Keeping in control

A lot of things have taken hold of my life, turned it upside down that I have had very little or no control of; from redundancies, housemates stealing off me, bad friends, bad relationships, bad jobs, being attacked…all of which have had a negative impact on my mental health and left me repeatedly “getting back on my feet”.  With yet another “fresh start” (most overused and underrated phrase in my life!) looming, a new job and a move back to a city I love, I am doing everything possible to claw back control over my own life and hopefully steadfast me into keeping it that way…..not letting it loose again so easily!  The last thing I need right now is any form of my anxiety or depression to start flickering.

First off the job and the move itself is something I have been in control of.  All too often over the past couple of years, I’ve made career moves I’ve not been 100% happy with but have had to take because it’s been the only offer on the table at the time and I unfortunately don’t have the privilege of being able to afford being unemployed.  This time round I chose the best option for both my career, my personal/social life and my finances from a range of different options; dismissing some very early on in the hope that I’d find something that would perfectly fit…and I have! It’s a brilliant opportunity and driving home from my interview and trial shift the other night I had a silly grin on my face like the kind you get on a giddy loved up first date (you know the one!)  I also know this move will be good – city I have lived in before and feel comfortable in, where I have a lot of friends both in and out of my line of work as well as it only being 40 mins from my folks if I want to come home.  Ticks all the boxes!

Next on the list is being in control of whats going in my body.  Over the years I’ve been prescribed numerous anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, beta-blockers, sedatives, contraceptives, as well as the anti hepatitis and AIDS tablets I was given in November (which made me feel worse than any anti-depressant).  Each one of these has come with their own side affects and left my body confused as to whats going on.  I’ve taken a stance to as much as possible not put any synthetic chemicals into my body.  No painkillers, no anti-depressants (despite the doctors recommendation), and no hormonal based contraception (now using the IUD).  I’m also where possible eating no junk food, processed food or take aways.  Trying to drink as much water, green tea and eat as much fruit and veg as possible.  I’m a lot more aware of where things are coming from and trying my best to buy free range/organic produce across the board.  It’s tough but already I’m feeling such a difference.  I’m also trying my hardest to source natural skincare and make up products too, may as well!

On the theme of being in control of what I’m doing to my body, I’m really trying to exercise.  Even just taking the dogs for a walk and getting some fresh air is really making a difference to my mentality. I’ve downloaded a fab app called Track Yoga which has easy to follow routines and allows me to be competitive with myself.  I’m also about to renew my Headspace app which I’m finding difficult to stick to but I can see is having some benefits to my focus and motivation.  I’ll be more able to develop these areas once I’m in the routine of my new job and settled in my new living space.  I’m also really trying to get back into my reading.  I seem to keep buying a lot of books but not doing a lot with them.

I’ve noticed historically, when I’ve felt like I’ve been losing control on my life, I seem to have gained a piercing or tattoo.  These past few weeks it’s been a very near thing adding my collection of metal bars but as of yet I’ve managed to steer clear of this.  Given I’m technically unemployed still, I’m soon to be commuting 100 miles a day, my car is pretty much illegal and don’t quite know when my next wages will be, I’ve probably got better things to be spending my money on.  I don’t think I’ve ever been so sensible and grown up in my life!  I’m going to start seeing these things as treats rather special-Jen coping mechanisms.  Next wage packet I get, I’ll be heading straight to a piercing shop!

Finally, as mentioned in my previous post I’m having problems with counselling (surprise surprise!) and that my current form of therapy is making the most of the amazing supportive friends I have.  Unfortunately, over the past few months in all the drama that’s gone on a few have fallen by the way side but I think that’s to be expected.  Amazingly though an awful lot of people I’ve not spoken to for years have got in touch which is incredible! As I currently can’t get counselling I’m going to promise myself to make more of an effort with the wonderful people in my life and not just in supporting me but I’m really being as pro-active as possible in helping them in their lives as well.  It’s very easy when you’re going through a tough time to become self absorbed (something I’ve definitely been guilty of before) and I find I’m always very good at letting the black dog talk me out of seeing plans through, so I’m making a stance with myself and vowing to always stick to plans and try to start giving something back to the people I’ve been lucky enough to have in my life.  Why have one counsellor that I pay when I have a lot for the price of a brew and a cake!

While all of the above are just little simple changes, and a lot of them make common sense, for me it’s not necessarily the changes that I value but the control I’m now having my own life.  It’s made such a difference.  While some things are still very much out of my control, are weighing on my mind and probably will be until the court case is all done and dusted, at least I’ve got the mechanisms in place to hopefully stop my head spinning out.

J x

Keep your head up, keep your heart strong ❤

One of my favourite songs and a big dog walk is what was needed today. Heads been in a bit of a funk and I could have easily hidden under my duvet all day, riddled with anxiety and “the fear” but I’m so pleased I got out. 3 tired dogs, one tired jen, one clearer head.

Definitely earned my brew, packet of biscuits and my book

It’s the little things that make a big difference

J x

Confused Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault? Ask Kesha.

Very topical at the minute with the kesha case

http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/kesha-sexual-assault-why-women-dont-come-forward_us_56c77579e4b0928f5a6bcd51

I’ve been prepared by my support officials that in England only half of cases reported make it to court, despite how much its certain something happened it all boils down to evidence. From there only a tiny percentage are actually convicted. At the end of the day its one persons word against another’s.  Despite how horrible it has been reliving the story to so many strangers, going through all the physical examinations, tests, post-attack medication you have to take (that makes you really ill), it’ll all be worth it if a conviction can be made. I wouldn’t be doing all of this if it wasn’t true, all of the humiliation and judgement. I’ve been paranoid about it for months. But the people who commit these horrid crimes cannot be allowed to just walk free. We have to at least try. It’s the least we deserve to retain a bit of self respect and dignity.

J x

The stigma & best form of therapy

I was hoping to do a post about my counselling assessment on Thursday – what would have been my second one because nothings ever easy with me.  I had one in January with a group called “Victim Support” arranged through the police.  While it was positive and they said I’d be bumped up to the top of the waiting list due to my lack of emotional support in the Lakes expecting to hear from them in a few days, I didn’t hear from them for weeks by which time my head had melted and I was back living at my folks.  So I had to start the process again with a different group in Chester.  9am appointment and at 7.30am I had an awkward one line apology email that the counsellor was sick and we’d have to rearrange when she was back.  These things happen, but given its now been 4 months since the incident I’m eager to put some demons to bed and talk it out with professionals.  This is all feeling very reminiscent of when I was running along the conveyer belt trying to get my CBT sorted a few years ago.  Due to lack of funding and support where people need it the most urgently and desperately it’s actually doing more harm than good.  I’ve vowed to myself that when I’m back on my feet I’m going to invest in some private counselling then I know I won’t have these problems (hopefully!)

In the meantime; one thing that has helped me out incredibly is the amount of support I’ve had from friends; close ones who I cannot thank enough for being there every step of the way and others I’ve not spoken to for years.  Just the knowledge that people care; some people I’ve not spoken to for years giving me their phone numbers and offering a chat or a brew, honestly it’s been pretty overwhelming.  In a world where there is so little faith in humanity, especially after an incident such as this has shaken up my trust in people it’s nice to know there’s some gooduns still out there and I can keep that faith.  The people in my life the past few months have been bloody awesome.  Knowing I can speak about things, or not speak about them at all just have a laugh and a joke with people has been incredible help; laughter and friendship really is the best form of therapy.

Now the term “victim support” is something that’s not sat well with me since I was first put in touch with them.  Victim is such a harsh, degrading and demeaning word; as if we’re the ones in the wrong.  It’d be like calling a cancer charity “sufferer support” or “diseased support”.  Chatting about it to one of my friends, he suggested “Survivor support” would be much more appropriate; empowering and liberating the people its meant for and that is what we are, we’re all survivors!  Feels wrong that an institution in place to help people has a name that stigmatises those it’s supposed to be supporting.

One thing I have noticed is the level of stigma and taboo still surrounding sexual attacks.  I’m fairly sure if any of my friends had been attacked in just a violent manner, or had been mugged then it would spoken about quite liberally on social media.  Yet, for some reason this added element changing the nature of the attack is very much avoided; like people are ashamed of what has happened to them.  Something following on from my blog and being so open about my own experiences is an overwhelming amount of people have been in touch with me opening up about their own stories; some people I know and some complete strangers saying it’s given them the courage to talk.  Whilst this is amazing they’ve felt comfortable enough to open up to me, it’s a shame they don’t feel able to talk about it more freely.  Given, I know it’s not the thing to go shouting off the rooftops, but I’m fairly sure if someone had been beaten up by a stranger there would be a campaign to try and find who’d done the damage, pictures of the attack would appear on social media and everyone would rally round their support.  I’m hoping that me talking about things so openly and candidly about my own experience might help others do the same and in turn help break down this stigma surrounding something so awful but so desperately important for people to talk about.  It’s by talking about things, people who’ve experienced this find peace and understanding and is a way for others to offer support maybe in times where professional help is limited.

J x

 

 

Baps, flaps and scars

Given the experience I shared in my second to last post, it’d be pretty ridiculous if I now told you that I’ve just done my first ever nude photo shoot right? Well, it is, and I did.

Now, let me set the scene; I’ve not just marched into a random studio and got my kit off with some babestation style poses being pulled off.  A very good friend and absolute hero of mine, Lord (yes Lord) Damian McGillicuddy who used to arrange photoshoots and workshops at a hotel I used to work at and for years we’ve been meaning to get together to do a “shoot”.  We recently got back in touch following my move home and he invited me on a roadshow to Ireland for 4 days where I’d be modelling in his seminars and if I wanted to, we could experiment with a private shoot.  The prospect of a few days away, getting some headspace and speaking to no-one who knows about my situation was extremely inviting!

So, before the final seminar I bared all – scars both physical and mental on full vulnerable display – and we experimented with some sexy natural looking shots; 50s style, black and white, boyfriend shirt, with a vibe that I didn’t even know the camera was in the room at all.

Yes, I completely agree what I’ve done probably seems completely mental given everything that’s gone on recently.  Most “normal” people wouldn’t go getting their baps and flaps out so liberally after an attack, but I’ll tell you why for me it kind of makes sense.

Some psychologists use exposure as a means of therapy for phobias i.e. fear of heights gets treats with visits to high places, fear of spiders a trip to the zoo, fear of jam go to tea room etc. Now the feelings I’ve been having haven’t necessarily been a fear but they’ve been a feeling of distance between my mind and my body; almost detached.  There’s also the elements of knocked confidence, anxiety and loss of control on my own life.  Like I said, I’ve known Damian for years and we’ve been meaning to do a photo shoot together for the past 4 years.  I’d feel pretty shit if after all this time, I was offered this opportunity and I had to turn it down because of the incident that happened in November.  That’d be another way for said incident to be affecting my life and another point to him.  What better way to stick two fingers up to the situation, grow some big girl balls and regain control of my life?! Plus I’ve never exactly been shy in a bit of nudity – boobs are boobs and a foof’s a foof. I’d hate for any more of my personality to be reserved and restricted because of what’s gone on. So….the little jelly tots came out!

The experience itself was incredible.  A lot more natural than I thought it would be, it didn’t feel weird and I didn’t feel awkward or vulnerable.  It’s not like plenty of people haven’t seen me and my bits in all their glory over the past few months anyway with all the doctors and nurses and police that have had a look.  Honestly, if I wanted this many people to see my bits I should have become a stripper! (you have to try and find light in a situation somewhere!) In all seriousness, after the shoot I felt liberated, empowered, extremely sexy and very emotional; something I’ve lost touch with recently.

Now I’m not advocating everyone in my situation runs to the nearest photographer and gets their bits out.  But I am a firm believer in there not being a rule book for dealing with any form of trauma or mental health issues.  To do whatever feels comfortable for you and whatever helps.

You’ll all be glad to know I won’t be posting the pictures on my blog – no-one needs to see my kipper and pancakes! I’ll be keeping the pictures for myself as a reminder of the strength I’ve had to do them when I’m struggling and probably show them to everyone I meet when I’m 90 – what I looked like “back in the day”.

One thing I will share with you though is a wonderful quote which I’ve picked up from Lord McGillicuddy himself as his favourite quote and was actually featured at the end of his seminars this week.  Something very relevant to how I feel and has been resonant with me since I first heard it – think it’ll stick with me for a while

On a serious note, I’d like to thank the Damian and his team for the opportunity to go to Ireland.  I found strength in me I didn’t know I had.  Damian’s an incredibly honest, wonderful, supportive gentleman; proper salt of the earth and I’m very lucky to be able to call him a friend. The past few days away has done me the world of good and given me a new perspective on moving forward.  Check out his other INCREDIBLE photography which is significantly better without my mug in……https://www.damianmcgillicuddy.com/

J x

rocky

 

 

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this”

Just a weird observation, could be purely coincidental or it could be my brain has been trying to tell me something all along.

Travelling up to the lakes in november, I had an old favourite song from my emo days stuck in my head – the most prolific lyric being “i’ve got a bad feeling about this”.  That lyric then twirled round my head for the following few weeks, even with me when I went back to the hotel for the third and final time.  Just noticed now I’m home, it’s gone.

They do say once an emo kid, always an emo kid

So here we are…

So here we are. 9 months since my last post and I’m back.  Things were going so well.  Since my last post I’ve been doing amazingly off the medication, I became single (turns out the relationship was a significant stem of my depression), moved out of my parents into a cute little flat on my own, promoted to restaurant manager, even took myself on a jaunt on my own to Edinburgh to fulfil a bucket list dream in seeing the Foo Fighters (I’m not going to lie…I cried when they opened their set!).  Back when I wrote my last post, if someone had told me all of this would be happening in the following few months and my mental health would be steady and controlled, I would have bet a significant sum against it becoming reality.  How wrong I was!  Life was going well and I was the happiest and most content I’d been in as long as I could remember.

October I left the job I had and was offered the role of a lifetime up in the Lake District.  Beautiful hotel, even more beautiful views, restaurant manager of a michelin star restaurant, working alongside an old manager who I have always admired and dreamed of working with again.  Good salary with free live in accommodation allowing me to sort out my finances for good, and the perfect opportunity which would make my career for life, allow me to stick two fingers up at a lot of people and give me the stability I’ve been craving.  Anyone would have been stupid to even hesitate answering the offer.  In hindsight, I had a weird uneasy gut feeling in accepting which I just put down to nerves but is probably something I should have listened to more closely. It was quite daunting how good an opportunity it was; a lot of pressure to enjoy it and equally make sure I didn’t mess it up – people would kill for that kind of opportunity, so I ignored the alarm bells.

So, 13th November I relocated to start my new life.  New place, new job, new people; the perfect fresh start to really move on from the drama and stresses of the previous 18 months fighting the black dog.  It meant the world to me that this went well.

I can’t give too many details away about what happened next as there’s still a police investigation going on. But, what I can say is on my first night of this new venture I was taken out for dinner and drinks by a new colleague to welcome me to the hotel.  This led to me being spiked and later I was attacked in the room I was staying in at the hotel.    The following day I spent a very scared and very lonely 12 hours with the police – most of which were spent without a phone because my battery had died early that day.  Easily the longest and most terrifying day of my life; completely unknown to anyone trying to piece together what had happened, craving a hug and wondering how I was going to tell my friends and family.  I returned home to my parents house 14 hours after reporting it feeling lost, empty, numb and completely unable to cry.  Small blessings in this incident are I don’t remember a thing, and other than a few bruises I wasn’t hurt.

I took 3 weeks off until rather naively and stubbornly I returned to the hotel a mere 3 weeks after the incident.  It was too soon and definitely did more damage than good, but I’m impatient and just wanted to move on, not let this be the reason for the job of my dreams to fall apart before it had even begun.  Day 4 of the job and Storm Desmond hit the Lakes, leaving our hotel damaged and closed for the following 9 days.  I took that as an opportunity to return home, see some friends, family and finish packing up the last of my flat.  Returning home, everything I’d put off dealing with came flooding in and broke me.  Coupled with the timing of making my formal statement to the police and all the internal medical examinations, re-living the experience in graphic detail to strangers was one of the toughest things I’ve ever experienced.

I ended up getting signed off from work with stress and depression, and the doctors wanting me to go back on medication.  Deflated and defeated I stayed home over Christmas and tried to focus on spending time with friends, family and getting my head straight.  It was a lovely Christmas, but it all felt bittersweet – anyone in hospitality would love to have the festive time off work but for me I was desperate to be kept busy and feel back to some form of normality.

Brave or stupid, I can’t quite decide but I made another attempt to restart the job.  Third time lucky? Unfortunately, it was not to be.  The more time I spent there, the more difficult things got.  In order to return to the hotel, I’d bottled everything up relating to the incident but once I got there, I was bottling everything up.  I was quiet, reserved, numb, completely un-Jen.  I wasn’t showing myself in my true light personally or professionally.  I could see it was having an affect on my job, I wasn’t performing anywhere near as well as I wanted to.  Starting a new job, especially of that caliber you want to go in “balls deep”, full of motivation, passion and enthusiasm.  I was starting each day riddled with anxiety, dread and fear which in turn downward spiralled with the realisation I was struggling, really uncomfortable and needed help.  My anxiety was sky high every day, verging on panic attacks and I wasn’t sleeping well in staff accommodation at all.  This all with the constant triggers and little reminders of the offender and what had happened around……it was only a matter of time before I had to call it a day.  Heartbroken and devastated it had come to this; a week ago today was my last shift at the “dream job”.

As always with me, things are never straight forward.  Due to the location of the incident and my new job in relation to my parents house the support group I’d been referred to wouldn’t even put me on a waiting list until I was back up north.  I saw an assessor who said I’d be fast-tracked due to my lack of emotional support up there.  3 weeks passed and I heard nothing, now I’m back at home trying to piece things together and I’ve had to start the whole counselling process again from scratch.

In all of this, I’ve still not properly cried.  I’ve blubbed and sobbed but not a proper reaction.  I really feel like there’s something deep inside me, building and dying to get out.  I think being so isolated and lonely when it happened and then going back up there not knowing anyone has made me bury all of my emotions pretty deep.

I keep getting told I’m strong, I’ve got through so much over the past few years I’ll be able to get through this etc….I wish I had as much faith.  I’m doing OK, but I’m not great.  I can feel chinks in this armour I’ve put on starting to show.  There’s only so many times something can be broken and put back together before it no longer resembles its original form; I feel like I’m starting to get that way.  It’s tough, really fucking tough.  I feel like I can’t trust my judgement or decision making.  I’m feeling incredibly unsettled, fed up that nothing seems to go right, fed up at constantly moving house, fed up it feels like the world is conspiring against me.  As long as I keep myself busy I’m OK but other than that I feel like I could have a breakdown at any moment.  I nearly had a panic attack yesterday just trying to find a particular pair of shoes, rummaging through my belongings in storage.  It’s not the easiest thing to speak to anyone about. I’m desperate for professional help, but as always it takes its sweet time to be arranged.  Until I’m moving on with my life, with a new job and a new place to live I don’t think I’ll be able to draw a line under it and fully be able to deal with the past few months.

So here we are…..

J x