Monday, 28 October 2013

Silence of the victim.....

When rape escape shames survivors....

A piece ran in the Daily Mail today about a woman who fought off a would be rapist. Good for her I thought, glad she was able to. But the taste soured in my mouth when I read that she encourages all women to fight back against their attackers.

How does a 3 year old girl fight off a 6'1 man she calls Daddy?
How does an 8 year old girl fight off the men she has been sold too?
How does a 15 year old girl fight off a man with a knife to her throat?
How does a 26 year old woman fight off a man who threatens to kill everyone she holds dear?
How does any woman who freezes fight off their attacker?

"If you didn't fight back, it's not your fault" - my therapist must say that to me at least once a session. "

Some other important things to note:
"It's still rape if you didn't fight back".
"It's still rape if your body responds to what happens"
"It's still rape if you said no and he carried on"
"It's still rape if you couldn't say anything"

Victim blaming is rife in society at the moment. The media takes a sensationalist view of historical abuse, publishing pictures and videos of the "celebrity" abusers with no thought for how that affects survivors. It takes a morbid delight in shouting about "false rape" claims. All sorts of deluded figures who try to define rape. And all that does is silence us all over again.

Help us speak out, help us find our voices. I applaud you for getting away. I detest you for trapping others in the silent prison.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Walking on.

My life is changing at the speed of light. Blink and another change. I've spent a month temping in the most amazing office. I've laughed more than I have in a very long time. I've made friends more easily than I ever have, they've totally accepted me for who I am and been just thoroughly lovely. They were thrilled for me when I announced I got my permanent job, which I start a week on Monday. I am really going to miss them.

I've started a Uni course, that runs all day on a Saturday. More new people, there are 8 of us including me on the course and we are just getting to know each other. Closer to a couple of them which is nice. Being open and just myself. 

Note the theme? I'm not trying too hard, or changing who I am to try to make people like me or to be what they want me to be. I am not sitting there conscious of my labels and what are they thinking and will they like me and what if, what if, what if. 

But the questions I keep coming back to are, who am I and is who am I ok to be? Having had some interviews  recently I have faced the question - tell me about yourself. On my old blog I wrote a piece about me and my labels. But I don't know which of those apply anymore. I will always be a survivor. I will always have to manage PTSD. I will always be a teacher, whether I'm teaching or not. Who I am in the moment is more fluid. Acceptance and love and really important to me and I've searched for it all of my adult life. Love me, love my labels. However, I've felt the need to hide behind a mask, a persona that was never really me and it was miserable. I was so scared of being abandoned, even by people who've used me and abused me, because being alone is the most frightening thing and yet paradoxically it's the only time I feel safe. I have as little alone time at the moment that I've ever had and it's hard. I'm feeling under pressure and typically that is when it all starts to fall apart. I'm not always very good at recognising impending meltdown. Sometimes it happens very quickly and I am aware that this many new things is a possible stumble. I am excited and nervous and I keep telling myself anyone would be, but when you have mental health issues you can't afford to be complacent. This has been one of the toughest years of my life. I cannot go back to the pit of darkness that I lived in this year. So I am wary but also happy. It's a see-saw.

Stick with me as I move forward please? I need all of you to be real with and for you to be honest with me and give me a kick and a cuddle when I need them. I trust you and I need you.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Ch ch ch changes

Truth be told, I am someone who fears change. Even good change. It's a scary place, the unknown. A place where people and things and words and situations may not be all that they seem. A place where I am not in control. A place where anything could happen and it's not predictable.

Change is always a constant part of life. On a cellular level, the structure of the brain changes every time you learn something, a new connection is made in the neural network that makes up your conscious and unconscious thoughts and feelings. On a macro level, as we age things on and in our bodies deteriorate as we walk towards the inevitable. On a day to day level, no two days are ever exactly alike, no person is exactly the same from one day to the next. We are each a moving cog in a vast layout of moving, turning, sea of humanity.

We crave order, ritual, routine, patterns in a world where change is the only true constant. It's how we make sense of what is around us. Math is essentially sequences in different permutations. Chemistry is a repeating pattern of atoms that follow an order. Physics is waves and particles, behaving in an orderly fashion in the context they are in. The fundamentals of life are inherently ordered and yet our everyday experience is anything but. Simple things can affect the whole day, how many of you hunt your keys each morning, or snooze your alarm? How many of you run out of milk, forget to post a letter, get to work having forgotten something? Exchange words in texts, emails, face-to-face where subtle nuances change how you hear the words.

So we create structure. In diaries and calendars and planning. We feel safe with it. Yet when an environmental factor shifts a degree out of position, the whole whole thing can fall apart. We do the same things, on the same days, with the same people because there is safety in what we know. 

Familiarity breeds contempt, a failure to see, to notice, to act. So the little girl who comes to school each day and doesn't speak - she's just shy. The boy who hits others is just boisterous. The girl who answers back is just cheeky, the boy who goes to the bathroom immediately after he eats has a weak stomach. The young woman who doesn't make eye contact is rude, the man who snaps at everyone is authoritarian. But nobody sees what lies beneath. The truth, the reasons. If we change the question, the way we listen, everything would change. Who has the strength to stand up, be counted, speak out, be the change?

But if you do, everything changes. It takes a strength of epic proportions to risk everything you know, the people, places, things, words, on change. It's possible to avoid, but then misery builds, anger, frustration, apathy, resentment, bitterness. So which is the lesser of two evils? Change or no change?

Monday, 16 September 2013

One more step along the world I go.

The church is celebrating Succot this week, the feast of tabernacles. In Israel the Jewish people build booths outside to pray in. We do our own version in my church and it went up this weekend.

I was blown away, how has it been a year? My life a year ago was different on every level. I was off meds, teaching in a school. Today I'm taking two lots of meds and I'm temping in an office doing market research.

What a year. I have spent 6 months fighting the worst spell of PTSD of my life, quit teaching, started a counselling course, had 1:1 and group therapy of my own, joined an employment agency and have a job interview tomorrow.

High points? Making some fabulous, life long friends on Twitter, who have become a family. A rich, diverse wonderful group of people who have held my hand, walked with me, cried with me, held me up and not let me fall. Going deeper in relationships at church and being free to just be me there. Going deeper with Jesus and falling more in love with Him every day. Finding my voice when the world would try to shut me up. Going on an amazing retreat in Pembrokeshire. 

Low points, all dealings with the Crisis Team, I'm sure that some are great, mine weren't. Being continually harassed and stalked by people who just want to see me hurt. Having to submit to the PTSD and have time off work. Lying in dark depression and fighting to leave the house with anxiety. Retreating back into the world of mental illness and coping strategies and suicidal thoughts. Losing a dear friend in childbirth. 

Regrets? Not quitting teaching sooner. It has become something ugly and dark, where numbers matter more than children and the only way to advance in your career is to not care who you walk over on your way forward, and I just can't reconcile that.

Regrets? Not telling a few people exactly what I think of them to their faces. Not telling them to get out of my life and stay out. Because their continued presence, interference and in two cases stalking behaviour is not something I am prepared to put up with. They think they know me and can control me. People have been doing that my whole life.

My life looks and feels so different this September to last, and to the previous one as well. I am content. I wouldn't say happy, not completely yet, but the sun is peeping out from behind the clouds and I am hoping that it will shine long and bright and hot. It may not be forever summer, but to have sunny spells seemed unthinkable even a few weeks ago.

And I know that no matter what happens, I am not alone. That means more than anything this year. I have grieved the people who rejected me two years. I'm not sad, angry. I actually don't feel anything about them, it's like they've ceased to exist in my head. Thanks for the memories but no part of this year belongs to you.

So, what will the coming year hold?!