Mental Health Awareness Week

So currently I’m sitting here typing this with a cider, and a year old Frenchie puppy cuddled so tight I cannot move - but last year was a completely different story, and I now have some strength to talk about honestly what I have been through, what helped, what didn’t and how I am doing now, most people (maybe all of you) reading this might be like ‘bore off’ but I guess when I was at my lowest all I needed to hear that I wasn’t alone, and I am hoping that maybe this will make people feel they aren’t alone (sorry if I am completely wrong and you are already bored).

In July 2014 I was sexually attacked. I was in what I thought was a loving relationship and if I am honest I thought we would never break up. I had a part time job working at a bar and was living in London, and looking forward/dreading starting my final year of university, however all those elements were taken away from me after one night. 

After the assault, I became a shell of the person I was, I was needy clingy, I was too scared to leave my flat and barricaded myself in the only place I felt safe - my own bed with all the doors locked, and double bolted. I stopped trusting people and assumed everyone was going to hurt me the same way those men did. I was drinking excessively and never knew when was enough, but it was a horrible cycle I drunk alcohol to forget and not see flashbacks but once I was drunk and felt out of control I would freak out because I felt vulnerable, and that was never a feeling I wanted to feel again.

This all led to me not going to university, failing my first term of my final year, it made my friendships with my friends harder as I would always cancel on plans and never turn up to university so they just never saw me. It broke down the relationship with my boyfriend of the time, as he never knew what mood I would be in when he turned up, was I angry at the world? was I hysterically crying? Looking back now he said something that now when I think about it breaks my heart but that is only because my mind set is better now I couldn’t see it before, when he turned up on my birthday and I answered the door and hugged him he cried and whispered “you haven’t hugged me for 8 months” I didn’t think about it then but now I can see that I couldn’t stand being touched or touching anyone else.

The good news is I did get myself back into university and made up for my first term in the last two by working hard and spending my life in the darkroom printing three life size liquid emulsions, and I guess now the darkroom has been a safe haven because it was the only place I felt safe for a long time. No one at the time knew what was going on or how badly I was affected, I always blamed my physical health or difficulties with people because it seemed like everyone would understand that more. 

I moved back to Gloucestershire because I had no job and rent is crazy in London, but also because once me and my ex couldn’t function in a healthy relationship I had to leave London, I didn’t feel safe on my own and I couldn’t carry on as I was on my own. 

It took a little bit of a meltdown to realise I needed help, and I finally found the courage to tell my family what had happened, and I am not going lie this is making me cry just typing this, but I am the youngest member of my family, by a considerable amount I have always been the baby and I always say I have 4 parents (Mum, Dad, Older brother and older sister), but I still feel like I am this broken thing that no one knows what quite to do with, and even though I 100 percent know it is not my fault and I don’t blame myself anymore I just wish I could be that head strong girl/woman they know - I just hope I can make them proud even if I am a little bit broken.

After I did have a bit of a meltdown I did go to the police, but so much time had passed, they weren’t particularly helpful asking if it did happen why did I wait so long, and said there was nothing they could do so they shut my case without any investigation. It still angers me to this day that I wasn’t strong enough to deal with it then and that those men could still be on the streets, but if I am honest the last thing on my mind was justice I just wanted to feel clean, I scrubbed for over 4 hours sitting in the shower, and even ran a weak bleach bath just so I could feel less dirty. 

That’s a little bit of the background, so towards the end of last year I was diagnosed with PTSD, and don’t get me wrong I am not fixed, just because I finally have a diagnosis doesn’t mean that its suddenly all better, I still have flashbacks and nightmares a hell of a lot and there is still certain situations that freak me out and I can’t cope with it all and I just shut down. Unfortunately mental health isn’t a one time race, or a battle, its a war, its reoccurring and you never know when it is going rear its ugly head. It can happen to anyone and there will be good days and bad days, that doesn’t mean you are crazy, or its your fault. I was on medication but I couldn’t feel, you could tell me the worst or best news and it was like I had botox I couldn’t express any feelings to anything so with the help of my doctor I took myself off them gently, and at the same time I came of the contraceptive injection because again it was making me feel shit. Medication works for some people but it didn’t for me, I cry a lot more now and my friends know I can just be a blubbing mess at a sad advert or something really sweet on TV but I would rather that then just to feel empty with no feelings. I was in therapy and that was the best thing I ever did, to have someone challenge me on my thoughts but also just to listen and not judge me and I think that is the most important thing, is to feel no judgement. 

As of where I am now, I know the situations I can’t be in and I avoid those, but I have start being able to catch public transport again, I can drink again, even though I did stop for a long time because I still couldn’t control when to stop, but I can now, I also know that misery loves company and that alcohol is a depressant and when its okay to have a drink but also when it isn’t. I am lucky in the fact I have my photography and I can pour my heart and soul into that when I am having a bad time, I go back to the darkroom and I am to work through my shit and feel some peace and calm. The Frenchie is called Ohana from Lilo and Stitch, “Ohana means family and family means no one gets left behind or forgotten” - and if I am honest he is my therapy dog even on my worst days I get out of bed because I have to I have responsibility and I honestly don’t know if I would be where I am without him. 

I guess what I want to start happening is talking, most of us will suffer with some sort of mental health, or know someone who is suffering, throughout our lifetime and it shouldn’t be thought that its a weakness, or “just deal with it”, its so much bigger when I would stay in bed for days on end it wasn’t because I was lazy it was because I physically couldn’t get out of bed, you wouldn’t say to someone who has broken their leg to go run a marathon, but people who are struggling with mental health are running their own type of marathon everyday by just getting out of bed and functioning in the world, and if you are reading this and are struggling, you made it to 9pm today ( that is the currently the time it probably is different now you are reading) you should be proud because sometimes that is the hardest fight. 

My story is just one story out of millions of people who suffer with mental health, I just hope by us accepting and being honest about our mental health issues the next generation doesn’t have to ashamed, or feel like they have to plaster on a smile. END THE STIGMA 

Wandering mind

At night my mind wanders, it wanders to the past and doesn’t understand how that isn’t my future, it wanders to your face, to all the questions still unanswered, to your touch and calming influence, a calm I haven’t felt in my life for a long time.

It hears J-cole’s song in the background playing as you are driving, with the sun on our face as we are bickering if its time for Miley to be played. Everything seemed so easy. You and your friends would laugh at how naive I am, how I always saw the good in everyone, but in reality that was why you loved me, I always had a smile on my face I always saw the bright side of everything. 

Until the moment that innocence was taken away, I suddenly realised what you had told me, the world wasn’t full on unicorns and rainbows and there was some real bastards in this world, but when I became cynical like you, and negative and scared of everything and everyone you fell out of love with me. Not only did I believe that this world was full of bastards, I now didn’t believe in love.  I lost all hope in the society we live in.

When the nightmares set in I still hear your voice and feel you hugging me so tight that you almost damaged my ribcage, I take my mind back to when everything was better, its an easier way to leave a nightmare to go into a dream, but the disappointment when I wake up and I am on my own, and you aren’t talking to yourself in your sleep or snoring so loudly and there is no arm around me, that’s hard to recover from, no one will ever understand how I miss you, and how I wish you had stayed

The Fear of the Unknown

Second extract from Intimacy Diaries

How do we know we are doing it right?

None of us have the capability to see in the future for certain (and if you do seriously where can I get that power), so when our direction changes, the path we were on gets redirected, we are left unsure where to go. I’ve always found that when you feel the most uncomfortable, and there is no bubble wrap around you, no one to catch you if you fall, is when you truly grow. 

Life didn’t come with a manual. Sometimes you have to make a decision and then make a new decision. Why are we so scared to make one, incase it was wrong or incase we have failed, but in reality a choice you have made isn’t forever, just make a new one and redirect your path.

The bubble wrap thats protecting you may not be there one day, anything can change any minute and its safe to say that nothing in life is guaranteed, so make the life you want and do it for yourself, not for who is around you, because the sucky thing about people is they have legs and they can get up and walk away whenever they want to.

After a break-up most people change their life in some way, whether it be going to the gym and loosing all that relationship weight that we all know we put on, some of us colour our hair some wild colour or chop it all off (guilty), others get on a plane and go discover another country and culture, I think that most of us agree that these were the best decisions we made, the ones we made when our path had changed direction.

The older I am getting, the more I realise its about the people who care being in your life, the people who want to see you succeed, the people who care if you get home safe, the people who support your dreams and hopes, the ones that want to climb this ladder with all the twists and obstacles along the way, and no matter what, support you. The people who walk away so easily, who don’t message you just to see how you are, or congratulate you on your achievements, those are the people who are going use their legs and walk away when it suits them.  

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