Stay;

*WARNING – this blog contains discussions of Suicide. If this topic triggers you in any way, please reach out and ask for help*

With September 10th being National Suicide Awareness day, I’ve decided to share my story. This one will be the most difficult, as with it I carry my deepest shame. But my hope in sharing, as it has always been, is to raise awareness, to break the stigma and to hopefully inspire others to share their story or to choose to Stay;

For those that aren’t aware, the semi-colon has become a world wide symbol for suicide, depression, mental health and addiction awareness. It is used by authors when they could have chosen to end a sentence, but instead use the semi colon, to continue that sentence.

My story probably starts when I was 10 I guess. That life altering moment that would indescribably change me as a person, right down to my core. (For those that are reading my blog for the first time, I was sexually abused at this age and have written about my recovery in my blog titled Taking my Power Back) It was this event that altered my path. It made me feel ashamed and guilty. It made me see myself as weak and powerless. It completely changed the foundations in which I grew up on.

I learnt back then how to block my emotions. Anything that my subconscious mind thought I couldn’t deal with was blocked and stored away. I didn’t even remember the event until I was about 16 and started having flashbacks. That’s how strong my ability is to block things I can’t cope with. And to this day there’s things I’m still blocking from that time.

Coming into my early 20’s when I started to try and deal with these emotions, I realised I didn’t even have the basics to deal with small emotions, let alone the ones that come up surrounding such a horrific event. I was an emotional wreck. I was depressed. I was out of control. I was drinking constantly to try and numb the pain. My way of blocking these emotions was no longer working and it was all bubbling over and I was powerless to control it.

I hated myself so deeply and so wholly and I felt like I couldn’t escape the pain. When you hit such a low point in your life, you’re surrounded in it. It completely takes over. It doesn’t just come and go. All day. All night it hits you over and over. It’s utterly relentless. It wears you down. I was too afraid to sleep because of the nightmares. Which left me completely neurotic during the day and always angry and on edge. I felt like I was on high alert to my surroundings and loud noises would make me jump and terrify me. If anyone tried to touch me it made my skin crawl and I wanted to throw up. I felt like people were staring at me, like somehow they knew my dirty secrets that I’d buried. And I truly felt that it would never end. It slowly built up over years and only ever got worse over time.

What follows next I’m not going to go into too much detail as I don’t think it’s necessary to get my story across. But it starts with thoughts of just wanting to take the pain away and thoughts of honestly believing that everyone in your life would be better off without you. And for me on more than one occasion, it’s ended with an attempt to take my life. On many more occasions it’s ended with me having these feelings, but choosing to Stay;

It’s hard for me to even describe what that feels like. To be so depressed and so low that you think the world would be better without you. Sitting here now with rational and logical thoughts, it makes no sense what so ever. I know how devastated my family and friends would be. But I can say hand on heart, that when I’m in that dark place, there is no one that could convince me that me leaving, would have anything other than a positive impact on them.

I know that people who haven’t felt this darkness, struggle to understand these thought patterns. I get it. If I hadn’t experienced it myself, I admit I would find it difficult too. However I beg of everyone reading this, if you can’t understand it please at least don’t pass judgement on it. Don’t judge someone for something you don’t understand. This is where the stigma and the shame comes from. Because people say it’s selfish and stupid to think like that. I can’t comment on what others feel, but with me I felt at the time that it would be the most selfless thing for me to do. To rid myself from everyone I care about so they don’t have to deal with me anymore. I truly cannot see the horrific impact it would cause when I’m in that darkness.

I feel that these judgements cause fear in people that are struggling. It makes it harder to reach out as people are scared that if they admit they are struggling and having dark thoughts, that they will be judged and criticised. They think they will be looked at as being weak or that they have something wrong with them.

We need to drop this stigma. We need to stop the judgement and criticism. We need to step up and speak out and spread the word that it’s OK to not be OK. It’s ok to struggle sometimes and feel like the world is caving in on you.

I truly hope that me speaking out can show a tiny part of my world that it’s OK to feel so shitty sometimes that you can barely breathe. And that it doesn’t make you a lesser person when you’re finding it hard to cope with life. I hope that by me choosing to stay; and writing these words, that I can help even just one person make that same choice. I hope that I can inspire others to share their stories. I hope that those that have in the past chosen to pass judgement on suicide and mental health, can maybe see it in a different light and show compassion to those in need. I hope that this message shows people that there is strength in choosing to keep fighting those battles inside their minds. I hope that by sharing this it can lessen someone’s shame that they carry from their story.

The one thing that really shines through for me when writing this is the hope I feel. Because it takes a whole lot of strength and a whole lot of guts to fight your way out of feeling utterly hopeless, and to change that to feeling to one of hope.

And my biggest hope, is that everyone finds their way and chooses to STAY;

Timeless healing

They say time heals all wounds. Well you know what, I’m getting a little bit impatient waiting for this to happen. Actually a lot impatient. To be honest I’m sick to death of waiting.

I’ve had a week of virtually no sleep and everything is getting on top of me. I’m even hitting a point where I’m losing motivation for my running which is massive. I’ve spent the last 9 months with an unwavering motivation to run and train and smash this half marathon goal. I’m 5 weeks away from the race and I’m quickly losing all focus and determination. My body isn’t recovering and healing like it should be, because I’m not sleeping.

One of the more important aspects of training is getting enough rest to give your body time to recover and this isn’t happening so my body is in constant agony. I’m sore from head to toe. My eyes feel like they have needles in them. My brain has a fog over it and I’m not thinking clearly. I even put toothpaste on my daughter’s chest instead of Vick’s vapour rub a few days ago.

All because I’m laying here wide awake with thoughts of when will this all be over? When will the pain go away? When will I heal? When will a day pass where I don’t think about the what if’s? When will I stop feeling so lonely? When will the grief go away? When will I be able to look at my daughter and not feel guilty that she will grow up never remembering her parents together? When will I stop feeling like I was never good enough? When will I stop analysing everything tiny little thing I said and did and wondering how I could have done it differently? When? When? WHEN!?!?!?!?

I feel like I’ve stepped up big time during this journey. I’ve seen a therapist. I’ve followed her recommendations. I’ve done the hard work and walked into the pain rather than walking away and pretending I’m fine. I never stop processing my thoughts and feelings and doing the work to heal them. I’ve done the hard yards and faced everything that I’ve bottled up my whole life. I’ve opened up and been completely vulnerable.

Yet still I’m here feeling like shit. I’m still hurting. I’m still grieving. And I’m fucking over it.

I’ve hit a point where I’m just thinking fuck it why don’t I just go back to pushing my emotions down. Pretending that everything is fine. Pretending I’m ok and that losing my little family isn’t a big deal. Pretending I’ve moved on and I’m happy. Bury my head in the sand and not deal with any feelings or emotions that come up?

It would be so much easier. I could “heal” myself in an instant if I just pretend I don’t care and that it doesn’t affect me.

I’m sick of feeling so deeply. I’m sick of caring so much. I’m sick of the roller coaster. I’m sick of the heartbreak. I’m sick of the battle.

I’m totally and utterly done. I’ve given it my all. I’ve thrown myself into this journey with reckless abandon to finally face my demons and heal properly.

But I’m exhausted.

I’ve got nothing left to give.

I’m completely and irrecoverably done.

Time is taking too long.

I think I’ve been waiting for that aha moment where you all of a sudden you feel human again. Where everything finally clicks into place and all the hard work pays off. Maybe there is no such moment after so much heart ache in such a short space of time. Maybe little by little wounds heal and it gets easier. Maybe the pain never goes away.

I don’t know anymore. All I know right now in this moment is that I’ve literally got nothing left to give.

My journey has broken me.

My vulnerability is no longer my weakness.

Brene Brown is my new hero!! Her talks and books on vulnerability are brilliant. She is hilarious, blunt and at times it feels like she is reading my mind. Everything she said resonated with me so deeply.

There is a passage in one of her books where she talks about when she was on stage and asked the crowd, “How many people struggle with vulnerability because they see it as a weakness?” Of course most of the crowd raised their hands.

Then she asks “When you see people on stage how many people thought they were being courageous?” Again the crowd raises their hands.

I don’t know about you but standing in front of a crowd would have to be one of the most vulnerable positions you could put yourself in. I’m pretty sure 99% of society would all say the same. And we all see that as being so courageous, yet still see vulnerability as a weakness.

It blows my mind!!

How is it that we can admire these people for their bravery in leaving themselves completely vulnerable, yet when someone opens up about mental health struggles, or opens up about having feelings for someone or wears their heart on their sleeves and shows emotions; people look at them as if they are weak.

In all of these examples, people leave themselves completely vulnerable. Open to rejection and criticism. Yet one side is admired and the other side is judged so harshly.

I’ve felt both sides during my journey and after hearing that example from Brene, it’s made me realise that all this vulnerability I’m showing is not a weakness at all. I see it now as pure bravery and strength.

On one side I’ve received so many messages of support and admiration, not only by friends and family, but total strangers. I have been told how brave and courageous and strong I am to be able to open up and be so raw and honest with my struggles and trauma.

And I’ve also seen the other side where I’ve showed emotion and cried in front of people, and they’ve seen it as a sign of weakness. Criticised me for not being strong enough to hold on and cry when no one is around.

This makes no sense to me. How is it that I’m brave for writing about crying, yet when people see me cry, I’m viewed as weak??

Another quote from her book “Only when we’re brave enough to explore the darkness, will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

This resonates big time with me. The last 6 months of my journey has completely revolved around exploring my darkness. I’ve dug deep and gone to places I didn’t want to. The deepest darkest places I could find.

And while discovering this darkness, it really has illuminated the power of the light within me. As I’ve healed my darkness and allowed the light to shine through, it’s opened my eyes to a whole new world out there. A whole new me that I didn’t know was inside of me.

See I’ve always put myself into a category that made me feel weak and powerless. I’m one of “those” ones. The reserved, the emotional, the thinkers. One of those ones that always gets called depressed. That always gets called rude. That’s looked down upon because we get nervous in social situations.

As I empowered the light within me, I started realising that all of these traits I have, are not weaknesses. They are my strengths.

It’s a strength to be reserved. It allows me to sit back and analyse situations before jumping in head first. It allows me to watch people and their behaviours so I can determine who I feel comfortable socialising with.

It’s a strength to be in touch with my emotions. Now that I have learnt to handle the stronger emotions I feel, it gives me a sense of strength to ride these feelings and embrace them. Yes I still cry. Yes I still get upset. However I no longer allow them to completely take hold of me. And I love that I feel emotions so strongly. I’d rather love incredibly deeply than not at all.

It’s a strength to be a thinker. Now that I have found ways to stop myself over-thinking situations, I actually really enjoy my deep thoughts that I have. Especially when I’m running. I explore deep within my consciousness and discover things I never knew about myself. I analyse things I’ve heard or read and discover how I feel about them. It’s fun and exciting now rather than tiring and draining when I was over-thinking situations and conversations I’d been in.

I’m not actually depressed and I’m not actually rude. (Ok yes I can be incredibly rude sometimes when people deserve it) however I’m social situations I’m not being rude by not talking much. I get incredibly nervous in crowds and especially around people I haven’t met before. But this doesn’t make me rude. And yes I have previously suffered from depression however in the words of my Psychologist;

“You’re not currently depressed. You’ve suffered many losses in a short amount of time and you’re grieving. But you’re seeking help and making changes. You’re motivated with running and setting new goals each week. When you’re in a stage of depression you don’t take these steps.”

Just because I’m in introvert, doesn’t mean I’m depressed. Just because I don’t feel comfortable in social situations, doesn’t mean I’m depressed.

Looking back on my life I realise I’ve always been so ashamed for being “different.” I’ve spent countless years wishing I could be extroverted because I thought that was normal. Hoping that I can wake up and suddenly feel powerful in crowds, to get a rush from meeting new people and to feel on a high after being in social situations. I’ve always believed these people are stronger than me. Braver than me. Better than me.

But now that I’ve released this light inside of me, I realise that they aren’t stronger or braver or better than me. They are just different to me and that’s ok.

I now love the qualities that I have. In my previous blogs I’ve discussed this and stated I now accept who I am. Which was a huge step. Now I feel like I’m starting to embrace my qualities. Starting to love them and be excited by them.

I’m seeing my own vulnerabilities as strengths rather than weaknesses and it’s a powerful feeling.

Having the ability to be vulnerable is risky, scary and fucking hard. But it really is the only way to achieve anything and to move forward in life. It’s such a courageous thing to do and the feeling of empowerment you receive during the process is like having the brightest light shining from within you.

It’s a beautiful and brave thing to experience and I wouldn’t give that up for anything.

Taking my power back

*Warning – sensitive trigger subject*

This will be the hardest blog I release. Opening up about the moment I had my power stolen from me.

But I feel like it’s going to be my most important one too. This week I took my power back and it’s the most amazing, and, well the most powerful feeling in the world.

It’s hard to even type the words as I’ve carried this burden for so long. The shame and the guilt. The feeling of powerlessness. I know I just need to spit it out… at 10 years old I was sexually abused.

I’m not going to go into details obviously. No one needs to read that.

25 years ago someone took my power from me. He took my innocence. He took my confidence. He took my ability to feel comfortable saying no. He took my trust. He took my feeling of safety. He took the feeling that humans are inherently good and kind.

He took everything good from me and replaced it with everything shit. Guilt. Shame. Self blame. Confusion. Mistrust. Fear. Defiance. Anger. Pain. Over bearing emotions that I could never find a way to cope with.

I truely feel that the person I was originally born to become, died that day. From that moment I was never going to be the same. He fundamentally changed my personality, my heart and my soul.

This is so difficult because I don’t want to talk about the fact that he’s had a lasting impact on me for 25 years. I don’t want to open up about the fact that even now when people I love touch me, it sometimes makes my skin crawl. I don’t want to admit that I still have nightmares. I don’t want to tell anyone that up until a few months ago I couldn’t accept compliments because my first thought was always “what do you want from me?” I don’t want to fess up that even hearing his name makes me feel sick. I don’t want to share the details of how I sometimes get a bad gut feeling around certain men that makes my heart race, my hands shake, I start to sweat and feel the walls closing in like I can’t escape.

I don’t want to share any of this. But this is the reality of my life. And the reality for so many others that have been through the same trauma. This is the lasting impact that this has on our lives.

But as of a few days ago when writing this, all of it changed. And I feel like a million pounds of weight have been lifted off my shoulders.

I was talking to my therapist about how I feel so powerless right now because my ex has total control over my life. How it sends me absolutely crazy every time she takes even more power from me. How I get so emotional about it and feel like I can’t find my way out. How I’ve always been triggered when people take my power away from me.

She asked if there was a time when I was a child where I feel I lost my power. Obviously the abuse came straight into my mind. I did try to stumble my way through a few other minor things because I was scared to step up and face my demons.

I stopped myself and there was silence for what felt like an eternity. I knew I had to face it. I knew this was my moment to deal with it. I knew I couldn’t carry it any longer.

I took a deep breath and said the words. The flood gates opened.

She suggested a few options we could try and I felt that the imagery work we’d used before sat best with me. A quick description of what happened was that I visualise up to the point where I started to know something was wrong. I then visualise “Adult Jess” stepping in and taking “little Jess” out of the situation and comforting her until she’s feeling ok and safe. Then “adult Jess” and my therapist walk back in and get everything off my chest that I’ve wanted and needed to say to him my whole life.

The entire experience was so difficult, yet so healing. Especially the point in which my therapist says to him that it’s his fault not mine and that it’s his guilt to carry for hurting me and for choosing to hurt others.

The feeling that’s burdened me the most is the guilt that I feel because I didn’t stop him and because I shut down to try and cope and didn’t tell anyone, he hurt others. And I have blamed myself for that my whole life.

Hearing those words that it’s not my burden to carry anymore, broke down so many walls I’ve had up. It shattered the weight I’ve always carried. It transferred all of the shit he gave me, and returned it back to him.

In that moment I felt that I took back all the good he stole from me. I took back my innocence. I took back my confidence. I took back feeling comfortable to say no. I took back my ability to trust. I took back my feeling of being safe. But most importantly, I took back my power.

I walked out of that office feeling like a new person. I barely recognise myself. I feel entirely different. It’s like I actually see the world differently. I can’t find the words to explain it properly. But it feels good. It feels amazing actually.

And by no means do I feel that I just walk away and forget it happened. Like I’m magically better and won’t ever think about it again. I will always carry the scars from this trauma. I will always remember. I’ll probably always get the random flash backs and the nightmares. But I’m hoping that these things will lessen over time now that I’ve faced it and feel myself healing.

For the first time in my life, I don’t feel like a victim anymore. I feel like a survivor. And that is incredibly important to me. I faced one of the most horrendous things a child can face, and today I stood my ground and took my power back!

I’ve been going back and forth in deciding whether to write a blog on this. I don’t mind sharing these details with the hundreds of people that read this that I don’t know and never will. But it’s especially hard to share such a traumatic event with people I know. I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. Or to look at me with pity. Or to feel uncomfortable around me because they don’t know what to say. No one can say or do anything to take away the pain so please don’t feel that you need to “fix” anything. I’m sharing this because I know the worst thing about being abused is that you feel like you’re the only one.

So I want to stand up and say, you’re not alone! If we’ve never met, or if we’re best mates, or if we work together or if we fell out years ago and have never spoken since, I don’t care… you’re not alone in this. If you need to reach out then I’m here. You’re not alone.

The other emotion you carry is the guilt and self blame.

So I want to stand up and say, it wasn’t your fault!

The only person to blame in this situation, is the perpetrator. No one else. It wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t my parents fault. It wasn’t society’s fault. It wasn’t his parents fault. He alone made that choice to hurt me. Him. No one else.

I also wanted to share this as I made a promise to myself when I started this blog, that I was always going to be open, raw and honest. And this is the most significant trauma in my life and has impacted me so much. So standing up and facing it, will have an enormous impact on my journey.

And hiding what happened is a way of him still holding power over me. So I’m standing up now and saying no more.

“You, you piece of shit, no longer hold any of my power.” It’s mine!!!

Guilt, shame and self-blame

I read an article recently that if you’ve been in relationships where difficult things were hidden or not spoken about, this causes you to feel shame and loneliness about struggling through difficult times. That also 90% of my generation grew up in a family structure where children should be seen and not heard, has caused us to try and mask our emotions instead of release them.

 

It seems to be, that the common perception of society these days that showing emotions makes you weak, especially for men. I don’t understand this concept at all because opening up and showing emotions is one of the most difficult things you can do. You leave yourself vulnerable and open to judgement and criticism. How is that being weak? I have been doing this more than ever these last few months and it has been the most difficult process I’ve faced. 

 

I’ve just come out of a relationship where I was belittled almost every day for being “weak” and “too emotional.” I was laughed at. Told I was being ridiculous. Told I needed help. She even said that the only reason she started dating me was because she thought I was broken and she wanted to fix me. Wow what a confidence boost that is. If I had a dollar for every time in that relationship I heard the words “There’s no point getting upset over anything, just have a bottle of wine and get over it” I’d be a millionaire.

 

Looking back and knowing that I’m so much stronger now than I was then, I know I’d never stand for such disrespectful words to be spoken to me. But when you’re in that cycle, it’s so hard to stand up for yourself and get out. When someone literally laughs in your face when you get upset, it makes you feel so utterly worthless.

 

A few days after we found out I’d miscarried the first time, she saw me upset and her exact words were “Urgh what are you crying for now?” My response “I’m upset because we lost our baby.” Her response “Well crying won’t change that so get over it and we can try again.”

 

After our second loss I was sitting on the kitchen floor bawling my eyes out. I couldn’t believe it happened again. My oh so loving and supportive partner walks in “I don’t want our daughter seeing this so I’m taking her over to Mums so you can be alone and have some space.” So now we’re teaching our daughter too that it’s not ok to show emotions??? And tell me who in the world would want to be alone after finding out such news?

 

After our 3rd loss I cried in front of her once. Then I shut down and hid my emotions because I couldn’t cope with being made to feel worthless and stupid again. So I didn’t grieve properly. I just blocked it all and threw myself into running.

 

I can see now that her way of blocking emotions and not dealing with the difficult parts of life, is the easy and “weak” way of getting through each day. I found that blocking the grief was so much easier than dealing with it. 

 

I used to do that before I learnt to express my emotions and having a lifetime of built up shit that I didn’t deal with, led me to a point in my life where I felt I could barely cope. I had such a back log of emotions that I had blocked, that when I finally started releasing them it was incredibly overwhelming.

 

When starting to release these emotions and deal with them, I realised just how much shame and guilt I carry for even feeling these emotions. And that makes it so much harder to deal with. The feeling that there is something wrong with me just because I wear my heart on my sleeve. The feeling of guilt and that I’m a burden on the people in my life. The feeling of shame that my life isn’t “perfect” like certain others that put on a front pretending that their life is perfect.

 

No one’s life is perfect. Everyone feels emotions. Everyone has bad days. Everyone feels sad sometimes. Everyone cries. So why it that the people that are real and show these emotions is are labelled as weak??? And the people that hide these emotions and are “fake” about their lives, are celebrated???

 

Again it just seems like society is going backwards. We value people being fake over people being real. We belittle people for showing emotion rather than celebrating their courage to be vulnerable. We give more credence to materialistic goods rather than time with people we care for.

 

The self-blame that I have always put onto myself is something I struggle with every day. I’ve found it easier to take responsibility for other people’s shitty actions, rather than having the courage to stand up and say no it’s not ok that you treat me that way. When you carry so much shame and guilt, it almost feels better to take the blame on yourself, because your self-worth, and self-confidence is non-existent. You feel like you deserve to be treated that way. And when you’ve also done this your whole life, it’s hard to break the habit. 

 

What I’ve realised very quickly that there is three ways people react when you finally step up and start voicing that you don’t like being treated a certain way. 1. They fight back and try to put the blame back on me by bringing up my faults and trying to bring me back down again. 2. They defend their actions and try to blame others or make excuses for shitty behaviour. 3. They reflect on the situation and will take responsibility for their actions and apologise whole heartedly without making excuses. 

 

What I’m working through with my therapist is how to accept that all 3 responses are ok. That some people aren’t ready to admit when they have hurt someone and that is ok. That is just the place they are in right now. It doesn’t make it ok that their actions hurt me, but its ok that they aren’t ready to take responsibility yet. It’s really difficult to find a healthy balance between recognising that their actions were not ok, and accepting that it happened and moving forward, but it’s something I’m slowly working through and getting used to. 

 

This journey is teaching me so much about myself, about others and about life in general. I’m experiencing every emotion under the sun, from pure bliss to absolute heart break and endless despair. What I’m realising is that even though making changes and leaving yourself vulnerable is the hardest thing I have faced, I would rather face it and conquer it and go through all of these difficulties, than staying the way I was. I’m sick and tired of not being true to myself. I’m sick and tired of letting people walk over me. I’m sick and tired of taking on all the blame from others. 

 

Making changes is hard, but you know what’s even worse? Staying the same!!!