Sir Cliff Richard, Piers Morgan & Me

Sir Cliff Richard, Piers Morgan & Me.

Sounds like a movie starring Jennifer Aniston.

If only it was.

Sir Cliff Richard, Piers Morgan and me, are a combination of thoughts I have had since the first airing of Piers Morgan’s interview with Sir Cliff to commemorate his 80th birthday.

The interview triggered a number of things for me and I immediately wanted to compose this blog post and get them all down in writing and out of my insides where they were sucking the life out of me.

I didn’t though because one of the main issues triggered for me was my c-PTSD, which has resulted in a few weeks of finding it hard to take a full deep breath, being ultra anxious, waking in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, uneasiness…

If you know, you know.

You see, watching Sir Cliff Richard and Piers Morgan had a number of personal elements attached for me. I wasn’t just watching a TV interview.

Firstly, although it is hard to believe that 20 years have passed by in a flash – and yet filled with more trauma than I care to think about – it was exactly 20 years ago that I interviewed Sir Cliff to commemorate his 60th birthday.

I was working for OK! Magazine and had been asked to produce a video ‘special’ edition of the magazine filled with exclusive coverage of Sir Cliff’s birthday celebrations.

The day before flying out to meet up with the cruise-liner in Monte Carlo that Sir Cliff, his friends and family were on, I was told that the person they had lined up to do the interview with him had dropped out and so I was to do it instead.



I had no prior experience of doing anything like this – interviewing a national treasure on camera, on a cruise for the UK’s most popular celebrity publication but wanted to do all I could to please and impress Richard Desmond for giving me the chance in the first place.

I didn’t worry about impressing my Mum – she wouldn’t be remotely interested anyway.

It went well and the results are on YouTube for the world to see.

Piers’ interview was also a trigger in that we had worked together way back when at The Sun, when I was only 16 or 17, and although not ‘friends’ in the truest sense, we have known each other for at least thirty-five years and when help was recently needed, Piers didn’t hesitate to step up, for which I could not be more grateful.

The final area of ‘triggerment’ was that part of the televised interview covered Sir Cliff talking about the incident when his home was searched by the police, due to an allegation of sexual abuse, which was later declared to be unfounded.

As I watched the interview unfold, I saw how upset and angry Sir Cliff became remembering the horror of what he went through – it looks like textbook PTSD to me but I am only a lifelong sufferer and not a diagnoser.

Of course, I have enormous sympathy for him. It was a total violation of him, his home, his life, his reputation – everything he had worked so hard for decades to build – soiled instantly and publicly.

I was horrified, like the majority, if not all of the audience watching, to see the images that were shown of his face covered in shingles and to hear him recall just how devastating to his mind and body – his health – the entire incident and its aftermath had been.

He was exonerated and free to continue his life.

He will never forget this experience – how could he, it happened.

He was also awarded a large sum of money as compensation, which he clearly was entitled to.

However, my issue (and it is not in any way aimed at Sir Cliff but at the way the world still continues to treat the abused like second-class citizens), is this:

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse (15 years of actual abuse from the age of 5, even ongoing during the time I worked with Piers), I get nothing at all to compensate me or help me deal with the never-ending horror of what was inflicted upon me. Not even therapy.

If a single traumatic incident can affect an adult as much as Sir Cliff’s home being searched by the police affected him, just imagine what an entire childhood (15 years) of abandonment/sexual abuse/physical abuse and total lack of parenting can do to a person.

My abuse was also a total violation of me, my ‘space,’ my life and its effects will always be with me.

It stopped my childhood, right then and there.

It stopped any sense of being carefree, right then and there.

It took away my future and God knows how hard I have worked to achieve success and financial stability to keep myself safe.

It took that away right then and there.

The last time I actually worked was in 2015 when I left a job due to more abuse. This time workplace bullying. Again.

I just can’t do it anymore.

It was all a trauma: travelling on the tube to get to work – an excruciating ordeal if you have c-PTSD, to be trapped in a speeding tube underground, with strangers physically closer than many dates ever got to be. Walking into an office when I was already traumatised from the journey only to be surreptitiously ridiculed and undermined on a daily basis.

The final straw was when my senior, (let’s just remind ourselves here that I was a fully grown woman of almost 50 years of age who had just secured George Clooney and his wife Amal to attend a prestigious event – something this specific organisation had failed to do themselves, despite many attempts for over 20 years), went puce in the face and aggressively declared that the brand new ankle boots I was wearing (totally inoffensive black patent lace-up boots) were unsuitable to wear under a long black evening gown where they wouldn’t be seen, to an event.

We hadn’t been discussing my boots, we were discussing the fact that I had also managed to recruit one of the top art agents in the country to help with an art fundraiser that they had previously had to cancel due to lack of support. The agent was also bringing with them their invaluable art buyers list that they had built up over decades. An amazing feat, if I say so myself.

But nope, abusing me was the most pressing agenda.

So, you see that despite being incredibly good at my job and extremely personable and kind and somewhat amusing (I do have my moments!), an abuser’s only motivation is to abuse.

Abusers hone in on us.

We are not weak by any means. We have already survived more than most before we reached double digits. It’s just that our tolerance for f*ckwittery is limited and when that limit has been reached, our safety mechanisms all lock in to place, like Iron Man’s suit of armour and we are done.

The payoff for the abuser is that they did that. Whoop-de-doo. How’s that working out for ya?

I know how it has worked out for me.

Unlike Sir Cliff, I don’t have photos to show the world the physical toll the unrelenting stress has had on me – everything about me physically/mentally and emotionally IS a result of the abuse and the continuous and overwhelming lack of care or responsibility from everywhere. And it will be until the day I die, most likely sooner than God intended because most survivors of sexual abuse often have similar health issues that shorten our lives.

When I was interviewed by the IICSA (Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse), they surprised and horrified me by stating at the end that I had been let down by so many people who should otherwise have helped me and stopped the abuse: teachers, GPs, Brown Owl, social services, the police….literally anyone in a position of authority throughout my life.

Thanks for letting me know that IICSA – the sinking of my stomach is just like the Titanic. Despite years having passed, it still hasn’t risen, knowing that other people DO have responsibility for helping us with this – they just don’t and that seems to be acceptable because nothing whatsoever has been done to change it.

I mean who is actually in charge of doing that? The same authorities?

My GP recently got jippy with me when discussing some health issues. I again requested help with my c-PTSD. I have been asking for support for years, practically every time I ever speak with my doctor. The ONLY help available is group therapy in a year or more followed by the actual therapy I need a year or more after that but ONLY if I go to the group therapy.

That’s right – a two+ year waiting list – after having to attend group therapy, or as I like to think of it: having a cervical smear test on the top deck of the No. 38 bus during rush hour.

I have c-PTSD. The last thing I want is to sit in a room with other traumatised people discussing our traumas. Erm…not sure why that’s so difficult to comprehend.

Mental Health this, that and the other. Don’t believe a word of it – there is NO help available therapy-wise or financially. Unless it’s just me they don’t want to help.

C-PTSD totally curtails my life and always has. From the outside looking in, I am sure that all those who know me (unless they know me extremely well and even then…) don’t have a clue what I am being weighed down by every moment of every day.

There is no remission from having your brain rewired and reformed in early childhood so that you feel different/think differently and behave differently; not only from everyone around you but most devastatingly of all, from how you would have otherwise been, if not for the new Frankenstein setting that’s been placed on your DNA.

Piers has always known that I was different. I bet he has absolutely no idea (unless he reads this) as to why, but I credit him with being aware enough to see it and mention it.

I do take umbrage with something he once said though and it is this. He said (and I paraphrase), that everyone is born with the same ability to achieve success in life, but the truth of that just isn’t true and I am a prime example.

Despite my childhood (there’s so much more than just the abuse that I had to contend with), I made inroads into a world that so many people would give anything to be a part of but did not have the strength to move, let alone carry, the baggage that was attached to me at birth without an appropriate support system, when it all got a bit too much. Which was/is often.

I tried but was defeated by my demons and those that work in the media.

Just look at how Sir Cliff’s life and health imploded when he suffered this one trauma in adulthood, even with the support of his family and friends, immense wealth and a brain developed well enough to be able to seek the help and assistance he needed to get through it…and he is clearly still suffering because of it.

What chance has a 5-year-old girl, in a foster home got?

So, going back to my thoughts as I watched Piers interview Sir Cliff and the feelings it invoked in me.

I felt traumatised by the discussion of sexual abuse.

I felt traumatised that there is nothing available to us mere mortals to provide a pivotal point at which a line can be drawn beneath the experiences we have had, to delineate them from before the horror, the horror and after the horror.

For us, horror permeates every second of our existence, because PTSD actively changes the way time is perceived. Everything that has happened is still happening. The brain has locked it in and it’s like a video that auto-plays continuously.

Some days, most days, something will trigger the volume to be turned up on that video. The rest of the time it just plays, along with all of the other videos in my brain, so that I am overwhelmed, exhausted, irritable and most of all anxious and panicked, despite me taking care to keep myself as safe as possible. I don’t even have to leave the comfort of my chair to be bombarded with triggers on a daily basis, oftentimes numerous times a day, even including watching an innocuous celebrity interview.

I am genuinely thrilled for Sir Cliff that appropriate steps were taken to alleviate the trauma he had been subjected to.

All I ask is this: when will it be my turn?

© Toula Mavridou-Messer 2020. All rights reserved.

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