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

I’m Having A Rest

dflsldhadfhaIt’s hard to explain the effect of the last few weeks. If you have experienced how PTSD can play a cruel game of “cat and mouse” with you, goading you, teasing and tormenting, trying to find the fragile cracks in the rebuilt you…then you perhaps don’t need my attempt to explain it.

The inside of my chest feels sore because so many times during the past month, I have woken up, or experienced in the daylight, a horrible fear, a chilling flashback, and devastating memories and emotions that want to make me crumble again. My chest hurts after the stress levels of the past month have soared.

Anyway….I am going to have a rest over the next few days. I have some time off work, and I need to rest up and recover from the damage that stress has caused. I am still not 100% sure how I will spend all of my time off. Today, I have gone walkabout, but without knowing where there are public toilets that are open, I can imagine I won’t be able to go too far. I don’t want to be tied to a plan over these few days. I want to feel free. Freedom is part of what helps me to feel better.

lsdihgshgsg

I just want to let you know, I have scheduled some of my older posts to be republished over the next few days. They are posts from the past. They are not current. I mention this because I think I sometimes have confused people when I have done this before.

Most of you will know me and Jack are together now, as a couple. It still astonishes me at times that things have worked out for us. So things have changed dramatically since I wrote a lot of these posts. Jack has read these posts and we have discussed what I wrote a lot.

fdsgbfsghshHe and I are in a good place. I am looking forward to seeing him soon…after his fourteen day quarantine is over. But the two of us have challenges ahead. There is still an oppressive question mark hanging over the future. Right now…I personally feel neither of us need to feel pressured into any big decisions. We should be allowed to enjoy being together at long last, and I am every reluctant to let anyone else scrutinise us. To be in the life we want to lead together, there would be a lot of scrutiny – I am not ready for that.

So right now…we are not making plans…we just talk about possibilities in the future. All sorts of possibilities. We will have to wait and see. But we seem to be living at a time when making plans is much harder than it used to be.

Right….anyway….ciao for now – I am having a rest – just don’t be anxious about me when you see my older posts appearing. I have recovered so much peace since Jack and I ended our silence and ended up together.

Fickle! Me?

Woman, Portrait, Lovely, Fashion, LuxuryMy emotions have been more temperamental than is normal this past month. I know why. Perhaps you know why, it depends on whether you have had the patience to read any of my longer posts. But adding to the challenges this month (I have had a lot of flashbacks to the night I was attacked and the events leading up to that night) seems to bring, is the accumulative effect of tiredness over these past months. Working at least six days a week is wearing me out. But I have a little time off ahead of me.

dfhagifaWhat I will do on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday has been a question for a while. I have lots of options. But I have been reluctant to commit myself to anything…because I don’t want to feel tied down to anything. I want to wake up when I feel ready, and do whatever I feel like, without feeling obligated to keep a promise to someone.

I have chatted to a friend of mine roughly once a week for the past few months, and today she said I was fickle. I asked her what she meant. She laughed and said it was frustrating to her that I kept changing my mind.

Apparently, from week to week I have said things like, “I just don’t want to be alone during those days,”…then a week later, “I think I just need some time on my own,”…then a week later, “I’ll go crazy if I am all on my own with these intense thoughts and feelings,”…and then, “I just need to sleep and shut out conversations and chit chat about the virus and the economy and everything exhausting”.

Woman, Watch, Girl, Lady, Clock, JewelryAt some point I told her, “I have lots of plans to keep myself busy, sorting out clothes and books, cleaning out the insides of all my cupboards and drawers, and giving everything a really good clean.” When my friend reminded me I had suggested I would do lots of spring-cleaning, apparently I replied, “I don’t want to be stuck indoors, I want to be out walking in the fresh air.” Yet on one occasion I told her that though I love walking, “I’m not sure walking on my own is good for me, because if I am downhearted I end up sobbing while I walk.

Even this week, when I found out Jack was coming home, I said, “I am going to go up to see him and sit outside on the grass while he obeys the 14-day quarantine and sits out on his balcony”. Later I thought that was not wise, and I told her today, “It’s not a good idea for me to go near the place I was attacked.”

dsfafadgafMy poor friend!!! Can you imagine how confused she is listening to me? I love her so much! I hate it when she tries to give me advice – it is always terrible advice – full of cringe-worthy cliches. But she is a very lovely friend nonetheless, and I love that the two of us always find things to laugh about (we have both had some painful challenges to deal with). We are looking forward to meeting up for a coffee at some point. She’s in a county outside of London, and I have not used public transport since February. But when it is safe…she is one of the people I am longing to see.

Anyway…as soon as she said I was fickle…I could not help think of Rigoletto…but as you all know, “it is a woman’s prerogative to change her mind!!!”

Woman is fickle
Like a feather in the wind
She changes her voice and her mind
Always sweet
Pretty face
In tears or in laughter, she is always lying
Always miserable
Is he who trusts her
He who confides in her his unwary heart!
Yet one never feels
Fully happy
Who on that bosom does not drink love
Woman is fickle
Like a feather in the wind
She changes her voice and her mind,
And her mind,
And her mind!

 

Preparing For The Worst Of It

This awful time is looming. I have a couple of days off work – at last and thank goodness! I want to relax and chill. I have decided to do all I can to prepare myself for a pleasant few days – buying foodie treats and some half-price champagne (no tennis to watch this year – except replays but I am not missing out on strawberries and champagne).

I have been putting together a playlist on YouTube with happy songs, not sad songs, and I have a couple of books that always cheer me up at the ready. I am going to chat with everyone who is very close to me. At least Jack is here in England. I have decided I don’t want to travel up there just yet. It will bring me a stone’s throw from where a security guard found my battered body.

Summer, Poolside, Red Hat, Strawberries

Hopefully on my own I will push the awful memories out of my head. One thing that I am struggling with is the heat. The night I was attacked was the hottest day of the year…(and it was hot during the night too) – record breaking hot. I have been waking up repeatedly at night convinced I was lying in the undergrowth on Hampstead Heath – it fills my chest with a traumatic shock and takes me some time to recover from.

 

The Rough And The Ready

Close-Up, Eye, Eyelashes, See, WomanLast Friday I was struggling. I was on edge all day. On the verge of panic. Unable to cope with all the multi-tasking I have to do at work. I became tearful at work when I thought of weeks more of this intense pace stretching out in front of us, without the chance to break away and go and visit Goldfinch in Australia. I wanted to run. I didn’t know who from or why. But I wanted to escape.

This is how I felt five years ago. I was cornered. I was overwhelmed. I didn’t know who was safe, who I could trust. Friends and colleague were talking about me and Jack. I had no idea exactly who was saying what, except for those who blazenly taunted me to my face. Every aspect of my life was touched by the slanderous gossip, name-calling, accusations, undermining of me as a person and my sincerity or integrity.

Ambulance, Wear, Interior ViewYou know where it led me. I went to a park after a night out with friends because I did not want to go home. I was the victim of a crime that night and woke up the next morning in an ambulance.

But around a month before that night, I remember a small incident. I escaped my part of London and travelled to the other side of London for a social event. My sister Milly was there. I met some new people who had been working with her on a project. There were some deaf volunteers there too. Milly and I both learnt British Sign Language when we were teenagers.

I remember saying goodbye to Milly and her husband when they dropped me off at the train station. Somebody had given me a gift. Two bottles of wine, one red and one white, I recall. As I walked towards the train, the gift bag gave way and the wine bottle smashed on the concrete floor. There were glass and wine everywhere.

fdshhgdhsvMy main concern was that glass was a hazard to other people. I searched for a member of staff asking if they had any cleaning equipment to clear the glass. I would have done it myself. I asked if they had a hazard sign or cone or tape, to warn other people. The station employee said just to leave it and they would sort it out. I was so anxious. It was my fault. It was my fault there was dangerous glass on the station floor. It was hazardous to other members of the public. I wanted to fix it. I stood rooted to the spot, determined to be a warning to other people that there was broken glass and they must be careful. I became unreasonably emotional and ended up in tears.

It wasn’t really the glass that was upsetting me. It was the situation in my personal life that was overwhelming and was completely taking all the joy out of life. The effects of tiredness and stress can accumulate. If you become isolated with a challenge and do not know who to trust you can become desperate in your thinking. Its as if you are cornered, they are coming at you from all directions, you want to escape. I wanted to fix it. I was ready to accept some responsibility for the situation between Jack and I. But the relationship between us was so strained back then…he would not speak to me.

annie disappointedSo, when the wine bottles smashed, I just fell apart. You know the expression “the straw that broke the camel’s back”. I was in a flood of tears. I didn’t know what to do. A guy came over to ask if I was alright. When I explained I had dropped the bottles and now there was broken glass all over the floor, he responded by kicking the glass to the side of the wall (so it was less hazardous I suppose) and telling me not to worry, accidents happen.

Well…last week, those feelings were coming back. Every summer since I was attacked I have a rough few weeks. I have flashbacks of events from that night. But I also seem to relive all the stress and anguish that led me to go to the park that night. I had wondered if having made peace with Jack things might be different this year. They don’t seem to be. I am having waves of panic, sleepless nights, dreams recalling some of the most stressful situations I was in five years ago, those same feelings of being cornered, under attack, needing to escape.

I actually think I might be having a worse time so far this year. Perhaps that is because I am cut off from friends and family socially. Perhaps the accrual of tiredness because of work has made it hard. Normally my life is graced with variety. I am involved in different work, different projects, I work with different people, in different locations. The past few months have been the same…every day the same. The feeling of wanting to escape is growing.

Fear, Woman, StopAt the end of this month it will be five years since that night. It is still the night that took me away from my chosen career, my chosen home, my world, my purpose. It is still the night that left me with severe injuries, blackouts, headaches, nightmares and fear of whom I could trust.

People say such silly things. Someone said to me again the other day “everything happens for a reason”. If only I could sent fire to that expression. Do people think about what they are saying? It was also recommended to me that I focus on the positive and what I can do to help others. Yes yes, I know that having experienced a traumatic event myself and gone on to do marvellous things, I may be able to be of assistance, inspiration, a source of practical advice to someone else. I do realize that we learn things when we go through challenging experiences and we can develop precious qualities and we may be able to help others. But really!

The truth is my life has been like broken glass ever since that night. My life is in pieces. But I am a positive person and I do make the most of my situation. I keep going. I keep smiling. I keep singing.

Hooded Man, Mystery, Scary, Hood, HorrorBut still…it’s back again. The waves of panic, feeling cornered, feeling overpowered, under attack, nowhere to run to, noone to turn to, nobody to trust…it comes back. I ended up on my own at that park because for so long I had put a brave face on, I had kept going, kept working, kept smiling and kept singing until I shattered like broken glass.

The brain is powerful. The things that cause flashbacks are varied…the smell of grass, the smell of men, the warm weather, feeling dehydrated, feeling there are excessive demands on me.

When I was on my way home after work last Friday night there was a man walking towards me. He was carrying a grocery bag. As I neared him, his bag burst open and glass bottles of beer smashed onto the road and beer began running down the hill. It took my brain back to that night I dropped the wine bottles at the station just a few weeks before I was attacked.

I watched the guy. He shrugged and laughed and carried on walking.

jhvbdkjxhfbIs that what people want me to do I wonder? Shrug, laugh and carry on. These past couple of weeks have made me realize that despite it being five years, despite being busy, despite having the longed for peace with Jack, despite so much else that has happened on a positive note…the memories of despair and the memories of trauma are still there. They leap out at me from the shadows of my mind.

I think I am in for a rough few weeks.

 

Silver Linings

cliches.pngI think I have mentioned in the past that one of the more annoying things said to me by a counsellor shortly after I was attacked was “every cloud has a silver lining”. I never objected to that phrase before she said it to me. But she used it in the wrong context. Completely the wrong context.

If someone is the victim of a serious crime – cloud – silver lining – these are not welcome advice – at all. Well, that of course is in my own experience. About other less traumatic situations, I don’t object to the notion of silver lined clouds.

Anyway…I was listening to this song the other day. I found it hard to keep up with the lyrics, but I googled them and fell totally in love with the song. I am so grateful that very clever people take the human experience, all the emotions and sensations and highs and lows and turn them into brilliant poetry and songs.

It’s kind of special to capture so much and express it in such a lyrical way. Have a listen…and if you like me, can’t keep up with the pace of the verses, google the lyrics. They nail how it feels to be at the mercy of your emotions.

It Will Be All Over Soon

traumaI mentioned a few weeks ago that this time of year seems to trigger more flashbacks. I have also had some strange dreams about what happened that night. But I have found this year, the biggest effect that these flashbacks etc have had is on my concentration on tasks at work and at home.

People have been telling me things…and their words have gone in through one ear and straight out of the other without registering at all in between. I am forgetting silly little things. I am forgetting how to do things I do regularly and routinely. I am easily confused and sometimes feel lost. I am waking up frequently with the sensation of “where am I?”

memories.jpgThe bruises still hurt. I have felt very unsettled recently, and easily panicked. Lots of things make me shaky, nervous, as if someone is going to attack me either verbally or physically. This coming week is the week. Four years ago this week it all happened. It was as if a monster – and I don’t mean either Jack or the man who attacked me – launched an intense assault at me, and decided to pick up my life and break it into pieces.

enemies.jpgWhat happened to me on the Heath is not Jack’s fault. But for weeks leading up to that night, close friends kept on telling me to try to ride things out and not rock the boat. If I complained about Jack, he would win and I would lose. He had a way of making it look as if this was all my fault, or all in my head. He was so sure of himself, so frustrated with me.

cruel.jpgBut it is not normal to be called a tramp, a slut, and other names by both people you know and strangers. It is not normal to be the subject of false rumours and insults that spread like wildfire, especially because of Jack and all of his fans being obsessed with social media. My being upset about that was entirely normal and natural. Maybe it was no big deal to Jack, but I wanted it to stop. It might not sound a big deal as I am describing it…but it was the intensity – thousands of unsavoury or slanderous comments over that period wore away at my inner core and left me crumbly. I remember being told again and again – Jack is more important than you are. That was not my reason for not complaining about him. My reason was simply that I loved him and I did not want him to suffer any reproach.

angry.pngBut the look of hatred in his eyes whenever he saw me. It made me feel sick. I was keeping quiet for his sake. And the look of hatred in his eyes haunts me. I have said this before…it has been easier for me to overcome the trauma of what happened the night I was attacked, than the intense stress in connection with the situation with Jack. But it’s the memories of what happened that night, the anger and outrage, that make my mind jump to all the repressed emotions during those years of Jack playing games with me.

best boy in the world.jpgLater this week, you may notice that I am re-posting some of the posts I wrote last year, because I couldn’t face churning up my emotions again by writing fresh pieces.  Anyway…I can’t wait for this week to be over really. The last few years it has always been a relief when the intensity of the memories start to fade. I am so glad that this year I am with Goldfinch during the “anniversary” of that night on the Heath. I love Goldfinch to bits…and it is amazing to me how much of a difference it makes to feel safe and secure with someone.

 

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….

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.