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 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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