The Hard Truth

Growing up we’re always told to stay away from strangers. We’re told of what might happen to us and how dangerous strangers could be. We’re told to be on our guard and to never trust a person that we don’t know. But what happens when the people that we think we know become the people that we need to fear?

An awful lot of people still seem to believe that the majority of sexual assault and rapes are carried out by strangers, but that’s really not the case. Approximately 90% of people who are raped know the perpetrator prior to the offence. I completely agree that we still need to warn those around us, especially children, of the dangers surrounding strangers because there are still many dangers there. However I think it’s about time that we come to terms with the fact that those we know could be just as dangerous as those we don’t. More often than I can remember I’ve sat and wondered whether the outcome of my case would have been different had it have been a stranger who sexually assaulted me. Quite honestly, I do believe that it would have been.

From what I know now, it seems that an assault or rape carried out by a stranger is easier to prove by the police than one carried out by a person known to the victim. In these cases it becomes much more complex. As much as I understand why it becomes more complex, the law is in no way working in favour of the victim. And considering 90% of victims are in the same position that I was in with knowing the perpetrator, that’s an awful lot of people who aren’t likely to get justice for what they’ve gone through. I shared an article at the end of my last blog post talking about the “he said, she said” side to sexual assault and rape. It seems that this is something that’s seen all too often. I really do believe that people who assault those they know are extremely clever, and they know before the attack has even happened that making it a he said, she said scenario will be extremely difficult to prove for the police. The police have to be extremely careful not to wrongly convict someone, and unfortunately there have been cases in which someone has falsely accused another person of rape to “get back at them”. Of course I understand it, to wrongfully convict someone can have a devastating impact on their life. But the flip side to that is not convicting someone who has committed a crime and allowing that person to get away with it, essentially setting a precedent for that particular perpetrator and others. It honestly worries me how many people will get away with raping somebody, and go on to do it again because they know that there’s a slim chance of them being convicted if it’s reported to the police.

To break it down, around 20% of females (equivalent to 3.4 million) and 4% of men (equivalent to 631,000) aged 16 and above have experienced sexual assault or rape. And of all of those people, only 15% will report it to the police. And of the 15% that do report the offence to the police, only 5.7% of cases will end in a conviction. Surely it can’t only be me who sees these statistics and feels completely shocked. There’s a very big issue here, an issue that I really hope one day will change.

I remember watching a clip from an episode of This Morning where there was a discussion about sexual assault and rape. There was a woman on the show who was claiming that females bring on being assaulted and raped themselves by being on nights out, dressed provocatively and being too drunk. Anger soared through me watching the clip. How can some people be so naive? Should it matter what you’re wearing? Should it matter if you’ve had a drink? I went out that day dressed in jeans and an oversized jumper and was in no way ‘drunk’. Did I ‘ask for it’ too? The Fawcett Society Chief Executive once said “I can think of no other crime where we are so ready to blame the victim, but here women are being held responsible for the behaviour of their attacker. It is quite extraordinary and reveals just how deep-seated our readiness to blame women runs within our culture”. And I’ve never heard something so true.

I don’t think there’s anybody who brings on being sexually assaulted or raped themselves. NOBODY asks for it. Thinking that a person has brought on being raped themselves is essentially taking the onus from the perpetrator and putting it on to the victim. If you believe this, then in my opinion you’re essentially saying that a person who sexually assaults or rapes another person isn’t in the wrong and the actions of said person are justified. Looking at it from a different point of view, yes there are females who may go on a night out and dress a certain way because they want to attract some attention. But attracting attention and asking to be raped are two completely different things! Just because a female may wish to go out and get dressed up does NOT mean that she is going out with the intention of being sexually assaulted. Are we saying that people are no longer allowed to get dressed up just because some other person isn’t able to keep their hands to themselves? It makes for a very sad world if that’s the case.

After going through what I have, I find it extremely difficult to hear opinions such as that of the woman on This Morning. I understand that everyone is entitled to an opinion and there could very well be hundreds of people that disagree with mine, but my opinion is that of somebody who has actually been through it. Unfortunately, a lot of people who have never being sexually assaulted or raped are very quick to make assumptions, and I don’t think they realise the impact those assumptions have on victims. It’s because of people making assumptions like this that people like me find it incredibly difficult to admit what we’ve been through. The fear of being judged by people who don’t fully understand can be so overwhelming. Even though I’ve put my journey out there through my blog, it doesn’t mean that I don’t still struggle at times. I shouldn’t feel as though I have to explain myself and the situation that I was in to people, but I do. People who have never been in that situation have at times been so quick to question my decisions. But if there’s one thing I’ve learnt over the last 10 months, it’s that some people will always prefer to live their life in a bubble of naivety, and no amount of truth will ever change that.

If you’d have asked me at any point before Christmas Day 2018 whether I ever imagined that I’d be sexually assaulted, the answer would have been no. I think any person asked that question would answer the same way. I’ve always been very careful, guarded and cautious, and I’ve always tried to ensure I never put myself in a dangerous situation. Unfortunately, no matter how guarded I’d been around people, I put some level of trust in a man that took advantage of me. Nothing about the situation that I was in prior to the assault should have been dangerous, there should have been no reason for me to question my safety, but I’d been wrong. That was the night that I realised, those we think we know can be just as dangerous as those we don’t.

Much love,

Steph xo

Continued

On December 27th 2018, I went to the police station to give my video interview. My mum and dad came with me for support. We walked into the main reception and had to ask for the investigating officer. She came down to meet us and walked us up to the room where the interview would take place. I remember walking through completely dazed at my surroundings. How had I ended up here? I didn’t want to be here. I didn’t ask for this. I felt like a child, looking back to make sure my mum and dad were still behind me. Offices full of officers lined the left hand side of the corridor with the right lined with police gear. The whole situation felt extremely surreal. We reached the room and were then met by a second officer who would be helping with the process. They showed us into the room where I would be sitting to give my interview. There were 2 CCTV cameras on the wall and microphones to pick up what was said. I stood there shaking, barely saying a word. I was so overwhelmed. They then showed us into the room where the second officer would watch and listen to the interview, making sure that everything that needed to be asked and answered would be covered. My mum and dad were then shown to the seats in the main room in which they could wait. My heart raced. I kept looking at my mum and dad, wishing with everything I had that they didn’t have to go through this. But it was too late. No matter how much I hoped, there was nothing that could be done to change the situation that we had found ourselves in.

I don’t know how long the interview took in total. It all felt like a bit of a blur. After we’d done, the officers sat us down to talk us through what had already happened and what would happen next. She told me that she wanted to set my expectations from the start, and the next thing she said made my heart sink completely. She told us “if he’s got a solicitor, his solicitor will have advised him to say that it was consensual. As there are no other witnesses, his solicitor will advise him to say that it was consensual as it makes it much harder for the police prove. If he says that nothing happened but the DNA tests taken from you show his DNA, it will prove he’s lied and therefore guilty. But if he says it’s consensual then it will give reason for his DNA to be found on you and means it will be harder for the police to prove he’s lying”. She then went on to tell me that he had in fact said in his statement that it was consensual, and I just started to cry.

I sat there wondering why I was bothering to go through all of this if all he had to say was 3 words to save his skin. “It was consensual”. That was it. That’s all he had to say to make everything I was going through seem pointless. I was upset and incredibly angry. How was that fair? How was it so easy for him to get himself out of it? I’ve never felt as deflated as I did in that moment. The last 36 hours had already had such an affect on me mentally, emotionally and had already made me physically sick. I didn’t know how to feel hearing what he’d said in his statement. I wanted to feel hopeful that the police would still be able to prove he’d sexually assaulted me, but from what had been said so far I wasn’t feeling very positive.

Over the next few weeks it was very much a waiting game. The police had everything they could get in terms of statements and evidence and would need to put the case forward to the CPS to see whether they had a strong enough case to take it to court. It was a horrible and agonising wait. Of course I wanted it to go to court because I wanted there to be a punishment for what I’d been put through. However, I’d been told that if it did go to court then it could be an extremely difficult process for me to deal with. Although I knew it would be difficult, the thought of getting justice outweighed the thought of what court would be like.

Throughout the weeks whilst I waited, I was also having to deal with ongoing issues from the people closest to my attacker. Awful things were said about me. Through third parties I was being told that my attacker had been informed that I was under investigation myself for my motive behind reporting the crime. I was told how the police had told my attacker that there were holes in my story so he didn’t have to worry. All of this was confirmed by the police to be a lie. I was then hearing that I’d done this for money. I had supposedly reported the crime in order to bribe my attacker for money in order to drop the charges, but apparently my plan hadn’t worked out. They tried to tell my boyfriend that I would accuse him of the same thing in the future so it would be better if he stayed clear of me. The multiple lies that were being said constantly both about me and about things the police were supposedly saying were incredibly difficult to deal with. Although both myself and the people closest to me knew that what they were saying was a lie, I knew that what they were really trying to do was to get into my head, and it was working. I didn’t know how much longer I could take it. I wanted it all to stop. I wanted to run away from everything. I’d been through so much already and it just wasn’t stopping. Day by day they were trying to chip away at me more and more. Too many days did I sit there and wonder whether I’d done the right thing by going to the police. Maybe if I’d not bothered then I wouldn’t be suffering with the constant hassle I was getting now. I felt so low. So deflated. So worthless. This was around the time that the first thoughts of suicide began to happen. I just couldn’t see how any of it would stop otherwise.

A couple of months ago I saw a quote which has stuck with me ever since, especially after going through what I’ve mentioned above. The quote was – “disclosing abuse should never trigger a second round of trauma from the perpetrators defenders. Dealing with the abuse is bad enough”.

After what felt like a lifetime but was probably around 2 months, the police got in touch with a decision. As my attacker had said it was consensual, they didn’t have a strong enough case to take it to court. I could feel my eyes welling up. He explained that the CPS didn’t believe there would be enough evidence for a jury to find him guilty beyond reasonable doubt. However, they told me that this did not mean that he was innocent. The case was closed with an outcome of “evidentially unable to be proven”. I didn’t know how to feel. I was glad that the process would finally be coming to an end, but it wasn’t fair. He’d literally just got away with sexually assaulting a female almost 30 years younger than himself by claiming that I had consented to the whole thing. I felt physically sick. He’d got away with it, and there was nothing more that I could do to try and get justice. I felt let down. I felt like what I’d been through just didn’t matter. I’d suffered for months for absolutely nothing. My life had been affected by all of this quite drastically, and for what? I was devastated.

The process isn’t a fair one, and I whole heartedly believe that crimes such as this won’t begin to stop until proper punishments are put in place and implemented. The statistics for the amount of sexual assault and rape cases which are taken to court is shocking. The amount of perpetrators that are actually convicted is even worse. Something has to change and quickly. I still feel let down that my attacker walked away and continued with his life without consequences for his actions, whilst I still deal almost daily with the affects his actions have had on me.

The article below is something I read around 7 months ago and again is something that has stuck with me. I strongly advise to read it after reading this blog post.

https://triblive.com/opinion/kristen-houser-kristy-trautmann-its-he-said-she-said-by-design/

Much love,

Steph xo

The Beginning

It’s taken me a long while to write this post. I’ve started it and deleted it more times than I can count. I started to write this blog because I wanted to share what I’d been through over the last 10 months, which essentially all started with the night that I was sexually assaulted. Saying that I was sexually assaulted is something that I’m ok with admitting and talking about aloud, but writing a post solely on the subject has proven harder than I thought. It’s made me realise that I’m probably still struggling with some aspects of it a little more than I’d realised.

I’m going to do this part of my blog across 2 posts, because the topic as a whole is quite a heavy subject. Some people might find this one too difficult to read and I completely understand. However, the reason I’m sharing the details of what I went through is to make people aware of what sexual assault survivors actually do go through. The process of reporting a sexual assault affected me in ways I don’t think anything else ever will. As I sat in the police car the night that it happened, I had no idea what was to come. I had no idea what the process was and what I’d be put through over the following months.

For both legal and personal reasons, I’m not going to go into details about what happened that night. As much as I want to be open and honest about everything, there’s some things that I do wish to keep private such as the specific details. I also don’t wish to share details about my attacker on the internet. This blog is and always has been about me sharing my journey, it’s never been about me using it as a platform to slate other people. Therefore some parts may be vague, but any details that could be linked to my attackers identity won’t be shared. Some details that may need to be shared to give context to my situation are that the sexual assault happened on the evening of Christmas Day / early hours of Boxing Day morning, it was done by someone that was briefly known to me, he’s married and is over double my age.

My boyfriend was with me from the moment the assault stopped happening. As I fumbled around trying to get away as quickly as I could, he looked at me with pure confusion. He followed me out into the street and asked me what had just happened. I was uncontrollably sobbing and couldn’t speak properly. I was in absolute shock. I was shaking and felt like I was going to throw up. I can’t truly put into words just how horrific the feelings were that I had at that time. Eventually I got my words out and I told him and within seconds he’d rang the police. I don’t remember the exact time, but I’d say it was around 2AM or somewhere close. I was in a state of pure shock, panic and fear. I kept telling my boyfriend that I just wanted to go home, but I knew I wasn’t thinking straight. He told me that we had to stay and wait for the police. Still I tried to walk away to find my way home, but with the state I was in and the 2AM darkness, I had no idea where I was or where I needed to go. I was trapped, just a minutes walk away from the place in which I’d just been sexually assaulted.

I have no idea how long it took for the police to get there. It could have been minutes but to me it felt like hours. They pulled up and as one officer spoke with my boyfriend, the other sat me in the car to ask me what had happened. Single, mumbled words were all I could manage to say. They then drove us to the police station. I can’t recall the journey to the police station. I can’t even recall what happened once we first got there. The next memory I have is been sat in a box room with 1 small table and 4 chairs, being asked to give a statement by an officer. Me and my boyfriend had been separated so that we could each give a statement. I felt like I was in a daze, like things around me were happening in real life but my head felt clouded and I couldn’t actually process what was happening. I honestly felt like at any moment I could wake up and realise that none of it was real, because nothing about that situation felt real. You hear in the news about people being sexually assaulted, you may even know someone who it’s happened to, but I never expected that one day it would be me that was sat there in a police station recalling the details.

Once our statements had been taken and officially logged, we were allowed to go home. Around 7.30AM, the police drove us back. My parents were awake by now and were texting me to ask what was happening. I didn’t want to tell them over a text so I told them that I’d explain once I was home. I asked the police officer if he could drop me off a few houses away from my own so that my parents wouldn’t see me get out and panic before I’d had a chance to explain. As soon as I stepped in the door I broke down. My boyfriend left me then to go home himself so that I could have some time alone with my parents to let them know what had happened. We talked, we cried and then at 11AM I was picked back up by the police to go to the medical centre. I hadn’t been allowed to shower or change my clothes. The medical centre needed to take DNA samples so showering would have removed that evidence. But I couldn’t help but feel dirty. All I wanted was a scolding hot bath to try and remove any trace of him from my skin.

Once we were at the medical centre I was talked through what would happen next. One of the loveliest women came to sit with me and my parents and talk through the process. Even now, I have so much respect for the people who work at that medical centre. The 2 women that I dealt with that day made a truly awful situation a little easier for me to deal with. The job that they have to do isn’t a very pleasant one, but they put so much emphasis on making sure that I was as ok and as comfortable as I possibly could be the whole way through. I had to have my entire body looked over for any marks or bruises and explain how I’d got them which would then be recorded. They then took DNA samples from any part of my body that had made contact with his. When I first walked into the room where this would all happen, I was completely overwhelmed. There were swabs and tubes lined up all across the unit on the back wall. But thanks to the amazing staff, they managed to keep me as calm as was possible throughout. I felt sick the whole time I was there. I think a build up of shock, panic, fear and no sleep took over my body and I felt truly shocking. I had absolutely no energy. I didn’t want to talk anyway but I probably couldn’t have strung a sentence together if I’d have tried. If I was asked a question then I’d give short or one word answers. I knew I needed to be there to have everything recorded properly, but I really couldn’t wait to leave.

I was at the medical centre for about 3 hours in total. Once I was done there, I was supposed to go straight to the police station to give a video interview. The police stayed with us the whole time we were at the medical centre to take us straight down, but I ended up so ill that in the end they sent me home to rest. I’d been sat with a bin next to me for most of the day because I felt so dreadful and poorly. Eventually, my body hit back and I ended up being pretty sick. I sat on the toilet floor with my head back against the wall and tears streaming down my face wondering what on earth was going on.

I can’t explain just how surreal the whole thing feels. Once I’d been told that I would give my video interview the next day, I still didn’t know what to expect and everything still felt like a blur. Nothing felt real and I still felt like I could wake up at any minute and it all have been a horrific dream. But it wasn’t, and in reality it was only going to get more difficult. At this point it had only been around 10 hours since the sexual assault had happened and I’d been through so much already, both in terms of the police process but emotionally and mentally too. I think almost every person would expect the process for a sexual assault victim to be difficult, but it’s quite honestly one of the most difficult, draining and testing things I’ve ever been through. But despite how difficult it was, I knew it was the right thing to do. I’d been the victim of a very serious crime and despite the effect the reporting process was having on me, I knew I had to do it. I knew there was no way that I could just go home and live my life without doing the right thing and reporting the assault. Maybe it would’ve been easier to do that, but easier or not it definitely wouldn’t have been right. So I got back home that afternoon, managed to get a few hours sleep and tried to mentally prepare myself as much as I could for what was to come the next day.

Much love,

Steph xo

Needing Time For Myself

This week I’ve decided not to share a post in the way I usually would. What I wanted to share today is half written, but after a pretty difficult and draining week or so, I couldn’t bring myself to finish writing it. I feel bad that the people following my blog weekly may be expecting something different, but I’ve had to realise that I’m just not in the right frame of mind to finish writing the post which I’d started for today. I’ve pushed myself too much this last week, everything’s caught up with me and I’ve massively felt the effects. I’ve got a lot going on lately and I’ve been trying to handle too much at once. But as much as I feel bad for not being able to share the next part of my journey today, I have to remember that this is still my journey. I’m still dealing with a lot of things which are a knock on effect of what I’ve been through. A lot of the things going on right now and the ways that I’m feeling probably wouldn’t be happening if it wasn’t for what I’ve been through. So this is all still very much a part of my journey.

A few things have happened over the last couple of weeks which have knocked me back a bit personally. The way some people have spoken to me and consequently made me feel. Things that have made me emotional and frustrated and at times made me question things about myself. It doesn’t help that I’d somehow managed to forget to take my medication (for anxiety and depression) for a few days, which then had a knock on effect when I’ve already been feeling low. My anxiety has been heightened and has caused me to worry, overthink and dwell more than I’ve needed to on certain situations.

I’m currently in training for a volunteer role with a charity and I’m really enjoying it and so glad that I’ve started. But I’m still trying to figure out a nice balance between working full time, volunteering, writing for my blog and having some time for myself. Amongst many other things that have happened this last week, it’s just got a bit much. I’ve been finding it difficult to concentrate because I’m always thinking about things I need to do that night or over the next week. I’ve not really been able to focus solely on the thing I’m doing but thinking about what I could be, should be or need to be doing. I feel very lucky to have been accepted as a volunteer for the charity and I’m extremely grateful for the support I’m receiving on the back of my blog posts. I’m enjoying writing and I feel humbled by the people opening up to me who can resonate. What I really need to do now is to find a happy balance between it all which includes some me time. I haven’t really been allowing for ‘bad days’. Days when something happens and I just need to take some time away to rest and recharge which is what I’ve been needing to do for this last week. Rather than taking that time, I’ve just been pushing the bad days to the back of my mind so that I can progress with the things I need to do. Unfortunately, that’s what has led to me feeling slightly overwhelmed, drained and with little energy to be able to do anything.

There’s also the fact that it’s getting closer to Christmas which means thoughts of last Christmas are coming back more often. I expected this to happen as Christmas got closer but it’s something that I’m now having to learn how to manage and not let those thoughts consume me. I’m yet to decide whether it’s going to get easier or harder as Christmas approaches, and I’m already worrying incase it gets harder. I know that I’ve got through the worst of it so I can get through this too, but it doesn’t help the worrying. Recently I’ve been finding it harder and harder to get to sleep on a night and even harder to get up on a morning. This hasn’t only been due to the thoughts of Christmas, it’s been a mixture of everything that’s been happening. I haven’t been able to shut my brain off very well and I’ve constantly been overthinking. I don’t think there’s been a day this last week where I’ve woke up feeling well rested!

I’ve realised this week that I need to be a little better with taking some time for myself and not pushing myself to the point of being completely drained again. I need to allow for bad days and I need to be better at taking time out for myself. That’s the reason why I’ve made the decision not to share the post I originally began writing for today. I’ve had to take a step back for a couple of days and really focus on myself. I’m sorry to those that expected the next part of my journey to be shared today but as I said at the start, this is still very much my journey, just a more current part of it.

I’ve said it before but it’s important to remember that it IS ok not to be ok all of the time. You have to look after yourself, it’s crucial to look after yourself. It may not always be easy, but you have to put yourself first and take care of you.

Much love,

Steph xo

My Experience With Suicidal Thoughts

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post talking about the night that I wanted to end my life and it received a much larger response than I ever imagined it would. I had hundreds of views on that particular post and a ton of messages of encouragement and support. After going through something so serious and intense and then opening up about it, I realised just how much peoples perceptions of suicide and being suicidal vary. Some people see it as being selfish, many people don’t understand it at all and very few understand a persons state of mind whilst going through it. I’m in no way saying that I have all of the answers, or think that the way I felt is the same way as every other person feels, because I’m sure the situation is completely different for every single person. But after going through it and coming out the other side, I feel like I’ve gained an understanding much deeper than a lot of people have. I want to share my own personal experience of going through this in more detail in the hope that I can help others to gain a bit more of an insight into the suicidal state of mind.

Getting to the point that I did that night wasn’t something that happened within the space of a few hours, or even a few days. There’d been numerous times over the previous few months when I’d had thoughts of not wanting to be here anymore. I couldn’t shake the thought that everything that was happening was just too much for me to be able to cope with. I felt like it was only a matter of time before something else would happen that would tip me over the edge. A handful of times I’d shared the fact that I’d felt this way with my ex-boyfriend at the time. But because at the time I felt that it was something I could manage, I didn’t really make a fuss of it. He’d encouraged me to talk to my counsellor about it, but I felt ashamed to admit that I felt that way. I didn’t know how to start the conversation of feeling suicidal, and I felt that I’d be judged for having those thoughts. So in the end it was something that I brushed under the carpet and hoped that it would just go away on its own.

Suicide was something that I knew happened, but I never truly understood it. I knew that people must have to get to a bad place in order to do it, or think that they wanted to do it, but I never understood why they wouldn’t get help to stop those feelings. It’s a very true fact that there is a lot of help out there for people who need it, and it’s very readily available. You can speak to your doctor who can refer you to the right people. You can find a counsellor, arrange an appointment and talk to an outsider. A lot of workplaces now offer free counselling as a benefit. There are so many online websites that can direct you to the right place. The help is there, and I never really understood why people wouldn’t choose to take it. I was very much someone who was naive to the harsh reality of suicide and suicidal feelings. It wasn’t until I went through it myself that I realised that you can have all the help in the world, but if you’re not able to quash the thought in your own mind, no amount of help will get you through it. The willingness to change your mind and fight against the urge to end your life has to come from yourself. And for some people, things just get too much and it’s not something that they’re able to do.

I’d essentially ignored the way I was feeling and chose to push it to the back of my mind rather than deal with it at the time. Looking back now, I think that’s one of the reasons why I ended up in the position I did. I was allowing the thought to play over in my mind without taking any steps to stop myself from feeling that way. Maybe if I’d have spoken about it sooner, I’d have been able to talk through what my options were and allow myself to see a different outcome. However, talking about suicide is incredibly difficult. It’s not the sort of thing you bring up with your family around the dinner table, or with your friends over a few drinks. It’s not something I really wanted to share with the people closest to me, because I knew that it’s not something that they would want to be hearing. At the same time, it’s not something I necessarily wanted to speak to an outsider, such as my counsellor or doctor about, because I was worried what their opinion of me would be. Looking back at the situation very bluntly, did it really matter what they thought of me? I wanted to end my life, or at least I thought I wanted to end my life. If that’s what I was planning, did it really matter if my doctor thought badly of me for feeling that way? The absolute truth of the matter is, my doctor never would’ve judged me and my counsellor will probably have had hundreds of people sat in front of her saying the exact same thing, but I didn’t see that at the time. I did however have a real fear that if I opened up to a professional about my suicidal feelings, that I’d be sectioned under the mental health act. Now, I had and still have very limited knowledge about how this process actually works. But at the time, I’d managed to work myself up and convince myself that if I told anyone how I felt, I’d end up being sectioned. And if it was a choice between being sectioned or ending my life, I was ready to choose the latter.

For a while, I’d ignored that particular feeling. The suicidal feeling. I was aware it was there, but I spent most of the time pretending it wasn’t and only allowing myself to consciously think about it when I really had to. I felt like I had it under control, and while ever I had it under control I didn’t have to worry about it. Life continued around me as normal, or as normal as it could be for me back then. My friends and family carried on with their lives, completely unbeknown to the way I was feeling. I carried on with my life, completely unbeknown to the situation I would end up in only weeks later. I had so much going on during this time. It got to the point where I felt as though every single week was throwing a new setback at me. I felt like a lost soul. I was at such a low point in my life and I was beginning to enjoy the good parts less and less. Even little things like being in my bedroom that had previously been the place I felt most comfortable, suddenly began to feel like being in a cage.

Eventually, things started to seem like they were improving. I was beginning to see small changes in my mindset. Although I hadn’t spoken to my counsellor about feeling suicidal directly, there were still a lot of techniques she gave me that allowed me to feel as though I had both controlled and then quashed the suicidal feelings that I had. Things seemed generally good. Not perfect, not even great. But good, and good was all I needed. That’s when my relationship ended, and it knocked me for six. I’d been worried about something happening which would be the thing to tip me over the edge, and this was it. I was back at square one. All the feelings and emotions that I’d fought so hard to change came back like they’d never left. Everything I’d learnt through counselling or through self-help books erased itself from my memory. It well and truly felt like I was starting over again, and I really didn’t feel like I could handle that. It took every inch of my strength and determination to get myself to the place I was in, how was I supposed to find that strength again to do it all over. I didn’t have any fight left in me. I didn’t know how I was supposed to do it.

That’s about the time when “that night” came around. Throughout the day leading up to this night, I’d been out with different groups of friends and also spent time with my parents. Not one person who saw me that day would’ve ever been able to predict that my night would end as it did. And the reason none of them could have predicted it was because I didn’t imagine that it would either. I’d had suicidal thoughts previously, but I thought that I’d been able to suppress them. I had a genuinely good day, I felt happy. It may have even been the first day in a while where I’d properly laughed. When I look back to this day now I have very mixed emotions. Part of me looks back and sees a day that I enjoyed with friends, but the other part of me feels sad for the person I was on that day, covering up how I truly felt and trying my hardest to show everyone that I was ok. I really wasn’t. I was hurting so badly, but I wasn’t admitting it to myself let alone to other people. I did have a good day, but I was hiding a lot and that meant that everything I was feeling was left to bubble up inside me. Consequently, that’s one of the reasons why everything got way too much for me that night.

When I’d got home, there were a couple of messages exchanged with my ex (explained in my last blog post). Throughout these messages being sent, I had a lot going on in my head. If I could share a video of what I went through that night then I would, because articulating it is extremely difficult, but I think it’s important. I started getting emotional, more than a few tears but not quite breakdown level. I was upset over literally every single thing that had happened the previous few months. There’s not one single thing, one action or one conversation that wasn’t going round my head at the time. I was crying because I was upset but I was also frustrated. I never asked for any of this, yet here I was sat on my bedroom floor crying and having to deal with the aftermath of other peoples choices. I then started to get more emotional, to the point that I was sobbing. Real red eyes, can’t breath and a headache kind of sobbing. I was still playing everything over in my head. All the guilt I felt for what the people closest to me were going through, all my insecurities and the feelings I had towards myself. I started to believe that my family would be better off if I wasn’t around, because it would take away their pain. I knew that they’d grieve for me at the time, but because I didn’t see the way I felt ever ending, I knew they’d feel that pain with me forever. So in the long term, I genuinely felt like I’d be helping them and relieving them of the pain. Then I started to get inconsolable, and that’s when the more serious suicidal feelings started back up again. Although I’ve condensed this in order to write it, this was going on over the course of a few hours. That meant that for those few hours, I was on my own playing every single thing over in my head. Thoughts really can kill a person. I was beginning to get desperate. I just wanted everything to stop but I didn’t know how. I felt like I’d feel how I felt in that moment forever, I didn’t see a way out. I sat with my head in my hands, willing my brain to shut itself off so that I didn’t have to think about it all anymore. I needed an answer, I needed a solution, but in the early hours of the morning when I was sat on my own feeling the way I felt, I only had one answer. The thoughts didn’t come out of the blue for me, as I mentioned above, I’d already felt that way over the previous few months. But I’d never felt this way so intensely, so desperately. I honestly felt that in order to make it all go away, I only had one choice.

In the end, I got saved that night. I got saved because I sent one goodbye text and fortunately, the person I sent it to was awake and alerted my mum immediately to what was going on. I don’t like to think too much about how different that night could’ve been, but in reality I could’ve very well taken my own life and not be writing this right now. This might sound strange to read, but I feel so incredibly sorry for the girl I was on that night who had to go through all of that. And I say that in the third person because I’m not that girl anymore, I’m just the one who went through it. I was nothing but angry at the time when I’d been stopped from doing what I wanted to do. It felt like nobody had my best interests at heart. Of course, they absolutely did but I didn’t see that until I was no longer in a suicidal frame of mind. Now I’m nothing but grateful for the fact that I’m still alive and feeling so much better.

Talking about suicide is so tricky. Whether it’s the suicidal person initiating that conversation or whether it’s a concerned relative or friend. It goes without saying that you’re always going to try and convince someone not to go through with it, especially when it’s someone that you care about. You’re always going to tell them that everything will be ok, that things will be different, but a suicidal person is never going to see that. That’s a large part of the reason why I didn’t open up to anyone about how I felt, because I knew what people would say and I knew that people wouldn’t understand. However, maybe if I had have opened up a little before things got to that point then I could’ve spared myself the pain that I felt going through it. Suicide is rarely the result of just one single act, it’s a process. A long and painful process that eventually lead to me seeing no other way out. But if there’s one thing I learnt, it’s that the importance of talking should never be underestimated. I wish that I would’ve spoken to my counsellor way back when it started. Luckily I felt ok enough to talk to her about it after it had happened. But that night there was a large chance that there wouldn’t have been an “after”. That I wouldn’t have had the chance to talk to her again, or anyone for that matter. When I began to tell people what I’d been through that night, almost every single one said “you should’ve rang me”. And yes, maybe I should have. But when you’re in that frame of mind, not feeling like you can talk about it, ringing someone at 2AM out of the blue to tell them you’re going to end your life is the last thing you’re able to do. As I said above, it’s not an easy conversation to have with someone, especially when you’re at the worst point of it. That’s why it’s incredibly important to talk about those feelings before you get to that point. Life’s precious, and I’m so happy to still be living mine.

It really is ok not to be ok, and it’s ok to talk when you need to. I pray that nobody ends up in the same situation that I did, but unfortunately suicide is more common than I’d like to think. All I can hope is that more people begin to open up before it gets too late and find the solution they need to continue living. It’s time to talk.

Much love,

Steph xo

Below are some suicide statistics that shocked me to read. All of the below have been taken from the Samaritans website https://www.samaritans.org/about-samaritans/research-policy/suicide-facts-and-figures/. We need to start realising that suicide is a widespread issue, and doesn’t only affect one particular group of people. It’s time to raise awareness in the hope that fewer people have to die by suicide.

⁃ In the UK in 2018 there were a reported number of 6859 suicides.

⁃ Deaths by Suicide rose by 11.8% in the UK in 2018.

⁃ In the UK, men are 3 times more likely to die by suicide than women.

⁃ In 2018, the rate of deaths by under 25’s rose by 23.7%, taking the total in that year to 730 deaths.

⁃ The suicide rate for young females is now at it’s highest rate on record.

⁃ The highest suicide rate in England is among men aged 45-49.

Suicide is not inevitable, it is preventable.

Moving Forward

The night I wanted to end my life was quite honestly the lowest point I’ve ever gotten to. I feel for every single person who has ever been there, and every single person who has unfortunately lost their life because their mind won the battle. It’s a horrible, lonely and dark place to be. And to those of you who are fortunate enough to have never reached that place, then I’m grateful that you never have and I hope that you never will.

A couple of weeks after that night, an awful lot had changed for me. The shift in my thoughts came quite suddenly. I started to see things from a different perspective and I felt lucky that I essentially had a second chance to live my life. I tried to stop seeing everything as a negative, and began to look for the positives in things. I continued going to counselling and tried to do everything I could to help improve my thoughts and the way I was feeling. Things such as meditation, mindfulness and self help books were a huge help for me, and they’re things that I continue to use to this day. When the shift first happened, I was so incredibly grateful for it. I felt like I was finally seeing the light at the end of a dark and horrible tunnel. I was grateful that I’d gone from not seeing a future, to seeing the ways in which I could actually have a happy future. But that in itself came with its difficulties. The shift had happened very suddenly, and I was worried that it was all a false pretence. That I was convincing myself and the people around me that I was feeling better, but at any moment my mind would shift back to the darkest of places and throw me off track. I was really trying to help myself, but for weeks I had a little voice in the back of my head telling me to be careful. All I could do was take things day by day and hope that the shift in me wasn’t just a short term thing. But I was very aware that I had to be careful in case I fell back into the darkness and wasn’t so lucky the second time round.

In order to try and help myself move forward, I began to break down the things that I’d been through over the previous few months into smaller, manageable thoughts. And one by one I began to try and deal with them. Truly deal with them this time, not just mask them and hope they’d go away. I started with the biggest factor which was the sexual assault. I knew and still know now that this isn’t going to be something that ever really goes away. The chances are, it’s something that will always affect parts of my life in some way. But as a whole, I dealt with it in a way that meant I was at peace with myself and I was coping. I knew it wasn’t going to be something that I could change. I couldn’t go back and do things differently so that I wasn’t in that situation. So there was no point in me sitting and wishing for things to be different, because they’re never going to be and it was a complete waste of energy. I couldn’t change the past, but what I could do was change the way I thought about it going forward. So that’s where I focused my energy. I continued to talk through the assault with my counsellor and started to adopt ways in which I could control the thoughts when they did happen. As I said, it’s in no way something that can just be forgotten. Even now I still have flashbacks, I still relive it even when I’m sleeping. I still struggle to sleep at times for thinking about what happened, but I no longer let those thoughts control me or affect me in the same way as they used to. I’m now in a position where for the most part, I’m the one that controls them. And of course, it still and maybe always will affect me in other ways. My anxiety still peaks when I’m in an unfamiliar or crowded place full of people I don’t know. I still struggle with trusting people as much as I used to. My eyes will still dart around a public place when I enter, seeing every person in the place so that I know who’s around me. I still very rarely go places on my own, I still stay clear of places that I know I may not feel comfortable in. But these are things that have become normal to me, and are things that I now know I’ll have to deal with possibly forever. And in some way, I’m ok with that now. I’ve made peace with my past and made peace with my new ‘normal’.

In February I’d made the decision to officially leave my job and there were a few reasons for doing this. I’d tried to look for work from around March, but whilst I was trying to overcome THAT night in April, I knew that I needed to focus a lot of time on myself as opposed to rushing back into work. However, I also knew that getting myself back into a routine and mixing with new people would probably help me. I knew I couldn’t stay home forever, and the chances were that the longer I put it off the harder it was going to get. It was a bit of a battle at the time trying to understand what really would benefit me the most. But in the end, I decided that I had nothing to lose and a whole lot to gain by having a new focus in my life. I began exploring my options, rewriting my CV and looking for work. Writing this, I’m aware that for somebody who isn’t familiar with my situation, this may not seem like a big step. But to put it into some context, I’d gone from not seeing any hope for the future, or even seeing a future for myself at all, to putting some focus back on my future through work. It was a huge step! And at the start of June, I finally began a new job. In total, it had been almost 6 months since the last day that I’d been in work, and getting back into work turned out to be a new, positive thing in my life.

When my relationship ended, it felt like the final straw in a long and difficult few months. I felt like I’d just lost everything and I felt as though I had nothing left. It felt like the last positive aspect of my life had just been taken away. But once I began to look at things differently, I realised how much of a good thing it actually was for me. I’d been putting so much emphasis on this one person being the one who would help me through the difficult times, and I wasn’t giving myself the chance to be the one to save me. I was the only one who could help me through, I was the only one who could change the way I was thinking and I was the only one who could improve the way I was feeling. Nobody else could do that for me. Not my ex boyfriend, not my friends and not my family. I had to take control of my life and I was now given the chance to do just that. Of course I’ve mentioned that I sought outside help through counselling, and counselling was a crucial step in my recovery. But I was the one who did the hard work, I was the one who fought to help myself. And I’m the one who can look back with pride at how much I’ve overcome. In hindsight, the relationship was still very new and trying to build a relationship on trauma isn’t ideal. At the time, my ex boyfriend told me that what had happened had engulfed us and hadn’t given us the chance to get to know each other as a new couple. At the time this was said, I completely disagreed but looking back now, it’s true. In order to help myself in moving forward after the breakup, I had to look at the positives, and that meant realising that breaking up gave me a chance to be me. It gave me a chance to find a new me after all that had happened. It gave me a chance to focus only on myself and not have to second guess someone else’s feelings or feel guilty for how I was making that person feel. It was a horrible thing to go through at the time, heartbreaks never going to be nice. But it’s what I needed and now I can look back and be grateful for it.

Along the way through my journey, there’s been a lot of changes in my life. Some have been for the better, and some haven’t. And I’m almost certain that there will be a lot more changes to come. Something that I’ve found in common between survivors of sexual assault, is the overwhelming urge to help other people that have been through similar situations. As well as the urge to not be defined by what we’ve been through. That’s when I started to think about writing this blog and seeing what else I could do to help other people. When I had the initial thought for this, I knew that it wasn’t something I could do right away. I had a long way to go before I would be ready to share my experience, but it was something that I knew I could work towards. I’ve had some mixed responses to this blog. The large majority have been helpful and positive and have helped me to continue with it. But unfortunately, there have been a few that have made me question whether it’s the right thing to do. But one thing I’ve had to come to realise is that this isn’t about anybody else, and some people are too naive and blind to the harsh reality of what happens in this world. Not everyone is going to understand what I’ve been though, not everyone is going to agree with the way I’ve chosen to handle things. And not everyone is going stand by my side whilst I continue on my journey. And you know what? That’s ok. Some people might say the way I choose to think about this is selfish. Some people might have a million and one other ways which they think would be better. But this isn’t about them. This isn’t about the people who have gone silent since I posted my first blog. This isn’t about the people who tell me I shouldn’t be doing it. This isn’t about the people who judge me for what I’ve been through. This is about me, and every single other person who can resonate and has been helped by what they’ve read. You’re going to lose people throughout your journey, whatever your journey might be. But you’re more important to yourself than any person you lose along the way. And that’s what you always need to remember.

Much love,

Steph xo

THAT Night

After getting back home, hiding myself away in bed, wrapping myself in my quilt and crying myself to sleep, I stayed there for the best part of the day. I didn’t want to think about what had just happened, never mind speak about it. When I did wake up I had so many thoughts and questions going round in my head. Why had it happened? What were the reasons? Why now? What had I done? I didn’t feel like I’d been given much of an explanation, which made it a lot harder to understand. I’d put so much emphasis on this person been the one who was helping me through everything, and all of a sudden he wasn’t anymore. I just laid there, playing out the last few months in my head and wondering exactly where things went wrong.

Later on that evening once I’d woke up and dragged myself from my bed, the overthinking continued. I thought that maybe he just needed some space and he’d then realise it wasn’t what he wanted. Or maybe I needed to prove how much he meant to me and he’d want to get back together. I text him, hoping for confirmation, but that’s far from what I got. He kept telling me that it wasn’t my fault or anything I’d said or done, and that the chance of us getting back together was next to none. I saw him on the following Thursday, again hoping that he’d changed his mind, but it wasn’t the case. I knew things weren’t going to get better, and I knew that I needed to accept that things were over. But I also knew that it wasn’t going to be that easy. It was a really tough thing to get my head around. I was only just starting to feel more myself, I could see how much the counselling was helping me, I thought things were getting better. But as soon as I thought things were improving, they’d just got a whole lot worse. The only thing I could cling on to was the fact that he told me we could still be friends, and I was naive enough to think that he meant it.

After the breakup, I very much ended up back at square one. It had triggered so many feelings and emotions that I thought I’d dealt with from the previous few months. The insecurities I had which I thought I was now able to control were worse than ever. Sexual assault can make you feel so many negative things about yourself. Some of the worst feelings I had were that of being worthless. Feeling like my life didn’t matter, like someone could do something which would change my life so much, and change me as a person and it was ok. There were so many negative feelings which had been brought back to the surface. I felt like I didn’t matter, I felt disposable, I felt worthless again. I very much went back into a shell which I’d been working so hard to get myself out of. I stayed in bed a lot, I cried a lot, and my life went back on hold while I tried to deal with this new setback.

2 weeks after the breakup, I’d arranged to meet my friend for lunch. I was in no way feeling normal, but I’d had a few counselling sessions and I was making an effort to try and not let the breakup affect me anymore than it needed to. I was still having bad days, and I was struggling massively with the feeling of being let down. But I met up with my friend and we had lunch and a couple of drinks. I then went to meet my parents for a little while, and later on that evening went to meet some other friends. I’d had a really lovely day. I’d been catching up with people that I hadn’t seen for a while. I was laughing and joking and enjoying myself. Not a single person who saw me that day could’ve thought that my night would end as it did. It had genuinely been really nice and I got back home that night around midnight.

Because my ex had told me that we could still be friends, and I believed that we could be, I’d text him that afternoon and we’d been speaking a little. When I got home that night he’d text me again. Looking back at the texts now, I see that there was nothing friendly about it, and it’s very clear to me now that he never did want to be friends. But because I didn’t want to let him go, I was seeing what I wanted to see, and any text back was giving me that little bit of hope that I was so desperate for. I replied to him once I was home and we spoke a little back and forth. Rightly or wrongly, I then asked him if he was seeing somebody else. Maybe I shouldn’t have asked. In hindsight I definitely shouldn’t have asked. But show me one girl that gets their relationship ended who doesn’t sit and dwell on the thought of there being someone else. But I wasn’t getting a straight answer and my heart sank. I just sat on my bedroom floor and I cried. I couldn’t make sense of anything. Not just the breakup, but all of it. It felt like months of one bad thing after another were building up and I had no release.

This was honestly the lowest point I have ever been at in my life, and I pray that I never, ever end up there again. Every single thing that had happened since Christmas Day was spinning round in my head faster than I could process. Everything I had felt and was still feeling felt so intense and overwhelming. It’s extremely difficult to put into words exactly what was going on in my head at this time. But there was a battle in my head of “it would be better if you weren’t here” and “don’t let this destroy you”. I couldn’t stop feeling like I was a burden to everyone around me, like I was bringing everyone else down with me. I felt that people would be happier without me, that their lives would be easier. The things that had happened had made me feel like I didn’t matter, so I felt like it didn’t matter if I was around or not. In a way that I’m sure not many people will understand, I actually felt like I would be doing the best thing for other people if I wasn’t around, because they’d no longer be hurting at seeing me hurt. I was extremely scared. I was scared that another bad thing would happen in my life and I wouldn’t be able to handle it. I’d been through so much, I’d began to get myself back to a better place, and then I’d been knocked right back down again. I knew that I couldn’t take any more. I didn’t want to go through anything else. I couldn’t see a way out, I couldn’t see a happier life, I couldn’t see a time when all of this would be behind me and I’d be able to deal with it and move forward. I just didn’t see a happy future for myself.

At this point it was the early hours of the morning. I’d been sat on my bedroom floor crying for around 2 hours. I was at rock bottom. The lowest of low points. And I’d come to the realisation that I couldn’t cope, and that I really didn’t want to be here anymore. I tried to ring my ex but he didn’t answer, so I text him to tell him that I didn’t want to be here and that I was going to try to end my life. I asked that he tell my family that I loved them and that he’d give me some time before he rang them.

At the time, I was angry. I was angry because he’d called my Mum the minute he’d got my text. I was angry that he didn’t just do what I’d asked him to. I was angry that I’d been saved. My mum came into my room just before 3AM to find me sat on my floor sobbing. She didn’t say anything, she just hugged me. In fact, we didn’t say much for the rest of the night either. We just sat together while I cried and she tried to make sure that I was ok. I didn’t want to talk about it because I didn’t feel like anyone would understand why I felt like I did. Eventually at some point the next morning I went to bed, and for the rest of that day my parents came into my room every half an hour to make sure that I was ok. And by ok, essentially I mean alive. To put it bluntly, I was on suicide watch. I can’t even begin to imagine how they must have felt. They had to open my door not knowing whether I would still be alive. I was actually asleep for the most part. I figured that if I had to be alive, I’d at least rather be asleep.

On the Monday my mum took me to the doctors. He gave me some information of people I could talk to and he increased my medication. At this point I was still angry and I felt completely numb. I still didn’t want to be here, but I felt that I had no choice. Physically I was functioning, but mentally I wasn’t. For about a week afterwards, I was being watched like a hawk and my parents made sure that I was never left alone for too long. But after a few days I began to see more clearly. That night, I wanted to end my life and I was angry that I hadn’t been allowed to do so. But a few days later I actually felt relieved, grateful and lucky that I had been saved and that I had a second chance. I knew that I had a long way to go before I would be out of the darkness, but I felt determined that I was going to try my absolute hardest to get to a better place. Life really is so precious, and I’d been given another chance to make mine one that I actually wanted to live. And so began my journey of recovery for the second time.

Much love,

Steph xo

Another Setback

It’s taken me a while to write this post. I’ve kept putting it off every time I’ve come to write it, and I’m now writing it just a few days before it will be posted. I’ve found this one the hardest to write for different reasons to the others. With the others, I’ve been apprehensive about opening myself up in a way that leaves me vulnerable and open to judgement. But this one’s different. I’m nervous to write this one because some of the things I felt are still pretty raw. But I said from the start that I wanted to be honest as much as I could be, so here it is.

Heartbreak really is a truly awful thing. I’ve experienced heartbreak before. When my first relationship ended. When my grandparents passed away. When my friendship ended with my best friend. Multiple times. More times than I wish I had. And yet, it’s never gotten easier. I’ll experience heartbreak again, I’m not naive enough to think that I won’t. But I won’t be ready for it, because you never really are, are you? Especially not when it comes completely out of the blue. Especially not when you think things are good, but get the rug pulled from under your feet. That’s been the worst kind of heartbreak for me, the one I never saw coming.

By Christmas, I’d ‘officially’ been with my boyfriend since October, with a few extra months added on for dating and all that stuff. So the relationship was still relatively new. But because we’d already known each other for a few years, and had some history, feelings progressed a bit quicker (or they did on my part, I’m not here to put words in anyone else’s mouth). The relationship had been good. He made me happy and it was all going fairly well. But then Christmas happened. Or more specifically, the sexual assault happened. The first few weeks after are still a bit of a blur. I know he was there for me, a lot. And he was very supportive not just for me, but for my parents too. He constantly reassured me that we’d get through it, and that we’d get through it together because we were “a team”. I felt extremely lucky that everything that was going on wasn’t coming between us, because I know that some people aren’t so fortunate.

So as I said, the first few weeks are still a blur. But we got through it. We saw each other a lot, but it took a bit of time before we were spending the night together again. We both knew that things were tough for each other, and neither of us wanted to rush anything. For a while, we were just taking things day by day, that’s all we could do. As much as things were affecting me, I knew they were affecting him too, and some days were a lot harder than others emotionally. There were days when all I wanted to do was be around him, and days when all I wanted to do was be alone. And I’m sure he felt the same way at times too. But eventually, things started getting back to some kind of ‘normal’. And by normal, I mean as normal as things could be when the topic of everything going on takes over almost every conversation. Not necessarily just between ourselves, but with friends too. We had a great support network, both together and separately, and I’ll always be very grateful for that, but it could sometimes feel like I couldn’t avoid the topic. But in the end, that just became our new normal, just as everything in my life started to become a ‘new normal’, and we managed to work through it to get back to what seemed like a happy, relatively normal relationship.

Because the relationship was still fairly new, we were having to learn a lot about each other in a very short space of time. We’d never been through anything in the relationship which caused such heightened emotions, bad days and mental health issues before. It was new for both of us, and some days we didn’t always get it right. We were having to learn to notice when the other was having a bad day or was feeling low, and we were having to try and know how to deal with that as well as our own feelings. It was tough, and it was a situation which I think we underestimated. But we both knew that what had happened wasn’t going to be something that caused the end of us, we were determined that we wouldn’t let that happen, so we worked through it.

I’ve mentioned in one of my last posts that the relationship post sexual assault didn’t come without its difficulties. The main issue being that I was struggling pretty badly with anxiety and depression, and linked to this meant that I had a lot of issues with myself. Low self esteem, lack of confidence and feeling insecure to name a few. And these issues had a knock on effect on how I felt been in a relationship. I constantly felt like I wasn’t good enough for my boyfriend. I constantly felt like he could do better, and in my head I convinced myself that he wanted better. I wasn’t always good at articulating all of these feelings, which sometimes meant that they came out in the wrong way. Sometimes quite abruptly, or sometimes in an argumentative way if he said or did something that upset me and triggered one of those emotions. I was taking things to heart a lot, and sometimes taking things out of context. Things I used to be able to take as a joke were now bothering me, and I know that caused us issues at times. I’d always had quite a jokey relationship with my boyfriend, but because of how I was feeling, jokes became digs. I saw banter as the truth. And I just couldn’t brush things off, or banter back like I used to. Some days I could and some days I couldn’t, which meant my boyfriend would try to joke with me, and have no idea how it would be received or how I’d react. And sometimes I’d take his jokes really personally. Going to counselling was really helping me at this time. Stacey explained to me the process in which our brain deals with logical and irrational thoughts. And even though I knew some of the things I was worrying about in my relationship were irrational, I was still struggling to think about them logically. In time though, I was able to put into practice what Stacey was teaching me, and although it didn’t make things great all of the time, it did really help me a lot.

One of the other things I began struggling with around this time was the start of an eating disorder. It was in no means linked directly to my relationship, or due to how he was making me feel, it was because of how I felt within myself. I’d lost count of how many days I’d sat in front of a mirror and cried at what I saw. I hated my body, from the inside out. I hated what I saw looking back at me. I’d sit and criticise every single thing about me, from my hair colour to my weight. And some part of me felt like changing the way I looked would solve so many of my problems. Of course I was wrong, but I was thinking irrationally. And so it started that I was making myself sick. It wasn’t every day, but when it did happen it could be once or twice in a night, at its worst it could be 5 times in the space of a few hours. And in all honesty, at no point did it ever really make me feel better. At no point did I ever love myself any more than I did before being sick. It was all in my head. It got to a point where I didn’t want to do it anymore, I knew it was wrong but I didn’t really know how to stop. Eventually I told my parents what I was doing, and although they didn’t understand it they were very supportive. I then spoke to my counsellor about it, and in time I realised not only how silly I was being for thinking it would solve anything, but how dangerous it was! I’m extremely lucky that I was able to talk about what I was doing whilst it was in its early stages, so that I could get help and stop it before it became something that controlled me. Eating disorders can be so dangerous and can have long lasting effects on the body. And I’m so grateful that I never got to that stage.

In order to be as honest as I want to be, that means talking about the down side to situations. However, in between the difficult times were a lot of good times in the relationship too. I don’t want it to seem like everyday was hell because it wasn’t. We had plenty of good days together and talked about things which we wanted to do in the future. Yes, there were bad days. Yes, some days were more intense than others. Yes, we had some arguments. But show me a relationship which is perfect and happy every single day. At no point would I ever have said that we had a bad relationship.

After I’d overcome the eating disorder, aired a lot of my issues at counselling, started looking to get back into work and felt all round slightly better in myself, I thought things were on the up. Things had gotten better with my boyfriend, with the exception of a few arguments which we spoke about and I thought we’d moved on from, and we’d decided to book a holiday. We were having a lot more good days than bad and I really did feel like finally, things were starting to get better and we could all begin to move forward. But one Saturday I met up with my boyfriend to go for a walk, and within 5 minutes of getting there he’d ended the relationship. My heart sank. I didn’t know what to say. I just cried. This had come completely out of the blue for me. I don’t know how long he’d been thinking about it, but there’d been no warning. No conversation of it been a possibility. No chance of us trying to work through it. Nothing. All that kept playing over in my head was how many times I was told that we were a team, but now all of a sudden we weren’t. And once again that overwhelming feeling of been alone hit me like a ton of bricks. I don’t think I really said much back, I had no idea what to say. I was actually just in shock. I knew he must have had his reasons for doing it but I thought things were going well. Just 2 weeks before we’d booked a holiday together. That means at some point in those 2 weeks he’d decided that he didn’t want me anymore. And to me that meant that 2 weeks or less was all it took to decide to throw me away. We sat in silence for a while. My mum even text me saying “have a nice day xx” – that’s how unexpected the whole thing was. I thought we were just going to have a nice walk, not going to end the relationship. I went back home and cried, a lot. I tucked myself up in bed, wrapped myself as tightly as possible in my quilt, and I cried myself to sleep.

I’ve decided to split this into two parts, a then and now. So this was my journey up until the end of my relationship, and the next part will follow on with my journey after.

Much love,

Steph xo

Guilt

Opening up and talking was one of the most crucial parts of overcoming everything for me. However, I quickly learnt that talking to the wrong people can have the complete opposite effect. And by wrong people, in summary, I mean any person who makes you feel bad for choosing to do what you think is best for you. You might have made plans but now you want to cancel because your anxiety has gotten worse, and you know a social situation won’t help. And that’s fine. You might have ignored your texts for a week because you needed to take a bit of time for yourself and didn’t really feel like talking. And guess what? That’s fine too. If you’re opening up to anyone who makes you feel like doing these things, and like putting yourself first is the wrong thing to do, then stop, because those people aren’t going to help you. The pace in which we overcome things is completely different for every single person, so don’t rush it, especially not for the sake of other people.

Back in February, I started going to counselling, and it was quite honestly the best thing I did. Don’t get me wrong, it was scary and daunting and before I started going, I didn’t really think it’d be that beneficial. In truth, I was also really worried about admitting that I was going. There seems to be such a stigma about seeking outside help, whether that’s from a doctor or a therapist. But why? I know it’s not in the human nature to open up easily, but surely that should mean that when someone does, it’s a good thing and not a bad. You’d go to a doctor if you had an infection, you’d go to hospital if you broke a bone, so what’s so wrong with going to a therapist when you’re facing an issue that’s affecting your mental health? Mental health is equally as important as our physical health, if not more so.

Before I had my first counselling session, I made a list of my feelings and emotions, and things that I wanted to talk about. I’d found it quite hard to open up in the beginning, so I thought a list might help me when it came to opening up to my counsellor (and who doesn’t love a good list?!). But when I got there, everything I’d been feeling hurtled out in a mixture of jumbled up words and sentences between sobs. Stacey (name changed) didn’t say very much at first, she just let me have that release. There was absolutely no structure to what I was saying, I don’t even think I stopped for breath! Every single emotion I’d felt, every single thing that had upset me or angered me, every single thing I’d cried about came flying out of my mouth before I could even think about what I was saying. Although I had opened up to some friends and family before my first counselling session, this was the first time when I was completely and utterly honest, not only with Stacey, but with myself about how much of an impact the last 6 weeks really had on me. And I know that this won’t be the same for everybody. Some people may go and not be able to get everything out like I did. Some people may go for their first session and sit in near silence. There’s no right or wrong way. But luckily for me, Stacey couldn’t have been more supportive. Eventually, once I’d relayed everything I could think of, Stacey picked out a few things I’d said and made me realise that I had one common theme – guilt. I still have the list that I made before my first session, and even now, I still read over it. I’m not fully sure why I still read it, it’s not something that I consciously do. But sometimes when I’m laid in bed thinking about the last year, I find myself pulling it out and reading it. I don’t know why, I’ll probably never know what draws me to that list, but what I do know is that it gives me some peace of mind and comfort, that I was in such a bad place, and I managed to overcome it. And if I can survive the last 8 months, then I can survive anything.

Now I can only talk in terms of my own experience, but I think it may be the same for many people. Opening up about a trauma can make you feel incredibly guilty. Not necessarily because you’re opening up, but because you may be hurting the ones you tell, and you experience that persons emotions with them. I’ll never forget the moment I walked into my house after spending hours at the police station, and told my parents what had happened to me. I saw the hurt on their face and the pain in their eyes. I could tell how much they were lost for words and I could see the tears building up. This was my story and this was my pain, but it was killing them both. The last thing I’ve ever wanted to do was to hurt them. They’re my parents, but my best friends more so. And I’d just told them something which would kill them. It wasn’t my fault, I know that. But the words were coming out of my mouth, I’m their daughter, and it had happened to me. So to me, I was the one causing that pain. It worked both ways in that I felt their pain just as much as they felt mine. No parent wants to hear that something so horrible has happened to their child, and I knew what they’d be thinking before they ever even said it. “I should have protected her”. It absolutely killed me to think that at any point, my parents were blaming themselves. They had no reason to be with me at the time it happened, and there was nothing that they could have done to prevent it. But I knew that they were partly blaming themselves, and once again, I was hit with a whole heap of guilt.

Every time I told someone else what had been happening, I went through the feelings of guilt and heightened emotions all over again. You’re kind of forced to relive the situation over and over whilst you start to tell people what’s happened, and it becomes a bit of a repetitive process. And in all honesty, it’s exhausting. I went through so many emotions, from the relief of getting it off my chest, to the sadness I saw in peoples eyes and surprisingly, the feeling of being so alone. Most people might not understand why I felt most alone after I started to talk to people about what had happened, but it’s because very few people will fully understand. I was, and still am, so grateful for the support that I had from people around me, but even those people admitted that they didn’t fully know what I was going through. And that made me feel more alone than I did when barely anyone knew. I went through such a battle with myself throughout the period of telling people close to me what had happened. Some days I’d want to be completely honest about the whole thing, and other days I couldn’t bare for the words to come out of my mouth. Admitting to people, and saying out loud that you’ve been sexually assaulted is such a difficult thing to do. I’m not sure that I’d ever be able to put into words how that makes you feel. I’m not sure that there are enough words.

One of the biggest reasons why I enjoyed going to counselling, was that I didn’t have to worry about hurting Stacey. She didn’t know me, so she didn’t have any emotional connection. Of course I got the same pitiful looks and the same “I’m so sorry”, but she was the only person I felt that I could talk to without having to worry about how I was making her feel. It was such a relief that I could tell her anything, without having to try and be careful not to upset her. And of course, she’s a trained counsellor who was able to give me so many techniques and exercises that would help me when I was having bad days. She taught me to understand that “bad days” aren’t necessarily bad days, but are actually more about being “thinking days”. I would honestly love to share with you the way she described this to me, but honestly, the whole thing is so scientific that I really couldn’t do it justice! Long story short, thinking days (or bad days as I originally thought of them), are days which are crucial in overcoming trauma. Or anything really. A thinking day gave me time to reflect, and although on those days I thought a lot about the specific situation, which made me believe it was a bad day, it also gave me a lot of time to reflect on the steps I’d already taken to move forward. She helped me to acknowledge when I was thinking logically and irrationally. And she really helped me to control how much guilt I was feeling towards others. I’m not going to go into full details about my counselling sessions, because those sessions are something which were so personal to me. However, the difference in me from seeking the help of a counsellor was huge. For the first time in what felt like forever, I was beginning to feel like I was getting somewhere. I was having more good days than bad, I was getting out of bed more often, and I was motivated to start looking for work again, which was a huge step! Things were looking up, and I was looking forward. I’d booked a block number of sessions with Stacey, and at this point, I felt ready to walk away and to do things on my own using the things I’d learnt from her.

I touched on it briefly in my last blog post, that before any of this happened I was in a relationship, and up until this point I still was. I think any person who goes through a similar trauma, and who is in a relationship, will understand that the first month or 2 trying to deal with what has happened are pretty difficult. It was a nice feeling knowing that I had my boyfriend by my side, giving me emotional support, but at the same time, after going through something such as sexual assault, it can make being physical with someone extremely difficult. And when I say “physical” I mean from the very basics such as cuddling or kissing. This isn’t something that really impacted my relationship directly, because he was very understanding of how I felt, but it became something I constantly worried about. For a while, I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something wrong with me because I didn’t want to get into bed and cuddle with my own boyfriend. But the truth is, when someone has invaded your privacy, it can be very difficult to be as open towards other people. However, as much as having my boyfriend helping me through was a good thing, it didn’t come without any difficulties. The down side to been in a relationship when I was feeling so low was that it added an extra pressure. I had very little self confidence, low self esteem, I didn’t think I was good enough, and quite honestly, I didn’t understand why my boyfriend would want me after what had happened to me. All of these feelings were bubbling up inside of me, and I didn’t know how to control them. I was so insecure, the most insecure I’d ever been, and all it did was add to the long list of things I was trying to deal with. Being in a relationship also added to the guilt that I mentioned above. I felt guilty that I was putting him through this, guilty that I wasn’t being the best girlfriend to him, guilty that he was dealing with issues which stemmed from what had happened to me. Guilt. Guilt. Guilt. It was a constant daily struggle and there were days when it would put a strain on us. I look back now and I don’t know whether I ever was 100% honest with him about how low I was, but I did mention it on more than a few occasions. Sometimes he’d be completely reassuring, and other times I didn’t feel like he was. But fortunately, despite all of this, we overcame the worst part and we were still together. We’d got back to a good place, we enjoyed time together, we laughed and joked like we used to, we’d even booked our first holiday. But a couple of weeks after this, around 2 weeks after I felt like I was getting better, the relationship ended out of the blue. And it quite frankly knocked me for six.

Heartbreaks a horrible thing. And when this happened, I felt like I’d gone right back to square one. I felt like I’d started to rebuild my life and had the whole thing knocked down within minutes. I felt more alone than I ever had. I felt lost, disposable, like I didn’t really matter. I felt like up until this point, I had been making improvements to get back to being myself, but the end of my relationship resurfaced every single thing I’d been through. And it led to the one night when everything just got too much. THAT night, when I came way too close to ending my life.

Much love,

Steph xo