I am a survivor of extremely severe ritualistic childhood abuse and sadistic systematic torture. Without God's intervention in my life I wouldn't be here - NOW is the time for me to tell MY story by speaking the TRUTH about MY life. I will be silenced no more! On this blog I share MY life, MY healing journey; helpful quotes/stuff I come across and MY thoughts along the way. The more I speak out the more liberated I am from the shame and trauma of the abuse. My broken wings are gradually being restored. This blog has helped me begin to get my voice back and documents the journey God is taking me on to heal me from the trauma and damage caused by that most appalling abuse.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

CHILD ABUSE + FORGIVENESS

"The idea that anyone is required to forgive their abuser is vapid, toxic nonsense. You’re the one who got hurt. YOU get to decide what your attitude is toward the person who hurt you."

That quote comes from a fantastic article about forgiveness for child abuse survivors on this website -


 http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/2014/11/6-truths-about-forgiving-sexual-abuse/

REALLY USEFUL WEBSITE ABOUT PTSD

There is very helpful information about what trauma does to the brain and to chemical balances in the brain + body in people affected by PTSD

http://www.chemistryislife.com/the-chemistry-of-post-traumatic-stress-disorder

THE AMYGDALA

The Amygdala is the part of the brain which plays the primary role in memory, decision making and emotional reaction. 
Damage to this part of the brain is thought to be behind Post Traumatic Stress Disorder leading to symptoms like fragmented memory.

FEELING SAFE

I am slowly feeling increasingly safe at home, in therapy, with people I know are safe people, when playing pool, when swimming, when down my tree - I'm learning that it's ok to figure out ways that enable me to do things + manage to feel some degree of safety when doing things outside of my home, and it's also ok to acknowledge how rare that "feeling safe" is in my life.

It's also ok to remember why it is so difficult for me to feel safe. 

There was no safe adult during my childhood. 

There was no real safe place during childhood either. 

I wasn't safe in the house. 

I wasn't safe in my bed. 

I wasn't safe with my parents.

I wasn't safe with my brother.

I wasn't safe with my grandfather.

I wasn't safe with my grandmother.

I wasn't safe with their paedophile friends.

I wasn't safe with the police either.

The only place I was safe was when I was kicked out and wandering the streets. Then it was all about being hyper-alert to threats.

It's great that I am beginning to find safe places for myself in adulthood.

I think it's fab that I am finding safe people too and trusting my gut intuition about people.

It's been quite eye-opening to me that there are safe men in the world and that there are safe women too.

It's ok for me to acknowledge when someone or something doesn't feel safe to me and to back off or hold back.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

THE 2ND ANNIVERSARY

It was the 2nd anniversary of my father's death on 25th August 2014.

I'm still dealing with the mixed feelings that come from my father's death 2 years ago, but I am proud of how I created my own boundaries + how I have kept myself safe as an adult.

I'm also extremely proud that he got the message before he died that I wasn't keeping silent any more and that what he did was not ok.

I mourn all that never was and could never be.

I also have relief that he is dead and cannot hurt anyone any more! 

This anniversary has also caused layers to lift away which had protected me from the reality of what he did to me. 

Those layers had protected me from how I really felt as a child about what he did, how he did it and what it all did to me. 

Those layers had also protected me from how I really feel about him now. How I hate what he did. How I hate the anxiety and confusion he caused me, both as a child and as an adult.

Those layers also protected me from the details of the things he did and said to keep me silent, compliant and afraid.

Those layers also protected me from the very deep and profound physical, emotional, mental and body shock, trauma and horror throughout my system from what I endured.

Those layers also protected me from the false sense of safety I developed inside me watching him abuse other children, photograph abuse, orchestrate abuse but never on me for the first 9 years. I truly believed deep inside me that he would never do those things or anything else, for that matter, to me. Then when he raped me on the night of my 9th birthday all that was shattered and I've never recovered.

His abuse of me throughout my childhood under my mother's instructions came under a different category in my mind. I truly believed he would not choose or decide to do anything to me without Sheila's instruction. When I realised at the age of 9 that he was capable of and willing to abuse me of his own choice, of his own volition it was an immense shock. A shock I've not recovered from.

That is probably why I never feel safe as an adult, not even when I'm alone with the door locked and curtains closed!

I hated how one moment he could be "Mr Nice Guy" then suddenly turn and be someone totally different. I hated the confusion that caused me too. I also hated the "never quite knowing" which side of him he was at a particular time. I hated how I never knew if and when he would turn and why. I was always trying to be good and do everything he wanted to prevent him from turning while also knowing somewhere inside that probably I couldn't prevent him from turning. But it was a way I tried to keep myself as safe as possible.

I hated how weak he was towards my mother. I hated how he did everything he told her to do. I hated how he never stood up to her and said "I'm not doing that to her" when I could feel he didn't want to carry out her orders.

I hated the excuses he came up with for doing what he did.  
"Oh, all daddies do this with their little girls"; "There's nothing wrong, this is quite normal"; "I'm doing this because you're daddy's special little girl, you can give daddy what no-one else can give him"; "Mummy is quite happy that I'm here with you doing this"; "I'm just getting you ready for when you'll be married"; "It's your birthday and I have a special present for you." 
And so on...

I hated the times he threatened me to keep me compliant too.

I hated that he abused me while being Mr Nice Guy as well as when being really mean and nasty.
I hate that he was not ever a real father to me.

I also hate that he never took responsibility for what he did or even acknowledged that anything was ever wrong.

I hate the fact that I have blamed myself for all of this for so many years.

I am relieved that I'm now able to slowly begin to blame him for the things for which he was solely responsible.

 

Saturday, 16 August 2014

A VERY GOOD ARTICLE ABOUT DEPRESSION + MENTAL ILLNESS


It is entitled 8 Things to Never Say To Someone with depression.

Here are some excerpts from the article - 
Since learning the tragic news about Robin Williams, I have read well-meaning posts about depression by well-meaning people, but unfortunately the uneducated comments can do more harm than good. Those who have not experienced depression personally are better off sealing lips and just listening with a genuine smile. I don't say any of this to condemn or in haste at all. I just want to bring about an understanding to this disease, as well as an understanding to mental illness in general. Sadly, there has become such a stigma humans have put around mental illness that causes those who struggle to want to run the other way. Often our well-meaning words can cause others to feel more alone than ever. There isn't a magical answer. There are no specific powerful words that heal. Watch what you say and strive to just listen when given a chance. Try to be wise so your words don't make things worse.
1. "You must not have enough faith in God, Just trust the Lord" - Struggling with depression does not mean someone isn't putting their faith in God. Depression has no bearing on one's relationship or lack their of, with God. Without my faith and trust in God I don't know where I would be! I thank Jesus that He IS with me in the midst of my struggles. Even yet, the pit still exists. That sinking feeling in my stomach is still there. The sadness that lurks is still in there. My brain still races 100 miles per minute. My thoughts go here, there, everywhere, and every which way in between. The implication that my struggle with anxiety and depression are the result of a lack of faith in God suggests that mental health isn't a real physical issue.
2. "You just need to think positively" I am actually a very optimistic person. I see the good in others. I strive to be a peacemaker. I like to help others see the silver lining. In regards to depression and anxiety, I am really just wired that way. It's the way my brain processes things. Some people are just wired a certain way and that is just how it goes. Nothing you say will "fix" someone. There is no magical thought I can think that will pull me from a bout with depression or anxiety.
3. "Stay away from meds, you don't want to be on that stuff" (Go to a 'natural' Doctor...) - Afraid of the critique of others. The humiliation that can go with needing a psych drug. I was blessed to have a doctor who told me she has been there and that there is nothing wrong with taking meds. She validated my every being and thought. She just simply understood. Often, we cannot take care of the spiritual, if we don't balance the imbalances and deal with the mental.
4."Suicidal people are selfish" - Many that contemplate suicide seriously think the world would be fine without them, and they don't think of those who would miss them. They are not trying to be selfish at all, they are just so terribly sunk in that deep pit that they desperately just want out and sometimes that means they take their own lives. When the sadness gets to that point of utter desperation it causes you to see nothing else but sadness, gloom, darkness, and dread.
5. "Seek help, seek other people out" - Depression feels dark and shameful. But more times than not, in the midst of depression, comes big time insecurity. One isn't always thinking about who they can talk to because they are embarrassed. Depression can be mortifying.
6. "What have you got to be depressed about?" - Depression is dark and lonely. Anxiety and depression go hand in hand, as you may feel depressed for being anxious and anxious about being depressed. It's a vicious cycle that plays tricks on your mind causing an unrest like no other. Just validate my feelings, because if I could help it, I would.
7. "Just get over it. Come on cheer up!" - If only. Lack of validation will not lead me to hope in desperation.
8. "You're a mess" - There is this feeling of indignity, shame, & humiliation that goes with any mental illness. There's a certain negativity that causes insecurity and an even greater loneliness for those suffering.

Depression and anxiety are treatable. Mental illness is manageable. One can live a very normal, exciting, joy filled life.  Chances are there are more people around you than you realize, struggling with a mental illness of some kind. Watch what you say and the disgrace you allow your words to display. Educate yourself before speaking. Chances are unless you have been there, you will never truly understand.  Know that when a person deals with depression and anxiety, for them it's near impossible to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Be sympathetic. Be gracious. Slow to speak. Quick to listen.



Some of My Thoughts About Robin William's Death

The news of Robin William's death hit me like a 50-ton lorry because I know the tightrope I walk between staying alive and not - I know too how much energy and determination it takes for me to keep myself alive, to make changes to my life which make it more bearable - I know also that I am just one bad trigger or one bad piece of news away from having to cope with suicidal feelings, ideation and so on - I also know there is no logic to suicide, it is not a cognitive thing, it is rooted in total desperation when you cannot keep living with the pain any more - it is a very black place of total overwhelm, mind, body, emotions, mentally and spiritually, - I am helped by the truth that it is about the pain of severe depression exceeding the ability to cope or the resources to cope - I don't talk about this side of my life outside of therapy, because it is a very difficult thing to live with BUT I really hate all the comments about suicide being a selfish act, not caring about those left behind - it is none of those things - it is an illness which takes too many lives, such comments make it very hard for people to be honest about the reality of living every day of your life with severe depression and what it takes out of you .



One of the reasons I left "the church" was because I've been judged, condemned, blamed [and all the rest] without fail in church upon church upon church during the last 2 decades of my life for having complex mental health issues which didn't respond to their theology - I've had it all said to me until I couldn't cope with it any more - and I know I am not the only Christian to have to cope with that crap - I even had one person tell me in 1997 that she didn't believe I could possibly be a Christian because I was so deeply depressed - I have never been able to forget her words and attitude - "the church" and Christians need to get past "mental health problems, depression etc are sin and so on" paradigm, it needs to get past "Christianity and depression do not go together", it needs to get past the deliverance + false forgiveness (all you need to do is forgive) assumptions that depressed Christians get forced into so much when they ask for help, it has destroyed so many lives and driven so many from the church.


I found this a really helpful perspective on suicide, it is an illness, a disease and it is lethal – Robin and every other person who dies from suicide are killed by the illness “depression” rather than killed himself.

An excerpt from the article - 
"mental health is still vastly misunderstood in our culture. That it is undervalued, that it is not seen as “real”. We talk about psychology as a “soft” science. The stigma around going to therapy or taking medications persists. It is time we stopped thinking about mental health in this way. It is time we acknowledged that a disease in the brain is just as physical as a disease in the heart, lungs, or liver. The fact that it is more complicated, less understood, and only beginning to be studied, does not mean we can ignore this fact. In truth, it means the exact opposite: that mental health needs to be treated with urgency. That our society has to start treating its illnesses as every bit as deadly and malicious as other ailments. That research into these issues needs to be ramped up. What scares me the most about the death of Robin Williams is that it is clear how woefully ill-equipped the world is to fight mental health. How anyone, truly anyone, can fall to it, even someone with tons of money for treatment and support from the world. Perhaps Depression might lose some its “it was his own fault” stigma, if we start focussing on the illness, rather than the symptom. Robin Williams didn’t die from suicide. He died from Depression*. It wasn’t his choice to suffer.

I found this article very helpful as it seeks to deal with a lot of the damaging attitudes about mental illness and how beliefs within “the church” towards people with mental illness about how all they need is more faith etc are so wrong and deeply damaging.
Some excerpts from the article -
Robin Williams connected deeply in a light hearted way with such a broad cross section of people. His inner child was his outer adult, which shows bravery most of us lack. Finding Jesus is NOT the Cure for Depression.
Mental illness is also incurable. While mental illness can be managed and treated, it never goes away.
For some reason, especially in the church, we often judge people who are mentally ill as making poor choices in their lives or somehow not fully trusting in God. It’s almost as if physical impairments can’t be helped, but mental impairments just require people to simply try harder. If trying hard cured mental illness, then mental illness would be cured, because I don’t ‘know of anyone who tries harder to fit in or just function than people who struggle with these diseases.
There are plenty of Christians who love Jesus with all of their hearts and have committed their entire lives to him, yet they are Schizophrenic, Bipolar, Clinically Depressed or smitten with another illness
Mental and spiritual matters seem more inseparable than physical and spiritual matters. The fine line between the soul and spirit is hard to navigate. Can our souls be saved, while our minds are “lost”? That doesn’t even make sense. We are whole beings.
People suffering from mental illness are often misunderstood and stigmatized. As hard as they try, they often don’t fit in. If they have a family, the family often feels like outsiders as well. Where can they find acceptance and understanding? If it’s not the church, then where?
People with mental illness are exceptional. Certainly every mentally ill person is not a comic genius like Robin Williams, but they are exceptional because they don’t fit into the norm.
No one is doing great work with the mentally ill. They are constantly shuffled back and forth from agency to agency. Most will end up in jail or homeless or dead. The church possesses the hope of the world. If anyone should care, shouldn’t it be the church?
Begin to equip yourself, and God will use you. Be open.”

Monday, 21 July 2014

CATCHING UP

The last seven months have been hell to get through which is why there's been a huge gap between this and my previous post.

The failure of the local Community Mental Health Service to provide any support for me has impacted hugely on my life.

It all began in January when my CPN and care co-ordinator, Kathy, went off sick. I had a phone call then a letter, then nothing until early April. I felt invisible, lost to the system.

Then I was called to meet a new caseworker, Lesley, to find that she wasn't a new caseworker but rather a temporary interim worker brought in to cover Kathy's absence. Her boss had requested Lesley to find out how my mental health was, what support I needed and also to tell me that Kathy would not be returning to work. I was totally devastated to receive the news about Kathy though not all that surprised, I had a feeling that things were moving towards that conclusion. I was able to express to Lesley how hard it had been to have Kathy go off sick. I was also able to express how devastated I was to hear that Kathy would not return.

More importantly I was able to get across how invisible I had felt all those weeks which turned into months, hearing nothing and having no support offered.

I felt heard, affirmed and encouraged by what took place during that meeting and was hopeful for a sensible and constructive way forward. I was booked to see Lesley two weeks later. I left the meeting unconcerned by it and equally unconcerned about my future support. I felt a corner had been turned.

When I showed up for my next meeting with Lesley I was introduced to another caseworker and asked if I minded if she sat in the appointment which was odd.

Once in the meeting Lesley informed me that her contract had been terminated early and this new person was my new care co-ordinator, Sarah. Sarah informed me that her job was to actively review my case with a view to shutting my case down and getting me off their list.

Lesley coldly stated that she knew nothing about me, my history, diagnosis nor of the fact that I am in therapy and need long term support. She said those things were not important as she is about closing down cases not continuing support. That is her job.

I could not take in what I was hearing. The dynamic was all wrong. The atmosphere was cold. I felt very threatened, intimidated and undermined.

When I said I was devastated by Kathy's departure I was told very coldly “Kathy is now in the past you need to move on.” There was no acknowledgement of the impact of the loss on me nor of the grief I was feeling at Kathy's loss. I was further traumatised when Sarah very coldly stated “you've had a lot of therapy, you are doing so well now, there are many people on our waiting list, a decision needs to be made as to whether you're going to be allowed any more therapy.” It was extremely difficult and traumatising to sit in a meeting which I had been told was about meeting my new caseworker then discovering it was actually something very different. The dynamic of that meeting was a mess. It wasn't about me, what I need or where I'm at therapy wise.

It was a tremendous shock and has been very disruptive to my therapy and to my general mental health. And that puts it mildly!!

It was all wrong. I was appalled as were my psychologist and her colleagues.

Everything about that meeting massively traumatised me. It was so traumatic that I dangerously split. I was ripped apart by it. My support workers had to intervene. They negotiated me off Sarah's list, got me clustered at the right level of care support, and gained reassurances that my therapy and support would continue.

My psychologist kicked up a stink about that meeting. As a result I was called to another meeting to meet a new care co-ordinator early in May.

She introduced herself to me as Debbie. She said she was to be my new care co-ordinator. She informed me that she's been working in mental health for over 30 years. She told me she is on a permanent contract and not planning on going anywhere. She was very anxious to put things right, to get to know me and the kinds of support I need. She apologised for what I've been put through and confirmed that I am longer on “active review” but rather on the longer term care co-ordinator support list. We had a very positive session discussing my history, my therapy and counselling progress and the type of support I was hoping for from her.

After five months of being in the wilderness finally things were looking up, or so I thought!

A couple of days before the next appointment I came home to a message on my answer-phone. It was precisely the same message I had received about Kathy, but now it was about Debbie. I couldn't take it in. Then I received a letter identical to the one I'd about Kathy's absence in January, but this time it named Debbie.

I was immensely shocked and traumatised. I hadn't realised how traumatised I'd been by the events around Kathy's absence and subsequent leaving. Only now was I aware of deep trauma. Now there was an additional layer of trauma.

My child parts said very firmly “we're glad we didn't tell her much about ourselves then!” There was nothing I could say to that,

I tried to keep positive and reassure them that this was different to Kathy and she'd soon be back to work. But two weeks became five weeks and then indefinite. History was literally repeating itself and I, and my child parts were massively re-traumatised.

I could not believe nor take in what was happening. I realised that the trauma triggered old messages that “I was bad and this had happened to me because I was bad and did not deserve anything better and I was being punished for having such a good rapport with Kathy and such a deeply therapeutic and positive relationship with her.

I reeled from that and tried to navigate a way through it in counselling. I realised I was fire-fighting and in damage-limitation mode.

While in that mode I could not grieve nor move forward. It was really tough.

Then I unexpectedly received a letter from Kathy telling me she'd had to take early-retirement for health reasons, that she was sorry and had felt privileged to work with me.

I appreciated that letter more than she will ever know and more than I can find words for. Now I had something to counter those old messages.

That letter changed things. I was suddenly able to grieve and to speak of my loss. I was able to see that not only was I missing my Kathy and finding it hard to take in that she wasn't going to walk in the door and smile at me. I was also missing all that the relationship had been to me. I realised there were many layers to the grief and sense of loss.

But the difficult issue of non-existent support which her leaving had left in it's wake was still unresolved. That was until last week.

Last Wednesday I had a very important meeting with a person quite high up in psychological therapies. My therapist and counsellor were also present at that meeting.

The first important thing to come out the meeting was a more complete diagnosis. Alongside the psychiatric diagnosis now sits a psychological formulation – “Complex trauma and Dissociation.” - At long last!! That will be sent to my GP as well so it will be on my GP's notes as well as the Community Mental Health Team's notes.

The second thing to come out of it concerned Kathy. I discovered I'm not the only one who has had no care co-ordinator support for seven months. I also discovered I'm not the only one who has been severely impacted by her leaving and how appallingly badly it has been handled. There are other people saying exactly the same things as me. Discovering that changes things for me in that I now have stuff to counter some of the old messages which had been triggered by the trauma.

The third thing to come out of the meeting is a definite concrete commitment to long-term support and therapy. We have another year of therapy confirmed, to be reviewed in 9 months or so with a view to continuing support beyond that, one-to-one and possibly group work.

The fourth thing to come out of it is also a formal commitment to sorting out my mental health support. If Debbie is not back to work in a month's time then my therapist has the authorisation to contact the Community Mental Health Team and force them to provide alternative ongoing support and also provide me with a proper care co-ordinator.

I feel so much better for that meeting.

I came out of it feeling heard, understood, taken seriously and so many other things I cannot find words for.

The dynamic of that meeting was so different from the one with Sarah. It was all about what's going on for me, how everything has affected me and how things can be moved forward on to a better footing.

The meeting changed a lot for me.

It didn't solve all the problems but it removed some of the uncertainties.

I could not continue with things how they were. Seven months with no care co-ordinator has been appalling and it's going to take some time for me to recover and find some belief in the system again. I was very close to cracking. It was only the fact that I had ongoing therapy and counselling which helped keep me going. If my only support had been from the Community Mental Health Team I don't think I would still be here. I can't help but wonder how people with even worse mental health than me have coped.

But at least something is being done about it now! I'm not invisible to the system any more and the system is going to have to account, maybe in a very small way, for it's care or lack of care.

Doing nothing is not going to be an option for them in a few week's time.

Knowing that is an immense relief!

Sunday, 18 May 2014

I WENT DANCING LAST WEEK

I went dancing last week.

Erm, yes, you did read that right!

I WENT DANCING LAST WEEK!


I hadn't danced in 33 years. I'd kept away from places with dance floors, declined invitations to things which might have dancing involved, or if I couldn't do that, stay as far away from the dancing as possible, usually with a camera in hand to give me some reason for not dancing.

It was the Women on Wednesdays (WOW) Pre-Pride Bop last Friday night (9 May), the night before Exeter  Pride. I'd known about the event for a couple of months. As soon as I heard about it I knew I wanted to go. But for me to go to a bop - wow that would be one huge step to take. So I'd been slowly building up the courage to go, reminding myself why I wanted to go and why it was so important to go but also so difficult! I so wanted to go to it, but to go would be so massive!

In the end it was a huge decision to go. I knew it would take me right out of any of my comfort zones. I knew it would be a challenge, I knew I'd find it scary, but I also sensed deep, deep down that I'd enjoy it too.

I've been to a couple of WOW socials so there were a few faces I recognised. I really enjoyed that I was recognised and warmly welcomed by several people. The first 10 minutes or so were filled with awkward small-talk conversation which I find so very difficult then people began arriving in numbers and there were loads more people around and more people for them to go talk to. And I was able to go back to people watching, feeling very shy.

I quite enjoyed sitting with the people I already knew around a small table people watching. I deliberately chose an end seat so I could get up and out of the situation quickly if I needed to. I had conversations with people who spoke to me and still found it difficult to get over my initial shyness and start conversations with people I really don't know. But at an event like that it didn't really matter.

I lost my voice after about the first hour - a combination of fear and having to talk loudly because of the music in the background. When I'm ultra nervous my chest tightens and I lose my voice. So I had to go to the toilet a few times, do some breathing exercises, remind myself why I was there and cough my voice back.

It took me over 2 hours to pluck up the courage and step on to the dance floor. I kind of moved toward it in a way that suggested I knew exactly what I was doing when I didn't. But once I was on the dance floor it was as if 33 years just dropped away and I wasn't scared any more. YES, I was ultra-aware! YES, my radar was up high! YES, I was hyper-alert about messages people were giving out! YES, I was hyper-alert about my own body language.

But that didn't stop me dancing. 

It just meant I knew where my boundaries were and if someone got anywhere near them then I would have a sudden urge to go the toilet and try to climb out the window. 

But that didn't happen. 

I was terrified someone might hit on me and knew if someone did part of me would like it, but the larger part of me would find it terrifying and feel like running away. 

But, thankfully that didn't happen either!

Oh, and guess what?

I enjoyed it.
I enjoyed being on the dance floor.
I did my thing and wasn't too bothered what anyone else thought.
I kept myself safe.
I had fun.
I didn't feel embarrassed or self conscious after a while, after all everyone was doing their own thing!
I felt good about what I did and how I did it.
I felt so alive.

It was a huge achievement going dancing that night and I want to do it again when the next opportunity comes along.

I am so proud of myself for going dancing.

So why was going dancing such a big deal?

Erm, well, where do I start?

Throughout my life whenever anyone has mentioned "dancing" to me I feel a wave of immense shame and embarrassment roll through me. I've never understood why and not really thought what it was about. I didn't want to go there because it was something which made me feel really horrible

So, what's the why's of it?


There were the talent shows I was forced to take part in between the age of approximately 6+9. There were those horrible mini frilly dresses that left nothing to the imagination which I just hated being forced into. And there was the being beaten for not wanting to wear the hated frilly dresses. 

I have an image of me, a pudgy little girl in frilly dresses, sometimes white or yellow or orange or red, my pudgy little arms and legs and my white knickers on show to everyone. 

Then there was that horrible exposed feeling of being forced, pushed on to the big stage with loads of people, mostly men goggling at me and judging me. I just wanted to run away but had to stay there, sing and dance around the stage smiling when all I wanted to do was curl up in the corner and cry. There were so many people who'd reach out up to me and touch my cheeks and say "haven't you got lovely dimples". I wanted to say "no, I haven't", pull my tongue out at them, tell them to go away and run away to a place I could never be found. Instead I had to smile sweetly-sick smiles and allow horrible unwanted touch which felt like such an invasion, and agree that my hated dimples were lovely. I knew I'd only get beaten more for making a fuss and not letting it happen.

There were school discos too. At the end of every school year at Grammar School. Most of my friends were paired off. I wasn't and didn't want to be. I was laughed at for being single and not wanting to be with a boy. I was called many names. Then when I did make it on to the hated dance floor I was laughed at, told I didn't know how to dance, had no sense of rhythm, was clumsy and unco-ordinated. I felt embarrassed, self-conscious and ashamed of my inability to do what everyone else was doing as well as they were doing it. So I went and hid in the toilets for the rest of the disco.

So for me to choose to go somewhere where there was going to be dancing was massive. 

For me to also decide that I was going to be part of the dancing was ginormous. 

For me to actually go and do what I'd made my mind up to do was humongous. 

For me to do it, enjoy it and feel good about what I was wearing, to feel good about my conversation and about my body language was seismic. 

For me to come away from it feeling so good about it and about myself, well, it's deeply astounding and a HUGE step forward for me.

For me to come away and want to do it again is amazing!!

So that's the story of how I went dancing last week and I am so very proud of myself, prouder than there are words for!

It was and is exhilarating! 

To feel so good about myself! 
To feel so good about my body! I'd never have thought it possible!
To feel so good about how I handled myself and the situation! 

Well, what further can I say, I run out of words.

BUT I'm so glad I took the risk and went! It was a huge accomplishment. And a massive step forward for me!




Monday, 28 April 2014

AN UPDATE

I had a knee operation on 1st April and have been recovering during the last four weeks. I'm  just beginning to get back towards normal routine so I thought it was time for an update.

The last month has been an emotional rollercoaster. Some of the stuff that's been challenging for me include being really poorly in reaction to the anaesthetic; taking longer to physically recover than expected; having to cope with nursing care in my flat; coping with not being able to do stuff for myself, including the most basic things; getting news that my CPN is not returning to work after long term absence; my therapist being off sick for 2 months following surgery; working with a temporary therapist in the interim; my therapy being threatened by changes to local mental health team; missing swimming; missing playing pool + all the things that contribute to my everyday wellbeing.

The knee was a partial success in that the knee has been cleaned up and is moving a lot easier. However, the operation revealed underlying osteoarthritis in the knee which wasn't such welcome news and has long term implications.

It's good to be starting to get back to "normal" now and to be finding emotional and psychological energy I've not had since before the op!

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

PLAYING POOL

I've been playing pool once a week in a local sports bar for a couple of years now and have made huge strides forward in how I cope with the social aspects of it. I look forward to going now and really miss it when I can't make it. That is huge progress from being terrified about it to enjoying it. It began as something I wanted to do but which also terrified me. Being woman alone in a bar is very daunting. Also, playing a sport which is very much a man's domain was also daunting. It was terrifying all round!! But I've stuck with it and it's now become a really important and enjoyable part of my week.

Last week I had cause to enjoy it even more than usual.

I was coming to the end of my practise time when 2 men came in to the bar and began playing pool on the table next to mine. After about 15 minutes one of them challenged me to play him for money. I declined asserting that I never play for money just for pure love of the game. He then agreed to play me on those terms. His mate said he'd play whoever won.

Well I beat the 1st guy hands down, I played him off the table. He said "I can't believe I just got beat by a woman".  So I went on to play his mate. It came down to the last ball on the table and it was 50-50 who would win. 

He won in the end but said "he couldn't believe how close he'd come to getting beat by a woman" and asked me how I'd learned to play like that.

I told him how I started out in snooker 25 plus years ago and only came to pool 3 years ago. How I bought a 4-foot table for myself 2 years ago, play snooker and pool most days and that I go down the sports bar once a week to play on a full size table.

He was like "respect", put it there, as he shook my hand in disbelief that a woman could play the game so well and take on the men in an even game in the way I did.

I nonchalantly said "well, erm, women can play pool you know".

He said to me "if ever we're in here again and you are here we will play you again for sure, you are good."

There was so much respect coming from thay guy towards me it was breathtaking and very healing to feel so much respect as a woman from a man.

All the while his mate kept saying "I can't believe how close both of us came to being beat by a woman."

Inside I chuckled to myself. I packed up my cue and walked out the bar feeling 12 foot tall!!


Saturday, 8 March 2014

THERAPY UPDATE

My therapist had an operation this week and I won't be seeing her until mid-April.

Throughout January and February in the lead up to her operation and sick-leave I did some very deep work in counselling and therapy. 

There was a lot of abandonment and rejection stuff kicked up which goes back to my tiniest age. I realised that there are many levels of abandonment and rejection in my life and it isn't just about being beaten up and left for dead in the snow by my parents. There were so many different abandonments and rejections throughout my childhood that it's amazing I can function at all.

It was good to be able to sit with my therapist and admit to my struggles with it all. It was very healing to sit her and say that I was not ok with it happening and to be heard, understood and NOT put down.

After my last session with her which was very tough there was a switch inside from anticipating and dreading to accepting it had happened and focusing on battening down the hatches.

Last week I had my first session with my interim therapist. It was hard work. It was very much a "getting to know you session". I still have no idea what work I'm going to do with her but at least I do feel I can work with her.

It helped when she was able to tell me my therapist had come through the operation ok. I feel much more relaxed about her now, knowing it's a question of time and recovery.

None of this has been either easy or comfortable. It's been very hard and very uncomfortable. But also, the first time in my life I have not run away from the uncomfortable strong feelings and fears but have faced them head-on. And that is progress, although very painful, difficult progress!

At the same time I am coping with my CPN being absent from work, since late January with no alternate provision. I'm finding that very hard. I'm hoping she will return to work on 3rd April. She was supposed to be back 3rd March then it got pushed back another month,

It's the not-knowing what is going on and the powerlessness of the situation which feels very tough and difficult to cope with!

MY BIRTHDAY

I approached my birthday this year in February in a totally different way from I have in the past. 

Instead of treating it as a special day which had to be treated differently and coming up against all the stuff from childhood about it I decided to treat it as a normal day but do something different for lunch. And it worked, it worked really well and I felt very different. I had a special lunch at Bella Italia. I dressed smart casual in a shirt and jacket with my jeans and I felt a million dollars.

Throughout the week my birthday was in I fed on the memories of my birthday in Bavaria last year. The memories of people, places, interactions and experiences are very special to me. I felt the sparkle in my eyes and the light it brought to my inner places those memories create.

It's wonderful to have all those memories. And it's fantastic for me to be able to decide to do things slightly differently and wow, what a difference it made.

And then, I had another surprise when a friend invited me to have a birthday dinner with her family the following week. I felt very special eating roast chicken dinner and then when she presented me with a birthday cake with lit candles and a knife I was blown away. It was very precious to me!!

Monday, 3 February 2014

WHAT I FELT 28 YEARS AGO

I wrote the following words on the eve of the 28th anniversary in immense physical and emotional pain. Two days later I experienced a huge release as I spoke them to my therapist.

This is how I felt and what I thought as a 19 year old beat up and abandoned in the snow, left for dead by my parents.

"I didn't want to be alive. I was shattered. I was bewildered. I felt empty and lost. I didn't know what to make of what had happened. I couldn't take it in. I didn't know how on earth I was going to have any kind of life. The pain, the aloneness, the uncertainty, the abandonment, the despair, the shock, the loss - all blew my life apart. All I wanted to be was safe. That was all that mattered now. I was in immense shock, deeply traumatised, battered and bruised. I hoped I'd wake up from the nightmare BUT I was living it - and it was appalling!"

THE 28TH ANNIVERSARY

It was the 28th Anniversary on 28th Jan of the day, or rather, evening, I was beaten up and left for dead in the snow by my parents.

It's always a very tough anniversary but this year it was very tough. There was something very significant about the combination of the number 28. Also the trauma has gradually been getting closer to the surface as I've been working in counselling and therapy in a very reflective way for the last few months getting closer and closer to what actually happened and how it actually felt.

The three weeks leading up to the anniversary were very hard with a huge increase in migraines, nightmares, panic attacks and trauma responses which got worse as the anniversary approached. I also began to experience body memories as I've not experienced them before. 

I could actually feel the kicking my back and backside took back in 1986. Lying in bed I could feel the kicks and feel how my back felt those kicks. It was as if I was getting the beating and the kicking all over. I could feel the kicks, the pain and the bruising. It was very powerful and the pain I experienced over that weekend before the anniversary was extreme. I also found it very hard to sit down for several days. 

The body memories brought stuff to the surface in such a real and raw way that I had to work in a very raw, real, honest and deep way both in counselling and therapy. I've gained deeper understanding of myself and deeper respect for my body through it all!

I've always said that it's always felt like a part of me was still frozen in the snow and frozen in the horror of what happened. As a result of all the work I had to do from the body memories that part of me no longer feels frozen. It's as if I allowed her to revisit the trauma from a safe place and process it in a way she hadn't been able to do before. 

It is a relief to now be in February. I've gotten through a very tough January. I hope that the work I have done throughout the lead up to, during and following the anniversary means that in future it will not be so bad.


Friday, 31 January 2014

CHRISTMAS 2013 TO NEW YEAR

I had a very enjoyable Christmas in a surprisingly mild Austria. I got plenty of snow in the mountains to make up for the lack of it at valley level!

The holiday was very gentle and a mix of the familiar and the new which worked raelly well and helped me with the emotional stresses of that time of year.

Most of my travelling companions were really sociable, friendly and unobtrusive in conversation and I could see changes in how I communicate with people I don't know.  I was aware of increased confidence in my decision making around communicating and dealing with social situations.

I had a fab time enjoying the Christmas markets in Salzburg and coping well with the busy crowds around me. When in the mountains the weather was perfectly sunny giving breathtaking views which gave me wonderful opportunities for photography.

All in all it went very well and I noted changes in how I coped with social and other situations which cause me stress. I realised how much more accepting I am of myself and how I process events around me and could see much progress.

Returning home from the holiday felt very different to how it has in the past. It made a huge difference to me to know that I would be seeing my counsellor on New Year's Eve.  It made a massive difference to me and so I was more relaxed. Having that appointment enabled me to be able to work on some of the difficulties I have negotiating the period between Christmas and New Year.

The counselling appointment helped me reflect on my progress and what I would like to happen in my life during the coming year.

All that enabled me to negotiate that tough time of year more easily than in the past and I feel encouraged by that!

Saturday, 21 December 2013

IT MATTERS COS I MATTER

The last couple of months have been very busy and very hard at times. It's always a tough time of year with lots of difficult dates, memories and body memories, There have been some very hard deep counselling and therapy sessions.

There have also been some very helpful sessions reflecting on the progress I've made. We can all see changes in my thought processes, confidence and reactions.

It's taken a lot of hard work and there is much hard work ahead, But it is fab to pause and recognise how much has changed - it gives me hope for the future.

As I type this I'm mindful of the fact that I leave for my trip to Austria tomorrow for Christmas. I'm REALLY looking forward to Christmas and that is NEW for me!!!

And I have plans in place for New Year. I have those plans in place because of a conversation I had with my CPN. We were discussing New Year and issues around it and I heard myself say "it matters because I matter". We both stopped and looked at each other realising I had just said something massive. It's the first time in my life I've said or thought anything like that about myself and that is MASSIVE!!

I will also be seeing my counsellor on New Year's Eve and that takes enormous pressure of coming home and finding a way to get through New Year.

Things are changing for me and it does me so much good to reflect on those changes as well as acknowledging what sheer hard work and determination have brought them about!!

Sunday, 20 October 2013

MINDFULNESS

I've been introduced to Mindfulness during the last couple of months or so.

Some of it I've not been able to get my head around at all. I particularly find the Mindfulness Bodt Scan very hard to engage with.

But I have found some other aspects of Mindfulness very helpful and useful.

I have a Tibetan Bell app on my tablet PC. It is set to ring every half hour. When it rings it reminds me to breahte deeply for a few seconds. That manages to centre and calm me immensely. Mindful breathing when feeling stressed gives me space to calm and gives me some respite too!!

Being mindful in my activities also helps interrupt the trauma processes in my brain. It has helped me notice my environment more and interact with it in ways which distract and calm too. Noticing things such as squirrels or interacting with dogs in the park has enabled me to begin to enjoy and be less afraid of what is going on around me.

I also love being mindful as I swim. Feeling how my body moves through the water helps me create a safe space for myself as I swim and helps me keep calm.

To start with I put myself under a lot of pressure to regularly do mindful breathing exercises which was counter productive.

I've gradually relaxed with it over time and am now happy to do it when it crosses my mind to do so and enjoy the moments of respite it gives me. I'be found that works a lot better for me!