed my case where extremely professional. But knowing that it was case of my word against that of my attacker, they needed to ensure my account of the attack was water-tight. I felt like the police were trying to catch me out, that they didn’t believe me, I felt that I was been attacked all over again.

I wasn’t brave enough to go through another grilling, where I felt I was being doubted. I wasn’t brave enough to face my attacker in court. I didn’t have the energy to recount my attack over and over again to a psychologist. I just shut down.

I ground my back teeth to stumps. I vomited with anxiety. I pushed people away. I couldn’t stand anyone, not even my husband, touching me.

But to the world at large, to those who didn’t know my story, I was the same Lisa, albeit, a little quieter. I threw myself in to my work, taking on far too many projects. I distanced myself from my family.

Originally very sympathetic to my plight, David eventually became frustrated. I was no longer the wife and mother he knew and loved. I worked ridiculous hours. I drank heavily. I slept in until noon on weekends and let him cope with our two little boys alone.

Desperate to get a reaction, any reaction from me, David started pointing out my faults. I left shoes lying around the house. I wasn’t there to put the boys to bed. I’d left my keys at work and locked myself out of the house.

Rather than reacting, I withdrew further and our problems and lack of communication began to compound.

There was one light moment. David convinced me to take a holiday to New Zealand with him and the boys. For ten glorious days in the Matakana sun, I felt myself again, knowing that I had put the Tasman Sea between me and my attacker. For ten glorious days, I wasn’t frightened by my omnipresent bogeyman who knew where I lived.

But when we returned, we fell back in to the groundhog day that had become our marriage.

And it became easier for me to blame David for everything. He nagged me. He was always angry. I worked long hours, I was, in my eyes, a martyr.

Filming Real Housewives of Sydney was the impetus for our marriage to “make or break” – a TV show like Housewives is akin to holding up a mirror to your life. You are asked thousands of questions and forced out of your comfort zone. But outside of that comfort zone, you begin to see things from the perspectives of family and friends. I started, during the filming process, to see things from David’s perspective.

After a very frank chat with Victoria at Athena’s birthday, where it was evident that she not only survived, but seemingly thrived after two divorces, I was relieved that the ending of a marriage wasn’t necessarily the end of the world.

I very much appreciated Victoria’s honesty. She didn’t sugar coat anything. She admitted that her divorce had been very tough on her teenage son Austin.

That was a red flag for me. Whilst things weren’t great for Harry and Bertie with their parents at each other’s throats, would it be worse for them if we were divorced and the family broken up ?

I don’t know what the answer is. David and I are still very much a work in progress. But I can tell you I am grateful to Victoria and every viewer that reached out to me with comfort, succour and advice. Sometimes all we need is a hug and someone to hear us.

Lisa xxx

Looking for more information about RUOK everyDay, check out: https://www.ruok.org.au/365-day-resources