“Shopping is a way of life. It’s the way I treat myself.”

Sarah Jessica Parker

As you might know from a two-part series (part one is here and part two is here) I published recently with St Oswald’s Hospice, I’ll be working on a huge collaboration with the charity that will be published on July 15th 2024 and you’ll – hopefully! – be excited to know that across these three weeks prior to that, I’ll be publishing a couple of ‘Collaboration Teasers!’ With a huge part of the St Oswald’s Hospice collaboration being centred around the opening of the charity’s new retail store in Blyth (you can find all the details of that store here), I thought I’d make these Collaboration Teasers themed on retail and, more specifically, online shopping! So, for this Collaboration Teaser, I’ll be chatting through why it’s absolutely fine to reward yourself and then there’ll be some bits of my shopping on Wardow scattered throughout…

Campomaggi Backpack: £326.90

Coach Backpack: £393.00

Coccinelle Backpack: £204.00

Delsay Paris Mint Green: £139.50

Delsay Paris Rose: £126.10

DKNY Wallet: £50.00

Joop! Wallet: £101.25

Love Moschino Backpack: £162.00

Pinko Backpack: £228.80

Pinko Wallet: £111.00

See By Chloe Wallet: £123.75

Vivienne Westwood Cosmetic Bag: £127.20

I think that ‘treating myself’ is something which didn’t even become a ‘thing’ until after the abuse – when I was sixteen. Before that, growing up, I remember my Mum saying that getting a McDonald’s or something was a ‘treat’ and so I had an awareness of the word and its meaning, but I don’t think it became important or actually really meaningful until I started believing that I didn’t deserve anything even remotely rewarding. And this was all because the amount of blame and responsibility I took for the abuse was ‘incredible’ – which is meant in the worst way possible!  

In the very beginning of the abuse, I felt the ‘right’ emotions and experienced the ‘right’ thoughts because I was furious with my abuser and held so much hatred towards him. But, by the third or fourth instance of abuse, he had me convinced that I was to blame and that I was completely deserving of the entire thing. And I think that the reason this can happen in abuse is because it can very easily cause a sense of separation from you and the rest of the people in your life. And this can be for a number of reasons; like, perhaps it’s because – for all your reasons – you’re keeping it a secret and not telling anyone. Or maybe it’s because none of those people have noticed what’s happening to you and that’s led to you wondering if they even genuinely care about you. Whichever way it is, this separation and alienation can lead to the distinct feeling that your abuser is really the only person in your life. And that can lead to other worrying and scary thoughts that they’re the only person you can rely upon and trust because at least they’re consistent and their actions and words don’t change.

So, for me, despite falling into that thinking pattern and thought process, I did still hold into my hatred for him, but I no longer blamed him. Ironically, the hatred was actually something which I thought would raise someone’s attention because he and I would end up in absolute screaming matches at each other in front of his colleagues and my peers. In reality, it seemed that everyone shrugged it off as just a conflict and, in the positions, we were both in… disagreements between adults and children were something that could be accepted and deemed as normal. Rude and wrong, but not a rarity for the environment we were in. But perhaps it did raise a few eyebrows because when his colleagues were interviewed by the Police, some claimed “I thought it was more than a typical argument…”

I think though, that a lot of my hatred became about the responsibility and blame. In that I hated him for putting me in a situation where I was convinced that I was causing everything that was happening. As though he’d been a bad influence on me. But then, once again it was turned around by my brain and his manipulation so that I was left believing that I was weak to have been influenced into something like this. And this weakness, my responsibility for the abuse – and then for the rape – was a huge factor in believing whether or not I deserved a treat or anything rewarding and positive.

Coach Violet Canva Handbag: £193.00

DKNY Blue-Grey Crossbody: £142.80

DKNY Black Synthetic: £109.90

Karl Lagerfeld Handbag: £119.00

Lancaster Light Blue Crossbody: £124.15

Ralph Lauren Heart Crossbody: £70.50

Liu Jo Dark Blue Tote Bag: £109.85

Moschino Bucket Bag: £153.60

Pinko Crossbody: £165.00

Pinko Violet Crossbody: £284.05

See By Chloe Mint Green: £273.00

See By Chloe Beige: £238.50

When the abuse physically ended, I was left with jaded thoughts about what I deserved in life, and so, I immediately began drinking alcohol because I learnt that if I drank enough, I could block out the memories… It’s strange; I believed that I didn’t deserve anything positive or good in life, but I also did all that I could to avoid and escape the negativity and the harm that having those memories, was causing me. That felt almost instinctual though… The ‘deserving’ bit felt as though it had been drilled into me and trying to ‘escape’ was like a knee-jerk reaction. And I think that experiencing those two opposing thought processes and beliefs meant it was really only inevitable that I would explode – or implode… In all honesty, it felt like I kind of did both at the same time when I made my first suicide attempt two years after the abuse had finished.

My suicide attempt was really just another massive, life-changing example of my twisted, back-to-front, confrontational thinking around what I deserved because I honestly think that if you’d asked me whether death was a punishment or a relief, I wouldn’t have known my answer. And I seriously believe that it was that way for a long time – well, at least four years. I almost went to-and-fro with which definition I held regarding ‘death’ and that was probably a huge reason why I continued to make an additional three suicide attempts over those following four years.

Perhaps this confusion and uncertainty both stemmed from, and was inspired by, all the thoughts and feelings I had during the abuse and the manipulation I experienced from my abuser. I mean, I didn’t ever have anything but hatred for him, but he attempted to change that in numerous ways – including putting an end to the bullying I experienced at one point from a group of girls in my High School. He made that seem as though he’d done me a favour and I was indebted to him in some way! As though HE was deserving of something positive or rewarding in some way! And so, I think that in my mental health recovery, I learnt that witnessing him believe he deserved a ‘treat’ made me wonder if that’s why I would question myself when I thought it about me. As in, if he could be wrong then why was I right every time I thought it? What gave me – a teenager (during the abuse) – more knowledge or a better understanding than him as a middle-aged man?! And I think there was also a part of me who didn’t ever want to resemble him in any way; so, if he was wrong about something, then I definitely didn’t want to be wrong about it too! 

Coccinelle Light Blue Crossbody: £164.45

Valentino Cotton Tote Bag: £84.00

Guess White Handbag: £81.00

Valentino White Shoulder Bag: £73.80

Guess Taupe: £67.85

Twinset Violet Handbag: £90.00

Valentino Bucket Bag: £70.65

Valentino Ivory Handbag: £86.10

Valentino Ivory Bucket Bag: £70.65

Valentino Backpack: £88.85

Valentino Grey Blue Crossbody: £50.40

Valentino Light Blue Crossbody: £70.65

Through a mixture of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) as a psychiatric hospital inpatient for over two years, that length of time and all the opportunities it gave me, and medication, I found myself developing a much healthier attitude to everything in life! But the ‘things’ which developed into something much healthier, and which is most relevant for this blog post, were my attitudes around responsibility and being deserving. I think that up until this point in my recovery, I knew that these two thought processes were linked, but I didn’t quite realise to what extent this common ground was…

So, in finally recognising that despite the years and years of believing – and being completely convinced – otherwise, I had absolutely no responsibility for the abuse. And a link came in when I made this change and found myself recognising that I also didn’t deserve any of the blame and responsibility. I realised that taking it, was a punishment and a sign of a criminal – and I definitely wasn’t deserving of a punishment, nor was I a criminal. That was him. All him. Making this progress and having this turn around in my thought process wasn’t that simple though; I mean, I think that the hardest element was that my abuser has still claimed to be innocent. His denial has left me with the distinct feeling that the blame and responsibility is just sort of hanging loosely in the air. But, at least it’s now hanging over his head, and yes; sometimes – on a hard day – it can blow in the wind and it isn’t too firm above him, but I’ll never again put it all onto myself.

After making progress with that, I then had to contend with a newer thought and that was the guilt I experienced for all the lies I’d told throughout the years of my mental illness. There were so many instances where I told people I hadn’t done something because I was so scared of their response. So many times when I promised I wouldn’t self-harm and then I did. My Mum is the person I felt the most guilt about, but her persistent response that she recognises it wasn’t ‘me’ that did all of those things – that the well, healthy, and safe me, wouldn’t ever tell such lies and be so deceitful; had been so incredibly helpful in conquering that responsibility too.

So, now, I see myself as deserving of a treat every now and again. Because I beat him. Because I worked so hard – literally blood, sweat, and tears! – to get to this point, and in addition to some rest and quiet time, I’ve also earnt something that makes me happy. And, online shopping does that for me! And I think that after everything I’ve gone through; I can cope with the judgment of people branding me as materialistic and superficial (something St Oswald’s Hospice and I will be challenging in our July collaboration)! I can cope and I can overcome it. Because, really, it’s nothing compared to all that I’ve gone through and all that I have accomplished!

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