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…

 

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

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

 

 

A letter to myself 14 months ago

I’ve not posted for a little while because I’ve been doing really well with my recovery. I’d be lying if I said every day was perfect, all flowers and sunshine. It’s a daily battle but it’s becoming easier. I know how to handle my head and I’ve put strategies into place to help me should I have another wobble.

I’ve made the decision that this will be my last blog post. Id like to take the lessons I’ve learnt from this horrid past year and move on to a new exciting chapter of my life without being held back by my past. A clean break into a new me.

The timings a little appropriate too, it’s been 2 months since I came off antidepressants which has made a phenomenal difference to my mental health and I’ve not looked back. It’s also a year since I put myself into hospital. Something I didn’t think I’d feel weird about after having come so far since then, but for some reason I can’t quite work out I am feeling a little uncomfortable with the looming day.

So. Here is a letter of advice I’ve written to myself 14 months ago when I was first diagnosed and place on medication. All things I wish I’d heard and believed at the time. I hope it helps someone else in their battle.

Dear jen,

Antipressants are horrid, truly awful things that will make you nearly fatally worse when you start taking them. Don’t jump to the decision to take them just because it seems like the only option. Caution and more thought needs to be given to them and other more natural approaches should be tried first. Meds aren’t a quick fix

The friends and support group you have when you start your recovery won’t be the same when you get back on your feet. A lot of people are shit

Going through this, getting better and the road to recovery is horrid. It’s unattractive, scary, soul destroying and one of the most difficult things you’ll ever do 

Some people just don’t care that you’re having a tough time but there are plenty of other people who do

You will become something you don’t recognise, someone you hate, try to push everyone away and punish yourself for how you are. But a better you will emerge stronger the other side

Self harm doesn’t solve anything and there is no easy way out

There isn’t a ‘normal’ or a ‘better time’ to try to revert back to. You can only move forwards and be better than you ever were

Alcohol will become your best friend and worst enemy and it cannot be trusted

Your judgement on everything becomes completely skewed. Don’t react to situations too quickly – try and see logic and perspective before opening your mouth

Your boyfriend is an exceptional person. The financial and emotional support, love and care he shows is unfailing and unconditional. Tell him and show him every chance you get

You’ll lose all feelings of being horny and lose your sex drive. Sex stops and cuddles will become the most intimate thing you’ll do and it’ll take longer than you can imagine for your self confidence to improve enough for that to change

Talking and listening to people without judgement is the most helpful, supportive and kind thing someone can do with you

You’re really bad at patience. Having patience is the most important thing you’re going to need to get through this. Everything takes so much longer than you can imagine to improve but it will get better

The road to recovery isn’t a straight line. There will be bad days but they should be treated as rest days not days to torment yourself on ‘failing at life’.  celebrate the good days and any little victory

Just because the world is still spinning and people are going about their lives doesn’t mean you can punish them for feeling lost, lonely and isolated

Because of being housebound and being so focused on your illness you’ll become really self centred. Remember the other people in your life around you

Sometimes people just don’t understand but it’s not their fault

The only person who can make an actual difference is you. Doctors, friends, counsellors, therapists, family, medication can only do so much and even then might not happen.

Any progress is good progress and a step in the right direction

Depression will attack your immune system. You’ll get poorly more often and it’ll take longer to recover. This is normal. Keep healthy

It’s ok not to be ok

Baby steps are better than giant leaps

Depression will have an effect on every part of your life. And everything in your life has an effect on your depression. Getting the balance is the tricky part

Those closest to you will be finding your illness hard too. They can’t be at your beck and call. Give them a break if they need space

Don’t be hard on yourself, none of this is your fault

Emotions and feelings you never thought you had will emerge. Dealing with them and recognising what’s you and what’s the monster is what’s most important

The people that matter the most are those who stand by your side while you’re in the darkness and are still there for you when you get to the light – they’ll be friends for life

Deep breath. Be strong. You can do this

Balance and focus

Since starting my new job 4 weeks ago, I’ve done nothing but focus on work.  I’ve not left myself with any time to reflect on the changes I’m going through, to keep up with the positive changes I’d made to my lifestyle or to have any fun

My jobs over the past year have been mainly office based and normal working hours so havent been very demanding. Now I’m in a job that I love and back where I belong in the hustle and bustle of a fine dining restaurant but the challenge of going back to lobg, irregular hours and the physical demands on my body are definitely harder to get used to than I imagined. That teamed with no time for meditation, no proper meals – certainly no healthy eating, too exhausted to exercise, not much down time to myself, as well as messed up hormones and now seemingly ineffective medication has caused a bit of a meltdown. Additionally to all of the above, my anxiety is currently off the scale because I’m terrified of anythibg negative happening with my job and ending up unemployed again and I’m also desperate to get my own space out of my parents house, make some new friends and get back to having a social life.

I’m stubborn and love my job and the opportunities that Its giving me so it’s Down to me to reevaluate the rest of my life and focus on getting the balance back in the favour of keeping my head on the right side of the tracks.

After several failed attempts with medication and an overwhelming concern for trying any new medication now I’ve started a new job, I’ve made the decision to come off medication completely. Instead I’m going to swap the pills I can barely pronounce for herbal supplements like omega and st John’s wort and I’m hoping these will keep my head on a level playing field.

I’m also looking into paid counselling instead of the poor services received through the NHS which so far have proved more damaging than helpful. I’m also asking my parents if they’ll help me fund a course of acupuncture for my birthday.

As well as this Ive got a new wave of motivation for looking after myself during my time out of work – eating healthier, drinking a lot more water, getting proper sleep, exercise, meditation and treating myself to doing something fun on my days off – all things I seem to have neglected over the last few weeks.

I am so proud of myself and so happy not only to be back in a job but doing one I genuinely love and have a passion for. But I also need to remember life isn’t just about work and in order to keep doing this fabulous job I love I need to make sure I take care of myself and not let my health jeopardise things

J x

My new dilema

As of yesterday, I have a fantastic new job. (finally!) Far better than I could have expected and if I keep my cool, don’t put too much pressure on myself and keep my head down this could be the most amazing opportunity for learning, development and to be a part of something truly amazing.

As excited as I am, there is one big issue weighing on my mind. I’ve struggled for so long with my health and had a lot of my career over the past year affected by it, I don’t want it to become an issue again.

So, to pre-empt any potential struggles or tough days I might have, do I tell my new employers a little bit about my anxiety and medication and risk them making a u-turn on the decision to employ me or do I just keep my head down and cross that bridge when I come to it?

Any advice on this would be amazing. Genuinely really struggling to work out which would be the best thing. It’s such a good opportunity I dont want to risk it ending before its even begun, but I also don’t want it to ever be a serious issue in the future and it come as a surprise to those I’d be working for.

Tough one.

J x

The (overdue) Jen Project

It was nearly a month ago I blogged about scrapping ‘The Happiness Project’ idea and re-branding it as ‘The Jen Project’.  I’m not going to lie, with being away, trying my hardest to find a job and having a few tough weeks on a new higher dosage of medication it’s gone a bit on the back burner and I’ve just been concentrating on getting through each day.  After yet another disappointing CBT session on Tuesday though, I’m now even more determined than ever to go solo and not have to rely on medical professionals to get me out of this…

SO!

The big plan….not very revolutionary and nowhere as thorough and organised at the happiness project was set out.  No monthly aims or goals, no monthly tasks, no deadlines and I’m not going to try and predict and outline my happiness for the coming months.  Organised fun is bad enough, but organised happiness? Definitely not for me.

Instead I’ve had a big think about 4 fundamental basic things I should be doing and can easily be doing to make life a little bit easier, more productive and most importantly happier.  It basically breaks down to health, wealth, passions and people, some of which actually interlink (which is handy!)

1) Health

To me this is crucial; to improve both my mental and physical well being and in turn improve how I look and feel about myself and raise my confidence – a part of me that’s been significantly knocked.  This is going to be the hardest of my aims as these are all changes of routine, instead of introducing new habits and tasks

– On the physical side eating healthier, cutting out the crap, drinking a lot more water, getting fresh air every day, exercising a little bit every day

– As of today I’ve started running which will also help my mental health but as soon as possible I’m going to join either classes at the gym or start dance classes.  This will help give me goals and friendly competition – I hate being the worst in a class

– At the moment my skin is terrible and although I’m a size 8 (UK) I’m getting a bit squidgy around the edges and starting to see lumps and bumps in places there weren’t any before.  I’ve taken ‘before pics’ of the key areas I want to see improvement and I can use them for inspiration and for motivation to see how much I’ve improved

– making an effort with my hair, make up and clothes as much as possible.  I’ve noticed even something as little as wearing a good pair of knickers or matching underwear that are hidden from public view can really boost my self esteem.  Idea is how I look and how I feel are interlinked.  If I’ve not done my hair or make up and I go to the shops looking like a sack of potatoes, I’ll feel like it

– For mental well-being I’m reading a lot of books on mindfulness (which is something I’m really trying to bring into my everyday thinking).  I’m also practicing meditation most days, keeping up to date with my thoughts diary to track any patterns and attempting yoga most nights before bed

2) Wealth

With being out of work more than I’ve been in work over the past year, my finances are in a pretty bad way (i.e. none existent).  At the nearly ripe old age of 27 it’s time to be a bit more sensible and think of the future.  Although money doesn’t equal happiness, the stresses it can bring certainly makes us unhappy, and some of the opportunities it can bring may lead to happy experiences.  After a tough year relying on my boyfriend a lot for money, it’ll be incredible for both of us to be financially independent and not have to worry about how we’re going to make ends meet as well as treat ourselves to somethings we’ve had to completely forget about 

– Getting back working, in a job I enjoy which will give me stability, confidence and develop me

– Clear off all of my overhanging bills and debts as quickly as possible so they’re no longer the black cloud I’ve got following me around.  Also want to start paying back the various family members who’ve bailed me out

– Be a lot more careful with my money – make a plan and stick to it

– Wherever possible put money away into a savings account.  Not going to save for anything in particular, but given the state of my health and employment over the past year it’d only be sensible to give myself a buffer against any possible future bad times – that alone will be unbelievably reassuring

3) Passions

Over the past 6 years for reasons ranging from health, controlling relationships, and money I’ve gradually lost all of the passions I once had and have found little enthusiasm for anything in particular.  Now I’m finding myself again, learning a lot about myself and getting my life back on track these are all going to be rekindled to fulfill the voids I’ve had and to give my life a big boost of enjoyment and purpose

– Food – is a big part of my life both in and out of work so I’m going to read all I can buying second cookery books and subscribing to a magazine, I’m going to get in the kitchen a lot more both cooking and baking, and going to try new restaurants to get ideas

– Music – another big passion of mine and originally the career path I wanted to take.  I’m going to absorb and listen to as much new music as my ears will handle, make sure I’m listening to old cd’s and playlists around the house a lot more, going to gigs and reading my favourite musicians autobiographies

– Books – a bit of a new passion but something I’m keen to develop.  I want to read as much as possible, starting with most of my other half’s books and one’s in my collection I’ve never opened.  Im going hunt down and cherish new hidden little book shops and rifle through charity shops for hidden gems

– Dancing – used to be a big part of my life going to classes in and out of school several times a week from age 3-19.  When I left for uni I never pursued it in my new city and it’s one of my biggest regrets.  Encompassing fitness, fun, music and meeting new people it really ticks all the boxes for what I want to achieve

4) People

I’m very much a people person and I work in a very customer serviced based industry.  I always love talking to someone new and I love the feeling of being able to help others.  Also recently, with everything that’s gone on a lot of ‘friends’ have drifted away, so I’m seeing this time of change within myself as a time to change those around me

– Volunteering in a charity shop to help others and meet a new group of people

– Making an effort when meeting a new group of people to befriend at least one person and do my best to stay in touch

– Making a bigger effort with those poor suffering friends who have amazingly stuck by my side.  Lack of money and enthusiasm for life has put all of these relationships on the back burner and now’s the time to make amends and make the effort to get them in foreground of my social life

– trying to not let people down and really going to extra mile.  I feel like I’ve let a lot of people down over the past year, burnt a lot of bridges and my illness has made me quite self-centered around my own problems.  I’m going to seize the opportunity to help others, be more reliable, not let people down especially when plans have been made and really make amends wherever possible

I’m going to achieve all of these overnight and I’m not going to be pursuing them all at once.  But I’m not going to section them off for achieving in separate months as I can do several at once – like eating healthier and exercising go hand in hand, but I can also do those and meet up with people and bake a cake for my new dance class or book group.  I’m going to take each day as it comes and seize any and every opportunity to work these new goals into my world and get my life into a place where I am happy and content again.  Ultimately, even if I succeed at keeping up a few of these, then I’ll have regained some control over my life – something I’ve not had for a very long time – and hopefully get closer to a strategy for tackling my mental health for good

Let me know what methods and ‘projects’ you’re trying

J x

Hope and help

I’ve just got back from the most perfect few days away for my boyfriends birthday with him and some friends. 4 gorgeous days in the Lake district, which if you don’t know where that is looks a little like this

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To say it was magical and the happiest few days of my life is a huge understatement. For the majority of the time I was there I didn’t feel any anxiety or depressive symptoms – the first time in months. The change in scenery alone would have done me wonders but with this emotional relief as well….it felt incredible. I never wanted to leave

image

Thursday night I had a bad panic attack just before we made the journey home. Since then I’ve not been able to shake off horrid feelings of constant anxiety and really low dark thoughts. It’s out of the blue, unexplainable and Im really struggling to keep it under control. The stark contrast in going from the best moments of my life to feeling so lost, helpless and hopeless; it’s brutal and it’s hit me hard.

Now I’m away from a place that has been paradise for the past few days I’m back to reality. I honestly was hoping and believed the trip away would be a welcome breath of fresh air and I’d come back revitalised, motivated and ready to take on the challenges ahead but it couldn’t be further from the truth and its tearing me apart.

Tomorrow is 1st March. I’ll have been out of work exactly three months. I’ve been applying for jobs nearly every single day of those three months. Easily sent my cv to over 150 people for all sorts of work. How many have I heard back from with a positive outcome? Just 1. 1 I’m being interviewed for next week and I already know I’m not what they’re looking for. Disheartening doesn’t even come close. Every single application I get rejected from or just don’t hear back from is a knock in my confidence and my belief I can get out of this situation and move on with my life.

Add to that my cbt has been far from regular so I’m not regain strength in my state of mind as quickly as I’d have wanted. Also my medication has quadrupled in the 6 weeks I’ve been taking it, with the latest new dosage completely wiping me out of energy motivation, destroying sleep patterns, giving me really bad chest and stomach pains and I honestly think it’s making me worse. My docs said if these tablets don’t suit they won’t give me any more meds because I’ve tried so many in such a short time.

So. With no job, no money, little support network, little help with docs and meds not working the question is what am I supposed to do?

The only part of my life that makes me happy and gives me hope for the future is my wonderful relationship, but with all of the above going on its tough to not let the bad stuff infect that too. My relationship is the only thing keeping me going right now, the only thing I’ve got to keep fighting for.

I’m not planning on giving in or taking matters into my own hands, despite the thoughts running through my head.

I am really struggling to see any light at the end of the tunnel though; I’m not even sure which direction I’m going in any more.

I’m struggling and I need help.

J x

The power of talk and starting my journey to positive thinking

Something I’ve struggled with since being diagnosed with depression is being able to accurately describe my thoughts, feelings and what’s wrong. I don’t normally have a problem with opening up and sharing personal information but for some reason my depression has had me tongue tied. Whether it’s embarrassment, shame, denial, fear of not being understood or laughed at or a combination of all of them somethings held me back from laying it all out on the table to the people that can help the most. Even doctors and therapists I find myself struggling to summon up exactly the correct thoughts and feelings, kicking myself later when I get home “why didn’t I mention that…” and “I should have said this”

Yesterday I was due to start a new job. A trial waitressing a nearby newly opened pub. Whilst it didn’t exactly offer the greatest prospects money is money right now when I’m in a state of unemployment and the social benefits of getting out of the house, meeting new people were really exciting thoughts. In my previous post I was really looking forward to making a positive step in the right direction. I didn’t make it. Despite pep talks from the other half and myself I fell apart. Anxiety took over, a panic attack spread throughout me and before I knew it I was curled in a ball on my floor with a blanket crying uncontrollably for a out an hour. I couldn’t put it into words where this had come from and I could barely fathom myself what was going on.

Truth be told I’m not sure I’m quite ready for work. Certainly not when my moods and head are so unpredictable. Who’s to say if I was fine and had made it to my shift that a panic attack wouldn’t have happened in a day or a weeks time. I just can’t trust my health at the moment to be relied upon for work. While I’m eager to get back to work for the financial and social benefits I have to take a step back and make sure I’m in a state fit enough to do so, so the same doesn’t happen again. The guilt I felt yesterday for not being able to go and feeling like a failure was horrid and it was only through giving myself a good talking to that I’ve managed to shake off my relapse so quickly. Spending time with my partner talking over my plans for the next step in my recovery has given me a massive boost. He’s the one person I can talk to candidly about everything I know he’ll not only listen, offer support and show understanding but he’ll also offer feedback which helps me put my actions into perspective. whilst I’m not seeing any professionals and my support network of friends and family to have real life conversations with is limited, these talks with my boyfriend are crucial in being able manage my illness better myself and be reassured in his understanding. Speaking with him has given me the confidence to speak with my doctors and cbt in the same way – both big daunting appointments I have upcoming this week about my care.

My mindfulness meditation book and the course itself are helping to change my way of thinking and approaches to tasks in every day life. With advice I’m getting from the happiness project book I’m trying to make lots of little adjustments to my daily routine which will coax me back in the right direction and help me make the most of the choices I have. With my parents away this week I have a free house to focus on my health and getting better without the normal distractions. Little bits of exercise, getting into a routine getting out of bed, eating a bit healthier and continuing my reading, mindfulness programme and happiness project with all help me make the initial positive steps I need to take to help find my jen-ness again

Will keep updating with how things are going.

Stay safe
J x