Opinion, Personal, Spirituality

Forgiving the Unforgivable

Maybe we shouldn’t be thinking of forgiveness as a permanent act. Maybe we recognise forgiving as a potentially impermanent state of being.

Some people may have noticed I hadn’t kept my promise of posting at least once a month. I didn’t contribute anything to this blog during March and tonight’s contribution may be something that’s forced, rather than flowing freely.

March might be the biggest month of any year for me. It’s an exciting time because of the spring equinox, which usually falls on my birthday. The equinox feels like the real beginning of the New Year. My brothers birthday also falls in March, though I don’t see a lot of him these days. My son’s birthday is just a few days before mine.

March also brings plenty of sad reminders. It marks the anniversary of the first death that ever affected me on a deep level, the death of “Auntie” Sarah, a close friend of my Aunt and mother.

March marks the anniversary of my wedding to my childhood sweetheart, the date of his disappearance a year later (which falls on my brother’s birthday), the date of his death and the date of his funeral (which was also the date of our first wedding anniversary). I didn’t attend the funeral, though I was the one to begin arranging it.

Yep, March is a big month and sometimes I wince when I notice the date and remember the significance of it.

So far, since his death in 2015, March has been that month where I feel like I’m most likely to be contacted by ex-in-laws. One year, my ex-sister-in-law appeared on my doorstep. This year it appears a friend of hers, “Kazza Evans”, had been sent to leave comments for me on my public Facebook posts instead. The sister-in-law currently has me blocked having already visited my profile to pester me last November.

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A comment left on my wall on the 4th March 2019

I’ll try to cut a very long story short.

My relationship with my son’s father was toxic, damaging, included abuse and yet I stayed in it for almost six years, marrying him right towards the end of the relationship.

I don’t need to explain or justify things. Anybody who knows how abusive relationships work, or how even non-abusive, but completely wrong-for-you relationships work completely understand how easily you can step into a marriage unconsciously, go through life on auto-pilot and ignore everything wrong with your life until you suddenly can’t ignore it any more.

It happens. It could happen to you. It’s happened to lots of people.

When I began to deconstruct and end my marriage, I was open and honest about my reasons why. My ex-husband was well aware that I had a long list of complaints and issues with his behaviour, but that sex abuse topped the list. I’d said that now his behaviour was affecting our son negatively, I could no longer use the excuse that staying with him and continuing to suffer myself was best for our son.

In short, my ex knew all the reasons the relationship was ending and he knew that I did not under any circumstances consent to him touching me. Yet the time between me first speaking my truth and him finally leaving our home spanned five months, forcing me to spend another Christmas with him and giving him plenty more chances to change his ways or do something to fix things.

He had more chances than he deserved. And he assaulted me twice more in those five months, as well as continuing other behaviours on my list of complaints.

I was as benevolent as I could be, for as long as I could be, because I cared about him despite everything. I never even saw him as a horrible, vindictive man until the weeks leading up to his death, when I decided perhaps I’d been looking at him through rose-tinted glasses for most of my life.

That man was a rapist and I didn’t even get mad or hate him until the very end, after I’d kicked him out and he started doing things like making false reports against me to child protection services and coming into my home uninvited, going through my things, tearing up my clothes and reading my private conversations with people on my computer.

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A comment from my ex-sister-in-law left under one of my blog shares on Facebook, in November 2018

So, he abused me. He then began tormenting me after he left my home. Then he, I suppose after his mental health really declined, rather selfishly took his own life.

As a Mental Health First Aider and someone interested in supporting people with their mental health, I’m not supposed to say suicide is selfish. The subject came up during training. We discussed suicide and the psychologist leading the training sympathetically addressed all people who have committed suicide as “victims”.

I was triggered, of course, and had to remind the psychologist and the rest of the class that infamous serial killer Fred West took his own life in prison. In fact, lots of abusers, rapists and killers have taken their own lives once they no longer have the control they are used to (consider it one final act of taking control) and thanks to my personal experience with my own abusers suicide, I can safely say some (if not all) suicides are fucking selfish.

The psychologist had tears in her eyes, as she quietly agreed that I made a very good point.

My ex took his own life, but before his body had even been found I was being accused of murdering him. According to ex-in-laws, I either killed him through the method of “covert psychological murder”, suggesting that I’m the one that abused him, or I killed him with voodoo dolls and witchcraft.

The claims about witchcraft didn’t come out of nowhere. I make no secret of the fact I’ve always been called a witch my whole life, but one of the lesser known facts of this whole sorry story is that actually, in the weeks leading up to my exes death, when he was causing me a lot of trouble and I began to really feel the effects of the trauma I’d been going through, I’d been confiding in my friend Nate on Skype about the whole ordeal.

Nate is a practising witch and shaman from the US, and he was so horrified by my story, he suggested I try to tackle my issues with my ex through magical methods. He was so angered that I had been abused, he said that my ex should and could be killed, with magic. He began suggesting various Gods and demons that could be summoned. I wasn’t sure what to think, and told Nate that I couldn’t kill anybody.

Not only was I not even convinced or sure that what Nate was suggesting is even possible, but I just did not feel that it was morally right to go around killing people, by any methods.

This was a private conversation on my private home laptop, that my ex-husband (or someone else coming into my home on his behalf) had read. Whether they read the whole conversation or not, I don’t know, but for all those whom ever wondered why these bizarre claims are being made, this is it. Someone genuinely suggested killing my ex with witchcraft, and it wasn’t even me! And my ex had to come into my house uninvited and go through my stuff to even know about it.

I’m amazed my ex-in-laws and anybody else involved feel like the good guys in this story. I spent weeks clutching police alarms, refusing to sleep, terrified because even after his death, people were still using his key to come into my house until the locks were changed. One of my neighbours, who was fond of my ex and his brothers, was trying to convince me I was actually being haunted by my ex, so I had obviously strong reasons to suspect that even he was involved in this campaign of torment.

How did these people convince themselves I am the bad guy in this story?

THAT PHOTO - PROOF
This screenshot is essentially proof that people were coming into my home using my exes spare key following my exes death. The photo mentioned, which was in Trudi’s possession, was left in my kitchen one afternoon in April 2015.

I had to continue to live in my ex-marital home for three years, with that suspicious neighbour always just across the street. I spent most of that time terrified and not knowing who I could trust, because people right on my doorstep seemed to believe my ex-in-laws instead of me.

It didn’t matter that I’d had all the proof in the world and my ex had been having to manipulate situations and evidence to try to make me look bad. Didn’t matter that I was given Legal Aid to fight him in court the exact same week the BBC ran a story explaining domestic abuse victims weren’t being granted Legal Aid because most of them couldn’t provide sufficient evidence they were victims.

I want to add that as well as very publicly being accused of abusing and murdering my abuser, repeatedly, I’ve also been accused of having affairs and “posting my tits all over the Internet”. I was accused of having Antisocial Personality Disorder, and being a criminal, drug addict and alcoholic too!

My ex-husband cheated on me several times, including on my 23rd birthday with my brothers long-term girlfriend and childhood sweetheart whereas I’ve never cheated on anybody.  I very rarely drink, am most certainly not a drug addict and do not have Antisocial Personality Disorder, and thanks to the claims made about me in 2015, had to prove all of these things in court a little later that year.

Leaving the ex was the hardest thing I ever did. It should’ve meant the end of my torment and troubles, but instead it carried on or began popping back up here and there out of nowhere, every time I thought I closed that horrible chapter of my life and moved on.

Yes, just when I think I’ve came to terms with it all, forgiven and tried to see things from everyone else’s point of view, I’m called a murderer and an adulterer whose naked all over the Internet again and I feel a mixture of rage and sickness so deep in my core that in the past it’s made me physically and emotionally ill for a prolonged period.

I suppose I didn’t forgive yet, even though I keep on trying. I don’t know if I ever can.

My ex and his siblings had a negligent, abusive childhood. My ex-sister-in-law is one of the most unstable, unwell people I’ve ever met, thanks to her unstable upbringing and I try to remind myself they are or were the way they are or were, because they hadn’t had very good lives. I try to remember my ex lied to everybody about our split and relationship and it’s just easier for some people to portray me as evil than it is to accept the truth.

It’s easier for my ex-sister-in-law to blame me for his suicide, than consider the fact that the day he ran away, he was begging me to take him back while she bombarded him with something like 50 text messages. The messages came one after the other, despite his lack of response and included a threat to falsely report him to the Department of Work and Pensions for benefit fraud.

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Our last conversation is not a pleasant read, but at no point does he deny the abuse and instead apologises a number of times for “doing wrong”. He deleted the conversation from his own phone before taking his life.

One of the last things my ex screamed down the phone to me was “I can’t go back to Trudi’s, she doesn’t want me there. Please let me come home.”

I said no. I was not responsible for the life or death of the man I had given chance after chance. I spent years spineless, so I could bend as far over backwards for him as possible. He dominated and controlled every aspect of my life.

I can’t be sorry for taking my life back, and a lot of people should feel sorry and ashamed for their behaviour towards me.

I’m supposed to forgive everyone that’s ever wronged me, or hurt me, because that’s what Jesus or Buddha would do. That’s the suggestion made in just about every spiritual circle and what every spiritual healer or life coach will tell you. I wont be able to be happy, have a good life or attract the right things into my life if I hold onto anger over the past and towards people.

Apparently.

But am I really “holding onto anger” though, or do I keep letting go of it repeatedly? Isn’t it only stirred up again whenever I have to recall these events I really don’t want to talk about any more? Aren’t I simply feeling completely justifiable feelings when I have to read another post about me being a murderer on the Internet?

Am I just not reacting as if a bullet has hit me, when someone has pulled the trigger? Is this not completely normal and human?

Am I really failing to forgive all of the time, or do I succeed in my attempts at forgiveness sometimes? Aren’t I only unforgiving sometimes, but forgiving at all other times? Why is that not good enough?

Am I not absolutely fine, in the here and now, until somebody makes my past the now, again? Do I not accept everything? Have I not used these events as an opportunity for amazing personal growth? Don’t I even find myself able to empathise with those causing me hurt? Don’t I only sometimes suffer with bad feelings that make me feel bad?

Aren’t thoughts and feelings transient things?

Isn’t it enough that I am spending time mastering awareness and observation of my feelings, instead of allowing myself to become my feelings?

We cannot insist that a patient forgives someone who has deeply, and forever, harmed them. And, we certainly do not want to make our patients feel guilty because they cannot do something superhuman (forgive the unforgivable).

~ Mark Banschick M.D.
Psychology Today

I think maybe I do forgive, when I’m in a forgiving state, or perhaps not thinking about any of this at all. And I think maybe I don’t forgive when I’ve been triggered and am clearly in an unforgiving state. Seems pretty fucking straightforward to me. Seems like all that stuff I read about needing to forgive is just a load of unreasonable crap that doesn’t really take real life and how it works into account. But maybe I’m wrong.

Maybe the spiritual pressure to forgive is not at all unreasonable and the human mission genuinely is to become superhuman and stop feeling pain when somebody hits you.

Personal

My Final Word on 2018

2018 was everything it was supposed to be. It was everything I had expected, in ways I wasn’t expecting. It was my year of lessons, of new beginnings and transformation. It was my year to turn 30 years old and joyfully say goodbye to my turbulent twenties.
 
I thought I knew what was coming, and yes, I did “know”, but I was looking in the wrong direction entirely.
 
I looked for stories and labels. Looked for an identity to attach to myself that would show everybody I’m the “success” I was “supposed to be”.
 
Ironic, when my all time favourite quote from any book is “to define is to limit”.
 
But I’d felt like a failure. How could I not, having grown up hearing all about who I was going to be and what I would become? They said I could be anything and I would definitely be SOMETHING. Definitely no less than a star!
 
Writer. Actor. Lawyer. Politician. Musician. Doctor. Prime Minister. Psychologist. Label. Label. Label.
 
I started trying to do what I thought I was “supposed to do”. And lot of this stuff I tried to fill myself up with just made me feel empty.
 

I tried parties and reconnecting with old friends. I tried making new friends. I enjoyed amazing music. I threw myself violently out of my comfort zone. I took part in various workshops and programs. I started exercising. I started eating well. I started figuring out what suits me and what doesn’t, what works and what doesn’t.

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Athena, by Pui Che
 
Nothing works, not even the stuff that’s supposed to, when you’re doing it all for the wrong reasons. Attachment to stories and ideas, attachment to expectations and avoidance of your whole, true self in the here and now is some of the dumbest things you can inflict on yourself.
 
I knew by the middle of the year I was heading for something BIG and unavoidable: A neck-breaking twist, that would force my head and eyes to look the right way.
 
That tower I’d only just started to build, already crumbling down.
 
This year, I got the all-clear for one cancer and then found out I need tests for another cancer. I’ll find out sooner or later.
 
I started university, doing what I always wanted and was “supposed to do” and then found out everything I thought I’m “supposed to do” is a lie.
 
I had never felt closer to someone in my life, someone who has often been a source of a lot of upset for me, and just as I felt we had reached the point of unbreakable, our relationship was severed. It’s both sad and a weight off my shoulders.
 
I worked hard, studied hard and began training myself up to remake my life, to break away from the shackles of the DWP. I put all my time, money and stock into this “transformation”, to be told by my landlord I can’t run my business from home.
 
And I got this new home, away from the trauma of the old and it kept falling apart around me. It ceased to be the “thing that I needed to feel better” faster than you can say April Fools.
 
The year rolled in like a steamroller, squashing everything that I am out of me until there wasn’t much left. I tried to keep turning my head back to where it was most comfortable, looking outside for something to make things better.
 
Distracting myself with social media. Attaching to stories. Assuming that if I get the things I want, then things will be alright
 
And all year, it’s like a greater force has been with me all along saying “Stop looking. Start seeing. I’m here. I’m real. I have all these wonderful things waiting for you, if only you’d just notice me.”
 
My neck “broke”. My head turned. I sat here in darkness for the longest time, finally beginning to ask the right questions and look for the real answers.
 
So, 2018 is both the start of a new cycle and the ending of an old one. Everything it was “supposed to be”. I’m going on a new journey, full speed ahead, transforming more and calmly going to war with everything in my way, including myself.
 
I am ready for a brand new year. I’m not becoming something new or old. I’m getting real.
Personal, Promotional

A Romance with My Recovery

This is the longest I’ve been single since I was a teenager. 

I never knew just how much I needed and would value this time alone. My last attempt at a serious relationship only ended a year ago and I can still remember how crushed I felt that things hadn’t worked out again.

For a little while, my main concerns were whether or not I’d ever meet anybody again and whether I’d ever feel truly in love. I worried that maybe I just wasn’t relationship material. I wondered if I ever really was. I told myself, with a sinking heart,  that perhaps nobody will ever love me again.

Talking to my friend, Donna, about my relationship woes over the last Christmas period, she strongly advised me to take time for myself. She reminded me that I hadn’t had that – not really – for a long time and that I need to learn to love myself again.

I didn’t know what else to do, but to take her advice seriously, so I began to try.

Fast-forward several months, and not only had I been diving into every self love self-help workshop I could find, but I was slowly starting to live my life exactly how I always wanted to.

I started focusing on all of the dreams and goals I’d been mulling over for years. I started to achieve things I kept putting off because it was never the right time or because I kept finding bad excuses.

I was learning that loving myself meant understanding myself and managing negative thought patterns that had me getting in my own way. I realised loving myself is about being true to my real self. But first, I’d have to get to know myself again.

It’s amazing how much of yourself you can lose in relationships if you’re not careful.

Alone, silently
the bamboo shoot
becomes a bamboo

– Santoka

I had a feeling when I turned 29 in 2017, that 2018 and turning 30 would herald some sort of major transformation for me and that’s exactly what this year has been about.

I had been through my fair share of trauma and had never taken any time to recover, thinking I could just stuff things down and keep on moving. Yet, I wasn’t really moving at all because I placed no importance whatsoever on healing past hurts.

I never considered that I shouldn’t date anybody until I’d dealt with myself properly. It didn’t seem logical to let someone pass me by if we liked each other. But my relationships, good or bad, were partly what was distracting me from doing the important stuff.

I wasn’t even living the life I want and parts of my twenties had dissolved into some sort of sad blur.

The truth is, I probably will meet someone again, I probably will love again and of course I’m relationship material; I got married once already, didn’t I? But there’s no rush. I stopped being concerned about romance months ago and I’m so happy with the way things are right now. I can focus entirely on my son and recovering whatever I’d lost.

This last year has seen me gaining qualifications that help me towards my career goals. I’ve gone back to my spiritual roots and stopped pretending to be someone else to avoid ridicule. I started setting goals, writing bucket-lists, facing fears, forcing myself out of my comfort zone and even decided to follow one of my dreams, literally.

Some time earlier this year, I discovered a London-based rock band on Instagram. I can’t ever get enough of music, so I always tend to check out the bands that fall into my lap and I enjoyed this band enough that I immediately bought every song I could get my hands on.

That band was Romances – an appropriate moniker for the five musicians who unknowingly became part of my journey of self love and healing!

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Romances at The Monarch, Camden, 7th August 2018 – photo by James Canavan

I was casually enjoying their music from time to time to begin with and thought to myself that maybe I’d see them live some day. Then all of a sudden, I started having dreams of going to watch them play.

After the first dream, I remember waking up thinking it must have been because I’d watched one of their videos on social media. But then the dreams kept happening, once or twice a week, and at first I was a bit confused. I hadn’t listened to them that much, but I seemed to be their biggest fan in my sleep.

As strange as it may sound, my dreams of Romances putting on an awesome show are what got me more invested and listening more to the band. I certainly wanted to see them play, but deep down I was sure that no matter how much I told myself I would go, I’d probably never get around to it.

I’m always seeing shows and events I want to go to, but I’ve never gone because a lot of my friends are usually busy or simply uninterested in the music I enjoy. Music is the most important form of art in my life, yet I’d rarely been to see bands play live.

Though I spent a lot of time in London when I was dating my ex and was more than accustomed to travelling there alone, I’d never gone on a ‘night out’ alone. I’ve travelled as far as America alone, but I’d never been to a pub or club on my own and the thought of it just seemed terrifying!

Wouldn’t I look like a total loser, lingering around with no friends to accompany me? Wouldn’t it be dangerous?

I would have pushed it all to the back of mind, but then, Romances released their first single, Parallels. Soon after, the famous American singer Billy Ray Cyrus was telling his fans to “check out” the song. By this point, I was familiar with the band members names, extremely impressed with their talent and had watched every video they uploaded to social media.

I was turning into what my ex described as a “Romances super-fan” just like I was in my dreams. And of course, the dreams continued.

It is a positive sign to dream of a band or musical group playing live music. It usually refers to a good level of spirituality in your life, which brings you a lot of inner peace and contentment.

AuntyFlo.com

I wondered if the dreams meant something and it occurred to me that maybe I just needed to go! I had so many fears surrounding going out alone, being seen alone and getting into some sort of trouble, that I realised that perhaps a trip to London was exactly what my soul had ordered.

If you want a better life, it’s no good staying constraints of your comfort zone, hanging onto pointless fears! Life is about growing, changing and doing new things. If I could get on a plane to fly to America all by myself, I could probably take a trip to the pub alone, even if it did require several hours travelling.

I’ve spent much of my adult life not going to see bands I really wanted to see because my mind was always coming up with a hundred bad reasons not to.

I finally went for the first time in August, despite the nerves. I had quite a lot of fun alone in London. I did meet with my ex briefly, seeing him for the first time since we split. He joined me for two drinks and then left, with me free to do whatever I wanted and not have to worry about anybody else all night.

I made a friend at the bar, Yarek, and though I was mostly trying to sneak around unnoticed, he informed Ashby (guitarist) of Romances I’d travelled to see them play and before I knew it, I’d met the whole band and was spilling my guts to them about how much I loved their music. They were all so friendly and I’d managed to get through the night without much trouble at all!

The only issue I encountered was one that I think is quite typical for women, whether they’re alone or accompanied; I attracted the unwanted attention of a couple of men that evening and one was following me around for a while. I wont play it down as an issue. This is quite a serious issue that is, in part, one of the reasons I’ve been too terrified to go out alone.

I hadn’t really known how to deal with unwanted attention and that’s probably one thing I’ve yet to learn, but Soufian (bassist) spotted what was going on. He somehow managed to get rid of the man, quickly, with little more than a glare and declaring we’d ignore him.

Regardless of the behaviour of some intimidating men, I ended up having a wonderfully memorable night, for all the right reasons. I couldn’t stop smiling for days.

I enjoyed the support bands, Big Peyote and Rival Karma. Yarek insisted that I would love Rival Karma and he was absolutely right! They quickly became another favourite of mine.

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Rival Karma at The Monarch, Camden, 7th August 2018 – Photo by James Canavan

Rival Karma knew Yarek, so thanks to them, I was able to track him down on social media and stay in touch. And since first seeing them live, I’ve also been able to enjoy them treating their fans to a little live music on Instagram when I’ve been stuck at home, something they may never know just how much I appreciate.

(Or there was that time I was watching while walking around Tesco, attracting the gazes of everybody I walked past, but suddenly caring a whole lot less if I looked like a ‘loser’.)

I’ve enjoyed watching the bands so much, I ended up returning to London again twice this week so that I can see all three bands again. I also got myself tickets to see several other bands and wrote another bucket-list, specifically for all the bands I’m determined to see.

I took myself on a date to Daphne Restaurant in Camden, somewhere I’d always wanted to go when I was spending so much time in London. My ex and his girlfriend joined me to watch Romances this time and whereas that sort of situation might be awkward for some people, I had the best night with them. I’m so grateful to have them as friends.

After my experiences recently, now when I want to go anywhere, I don’t suppose that I wont go based on fear. Being alone certainly wont stop me! Now I know that I’ll probably go wherever I want to. My comfort zone has gotten a whole lot bigger all of a sudden.

I’m starting to think I was always supposed to go and see Romances eventually and I knew it, deep in my soul. It felt like destiny that I’d almost ignored, a chance to romance myself.

Personal

The Journey Begins: About the Author

Thanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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I begin my career in complementary therapies in the summer of 2018, starting to see clients for Nutritional Therapy and brainstorming ways I can provide more, valuable services. It’s of course not clear yet if I’ll still be doing this in a year, in two years or even in ten years. I could end up taking another direction in life! However, as I never stopped wanting to finish counselling training and support people who might be having difficulties in life, I’m feeling confident today that I’m on the right path.

I was only 12 years old when I first had counselling training with Vale of Berkeley College. It was agreed among staff that students might benefit from having a team of “peer counsellors” available to talk to. They felt students in need may feel more comfortable opening up to people their own age, so about three students each from Years 8 through to sixth form were selected to receive specialist training from the school counsellor.

Staff invited students to apply for the role of peer counsellor and I was later informed I’d been selected because they thought I was a perfect candidate. The Deputy Head explained that though I was still so young, I seemed to have “lived” more than my peers and was noticeably already struggling with mental health issues myself, putting me in the perfect position to understand others going through a hard time.

I attended a three day training course at a pleasant countryside resort with about 15 other students. We never received official qualifications for the training done, but I’d say it was valuable training that had a tremendous impact on my belief system and helped shape the adult I eventually became.

I never stopped believing after that training that every young person would benefit from taking the course. Imagine being trained at the age of 12 to study your own prejudices, recognise them for what they are and come to the understanding they are not valuable beliefs! Imagine exercising your skills in empathy, listening and offering constructive and supportive feedback to those in need!

I can’t say I always effectively used the skills throughout my life and that I’ve been perfect. I can’t say I was always the best listener outside of a counsellor/client setting. I certainly can’t say that as I grew older, new prejudiced beliefs didn’t creep in that I’d eventually notice and challenge. But I can say I’ve been trained in such a way there’s a heightened awareness of these things upon self-reflection and such awareness of your faults is necessary for self improvement.

In my first training course, we covered more than just the basics covered in my OCN Level 1 counselling training course taken 6 years later. I began Level 2 shortly after completing Level 1, but my own mental health issues were so severe, I abandoned the notion of ever being able to support anybody.

I thought ‘Why would anybody ever want my help?’

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Me during the summer of 2017. Still feeling very much like an alien.

At the time, I didn’t realise that most people working in psychotherapies and counselling (and other forms of therapies) are usually drawn towards healing professions because they have suffered themselves.

Carl Jung coined the term Wounded Healer to describe such people and so, professionals receive counselling and therapies themselves throughout training and during their careers to ensure they do not carry their wounds into sessions, thus potentially having a negative impact on their ability to help a client.

I have left it too long to begin counselling training again at Level 2, and must take the Level 1 training again, which I hope to begin next year. I think the timing will be perfect, as it is only now after many years of issues that I am finally on the real road to recovery and starting a new chapter in life. The time is right!

Throughout my difficulties, I have sought therapy over the years with the NHS and been rejected time and time again for various reasons. I am just waiting to find out if I will be rejected again or finally going to be having therapy. I begin studying psychology this autumn, after years of studying mental health and human nature at my leisure and being encouraged to go university because understanding people is supposedly one of the things I’m good at.

In the mean time, as well as completing a course in Nutritional Therapy and beginning to see clients, I continue to study nutrition at basic levels. I have taken some Cognitive Behavioural Therapy training and a course in Mindfulness and am trying to prepare myself for the huge (but slightly terrifying) moment I can officially get back to work after years of sickness and all my time spent as a stay-at-home mum.

The nature of my issues are quite complex, with me having been “signed off” for life. Nobody expects me to ever be able to function in society properly even as the unemployed, never mind at work!

I suffer tremendously with a disorder known as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), which is a severe form of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) and quite frankly has been life-ruining. I’ve also over the years accumulated a stack of diagnoses, including a diagnosis of a personality disorder I have challenged repeatedly; Depression; Anxiety; an eating disorder; Agoraphobia and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I also have physical issues such as joint complaints and a long-standing sports injury from my younger, more active years known as Chondromalacia Patellae which has been causing me immense pain and mobility issues for almost 20 years now.

I don’t feel any of these labels adequately describe the difficulties I’ve had, but it would take much longer to explain why I’ve been deemed such a “write off”, and at such a young age too! Let’s just say I am no stranger to being called “crazy”, however, and stigma follows me wherever I go.

Who knows exactly where my mental health difficulties began? I feel most of the worst things that have ever happened to me, happened after leaving school. That’s when I faced the worst kinds of hardship and trauma, not limited to total poverty and abuse. That’s when I abused alcohol and cannabis as coping mechanisms. That’s when authorities really started to notice my existence.

My last mental and emotional breakdown was incredibly recent – just before my last period. All my knowledge and skills are no match for PMDD when I am not more actively working on preventing it’s symptoms through better management and coping strategies.

I don’t feel like I had a particularly bad childhood at home, though I sometimes suppose that watching age inappropriate movies was not healthy. My father left when I was very young and I have only a few memories of him. I particularly remember finding school horrible, not wanting to go and that every bit of teasing and bullying from my peers deeply affected me.

I was a happy, but sensitive young child and by the time I got to secondary school I was miserable. What started out as sadness when I felt so constantly rejected by my peers started to transform into anger. I was angry with everyone, and angry at the “system”, forcing me into schools that I deemed nothing but little prisons to brainwash and prepare children for some sort of lifetime of enslavement.

Some teachers thought I was a genius. If they liked me, I was usually one of their favourites! It was obvious some other teachers thought I was a “bad kid” with behavioural issues and, quite amusingly, as well as being a peer counsellor, I was also placed in anger and behavioural management classes on and off for three years with the fantastic Rob Turner, who I believe might have been the brother of famous TV chef, Brian.

I’ve joked before that at school I was every character of The Breakfast Club, rolled into one. I was smart and athletic, so – when I felt like it – quite the high achiever. I was also the “basket-case” and “criminal”, often in trouble, finding myself suspended or placed in isolation. I was even “the princess”, something I never truly realised until well after I’d left school and understood that I wasn’t widely hated like I told myself, and actually had plenty of friends!

It’s taken me years to “get over” school and stop blaming it for ruining my life!

As an adult, I believe that mental and physical health issues are so prevalent in the west, because we’re genuinely doing a lot wrong and we’re doing it to people from birth. I can’t say I always agree with the way things are run and I never did. Perhaps, that’s, in part, why I became unwell in the first place.

So, I wonder, what I can do to help people on an individual level, and what can I do to make a larger impact on society on the whole and begin to effect positive change?

Is it partaking in marches, screaming until I’m blue in the face about political matters, social issues and so on, or can I find other, less mentally exhausting and potentially damaging ways to do something about the state of public health?

I don’t know. Perhaps I’ll do a little bit of it all. You’ll have to keep on reading to find out how I’ve chosen to continue my own journey of recovery and supporting others around the world in their own.