To tightropes and treadmills 

I’ve been quiet the last few weeks while I’ve been going through my counselling and starting on new antidepressants; wanting to get things sorted in my myself first before talking about it openly. I’m very pleased to say that after just 6 weeks (recommended sessions is 8-10) I am feeling back to my old self again, probably (dare I say!) better than before. 

The main thing I’ve learnt is acceptance. Not just for the sexual assault; something I can’t change that happened to me, but I can control how I chose to let it affect the rest of my life. I’ve also developed acceptance for the way my life was before the attack and to a degree how it’s been since. I’ve recognised this tedious cycle my life has been through the last…as long as I can remember. In a lot of situations in my life I start something new wide eyed, full pelt and passionate, singing about it off the rooftops. Then as time progresses it turns to not be as amazing as I’d have thought,often thankless and unappreciated, I start to feel things slipping from my control.  Next things turn sour for whatever reason and then I make a very quick exit strategy to try and regain some feeling of control. Or, worse still something completely out of my control happens triggering everything to end prematurely and unexpectedly.  When this happens, I pretty much self destruct; often struggling for work, money and end up moving back to my parents. But the next time, I’ll almost self sabotage before I even begin the next thing, often choosing the option that gives me what I WANT in the SHORT term and not what I NEED in the LONG term, meaning things aren’t going to live up to expectations. And so the cycle begins again. I’ve noticed it in jobs, friendships, relationships, with the cycle gaining momentum achieving total destruction quicker and quicker each time. So, here comes the first of my analogies:

I started on a tightrope. A little low one, at a point in my life where I was young and didn’t have a lot at stake, nothing weighing me down. So when things did go wrong, I fell off, I picked myself up, dusted myself off and tried again. But this time aiming a bit higher because I think I can achieve more and I have a better idea of what I’m doing, but also I feel like I have lost ground to make up on and I need to be progressing quicker; meaning there’s more at stake and more weight on my shoulders. And again, something happens, I take a wobble and fall off my tight rope and again I pick myself up and give things another go.  Again and again this happens, choosing higher and higher tightropes constantly feeling like I should be achieving more and proving myself, until eventually it’s so precarious, with so much at stake and huge weights on my shoulders it’s pretty much impossible. 

Which leads me onto my second analogy. The whole time this has been going on, I’ve felt like I’ve been running full pelt, but stuck on a treadmill not really getting anywhere. Yet everyone else around me seems to be happily leisurely jogging by without even breaking a sweat but they’re not on treadmills stuck in one place; they’re on the running track doing laps around me hurdling over life achievements on the way – financial, romantic, career, babies, houses. I’m exhausted, sweating like a pig and nothing to show for it. All of a sudden someone’s pressed stop on my treadmill and I’ve fallen off the back into a heap on the floor, drained and gasping for breath.  

Each of these analogies and every cycle has the recurring theme of being unappreciated, undervalued, unsupported, uncared for. I give my all to situations repeatedly, passionate and aiming high yet I get very little back, often leaving me worse off than before. 

What I’ve learnt is that I don’t want to be on tightropes or treadmills any more. I’ve accepted that, the job in the Lake District wasn’t right for me at that point in my life – too much was counting on it working out – career wise, financially, pride and so eventually again I would have wobbled off that tightrope of my own doing. So as truly horrific as being assaulted was and noone should have to go through that, the fall out was inevitable to happen anyway at one point or another. What it has allowed me to do, is truly take stock of my life. What makes me happy, what I want to do, and what I’m going to do about this tedious cycle.  

This acceptance of what’s gone on has literally changed my life. I’ve no longer got that ball of angry fury inside me that I felt needed to break loose somehow just 6 weeks ago. Within a couple of weeks this realisation had hit me and since then the work I’ve been doing has been for anxiety and how to move on, away from tightropes. 

When I started the counselling 6 weeks ago, I’d not reacted to my attack at all. Still emotionally numb and unable to cry. I honestly didn’t think it’d be possible for things to be sorted in the time frame of 8-10 sessions – and here i am finished after just 6! I honestly think my counsellor is some sort of miracle worker. Whilst I still haven’t cried, I don’t feel the need to. I am now a lot more emotionally astute and aware of whats going on. I don’t feel numb anymore. 

I honestly believe everyone can benefit from a bit of counselling. Only good can come from learning more about yourself and how your own head works. 

So now. I’m about to start a new job in a new field, away from hospitality. I am going to be moving back to my spiritual home with some amazing friends. I’ve already put feelers out for joining a gym and doing volunteer work as well as generally making plans for seeing friends and actually living my life, doing the things I want to do which have been put on the back burner through working too much or being unemployed. A proper work life balance, with loving caring people around me and a job with good career prospects where recognition for hard work is common place. I can’t bloody wait! 

I know I still have a lot of work to do personally and I am under no illusion it’s going to be easy or straightforward. But the tools I’ve learnt recently have given me the confidence to take things on head strong and to challenge any anxieties or problems I might have in the future. 

They say the best revenge is to be happy, live your life to the full. And that is exactly what I intend to do 

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Sticking point

I was hoping to return from my week away with the family in Austria feeling full of life, ready to draw a line under the last 7 months and start a new positive chapter.  Really, I would love to be writing a piece gloating about how a change of routine & perspective is just what was needed “a step backwards to move forward” and all that kind of optimistic shit. In reality, this has not been the case.  Don’t get me wrong the holiday was perfect; a change of scenery and spending time with the amazing people who have stood by my side through everything was incredible – just what was needed.

Unfortunately for whatever reason, a midweek bout of anxiety stuck for the remainder of the week. This only got worse as the week went on and I came home. Now over a week on its not shifted. If anything it’s worsened. Post holiday blues are common and I’m fully aware of them but this is something bigger. After such a turbulent few years, each time I’ve needed to reboot I move home, perfectly normal and common. Unfortunately my reboots are all made necessary by something crap happening and I think my brain is now linking bad thoughts with home – something I can’t really do anything about, it’s my home, where I’ve lived all my life. Ultimately frustrating but something I’m sure will lift once things start getting better

Soon after returning from the alps on holiday, (a holiday completely funded for me by my wonderful family) I was to learn a job I’d had for a mere 2 days prior to leaving for the departure lounge, was in fact no more. “restructure”. Fairly sure they should have done that before employing me but such is life and its not their fault. Just another tally to add to the string of thoughtless employers I’ve had. As such I’m back on that relentless treadmill to nowhere that is unemployment and job hunting. Proper knee in the lady balls!!

I’m really really doing my best to remain positive. I’ve started counselling. I’ve got amazing people around me. I’m applying for more jobs than I don’t know what. There’s just two major sticking points I’m really struggling to get my head round and with all my might, can’t move on from

1) the snow ball of consequences that have happened as a result that are still going on and out of my control. Jobs, finances, debt management, consideration of going back on medication, not sleeping, ultra emotionally sensitive, constantly on edge, feeling very emotionally vulnerable, numb, constant frustration, moods either reserved and silent or manic hyper. I can’t seem to get away from any of this; and it’s not through lack of trying either, far from it! I really am trying anything and everything. At the moment, anything I do that requires leaving the house is a luxury. I’m so skint I can’t even buy myself a coffee with a friend, or drive to the next town to see someone so I don’t frivolously waste petrol, not knowing where my next money is coming from. Id give anything for a hair cut to boost my confidence (and look a little less like Kate Bush) or a gym class to take out all of my built up frustration. I’ve suffered enough; it shouldn’t still be like this.

2) despite all of the evidence and facts supporting my case, that it did happen how I said and it wasn’t consensual, it wasnt enough to prosecute him. He’s walking free and I’m suffering with all of the above and more. If it was consensual and I was in full control and full understanding of the situation I wouldn’t have text him the morning after asking what the fuck had happened, I wouldn’t have walked out of the job of my dreams, I wouldn’t have written about it for months on my blog, it wouldn’t still be affecting me like it is. How can it not be obvious what happened and them not be able to prosecute?! Its horrid that it’s almost like I’ve not been believed or there will be people in his life who think he didn’t do anything wrong. Thats what hurts. I want to shake people, make them see the truth and justice to be brought. 

I know all this doubt and mulling is pointless and doing a lot of damage. But I can’t help it. It’s like someone is constantly pressing rewind and fast forward through the last 7 months, frantically trying to see something different, something I could have changed for justice to happen.  It’s draining, consuming and ultimately driving me insane.

I know it’ll take time. And I know things will change and will get better. But this has all gone on long enough, I’m struggling to see light at the end of the clichéd tunnel. My patience and positivity are wearing thin. I’m exhausted, mentally and physically. Most of all, I just want to be able to move on with my life

30 before 30

After the ridiculously unsettled, stressful and pretty abysmal 7 months I’ve had and now I can draw a line under things and move on with my life, I’m looking to inject so fun, positivity and focus back into my life. Something positive to work towards (not just getting back on my feet) and something happy to pursue.  No pressure, stress or agenda, just ideas for things I’ve not experienced yet (or enough) and would very much like to before I reach the ripe old age of 30 in about 22 months time. Some are goals of stability, some to give something back to others, whereas others are just silly lusts for life all the while hopefully raising a good amount of money for charities close to my heart.

I’d like to think I’d be able to get many of my friends and family to share in these experiences and journeys with me too. I’m going to need all the help I can get!!

1) Stable job
2) Stable relationship
3) Debt free
4) Travel outside of Europe
5) Go to a festival
6) Interail round Europe – something I want to do to celebrate turning 30
7) Have some writing published
8) Sky dive
9) Tough mudder or similar
10) 10k run event
11) Big tattoo (sorry mum!)
12) See foos. Again. (greedy I know but you can never have too much Grohl!)
13) Do regular volunteer work
14) Treat myself to a new car
15) Visit a nudist beach
16) Take family for a really nice thank you meal
17) Do a lingerie shoot
18) Go to the Edinburgh tattoo
19) Do a last minute spontaneous trip alone
20) Host a dinner party (subtext here being I need my own place first, probably the hardest challenge of all 30)
21) Go camping
22) Go to Harry potter world
23) Go to ireland trip, see gaelic ceildh band
24) Start dancing again
25) Learn to give a proper massage
26) Be able to read a book in a week
27) Get a Pet
28) Fall in love
29) Make love (actual steamy, hot, intense, connected love making, not sex. Something I’ve never done before)
30) Enjoy a bullshit free birthday

The Full Story

On Monday, the police reached the decision to drop all charges on the grounds there wasn’t sufficient circumstantial evidence which would lead to an 85% chance of conviction in court, which is the minimum they require.  Despite all the evidence they did have and despite the police believing me. Since then I’ve been deliberating whether to take to my laptop and tell the full story of what happened that night – something I’ve so far only divulged to a hand-full of people.  In lieu of proper counselling (which the police have kindly said they would sort for me) writing this blog is pretty much the only form of catharsis I have. So. Here’s my full story.

Friday 13th November, I had my car packed ready to start a new job and a new life, leaving behind recent dramas of bad jobs, bad housemates, ready to stick two fingers up at the world and prove myself in the job of my dreams.  This job as restaurant manager would have not only made my career but also sorted out my finances for good; allowing me to make the big changes and live the life I wanted to.  In the weeks leading up to this date, after I’d accepted the job, the main advice people had given me was “Don’t fuck it up”….all the drive up there, this resonated in my head.

Before leaving I was told I’d be contacted by the current Operations /Restaurant Manager (I’ll refer to him as OM) who was due to leave the following week; I’d be shadowing him for my first week, training me and he’d be taking me out for dinner that first night to welcome to me to the hotel and show me around Ambleside – rather a lovely way to start a new job! I felt welcome and part of the team before I’d even left home! So, I left about 2pm and landed at the hotel about 4pm, to be staying in one of the hotel rooms for my first week until a space in staff accommodation was available.  Once I got there, I was given a quick tour around and met a few of the other staff before settling back into my room, freshening up for dinner and reading over my menus and training notes.  About 6.45pm there was a knock on the door and OM introduced himself, apologised for the delay.  He said he’d quickly freshen up and book a taxi.  A few minutes later he knocked at my door again; the taxi was here and a bottle of beer was waiting for me.  I went down, drank about half the beer and got in the taxi to town.

We headed straight to a little Italian restaurant, which was heaving.  We had a wait of about half an hour at the bar so had a gin and tonic before being seated.  3 courses of dinner, sharing a bottle of wine followed.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a prude and given I’ve worked with chefs for 12 years I hardly have the mind of an angel – but there’s certainly an appropriateness required.  The conversation that flowed made me feel very uncomfortable; heavily laden with sexual innuendos, heavily flirty.  No matter how hard I tried to keep things as unassuming as possible, he managed to twist whatever I said into something creepy.  If this was a normal situation I would have said things weren’t appropriate, and looking back maybe I should have.  But given I’d just moved to a new job I didn’t want to rock the boat and seem like I was being difficult and stuck up from the offset.  I also kept in mind, I’d only have to work with him for the next week and then I’d probably never have to see him again.

The meal ended and although I was tired, full and ready for bed, OM insisted on going for another drink.  So we headed to a bar round the corner where a shocking open mic night was playing out.  On the way round I was discussing the on-goings of my last job, the unnecessary drama that played out.  He felt this was an opportunity to try and hug me, in some form of comfort – but my story wouldn’t have warranted comfort from any of my closest family or friends, let alone a stranger who was my manager for the following week.  I shrugged him off and asked for him to not touch me again.  Reluctantly, we continued for another drink.  The bar was packed and I really wasn’t in the mood – I just wanted to get back to the hotel so I could get a good sleep ahead of my first day.  We sat close to the bar on a small tall table on our own.  The level of heavy sexually orientated conversation from his side continued, and I was getting fed up of it, so I was being pretty short – something I really don’t like being.  At one point my shirt dress folded open more than it should due to how I was sat, revealing the inner slight edge of the cup of my bra.  He saw that as an opportunity to lean over the table and grab at my boob, joking about how heavily padded it was – definitely not appropriate behaviour.  Again, I told him to get off me.

I sparked up conversation with a local lady who was there with her husband and friend.  Her husbands friend was wearing a Liverpool top so I was talking to them about that, and conversation about my new chapter in life followed.  At this point OM got protective and almost possessive, not happy I wasn’t giving him my full attention and not happy I was speaking with others (“look what you’ve done, you’ll never get rid of them now”).  The locals I was speaking to tried to engage him in conversation, instead he stood up to go to the bar and made a reference to me being his girlfriend.  I couldn’t quite believe what I’d heard.  My new friends took one look at me, one look at him and another look at me.  They asked to check “you’re not his girlfriend are you? that’s not right is it?”.  I explained I’d just met him and his behaviour had been making me feel on edge all evening.  Instantly the lady I was talking to gave me her number and asked me to message her when I got back home safe and also to get in touch for a coffee and to show me around – make sure I had some friend’s outside of work.  After he returned we swiftly went as he was on night manager duty at the hotel.  As we left the bar I text a few of my friends, including the guy I was dating to let them know how relieved I was to be going back to the hotel, because OM had been such a creep.

Walking down the street, again he tried to hug me and again he was told to get off.  Getting into the taxi, he tried to kiss me and again he was told no.  Conversation on the way back was solely between him and the taxi driver.  I was tired and starting to be apprehensive about the new job and the move I’d made.  Getting back to the hotel, he insisted on showing me to my hotel room, wanting more wine.  He showed me to my door and I did not let him in.  He joked, a recurring joke he’d made throughout the night, that it didn’t matter if I locked my door as he had access to the master key. What a way to make a girl feel safe! Feeling very awkward and uneasy after turning him away from my door, I took my make-up and jewellery off and got into bed how I did back then, which was naked.  Tired from travelling and the new situation, I fell straight asleep.

In the morning I woke, and straight away I could tell something was wrong.  I woke up to a ridiculous amount of missed calls of my guy I was dating, wondering if I’d got back to the hotel safely – I ALWAYS wake up when he calls, so he’d been panicking something had happened.  I went to the bathroom, put on my shirt dress and got back into bed to give him a call.  It was then, the penny started to drop.  The toilet lid and seat where both up when I got there, as if a man had used it – I have never left a toilet in such a way.  I then found a condom on the side.  In it’s packet, unused. But I don’t carry condoms and it definitely hadn’t been there before.  I felt so tingly and uncomfortable and could smell the stench of a rubber condom on me; I’m sensitive to them so I could instantly tell.  My stomach somersaulted, I felt sick, and not hungover.

It was obvious what had happened but I gave OM one chance to confess.  I text, asking what had gone on “nothing” was the original response, then with more digging and after drawing his attention to the condom, the toilet and “I didn’t consent to this” more details followed which didn’t add up and then a hurried offer to meet me in the office to discuss things.  I thought I was going to throw up.  He’d done something terrible to me and was trying to convince me I’d let it happen.  Without any hesitation, I phoned the police and pulled a dresser in front of the door.

Waiting for the police to arrive was the most agonising 30 minutes of my life.  Pacing the room, going over all of the details in my head.  I felt rotten, a lot worse than I had in a long long time, in no way correlating with the amount I’d drunk the night before (1 beer, 1/2 bottle of wine with dinner, 2 gin and tonics all with a hearty 3 course meal in the middle…..and it takes A LOT more than that to make me feel that way).  I tried to cry and couldn’t.  I kept replaying the night in my head.  On so so so many levels I wouldn’t have let this happen

a) happily dating someone amazing back home.  Even if I’m dating I’m 100% loyal, wouldn’t have dreamed hook up with anyone else

b) I’ve moved away from drama, why would I jump straight into bed with someone I’d just met on my first night, jeopardise the fantastic opportunity I’d been given, bringing drama to my door again?

c) professionally – I’d never involve myself with anyone from work, let alone before I’d even started work there – what impression would that make!?

d) Bottom line – He was really unattractive.  No….just no

11.00am I should have been starting my first shift of my new job. The police were with me at about 10.30am, taking initial reports, taking some of my clothes and bedding for investigation as well as a sample of my wee and the tissues I’d used to wipe.  I was told to get my things together, pack them into my car ready for later as I wouldn’t be able to stay back at the hotel that night – I’d have to go back home where I’d only left 20 hours earlier. I was taken to the local police station and was told I’d have to wait there until a safe centre in Preston was ready to conduct all of the examinations on me.  I was in so much shock, I could barely react, almost making light of some things; I just shut down.

8 hours I waited at the police station.  8 long, agonising hours.  Not able to shower, brush my hair, put make-up on.  Nothing.  I was walking, talking evidence.  I felt horrific.  Inside and out.  The “hangover” was getting worse and unlike anything I’ve ever felt; I knew something wasn’t right, it wasn’t just alcohol I’d consumed, I’d been drugged.  If it hadn’t been the guy I was dating’s dad’s birthday he would have been right there with me, but as it stood, I was alone.  I didn’t want to tell anyone until  I knew exactly what was going on; and what would I tell them anyway!? It felt like I’d lost a battle before it had even begun, like I can’t be let loose out of sight for 24 hours without something horrific happening.  Those 8 hours in the police station were the most horrible 8 hours of my life; I’ll never forget how lonely I was, how much I craved a hug, a cry, any form of humanity.  Because I lacked this, I closed myself off from everything, probably why I’ve still not reacted and still struggling with my emotions. Sadly, my phone charger was in my car, 2 hours into this wait, my phone died.  Nothing but the posters in the police station and the odd stranger who came in to pass the time.  It’s not like I was in the mood for talking either.  All I could do was replay everything, over and over and over in my head; it was torture.

Eventually my time came to be taken by a female police officer to Preston safe centre.  It was about 8.00pm.  I felt so sorry for the poor woman taking me.  I had no conversation at all.  Shocked, numb, confused, still feeling rough as anything, just focusing on getting these horrid examinations out of the way.  The two ladies at the safe centre could not have been more lovely, kind, and gentle.  They made the whole process so much easier.  Normal questions answered about medical and sex history, swabs taken of my nose, mouth, neck, groin.  I had a mouthwash to spit back and return.  I had the horrid internal examinations; swabs, pictures.  “do you want me to do the back passage too?” is something I never want to be asked again. I had to put on a loose gown, allowing the doctor to fold back one area at a time, keeping the rest concealed while she checked for bruising and marks.  I was given an injection for hepatitis and a selection of tablets for HIV that make you feel horrific.  Finally, bloods were taken.  As I got dressed, my dressing from the blood test bled and I nearly fainted.  I think the adrenaline of the day had worn off and as the last of the personal examinations were over, it had all started to drop into place.

Waiting after my examination to make sure everything had been done properly, I phoned my mum from the police officers phone.  It was 10pm.  12 hours after I’d reported it.  I’d been on my own this entire time.  Just hearing a friendly, familiar voice broke me.  The hotel had made arrangements with a taxi for me to go all the way back home – they didn’t want me driving in the state I was in. Once back at the hotel, I was informed the police of the bail conditions OM had been put under, I’d be summoned to give a video statement over the next week.  I had time to hurriedly pack a bag from the belongings in my car, frantically grabbing at things in the rain and dark (when I got home I realised I’d packed my laptop but no charger, 3 jumpers, no bottoms, no knickers and still no phone charger, you’ve got to laugh!) Before I knew it my Lake District adventure was over before it had begun, and I was on my way home.

In shock at how rapidly the job of my dreams had unravelled before my eyes.  I’d moved to the Lakes to get away from the drama and within 24 hours of leaving home, look what had happened!?

It was gone midnight when I got home.  Everything was so familiar, but at the same time it all seemed so surreal and life as I knew it had changed.  Craving a hug, and a cry I dumped my things in my room and popped my head round my mum and dads ajar door.  Lights on, TV on, both of them sat upright in bed, fast asleep; I didn’t have the heart to wake them.  Broken, lonely, numb and feeling pretty empty I climbed into bed.

The only comfort I had that day was the hot water bottle and flask of hot chocolate my mum had left for me.

“Don’t fuck it up” still resonating with me….

As deflating as it is there won’t be a conviction – which feels like could only have been possible if the whole thing was caught on camera and I was covered in his sperm, I’m glad I can move on with my life.  I don’t have a horrid painful trial to go through which wouldn’t even guarantee conviction.  The police are being amazing helping me put counselling into place, because they believe me and can see how much this has changed me; which is positive. I’m grateful that because I was spiked I don’t remember anything and other than a pair of bruised bum cheeks I wasn’t hurt

Two things this has taught me though, is how strong I am – I’ve really surprised myself in how I’ve dealt with it.  And also just how many bloody amazing people I am ridiculously lucky to have in my life.  I wouldn’t have this strength without them.

Now to move on…

 

MHAW16 – relationships

With the theme for mental health awareness week being relationships, I’m taking this opportunity to look at those not just in my life now but have shaped my mental health over the years

Boyfriends
Over the 8 years I’ve suffered with depression I’ve had 2 long term relationships, each lasting around 2-2.5 years. Throughout both relationships my mental health spiralled. Both failed to see me as an equal part of the partnership, neither saw me as a girlfriend or treated me like one, but treated me as a commodity. There was very little comprise in either relationship with each of the others demons being seen as priority over my health and well being, with me often being left not being understood or even heard. When you have one bad relationship you do everything you can to make sure you don’t make the same mistake again and the next guy will be different, but over the course of my second relationship it became apparent how shockingly similar they were. As soon as both relationships ended it was glaringly obvious how much my mental health lifted, no longer being in the shackles, being held back, unrecognised and unappreciated. Now ensuring I find someone who actually makes me feel good about myself and appreciates me and respects me warts and all seems like an impossible task, but I understand how important it is to get it right. I’m not having my head wobbling off from someone else again. I’ve worked far too hard on my mental health to risk jeopardising it letting another wrongun into my life

Doctors
My relationship with my doctors and health care has been non existent to say the least. They’re supposed to be the person you can confide it, open up to in a nonjudged situation in order to get help. Because I’ve moved house so much I’ve not had one steady doctor who knows my full story. Even when Ive visited my local GP surgery. due to staffing issues they don’t have a steady doctor I can see but a locum who float in to cover and as such the last 6 visits I’ve made I have had a different doctor every time. This wouldn’t be such a problem if it was physical problems I was speaking to them about. But having to open up, give my back story and explain where I’m at each and every time is not only frustrating but exhausting. It also means my care has been slap dash, each doctor giving me the first treatment that comes to mind rather than looking at what’s been tried so far and actually knowing what works for me and what doesn’t. And do you know what, a lot of doctors still don’t know how to deal with mental health issues. Over the last 4 years I’ve also struggled with the level of counselling cbt I’ve been put forward for. With my sessions either being cancelled last minute knocking my confidence and recovery or other treatments have been rushed for the sake of making up a few extra minutes of over run time and even changed therapists half way through treatment due to maternity leave. All very disruptive and unnecessary. They say mental health is better to be talked about, something I fully agree with but having to unnecessarily open up to so many different people is unbelievably difficult. It’s not the doctor’s fault, I know that. But equally it makes me reluctant to go to them about anything at all.

Family
We’re not a close family at all. But one thing I am proud of is that in me being so open about my mental health and my attack, it’s meant my family have opened up and we’re now all talking a bit more. Particularly my relationship with my mum which was pretty nonexistent about 6 years ago after a massive falling out, now we’re closer than ever. Living back at home at the age of 28 is less than ideal and isn’t something I’d boast about if I had an online dating profile, but for now its what’s needed. Just having people around, not necessarily to open up to, but just company I can trust is making the world of difference. If you’d told me a few years ago I’d be sat in most nights binge watching Grace and Frankie with mum and a bottle of wine or two putting the world to rights, I would never have believed you. So I guess that’s a huge silver lining in all of this. I’m very glad to have a family I can fall back on when needed. They drive me insane a lot of the time, but they’re the only one I’ve got and I guess they’ll do. In all seriousness, I’d be lost without their support. 

friendships
My friendships are unusual in a have a lot of scattered friends, none of whom really know each other. I can’t just get them all in one room or on a night out and catch up with them all at once, which would be a hell of a lot easier, especially while Im out of work and don’t have any money to be able to do anything when I see them. Despite this shortcoming, my friends are the best.
Each and every single time I get knocked down, I have a parade of cheerleaders picking me back up. After I left my last job in March, a dear friend I’d not seen properly in about a year took me out drinking pretty much for a full week, knowing that I needed to let off steam and they were going to make sure I did it semi-responsibly and get home safe. I’ve got those friends who I just nip to, unannounced, demand cups of tea and cuddles with their menagerie of fur babies. I’ve got the friends I don’t see for years but check up on me in a text most days. I’ve also got the friends I see once every few years and it’s like we were never apart. As much as I love the latter type, I always feel like my life is in some utter turmoil everytime I see them. One day, I’ll get there and be able to say everything is fine. It’s probably a little while off yet, but for the moment I’m quite happy with them feeding me all the tea, cake and bourbon while they listen to me rant. There’s also the friends who I have met over the last few months, and have been hugely accepting, non-judgemental and ultimately supportive in everything is going through. Each and everyone of my friends are beautiful understanding people. I wish I could give them all a medal for putting up with my shit.

Strangers
This might seem an odd one, how can I have a relationship with a stranger? But. I can. On the night I was attacked I started talking to a group of locals in the pub, making friends on my first night in the Lake District. The female in the group could instantly pick up that something wasn’t right and the guy who later attacked me was behaving very oddly and I was obviously very uncomfortable. As a complete stranger, she gave me her number and insisted I text her when I got back safe to the hotel and also that I meet up with her the following week, promising that I wouldn’t be alone and she’d show me round. She’s also been the only witness to give evidence regarding my side of the police case. Imagine meeting someone and within 24 hours having to give an account of the night because of such a horrid crime? She’s been an absolute angel, not just on the night being a good samaritain and not just in how she’s handled the case. At least once every few weeks I’ll get a text off her checking on me and we’re now even Facebook friends. What an absolute gem! It’s people like this who make the world go round.

My situation right now may have been caused by one or two key vile people I’ve crossed paths with, but it’s all of the other wonderful human beings I am lucky enough to have in my life that have given me faith in humanity and have kept me moving forwards. I cannot thank them enough. Talking is crucial to anyone dealing with a mental health issue and our relationships are our means to be heard.

Go give someone a hug!!!

How it’s shaped me

In my last more anecdotal post in April, I quite excitedly talked about the new house I was moving into with 5 other girls.  Well, as with a lot of things, I spoke too soon.  The following day, I went to the house again to sign the tenancy agreement and pay the deposit.  It was only on then it transpired this house wasn’t what it seemed the day before. The landlord had failed to mention the day before that he lived and worked at the house as well.  A 40 something year old man with a group of 20 something girls. A man who had a partner and new born baby in a house 200 yards from this shared house. Alarm bells started ringing and I backed out of the situation straight away.  As such, with only 24 hours to go before I had to be out of the house share I was in, I stubbornly moved into social service housing.  Determined to stay in Manchester where there are greater opportunities for jobs and friends for support, instead of admitting defeat and moving back to the parents to get stabilised (again).

I was thinking this morning, why that house share situation with the landlord bothered me so much and if I would have reacted in such a way before.  The answer is I don’t think I would have. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve reluctantly admitted that living back with my folks for a wee while is the best thing for me at the minute.  Living in that social service house with no work of a temporary or permanent nature coming through hit me hard.  With nothing to keep me busy, distract me or any progress with job/finances I hit a wall and felt the black dog had finally caught up with me.  Self-harm, self-medicating and seeking comfort/closeness in the wrong places only made me feel worse.  This has lead me to write this post, wondering what else has changed within me and how this whole 7 month (and counting…) long fiasco has shaped me.

  • Its because of November I find it difficult to trust new people and to trust and take for granted that others are being genuine
  • It’s because of November, instead of a ‘gaydar’ I now have a ‘creepdar’, meaning I’m pretty much suspicious of everyone, reading ulterior motives into a lot of things people do or say
  • Its because of November I’ve had to leave 2 jobs – the first in the Lakes what was to be a dream job and that of a new exciting chapter in my life.  The second a venue who treated me horribly and showed no signs of compassion or basic humanity when I was shaken from a near second attack only months after the first
  • It is because of November, my finances are screwed.  Having not held down a steady job since October things are pretty dia, something I know will have a knock-on impact on my future i.e. buying a new car, a house, a business, a loan, or even just a much needed holiday.
  • It is because of November I have been in such a poor state of mind I have ignored bills and debts.  I have had to fight bailiffs off my parent’s door and to keep my car
  • It is because of November I am STILL struggling to find work, trying to change industry, having to try and explain to potential new employers my current situation and why my last 2 jobs both lasted such a short time
  • It is  because of November I am seeking solace in sex but finding I’m emotionally numb and I’m doing it in lieu of a more serious relationship which as much as I crave; the thought terrifies me, being so vulnerable with someone (and when do you tell someone new to your life about everything that’s gone on without scaring them!?)
  • It is because of November I am now over sensitive/hyper sensitivity in other situations, possibly seeing things others wouldn’t have picked up (like the creepy landlord living with the young girls) and sometimes finding myself reading into things that aren’t necessarily there
  • It is because of November I have a severe lack in confidence coming from the sex thing, and also the difficulties I’m facing in finding a job.  Changing industries is hard
  • It is because of November I now find it difficult to go places on my own, something I really do my best to hide
  • It is because of November I now feel anxious and over-aware walking anywhere on my own in the dark
  • It is because of November I have developed a mild agoraphobia when I’m on my own. If I spend too long in one place, it becomes difficult to leave the security of that room/building – something that isn’t an issue when I’m with someone else
  • It is because of November my mood swings are a lot more frequent and pronounced – going from hyper ‘non stop talking and excitable like a puppy’ to really quiet, awkward and uncomfortable, to welling up, to being snappy and everything in between, all within the space of half an hour.  I’m an emotional lottery
  • It is because of November people in my life have fallen by the way side, not being able to handle what I’ve been through
  • It is because of November I have dark and twisted thoughts that I never experienced before; in dreams at night, day dreams when I’m on my own, and when I’m watching porn
  • It is because of November, I am 28 years old with no money, no job and back living at my parents, treading water with my mental health and really trying to make the best decisions possible for moving on

On of the plus side though, there is one silver lining.  It is because of November, I have realised how lucky I am to have such a fucking fantastic support network around me.  95% of my relationships with friends and family are closer than ever before.  Even people I’ve met over the last couple of months have firmly taken me under their wings and pretty much adopted me.  Everyone rallying round making sure I’m fed, watered, wined, hugged, making sure I get out the house, inviting me to different events, and ultimately being awesome people to talk to.  These people all deserve medals.

I’m hoping once my counselling finally starts, some of these knots will be unravelled and the result of me won’t have changed too much from the original

 

The Dos & Donts Of Dealing With Damaged Goods

Naomi Narrative

To begin the year, I started to not just think about my future but I also found myself temporarily dwelling on my past. When it comes to dating and finding your love, it’s certainly not plain sailing and I can see by looking back at my previous relationships (and indeed, those of my friends), it was clear to see that we’ve all becoming slightly damaged along the way.

Personally, I know for a fact that over time I’ve had issues with my confidence, my appearance, my self-esteem and my drive, all as a result of being emotionally attacked. Of course there were ups, but there were most definitely downs as well, and no one gets away unscathed. Unfortunately, healing the wounds of the past is never an easy process but you can certainly help yourself (and others) fight those pesky inner demons that can act as a preventative when it comes…

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“what were you wearing when you were sexually assaulted?”

https://www.the-pool.com/news-views/latest-news/2016/19/what-were-you-wearing-when-you-were-sexually-assaulted-

“what kind of an inappropriate question is that?” you’re probably thinking right now. And you’d be right. This article even admits so. Yet they still printed it, and as a follower of the pool for interesting articles and product reviews, there it popped up in my timeline about 9.00pm last night. There I was happily minding my own business on my sofa, watching TV with my family. To be floored by gut-wrenching, stomach churning anxiety, panic, fear and the thought I was going to be sick all just at the sight of the headline. I didn’t dare open the article of fear it would exacerbate this internal earthquake but I gave it the benefit of the doubt, something positive might come from it. But no, it’s a vile article showing images of clothes from sexual assaults. Particularly harrowing is the black background they’re on. I don’t know why it was written, the authors intentions or even who the intended reader would be. It seems to have failed to put themselves in the shoes of a victim who might be reading it. Because who in the right mind would be interested in something with such a headline if they haven’t been attacked. I thought it might have offered support, compassion or even empowerment to women (and indeed men) who have been through such a harrowing and life changing ordeal. But the article was none of these things; it was cold, soulless and seeing these victims as entities to be investigated, not human beings.

All things considered in my own situation I’ve done extremely well to keep my head on my shoulders throughout my own ordeal. Don’t get me wrong there are always ups and downs, days that I struggle but I’ve always been able to handle them. This week has been tough. Any day now I’ll be waiting to hear from the police news about their next move. As the accused attackers bail was up last week, I’m literally biting my nails on the edge of my seat to find out if a) his bail will be extended for a fifth time to allow further investigation b) the case is going to court or c) the case is being dropped completely. Its tough enough the ordeal has been going on so long, its such a lengthy process. The longer this is going on the worse I seem to get when unexpected triggers such as the word “rape” being used out of context, people discussing it in groups and indeed things in the media like this article do appear. Coincidentally, 10th may is also the date that will stick in my mind for years. The date in 2014 I put myself into hospital with a cocktail of my favourite wine and my anti-depressants. It’s not getting easier, it’s getting so much harder. Yesterday, that article completely floored me. There I am trying to be strong, keeping my head threading water until this is all over and someone posts a mindless and seemingly pointless article and it’s all over my timeline. I know I can hide it, which is what I have done. But once the damage is done in just reading that headline its too late and unfortunately I can’t hide, block and unfollow my own memories.

Bottom line, I’m hurt, shaken and struggling to see the motive the author of this article had. One thing that’s come to light through my own ordeal is just how many others can tell similar stories. I can imagine all will have a reaction not to dissimilar from my own to such an article.

And for the record. Black skinny jeans. Vintage flat calf boots. White shirt dress. Camel trench coat.

Trust

Given everything that’s gone on the last 6 months; with a select few people having nearly destroyed things for me, it’s a wonder I’m still so trusting of others. The attack in November, the crappy job in March and now my current housemate of just three weeks has given me days to find somewhere else to live so his brother can move in. All pretty shit things to happen, especially in succession, all triggered by just one key twisted invidual in each case. For most people this would probably have a significant impact on social situations, meeting new people, letting others get close and ultimately trust.  If anything I’ve found with me it’s all made me more determined to not let it change me, my current relationships with people in my life and any future ones. If anything I’m being more sociable and putting myself in new situations I probably would have shied away from before. Such as hunting for a new room to rent in a bit of hurried situation I’m having to not be too choosey, at least for the moment until I’ve saved up enough to get my own place. As such I’m going to strangers houses, looking round and now I’ve signed a contract to live with 5 others. All complete strangers.

This situation is something I would have previously thought to be a nightmare but given its an all girl house and there’s a really lovely community/social family vibe to the place I think it could be really good for me. And if it doesn’t work out Im not tied into anything I can’t get out of and I won’t have lost any agency fees etc with it all being privately rented. To tell the truth I’m actually quite excited.

The thing I am having trouble trusting is something far more serious; myself. Back in October when I left my job on the wirral for the lake district, I made that as a fully informed adult decision taking into account the benefits it would have on my health, career and get my finances sorted for good; big long-term grown-up plans. And look how that turned out. Following on from that I turned down 4 other jobs in favour of what looked like the best option, also taking a flat to give myself the best possible opportunity at this job in the knowledge I’d be able to get a good night’s sleep for work and have the time to look for a less expensive living situation. And again, look how both of those things have turned out. Each big decision I’ve had to make, I’ve been very un-jen about and given proper thought to, pros and cons lists, and not rushed in with rose tinted glasses on like I normally do. To tell the truth it’s left me feeling pretty fed up. I’ve been really low all week. With big decisions to make about my future and trying to move on from everything it’s proving very difficult to listen to my heart and my gut instincts any more. I seem to have a damaged trust and I’m unsure of what to believe in my own head.

All I want more than anything is to be settled and things to not be a constant ream of drama, stress and upheaval. I think until I’ve made some good decisions and feeling like my life is back on the right track, I’m not going to be able to trust myself, feeling pretty anxious and uncomfortable. Bit of a catch 22. I can’t trust myself to make good decisions but until I make one I won’t trust myself. It’s not a nice feeling not being able to trust yourself. Horrid doubt and overthinking getting in the way of strong judgement.

Here’s hoping something works out soon before I drive myself insane