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!!!

“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.

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

 

 

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