I didn’t realize how much I had to say on the subject of REJECTION! This post finally outlines the challenges that had the most damaging effect on me. I first met Jack around eight years ago. It was some time after I met him that a situation began to develop around him and I. I had never had a challenge of that scale, not one that affected me in such a personal way.
Beckie, the creator of Beckie’s Mental Mess, hosts a series entitled “WORKING ON US”. The theme for this week’s “WORKING ON US” is “REJECTION AND OVERCOMING REJECTION”.
Yesterday I published my introduction to a multiple part response that I am submitting to Beckie. This post is going to examine in more detail the challenges I faced which developed into my one and only taste of despair. They all center around that word: REJECTION.
In the last post I mentioned some of the stress I was under at work. Perhaps, this made me so tired, I was less effective at dealing with a situation I had never before encountered.
From my late teens, I was courted by a wonderful young man named Jammy. (His real name was James, everyone called him Jamey…but as a child he pronounced that as “Jammy”. So Jammy stuck.)
When I was in my mid-twenties, I ended the courtship. It was not a REJECTION, I just realized how different we had become. We talked about it, we agreed. It was a hard decision, but to stay together would have led to more unhappiness than ending the courtship. We made sure that we reassured each other. Years later we ended up living round the corner from each other (by which time Jammy was married). He was still a great caring friend to me.
I had lots of male friends (hey, I had been working on construction sites for years). I went on dates, but I knew there was noone I wanted to have a romance with. I received two marriage proposals, both of which I REJECTED. But I explained my reasons kindly. One of those men took it well, the other didn’t. He left the country! He decided to move to the Arctic Circle. I wrote a post about Pete actually:
Anyway…Jack was already an international volunteer, but he was assigned to be based in London six months after I was. He caused quite a stir. A celebrity who was going to be boarding with the rest of us in basic accommodation. He is amazingly charismatic. Volunteers are already a friendly, energetic bunch, but Jack managed to bring even more life and spirit to every project he was involved in. I was aware of his presence, but I was yet to meet him. then came the day he sat opposite me when I was out with friends for brunch. I realized he was looking at me.
After that we were on friendly terms. We were at a lot of social events together. We both loved karaoke. It all started with a bit of teasing. I just tried to dampen down what people were saying. I REJECTED the tittle tattle as nonsense. My closest friends (who had been spending a lot of time with Jack) claimed he liked me. I know I know…it sounds like school doesn’t it! But this was how it started. Before I knew it…it went viral. I think that’s what is is called. Suddenly I was walking along a road and strangers were approaching me to take photos and ask me if I was shagging Jack. In the end I wrote down hundreds of comments made to me and questions I was asked.
There were a few things that Jack may not have realized were adding to my stress. He kept turning up at the infirmary where I worked, to cheer up our patients. He would come waltzing in with those smouldering eyes and that gorgeous smile of his. He would sing to our patients and take selfies with everyone. And they loved him! So he kept coming back.
But our team claimed he was really coming to see me. He used to bring young lads with him (he is a very good influence on a lot of youngsters). These teenage lads would be looking over at me and whispering and laughing. Jack made it obvious the conversation they were having was about me. I REJECTED the silly comments. I liked Jack a lot. but I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I didn’t believe that he would ever like me.
News was spreading in ways I never understood. I received calls and e-mails from friends in other countries asking if I was dating Jack. A few people said they had heard we were engaged to be married. Jack and I were friendly at this point, but nothing was going on. Then he moved into the flat I was living in. The rumours multiplied. Look, I have a great sense of humour. I could see the funny side of some of them, even though they were not really appropriate. I spoke to the young man who was telling everyone that Jack had been drilling a hole in his bedroom wall so he could watch me undressing.
There was other teasing that came from our close friends and colleagues. Jack was sometimes a bit untidy. Ella refused to clear up after him. But I cleared up after anyone I had lived with. I love cleaning. Well…jokes developed along the lines that I was making myself the next Mrs Jack Barnes.
Our close friends were teasing that I was washing his dishes and picking up his clothes and throwing away his moldy food etc because I was in love with him. He retaliated by telling everyone I had OCD and was obsessed with cleaning. He didn’t realize that my new manager and his new assistant took those rumours literally and decided I was a control freak, which is why they thought I wouldn’t cooperate with the changes they were making. Actually I did cooperate. But I asked them to listen to the girls on our team who were crying because they couldn’t cope with the new rota and the harshness from them.
People became more bold about what they said directly to Jack and I. They were “friends”. They would say things with a grin, so it had to be a joke right. They would say things like, “What you two need is just to have a really good snog (or a shag) and then you won’t feel awkward with each other anymore.” Or they would suggest that we surprise each other by walking into each other’s bedroom and pouncing. Or they would say, “You look happy this morning, have you two been shagging again?” None of this was happening. Jack and me were not speaking to each other. We were scared to look at each other.
But what I really really objected to was being called a slapper, a dirty slut, the slag next door, Jack’s latest whore…I found that very objectionable. I hated seeing photographs of myself at parties where Jack was near me. I had no online presence, but people showed me photos they had come across. People were getting hold of my phone number and I received messages from mystery numbers full of obscene language and lewd comments referring to what I was apparently doing to Jack in the flat we shared.
The result? Jack and I became awkward in the flat. We stopped talking. We were awkward outside of the flat. We were at the same social events and were scared to go near each other. But these rumours would not die down. More and more photos of us were online. There were some frankly cruel comments from people I had never met calling me ugly, fat, miserable.
It’s hard to convey the sheer amount of incidents of online cruelty that were accumulating. They started to affect me. I became convinced that Jack disliked me. He wasn’t speaking to me. People were saying online I was this ugly fat wannabe who was harassing Jack and throwing myself at him. Then something kind of strange happened. It all centers around one week in our flat. In fact the events of that week inspired a whole series of posts (which are badly written I know, I was just so emotional when I was writing those posts). If you have a few hours spare, you can read the entire saga that developed:
That’s not the end of it though. As I mentioned in those posts, after I moved out of the flat, the rumours were that after our passionate affair, we had argued, I had tried to attack Jack with a knife and we now hated each other. It all became more and more ridiculous. Our close friends knew there was a rift between us. I kept on turning up to the homes of friends who had invited me for dinner and there was Jack. Our friends wanted us to be friends. But it was so awkward.
I was struggling. I don’t think anyone understood how my confidence had crumbled. I had left the flat I loved and flatmates I loved. I had moved in with flatmates who had hardly interest in me. One of them seemed to think I was after her husband. That was not a nice situation to be living in. Moving out of the flat had not stopped the rumours. It had just changed them. I regularly heard that Jack hated me from others.
I just threw myself into work and took on extra assignments. In my spare time I started doing more and more sport, That is supposed to be good for you, endorphins and everything. I lost a quite a lot of weight. I was avoiding the main dining room were meals were served. So I was hiding in the changing rooms or somewhere outside eating a rice-cake and hummus day after day. I am five foot eight and was looking extremely lean at this point.
Friends who picked up on my stress levels told me I was working too hard and should go out and have fun. People give what they think is well-meaning advice don’t they!
I was still being invited to lots of parties and social gatherings, but not by those I admired and respected any longer. I was being invited by a more wild kind of crowd. I remember going to a club with some people I hardly knew and dancing for hours. I was full of adrenaline, my emotions turbulent. My friends said I was getting a reputation for being a party girl. Rumours online about me twerking (whatever that is!) and flirting with men were upsetting my friends, and apparently, the rumours about me were getting back to Jack.
Work was still challenging. There was so much negativity. Everyone was complaining about our new manager and his assistant. There was not a nice atmosphere. I just concentrated on our patients and gave my most tender care. I also helped a neighbour who had experienced a severe stroke at the age of thirty. Her sight, cognitive abilities and physical mobility were very limited. She and I developed our own little language – literally. She was the highlight of my week. The time I spent with her was so special to me.
Jack a presenter at a charity entertainment evening. I don’t know what he was thinking. He made several jokes that were about me. I was right there in the audience that night. He didn’t name me of course. More calls, texts, e-mails. I remember two men chasing me down the road shouting out at me indicating they knew the jokes were about me.
The bereaved husband of a wonderful woman we cared for until she died came to visit us. He had been in Africa for months, so naturally when he saw me he gave me a huge bear hug. Guess who witnessed that? Well, in addition to Jack, around twenty people saw it actually. We had dinner together with some other carers. We also sat next to each other at the funeral of a very special volunteer who was well over one hundred when she died. Some of my friends suggested that I would be perfect for him. But gossipers said he and I were already “involved”. Rumours were that I had stopped chasing Jack and was now after my dear friend. It broke me.
I remember after some incredibly impertinent questions from someone I looked up to in front of others who I admired accusing me of trying to climb the ladder by catching an interesting husband…I just broke into tears. Amazingly Suzie and Marta just happened to arrive at the right time. They were horrified at what I was experiencing in connection with a man who was like a brother to us after we had supported him through the biggest trial of his life. I wrote about this dear friend of ours and his amazing wife in this post:
The running club I went to – it was very popular. Some weeks fifty people turned up. But when it was raining, there would only be handful of us. I remember Jack driving past me when I was running in the rain. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but there was a man running alongside me, a regular at the club. Shortly afterwards, rumours began that I was having a relationship with this married man. His wife worked with me. She was understandably very upset.
There is more. But this post is already so long!!
The truth is, I didn’t have a relationship with any man after I ended the courtship with Jammy. Because of Jack, nobody I was friendly with could show interest in me without a lot of gossip and possibly losing Jack’s friendship. Who would want to be REJECTED by Jack – one of the most popular volunteers across the country? Maybe nobody was interested in me. Afterall, social media had labelled me an ugly fat slut. Why would anyone want to date me? I was lonely. My friends had evaporated. My close friends all loved Jack. I couldn’t tell my family what was going on. I was talking to them regularly, but I told them everything was great. I wanted them to think I was happy in this wonderful life I had sacrificed everything to attain.
I felt REJECTED. By Jack, by my friends, by my manager and his assistant, by a faceless mass of strangers who thought they could say anything they wanted about me. What hurt was that the people I had looked up to, admired and imitated…they seemed to be shunning me because of what they were hearing about me. They were very pally with Jack. But I was facing REJECTION from those who I desperately wanted to accept me.
Well…I will carry on with the rest of the saga tomorrow. But by now, I hope you have an idea of the challenges I was dealing with. I know it might sound silly…but the accumulative effect of all of the above had built up. It’s sometimes hard to empathise when you read about someone else’s challenges. What is distressing to one person might be “no big deal” to someone else. I was overwhelmed and felt powerless to fight the force of that nasty slanderous gossip, which had started with teasing, but warped into something brutal.
What I had experienced had eroded the inside of me. I was no longer myself. My energy, my appetite, my sleep were all affected. Increasingly I wanted to be alone. I REJECTED many invitations. When I did spend time with my friends, I was still smiling and laughing, but inside I was cracking up.
There were too many times I prayed that my Creator would allow me to go to sleep and not wake up the next day. But I kept on waking up to the same situation. It didn’t relent.
After over two years of stress…something happened that changed my situation dramatically. I will let you know what changed (well, you might already know) and how I tried to overcome the feelings of REJECTION that had been sucking the joy out of me.