Monday, 3 June 2019

THE REALITY OF LIFE AFTER ABUSE | TW



Funny you’re the broken one

But I’m the only one who needed saving

Cuz when you never see the light

It’s hard to know which one of us is caving

Rihanna – Stay



After the popularity of my post; ‘THE REALITY OF LIVING WITH SELF-HARM SCARS | TW’ I thought I’d write a different post but with a similar theme because whilst I promote content being original and unique, I think that it’s also important to harness a success and use it to inspire future work.

So, here’s a few things that I, and some abuse survivors, go through following the abuse… 




First speaking up…

With the title of this post being ‘after’ I’ll start with the day it ‘ended’ - when I first told someone I’d been abused, and I was called a ‘manipulative liar.’ It’s difficult to explain this day because, for legal reasons, there are details I have to omit so as not to give away this person’s identity but what I can say is that my abuser put me in a position where I was almost forced to disclose what he’d been doing. It’s frustrating because I know he would only do that if he honestly thought that he would get away with it and that I wouldn’t be believed. Part of me has always wonders if he believed that because he had convinced himself that there was nothing wrong with what he had been doing to me. Another part of me thinks that he probably did know it was wrong and just didn’t care. And he didn’t believe the person I reported to would care either. My abuser was a very powerful and well-respected person who people looked up to and even in our public arguments about actual, appropriate things, he was defended. People took his side. And the fact it was for the most unimportant issues and completely trivial matters meant that my head was filled with doubt that anyone would believe he could be capable of abusing someone. Of abusing me. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when I was called a ‘manipulative liar’ but I must have had some hope that I’d be believed by – someone who seemed to be - the only person in a higher position of power than my abuser. By the time I reported it to this person the abuse had been going on for six months. 



Pretending it hasn’t happened…

I think that it took that long for my mind to catch up to my body and realize what had been happening to it. Then, when it finally did catch up; I was met with this response! It had been everything I’d worried it would be. If you ask one of my friends, they’ll tell you that I’m one of those people who always imagines the worst-case scenario but none of them know that this is when that started. I imagined that I’d tell someone, and I’d be judged and called a liar. And I was right. So that thinking has continued over the following twelve years. Having the worst-case scenario happen meant that I made the decision that I couldn’t tell anyone else. So, I held my tongue and used all my energy to convince myself it actually hadn’t happened at all. That way I wasn’t battling to cope with memories because I’d tell myself that if it hadn’t happened then the memories didn’t exist and that meant there was no need to have to cope with them. When all of the energy I used on pretending it hadn’t happened wore out, I didn’t have the energy to… to stay healthy. Mentally. So, it was kind of inevitable that the hallucinations would start and that after ten days they’d wear me down until I was so desperate for an escape that swallowing a handful of tablets seemed like it’d be my only relief. And even when I was sectioned under section 2 of the Mental Health Act, I refused to tell them what had happened to me. It didn’t become any easier; if that’s what you’re wondering. No matter how long I managed to not tell anyone; pretending there was nothing to tell didn’t come any easier.



Reporting it to the Police…

This wasn’t exactly my decision but that was probably for the best or it might never have happened. I had just been transferred to a PICU (Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit) and was sat in the fenced courtyard when one of the other women came out to smoke. I don’t even remember how the conversation began or even how it got to where it did, but she told me that she had also been abused as a child and seeing the bandages on her arms… well I decided that wouldn’t be me. I didn’t want to be sat here in my thirties, sectioned and self-harming! And then she told me that she had never reported her trauma to the Police and that whilst it felt like the only way to move forwards, it was too late for her to find the strength and ability to do it. I was determined that wouldn’t be me and I felt terrible for it because other people – important people - in my life had encouraged me to tell them what had happened but then one conversation with this lady and I had the courage to go along to the Ward Manager’s office and tell her “I was abused when I was younger.” She told me she was duty-bound to report it to the Police and the next thing I can remember was being told I had to go to the Police station to record a video interview as evidence in the case. Knowing who the person had been made things a bit easier (from the Police’s perspective) because it meant they knew exactly who to go and arrest and where to arrest him. You’d probably think that making their investigation easier would also make my life a little easier, but you’d be wrong! Knowing who this person is, is actually really hard; firstly, because I know who to punch(!), and secondly because I want to scream his name from the rooftops and have everyone know who they should be hating. I think that the hardest part of reporting the abuse to the Police was the questions. The language that had to be used and then one of the questions in particular… “Was there anything physical you can remember that would prove you saw what you saw?” The challenge with this was that I couldn’t remember the abuse as though I was me. I remember it from the ceiling. From a corner up high on the ceiling where it wasn’t really me it was happening to. So I ended up feeling bad about my memories being this way because it completely screwed up the legal investigation! It felt as though without him being punished for what he had done to me, I would constantly believe I should be punished for it, because if he wasn’t guilty then that must mean I was to blame. Luckily, the Police reassured me that just because they’d been unable to take the case to court, it didn’t mean that he wasn’t guilty. It hugely helped that the Police believed me, and it was actually… reassuring, almost, when they said that they were frustrated with CPS’s decision not to prosecute because they believed me. At the same time, this was also difficult because their inability to take him to court meant that he had the opportunity to do this to others – assuming I was the first person. Ultimately though, I don’t regret reporting the abuse to the Police; it has helped me to think that I have done all that I can to prevent this from happening to someone else.



Coping with the memories…

My dissociative memories of the abuse didn’t make them any easier to cope with. Initially, it was helpful that they gave me the ability to convince myself that it hadn’t happened to me, but my mind wouldn’t let it continue and after two years of secrets, the hallucinations and suicidal thoughts came. I guess that it’s one thing to accept what has happened when it happens; it’s another to not even have to begin to accept it until over two years after it. Having the memories and all of the horrifically scary thoughts and feelings that surrounded them in my head made it so claustrophobic that there was no room for any healthy or positive thoughts and feelings. It was like I no longer had a proper identity; that I was now ‘The Girl Who’d Been Abused’ and developing the conviction that that’s who I was made it all that more difficult to ‘cope.’ I mean, how can you cope with who you are?! But professionals taught me to be more than the abuse and more than someone who self-harms or who attempted suicide. More than his victim. Being told I could be a survivor was one thing, but it was another to try and get to that place when the memories was constantly flooding my mind. I think that professionals thought I was only struggling when I would self-harm or attempt suicide, but the memories were relentless, and they had little to no triggers so there was nothing I could do to avoid them haunting me. Feeling powerless massively triggered my self-harming; I think I thought that if I could harness some kind of control over the physical pain I experienced, then maybe I would learn how to use some of that control over the emotional pain the memories were causing me. It took a lengthy (two and a half years) hospital admission to really learn how to cope with the memories and ironically, coping in new, healthy ways meant developing triggers. I guess because you can’t get rid of memories; you can’t change what has happened, and just because I’d learnt how to cope with the constant flashbacks didn’t mean I could now escape them. Developing triggers wasn’t such a bad thing though because it meant that at least I now had a list – granted it was long(!) - of things I could avoid in order to control the memories.



Letting go of the anger…

I had so many things to be angry about that if I was to self-harm it would be a scratch but if I harnessed the anger when I cut… I’d need stitches. It was a powerful, powerful hatred that seared through every inch of my body. Ultimately, and initially, it was directed at ‘him’ - the person who abused me and I don’t think I need to explain myself on that one; my anger was for the most obvious of reasons. When the hallucinations and self-harm began, the anger grew because it became about hating him for causing all of this aftermath that I was now having to manage and live with. I do, however, think that a certain amount of anger towards him is healthy and completely normal/expected; it’s just about that anger being manageable and without it being a negative impact on my life. When I reported the abuse to the Police, I then had to battle the anger at those who had been around me at the time of the abuse. Those who hadn’t realized what was happening despite the signs. Those who had their suspicions but didn’t follow through. Those who – I believed – allowed it to take place. This was probably the hardest anger to cope with because it was the one which felt the most wrong. I knew that I shouldn’t blame anyone but him for the abuse but it’s difficult to see it that way when it’s actually happening to you. Before the Police though, I hadn’t realized people had been suspicious so that anger hadn’t been there and then I learnt that his colleagues had always wondered, and I felt sick with anger. Through talking to others who’d been around me then I learnt that those people were already punishing themselves enough feeling bad for not doing anything at the time or for not even realizing, that they didn’t need me to add to that blame. And learning healthy coping skills for my anger, led to me realizing that. The largest amount of anger was against me though. You know all of those stereotypical ‘she was wearing a short skirt’ or ‘she had lots of make-up on’? That kind of thing was going on in my head but ultimately none of this anger was doing any good. It was tearing me apart and then eating me alive. I had to let it go before it killed me.



Finding a future…

There was a lot of aspects of having the future I’d imagined that I had to confront and that had changed because of the abuse. It was hard because for so long, I’d tried my very best to stop myself from even having a future at all so it was overwhelming to suddenly find myself being discharged from hospital feeling all bright and positive and cheerful with whatever future I wanted in the pipeline. One of the biggest confrontations has come with the thought of having a romantic relationship and children. I’ve learnt – the hard way – that I’m actually not a whole lot bothered about whether I have a boyfriend/fiancé/husband but what I am sure of is that I want children in my life. Even with all of the work I’ve put in, I’m still pretty confident that I will never be comfortable doing the act that is required to make babies – I mean, I’m awkward even saying it! Once I’ve discussed babies, the other thing in my life that I imagined for my future is having a job. I think I’ve found my calling through having I’m NOT Disordered and learning about marketing, publicity, and all things social media; but I’m definitely not ready to work a fulltime job. Hence my voluntary roles. I’m attempting to build a future but it makes me so sad that it has had to be moderated because of the abuse and all of the affects it has had on me and my life. But I’m alive.