People who work with survivors of sexual and/or domestic violence are motivated for many, many reasons. Sometimes, their motivation comes from their own experiences of sexual/domestic violence and abuse. For me, my experiences of abuse was a key motivator in volunteering for Rape Crisis – I wanted to help challenge a culture that allows/minimises/normalises the abuse of women and children.
As we announced last week, the Bank of England responded to our letter threatening legal action with a disappointingly dismissive response. Their letter claimed that the Equality Act did not apply, whilst also asserting that they had in any case fulfilled their duties. They refused, however, to provide any evidence to back up this assertion, calling our requests for documentation 'a fishing expedition'.
Trigger Warning for the whole of this piece.
We all know what happened yesterday, and I don’t want to dwell on it. However, being called a whiny bitch for openly discussing my mental health, really, really hurt. The whole reason I started blogging and tweeting, wasn’t for feminism, but it was to discuss my mental health. This was my way of coping with crippling depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicidal thoughts.
I had been suffering in silence for most of my teens, until I finally cracked in my first week of attending Nottingham University. I had a complete breakdown, I didn’t leave my room and lived off cupcakes. I decided one day to start a blog ( not this one) and open a twitter account. At first I talked about boring stuff to get the hang of things, and then I eventually began to talk to others who felt the same and started getting involved with Mind twitter chats. I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to finally be open about how I was *really* feeling for the first time in my life. It liberated me.
One day I was asked by Mind to write a piece for them about my experience, and I accepted! I feel like sharing it on this blog for the first time. I am sure just by reading it, those who know me best, will realise how far I’ve come since I wrote it. It’s actually a joy for me to read it, because I know I am getting better. For the first time in my life, I feel really lucky to be alive.
I am not playing cards to gain sympathy; these are my lived experiences:
On the outside I look like I have the perfect life: I am studying for a law degree and I’m doing really well, I have a lovely boyfriend of nearly two years, lovely friends and the best mother in the entire world. However on the inside there is a confused, scared and lost woman, who finds life a huge and constant uphill struggle.
I have bursts of happiness here and there but they’re always drowned out by lengthy episodes of sadness and exhaustion. I can go from happy to suicidal in what seems like a matter of minutes. People may think I’ve just got ‘mood swings’ but it’s much more than that.
I honestly cannot for the life of me help it.
During my school career I used to struggle to get out of bed every single day and I used to hate every waking moment. I’d come home and secretly cry for hours and cut myself because I just didn’t know what to do. I thought about death everyday and I thought of ways to kill myself to make the confusion and pain go away.
On a few occasions I began to try to kill myself, with whatever means I could. However my fear always got the better of me. This left me feeling like a freak of nature. I’d put a big smile on and act like everything was wonderful. I would hide my scars from everyone, because I wasn’t doing it for attention (most annoying stereotype of those who self harm). I just wanted the world to swallow me whole.
Since leaving school, I have found that because I bottled everything up for years, it has made me sink deeper into depression. Everything is finally coming out in a huge explosion of emotion and black fog.
I have such strong urges to kill myself it’s unbearable. I worry I will never get better. I desperately want these dark feelings to go away so I can get on with my life and to be young and carefree.
The last time I was on the verge of ending my life was on holiday recently. I just thought I am so tired of living, it requires so much effort just to strain a smile or to even brush my teeth. I just thought I’m exhausted. I just want to go to sleep and never wake up again. I decided I was going to walk into the ocean and just keep on swimming until I ran out of energy.
I hate the sea, so to have such a powerful urge to do something that would terrify me, goes to show how lost in my cave of depression I had got.
Since then, my supportive boyfriend and my mum helped me find a counsellor so I could begin to talk through my feelings. I can’t say that I’ll never want to kill myself again, because there’s a long way for me to go to get better. But in the past couple of months I’ve gone from pretending everything is fine to having the courage to write this blog.
And finally, a very good thing happened a few days ago – I found out my best friend, who I’ve known all my life, had also been suffering in silence too.
It was a miraculous moment of discovery that I suddenly had someone to share my experiences with, without fear of judgment or misunderstanding.
We were so convinced that the other would look down on the other, that we hid ourselves from each other for six whole years.
This has given me the strength to be more open about what I’m feeling, because I know it can never go away if I tackle it on my own.
I hope whoever reads this can find courage to tell just one person how they are really feeling. It has taken me years and I am so relieved.
In a few months time I’ll be going back to university, to start my new life as a slightly more sane person. The road to recovery is long and agonising, but it is possible. I feel like a stronger and braver person than I was when I wrote this. I refuse to let anything or anyone stop me reaching my goal of a full recovery. Don’t you dare even try.
For those of you who don’t know/haven’t seen, Deborah Orr published a piece this morning for the Guardian, stating that it’s not religion or gender that causes crimes, like the murder of April Jones – but mental health ( or lack of it).
“It seems to me that lack of mental health, not gender, is the defining motivation of all violence”
On the surface, that seems like a very reasonable conclusion, especially if you aren’t familiar with feminism, and mental illness. Naturally you would want to assume that those who commit heinous crimes – like murder and child rape – are sick in the head, and not ‘normal’. The thought of a clinically sane person doing something so barbaric, and unnatural is just unthinkable for so many – including myself up until last year. It’s easy, and makes us feel safe to other perpetrators of violent crimes.
However, we need to let go of this myth, even if it fells safe to us. The facts surrounding mental illness and violent crimes prove without a doubt, that there is no correlation between being mentally ill and murdering someone. Statistically 95% of violent crimes and homicides are committed by a clinically sane person – leaving only 5% of these crimes committed by mentally ill people. In fact, someone who is mentally ill is more likely to be victims of violent crimes by others and (more likely) themselves, than mentally healthy people. We can’t ignore these facts.
In some ways, by blaming an act of unimaginable violence and depravity on someones mental health, we are almost letting them off the hook for their immoral, and unforgivable behaviour. Yes, society does play a part in the enabling people to commit heinous crimes, and particularly when it comes to rape – letting men off the hook, and blaming the victim. However, the perpetrator has chosen to commit a crime, be it the mass murder of Norwegians in Oslo by Anders Breivik , or the abduction and murder of April Jones by Mark Bridger. These men alone are responsible for their actions, not their mental health.
If mental illness isn’t the common denominator of violent crimes, then what is? Well that would be gender. I don’t profess to be an expert on this, but Karen Ingala Smith’s blog is filled to the brim with statistics on male violence. I don’t need to write a whole blog post on this, the stats really do speak for themselves.
Next time you hear of an horrific crime, don’t blame mental illness – blame the person.
I decided to write this piece in response to some of the reactions to Mick and Mairead Philpott’s killing of six of their children, together with their friend Paul Mosley. The Daily Mail, Louise Mensch, George Osborne and others were keen to identify ‘benefits culture’ as the biggest problem, overlooking Michael Philpott’s history of domestic violence which included attempting to kill a previous partner and a predilection for having relationships with vulnerable women who were much younger than him.
I am writing to you in response to the request that popped up in my inbox earlier this afternoon. I have also copied in Charity Comms, which deemed your request as relevant to charities that fall into the “women’s group”, “children” or “family welfare” categories. I do hope that you receive several replies from “women’s groups” and that said “women’s groups” tell you exactly what they think of you.
Another rambly mess, from the heart.
Feminism has taught me so many things, and I believe I have changed so much as a person, and learnt how to stop giving a fuck about most things. However, there is one thing that still eats away at me, that no amount of ‘fuck the patriarchy’ seems to shift – How I view my body.
I could be having a really good day, and all it would take for the day to be ruined is if something about my body makes me feel shit. For example, if I sit down and I suddenly feel like I look fat, or if I try on a new pair of jeans, in my size, that feel too tight, or make me look what I deem to be fat, looking in the mirror and having a panic attack that my face is fat. That is it, my day, and possibly the next few days are completely destroyed. I delve into a pit of misery, and self-hatred. I mentally start planning how to diet, and what exercises I could do to make this mostly imaginary fat go away.
I’ve always had a issues with self-esteem, and at one stage of my teens, I most definitely was anorexic. I remember an old friend saying ‘ you look so fragile’ and I used to wear size 6 and below. I’ve never really loved my body, regardless if I get compliments from men, my mum, or friends – it’s just not enough. I think as a woman, I’ve been brainwashed into hating my body. I am now healthier, and a size 10/12 depending on what shop I go into – but I sometimes still long to be size 6 again.
Shopping is just hell on earth – endless posters of stick-thin models and barely there mannequins, clothes that say that they are my size, but quite clearly are not. Side-tracking a bit, I honestly believe there is something going on. I’ve spoken to a few women, and they say they *know* they haven’t put on weight, but somehow clothes in their size in high-street shops no longer fit, but when they shop online, the clothes do fit. What the fuck is up with that? Conspiracy to make us hate ourselves? Probably.
Where was I? Yes clothes shopping – trying on endless amounts of clothes, and you get more and more pissed off at yourself, for not fitting into some fuck off tiny clothes. I *always* end up wanting to starve myself after clothes shopping, without fail. I tend to stick to online shopping, so I can try clothes on in my own safe space, without huge 180 or more degree mirrors and crappy lighting, that I’m pretty sure are designed to make you hate yourself too.
I desperately want to love my body, because I know deep down, I’m not what would be classed as overweight – I think my BMI is like 20/21. I just *feel* it, really, really feel that I am hideous and fat. I sometimes even struggle with my boobs, I think they are too big, and I liked them when they were small and I could wear whatever I wanted, without worrying about how my boobs would look. But then I think – that was me during puberty – looking like a young teen shouldn’t be something we all aim to be. It’s fucked up. Isn’t it?
This doesn’t really have much of a conclusion, because I just don’t know what the answer is – other than smashing the patriarchy, but we all know that’s not going to happy any time soon. What can be done now, to make things better for mine and other women’s self-esteem? Perhaps banning myself from reading glossy magazines? Having everyone tell me I look great? Never going clothes shopping in public again?
I really don’t know, all I know is that the patriarchy is evil. It poisons the minds of women and makes them hate themselves. It finds ways to constantly drive home the idea, that YOU MUST LOSE WEIGHT OR YOUR LIFE WILL BE SHIT. It makes sure that models are stick-thin, to the point of barely being alive, and it tells you that ‘this is the norm’. Anything outside this, and what the fuck? Put down that cookie. It gives you diet pills, that can kill you, but at least you’ll die thin – that’s the whole aim in life for women isn’t it? Look pristine at all times OR ELSE.