World Mental Health Day 2020

I have clinical depression, PTSD and chronic anxiety. I will always have them. Sometimes they are overwhelming and all-consuming. Other times they just sit under the surface, an ever-present threat but something I can, increasingly, control.

They manifest in various ways. I withdraw. Stop socialising. Stop speaking to my friends and family. I cry. A lot. Leaving the house becomes a chore that can last all day. I can’t step foot in a supermarket without experiencing an anxiety attack. My dreams can be so vivid that I wake up exhausted. I constantly worry about what I’ve done or said. I make bad choices. I stop caring about myself. I self-harm. I become suicidal.

As I write this, I’m actually in a pretty good place. I am starting work again after a hiatus of a few years. I am starting to feel like my ‘old’ self. I am beginning to have a sense of purpose again and I’m even starting to like myself a bit. But I still have bad moments. Bad days. Bad weeks.

This week I had a full day of crying and torturing myself because I truly felt worthless. I genuinely couldn’t see why anyone would want to spend time with me, care about me or be there for me. In hindsight, I can see that I was being completely irrational. The evidence doesn’t match what my brain was telling me. I have amazing friends and a wonderfully supportive family who have been with me every step of the way. In the moment, though, it was impossible to see anything but darkness. I was trapped in a cycle that went something like this:

Me: Of course nobody is going to want to hang out with me. I’m nuts.

Brain: You’re right. You’re pretty nuts. You push everyone away and this behaviour doesn’t help. Who wants to be around someone who just cries at everything?

Me: I know. I can’t see why anyone would bother with me when I’m like this.

Brain: Stop being like this then. You’re just being pathetic.

Me: I am pathetic. That’s why nobody should bother with me.


Bloody exhausting, right?!

Mental health funding in this country is appalling across the board and continues to get worse. The cuts that will follow the Government’s mismanagement of the Covid-19 pandemic will inevitably impact Mental Health Support Services hard. We have to help each other.

Talk. Listen. Reach out. Find the things that help you and let other people know what they are too. That way they can help you do them when it feels impossible or you can’t think straight. For me, if I can get on the yoga mat, or out for a walk, or if I message a friend or meet someone for a brew, then I can start to pull myself out of the darkest moments. Look out for your friends. Reach out to them if you notice they’ve gone quiet – it can be incredibly difficult to ask for help.

I’m writing this to say that you are not on your own. I understand. I am here. You are never alone.

#WorldMentalHealthDay #WMHD2020

Musings on a year without you

There are so many clichés around grief. That it comes in stages. True, but it’s not as linear as that. I seem to have each stage in one day sometimes… then be stuck in one stage (usually depression) for weeks at a time.  That it will sometimes just creep up and hit you out of nowhere. True, particularly when you’ve been having a few ‘good’ days. That you will never truly get over the pain of losing someone you love. Well, no. Obviously not. That the first year is the hardest. I really fucking hope so.

I’m sick of the ‘firsts’. The first Christmas. Birthday. Festival. Our anniversary. Fireworks night. The anniversary of him dying. Each one loomed over me for weeks. A constant reminder that any happiness I was feeling was not going to stick around for very long. Each time felt like I lost him all over again.

I miss him so very much. I miss telling him all the random things I’ve done in my day. I miss watching telly with him. I miss his happy, excited face as we planned festivals. I miss our little random breaks to caravans around the county. I miss him telling me that it’ll be fine.

It’s not fine, Nat. It’s really not fine.

I don’t stop thinking about him. I hope that he knew how much I’d be thinking about him. I hope he knew how much I loved him and would have done for him.

When I’m out doing simple, every day chores, that’s when it hits me the most. I remember trips into town, looking round the market. Going for a full English, then hitting out-of-date-Dave’s for some snacks… Everywhere reminds me far too much of Nat. And I’m glad. I don’t want to forget him. But it’s painful, too. Like a punch in the guts. A rush of adrenaline that stops me in my tracks. I find myself crying in public far too often. At first, it stopped me going out. But now I cry. It’s like sometimes my filter has gone and I don’t care what people think about me anymore. On other days, it is far too tempting to hide away inside. Where I can cry to my heart’s content. Where nobody will ask me how I am doing, or look at me with that damned sympathetic smile.

I have moments where I feel happy. Then I feel guilty for feeling happy. Then I feel annoyed at myself for feeling guilty for feeling happy. And then I just feel sad again.

I question how the world sees me. Well, not the world, but my small world – my friends and old colleagues and family. Do they think I’m coping too well? Should I be falling apart more? But I’ve always been pretty good at putting on a brave face when needed. Nat taught me how to be even better at that – he was the master! I try not to fall to pieces too often in front of people, but sometimes I wish I was better at doing just that. At letting it all go. Shouting and screaming and smashing stuff. But I can’t. Too anxious or shy or too worried about what people bloody think of me, probably.

There are all these other parts to grieving that I didn’t know about… how some days I walk in to the living room and I’m still surprised that he’s not sat in his chair. On nights out, or at festivals, I find myself worrying about him, panicking that I’ve left him on his own.  Sometimes Kashka looks round the house for him and it’s heart breaking. Or I’ll catch the look on the face of one of our friends suddenly realising again at a party and it makes me physically ache.

And guilt. There’s an awful lot of guilt in grief. Sometimes I’m relieved that Nat isn’t suffering any more. That I’m not watching him suffer anymore. And then I feel so utterly guilt-ridden for thinking that. I feel guilty for thinking about the future. I feel guilty for planning the things we could never have done when Nat was here. Trips abroad. Nights out to inaccessible places. Random day trips. All things I wish we could be doing together, but know we never would have.

I’ve learned a lot. Another cliché. I’m learning to care a little less about what people think about me. I’ve learned that I’m tougher than I thought. That when I put my mind to something it’ll happen, somehow. That I’m still really rubbish with money, even though Nat really tried to make me better! I’ve learned that we really had something special and I’m not sure I’ll ever find that again. Or if I even want to. I’ve learned to put a very brave face on. But I’m slowly learning to let my guard down a bit more too. I’ve learned that you can’t rely on everyone, but some people will be there no matter what. I’m clinging on to the friendships that matter, and shedding the ones that don’t.

This first year has been awful. So much tougher than I could have imagined. But I’m still standing. I’m not completely broken yet. I’ve got all the support I need to keep moving forward. And at least all those bloody ‘firsts’ are done with now.


It’s not you, it’s me: Why I’ve fallen out of love with Twitter.

I’ve been writing this post for a few days now. I can’t get it to say exactly what I mean, but hopefully it goes some way to explaining why I’m taking a break for a little while…

At the moment, my relationship with Twitter feels like I’m with someone who is really bad for me. I know I shouldn’t be with him, so I keep leaving, only to be seduced back thinking ‘it’ll be different this time’. It never is. I come back, feel crap, leave. Come back again, feel even worse, leave. I can’t do that to myself anymore.

I actually think Twitter is ace. I have seen how much it has helped people, how it has brought people together, and how if someone is at rock bottom, Twitter will gather its forces and help that person out as much as they possibly can. I know this. Yet, I can’t put myself through it anymore.

For the past few months I’ve relied on Twitter as an outlet for my rants and depressive thoughts. It feels more anonymous than doing it on Facebook, and certainly is easier than always ranting on to a friend or family member. The problem is, that’s all I’ve been using it for, really. And I’m fed up of reading tweets back and not recognising the tortured, angsty, attention-seeking, needy person that comes back. Or, rather, recognising her all too well and wanting to delete her.

I’ve always been an outsider. I’ve never felt like I ‘fit in’ anywhere. At school I was never cool enough to hang out with the cool people, never weird enough to hang out with the weird people, never geeky enough to hang out with the geeks… I moved from friendship group to friendship group, desperately trying to find somewhere that I felt like myself. Now, that’s not to say I didn’t have some good mates through high school – I did. But I never felt like I was properly part of the group. There was always something that I wasn’t quite doing enough of, or saying right, or watching, or listening to.

Even now, aged nearly 31, I struggle to feel like I fit in anywhere. I have some fucking awesome friends. People I’ve known for a long time, and people I’ve met only recently. While I’ve been going through this recent bout of depression, people have amazed me with their kindness. But… I still don’t feel like I belong anywhere. Even with my closest, oldest friends, I’m still the outsider of the group. Maybe I always will be. Hopefully one day I’ll accept that and realise it’s OK to not fit in. But until then, it means I get incredibly nervous before seeing friends if I’m seeing more than one at once. I withdraw into myself because it feels safer than outing myself as an outsider.

So, what has this got to do with Twitter? Well, I’ve always felt like an outsider on there too, obviously! When I first really, properly, got in to it, there was a clique that I was desperate to be a part of. I’d tweet people in the clique, occasionally getting replies, and one or two became friends of sorts on there. Then I went to my very first tweet up. I felt so completely invisible. The ‘clique’ couldn’t care less that I was there. I struggled to talk to people. I just got drunk and lamented the fact that I really couldn’t ‘do’ social situations like that.

When I came back from that tweet up I continued to try really hard to fit in to that clique. I don’t know why I did it to myself. But I thought that if I could prove that I belonged there, then they would all accept me with open arms and life would be great. I’m sure you can guess that this didn’t happen. I’ve stopped following the majority of people in that clique. Because I couldn’t stand it. It hurt me every time I saw a big conversation going on between them all and I knew that even if I tried to join in, I wouldn’t really be able to.

On the flip side to this, I went to my second tweet up. There I met loads of amazing people. Wonderful, funny, intelligent, caring people. And I seemed to get accepted. I thought I was accepted. And there are friends I made that day that I hope I will always be friends with. Friends who have held my hand through the last few months of hell. But…

… I still feel like an outsider. This is not the fault of anyone I met that day. I don’t want to upset or offend you because you really have all been brilliant. It’s me. I’m no good at it. I can’t be funny and clever on Twitter – it’s not in my DNA. And that means that I don’t get to talk to everyone as much as I’d like. Because often I don’t know what to say. If someone is hurting or upset then I can tweet them and let them know that I care and that I’m here if they need a chat. But aside from those situations, I stay quiet. Then I beat myself up for not chatting to my friends enough.

All of this is my very long-winded way of saying that I need to take a break. I don’t know how long for. Maybe I’ll coming running back to you all in a few days and continue to beg for your friendship like an over eager puppy… or maybe I’ll take a few months out, get myself together and come back feeling good and strong. I really don’t know. What I do know is that I can’t keep tormenting myself every time I log on. It’s exhausting.

The process of processing

I have written two fairly detailed blog posts on the assault I suffered, and what happened to me after that.

Unsurprisingly, the assault has had a profound effect on my life.

Imagine someone punching you. It hurts, right? Now imagine them punching you every single day. Ouch. Then imagine them punching you every hour of every single day.

That’s what the memory of my assault is like. I don’t go through a single day without something happening that causes that memory to pop up in my mind. I tried to work out how often it was, and I reckon a conservative estimate is every hour. The assault happened nearly two years ago. I’ve been punched every hour for nearly two years. And the memory doesn’t lessen or get hazy – I can recall every single thing he said and did, the smells, the sounds; every single detail is etched on to my brain. The memory is as disturbing to me as the event itself was.

So it’s no wonder I’m tired, really.

In my last post, I mentioned that I was starting a new therapy. I also got a shiny new diagnosis – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It’s funny – I’ve never even considered it, but once I got the diagnosis, it made so much sense to me. Of course that’s what I have. Of course that’s why I’m still in the same psychological state as I was two years ago, and why my depression has got worse – my mind is in shock. It can’t cope with what has happened to me and it is draining all my resources to just get me through each day.

The diagnosis of PTSD and that the reason my depression has been so unmanageable over the last two years  can be, largely, attributed to the assault, led my therapist to recommend  Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing therapy (EMDR). This is used to treat people who have experienced traumatic incident/incidents but are unable to process them.  It’s often used on people who have returned from war, or have suffered childhood abuse. The aim is to help the brain process the memory of the traumatic incident so that it becomes a ‘neutral’ memory from the past, rather than a disturbing memory that is still controlling you.

This explanation from the EMDR association website sums up both the theory, and what happens in an EMDR session, far better than I could:

“How Does EMDR Work?

When a person is involved in a distressing event, they may feel overwhelmed and their brain may be unable to process the information like a normal memory. The distressing memory seems to become frozen on a neurological level. When a person recalls the distressing memory, the person can re-experience what they saw, heard, smelt, tasted or felt, and this can be quite intense.

The alternating left-right stimulation of the brain with eye movements, sounds or taps during EMDR, seems to stimulate the frozen or blocked information processing system.

In the process the distressing memories seem to lose their intensity, so that the memories are less distressing and seem more like ‘ordinary’ memories. The effect is believed to be similar to that which occurs naturally during REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement) when your eyes rapidly move from side to side. EMDR helps reduce the distress of all the different kinds of memories, whether it was what you saw, heard, smelt, tasted, felt or thought.”

I’ve had two sessions of EMDR so far. I am given a machine to hold that vibrates in each hand, so that my brain is stimulated by the left to right movement of the vibration. At the same time, the therapist asks me to recall the assault – everything I could see, hear, smell, and feel at the time. Every few minutes, she asks me to tell her what I am feeling now. Each session lasts about 60 minutes.

As well as trying to process the memory of the assault, I’m also battling against the little voice inside me telling me that I should have done more. I should have shouted, or pushed him away. Or got up and moved from my seat. I remember showing one of the managers at my old work something from the rape crisis centre that explicitly stated that many survivors of assault and rape react in the same way – they shut down, unable to fight against the trauma or run away from it. He laughed at me. He said that was fair enough – but what I’d gone through wasn’t serious enough for that, so I should have been able to shout out.

Because I didn’t react in the way that my managers, or the police to some extent, believed I should, I didn’t get taken seriously. Because of their lack of understanding, and unwillingness to learn, I lost my job and got labelled a liar. Thus cementing what I already thought about myself: I should have done more.

I’ve kind of always known that we have three natural, in-built responses to trauma – fight, flight or freeze. But I also really thought that, if faced with danger, I would either fight back or run away. I never imagined I would completely freeze up, unable to speak or move. But that’s what I did. My body went in to ‘freeze’ mode to protect me against what was happening. And that response is hardwired in to my brain. There’s nothing I could have done to change it.

The sessions have, so far, been two of the most traumatic and exhausting hours of my life. At first I could feel my usual anxiety – sweaty palms, racing heart, the knot in my chest that feels like it’s going to rip me open, every muscle in my body tensing up. But, by the end I was getting a different feeling. I wouldn’t say that the anger and upset and panic had gone… but I was able to conjure up the images without getting the usual physical symptoms. Furthermore, I was able to ‘watch’ the assault and begin to accept that I did everything I was physically and mentally able to do at the time.

I’ve got a lot more sessions to go, and other things to focus on as well as the assault, but I’m starting to see glimmers of hope on the horizon. I feel able to make plans again – I should be back at work in the next few weeks and I’m thinking about holidays I can go on later in the year. I’m approaching these plans tentatively – I’ve rushed myself back in to the real world too quickly before and it ended really badly, but I really think that the combination of the EMDR, the new medication and my sheer bloody-mindedness will mean that I do get there. One tiny, but positive, step at a time.

So this is Christmas…

December is my favourite month. I love the build up to Christmas. Always have done. I love the weather getting colder and having to get all wrapped up. I love writing my Christmas list – planning for months what I’m going to get everyone. That feeling of knowing you’ve got someone the perfect gift. I put my decorations up as close to 1st December as possible. I love having the lights up, my little fibre optic tree twinkling away.

Christmas Eve is often my favourite day. Finishing early at work, then wrapping up the last of the presents, going to my mum’s for spicy parsnip soup then Christmas Carols in the square. I love it. We stand in pretty much the same spot every year and I see people I don’t see much, if at all, during the rest of the year. And the day itself – a lazy morning with Christmas breakfast – smoked salmon, mascarpone cheese, croissants, bagels. Then maybe a trip to the pub, or a little walk. Then presents. I’m always in charge of presents! Handing them out from under the tree. Making it last as long as possible. Far too excited about giving out my own presents, feeling nervous as they get opened. Hoping that I’ve got it right. And Christmas dinner is always amazing – never turkey, often fillets of beef, with all the trimmings. Love it.

Except this year, I’m not excited. In fact, the thought of the whole thing is terrifying me. I haven’t made a list, I have managed to buy a few presents but that happened by chance. I can’t stand the thought of writing cards, of putting up decorations, of going shopping.

I’ve talked about my depression – in earlier blogs and a lot on twitter. Some people may well think I do all that to get a bit of attention. But really it’s because I’m sick of hiding it. Sick of telling people I’m fine when I’m so obviously not. This period of depression, right now, is the worst I’ve ever had. I went to the counsellor today and my depression score has increased. I’ve moved from the top of the moderately severe category to the bottom of the severe category. I’ve got worse.

This has hit me hard. I want so much to be better. I don’t want to be feeling like this any longer. I don’t want to sleep all day long. I don’t want my biggest achievement in a day to be getting dressed.

A few weeks ago I thought I’d hit my lowest point. I went to meet up with some local Twitter people. I had organised a mini-Tweet up. A few people turned up. A few lovely people. But I felt a bit crap that I hadn’t managed to get more people along. A lot crap, actually. Then I felt myself slipping away from the group. I had nothing to say, I couldn’t get involved with the conversations, couldn’t make a decision about where to go. We walked to another pub after a bit and I held back. I couldn’t face going inside and talking to everyone some more. I needed to go home. I talked to someone I know a bit better than the others and he offered to tell them I wasn’t feeling well and needed to go home. I talked to him for a bit longer, but he had to go so then I walked to the train station. By this time I was in a bit of a state. A lot of a state, actually. I knew that I couldn’t go on like this. I hated myself for not being able to talk to people for just a few hours. I missed my train and sat on the platform openly crying. I didn’t care. I just wanted to be on my own. Another person from the group got to the station – the tweet up had fizzled out. I felt worse – I’d not only ruined my night, but that of everyone else who had bothered to come out. He was very kind. He sat with me until his train came and gave me a hug before he left.

By the time I got home I was inconsolable and I couldn’t cope with being here anymore. I took 10 antidepressants. I had no clue what they would or wouldn’t do, and I didn’t care. In that split second I wanted to be gone. For it all to be over. Then, all of a sudden it hit me just how stupid I was being. I texted my sister who came right over and called me an ambulance. I went to hospital and was very well looked after. Luckily no physical damage had been done. The crisis team came to see me. And the nurse was amazing. Let me talk and talk for about an hour. (The doctor was hideous, but that’s another story).

It was an awful night, but it wasn’t rock bottom. Right now is rock bottom. I’m back off sick. I sleep all the time. My last blog was about me starting CBT. My doctor and the mental health team have decided that I’m not ready for that. So I’ve started therapy. It’s tough. So tough. We are concentrating on the assault. I’m so angry that the bastard who did that to me is still having such an impact on my life. Thinking about him makes me freeze. That night plays over and over in my mind. And what happened afterwards makes me despair. I had a career, I loved my job. Now I’m not working and I hate that. I feel useless and pathetic. I read or hear about people’s days at work and I’m so jealous.

I’m going to get through this because I have a number of wonderful people in my life. Friends, family, people I’ve only ever talked to on Twitter, people I’ve met in person from Twitter who seem to get me. I know I’m incredibly lucky in that respect. But fuck, it feels like a bloody huge mountain to climb. I want a day where I don’t cry. Where I achieve more than getting dressed and doing a bit of washing up. I want to look forward to things again. To Christmas, to seeing friends, to going out and having fun. I feel like this huge burden on everyone. And that feeling gets bigger and bigger as Christmas approaches. I’m dreading it. I never thought I would. But I’m dreading  Christmas. And if I’m dreading my favourite time of year then what hope is there?

Just a drunken man going too far? Part 2

I’ve been wanting to write this blog for a while. Ever since I first blogged about the assault on me by a work colleague.

That was awful, horrific, and I’m only now beginning to get the help I need to try to get through it.

What happened afterwards, though, was almost worse.

I was fairly happy in my job. I loved the job itself – Project Manager for a creative agency. I had some great colleagues – people I classed as friends. As it turns out, only one of them was really my friend. And she continues to be an amazing friend to me – I’d be lost without her. You know who you are!

I had some issues with my manager. It’s hard to describe them without sounding petty. But I’m sure you all know what it’s like to work for someone you don’t respect. Someone who you know will do everything in their power to look better than you. I was stressed and I started making mistakes. Not sending things to clients on time, or making promises I knew the designers couldn’t keep. So that gave her extra ammunition to get at me. I was thinking about leaving, but not seriously so. It was something to say to myself – to know that I could get out of there if I really needed to. But I didn’t want to.

Then came the assault. I’ve blogged about all the details before. The Monday after it happened I went in to work. I mentioned what had happened to a couple of friends. It still felt so unreal and I think I needed somebody to tell me that I wasn’t going mad. It turned out that this man had come on a bit strong to one of my friends a few weeks earlier. She too had told him no and, luckily, he’d got the hint and left her to it. But to me, this validated what had happened to me – he had form, I wasn’t alone.

It took me a while to build up the courage to say anything. In the meantime, the man who had assaulted me had come up to my desk – asking me if I was OK, had I enjoyed the rest of my weekend. I couldn’t believe that he had the nerve!

I told me manager and she was shocked. She clearly didn’t know how to react – who would? She got his manager in as well – the Creative Director of the company. He was really angry. I felt like they were on my side. That the right thing would be done.

That feeling lasted about 5 minutes.

“Is that all that happened? Are you sure it wasn’t more serious”, “Was he just a drunken man going too far?”, “What do you want us to do about it”, and various other questions were fired at me by my manager, the Creative Director and the Director of the company who had now got involved. I had no answers for them – I was in shock, still trying to make sense of it myself – what the fuck did I know? I needed them to make the decisions. I needed someone to take over, to fight my corner. Nobody did that. Eventually, they decided that they would give him a verbal warning over his behaviour and suggested to him that he apologised to me.

During the rest of the day he emailed me, texted me and came over to my desk a number of times wanting to talk. I couldn’t stand to be around him. But eventually I felt I had to talk to him. So I went in to a meeting room. He came in after me and sat far too close. I moved my chair. I didn’t want him anywhere near to me. He mumbled his way through excuses of being too drunk, how ashamed he felt, how sorry he was. I thanked him for apologising to me. Told him I couldn’t be around him and left.

For me, that wasn’t enough. That didn’t take back what I was feeling, how angry I was, how ashamed I felt. For my manager and the other bosses, however, the issue was closed.

The next day was my birthday. I had booked a half day. So I only had to get through work until lunchtime. That was all. It was a disaster. I spent the whole morning at my desk crying. Eventually, my manager took me aside. “You’ve got to find some way to get over this and move on, you can’t let it affect your work”. WHAT THE FUCK?! Don’t let it affect my work?! Sit there every day working hard while the man who assaulted me sat a few desks away? Brief designs in to him? Go to meetings with clients with him? WHAT THE FUCK?

I tried going in to work two more days that week. It was useless. I couldn’t focus. I’d sit staring at my computer, tears streaming down my face, unable to work out what to do next. My manager suggested I take a few days off to “get my head together”. I had no sick leave left but plenty of annual leave so she suggested I took the next week as holiday.

Whilst I was off I spoke to a rape crisis team. I felt like a bit of a fraud – what happened to me wasn’t rape. I hadn’t fought him off. I hadn’t been attacked physically. But I needed to talk to someone. They asked me if I’d thought about reporting the incident to the police. I had. But I didn’t know what to do. Amazingly, at this time, I still ‘didn’t want to cause any trouble’. But as the day came for me to go back to work, I knew I couldn’t go back. Work felt like they had dealt with the ‘problem’ so I felt my only way of getting any resolution was to go to the police. The rape crisis team set it all up for me and I spent a few hours at the station going over my statement. They then said that they would be looking to arrest him during that week and was I absolutely sure I wanted to go ahead. I did. And left thinking I’d done the right thing.

I could go on in minute detail about what happened in the following few weeks – I remember every last bit. But I won’t put you all through that!

In short – I was screwed over. Work backed the man completely. To the point of my manager creating some notes supposedly made at a meeting where I said I was over it and felt like they’d dealt with it perfectly at work. Notes I never saw. But notes that were enough to cast doubt on my story with the police. Nobody who had been on the bus could really back my story up because I hadn’t said anything to them. It was my word against his. And he had a whole company backing him up. They dropped the case.

I then got invited to a disciplinary at work. For unauthorised absence! This was absence I’d had to take as unpaid sick leave as I couldn’t physically be at work. I’d not spoken to my manager because I couldn’t. She had made me so fucking angry that I couldn’t trust myself. I knew if I spoke to her I’d kick off and I couldn’t afford to do that.

I countered their disciplinary with a grievance. Against the man who assaulted me and against my manager for her appalling way of dealing with it.

I got to attend a hearing. With the man’s manager and the director’s PA. I took a colleague with me. It was tricky finding someone who felt they could come, but thankfully a wonderful person came with me. She was a total rock. Throughout the hearing I was asked why, if it was so terrible, why didn’t I scream or shout, why didn’t I make it known what was happening? Was I sure it wasn’t “just a drunken man going too far”. The more they said it, the more I doubted myself.

Unsurprisingly, they decided to rule against my grievance. I could have appealed, but I didn’t have the energy. By this time it was two months after the attack and I was still off work, still trying to deal with it. I couldn’t handle fighting work as well as the demons in my head.

Realising that if I ever went back I would be on my own, with no support from any of the directors, I decided to leave. So I did. I signed a piece of paper that meant I could never go back and fight them for constructive dismissal. I didn’t care anymore. I just needed to get out of there. After I left, one by one, all the people I thought were my friends drifted away.

I started a new job soon afterwards but I wasn’t ready. I even cried during the second interview – I don’t know how the hell I got that job. They put up with me for three months, but it was clear to everyone that I wasn’t ready to be working and they didn’t extend my contract past my probation period.

My career got put on hold the day that man decided to attack me. I’m now in a decent enough job (though I’m on sick leave at the moment) and my employers have been beyond patient in letting me be off sick, particularly as I really don’t do a great job when I’m actually at work. To them I am truly grateful – I don’t have it in me to go through it all again.

Now I have to find a way of dealing with the anger I feel for them. All of them. The bastard who attacked me, and the fuckers who let him get away with it.

I hate myself…

How many times have you heard someone say that? What did you think? Did you want them to stop being silly, did you think they were attention seeking? Did you tell them how much better off they are than other people?


I hate myself.

Maybe some of you will stop reading right about now. That’s cool. Those of you who have stuck this far, I can only apologise for what will be a very self-indulgent blog post.

I started CBT therapy yesterday. Cognitive Behavioural therapy. The theory is that, with practice, we can change our thought patterns – become less self-critical perhaps, or change how we read other people’s reactions to things – “they haven’t replied to my text/tweet/email they obviously hate me too”, for example.

I’m determined that this is going to work for me. It has to. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t hate myself, even as a child of 11 I felt inferior to all my classmates. And I have pushed so many lovely people away – friends, potential boyfriends – because I can’t accept that people like me.

Sure, there’s the superficial stuff – I’m fat, I’m ugly, I suck at getting dressed… that’s all the stuff that people roll their eyes at when you say it – you’re attention seeking, just saying that stuff so that someone says “don’t be daft, you’re gorgeous” – when the fact is, if someone says that to me, I just think “yeah, thanks, but you’re lying – I know you’re only saying that to make me feel better”. And then I feel ten times worse – “oh God, they’ve had to lie about how hideous I am to make me feel better – I must be REALLY hideous”.

My self-hatred goes deeper than what’s on the outside though. I hate that I’m not intelligent enough, or witty enough, that I don’t make groups of people laugh, that I’m not ‘brilliant’ at anything, I’m not successful enough, I suck at relationships… I could go on.

And yes, there are bloody millions of people out there that have it worse than me – I live in a nice flat, I’ve got a decent job, I have a lovely family and great friends. And you know what? The fact that I still feel shit about myself despite all that? That just makes me hate myself even more. I mean, how ungrateful am I? Whinging on because I’m a bit fat and I’m not a comedian?

So yeah, I’m starting this course of CBT and I am really going to work at it. This blog post is my attempt to get it all out there, once and for all. From now on I have to start challenging myself every time I get one of these destructive thoughts. That’s a lot of challenging. It’s gonna be hard but I’m bloody well going to do it. Because, frankly, I’m not sure I can live like this anymore.

Just a drunken man going too far?

I’ve been toying with writing this blog post for the last year or so. I’ve always put it off, because I know how hard it’s going to be. And I’m a little scared about the memories it’s going to bring up.

I don’t really know how to start. So I guess I’ll just get straight to the point.

I was sexually attacked. By a close, trusted friend.

I had known him for almost two years when it happened. We worked together. We’d been drinking buddies – always the last two standing at the end of the night. We chatted every day – I supported him through his marriage break-up – he supported me through my never-ending search for ‘Mr Right’. And, I guess there was some chemistry there.

We got a bit too close on occasion. And it got picked up on at work – where we were asked if we were having an affair. We weren’t. But knowing that people had seen the closeness between us, we kept our distance a bit more.

I started seeing someone. He finally left his wife. We didn’t need each other as much as we had and we drifted apart.

Last year I was going through a tough patch of depression. I wasn’t off work but I was finding work difficult – I had a new role and a lot more pressure. I didn’t get on well with my manager and found it increasingly tough to work under her without speaking my mind.

To try and ‘cheer me up’ the directors invited me to a charity event that work was sponsoring – he was invited too. We ended up pairing up because most other people were in couples already.

We had a lovely evening. Just having a laugh, taking cigarette breaks together, having a bit of a dance… and we had a long chat about everything that had happened before. It was nice to clear the air, really talk again.

A couple of weeks later, we were both attending another work event – an awards ceremony this time. The company won a lot of awards – many for projects we’d both worked on – so the wine was flowing and everyone was in good spirits. At one point in the evening we were out having a cigarette and he came on to me. I said that I wasn’t interested. I was about to move in with my boyfriend and wasn’t interested in him like that anymore.

The company had put on a minibus to get us back home after the ceremony. Most people were pretty hammered by the time they got on the bus, and a lot of the group fell asleep when we got on.

I was drunk, but not overly so – I had had clients to entertain at the ceremony so hadn’t been able to go mad.

After a while, he came and sat next to me – despite there being enough spaces for each of us to have two seats. I thought he must just want to chat for a while.

He was leathered. Really drunk. I felt a bit uncomfortable and suggested he sit somewhere else. He didn’t want to.

At first, he just laid his head on my shoulder and I tried to shove him off. A couple of people on the bus had noticed and I rolled my eyes at them – I thought he was just going to pass out on me. A colleague tried to get him to move, but he wasn’t having any of it.

Then he kissed my neck. I asked him to stop. He wouldn’t. He carried on kissing me. And started touching my legs. I had a dress on with no tights. He put his hand under the skirt of the dress. I tried to move his hands. But I couldn’t. He kept on going. Telling me he wanted to take me home – wanted me to ‘party’ with him. All the time, touching me, and kissing me despite me asking him to stop.

It was so strange. I was on a bus full of people I knew pretty well – yet I couldn’t shout. I didn’t want to ‘make a fuss’. I ended up still and silent. Wishing away the time so I could get back to my flat and be on my own. If anyone looked at me, I smiled. Smiled! That seems so utterly ridiculous now. I wanted to scream and shout and let everyone know what was happening. But self-consciousness and shame and guilt and who knows what else stopped me. I just let him do it. What does that make me?

Eventually, I got home. I got in and I cried. I cried a lot.

The next day, my parents and boyfriend all came over to help me move some stuff from my old house to the new one. I didn’t say a word. I told them all about the awards ceremony. But I couldn’t bring myself to tell anyone what had happened.

What happened at work after that still amazes me. Suffice to say, I was screwed over and the phrase ‘are you sure it wasn’t just a drunken man going too far” was used repeatedly. But that will need to be my next blog. I’m tired now.

“Just cheer up and snap out of it”

This was actually said to me the other day. By a trusted, close friend.

I have had depression for as long as I can remember – certainly since about 16, maybe even longer than that. I got diagnosed’ in 2007, when I was 26.

This blog post is kind of an introduction to me and my depression I guess. I’ll probably do other posts on some of the things I touch on here. This is just a start… I’m hoping it might help. It’s completely self-absorbed and very much all about me. I’m not expecting many readers!

I had always had periods of my life when everything just felt too much, too difficult. I’ve always had low self-esteem – never thought myself pretty, thin, funny or clever enough. I managed to muddle through life though – I was always better when doing exercise, or happy in my job.

In 2007, I left my boyfriend. We’d been living together for 18 months and it was the first time ever I’d lived alone. I soon plunged in to a deep depression. It’s hard to describe what it felt like without using clichés… but I did feel like I was drowning, like every single day was too much of an effort to get through. I would burst in to tears at the slightest thing – often at work. Going to Tesco was a complete nightmare – I’d often find myself in the aisles wondering what the fuck I’d gone in there for, getting in to a complete panic because I couldn’t remember and thought everyone was staring at me. Often I’d leave with just a bottle of wine and microwave popcorn.

The next few years were a mixture of ups and downs – like any normal person I guess. But my downs were really down. One night, having drunk heavily with a friend, I got in such a state that I took 10 of my anti-depressants. I don’t think I even wanted to kill myself while I was doing it. I just didn’t want to feel the pain anymore. I saw sense and called myself an ambulance. The paramedics were amazing. Calmed me down and even got a smile out of me on the ride to hospital. They also told me that if I hadn’t called them and had just gone to sleep I would probably have never woken up.

I tend to react to any major bouts of depression by wanting to change my whole life – new jobs and new places to live are the usual things I do. As though new surroundings will suddenly cure me. I’ll suddenly become successful and funny and happy and thin if I just have that pretty new house and that new job. Pathetic, hey?

At the moment, I’m probably going through the worst bout of depression I’ve ever had. I have been off work for seven weeks so far, though I’m hoping to go back next week. I hate being off work. I feel useless and a complete failure. I only started the job in May, having been unemployed for 9 months, and before that losing two jobs in 3 months. More on that another time, if I ever feel brave enough.

I want to get better. I don’t want every day to be a struggle anymore; I want to bounce out of bed excited about work, about life… at the moment that seems so far from reality I can’t ever imagine it happening again.

Over the past few weeks I’ve started turning to Twitter more and more. People seem to ‘get it’ on there and I’ve made some great new friends who I think have pretty much saved my life at times. I wish I could explain how much it means to have people on my side and being nice to me. I have an amazing family (my little sister has taken me in at the moment, on top of having a 4-yr-old to look after – I think I might be proving harder work!) and some wonderful friends, but they’re scattered far and wide. Plus, they’ve heard me go on about this stuff for years and I’m fed up of worrying them and causing them pain and hurt too. My friends struggle to understand it, but I know that they don’t really. They just want me to ‘cheer up and snap out of it’.



Hello world!

I’m writing my first blog post. I’m nervous. Give me a little while!