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

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