But you can flip the switch
And brighten up your darkest day
Sun’s up and the colour’s blinding
Take a world and redefine it
Leave behind your narrow mind
You’ll never be the same
Come Alive – Greatest Showman
For Halloween last year, I published a blog post about the five most scariest moments of my life (you can read it here) and so this year, I had no clue on how to adapt Halloween into any theme other than scary! But talking about it to my Support Worker resulted in her coming up with the idea to focus on the magic element to Halloween! So, here are some of the most magical moments of my life…
THE 100,000 READERS PARTY
In August 2015, I’m NOT Disordered reached 100,000 readers and on the 27th I published a post giving thanks to those who I felt had helped me to reach the milestone (you can read it here). A few days later, I gave readers ten tips on ways to have the same success (you can read that one here) and then, finally, in November 2015 I was able to celebrate the achievement! I booked an event room in a fancy hotel in Newcastle, paid for a buffet, hired a photographer and a musician, had some merchandise designed, got all dressed up and invited all my favourite people – you can read more about the event and see all the photos here.
I remember being on the dance floor at the very end of the party – almost everyone had left and the staff were eager to start packing things away but the Musician was still there and one of my best-friends requested he play The Killers song Mr Brightside. She, another best friend, and I all started dancing and I just remember telling myself ‘be in this moment. Enjoy this.’ And I’ll never forget that moment and that feeling. The feeling that literally my entire body was filled with warmth, happiness, and love. I felt completely content and peaceful.
Three years before that moment, in 2012, I began Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) in a psychiatric hospital and was taught one of the main coping skills it teaches; Mindfulness. Over the following two and a half years, I absolutely point blank refused to accept or even trial using the skill when I was struggling with hallucinations and thoughts to self-harm or attempt suicide. I believed that if I were to be completely mindful and ‘in the moment’ I would be wanting to die – and trying to make it happen – a whole lot more often! I hadn’t realised that you could do an activity mindfully. I could distract myself with an arts and crafts project or writing/blogging, but to allow them the best possible chance of helping me to cope when I was struggling, I had to do these things mindfully – giving them my entire attention and focus. Learning this, motivated me to attempt to be mindful in my present – my current situation, my position, at the party and because of that, I have such an important and meaningful experience that I’m able to almost ‘feel’ again. Like when a memory becomes a flashback.
REPORTING THE ABUSE
So, this might seem like a strange moment in my life to brand as being ‘magical’… From the very first instance of abuse (it physically continued for around six months), I was faced with the decision – or choice – of whether to tell someone. I immediately had to determine whether to listen to all of his threats and assurances that I wouldn’t be believed, or to disregard them all and speak up.
But was it a choice? How could I ignore his warnings which I felt sure were valid and extremely believable? Was I entitled to make a decision here? Had I not deserved this? And if I have, what rights do I have to treat it as a crime and report it to the Police? Was there a right and wrong here? It became almost easier to determine what he’d done as wrong than to decide whether my response was right or wrong… But that feeling of his actions being so wrong, were just that – a feeling. I wasn’t sure. I didn’t know. The sexual education we’d had in School went only so far as to putting a condom on a banana; there was nothing about rape. There were no stories in the media from people who’ve experienced abuse. What he was doing to me just very plain and simply felt wrong. There was no question about it. The question – and it was an enormous one – was whether to report it.
So on April 20th 2007, something changed and I fought back then a very personal argument ensued which included me telling him to think of his wife and children just as his employer came out of his office to see what the drama was. And all of a sudden, I’d made my decision and the words just fell out of my mouth and into his employer’s ears. Sadly, his employer was one of the many people who respected my abuser and he labelled me a ‘manipulative liar’ and in those two words I was silenced for the following two years.
I finally turned those two years into courage when I was a psychiatric inpatient and another patient told me she’d been abused and was still self-harming and attempting suicide over thirty years later… I mean no disrespect to her, but I couldn’t let that be me. I couldn’t stand the thought of him taking that many years from me. So, I went to the ward’s manager and told her what had happened to me and she quickly called the Police in.
Giving my statement on that video interview with a Police Officer who was a complete stranger and having to use words I will never be comfortable with, or find easy, to say was probably one of the worst moments of my life but the relief I felt afterwards? I won’t lie, it didn’t stop me from continuing to hallucinate, attempt suicide, self-harm, and be in and out of hospital, but I felt grateful that at least I did those things without the weight of the secret on me. And when I found out that more girls had come forward to accuse my abuser of hurting them too? My conscience felt somewhat clear with the thought that at least I had done everything in my power to protect others. The fact he’d continued to do this was on the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) who made the decision to ignore Police guidance and refuse to prosecute him for my accusation.
That relief and comfort – almost – saved me from being so full of self-blame and the more people reminded me of the fact I’d spoken up, the prouder and more courageous I felt.
Even though Dolly was put to sleep two years ago at the tender age of four (you can read more about her death here) there’s not a day goes by where I don’t think about her, and remembering the day I met her (photos and words about it are here) will always fill me with joy and the feeling and conviction that it was truly a magical moment.
During the last 12 – 18 months of my two and a half year admission in the specialist psychiatric hospital, my Mum came up with the very creative, and very special idea of buying a kitten collar and keeping it in my hospital room to use as motivation. You see, I’d grown up with a cat at my Mum’s home and with the plan being that upon my discharge from hospital I’d be moving into my very own home, I naturally wanted to have my own cat. So, to prevent me from losing sight of my recovery goal, and upon my Mum’s advice, I bought a pink and white spotted kitten collar and bow from Pets At Home and hung it on a photo frame (without it’s glass) in my hospital room! And every time I struggled and wondered why I was trying so hard in therapy; I’d look at that collar and be reminded of the life I was working towards.
When I was finally discharged from that hospital, I was transferred to a ‘rehab’ where I had my own bungalow but on the grounds of a psychiatric hospital nearer home and the staff had a bungalow just down the ‘road’ from me and the other patient’s homes. I said that if I’d been allowed a pet in there then I might not have been in a huge rush to leave, but as it was, you weren’t and so I spent three months looking for a cat on pets4homes while my Commissioner found me a home in the community. I eventually found Dolly on the website and then I moved into my home on December 1st 2014, but Dolly wasn’t ready to leave her Mum until the 8th so I spent an entire week feeling completely alone. I mean, I’d spent two and a half years being surrounded by inpatients and staff 24/7 so having an entire home to myself was more than a little daunting.
When Dolly finally came home the place felt more like a home and I felt complete with her in my life. She absolutely meant – and still does mean – the world to me. Having her made me feel happy to be at home; even when I relapsed and self-harmed in the house, while I was in hospital all I would think about was getting home to my Dolly. In a way, even though I was still hurting myself, it made me safer because I used to run away a lot. Having Dolly meant this wasn’t possible and I had to take my responsibilities with her seriously. I was completely committed to looking after her.
HOLDING PIXIE FOR THE FIRST TIME
When I first added Dolly to my home, I thought it was complete. Until a relapse in my mental health three years later saw me start to hallucinate rabbits again. I say ‘again’ because the hallucinations of rabbits actually first started in 2012. Professionals have concluded that the fact that when I was little my rabbits killed their babies, has been some sort of trauma that has stayed with me and caused the hallucinations. So, I didn’t tell anyone at first because for me, seeing the rabbits is a bad omen, and I was utterly convinced that if I told a professional, I’d be put back in hospital…
Then, one day, me and my Mum were in Pets At Home and I saw the rabbits… Out of nowhere, the belief came into my head that if I held one of them maybe it would help. I guess I thought that feeling their fur and the weight of them in my arms would help me to realise that they were real and that the muddy, brown rabbits following me weren’t. I decided to explain the entire thing to one of the Pets At Home staff and she asked me to choose one of the rabbits to hold. I said, ‘the fluffy one!’ and that was it, Pixie was in my arms and I was crying (photos and more words are here)!
I was so completely overwhelmed by the sudden rush of love, comfort, safety, and reassurance that she seemed to bring to me that I told my Mum about the hallucinations and then cried some more because it felt like such a relief.
After some massive persuading with my boyfriend at the time and his family, I scraped the money together to buy Pixie and all the accessories she needed and returned to the store the following day!
Honestly? It was one of the few experiences I’ve had where I’ve wholeheartedly believed in destiny! It was like I was meant to meet Pixie and bring her home. And when she and Dolly bonded almost immediately (even though everyone I spoke to told me they would never be able to meet safely!) that feeling became even more prominent.
From the moment Pixie came into my home I felt that same sense of comfort and reassurance that I had when I first held her. She felt like a little security guard protecting me from the hallucinations. Of course, she couldn’t make them go away, but she did help me to differentiate between reality and the hallucinations because I found that they were sort of blurry and out of focus compared to Pixie. And I could feel her fur and hear her breath.
ADDING EMMY TO THE FAMILY
Losing Dolly was probably one of the most difficult things I’ve gone through. And it made me incredibly grateful for Pixie because even though I had so much support from my Mum, my friends, and professionals, it was Pixie who made me feel less alone. It felt as though we were going through it together and that there was someone – or something – else who could thoroughly understand how I felt and what I was thinking. She really became my best friend and I feel that Dolly’s death really brought us together.
However, Pixie was definitely lonely. She would follow me between each room and was constantly wanting cuddles and strokes and literally just any sort of attention! And I felt a little bit broken and empty. Bringing Emmy to our family wasn’t really a difficult decision to make, but it was definitely something which I considered not doing. My little bit of reluctance was mostly because I was worried that adding to our little family unit would affect my amazing relationship with Pixie.
In the end though, I realised that how lonely Pixie and I were, was reason enough to find another fluffy one to bring into the home! So I ignored all the people who said I was blocking out the grief and getting Emmy too soon after Dolly (she came home within a week of Dolly’s death) and my Mum sent me a link to a kitten on Willows Adoption Centre’s Facebook page. Her markings obviously really caught my attention. With Emmy being a rescue kitten, I felt some sort of kinship to her because I felt she’d very obviously overcome adversity. She was tough. A fighter. Brave. Everything I hoped I, myself, embodied. I later found out that my Mum has seen her photo, called the Adoption Centre, told them a bit about me, and that they had agreed Emmy (named Jennifer at the time) was the perfect match for me.
Meeting Emmy (word and photos here), I had that instinctive feeling again that she was the right and perfect little addition for my home. I was convinced 100% that she was meant to be mine. And again, when she and Pixie got along immediately, I felt completely reassured that I’d made the right decision in adopting her.
EVERY SINGLE TIME THE READER COUNT INCREASES
If you’ve read, I’m NOT Disordered for even the smallest amount of time, you’ll know how important my reader count is to me. I was once asked why I cared so much about the numbers, as though I were being superficial or shallow. As though it means I have the wrong intentions in writing a blog…
But for me, my reader count isn’t about receiving attention or feeling popular and adored! It’s firstly about my reader count illustrating the possible amount of people my words have affected in a positive way. I hope that by speaking so openly and honestly about my mental health and experiences, it will encourage others to do the same. Obviously, over the years I’ve received so much positive feedback and heard the impact I’m NOT Disordered has had on someone but the comment I have loved the most has been from a complete stranger emailing me to say that my posts about reporting rape and abuse inspired and encouraged her to report her own experiences. She told me that she’d stayed quiet for over 30 years but reading my posts gave her courage and determination to tell the Police. And the best thing was, her abuser was actually arrested and sentenced to years in prison! The thought that the words I typed from my one-bedroom bungalow has helped someone so much and has hopefully protected others by preventing that abuser from re-offending. It really demonstrated the power and influence what I write – and what anyone writes – can have.
The second reason the reader count means so much for me is that we now live in a world where – I feel – that blogging has become an entire industry and blogging can be a career. And with so many people having a blog, it makes achieving collaborations all the more special because it really is so competitive now. I often approach companies with: ‘I know you’re probably inundated with blogger requests but…’
makes it so essential that you find something unique in your blog. Something that
will stand out to organisations and help them to see that collaborating with
your blog will mean something completely different over working with others. And
sometimes I think it’s sad, but it’s definitely true that mentioning how many
readers you have can totally help you to secure an opportunity. So, every time
my counter goes up, it’s magical because I believe that it puts me one step
closer to achieving another collaboration! And then those collaborations all
add up as experience for my CV and my future – which I hope will be in the