I Must Have Tried A Thousand Times

I wanted to write a post about a moment that my sister Mandy was hoping would cheer me up…but it actually had the opposite effect. So, although I am no expert in mental health, I am only describing my own experience, this post describes the emotions I dealt with within the first few weeks after I was attacked. How just a silly little thing can knock you all the way back to Square One, well, it knocked me anyway. I had never been so sensitive and exposed emotionally (and I am glad it did not last long, because frankly it was exhausting!)

nutshells.jpgFor those who don’t know much about the past few years for me…here it is in a very quick nutshell:

Life was pretty perfect…a male friend (Jack) and I seemed to be getting on well, lots of other people took an interest in us and started teasing us, then rumours started, then he moved into the flat I was living in, more rumours, now we were very awkward, more rumours and gossip, then we had a chat…he said he loved me.

Woah! Then we were less awkward, then the rumours and gossip went wild, then I found out he may have been feeding the rumours, then we had a kind of argument, then we became really awkward, then I moved out of the flat, then the rumours became even worse and became nasty, we were more awkward and then were more rumours. Then the rumours changed, gossip spread that I was having an affair with another man, a married man, his wife screamed at me at a very public occasion.

I tried again and again to sort things out with my ex-flatmate, he was very hostile, I started sinking into despair. I went to a park on night because I did not want to see him, a stranger with ill intent was also there that night, the next morning I woke up in an ambulance after a security guard had found me.

Now…if you did not know that had happened, you might not have understood what I am going to describe next..

After I left hospital in London I went up north to stay with family members. At first I was just sleeping and sleeping and sleeping. But when I started to feel I was up to a more normal routine, my sister Mandy was eager to plan activities that would distract me. I appreciate how well meaning she was.

I wanted to show some enthusiasm for her ideas. She wanted to take me to all sorts of places to visit, beautiful parks and gardens, farms, zoos, quaint cafes, all sorts of places. And eventually we did go to some of those places. We went for walks in the countryside and National Trust properties in the North of England.

Those activities did help in some ways, although that was a very strange time for me emotionally. I was not at all myself. Not at all. I remember PTSD being a subject for the counsellors I spent time with. To be honest, I never concerned myself with labels and diagnosis – I just thought I would heed the practical advice I had been given and take one day at a time.

I ended the counsellor appointments after a couple of months because I didn’t think they were helping at all. I might or might not write a post about the counsellor that made me determined that nobody was going to come to see me anymore. He was such an idiot. Honestly, it makes me cross even now to think of how unprofessional he was. What they did do, and I am glad of it, is help me to recognize that I was more traumatised by what they described as bullying (the taunting and rumours that had developed around the relationship with my flatmate for over two years and his hostility when I tried to resolve the misunderstanding between us), than I was the physical attack I had been a victim of.

As Mandy was going through her list of suggestions for days out she decided she would share with me the new album her husband just bought her. She told me enthusiastically how fantastic this singer was and this was her latest album. She selected her favourite song and pressed play and asked me to listen to it.

 

I listened. I looked at her and I think she saw what was happening to me. It was an awful awful feeling of someone else, someone with an amazing voice, singing words that cut your heart to ribbons of pain. She realized that had happened as she saw me break down in heaving wheezing cries of agony. That sent me back to bed for several more days in outbreaks of distraught sobbing.

Poor Mandy. I think she realized that when you have someone who has been through such a traumatic experience – you just can’t introduce intense emotion in any form at first. Well, at least that was my experience – I could not handle those intense emotions. For a while I had to be allowed to be numb. It took me time to be able to deal with emotions again. For some time, I found just busying myself with housework and household laundry and reading information books was all I could do. Exposing myself to emotions came slowly and carefully.

That level of intensity and those powerful lyrics that touched on such a terribly raw nerve completely debilitated me.

It’s funny, because three and a half years later I can actually enjoy that song, (after all it is a beautiful song by an amazing singer) but I remember the first time I heard it – it was totally the wrong time for me!

….Hello Jack!

Hello from the other side!

I must have tried a thousand times….

My First Job Back In London

There were six months when I first tried to get back on my feet again in London – which were challenging. I think it is probably a good time to write about the “disaster” that was my attempt to start back at work, after a almost a year long break from work. Wait until you read what I had to deal with!

I had a “situation” I had not really encountered before. When I think back, I have very mixed feelings towards the man involved. I think you will see I have every right to be angry and yet, I still find myself baffled that he does not realize perhaps how inappropriate he was. I honestly believe his conscience excused his actions. In fact, he seemed to think that I had some kind of problem – which in a funny way was true, just not the problem he thought I had. I would welcome your feedback because though I rarely think back on the “situation” I am going to relate to you, I still am not sure what to make of it at times.

distressed

 

As many of you know, I was the victim of a crime in the summer of 2015. On being discharged from hospital, I left London and travelled directly up to the North of England to stay with family. I spent almost a year with various family members in the North of England and Wales. My family were wonderful, but in some respects I was cocooned from the world outside. Once I felt I was ready, I sought to return to London. I knew I was not ready to work full-time, so I searched for accommodation and part-time work. I had been in “tied-accommodation” posts before, (before I moved to London I worked and lived on a beautiful countryside estate which was a wonderful life for me) so I thought this might be the best option for me. That would mean accommodation would be provided and I would have work to do for the owner of the accommodation.

There are many posts in London that offer accommodation. Au pairs, house-keepers, live-in care assistants, butlers…the range of accommodation and the requirements are very diverse. It’s not quite “Downton Abbey” these days, but not a long way from it. I know of “tied-accommodation” posts that as well as beautiful living quarters also offer a £60,000 salary. But in return you would have a massive amount of responsibility. I did not want the responsibility of anybody who was ill, or with children, I was not ready for that. So I was looking at house-keeping roles primarily.

I saw an advert that stated that in return for accommodation, the owner/principle required ten hours work each week and would pay £200 per week. Now in all honesty – that did not sound right at all. £20 per hour for the work required and free accommodation. I thought there must be a mis-print in the advertisement. Nevertheless, I contacted the person advertising the post to make enquiries. I was asked to send my CV and a photograph which I did so. Then I was asked to attend an interview down in London. I travelled down to London (even the journey down was a strange experience that could easily make up another post). The gentleman I had been corresponding with picked me up from the tube station and drove me to the property he lived in.

interviewAs with any interview, I was a little nervous. This was my first interview after a year of recovering from physical injuries and emotional trauma and I was quite shaky to be honest. I was worried about how to reply to any questions about the year long break I had from work. But those questions did not come. The gentleman seemed to want me to relax and tell me about myself. I rambled on about how my parents have always set an example in being hard-working, humble and honest and I try to live by those same qualities. He threw in questions along the lines of did I have a boyfriend? had I been married? did I have children? He also specified that he liked women to be women and to wear skirts or dresses.

Image 12 of 21I tried to clarify the amount of work needed and the arrangements involving accommodation and the rate of pay. He showed me the accommodation he proposed. It was a large double bedroom with a lot of storage space and an en suite bathroom. I asked about the amount of work required. He said there is not a lot to do. He and his son occupied the house. He asked for a couple of hours of cleaning each day from Monday – Friday. He said I could just relax at the weekend, there would be no work to do. He also said he would have some paper work and office work in connection with his business. I mentioned the advert said he would pay £200 per week, and asked was that a mistake. He said it was not a mistake. I mentioned that worked out as a rate of £20 per hour and free accommodation for some cleaning and office work. He affirmed that was the arrangement.

He was aware I had travelled from the North of England to London for the interview. He offered to put me up over night. I had already made other arrangements to stay with friends, so I declined.

Now…I did not feel totally comfortable with the situation. I would be living with two single men. The gentleman who had interviewed me was older than my Dad. His son was a few years younger than me. The accommodation I would be in was quite separate though. I would have my own quarters. He only needed two hours cleaning or other office work a day for five days a week. So many other “tied-accommodation” posts required very long hours and for you to be at the constant beck and call of your principle. This was by far the best arrangement financially, the best accommodation I was likely to obtain, and the easiest introduction back into work.

You may already have your doubts about me being in the accommodation with two single men. I did feel an aversion to the idea of being there myself. If you are reading this and thinking this sounds like trouble ahead, you are right to have those thoughts. But I doubted myself so much at that time. I was frightened of everything.

I was generally uneasy with all men at this point. I thought maybe my aversion to being there, was due to my general distrust and uneasiness around men. I thought I was overanxious and should try to accept that this was the best opportunity that was going to come along. The family member who I was staying with at the time needed me to move into another family member’s house because they were going to have some work done on their home. I thought that was the time to go to London rather than relocate to another county up north. I was desperate to be back in London. It was almost a year that I had been away.

I accepted the offer of work and accommodation and two weeks later I moved down to London with a suitcase with me clothes inside. How did it work out? Well…I don’t want this to be an enormous post. So now that I have set the scene for you, I am going to start another post with what happened once I had moved into the accommodation.

As the week goes on you may feel angrier and angrier and wonder why I was so feeble in dealing with these challenges. But as I have said…I was very vulnerable at this time – more so than I or any of my family realized.

Caramel Learning To Live Again

I have been working on a new series of posts which I am going to publish next week.

I started writing about a subject I that I have kept suppressed within me for a long time. Not the night I was the victim of a crime, not the year I spent with family recovering from my injuries and the trauma of what had happened – but the six months after that. My first six months back in London.

Let me tell you – they were pretty terrible really. I did not realize how much that was the case at the time. As I have been writing about those six months, I have felt rather horrified at how incredibly vulnerable I was at that time.

I am much stronger now. I pity that woman who was trying to get back on her feet but had some horrible challenges to deal with. I am going to publish some of the experiences I had to deal with. When you read them, you might scratch your head at my reaction to the challenges I faced. But please remember that I am relating to you how an extremely vulnerable me acted – not the me I am now.

The two years before I was attacked (during which I was teased, taunted, shunned, essentially bullied and eventually maliciously slandered) had crushed my self-confidence. The year after I was attacked sheltered me from the world outside and I lost a lot of my ability to deal with challenges. I have been reading back the posts I have completed so far and it really is strange to realize the depth of my vulnerability then. But in some ways – I had to get through that awful achey shaky breaky period to develop some strength again.

Starting with my first job back in London, next week I am going to publish one post a day in the series:

CARAMEL LEARNING TO LIVE AGAIN.

Why Did The Snail Cross The Road?

I have been asked so many times what my goals are for the new year. They are exactly the same as they were last year, and the year before! I wrote about it one day after I almost squished a snail who was making his way across the pavement in the direction of the road.

This little fella had a very close shave with Caramel today.  It would not have been Crushed Caramel.  It was almost crushed Mr Snail.  Oh so close!  He really was a little fella.  I was very relieved that I noticed a little white blob and then crouched down to realize he was making his way at a reasonable pace across the pavement.  I thought his shell was really pretty.  So much so, that as you see, I was moved to take a little photo to share him with you today.

Snail

I was rather concerned though about his general direction.  The little guy was heading away from a very lush green flowery suburban garden and he was set head on towards the road.  Why would the snail want to cross the road?  Should I intervene?  I don’t think he would stand much chance against the Chelsea tractors that rumble along this road.  Should I have picked the little one up and relocated him to another nice patch of greenery?  I had a bit of a moral dilemma…and I am still very doubtful that I did the right thing.  Maybe I was interfering.  Perhaps there was a very important legitimate reason why he would risk his shell to make it to the other side of the road.  I could have set him back from reaching his ultimate goal.

Of course…that made me think about a situation I faced recently.

Next month…it will be three (now it is three and a half) years since I was the victim of a crime, that has knocked my life completely off course. Now I don’t want to talk about that here. But recently a friend told me she had seen some of the men who helped me out after they found out what had happened to me. They used to co-ordinate the projects I was involved in and they often piled a great deal of work onto my plate and asked me to do long long hours.  After they found out I was in hospital after being found by a security guard, they discretely made it possible for me to be absent from the work I was responsible for.  They travelled across the country to visit me while I was staying with my family and I was able to talk a little about what I had been through the night I was attacked.

At the time I appreciated their reassurance that nobody was expecting me to rush my recovery. They made it very clear at the time I can take as long as I need to get back on my feet. You cannot rush someone to overcome a horrific ordeal. They assured me that time was not the issue. They wanted me to do whatever I needed to recover in every way.

My friend had seen these men and she told me that they were asking after me.  It has been a while since I was in touch with them.  What did she tell them?  She told them that I was doing really well, that I seemed happier than she had known in years.  She told them that she thought having a change of scene and a change of pace was really good for me and that I seemed to be thriving.

I know she meant well…

But I ached inside when I thought of what those men must have thought.  They are looking after everything for me.  They are keeping my belongings safe.  All the furniture that I own is there at my accommodation waiting for me to return.  90% of my clothes and shoes are there.  All my family photos and everything precious and sentimental to me is there…waiting for me.  I miss my home…that is my true home.  I miss my career.  I miss my world of friends and the sphere of activity I was very busy within.  I miss it intensely.  I ache to be back there.

I am here, not by choice, but because I needed to recover from what happened to me and build my strength and stamina back up before I can go back to that extremely demanding lifestyle – demanding, but immensely rewarding and satisfying.  It is the most purposeful existence I have ever enjoyed.  Yes, I was sometimes naturally tired after the long hours I put in helping people.  But it gave me a level of joy no other job has given me.

I know my friend loves me and wants what is best for me.  I know she meant well in what she said…but I am now nervous that they might think I prefer being away from that demanding career and the inconveniences of the area I lived in.

I guess I am a bit like that snail.  I am trying to make my way steadily and at a pace that is maintainable to reach my ultimate goal: HOME!  I am worried her words, to those men who care about my welfare so much, might make them think they should not expect me back.  I am so anxious I am going to have to write a letter or an e-mail to let them know I am doing well, but the life I have here is nothing compared to the one I had before.

Some of my friends here find it hard to understand this.  I can see they want me to let go of the past.  They want me to “close a chapter and start a new one”…I have heard that so many times I have a strong dislike for those words.

This is how I have tried to explain things to them:  Imagine a married woman who is the mother of small children.  She loves her family.  She works hard and is tired, but she is content with her purposeful role.  One day an event occurs which separates her from her family.  Imagine she wakes up and is told that it is much too dangerous for her to go back to them right now.  In the meantime, she is provided with a safe and pleasant home and she has interesting work that keeps her busy but is not exhausting.  She is safe, she has everything she needs and much more.  Could that woman really forget where she belongs?  Could she ever forget her true purpose?  Could she forget her family that she loves?

I have to get back to my home, my life, my world…I will march on.  It may take a lot longer than I would have liked. I will be like that snail heading with determination towards the road…heading on a long perhaps arduous journey at a frustratingly slow pace…But I am determined I will make it back to where I belong. One day I hope to make it home, no matter how long it takes. One thing is for sure, there is no way I am going to give up my goal and head in another direction for something that is vanity to me.

Who would have though a little snail could provide so much inspiration?

Along Came Jack

I was very pleased to see that Sarah, the creator of Sarah Elizabeth Moore, will be hosting a weekly writing prompt during 2019. I loved her prompts back in August.

Please feel free to prepare a post of your own and link it back to Sarah’s host page:

https://sarahelizabethmoore.org/2019/01/06/writing-prompt-1/

010619

I Want To Go Home

me at 9Not the home I grew up in. Although I was very happy there, and had a very active and wonderful childhood – my family home is no longer my home. Our family is not even there anymore. Around ten years ago, my parents were able to sell the family home when we all left to live elsewhere, and they moved into a bungalow near to my grandfather, who was starting to struggle with his health. We lost my grandfather last year.

I left home in 2007, in order to be able to work as a volunteer in a part of the country where there were a stack of projects and not many volunteers (partly because the cost of living in that area is so high). I made many wonderful friends and fell in love with the countryside. I ended up living on the grounds of a beautiful stately home and being allowed to roam their gorgeous estate, and because they trusted me, I paid peanuts for my accommodation, which was another fortuitous factor in my volunteer career in the south of England.

Moving to London in 2010 to become a full-time international volunteer was like a dream.  It was like coming home…even though I had been happy before.  I was happy on a different level. Everything felt right. It was hard work, and for long hours. The routine, the dignity, the rewarding work, the huge numbers of people I saw and worked with. I found I didn’t miss receiving wages.  Not at all. My main assignment would be in London, but at any point I could be sent elsewhere. I loved the astonishing variety London life offered. I found that I was thriving in this life-style.

Then along came Jack…

I remember the first morning I met Jack.  We were having breakfast with some friends and he arrived late and he sat opposite me.  It appeared that the way I tucked into my stack of pancakes had the ability to captivate him. My friends always said they had noticed the way he was looking at me and knew he was going to chase me.

I will never understand how Jack changed over the next few years. He went from being glued to my side at parties and social events, to moving into the flat I was living in when a room became vacant. First he was friendly, then he was grumpy and miserable, then he told me he loved me. There was so much said by so many other people, but nowhere near enough open communication between Jack and me. Jack became a complete riddle to me. I could not decipher him. The breakdown in communication between us and the pressure from hundreds, perhaps thousands of others who frankly had nothing to do with the situation, led me to feel it was right for me to move out of the flat.

Subsequently, Jack became even more estranged. He seemed to feel humiliated. He manifest that with being reckless with what he said about me. He caused me humiliation on many occasions.

The situation became much worse when rumours circulated that I was having an affair with the husband of one of my colleagues. I was not of course. I will write a more detailed post one day about those ridiculous rumours and why I think Jack was responsible for them. By that point I had lost all sense of trust in Jack.

What was, and should have been, personal between Jack and I, was becoming more and more public. Due to an incident which I shall also describe in more detail in another post, I was called into a formal meeting with a couple of directors and told that these scenes could not go on occurring in public areas in front of many onlookers. The directors were firm that Jack and I needed to resolve our differences.

elevatorJack was incredibly hostile in response to my efforts to speak to him. One day…I saw him four times and he just kept on scowling. The last time I saw him up close was when I was waiting for the elevator within our apartment block. The doors opened, and there stood Jack glaring at me with an expression that seemed to convey hatred. I stepped back. There was no way I was going to be within the elevator with him.

I went out with friends that night and enjoyed the evening with my friends, but there was a huge surge of pain and despair that I was hiding from everyone…one of the girls who lived near me wanted to drive me home, but I said I would like to walk as it was still light. And walk I did, but in the opposite direction of home. I walked towards the local park. On the opposite side of the park a fairground had popped up that weekend and there was a carnival atmosphere amongst the people I passed on the way to the park.

It was a beautiful summer’s evening.  It had been one of the hottest days of the year. There were joggers and dog-walkers and teenagers sitting in the grass talking and laughing when I arrived and when I sat down on a bench.

I was so consumed with despair, I did not notice that daylight had fled completely and there was no longer anyone else in the park, until a stranger sat down on the bench besides me.

He did things to me that caused me great physical injury…and emotional distress. I left hospital in London and did not even go home to collect any belongings. For a year I stayed in the homes of various family members in the north of England in Wales while I recovered. I needed to be away from gossip and rumours – they would have made the challenges I faced of recovering from that night impossible. My family and those who knew what had happened that night were outraged and shocked. I have received great support from them because of what happened that night.

However…what hardly anyone seems to understand is that the damage was already done. It is the situation with Jack that had crushed me. I needed help long before. I needed Jack to stop long long before. I showed clemency to Jack for so long it left me empty and exhausted.

I should never have gone to the park on my own that night.  But I wish in a way I could change everything that happened with Jack. I sometimes have wished that I had never known him. Could I change the moment when he joined me and a group of friends for breakfast that morning and sat opposite me? If I could go back to that moment, I think I would have swapped seats with someone, or just walked out so that he did not have chance to dwell on me.

If I could re-live those moments – I would have run from Jack. No matter how long he chased me for, I would keep on running. There is no way I would let him take me away from my home!

My life, my chosen career, my world. If I could change one thing about my life. I would be back home. I am not going to give up hope.

https://swimmersweek.wordpress.com/2019/01/06/trust/

https://onedailyprompt.wordpress.com/2019/01/06/your-daily-word-prompt-clemency-january-6-2019/

https://wordofthedaychallenge.wordpress.com/2019/01/06/riddle/

Hiding The Bruises

incognitoI am alright now, (I think) but for a long time the situation with my ex-flatmate Jack kept my nerves on a knife-edge. I know there are some people who make a career out of being the subject of idle gossip for others, but that has never been something I wanted for myself.

Even when I was living with Jack, the rumours about the two of us were so upsetting, I tried to leave the flat earlier than anyone else and arrive home in the dark. I was sneaking in and out of my own home, to escape the attention of whoever it was who kept these shocking rumours breeding.

When I returned to London, after almost a year of resting and recovering from the physical injuries I had sustained the night I was assaulted (and then…being left for dead underneath some bushes) I was pretty nervous.

Although my physical injuries were healing up nicely, I was deeply self-conscious in so many ways. I was very nervous around men. I was very aware of my head! I felt secure with a hat on, or a bandana or scarf in the summer. I found London overwhelming. I felt very lost at times. I found bright lights gave me severe headaches. I always wore sunglasses out of doors. The first six months, I was hiding myself with hats, headscarves and sunglasses

But what I found effected me most deeply was gossip. I saw friends and colleagues. They were confused about why I had disappeared for a year. Many of them thought I had left in disgrace. Just before I had been attacked, there were rumours that I was involved with a married man. I don’t really feel like writing about that today, but I will at some point. There are already a couple of posts where I have touched on it already:

embarrassedBut it has taken a long time to be able to battle the anxiety that other people, people I admire and respect, think terrible things of me. That realization has made me pretty dismal at times.

I could have caused trouble for Jack. I did not want to do that. I could have talked about being assaulted (I find it really difficult to use the R word still) and beaten up. But you know, I really did not want to. If I started talking about it, I would have been asked a thousand questions by people that I was not ready to answer. So instead I let them think whatever they wanted to think.

As far as many of them are concerned, I was acting strangely, sneaking in and out of my own home at unusual hours, becoming cagey and defensive and emotional…and then I disappeared for a year. I returned to London wearing hats and sunglasses (with style!) and not answering questions openly.

I am a lot more settled than I was then, more relaxed about everything, and my friends are more relaxed. They all seem genuinely glad to have me around and everyone is very polite about what has happened in the past. Some of my very close friends know a lot more about what happened of course, and when I need someone to talk to they are wonderful. But on the whole, everyone has been so incredibly discreet about what happened to me, which I am extremely grateful for.

But there is a kind of loneliness that comes with having a big secret that you hide. I hide all the details of what went on between Jack and I. I hide all the details about what happened to me in the park. People know not to push me with too many questions because I will leave.

Aaaaah!

Well…I have said enough for today. It takes it out of me thinking about things that I don’t want to think about! So, to end this post I wanted to share a song that I fell in love with, mainly because I have become such a huge fan of the voice of Kristina Train. But I liked the song too…it does touch me in my situation. I have put two versions for you just in case you prefer the acoustic version. I like both actually.

https://thehauntedwordsmith.wordpress.com/2018/11/27/daily-writing-challenge-nov-27/

https://wordofthedaychallenge.wordpress.com/2018/11/27/dismal/

https://onedailyprompt.wordpress.com/2018/11/27/your-daily-word-prompt-lost-november-27-2018/

FOWC with Fandango — Leave