Nightmare.

The dark space of the attic was filled with boxes, broken clothes-rails, junk and toys. Moth eaten clothes flapped. There was a creak of floorboards and I whipped round, dust settling as I saw a dark shape materialise.

Reaching out, I knew who it was- my best friend R’s fiance. I wanted a hug, some reassurance that the whole attic didn’t harbour what I was most terrified of.

Instead, he lunged forward onto all fours, teeth snapping, and his features melted into the monster. Humanoid but not human, like my friend but not my friend, and teeth snapping for my flesh.

I fled, a strangled scream pushing from my lips, past boxes and broken things and shadows that mocked me. It was so close, it was going to sink teeth into me at any second…

I ran slap-bang into my friend Mr Robot. He grabbed me, held me tight, and I sank to the floor, a sobbing wreck. I opened my mouth to try and tell him what had just happened, but his teeth snapped at my face and a grin stretched along a mouth that was widening beyond normal human range- the monster again! His teeth snapped shut on air inches from my eye and I fought5 to extricate myself, wriggling out and running for the open door where light streamed through from the landing.

He followed, the monster did, galloping unnaturally on all fours. More clothes rails hung out here on the landing, more clothes flapping and then stopping abruptly when the monster hid…

And then it lunged from a rack close to me, teeth reaching for my calf, wild hunger in its eyes and skin gleaming in the harsh light of the single lightbulb. I screamed, scrabbling backwards, clasping its throat in my fingers, bashing its head onto the floor, the instinct to survive overpowering the revulsion at the creature’s heartless disguises- manifesting itself as my dad, my friend Mr Robot, my best friend’s fiance-

I jerked awake and threw back the covers. My eyes were gritty and my throat ached from that scream I’d been unable to give voice to. I scrambled out of bed, still running from the thing, knowing it waited to devour me whole, ripping flesh from bone, in the darkest corner of my nightmares. I had no balance as I made it into the hall, my legs made of jelly, my hands over my eyes to protect myself from the light that suddenly streamed into being. My lurching gait brought me to the lounge, where I stood stock still, waiting for it to get me now. I had come to a dead end.

Where the fuck was I?

“Babe? Are you ok? What’s the matter?”

I turned: J was lying on the couch. I dimly recalled that about an hour or more ago, he’d left me sleeping so he could try and wind down, his insomnia not letting him sleep. I stumbled towards him and slid down onto the couch beside him.

“Was it a nightmare, hon?”

I shivered. he laid the gentlest of hands on me, stroking my side as I shook. His kind hand found my shoulders and arms, ran along them, and he told me I was safe and no-one was coming for me.

Those warm calm hands brought me from the no-where-space of my nightmares, and into the real world. I wanted to sleep but the beast still beckoned me.

“Are you ok, babe?”

I nodded, then rethought.

“J, that nightmare was horrible.”

“I know, baby. Believe me, it will pass. Eventually the nightmares will fade, and you’ll be ok.”

I sighed, and snuggled into his arms.

“J?”

“Yes?”

“Sometimes, when I wake up from a nightmare, I think I’m going to die.”

“No, baby. You’re safe here. Nothing like that’s gonna happen to you, I promise.”

 

Later, as he led me back to bed, I felt safe again. I trusted he’d not let even my dreams hurt me, and I was right. I was still alive, and the monster in my dreams, wearing my friends’ faces, was dead.

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“He’s a psycho” – Professor Adrian Furnham on the importance of cleansing the workplace of undesirables

Wow. Call yourself a psychologist? You do the whole profession a huge disservice, sir. Get your head out of your ass and try empathy, it will open your eyes.
That is, if they aren’t sewn shut.

Sectioned

Harry Enfield as Kevin the Teenager (PA) Harry Enfield as Kevin the Teenager (PA)

Have you seen this? Rachel Hobbs of mental health charity Rethink Mental Illness asked me this afternoon. She was referring to the charity’s response to a piece in the Sunday Times headed “I’m sorry, he’s not a differently gifted worker – he’s a psycho”. I’d just arrived home so hadn’t but, sadly, I had already seen the piece that prompted the rebuttal – and been shocked to the core.

The Sunday Times piece to which Rethink had issued a response advises employers of the necessity of screening job applicants and employees to weed out undesirable ones. The author writes:

“There are three important questions. The first is how you spot these people at selection so you can reject them … The second is, given that they have already been appointed, how to manage them … Sometimes it is a matter of damage…

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USA, J. Happiness.

The skies here were grey when I arrived, as they were back home. Stumbling from the plane, I breathed in terra incognita and remembered the time before.

Passports were looked at, anxiety mounted. Will they let me in? Will they let me see him? The kind girl on the plane was brazenly at the front of her queue, telling someone about her fiance… I opened my mouth and told them I was here for him, and he joked I could stay as he let me into the USA proper.

The gate soon behind me- the future beckoned.

J was there, phone up, snapped a picture of me as I ran to him. Flinging my suitcase aside, I wrapped hungry arms around him and knew contentment… He wrapped his hands round my waist, held me despite the barrier. When we let go, it was only for me to go round the other side, press my body to the line of his and remember how safe I felt with him before. That same safety enveloped me. I was content, at last.

 

The skies melted away, there was rain, but only a little. He laughed and joked and let me rest my hand on his on the gearstick, smiling at my sudden show of affection.

I told him that I was the happiest I’d been since the last I’d seen him. It’s true. He makes me content like nothing else. I keep using that word because that’s the uncomplicated happiness I feel here.

His friends were excited to see us. The fireflies danced, flirting with me, and he laughed at my wonder as we set off to see his friends. The stars flickered as we all sat in the hot tub, and his arm slid round me. I couldn’t stop smiling. I wanted to keep this feeling forever.

He treats me like I’m made of glass. He lets me pull myself out of the voices, who have started yelling at me again to let me know I’m a slut. Yeah, right guys. You’re nothing but thoughts anyway.

He admires my courage, and cheers me up with his goofiness if something is bad. I had a flashback but he got me laughing and the pain and horror faded away.

I apologised to him this morning because I keep expecting to hear derision, or an argument. I broke a glass and he didn’t really mind too much, whereas that would have been the catalyst for a huge argument between the ex and I. He said simply, in that wonderful warm drawl, “Shit happens.” I laughed- it’s true, shit does happen. No need to wait for the blow.

He was upset and stressed out in the car on the way to the city, but he apologised for his behaviour. I’m not used to this. He told me again he would never hurt me, and I believe him. He won’t. All I know with him is his gentleness towards me, and he proved that in the art museum as we wandered and he fell in love with the Dutch Masters that I love, too.

He is someone who does not ask for anything, but accepts what I give without question. He never seems like he is annoyed with me, he just wants me to smile and to be happy.

I went to him in the kitchen, asked him to put down the plate of short ribs he was holding, which he did, and I took his face in my hands and kissed him gently. He grinned as I pulled away and he asked, amusedly, “What was that for?”

I smiled and said, “Just wanted a kiss, that’s all.”

That wasn’t totally why. Later on, in bed, tears choked my voice as I told him that I kissed him because I was so fucking grateful that he was not my ex.

“Of course not, baby,” he replied, and I shut my eyes. Within minutes, we were sleeping.

Interlude: Father, and his day.

TW- I know for some folk, Fathers’ Day is a massive trigger and hurts a lot to think about. If you don’t feel safe, don’t worry about reading this. I’m only saying nice stuff, but sometimes that hurts too. ❤

 

Oh, daddy. You’re asleep in that chair again, or watching Formula One with me, or playing with the puppy. Maybe you’re mowing the lawn on Saturday, or maybe you’re annoyed because you were trying to fix that database and it’s screwed up again.

It doesn’t matter. If I wake you, or call you, or text you, you will answer.

I was sixteen, the first time I truly realised how amazing your love for me was. Of course, I’d been told the stories of you lifting my infant form to the curtains, to the sink, the flowers, the windows, and telling me their names, but it never really sunk in til we took Terry for a walk and you told me you would rather me ring you than cut myself. I was shocked. You do love deeply, and you would rather use ten words to express something than a hundred, but you told me that and I knew you meant it instantly.

It happened again after I broke up with that narcissist, my ex. I remember feeling destroyed in the worst possible way but you were still there to hold me close and tell me you loved me. Even if he didn’t, you did. Then later on that holiday, I got a text from my ex telling me he loved me, after all the shit he’d put me through. I know that your anger made me realise what I’d been being force-fed since being 15 was wrong. I was angry too, but secretly proud of your anger. It meant you cared.

You even showed up in the porch to collect the things he was returning to me, and I am glad you stood there with your stern Norman countenance. My personal 1066 elite guard, mon papa.

I had my breakdown, and you were there for me. You kept telling me you believed in my dancing and you believed I would recover from my injury, and I knew that you meant it. I was drowning in voices and despair and you kept trying to grab my hand to save me.

When I found J, you and he got on like a house on fire. It was nothing to do with him sucking up to you- this was true, real, mutual friendship and appreciation. It was the most lovely thing to see after all the hurt my ex had fired your way. J’s honesty was beautifully refreshing and it made you respond to him the way you respond to family. You are sociable and chatty when the mood is on you, and that’s how you were with the new man in my life.

When I crashed and burned and broke again, there you were. Again. You visited me every night without fail in hospital, and you did crosswords with me and hugged me when I cried. I am here because you wanted me to win over the PTSD and bipolar and voices and terror. You wanted me to win, along with another universe of people, and I’m here.

Thank you is not enough, but it is a start. Thank you for accepting my panic attacks and the voices and standing by your bruised and battered daughter. You love me, and that’s enough some days. Thank you.

From your loving child.

Interlude- What she said.

I saw my friend Hermione yesterday. I call her this because she reminds me of the Harry Potter character- brave, smart, stands up for what’s right and is a loyal friend. It was a gamble, a massive one.

Why?

Well, she went to a different school after primary school, and she ended up meeting my ex there and becoming his friend.

So, as you can imagine, I’ve tried not to say anything really too revealing on Facebook for fear he might still be friends with her and see it. I have been frightened that he could spy on me through her.

When I posted on Facebook that I had been in an abusive relationship and that it had put me in hospital, so many people commented and told me I was brave. I felt it, and I suddenly noticed I had a message. It was my friend Hermione, asking me if I was ok, that she felt awful that I’d gone through what I had, and that was it the person she thought it was.

Yes. Yes it was.

I told her I was sorry for not being able to talk to her properly for so long, as he’d been there interfering and making life that much harder. She said it was fine, it didn’t matter, and could we meet up? I was so pleased. I said yes, and I met her yesterday outside a building I used to sing in with primary school.

One of the first things out of her mouth was, “I can’t believe he tricked us all like this. His best friend is going to go crazy.”

There it was. He hurt and manipulated me so badly I was convinced that no-one would believe me: yet, here she was, someone who had called herself his friend, on MY side and telling me that she believed me. I’d not given a scrap of evidence to her, hadn’t begun to tell her of the horrors I’d gone through, but she BELIEVED ME.

I can’t get over how I feel about that. I feel more powerful. I feel supported in a way I never thought I’d have again. She was so angry that he’d lied to her like that, and the other two he used to call his friends. I realised that I still have the power of the truth with me and that I am believable.

We discussed his lying, his smear campaign that I only just realised existed that he mounted against me without my knowledge. We talked about how long his front of an innocent victim had lasted, and how long I’d been split from all the things and people I love. She was one step ahead of my desperate words, understanding and believing and just being there. The forthright ten-year-old shone through and I realised she had seen through his lies.

However, she sparked a memory in me that I’m going to have to process slowly because it still disturbs me, and I don’t know what happened next. Hermione said that she saw me and my ex walking down the road near my mum’s dance school handcuffed together.

I’d forgotten all about that and it frightened me to remember it. I wanted to erase it again, because I remember being frightened by his insistence that we do it and frightened in case the cuffs didn’t come off and humiliated. It was still when all my schoolfriends were in or around my home town, so any of them could have seen. As it happened, it was Hermione and her mum who saw. She said she knew that it wasn’t something I’d do, and she apologised for frightening me. She’s kind like that.

I told my therapist today about it. Dr K was concerned about that, and she was concerned about me telling her about the weird cult-like thing the ex made to trap me and my friend B. She said he sounded dangerous, that he was like Charles Manson in a way because of his controlling and his charisma. He’d bewitched the teachers at his school and he bewitched me, too. She said if I feel bad at any point, I should call her and we can fit in another session before I go and see J.

I also told Dr K of the fear that I have other things like that hidden in my head that I have blanked out. She said she was worried about that too, and that it was also a very brave thing of me to go and see Hermione like that. Dr K asked me whether I still felt frightened of him, and I said yes. I am still frightened, because I met a man who could lie his way out of any situation where he was guilty but still have everyone believe him. As J says, and wisely so, sociopaths use a tiny grain of truth to base their lies upon, so that they sound believable. Dr K agrees with this. She says it’s a common tactic amongst abusers.

She also thinks that I can bring a case against him. She’s not the first to do so- the other person was a man in the RAID team who took all of my ex’s details down and told me that because of the nature of what I had disclosed to him, he was going to have to pass it on to the appropriate channels. Good. That means that if he does anything else, it will appear on the system. Anyway…

Dr K said that I could ring the Domestic Violence hotline and talk to them to see if I could bring a case against him, and I went home and found the leaflets. I want to ring the DV hotline as soon as I can. I want to keep talking. My silence is broken.

“It’s not over til it’s over, and it’s never over…”

 

 

Interlude- Crawling feelings of shame, scars, intense self-loathing and suddenly a ray of bright hope.

My skin was crawling. I wanted to scrub my skin raw- so I did. I stung a little in the shower, sun burn on my back smarting against the bath sponge. Still the crawling. Was I unwell?

But there was no crawling during the day. The crawling started the minute I lay in bed.

I still sleep in the same room I was in when my ex insisted, as there was nobody in, that we had sex on the floor. I remember feeling completely uncomfortable with it and hating the fact that he picked then and there, on MY floor in MY room in my PARENTS’ house. And now, as I lay there, I realised- the crawling was body memories.

Now there is no more crawling, but I’ve had a very heavy period that’s sucked the energy out of me. I realised that I was suffering because I once had sex in a room that was meant to be my sanctuary- well, not for him. He ruined it.

But I am taking it back.

Soon, there will be a new bed. Soft and wide and inviting. There will be new cupboards, wardrobes, new storage spaces. Places for me to put my shoes so I see them properly. I’m finally having my room redone, and I will soon feel totally at home in my new, calm place, just for me.

I was looking in a mirror last week. Standing there, hurting so badly it made me want to cry. Instead of the usual muscular slim girl I see, I saw a fat scarred freak in a bikini she didn’t suit. The red scars on my legs gleamed, mocking me. My body, in the dim lights of the chop changing room, looked huge. I placed my hands over my eyes and I tried to ignore the dark passenger. That day, I had to take an extra dose of promazine to shut them up.

The upside?

I tried on the bikini at home and loved it. There was that muscular shape I’ve always known, and the bikini looked lovely. I was pleased that I had bought it and hadn’t freaked out. I vowed to myself to never call myself fat again, when I’m not. Most people call my skinny, if anything. I rarely get comments on my lack-of-weight now. I used to be teased about my stick-thin legs, frizzy hair and glasses. Now, I’m proud of the body I’ve honed through hard work.

I talked to Dr K today about all of this. She was concerned that the shame of the rape is still affecting me this way, and that I still suffer body memories. She was also saddened about my hatred of my scars. She has been polite and professional about them, and also very reassuring. I am not scarred badly- my skin heals lightning fast – but I can still see those telltale white lines that point out my fading addiction. I talked to her today about the nature of my self-harm: repress all emotion, it is all too overwhelming. Feed the dark passenger. Kill yourself.

Right now, I’m ecstatic because I am FINALLY going back to America to be with J, for nearly a month! I decided to book the flights and not give a damn what anyone else thought. I have the issues I’ve just written about, it’s true, but I am ok. I am getting through this. I have J to see and look forward to. I am going to see him for the first time since February! I can’t wait to hold him close again. He has to know I love him, and one day I will manage to say it properly. Not a scared little whisper, but I want to look into his eyes to tell him. He deserves that.

The voices? Right now, the dark passenger is drugged up, sedated. I am too, I’m very tired. I am staying in a different room in the house whilst I’m having my room done and I can’t wait to feel safe again.