A rose by any other name

It’s such shit that the CMHT refuse to see me. The Crisis Team refuse to work with me. Well, fuck all of them! I’m stronger without their bullshit ‘take this pill and you’ll get better in six weeks and if you don’t get better then it’s bye bye, we can’t help you.’

My mental illness doesn’t work like that. It’s chronic, yes, but I have very bad acute episodes sometimes, episodes that need TREATING, not DISMISSING. I deserve respect, my illness deserves respect. To them, I’m a hanger-on, a problem statistic that needs clearing off their books.

So what if I have BPD? That’s just a stupid label that dehumanises and devalues me. That makes me feel worthless and invalidated because of the way (most) mental health professionals treat it. I am more than that.

The private psychiatrist doesn’t want to diagnose my mood swings, but says that I have an ‘element of Bipolaity.’ She says I definitely have an ’emotionally unstable personality type’. Whatever the fuck is wrong with me I DON’T CARE! I am through with labels. I am through from boxes.

I am through with being reduced to nothing but my illness. I am through with being judged. I am through of being treated like shit. EUPD, Eating Disorder, Bipolar, Depression, PTSD, OCD, Anxiety… What the fuck does it matter which one they write on their letters, on their files.

I am a HUMAN BEING who HURTS. I have been through HELL. I have SUFFERED. But y’know what? I HAVE SURVIVED. I am becoming a NEW PERSON. I will never forget the old me, the little girl that was afraid, the teenager that was assaulted, the girl that cried and cut and burnt and puked and starved and tried to kill herself. She is still a part of me but she no longer CONSUMES me.

I am worth more than their names, more than my past, more that my mental illness. I am finding my own way through this, accessing all the alternative treatment/support I can. The NHS is through with me but I’M NOT THROUGH WITH ME.

I’m committed to my recovery. I am determined to make the most of my life. Sure, I’ll never be ‘normal’, but I don’t have to constantly suffer, I can level out. I can achieve and strife and succeed. My mental illness is for life, but my life is not my mental illness.

A rose by any other name

When I was seventeen, a group of friends (including my ex boyfriend)
wnet out for drinks. We always went out for drinking picnics in the
park and it was the summer holidays.We drank all day and late
afternoon he offered to take me and a friend back to one of this
friend’s houses. I agreed.
The whole day he can been trying to get me alone, to kiss me, but it
wasn’t the first time he’d been like that towards me and I thought I
could handle it. Usually, I wemt home by myself or with a friend but
this night me and my friend went back to this other place with him.
We were all drunk and we carried on drinking, and he carried on trying
to get me alone and corner me. One of the times I got away from him,
my sleeve rolled back and he saw my self-harm scars/ He totally lost
it, swearing and shouting in my face, demanding why, he was so drunk
and so angry and I was afraid. He grabbed me by the wrist and dragged
me back into the kitchen where everyone else was, a room full of
strangers, and he asked them all the feel my scars and tell me I was
stupid.  It made me feel sick.
I didn’t want to be around anyone after that, so I took myself off
into one of the bedrooms and lied down on the floor without turning
the light on. I think there were sleeping bags on the floor and I
found something to sleep on. I hadn’t brought anything to change into
so I slept in my clothes, black cargos and one of those ‘goth’ shirts
with offensive words on, bitch slut whore etc. I don’t know why I
decided to wear it. Obviously, I was asking for it. Offering it.
I can still hear the others in the kitchen as I fall asleep. I realise
suddenly that I don’t know where I am. The house, The street, Even the
town. I start to feel stranded and trapped. I want to go home but I
can’t so I have to stay there.
I’d been asleep and the sound of someone else coming into the room
wakes me up. I turn and in the light I see it’s him. I close my eyes
and turn back to sleep. He comes over to me and shakes me awake. He
starts whispering into my ear. He’s incredibly drunk and stinks of
vodka. I still feel drunk myself and I’m still upset from earlier and
I just want to sleep.
He kneels down next to my face and tries to kiss me. I turn away
again. He starts to touch me on top of my clothes and I know he wants
to have sex with me so I turn and tell him ‘I don’t want sex with
you’. I can hear him taking his clothes off, he’s pissed and clumsy
and tells me he can’t get it up but that it’s okay because we can do
other things. I tell him again to leave me alone.
My clothes are too big for me and he pulls them down easily, I hardly
notice feeling colder, but then I feel his hands inside me and asks
#do you like that’ I don’t speak. I just try to move away. But I don’t
know what to do. He’s somehow paralysed me with fear. I feel his hands
again, his mouth, the smell of vodka. I will myself to pass out and
shut off. The room is in darkness and yet it is topo light. I forget
what’s real and what’s not. Like being in a nightmare that you can’t
wake up from or act out.  I feel him on stop of me and the rest is
darkness. I am stuck there, frozen. I could have pushed him off but I
didn’t./ I could have screamed and shouted byt I didn’t. I could have
locked the door bit I didn’t.
He got off me, rearranged my clothes and left without saying anything.
I went to sleep and when I woke up I found the others around him,
kicking him because he wouldn’t wake. His sister started to yell at
me, telling me it was my fault he was so drunk. I found the friend I
came with and who’s dad could give us a lift home. My body hurt, I was
in pain, I tried to block it all out but my body hurt despite it.
Everything felt like a dream, a blur, strange, and that hasn’t changed
till this day. I still feel that dreamy disconnection with the world.
When I arrived home, I showered and my mum said she could smell vodka
on me. I smelt of him. I went to my own bed and slept for days.
I put it down to a drunken mistake. My own fault more than his. And
then I got a voicemail on my phone from him where he said he was sorry
and couldn’t live with what he’d done and was going to kill himself. I
thought it was my fault. I couldn’t do anything. He stopped answering
calls. A year later, he sent me an email that said he’d moved on with
his life and that the past was in the past. I’d been blaming myself
thinking he’s killed himself, I’d been blaming myself about what he
did to me and Ihated myself. It was all my fault.

I Am Just Me

I should be surrounded by candles and soft music but I’m not and have I no intention to be. I’m doing what I always do, watching a favourite TV show that makes me smile and drinking a cup of tea. The light is bright because I don’t want to sit in the dark. I don’t need to sit in the dark anymore. I’ve sat in the dark for a long, long time and it’s suffocating, it’s toxic and consuming. I have no reason to sit in the dark about this. I have nothing to hide there. I have nothing to shy away from. I have nothing to bury.
So, let’s get this out of the way right now; I was raped. Whoa, hang on a second, I know I should be a little less blunt but it’s only a word and the word doesn’t scare me anymore, it shouldn’t scare you to read it. It’s a fact and I can’t change it. It’s a fact for millions of other people. Not saying rape doesn’t stop people being raped so why not take some of the power back from that word. Why not stop using it to scare and subdue? Why not stop using it to oppress those who have already be oppressed by the actions of another human being.  I am not proud of it, but I have absolutely no reason to be ashamed of it.
For the longest time, I wouldn’t use the word, but that didn’t change a fucking thing about what had happened and instead I was locked up tighter than ever, scared to say the wrong thing, to name the wrong thing. What does rape mean, then? It’s pretty simple, despite the legalities of the word and its subsequent punishments throughout the world, on a human and emotional level it all means the same thing – if you have (any kind of) sex, under (any influence of alcohol or drugs, perceived or actual threat) by anyone you don’t want then it is rape. That’s all the word means. You had sexual contact with someone you didn’t want to have sexual contact with. Pretty simple, right?
For years I tore myself apart over the word, I analyzed it constantly, I checked legal dictionary against English dictionary, story against story, myth after myth and fact after fact. Many years later, I am able to say it – I was raped.

But what does it really mean? What does it really mean to me? On the one hand, quite a lot, on the other hand, not very much.
I was already seventeen and fucked up. I already had an eating disorder and I already ‘dabbled’ in self-harming. I was depressed and drank too much. Did it change any of that? No. Did it make any of that worse? Yes. Would I have still been so mentally ill if I’d never been raped? I think so. I had always hated my body; this was just another reason to attack it. I had already harmed by body, this was just another reason to keep doing it. I was already sad, it just made me sadder.

The things it did change didn’t change for a long time; it was years before I had identifiable ‘symptoms’ of any kind of post-traumatic stress disorder. I didn’t have an obvious mental breakdown as a result of it, although I am sure that it what people expect. For the most part, I lived my life with mental illness, and it was hard, but the rape wasn’t something I connected to and it wasn’t something that day to day upset me so much.

When it did finally hit me, it was ugly and horrific and I was very, very ill for a few years. I was in hospitals, in psych wards, in emergency departments, I did the ‘crazy rounds’ and I lost myself in sickness. I became the girl in casualty that the doctors knew by name and then, when the internal storm broke through the numerous stitches in my arm, I became the girl who got raped.
I have had to break through that, though, and become myself again. It has been hard, and I don’t know if I am out of the other side yet.

I had to go back into the past and reclaim that night.  I had to go back and feel, and be there, and go through it again (and again and again) until I was finally able to say, ‘there is nothing I could have done differently and nothing I could have done to prevent it’. This was one of the hardest things, because I had a list of all the things I thought I could have changed if I’d only been ‘less stupid’ at the time. I have had to learn to say;

‘I cannot go back and make myself sober’ and eventually to say that it doesn’t matter if I was sober or not, being drunk does not make it okay or my fault, because everyone gets drunk (especially when they are seventeen) and yet not every drunk person gets raped. Therefore, the only thing I did wrong was to get drunk around a rapist, and how the Hell do you know what a rapist is or looks like (because believe me, they do not look like the monsters you see on television and glaring from newspapers)

I have had to learn to say;

‘I cannot go back and lock the bedroom door’ because most people don’t have locks and their bedroom doors and they definitely don’t expect to be in trouble in a house surrounded by people they know. Locking the door would have made no difference because if someone had knocked, I would have opened it anyway, and then I’d be sitting here writing exactly the same thing about how I should have known not to open the door.

Have you noticed the circles yet? All your thoughts become circles, endless cycles of ‘I should have’ or ‘I shouldn’t have’. You get so tired of the sound of your own voice in your head constantly arguing and yelling, and sometimes other people are yelling at you, out of newspapers or films, and your head is comparing and feeling guilty and vile and disgusting and like you will never have a day free from it for the rest of your life.

That is all bullshit.

I have had to learn to say, quietly, then louder, and then louder again – IT WAS NOT MY FAULT. I have had to learn to not just say it, but to mean it and believe it with every bone in my body and it rips away at your skin and it can be a constant fight for power between affirmation and self-blame and it is exhausting but you have to keep at it, you have to keep saying – IT WAS NOT MY FAULT.

Ever since I started to reclaim that night, ever since I have started to be kinder to myself, to accept that I wasn’t perfect, but that it was still the responsibility and choice of another person to rape me, ever since I accepted my faults that night and forgave myself in spite of them, I have regained the power that I thought I lost. The power in the words I chose to talk about it with, the power of blaming another for their own actions, and not hating yourself for your own, and above all else, the power to say, this happened to me, and it was awful, and my life was shit for a long time because of it BUT I am NOT what HAPPENED to me, I am not the girl who got raped, or a victim of rape or even a survivor of it.

I am just me.

I Am Just Me

To My Younger Self

Dear 17 year old me,

I know that you want to hate yourself for what happened. I know that blaming yourself is easier than facing up to the fact that you were powerless and not in control. I know that you think that you caused all of his problems, that he wouldn’t have ended up being the person that he was without you but it’s not true. You can’t turn someone into an alcoholic. He bought your drinks. He encouraged you to be like him.

I know that you think that there are things you could have done that night to prevent what happened, but you can’t go back and change what you didn’t do, you can’t go back and make yourself sober, you can’t go back and lock the door, you can’t go back and make yourself less vulberable. You couldn’t have predicted what was going to happen and you can’t beat yourself up because of that.

You were really unwell. You existed on booze. You were physically and emotionally weak. That doesn’t mean that you were to blame, either. It’s not your fault that you were sick and that by being sick you maybe weren’t able to protect yourself as much as someone who was well. Maybe if you were in the same position now things would be different but you can’t live your life thinking of what might have been. You can only be who you were at the time and being sick isn’t an excuse for someone to hurt you.

Rape can happen to anyone, anywhere. It doesn’t matter if you know the attacker or not. Did you know that most victimes know their attacker beforehand? Being friends with someone, even being their ex-girlfriend, doesn’t make any difference. It can happen at night or in the middle of the day. It can happen in a park or a car. It can happen in your own house. It can happen in your friend’s house.

What happened to you was real and you’re allowed to be upset about it, you’re even allowed to be angry about it, you’re allowed to hate him, you’re allowed to be scared, you’re allowed to forgive yourself for all the thing you did or didn’t do, you’re allowed to speak out.

Someone told me once that keeping this stuff inside was infectious, that it poisoned you, and that it would eventually leak out. You can’t put the lid back on the can. You can’t run away from it just because it’s painful.

It’s time to stop blaming yourself. No-one is going to tell you to forgive and forget but if you talk to someone about it then maybe you can start to make some sense of it all and try to move on but you have to give talking about it a shot. Do you really think that it will make you feel worse than you do already? The only way is up.

I know that you feel guilty. That you feel that what happened wasn’t ‘that serious’ and that you’re making things up but think about it, why would you do that? Why would you be hurting over something that didn’t happen? The question isn’t was it real, because it’s real to you, the question is what you do about it.

The only person that is going to call you a liar is you.

It’s time to stop blaming yourself. You don’t have to be a victim. You can be a survivor.

It won’t hurt this much forever.

To My Younger Self

Habeas corpus

I’ve been going to the crisis centre for about two months. The first session we had was one of the hardest hours of my life, as I went into the details of who and where and when. I thought that I’d got the hardest part out of the way but I was wrong. For the last couple of weeks we’ve started to talk through how I felt at the time I was raped, instead of the ‘what happened’ it’s now ‘how did that feel’ and that is so much harder to work through. I have dissociated myself from those feelings for so many years and through so many self-destructions. It’s hard for me to remember how I felt. So, what did I feel? Confusion mainly, I didn’t understand what was happening, I didn’t understand why saying ‘no’ to someone would be ignored. I felt powerless, hopeless, you grow up believing that you inhabit your body, that it’s a space you truly own, and that gets harshly shattered when someone else inhabits your space, without you wanting them there, when they are invading you (physically) and hurting you. I felt a loss of control and I felt scared, so fucking scared. I told my counsellor that I felt too scared to move or scream or fight back, which had bothered me for a long time, but she reassured me that that’s okay and normal to be ‘paralysed’  and that not doing anything doesn’t mean it was my fault. We’re working on guilt, she wants me to get past my guilt, past my self blame. She says ‘it happens’, she says ‘it wasn’t your fault’, and I listen to her and try to believe her. I think I’m nearer the point of completely letting go of my guilt and shame than I’ve ever been before and while that would be wonderful, it would be completely terrifying. I’ve carried this with me for over a decade and it’s familiar, it’s almost ‘easier’, but I am determined to keep talking, keep changing my perceptions, to challenge myself. I had a realisation a few days ago; I lived before this and I can live beyond it. I can grow. I can be a better person because of it. It can make me better because of it. I’m discovering new ways of grounding myself, without anyone specifically telling me what to do. I am handling triggers much better. The flashbacks can still be awful but their intensity has lessened. I still dissociate a lot, *a lot*, but during my last session, even though it was painful, I didn’t dissociate, I hooked myself to the sleeve of reality. I am discovering I can make my own choices. I am discovering what feels right for me and learning to let go of what doesn’t. Rape is a complete loss of power and control, but when we take back that control and articulate ourselves to others who want to help us heal, when we shed even the thinnest layer of damaged skin, we take back some of that power. With the help of my counsellor, and my own late night reflections, I am, slowly, jaggedly, blindly taking back a bit of that power.

Habeas corpus

I’m not trying hard enough. I could do more. Yet, at the same time, I’m completely exhausted from trying a little bit and I don’t know how to push myself any further. I seem to be in a constant state of needing distraction. I can’t put my phone down. I’m plagued with thoughts of ‘it was your fault’ and ‘you’re making it up’ regarding the rapes and therapy isn’t helping me process those feelings. I’m turning to food as a comfort but that’s just making me fatter. I just feel so isolated and stranded and lost. All these horrible memories and images are flooding my brain and I can’t process them. I don’t know how to bring it up in my therapy sessions but I’m going to have to find a way. I’m coping, in the sense that I’m not using behaviours and I’m functioning (albeit at a low level compared to ‘normal’ people, but at a good level for me) but my thoughts are just so negative and intense. I know, rationally and logically, that being raped was *not* my fault. But emotionally I can’t make the same conclusion. I didn’t fight back. I wore a shirt with the word slut on. I didn’t scream. I just fucking lay there and let him get on with it. I know I said to him ‘I don’t want sex with you’ . I said that. Clearly. I can remember it. Vividly. The main memory I struggle with is him going down on me and asking me if I liked it. It makes my skin crawl. It makes me want to tear my skin off. But did I like it? Did I *enjoy* it, physically? Emotionally, no, I hated it and wanted to die but physically I’m not so sure. I hear him, as clear as I can hear a television, saying that to me. I’m nearly throwing up just writing this. I just want rid of these intense memories, these flashbacks where I’m back there and it’s happening all over again, the sick feeling when anyone talks about sex in front of me, the outright terror when a strange man innocently touches me. I want to be able to deal with my triggers without throwing up over myself. I want to be able to deal with the scary, big wide world. I don’t want to be frightened anymore. I want to feel like I’ve SURVIVED those awful nights. To not doubt and blame myself. To live without shame. Why should I feel ashamed? Why should I direct my anger at myself instead of at the fucking rapists. They’re the ones that deserve my rage, not me. I was innocent. So why can’t I believe it with my whole heart and soul? Why am I stuck in denial and self blame? From now on, I’m going to cut myself some slack. Accept that what happened, happened. Stop blaming myself. Stop doubting my own feelings and memories. I’ve taken so many positive steps recently and I just need to keep going with them. Keep walking this road. Let go of the feelings that plague me. Push through it. Stay strong. I can do this and I *will* be okay. Maybe not every day, but most days, I will be okay.

A design for life

When you’re sick and/or disabled every single day is a hurdle you have to jump over just to get to the next hurdle. Welfare is meant, at it’s most basic level, to protect us from poverty. It is for food, warmth and shelter. Ideally, It is also meant to make our life easier. To pay for the medication that we need to take in order to stay alive. To pay for the extra care we need. To help us fund multiple hospital visits. To give mobility to those of us that are able to drive, and to pay for taxi’s/trains for those of us who can’t.

This government wants to demolish this financially support, and with it our independence, health and dignity.

Being poor is not a choice. Being too ill or disabled to work is not a choice. Having to have antipsychotics injected into my arse regularly is NOT A CHOICE. It is not a lifestyle choice, easy way to get out of having to work. People think we don’t work for our benefits but that’s a lie, we fucking work our arses to the bone. We work like Hell not to commit suicide on a weekly basis. We work like Hell to get out of bed every day. We work like Hell to bathe regularly. We work like Hell to eat regularly. We work like Hell to fight off our paranoia and delusions. We work like Hell in therapy, going into every detail of our rape/domestic violence/abusive childhood. Sometimes we have to PAY for that therapy, because whilst all this is happening, the NHS is also being dismantled. We work like Hell to survive. I’m sorry I can’t hold down a job, Dave, I’m just too busy trying not to kill myself.

The government wants us to work or die, without giving a flying fuck which way we go. We can sign petitions but we need your help, we need the voice of all humanity (if it still exists) to say this isn’t fair. To strike back even if it doesn’t effect you. We need you to shout for us, to shout with us, because we are fucking drowning,

A design for life