Who Will Help You?

Large Baby Toula pic

Who will help you?

Is it a question you have ever even asked yourself?

In that moment of utmost need, who will you turn to who you know for certain will make everything okay?

We have all been lead to believe that we are ‘safe’ in this country – that when something terrifying, horrifying, irrevocably life-changing happens that there is a safety net that we will gently fall into, (goodness knows, we have been paying into that nestegg all of our lives) and all of a sudden the cogs will start turning and everything will be fine once more.

The truth, as I have learned the hard way, is that there is no safety net and unless you have dedicated family and friends who will put aside their lives, even momentarily and be pro-active in coming to your rescue you are on your own.

When I was alone in my house listening to the screeching of the alarm and the sounds of glass and wood smashing as it was being destroyed, I called the police for help. It’s what we have been trained to do. They turned up some time later and did very little for me, after starting this very sorry encounter by asking me to venture out from the security of my locked bedroom into the main part of the house where the intruder(s) were intent on destruction, in order to open the front door for them.

There were perhaps half a dozen male officers and a beautiful German Shepherd police dog and because I (rather sensibly, I thought) refused to put myself into unknown danger, they remained huddled around my front door.  The intruder(s) meanwhile, upon hearing voices scarpered over the back fence and broke into my neighbour’s home instead.

I was rather hoping that upon dialling 999, I would be helped. It was not to be.

Then, one of the younger police officers who remained to take my statement asked me, “Who can we call for you?” and I was unable to give them the details of anyone at all who would come to my rescue.

I spent the rest of that night (and all of the following ones) alone in a property where half of the downstairs windows were now boarded up and the internal doors (fortunately locked before I went to bed) in splinters and buckled, where the intruder(s) had tried to break through with bricks and their feet. The police officer said he was worried about leaving me there on my own but he did anyway – because when it comes down to it, who will help you?

Around a year and a half ago, we went to our car only to discover that all four tyres had been slashed. Ours was not the only one – it seemed that at least 20 other cars had also been similarly attacked. In this kind of situation, who do you think will help you?

Well, it seems that the police who we stupidly assumed would appear did not. It was of no interest to them. When I spoke to them on the telephone, I expressed concern that someone with a very large knife was clearly roaming the neighbourhood and was not afraid to use it.

Weeks later began the first of the multiple knifings in London, on the very same street as our car attack, with three deaths in one night and still it goes on. In similar circumstances, who do you think will help you?

On a broader level, when you read of atrocities in the daily paper – the hundreds of victims of Jimmy Savile and other sexual abusers, for example – do you stop to ask yourself if that happened to you or a member of your family who will help you?

You probably don’t because somewhere inside you believe that if something like this ever happened in your family, the ‘authorities’ would help you; that you would be supported by trained professionals, the police would check in to make sure you were ‘okay,’ benefits would be provided if you were unable to work and counselling would be forthcoming to get you through it. You would be okay because there would be help.

The truth is that that scenario could not be further from the truth; or at least in my life.

I am really struggling, as most of you would be in the same circumstances – a ‘survivor’ of childhood sexual-physical-mental abuse, growing up in foster care and currently dealing with the day by day deterioration of my only parent – the parent who (because of my biological father’s irresponsibility) brought all of this upon me.

My situation is fraught 24/7 and has been this way for almost 5 years. The previous 46 were not much better. However, like you I keep holding on to hope that there is ‘help’ available, if only I should ask for it.

Nine months ago, I bit the bullet and frantically explained the situation to my GP, requesting trauma counselling as I was at breaking point. I also did something I never thought I would and applied for benefits.

This past week I had my second extended assessment by a pyschiatrist who found the same as the first and all the others that I have had over the years: I am suffering from complex PTSD, my levels of hyper-vigilance/ stress/ anxiety etc are at 100% and it is seriously affecting my ability to function.

The good news about this is that everyone is on the same page about me needing specailised trauma therapy – the bad news is that the only thing on offer in one of the richest boroughs, in one of the richest cities in the world is group therapy (no, thank you!) available in 4 months from now, with the actual therapy I require available at least  a year later – because they apparently have no money. That’s OVER 2 years from visiting my GP when I was at what I felt was my lowest point.

In the meantime, my application for benefits has been turned down twice because (despite providing psychiatrists and therapists reports, a police report, details from the Independent Inquiry into Childhood Sexual Abuse and so on) I did not ‘appear’ anxious enough for the assessor at the assessment.

Of those of you who know me, how many of you even guessed I was suffering from C-PTSD before I told you? None of you.

How many of you would have known that I had grown up in the circumstances that I did? None of you.

Abused children learn not to stand out from the crowd, not to give the game away, to pretend that everything is ‘fine.’ We feel wholly responsible for the despicable treatment we are receiving and spend our every waking moment protecting ourselves from being found out.

The benefits ‘assessor’ was an Eastern European woman whose English was a second language. She did not fully understand my replies and was not trained in mental health, nor specifically in trauma. She reeled off a list of questions that had no bearing at all on my circumstances, which included things about hearing aids etc and so I was not awarded any ‘points’ in their system for being in need.

When you are down to your last £62 pounds in your bank account (which you actually owe to someone else along with many £100s more, but are making them wait as you need to survive) – and have been legitimately diagnosed with serious mental health conditions – who do you think will help you?

We are doing what we can – James is working all hours (and also looking after me and my mother – emotionally and practically, as required) and I am also doing my utmost to make money by selling prints on Etsy but selling about one a month (if I am lucky, despite everyone telling me how amazing my images are) is just not cutting it.

It is not enough, especially when in trying to keep our dream of moving back to the US, takes up every single spare penny (and many more that we don’t yet have). It’s the only thing keeping me going.

I am not feeling sorry for myself, rather I am astounded at the way we all walk around in this life believing that if and when we really need help, it will be there. Sadly we are not living in The Waltons and it appears that there is very little help on offer. Even when you cry out for it.

So, perhaps whilst things are going well for you, have a little think about this: who will help you if the worst thing happens? Not in the immediate aftermath perhaps, but down the line when the help you possibly were receiving has moved on but your pain, anxiety, trauma, health and so on have not.

No, really – who will help you? And where will you turn when everyone lets you down?

P.S. The above account is not even a fraction of the acknowledged nightmare we are in the midst of daily but it gives an idea that regardless of how bad your circumstances, it appears that you are in it on your own. If anyone knows how ready help can be accessed, I would be very grateful to know.