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!!!

“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.