This ones for Me

My trauma is a seed that started early in the pit of my stomach and grew. I am not my trauma. But as I grow older, I am beginning to notice the lessons it is offering, and the light it is showing me to shine through. My trauma is something I swallowed whole, silently and without even realising. I couldn’t see the scars being formed then, until I now stand here present and feel them deeply. The meaning of the word trauma is something that has only come into my psyche very recently; only now, at 27, I sit here and begin to think back of certain things that have happened thus far to get me to this point. I now lie here in India reflecting, nearing the end of a mentally challenging but life altering trip; where I have learnt many things about perseverance, patience (or lack thereof), and a lot about myself.

I have been abused by three people in my life. Firstly by my father, then by my ex and then by my mind; all who secretly knew that they feared a woman who is stronger than them.

Since I came face to face with my mental health after a breakdown a few years ago, a strong journey of self-discovery and unpicking of what is and what was began. I had depression during most of my university years, but for about a solid year at the final stretch I suffered greatly from crippling anxiety, which became part of my everyday life. I feared the world was not safe and could no longer protect me. At times it would take me hours to leave my flat, resulting in some days and nights where I just wouldn’t. Although trapped in my own mind, I watched a lot of Greys Anatomy that year and cooked myself hot food which fed me greatly, for cooking was and at times still is my only release.

There were clearly immediate factors that I could easily put my feelings down to; I felt stuck at university in a city I hated at this point, with people I felt didn’t love me. I knew I was unhappy, but digging deeper never even felt like an option. The role that my younger years may have had to play is something I never thought about until now. Could this have also been a delayed reaction to past feelings of fear, neglect, abuse and sadness? Years of masking and pretending to be okay were slowly, but finally, coming to a head.

I spent my teen years not seeing my mother (another oppressed but strong and beautiful woman, although at the time I feel she did not know it) but instead spent my time wondering which mood my father would come home in. His tendency to switch moods and the control he held over our household weighed strong. This fuelled my head with worry and it did so for many years, until my mother’s voice finally shone bright when she told him to leave when I was 16.

It was three years later that I would then cross paths with my second abuser, someone just like my father, who lived to tell me I was ugly and I believed them. That person planted seeds to purposefully make me feel bad about myself. For a short while those seeds sat in my stomach and slowly chipped away at my soul and at my being, leaving not much behind. They’ve stayed with me for years. They’ve caused pain, uncertainty and self-doubt. But when it was time, those seeds would become weak; I would wake up, grow taller and life would course through me again.

Moments that stick out greatly in my mind in that relationship were being told I couldn’t dress or act a certain way, or even look how I look because apparently nothing suited me. I have a shaved head which he looked down upon. I wore too much makeup, I drank too much (at this point I know why) and I wasn’t good enough to exist. In their eyes I could have been better. I’m confused now why I stayed clung to their every word, but it’s something you can’t explain. It is brainwashing at its finest.

In my head I would say afterwards…”Excuse me, since when were you me and able to tell me how I should look, be or behave. Your bullshit screams from the hills.” But you become mute in the moment, which is a scary thought now. It’s a shame I didn’t know that at the time but boy do I know it now.

I now shave my head with pride, as part of my self-care. A bi monthly renewal which represents clarity and cleansing, I feel empowered and proud to be living in my vessel. My lesson being, always do what you want to do. Second opinions of how you want to look and express yourself don’t matter. Whatever it is, do it for you.

My third abuser is my mind who causes worry and fears the unknown. It’s known for its anxious and fearful state, overcrowded nature and ability to make you think the untrue. Abuse is a trait we are used to seeing in others, yet what is harder to see is the abusive relationship we have with ourselves.

The things people say stick with you, sometimes no matter how hard we try to shake them, even when you know deep down that they are false. Even though these negative thoughts may seem unavoidable, don’t listen because those people do not own you, they do not see you and they do not know you.

For me, after a long road of back and forth, I am thankful that they are becoming quieter and quieter, with strength and daily mantras reminding myself that I am worthy and I am lovable.

There are good days and bad. Although more good of recent. Oddly now I am thankful for those seeds however painful. Understanding that pain has begun my journey of self-discovery, self-care and self-love, which is so damn hard at times. It’s sad to me that the relationship you should cherish the most from birth, the relationship with yourself, is the one hardest to attain in your adult years. We learn numbers and words at school but we don’t learn self-love, care or admiration, which should come above all. These things are seen as vain or self-involved, so when people shut us down we are confused on how to react and it feeds our ongoing doubt. But this is not okay.

I’m on a journey to attain my own trust and respect which means that those happy moments that happen in between I can actually be present for. Because before you gain that I think it’s near impossible. Until you learn to look after and put yourself first it just can’t be. I’ve accepted the challenge to be kind to myself always, live my true self, and to step back when it doesn’t feel right. Speak up. Flush relationships that feel toxic and rise to be the strong person I am. Be you always. You are good just the way you are. The people who want to bring you down fear your rising. Don’t let them plant their seeds. Rise up. Let the blossoming commence and continue because you are it.

This isn’t for you my abuser. This one’s for me.

My Second First Period

It’s been a year since I started my second first period. About two years ago I made the decision to come off all medical/hormonal contraception and I’ve never looked back. Around the same time I came off anti depressants; something clicked and I came to the realisation that I knew sweet FA about what was going on inside me and I felt a huge disconnection. I knew nothing about the extra hormones I’d been pumping through me, since like most girls I knew, I was put on the pill as soon as started having sex; for me that was 17. I spent most of my late teens and early adulthood taking something that I didn’t really have a clue about, rather than getting to know my body properly. After I decided the pill wasn’t for me (because I was disorganised, preoccupied and not very good at taking it), I went for something stronger. Lo and behold the IUS (hormonal coil), which could possibly stop my periods all together (which it did) and last for almost 5 years. I was 20 at the time and although I maybe could have done my research more, I was young. You do impulsive stuff at that age, plus I now realise that I was very depressed and didn’t have a clue what was going on most of the time. The doctor never advised me of any risks or feelings that may later come with it and never asked about my physical or mental health. Surely the duty of care for a young adult girl was failed!?? Still unsure about that one but I’m going with yes. Within a week I was booked in and it was popped in. I initially thought it was the best thing ever, no periods, no babies, no worries, fucking jackpot. I even told all my friends how great it was.

It’s been one year and three months since I had the coil removed, a traumatic experience of which I came home crying, having had complications with the removal and 3 strangers prodding at my vagina trying to get it out. An a anaesthetic and many tears later I was free. If that wasn’t a sign to say I was doing the right thing I don’t know what was.

About 6 weeks later I finally bled again and three months later I attended a workshop led by Rabiah Mali (@herbal_blessingclinic on Instagram) all about medicinal herbs for menstruation and the womb (someone who I would highly recommend and is a gem at her craft). In the session I sat and chatted with a group of women of all ages and we spoke openly about our periods, the moon, life and generally what it’s like to experience the female form. Some were good, some not so good but our experiences varied and we learnt from each other. It was a revaluation! I stopped seeing my period as a linear event one after the other and embraced it as a cycle and a pattern to learn from each time. It’s not always a joyful occasion sometimes I do still have times when it just feels long but it feels different and I see that now. I understand my moods better and I feel like my body has more of a rhythm. We are in tune. Plus something that I didn’t realise would happen is that It’s made me feel much more body positive, love and overall respect myself a more as a growing woman.

My advice to any woman, girl or person who experiences periods, who is just a little confused or feels like they have a niggle of doubt about contraception is to do your research, then have the conversation with your partner or the person you are sleeping with, even if it’s casual; don’t be afraid to speak up. These conversations need to be had. Most importantly have a conversation with yourself. It’s your body. If its not working for you then it’s not working for either of you.

A couple of good apps that may help you get to know are Flo and Natural Cycles (I use Flo cause it’s freeee) Natural Cycles requires a thermometer hence the extra cost but with both you can track your cycle so it’ll learn from you and tell you when you are due on. You can also log a number of things like mood, exercise and sexual activity, plus it will also tell you when you are ovulating if you wanna make yourself some lil babas. I’ve also read some really good books which have helped and taught me so much, which I’ll post more about soon. Another good note is to talk to your elders and fellow sisters about this stuff; they’ve lived through it and they know their shit.

So Happy Periodaversary to me (I clearly made that up so if you can think of a better one please let me know). I’m celebrating in India with a view and a steaming hot cup of masala chai. Long may the lessons continue because, baby, I am here for it.

First

I’ve always had an overactive mind. Since I was a little girl, I thought that if I didn’t jump up and down until 10 times in the shower before going to school, something bad would happen to me or my family. I would think about that bad thing over and over until it crippled me with worry or until something else distracted me. I’ve always thought that if I didn’t do something as small as not turning the light on and off more than once – there would be consequences. Sudden death to put it lightly. I won’t even go into when I found out about superstition. Cause we could be here all day. It can’t have been any earlier than year 7, what’s that? 11…12.  At this point I’m not completely sure. It’s mad to think that I did that now. It’s mad to think of an 11 year old with OCD. The jumping act that I experienced at that age is my earliest memory that I had any sort of mental health problem. But at the time I didn’t understand why I needed to do it. I just did. It oddly almost seemed almost fun to get the jumping out of my system before school so I could get on with the rest of my day in peace. It became a daily ritual that was part of my morning routine. Some kind of messed up self care. What I got in return was that great feeling of relief. Yes. I did it. I’ve survived another morning without the demons coming to take me away. Success.

Throughout my teen years, my issues manifested and developed into something else. As the years went on it slowly began to feel bigger than me. I’ve suffered from anxiety for as long as I can remember, which manifested into depression, when I was at university, topped up with more anxiety, then the panic attacks came. Followed by more anxiety. I sometimes experience episodes that feel like out of body experiences, that I can’t control. They end with more panic attacks too, just to keep it interesting. I’ve had moments in my life when I can’t leave the house in fear that people are following me. I’ve planned escape routes when in situations that I feel threatened, even when sitting and enjoying dinner with friends. Suffering from an anxiety disorder means you will always think the worse. No one is safe. More importantly, you aren’t safe. This situation isn’t safe. These people are unsafe. There isn’t a safe place. It just doesn’t exist. I learnt to live with it. It became my norm. That feeling of hopelessness. The butterflies. The constant questioning of everything you do, before you do it. Looking behind you and seeing a stranger, coincidentally twice in one day and deciding they are after you. Overwhelming amounts of worry and a feeling that you are completely not the owner of your own body and have no control over any of your thoughts. I experienced lightheadedness, daily. For years I ignored it all. I got on with it, shook it off and found a distraction. When I was a child I can’t really remember how I shook it off. I think it must have been a case of telling myself to snap out of it. Literally talking to myself in my head. Once I gradually got older and into my later teen years and early adulthood, the distraction typically came in alcoholic form or the act of tying to fix someone else rather than myself. Alcohol became a very good friend of mine, like most people in their early twenties at university. I discovered narcotics of a different kind that would take me to another level for a night, which became the best distraction I had ever met. I know most people that have taken drugs will say that we’ve all been there and yes some have but lets face it, using drugs just made my problems manifest quicker and make my mental health worse. I did it because it was fun. Don’t get me wrong, I was experiencing some kind of hedonism at the time. I felt kind of powerful. Powerful within myself. There was a sense of control; I felt like a different person, going out drinking and partying was a mask on top of the mask I wore daily. There is also a strange feeling of community when you take drugs with people. That everyone’s-doing-it-feeling. You feel like you’re never alone. They are the same as you; you all get each other. To some extent, there’s an element of truth in that but in a lot of ways, definitely not because no two people are ever the same and you can never truly know what is going on in one another’s minds, especially if you’re not talking. I don’t mean general chit chat, who got with who and the newest person you’re pissed off with, I mean actually talking, asking ‘how are you’ and waiting for a reply that’s not a brush off, ‘I’m fine’. Not facing up to my emotions and feeling like I had no one to talk to was making me sick. Uni itself wasn’t great either, two years into my second course/attempt (of three) at trying to figure out what I want to do with my life, I was diagnosed with dyslexia, also known as a complete head fuck/are you serious how did I now know this all this time I’m 24, which basically meant I had to re-learn how I learn (still figuring that out, stay tuned). I now don’t think I should ever have gone to Uni but you live and learn and to be quite honest it’s given and taught me a whole lot more than the course I chose ever could have and the degree certificate I didn’t quite get. I never handed in my work on time, I barely showed up, physically or mentally, not cause I didn’t want to go but the sheer thought of stepping into a class full of people or even the university building, crippled me. It was bigger than me. I now feel that I just plodded along through the years, just seeing it as living somewhere different for a while, an extended holiday I guess. I would get the brief at the beginning of term and feel immediately overwhelmed. Feelings of self-doubt, constantly measuring my talents to my peers. I convinced myself that what I had to give wasn’t what the university wanted. I’m sitting here writing this now thinking that you’ll have heard this all before too. Daily feelings were that I didn’t belong here, my ideas were rubbish and everyone else’s work was always going to be better than mine.

To cut a very long story short of which I will go back too, as I don’t think we’ll ever get through everything in one post, let’s go back a little bit to 2015 where all of the worry, pain, masking, comedowns, hangovers, self doubt, paranoia, sinking feelings, all came to a head, sitting in my flat in Nottingham. It was about 3am and i was in bed. I’m in my final year/final month of university, having just come back from a festival, which was fun but that I should never have gone to, with my due date looming. I lied to my mum who questioned my going and said that I had everything under control (bullshit, did I). Anyway I was in my room, finishing what I could of my final degree work, already stressed and knowing I was never going to finish any of it but trying desperately to anyway because at this point, this is my only purpose. I thought, if I can’t do this then I’m a failure in every aspect and what will everyone think. Six years, one and a half courses, countless amounts of money wasted and no degree to show for it. Travesty. I was drowning. Then at that very precise moment….my laptop dies. Flat dead. No coming back. In that very moment every single day I had spent at university closed in and I couldn’t breath. I called home, hysterically crying. That’s it. I’d lost it. Shouting down the phone ‘ I can’t do this anymore’. ‘ This is fucking bullshit’. Screaming the words. The huge, eye opening, whopper of realization that this shit can’t go on. I had run out of smiles and steam. I didn’t even feel like me anymore. I felt lonely, lost, confused and everything was uncertain. The future felt impossible. But the scariest thing to me at the time was that small sentence ‘what will everyone think?’. I had come this far, masking and pretending. I didn’t feel I knew how else to be. It was time to stop doing what I thought I should be doing and what I needed to be doing. First step in recovery…. admit there’s a problem. I left Nottingham the next day, I remember touching down at Kings X feeling like absolute shit but parallel to that feeling like I was beginning to wake up. I would finally have to come out and admit the downward spiral for as long as I could remember and finally take control.

I’m reading a book at the moment of which I could quote from all day but there’s a line in it that I read today. It says something like ‘I learn from the past so that the present can be, understanding that my actions will have consequences tomorrow’. What I did from that day forward, is begin to recognize that I’m different and that’s okay. My mind is precious and should never be taken lightly. You have to feel how you feel and trust yourself, seek help, ask questions and know your emotions.
Its not been plain sailing since. I think we are on meltdown number 3 now…but each time I feel different to how I have ever felt before because there’s a small word called triggers that I’ve come to know and kind of love. I know my triggers. We are friends and we communicate. I know what makes me retreat and what makes me unhappy and most importantly, I know what makes me happy. I know my emotions and no longer use a mask to get through the day. I’m discovering a small thing called self-acceptance. You have to be kind to yourself and take each day as it comes. You are completely in control of your own life and I’ve accepted that my mental health will always be part of my makeup but I’ve learnt that you have to know your patterns, whether they are positive or destructive. Use the lessons you learn to be able to maintain a level of detachment from old patterns so that you can keep up that level of self-care to help you move forward. I’m learning what’s good for me in the long run but I am also learning there are many more of these lessons to come, after each episode it’s an opportunity to discover a little bit more about yourself, to unfold a new part of your inner beauty, to breathe, to reflect and to prepare for the next chapter because there is a whole lot of good about to come.