Is there a secret recipe to help you sail through challenges and emerge from the storm victorious and stronger? You may hear or read the advice and experiences of others. It might be very helpful, but some of it might not be helpful. To a large extent, that all depends on who “you” really are. The inner you. The person you want to be.
It’s all very well for me to say, I climbed this mountain, I OVERCAME REJECTION and other challenges. It might even possibly inspire others. But the exact steps that I took, the exact conditions I faced – it’s not possible to replicate. However – do take courage – if you feel overwhelmed. Your view of your situation may change dramatically.
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”.
This post is my final part of what has turned out to be a five part series (I was not intending that when I began!)
I have some wonderful close friends who have been very supportive. They are aware of the challenges I faced. They know what happened to me in the park that night. They have helped me enormously to settle back into London. I have received all sorts of advice – some of it helpful, some if it not so helpful. But there have been others who have treated me coldly when I have crossed paths with them at events. Should I need to explain to them what happened to me to elicit warmth and kindness from them? Not really. I believe humans ought to treat others with respect, dignity and fellow-feeling.
What has helped me to OVERCOME REJECTION? I am not sure I have completely overcome the challenges I faced. I heard a whole load of advice from counsellors and well-meaning people that didn’t help me. Annoying cliches that sound alright, but when you are stuck in a pit that doesn’t seem to have any steps to help you climb out…cliches, “one-liners”, quick fix advice from people who think they can relate to you – it’s infuriating at times!
All I could do was wake up in the morning, and get myself out of bed. Have a shower. Make coffee and eat some breakfast. Push myself to do something. Housework, reading, learning Chinese, baking or writing a letter. Whether there was any direct point to what I was doing just did not matter. It all helped in some way. Setting myself small goals and feeling some satisfaction. Finding ways to give to others, express kindness – it provided a rewarding feeling. It did help me to be working. Sometimes I was treated abusively by a customer or patient, but there was also a lot of satisfaction from knowing I could help others. However…for at least two years after I was attacked, I still felt I was just going through the motions.
I had a lot of challenges around men. Men made me nervous. I also felt myself becoming easily provoked, threatened and angry because of the looks, words or conduct of men. I had a few very intimidating situations where I felt threatened by strangers. I couldn’t tell if I was being over-sensitive. One I wrote about in this post: Panic After A Pickle With A Portuguese Man
Romance was out of the question for some time. A friend who was very supportive expressed his fondness for me. But it was too early. I was not comfortable with him trying to touch me. I REJECTED his advances even though I cared for him. Another man who had known me for years treated me like a princess. I tried hard to respond to his interest. But his ideas were way too erotic. I was not ready for that kind of relationship.
Then twenty-eight months after I was attacked…I met Goldfinch. I know I have written a lot about him. I have some wonderful comments from other bloggers who have read my posts…and a few kind of acrid comments which I just chose to ignore. The thing is, no matter what anybody else thinks, Goldfinch will always be sacred to me. I went from being terrified of men, to feeling there was no better place on earth than being safe in his arms. He has been wonderful for me. He has helped me heal in ways you cannot imagine. The excitement, the joy, the desire…he has been like a rescuer. He is somebody I never want to lose. After all of his loving kindness to me – he is going to remain close to my heart always!
During the last three years, gradually lots of things have healed. I can’t pinpoint exactly when, probably it was just a slow accumulation – but I lost that sense of just mechanically going through the motions. Life was no longer just breathe, sleep, wake up, get out of bed, shower, dress, coffee, breakfast, do something, do anything, just do something. Gradually life has become more and more and more satisfying and special – like it always was before. I have become busier and busier – but it’s been good busy. My enthusiasm levels, my energy levels, my appetite for life have all increased.
I am aware of when I need rest. I have weak points I didn’t have before. Aggression, from men in particular, causes me to prickle like a hedgehog or porcupine. If I feel threatened by a man, my response may be erratic. But those occasions are rare.
I am so grateful to my family, my close friends, and to gorgeous Goldfinch. I am grateful to the friendly bloggers who I have interacted with during the eighteen months I have been blogging – blogging has been very helpful to me, to help me keep my mind focused on who I really am. It is helpful to think over things and express myself without worrying that after pouring my heart out I am going to receive some kind of dodgy counselling. I can decide when I want to think and write about something difficult. I can do so at my own pace. There is a reason they say writing is cathartic/therapeutic.
I am grateful for the new friends I have made at work who were great company and with whom I have enjoyed “surface relationships” with – I needed some light-hearted, easy-going chit chat about nothing especially important, but just to be able to make each other laugh (my new friends have not known about my high-profile life where I travelled extensively and worked with thousands of people, nor of the challenges I faced). I don’t need to tell everyone about those challenges. In fact, I have noticed that as soon as people know there has been a traumatic event in your life, they either seem fascinated or start dishing out the most bizarre advice, when they do not know all the facts. So these new friends are better off being just for laughs.
During the last three years, I have gone from surviving each day…to thriving each day. Recently I received some feedback when I was working on a project. My supervisors don’t know anything about the challenges I have faced in the past. But they said I am gregarious and have an infectious joy for life and enthusiasm for every task I undertake. They say I make other people feel better and make the working environment a pleasure for everyone. It’s really really encouraging to be given that kind of appraisal of your personality. It means so much, because I had to fight to keep myself from sinking into dark places emotionally.
Positive feedback is like sunshine! Some of the comments from other bloggers have been so exceptionally encouraging. I treasure those lovely words and the bloggers who took the time to write those comments.
It’s really hard for me to give you a list of tips based on my own experiences, and to say they will work for you. I don’t believe there is an exact “recipe for recovery” you can follow and expect the same results as someone else. My life is not the same as yours. For a long time, you might be very raw, very fearful of more REJECTION or any other challenges. I found a lot of the cliches I heard when I was at my lowest infuriating. That woman who kept on saying my life is like a book, and as one chapter was ending another was beginning…I wanted to tell her to burn her stinking book! I was so provoked by being told clouds had silver linings, and everything happens for a reason. Those little cliched one-liners – when you are having a good day, they make so much sense. On a bad day, they can be be very irritating and seem to belittle you.
Some things kind of helped. The advice to “just take one day at a time” took the pressure off me. But it didn’t seem to help me make steps in the direction I actually wanted to go in. Just because I could get from sunrise to sunset without breaking down in tears – that was not such a major victory to me, even if they thought it was. I read an article I loved at one stage. It was all about the miracle of crying. It still feels good to let myself have a little cry at times. It’s not often nowadays, but when I was writing these posts, I found emotion built up in me. I cried. And it felt really good.
Some people may try to say things along the lines of “just keep smiling”, or “stay positive”. Very well-meaning advice. But I feel that if you have had a traumatic, distressing, overwhelming experience in your life – you are allowed to have your moody moments. It is alright to cry! Oh my goodness, don’t repress than pain. Overcoming challenges doesn’t mean you have to be always jumping for joy and breaking out into song. It is alright to say to a friend, “look, I don’t want to be a negative person or for people to think I am a moaner, a grumbler, an everlasting sob-story…but today, I need to say that I feel like crying and trying karate on every man who looks at me.” You might have to pick the right person, who will let you have your occasional grumble, or you might have to set up a WordPress account where you can let your grumbles out.
It is good for you to consider the challenges others have been through (when you are ready). Sometimes, it’s easy to become locked into your own trials. Nobody else has quite walked in your shoes, down your path. But being aware that others have had very stressful situations that threatened their emotional health and robbed them of joy, hearing how they have gradually healed and become better able to deal with the damage done to them – it might not help you the day you hear it (or read about it), but it might help you in the future. When you hear or read about how others have faced REJECTION – it can be helpful to realize “it’s not just me.”
A phrase I heard when I was a little girl, long before it ever really meant anything is “DON’T LET CHALLENGES MAKE YOU BITTER, LET THEM MAKE YOU BETTER.” Much as I am not a fan of cliches, I consciously decided that I did not want to lose “me”, because of the difficulties I faced. I have always been a happy, joyful, kind and loving person – like my parents. Why should I lose that? Nor did I believe in the shame and blame game.
I felt that no one individual person was solely responsible for my trials. Certainly not Jack. I knew that. Neither could I blame any specific individual for the furore around my personal life. It’s a strange phenomenon of modern internet usage. People give their opinionated opinions freely without any thought of the damage they can cause. Some people forget that cruelty is cruel, and it can wreak havoc on somebody else’s life. I realized that I was never going to receive apologies from all the people who said cruel things about me. They probably have long forgotten the fuss that was made when Jack Barnes moved in with a tall curvaceous caramel blonde.
The situation I faced was not fair, and it wasn’t right. But I was not going to let it cause me to become a people-hater, or a mistruster. I love people! People are wonderful! Life would be miserable without other people to enrich it, to eat and laugh and dance and sometimes cry with. Especially the kind of people I was working with. But you know what – they are imperfect. Just like me. They go through trials. All sorts of trials.
Jack’s mum had cancer while I was living with him (I didn’t know that at the time.) One of those lads who used to tease Jack about me (claiming that Jack was a voyeur and I was throwing myself at him), well, I tried to talk to him about it and asked him to stop. Oh he was so apologetic and upset that he was actually hurting me. It made me realize some people genuinely do not understand the harm a joke can trigger. When Jack found out I had spoken to this youngster, he told me off later. I didn’t know that the young lad’s mum was in a hospice due to cancer.
The situation I faced made me reluctant to ever use a smartphone again. I have REJECTED smartphones and social media. But I don’t miss out. I have had a basic old-fashioned phone that does not connect to the internet. I have tried to avoid giving out my landline number or the basic mobile phone I carry for emergencies mainly. I don’t have any desire to use Whatsapp, Instagram or any other ways to keep connected with the thousands of people who used to be in contact with me. I have a smaller circle of people I keep regular contact with nowadays. But I have a very big heart. That has not changed at all.
We are all learning. We all say things at times that cause damage. We REJECT things and sometimes people for reasons that may seem valid. I REJECTED two marriage proposals and many men who asked me out because I didn’t want that. I REJECTED that counsellor who I thought was unprofessional to say the least. Did he go home feeling humiliated? I didn’t want to ruin his day, or rob him of self-esteem – I just could no longer cope with all these strangers “counselling” me with unhelpful nonsense.
We have to have a certain amount of resilience in the face of REJECTION. It’s not always personal. All those REJECTED job applications – they didn’t know me. They had no idea what I had been through and that every REJECTION was a potential knock to my crumbly confidence.
All the people who made degraded comments about me. Some of them may not have thought I would ever see those comments. They may have got carried away with what they thought was a bit of a joke, a tease. I am not going to let what happened make me a people-hater, hungry for vengeance or vindication.
Not everyone has to be our best friend. Some people might really warm to us, others not so much. We don’t all have the same sense of style, interests, beliefs or sense of humour. But that’s no reason to go round viewing people as enemies, accusing them of discrimination. In fact, if I thought people thought I was unlikable, well, it would just make me want to be even nicer to everyone I came into contact with. If people are just outrightly unpleasant, I still take pleasure in being a nice person, who bears no ill-feeling or malice.
However…we all have a right to some respect. If people are slandering us, spreading malicious rumours, degrading insults – that is a valid reason to feel hurt. Retaliation is not a great idea, in my opinion. But there are usually ways to report what is happening. I should have gone to my superiors and told them what was happening. I showed them the records I kept after I was attacked. I wish I had shown them before. My superiors were angry with Jack. I could have damaged his reputation and career as a volunteer. But I pleaded with them. I made every excuse for Jack that I could think of. I said he was stressed and the situation had grown beyond his control.
The situation I went through left me shattered, lost, fearful and hurt. But I had something precious – peace of mind and a clean conscience. The threat to my peace was the belief that Jack (who I thought the world of) hated me and would be forever hostile to me. We used to be great friends. Then it all went terribly wrong. I could not make sense of any of it. I knew that I had warm feelings toward him. I also knew that I had REJECTED opportunities to take a swipe at him and damage his reputation. But at the same time I was trying to recover from physical injuries, emotional trauma, despair…I was always aware of a profound sense of estrangement with someone I admired, adored and felt affinity with.
But there did not seem to be anything I could do about it. I just had to keep breathing – even when I wanted to close my eyes and never wake up again. I had to keep living and hope that my life would go on becoming better and more meaningful. Life is enriched by the wonderful people you interact with. But when you have been damaged, people can unwittingly become very hazardous. When you have been hurt, everything is raw. People may have no idea that their conversation, attitude or behavior could be pushing you to the point of crying/walking out/wanting to go and find a bridge to jump off.
So at those times, it is helpful to have some sort of strategy to deal with devastating emotions. I found ways to acquire some instant relief – a text to my sister who almost always called me back instantly, seeking a deep sofa in a coffee house and sipping the most indulgent hot chocolate on the menu, buying myself a new scarf or pair of earrings. None of those things actually solved my situation, but they were some small solace at a time intense pain had rushed over me and made me want to sit down in the middle of the pavement and tell life and the whole world that I was on strike!
But life is a precious precious gift and life can give you some lovely surprises. Your view of your situation can change drastically. I also found prayer incredibly helpful. I know that some don’t believe in a Creator, but I do. Some may laugh, but I found prayer far more powerful than anything else to fight negative thoughts that were overpowering me.
I am not the first person nor the last to gain strength and comfort from the scriptures, which helped me to make sense of what I had been through.
In fact, meditating on how our Creator has been a victim of slander and malicious lies for thousands of years, was extremely helpful to me. I often thought about how He must have felt by the hurtful vicious words of others, the accusations, the slurs on his name and reputation. I thought about how He had reacted. Incredible patience and love. I wanted to be like Him. When I read passages about other people in the scriptures who faced REJECTION, Abel, Enoch, Noah and the list goes on and on, I realized – there have been some wonderful people who have been REJECTED. But they certainly were not REJECTED by their Creator. He treasured them and was very aware of their challenges. While they lived and faced hostility from others, they had the friendship of the Sovereign of the Universe. The One who knew their every thought since they were conceived. How He must have longed to change their situation. In the future, they are sure to be fully rewarded.
I sometimes read what people say about others who have caused them challenges. They refer to former friends (or family members) as “toxic”. I have many workmates and acquaintances who label half of the people they know as “narcissists”. I just have to take their word for it, because I don’t personally know the people they are talking about. Everyone is different. I don’t feel comfortable labeling other people like that. In my view, most people are damaged in some way, ways I may not ever understand. I have enormous empathy for the challenges every human faces to be the best person they can. There is a either a wide gulf or a knife edge between wickedness and weakness, depending on the judge! I ask myself…what kind of judge am I? How do I want others to judge me?
I have never agreed with the idea “this is who I am, I can’t change me”. I have been WORKING ON ME since I was a little girl. Always trying to be someone who makes my parents glad they invested so much love in me. I want to be a ray of sunshine to others. I want to be kind and sweet. I want to be helpful and patient. I want to be eloquent and respectful. I want to be upbuilding, forgiving, empathetic. It makes me feel much much happier as a person.
The experiences I have had mean I am more guarded in some ways, but I am not generally distrustful of people. I am just a bit more careful. Especially careful not to expose the more vulnerable parts of me that could be easily hurt. When you have a painful injury, you instinctively exercise caution to avoid pain.
I didn’t want what had happened to sour my view of people. So there is a lot I have willingly chosen to look over. I have let go of anger towards any individuals. The memory of the situation I faced is upsetting, but I don’t want to feel I have enemies. I knew resentment would damage me more than anyone else. I am not someone who wants revenge. Of course I wish there was a way for all of the damage to be undone, all the horrible things that were said about me. It still causes me some anxiety that the people I admire think awful things of me. But I realized I would need to be patient.
I realized some time ago, that if it was the purpose of a small number of individuals to make me unhappy or feel worthless (and a whole load of others had just got carried away with what they thought was funny), well, it turns out that I came off the winner. Because I am very happy and very proud of the woman I am. I love that I am soft, sweet, mild and a joy to be around. I am very secure in the fact that people said things that were a million miles away from the truth about me. Of course it’s upsetting that some people thought that some of what was said was true. But all I can do is go on living the kind of life I have always led, go on being the person I have always wanted to be – but be even better than before. The knowledge I have of myself affects me more than the lack of knowledge others have of me.
I choose to be a lovely person. Nobody is going to take that away from me. If after the mistreatment of others, I had lost the qualities I prize and aspire to, I would consider that a huge loss. I don’t want to be less kind, less sweet, less forgiving. I feel good about who I am, the inner me, with a peaceful joyful heart. I have become wiser to those characters who think cruelty is a sport. But at the end of the day…people who are deliberately nasty – they will suffer the most. Who is it that will inherit the earth? The meek, the peacemakers, those who love what is good, love kindness and wait for the One who can see all things perfectly.
Yet Jack and I – the painful estrangement was very hard to bear. I am sure I have published posts when I described some of my agony over the loss of Jack’s friendship. I was aware of the passing of time and felt that with every day, week, month, year that slipped by, my chances of a reconciliation were diminished.
Out of the blue – something extraordinary happened recently. It has felt very much like a miracle. If you have reading my posts, you will know that a couple of months ago, Jack phoned me. After over four years of silence, he made contact. Initially he was very sweet. He said some nice things about me and the work I had done. He knew of a project I have been working on recently and the things that were said about my attitude to work and the spirit I bring to projects. He reminisced over past projects we worked on. Then he began to talk about his regret over the past. It’s kind of personal what we said to each other at that point. There were a few moments in that phone call, when I wanted to hang up on him to be honest. The more I listened, the more I could empathise with him. I might possibly write more in the future about what Jack said he thought was happening back then.
I kept my focus on what I had always hoped (but doubted) Jack and I could recover – peace. JUST PEACE. (I would love to have peace with those people who said things about me that were untrue and damaging – but most of them I never knew.) I realized this was the opportunity I had been waiting for and I ought not be too sensitive. He also wanted peace. He expressed great concern for what I had been through.
Not everything was resolved in that telephone conversation. But he called again, and during the second conversation we had, he said he would like to sit down and talk things over. I will admit, I was reluctant. It seemed overwhelming to be in the same room as someone I was fearful of. (Not fearful for my physical safety, but his ability to effect my emotions profoundly.) It was my idea to have a walk somewhere, rather than being entrapped in a room. Plus I didn’t want to be seen by people who knew us – we couldn’t meet near either of our homes, nor anywhere too public because he is so often recognised. So we went for a walk in a huge London park which has a lot of woodland. Somehow…after talking for some time face to face, he felt inclined to reach for my hand.
And the rest is history. Two months of wonderful have ensued.
It’s hard for me to think too far ahead. I am very happy. Very relieved. Peace is on full-flow in my heart right now. Yet…I am still vulnerable. What will happen when we tell our family and friends? (Some of whom told me Jack was “toxic” or “a narcissist” and said that I should cut him out of my life?) What will happen when we go public and those same fans of Jacks, who trolled me years ago find out that we are now together as a couple? Frankly…I am terrified! I am so scared that it still has the potential to affect my happiness. Jack and I have discussed this frequently. We have both agreed to just focus on WORKING ON US, before we share our relationship with those we love.
Internal wounds have been healing nicely. But I am still “damaged” in other ways. My head injuries still cause challenges. Jack has seen my have blackouts twice in the past couple of months. He has had to take me off to hospital and wait patiently while I was checked over.
I am no supermodel! But I am content with myself. I don’t sulk over what I cannot change without drastic plastic surgery. I don’t want to see photos of myself (when I am with Jack) on social media and for people to say they think I am ugly, fat or miserable looking. I am going to have to ask my friends not to draw it to my attention if that’s what happens. Because there is a limit to what Jack can do. We live in a climate where sadly, some people will make very unkind comments about people they do not know. They don’t know the challenges I have faced and how much I suffered due to how overwhelmed I was in the past.
But this time…I won’t be on my own. Jack has pledged to be supportive. I hope my family and friends will be mindful of the challenges that being with Jack may bring. Yes I am happy because I am finally able to love the man I always did love. But “celebrity” has a very ugly side to it. Yet because I love Jack, I am making the choice to be prepared for the possibility of REJECTION by people who follow Jack’s life and work.
This has turned out to be another really long post! But I want to conclude this saga. I just want to say that we are all different. We all face different challenges and we might deal with them differently. But what has helped me is asking who am I as a person? Who do I want to be? Am I prepared to allow REJECTION from other people make me less of the person I want to be? I want to be happy, joyful, loving and kind. So if other people REJECT me for those precious qualities that I daily seek to display – well…I am not going to be overly concerned about that.
However, I will always be mindful that there are people walking round who are damaged. Their emotions might be so raw, they might have a huge internal battle because of the hurt inflicted on them. So if they say something that feels like REJECTION, I am not going to be oversensitive. Everyone has challenges! And when you are in the grip of challenges, you might say and do things that would normally be unthinkable to you. Like the vicious dog, who has been neglected, badly mistreated and abused by it’s owner, they may just be still traumatised by what they have been through. I have OVERCOME REJECTION, as far as in I have not let it change the wonderful person my parents worked so hard to shape and I am delighted with. I am still me! Wonderful me! Despite REJECTION from others who did not see the person I was trying to be.
Healing is wonderful…and it is most effective with a lot of love, patience, kindness and mildness. After what I have experienced myself, I am more determined than ever to be loving, kind and forgiving. Nobody is going to rob me of my joy in life that comes from loving others as I would like them to love me.
That’s my choice, because that is who I am. Somebody else may have dealt with those challenges differently. But I am a person who cannot bear the thought of hurting someone else. So I had to overcome the challenges I faced in a way that meant that I was still me.
Despite a bumpy, rocky journey…I am me! And I have peace in my heart, and with the man I once thought had REJECTED me and influenced others to REJECT me. That’s what I was always longing for! Life tastes so much sweeter when you are at peace, when you love people, forgive their bad days, and you take pride in being someone who makes life sweeter for others.