The turmoil of being sexually abused at the hands of disgraced Christian Brother Edward Dowlan when he was 11, caused Peter Blenkiron to shut down his ability to process emotion.
After having a mental breakdown at age 38, Mr Blenkiron would spend years trying to block out the suicidal thoughts playing like a stereo in his head.
At any moment, he could be struck down by a flashback.
It was like being locked in his own mind as a war ravaged.
“I was destroyed as a kid,” he says.
“I grew into a man who was withdrawn, suicidal and distrustful of the world around me.”
The former Ballarat electrician describes the impacts of his complex post traumatic stress disorder on his mind as being like a “blown electrical circuit”.
“It was like a switch just turned off in my mind and I couldn’t process the world around me,” he says.
The trauma of his childhood caused him to lose his ability to earn a living and resulted in him sell his business.
He describes himself today as a damaged man, working full-time to find healing.
But more than a decade ago, Mr Blenkiron slowly began piecing together the fragments of his life.
With the guidance of his counsellor and from behind the lens of his smartphone he started taking photographs as form on mindfulness and solace.
Over the years, he has captured thousands of images. It began as taking images of the world around him which gently drew him out of the battle raging in his mind and back into the present moment.
“I find it hard to put into words the emotional turmoil I feel inside,” he says.
"The pictures really reflect the journey of me awakening my inner emotional self which was pretty overwhelming when it first began because it was filled with the horror and dread of the past resurfacing.
“But it is also about reconnecting yourself with all the good emotions in life because if we don’t deal with our emotional turmoil our relationships fall apart and eventually we fall apart.”
Each image offers rare glimpses into the inner world of a child abuse survivor learning to re-inhabit his body and mind.
“I sit with an image until it grabs me,” he says.
“I take a photo and it connects my inner and outer world. They merge. The photo acts as a bridge.”
Often the images he captures are metaphorical mirrors to his own mind.
The way the rain droplets softly land on leaves before they evaporate, disappear or trickle onto the ground.
A blowfly, wings bent, curled up, seeking solace in the shade on a hot summer’s day.
For the first time, a selection of 27 photos will be showcased at an exhibition opening in Ballarat next month.
He hoped the exhibition would also give an insight to people understand the impact of sexual abuse on survivors.
“Most people don’t see my scars,” he says.
“They see me after I’ve done a lot of work on myself to recover from being completely broken.
“These photos show an insight into me that I wouldn’t normally share and I feel quite vulnerable.
“But if it inspires other people struggling to reach out, and ask for help, talk to their counsellor, to develop strategies to get through the dark times, then it’s worth it.”
Mr Blenkiron said the high rates of mental health issues, suicides and premature deaths in Ballarat was the catalyst for him baring his soul to the world through his deeply personal photographs.
“This is not just about sexual abuse,” he says.
“It’s about finding a way to cope with any mental health issue...especially for men because we tend to think we can just toughen up and get on with it.. but if you ask for help early it can save lives.”
Mr Blenkiron’s childhood friend Vanessa Beetham is the curator of the exhibition.
At the heart of the exhibition is the duo’s pursuit to stop the suicides and premature deaths linked to sexual abuse and mental health issues.
“This is just one part pf his story," Ms Beetham said.
"For Peter to even contemplate putting his photos on display is a major step in his healing process.”
“As a survivor he has taken enormous risks in telling his story, and he, like so many others, has had to suffer painful mental health consequences due to that decision."
Ms Beetham said while the exhibition was confronting at times, it was interwoven with moments of sheer beauty and optimism.
She said the exhibition would not have been possible without the help of curatorial advisor Julie Collins.
Showcasing the exhibition at Boah Organics is also significant.
Inside the four walls of the cafe, clergy abuse survivors have come together for years to support each other and break the silence and shame.
Putting The Pieces of Self Together One Moment at a Time exhibition will be launched on Friday October 14 from 6.30pm until 8.30pm at at the upstairs gallery at Boah Organics, 100 Bridge Mall, Ballarat.
The exhibition will run until November 6.
The gallery is open every Monday from 9.30am until 3pm, Tuesday to Friday from 9.30am until 5.30pm and Saturdays from 10am until 4pm.
For details, call 5333 3720.
All proceeds from the exhibition will go towards suicide prevention.
To contact the Centre Against Sexual Assualt, located on the corner of Vale and Edwards streets, Sebastopol, call 5320 3933 or free call 24 hours 1800 806 292.
Lifeline can be accessed on 13 11 14.