Let Her Eat Cake

You know that that feeling when you know but you are not sure that the other person knows what you know? That.

Whilst the world around me is being blown up, people are being run down and stabbed by terrorists and everyone is crazily trying to convince everyone else about how to vote in the election, I have been visiting a trauma specialist in the hope that I can undo some of the personal horror that has been inflicted on me.

Two weeks ago whilst having the first actual session of EMDR (rather than just talking talking talking), the session ended with me telling my counsellor through an abundance of tears and shock that I had just realised at almost 50 years of age that I know exactly why I didn’t tell my Mother that her husband had just sexually abused me for the first time when I was 5. It was because I already knew that I was ‘the mother.’

The shock of realising that and then saying it out loud for the first time was palpable in the room.

Of course, it wasn’t necessarily true, it was just how I felt but the revelation has stayed with me sitting heavily and shockingly in my chest, making it hard to breathe in without feeling like I had betrayed my mother by revealing too much. It has also had me on the edge of a tsunami of tears.

I haven’t given in. Much.

In the meantime, I have been worrying about my Mother’s care, or lack thereof, from the health unprofessionals in her care home. On their watch they have allowed her to become significantly overweight and pre-diabetic despite taking blood and weighing her at least once a month.

That’s bad enough but when the private doctor we took Mum to (after the care home manager/ owner suggested we took Mum privately if we didn’t like the GP she was paying for an ‘enhanced’ service) called to inform her of her findings and ask her to put Mum on a diabetic meal plan, she refused point blank.

I saw black.

She says that my Mother despite being in the care home because she has dementia says that she wants cake and sugar all day and therefore should have it.

Yes, that’s right. My Mother who cannot retain the knowledge that she is pre-diabetic is being asked if she wants to eat cake and of course she is saying yes.

The same care home manager/ owner also point blank refused to allow my Mother to see a GP sooner than the regular Wednesday when he visits.

We called to inform the home that Mum was complaining of chest pains – she also had a cough – and as two residents had had chest infections weeks earlier (one died and one was hospitalised), we thought Mum probably had the same.

The manager/ owner said that she would ONLY allow Mum to see the GP sooner if Mum personally came and told her that she had chest pains.

Yes, that’s right.

Of course, we jumped in the car and took Mum to A&E immediately.

Anyway, the long and the short of it is that we are now looking for a new care home for Mum. She has been given notice by the manager/ owner who clearly doesn’t want to clear up the mess she has made. As if sweeping the crumbs under the carpet is going to make them magically disappear without any thought for my poor Mum, who is settled there and has made friends over the 30 months she has been resident.

Fortunately, we had already contacted the CQC and social services who are on it. Fortunately they are on it because the manager/ owner contacted them after refusing Mum a GP, to complain about us. How dare we try to impose a healthy diet on Mum when Mum says she wants cake and sugar?

Oh, how we laughed. Not.

The social worker visited Mum to assess her capacity and decided (obviously) that Mum does not have the capacity to make the decision because she cannot remember the health implications of her choices. When reminded, Mum is horrified to learn that the care home have been giving her cake and sugar when they know it is making her ill.

Obviously. You’d have to be really demented not to be horrified.

It took a week for the social worker to call me and let me know her findings. I had been waiting with baited breath wondering whether the care home manager/ owner would be vindicated or we would be villified.

“Your Mother understands everything fully but cannot retain the information. Therefore I have found her not to have capacity in this instance. She said that she totally trusts your judgment and that you are allowed to speak on her behalf. She says you are her Mother-Daughter.”

I knew it.

Being right doesn’t always feel good. Knowing from your earliest consciousness, before even being old enough to go to school, that you are the only responsible adult in the house is the heaviest burden to bear.

Never ever knowing security in it’s most basic form – that of being a care-free child in a home where you are certain that your safety and all of your worries are being held by your parent – is not something you grow out of. It’s something you grow into. The more life happens, the more you sink into the quicksand of terror, seeing all obstacles and issues through the eyes and emotions of a child. A child who had to think on her feet and deal with adulting whilst only a baby herself.

Just look at any pre-schooler that you know and wonder how they would cope.

It’s no picnic. Not all of us can have our cake and eat it.

I am my Mother’s-Daughter-Mother.

 

To read other posts in this series, please see: https://toulamavridoumesser.wordpress.com/category/my-story-surviving-childhood-sexual-abuse/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Child Abuse – The Invisible Sin

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Mortal End: A Simmering Pit of Jiggery Pokery, my debut novel, is all about child abuse and the secrets we as observers, witnesses, if you will, to crimes and horror within our own communities, sometimes within our own families, keep in order not to upset the equilibrium. Oddly enough, these fundamental aspects of the book are not something I have ever flagged, rather describing the story as true crime meets Grimm fairytale, which is also true.

I have said that the true crimes that inspired my story included elements of those carried out by Rosemary West and Amelia Dyer (the Victorian baby-farmer) but I have never really talked about the nitty gritty aspects of what that means in terms of the story.

At the very beginning of my horror story, a fire rages through Phooka Wood and leaves in its wake a giant fossilised piece of toffee that clearly has human remains embedded within it. The mystery that then unfolds is a no-holds barred journey through Mortal End (life), where the magnifying glass is held over society in general. What is clearly illustrated is that under our very noses children (and adults, too) are being abused in all sorts of heinous ways and oftentimes those closest to that abominable action are not blinded to it but are the actual perpetrators of that misconduct.

I suspect we are all guilty of ignoring the public actions of others that may strike a nerve, when perhaps we see a parent continuously ignore a child as they chat away on their mobile ‘phones and then harshly admonish that child who is about to step into the path of a car, or the parent is aggressive towards them because they whine for attention because no one is minding them.

Worse still, perhaps we see a child being struck, or touched inappropriately and instead of stepping forward to challenge the culprit, we tell ourselves that we must be mistaken and that what we saw was something altogether more innocent. We then walk away, possibly still questioning what we saw, but walk away nevertheless.

The fact is that all around us, even including in some homes of those we know, things that ought not to be happening are and nothing is being done to stop it.

In Mortal End: A Simmering Pit of Jiggery Pokery, a young girl child is abused by all of her male siblings and her parents, too. This sweet innocent child soon realises that in order to survive, her sweet and innocent ways will have to change and almost overnight she not only becomes unrecognisable as the child we first met, but she outdoes the horror that was once inflicted upon her and wreaks bloody revenge upon those who have wronged her.

The evident change is enormous and the consequences more so and extremely visible to all and sundry and yet no one sees. As no one sees, no one does anything to curtail this awful behaviour and the sweet and innocent child grows up to be a vicious and crazy psychopath; a bedlamite who then has children of her own who suffer even worse atrocities at the hands of their mother, who by this point knows no bounds.

Why do we hesitate, stop ourselves from saying or acting when we see maltreatment? Perhaps we are afraid of the abuser, or we are not entirely sure that we have read the situation correctly. Personally, I am afraid of not being heard and suffering the consequences of inaction but still….I have spoken up, regardless and hope that I always will.

I once called the NSPCC about a two year old little boy that was obviously being mistreated. His parents were of limited intelligence and they clearly did not have the wherewithal to bring up this beautiful child. He was screamed at and beaten (that you could clearly hear) and was terrified of the two adults within whose care he was left.

I was told by a neighbour (the one I was visiting) that they were all aware that his mother would fill the little one’s mouth with burning chilli peppers to shut him up and that they caused blisters and more screaming. Obviously. And on it went. I couldn’t bear what I saw and heard and when I returned home took a very deep breath and made the call that I hoped would change this angel’s life. I was extremely nervous and emotional but tried to be clear, concise and objective. The person taking my call was clearly uninterested and from what I heard, no one intervened or even investigated further and the abuse went on and on.

I often wonder what kind of a man that poor child grew into; who he was taught to be by his familial violators and those around him who did nothing to stop the violation.

Every day for the past few years, headlines have astounded us with their constant revelations of those in the public eye being questioned, arrested and tried for child sexual abuse. Some have been found guilty and imprisoned and still, rather than everyone be truly horrified by the crimes that took place, many people seem to be affronted by the fact that time has passed and that these offenders have been brought to book by adults who didn’t speak out as children, deciding that they can only be speaking up now for the financial compensation. Not once questioning why those who were grown and able at the time to step up, did not.

Mortal End: A Simmering Pit of Jiggery Pokery is written in a gothic horror style and has many dark comedy moments to enable readers to digest the moments of pure wickedness that is carried out and to question whether the maniac be held responsible for her actions, or whether she herself is a victim, too?

Is evil born or created and moreover, what part do the rest of us play in watching the embers of nefariousness smoulder and the flames of wrongdoing eventually take hold?

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It Won’t Ever Stop

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Help.

Help!

Help?

HELP!!!

I desperately need help but I don’t know how to ask. Who to ask? What to ask for?

My life is spiralling out of control and however smart I am (and I am) and however strong I am (and I am), there comes a point when enough is enough.

There is only so much constant stress a human being can deal with in one lifetime and just when I think I have reached that limit, something else comes hurtling towards me that needs dealing with.

These are not small things, oh no.

These are things that if most people had just one to deal with it would wipe them out. Things that most people would deal with, with the help of their families and friends – not just providing helpful words and suggestions but truly helping; rolling up their sleeves and getting stuck in and still it would be devastating.

Many of you have heard about these things before and may be bored or irritated by me mentioning them again – if you are one of those lucky enough to live a charmed life, read no further. You will not understand that these things fundamentally affect you for life. Or indeed, me for life.

It is not a choice to suffer, to leave the past behind me, let it go and move on, forgive and forget and any other ridiculous meme material. Trauma (PTSD) is not just for Christmas it’s for life.

Perhaps because you cannot see my battle scars you incorrectly assume there are none, or those that exist are so fine that they are barely visible, then you are just not seeing what is front of you.

 

Some of my battles are listed below:

childhood sexual abuse that went on for 15 years from the age of 5, much of it on a daily basis from the age of 10. Please think of a 5 year old that you know right now and really understand what I am saying – these are not just words on a page.

a childhood in care from 6 weeks of age with 4 foster mothers in the first year

losing an entire life (people, surroundings, things) overnight at the age of 10

no extended family to reach out to: grandma mentally unwell and a hoarder/ grandfather a blind alcoholic. Both now dead.

being beaten

being attacked by a paedophile other than the one in your own home

being sexually assaulted in the street

being in two car crashes in the space of an hour – the second one causing your car to spin three times

having your home broken into and smashed to pieces….whilst you were still in it. Alone. The same broken house you were still in alone after the police had left.

receiving a letter saying that your mother, your only relative, had tried to commit suicide and that she was now living in a mental hospital

watching the NHS destroy your mother with an incorrect diagnosis and the wrong drugs rendering her incapable of ‘living’

watching your mother almost die twice in one year – whilst also losing more than 50% of her memory – whilst battling with the NHS to help you, which they chose not to do and instead closed ranks against you

not being able to see or speak with your mother because her abusive paedophile husband won’t let you

suffering four miscarriages – one of which resulted in a doctor removing the dead foetus from inside you without any anesthetic

meeting your father for the first time when you are 36 years old, only to be told 4 days later by his doctor that he has just 3 weeks to live

Trying to create a happier life abroad, to some extent relying on the kindness of others for support and contacts to get your life up and running from scratch – when you are competing with people who have lived there all of their lives, to just get a foot in the door – all whilst learning how you get a gas supply, getting a new driving license and unravelling the mysteries of health insurance…and everything else required to live, that everyone else around you has accumulated over a lifetime.

You learn that some of the people you trusted are not to be trusted and that you were naive through circumstance and need, which leaves you feeling terrified and even more alone than you already are. It also leave you feeling angry and confused.

After spending every penny you have saved and struggling through hell to get your foot on the first rung of the ladder, you have to leave it all behind because your mother has lost 30lb in 3 weeks, or your immigration lawyer hasn’t filed your paperwork yet and it’s now 6 month late…

Going back and forth means you have lost your ‘place’ and many friends in your home town and also in your chosen town.

Never mind, you think – we will do all we can with what we have available and start to make a life for ourselves and you do – when overnight your life changes beyond recognition. Again.

You are now looking after a mother who did not look after you.

You are keeping safe a mother who did not keep you safe.

You are living a life you detest because you are needed here and yet that doesn’t make it feel any less awful.

Day by day your life gets smaller.

Day by day your dreams get smaller.

Day by day the screaming in your own head gets louder and louder and you are worried that one day it will escape from inside your head to outside of you and once it does it won’t ever stop.

Then there are all the other ‘normal’ things that people deal with, such as ended relationships, partners cheating, friends letting you down, being bullied at work, financial instability and so on – they have all had to be dealt with too.

Then an email pops into your inbox and you see that it’s from close ‘family’ – family who have never given a damn about you. From people you haven’t seen in almost 30 years and do not speak the same language…and it starts with them asking whether your mother is better?

The email then goes on to explain that there is a court case in a week in Greece and that your demented mother owes money, a debt that has been accruing for 15+ years…and when you email them with questions you never hear back from them.

Now I am dealing with a court case which I know nothing about, in a language I do not understand. It would be stressful enough if it was a situation I had created myself but for some reason because I am dealing with it on my mother’s behalf, I am more stressed. In fact, my heart is constantly pounding out of my chest and I don’t know who to trust or who to turn to. It’s costing money we don’t have.

Help.

Help!

Help?

HELP!!!

I desperately need help but I don’t know how to ask. Who to ask? What to ask for?

My life is spiralling out of control and however smart I am (and I am) and however strong I am (and I am), there comes a point when enough is enough.

There is only so much constant stress a human being can deal with in one lifetime and just when I think I have reached that limit, something else comes hurtling towards me that needs dealing with.

I am losing myself.

It won’t ever stop.

 

Walking Away Is Not An Option

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I love my mother with every cell of my being. 

But.

That doesn’t make it any easier being her daughter. In fact, it probably makes it harder. 

My Mother is beautiful, hilarious and a true free spirit.

She is also now a beautiful hilarious free spirit who has dementia and Alzheimer’s, making it almost impossible to walk away when you realise how vulnerable she is without any short term and very little medium term memory. 

She carries her horrendous and terminal disease with dignity, telling me that she has ‘amnesia.’ We all feel like she has won the lottery when she recalls a small fact. She has no comprehension of what is to come. She has no comprehension that she will lose not only her memory in full, including knowledge of who I am and who she is, but all of her human abilities, too. 

So, why  am I even talking about walking away?

There’s a special kind of hell that most people only read about in books or see in films. Due to my Mother’s free spirit my destiny in that special kind of hell was already set before my conception. Not to say that her free spiritedness made her life any more enjoyable for her because I truly don’t think it did and ultimately, she is now paying the price. 

And so am I.

Is it a personality thing or a WW2 thing? 

My grandmother was a 13 year old living in Greece when the war started. I know next to nothing about how and why etc but somehow my Grandmother and her older sister ended up in Germany during the war. When she was 18, my Grandmother gave birth to my Mother. 

Six years later, my Mother was left in the care of her grandparents and at some point ended up in an orphanage. I have no details and in fact have only discovered this information since my Mother’s dementia because it’s one of the things she does remember. 

Bad things happened. 

She doesn’t talk about what those bad things might have been but they are bad enough that she has kept them locked down deep inside all of her life only to have the irony of life turn on her, as her dementia progresses, those bad things will be amongst the last things that she ever remembers in detail. 

Mum was left by her Mother and so too was I.

Clearly, it’s what Mum learned from her own mother. But was that because of the war? When you see death and destruction all around you, does fear make you grab life by the hand and run away with it regardless of the consequences?

Or was my Grandmother’s irresponsible and selfish behaviour just because…?

My Grandmother eventually ended up with an alcoholic good for nothing with charm aplenty. Without charm, who would want to be with an alcoholic?

Mum, in turn, paired up with a gambling paedophile. No charm evident. Ever. 

Life was hell.

Life still is hell.

(You can read more about that hell here: https://toulamavridoumesser.wordpress.com/2016/02/29/only-dead-on-the-inside/ )

The things is, now that I am middle-aged and have a limited time left on this planet to do the things that give me joy, I seem to be living a life I hate, in a place I’d rather not be so that I can spend valuable time with my beloved Mother. The price is enormous as her choices have always dictated the indescribable offensiveness that has been my life at her and her husband’s hands. 

I feel like I am treading water and every now and then I go under when I look ahead for a time when I can stand on solid ground and I see nothing but more pain. 

Solid ground = no more Mother.

Having my Mother means existing though each long and arduous day until those times that we see her and even then, the abundance of mixed emotions that race back and forth through me as I watch her, oblivious to the intense pain she has inflicted on me and the intense love that I feel for her, leaves me exhausted and confused. 

Mum is disappearing day by day and I cannot bear to watch. But I have no choice. I cannot abandon her like she abandoned me and her mother abandoned her. 

The signs that she is disappearing are so small that most people wouldn’t notice them. But they are there. 

I don’t want to do this any more than I wanted to be left at a foster home by her at 6 weeks of age and then be sexually abused by her husband for 15 years from the age of 5.

Any more than I wanted to leave my polarized sanctuary of ‘make believe’ in the heart of sunshine, celebrities and road-trips in Hollywood. 

Who would?

But what can I do?

As a teenager, my life was like a real life version of ‘Sybil.’ I was Sally Field (but without the multiple personalities and director shouting ‘Cut!”- one complicated personality is more than enough – just ask my beyond patient husband) and thought that at some point in the future, that like Sybil, I would be ‘fixed’ by a therapist and be able to get on with my own life.

One of those Sybil moments came as I went through one of those teenage rites of passage: my first date. 

I say teenage but I was just weeks away from being 20 and I was terrified. My suitor came to the door to collect me. He was wearing a suit and behaved like a true gentleman. He was only 18. We walked locally and found a small restaurant in which to eat. We talked and laughed and then he walked me home, where he said goodbye to me on the doorstep as I opened the front door and let myself in. It was 11pm. 

The house was a converted Georgian building with numerous flats. Fortunately all the other flats had access through the neighbouring property but there was still a front door at my home and then a flat door. 

On this particular evening, I opened the front door with my key but the front door had been double-locked and no amount of banging and calling to my Mother got her attention so that I could actually be let into the flat. 

I counted off the long hours, lying in the cold (it was the end of November) on the lino in the hallway until morning. 

Morning came and I was eventually and reluctantly let in. My Mother immediately backed me into a corner whilst she shouted hysterically at me, viciously calling me a slut and threatened to hit me. 

All I had done was gone for a meal around the corner. 

It seems, however, that a dysfunctional Mother is not just for childhood, she is for life. 

The fact that I am able to have this time with her is a prayer answered but when am I truly going to be able to live MY life? Shocking, I know, but everything I am and have experienced (and will experience) has been shaped by the circumstances my Mother foisted upon me from before birth. There will be no ‘MY’ life as this treadmill of constant stress and pain IS my life and I just have to get on with it.

Those memes and words of wisdom stating that we are responsible for our happiness drive me to distraction, adding more responsibility onto my already over burdened shoulders. Responsible for my happiness – yes, of course – but within constraints. The constraints I had no choice in at all that stifle me like a strait-jacket.

I have no sense of safety, of attachment, of trust….of peace and most likely will never experience those fundamental things.

I don’t know what it feels like to be light. Have I ever even known?

My heart pounds with anxiety 24/7 and always has.

But what to do?

I saw my GP yesterday and amongst the many physical symptoms that have developed due to lifelong c-PTSD, the actual c-PTSD is the one there is no real help for.

The care system where I live goes like this: 

  • referral from GP to Mental Health Services
  • a call from a nurse (supposedly within 5 days but was not) to answer a handful of questions about the situation. I was in public when she called and immediately made that known to her but she continued to ask me very painful and personal questions anyway
  • an interview weeks later (mine was carried out by a student asking very clunky and uncomfortable questions to ascertain my PTSD – which had already been diagnosed by a leading forensic psychiatrist)
  • almost a year wait for 6 sessions of EMDR (where the counsellor acknowledged that 6 sessions haven’t even touched the sides)
  • a further year wait for a letter from the counsellor offering anther session
  • I explained to my GP that the system does not work for me at all and makes my symptoms worse. She replied, “Well, that’s all I have to offer you.”
  • I asked, “What would happen if someone like Elisabeth Fritzl (the girl kept for year’s in her father’s basement) was sitting here – what would she be offered?
  • The GP replied, “That hasn’t happened to me.”
  • “I,” I  answered,”was sexually abused and beaten for 15 years. That’s a lot of hours of terror to live through and I am sitting right here…”

No, really – where do those high profile cases go to get real help? 

I love my Mother with every cell of my being and it is because of that that I cannot bear what is inevitably coming my/ our way, one way or another, and spurs me on to endure another endless anxious and painful day.

These words that have spilled on to the page make me sound miserable. That I am feeling sorry for myself.  That I need to pull myself together and get on with it.

Getting on with it is exactly what I am doing, regardless of the emotional and physical toll that it is taking. 

Looking in from the outside you would have no idea at all that every day is a day to endure. I am tough – life has made me so but I am equally sensitive, carrying my responsibilities squarely upon my shoulders like Tess of the D’Urbervilles carried her yoke and pails.

What else can I do?

Walking away is not an option.

For me, at least. 

Because. 

I love my mother with every cell of my being. 

 

*For all the posts in this series, please click here:

https://toulamavridoumesser.wordpress.com/category/my-story/

The Truth Is Always The Truth

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It’s lunchtime.

My husband just called to ask me how my day is going.

“I’m bored,” I said.

“Why don’t you go for a walk?” he said.

“I don’t like going out,” I said.

“I know,” he said.

He does know. I guess the suggestion that I might want to go for a walk is a reasonable one but the thing is, you see, I am afraid. Not always but often.

I’d truly love to go for a walk but after suffering for years at the hands of a paedophile, the resulting PTSD makes all sorts of ‘normal’ become abnormal. I am afraid that if I go out, I may never come back. I may be attacked. Or worse. If I go out, the safety of the four walls in which I am imprisoning myself may no longer be as safe as I currently consider them to be. Someone might break in and be waiting for me to return to attack me. Or worse.

No one really gets to hear what it is like for those of us who have been abused as children (and possibly for those abused as adults, too), after the fact.

This morning I have read the comments from the public on two stories in the national British press. One is about Sir Clement Freud – after a documentary was shown alleging that he was a child abuser, last night. The other story is about the CPS no longer pursuing Sir Cliff Richard for similarly alleged offences.

Many of the comments – in fact, the majority of the comments state that if there was any truth to the allegations of sexual abuse, why would those coming forward all these years later not have said something earlier. They think that they are being clever in making those comments. That the date when you speak up in relation to the events taking place has some kind of relevance to the truth of the allegations.

It does not.

The truth is always the truth.

A woman helpfully pointed out that she, having being abused as an adult, would have said something as a child, as if that proves the point. She’s an idiot and an unhelpful one at that.

None of us knows what WE would do in ANY circumstances until it happens to us. An adult cannot possibly know what they would have done as a child because they are no longer a child.

Furthermore, the children who are most commonly abused are those whose security network is flawed. They are in care. They are from broken families. Somewhere behind the scenes there is dysfunction and an abuser can smell it a mile off.

The abuser makes small moves to gauge the response of the child and very quickly learns that the child does not have the wherewithal or the self esteem or even the ability due to lack of age and experience to respond like an adult would.

To assume that someone who speaks up so many years later is only doing so for compensation (yes, another bright spark made that suggestion) is ridiculous and unhelpful.

Firstly, you have no idea whatsoever whether the person in question did ever speak up and what the result of that confession was. Just because you are only hearing about it now, does not mean that those words have only just been uttered.

I can only speak for myself when I tell you that I spoke up at the age of 14. Nine long and horrific years after the abuse first started. My mother didn’t even look at me, turned her back and continued to clean the bath whilst snapping this question at me: “Are you prepared to stand up in court and say that?”

Understand this: my body was 14 years old. My emotions in many ways were nowhere close to my physical age. A great deal of me was stuck at the age of 5, the age I was when he first put his filthy hands on me. Some of me was mentally many years older than my physical age as my innocence had been taken from me before I even knew how to say the word. My fears were so long held that I behave, even now in my middle years, like a fragile old lady at times worrying constantly about my survival and at other times like a little girl.

That’s what it comes down to ultimately. Our fear of survival or lack thereof. PTSD. We don’t speak up because we don’t believe that we will be heard, because we are afraid of being the one to blame, because we don’t want to give up the only card we have that we foolishly think is going to win us the hand.

Telling and not being believed or heard means, we think in our naive childish brains, that it will get worse because there is now nothing for them to fear.

It will get worse anyway.

What if you are heard and believed? Then what? Well, the police may be called and you will have to tell them in all sorts of gruesome detail what has happened to you. Tell them about things that you just do not have the vocabulary for or the ability to put your shame aside for so that you can tell a stranger what you yourself have tried so hard not to attach to. Saying the words out loud means that you have to think about what has happened to you. You have to picture and relive those terrifying and despicable moments. You will also feel responsible for the ensuing drama, stress and most likely chasm in your family.

No one wants that.

I told my mother at 14 and was ignored.

I told a female Police Detective when I was 26 what had happened after being sexually assaulted in the street by a stranger. The CPS in their wisdom said that after only 6 years since the last assault (assaults that went on for 15 years) that too many years had elapsed and it would be my word against his so they wouldn’t bother pursuing it.

My abuser died on 04/12/2014. Since then I have made my abuse public. Friends I have known for decades now know my ‘secret.’ Except you see, it was never a secret. I just didn’t talk about it with everyone because there are so many people who have absolutely no comprehension of how to respond.

Someone who was once very close to me said that they couldn’t understand why, when I was 16, I still let the abuse happen. No, they really did ask that!

I tried, whilst fighting guilt, shame, fear and utter disbelief to explain that I had never allowed the abuse to happen. Never, not once since it started at the age of 5.

At 16, I was out of my family home more than I was ever in it. I went to friends’ houses after school, I stayed with them on weekends and eventually many week nights. I went nightclubbing and if I ever went home, I crept in at 4, 5 and sometimes even after 6 in the morning – just long enough to change into my school uniform and pack my bags for the next day of school.

When my step-monster sidled into my room, or silently opened the bathroom door from the outside, I fought. I screamed. I made myself as small as possible curling myself into a ball so that he couldn’t access those parts of me that he wanted to touch. He would laugh. He thought it was funny.

Not ever, never did I allow him to abuse me.

When you read a story in the paper, or watch it on television, when someone is telling you, finally after all of those years that they were abused by someone, do not dismiss their claims on the basis that a great deal of time has elapsed. For many, it will never be the right time. Some will go to their graves with their secrets held deep inside them.

What I am trying to say is that it’s none of your damned business anyway.

The truth is always the truth.

*For all the posts in this series, please click here:

https://toulamavridoumesser.wordpress.com/category/my-story/

Who Is Helping Us?

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I’ve only been awake a few short hours and I am already agitated and uncomfortable. It’s exhausting.

There are stories on the news claiming Sir Clement Freud is a paedophile, that he invited the McCann’s to visit his place near where their daughter Madeleine went missing in Portugal, followed by an item on BBC Breakfast about rehabilitating criminals by teaching them how to work in a restaurant. Honestly, I don’t know what to think about any of it and I certainly don’t know how I feel part from horrendously kerfuffled.

Being a ‘survivor’ of childhood sexual abuse, a victim of a paedophile, the triggers for the resulting PTSD which we no doubt will suffer from are everywhere, every day and they are not preceded by public warnings so that we can ignore or prepare for them.

I didn’t realise when I woke up this morning that I would be confronted with these news stories and items and have no defences in place for the all engulfing black hole that has now swallowed up my insides and is slowly creeping up through my oesophagus and filling my throat so it’s incredibly hard to breathe. I feel like I have been punched in the gut. And all this before breakfast.

My feelings upon hearing how criminals are given incredible opportunities to change their lives leaves me wondering, “Who is giving us those same opportunities?” Whilst the gentleman explains that many criminals have low self esteem and are shy, I can’t help but think whether anyone has been concerned about our low self esteem and confidence issues? No one has ever rushed to offer me training for a job and made sure that whilst doing so the environment is appropriate to my needs. No.

From my personal experience, even when sitting in front of my own GP (many of them throughout my adult years to date) literally begging for help and explaining that I am so afraid that I curl up in a ball in a corner of my flat at the bottom of the staircase because it’s the only place hidden from view of all of the windows, I am asked whether I want to have my name put on a waiting list for six sessions of counselling but it may take up to three months to actually see someone. No.

In fact, once in my early 20’s – only a few years after the sexual abuse stopped) – when I was forced to see a male GP about excruciating pains in my tummy, he asked if I was suffering from stress. Deciding that I was in a ‘safe’ environment, I nervously confessed to being a victim of longterm childhood sexual abuse. The GP then stood up and said, “Okay, well you won’t mind if I give you a rectal exam?” No?

Well, actually yes. More abuse.

When I pay for private counselling, the best advice I am given by this particular person who happily takes my money is, “Don’t you think other people have it worse than you?” What?! Sorry, did I miss a sign on the way in that announced that I would be abused further in the course of my recovery? No.

My question is “who is helping us?”

I am hoping that in response I will be able to compile a list of websites, telephone numbers, safe places that adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse can go to and get the effective help that they need immediately – not in three months and not in a way that makes it all far worse. We may only need a few sessions, or the help may be required long term or intermittently forever more. Right now, though, I would settle for ‘at all.’

To clarify, I’m not saying stop helping criminals and anyone else in need – I am just asking who is helping us?

If you know, please let me know, so that I can share that information.

*For all the posts in this series, please click here:

https://toulamavridoumesser.wordpress.com/category/my-story/

Writing Wrongs

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There’s been nothing that I have wanted to do more than write for as long as I can remember.

There’s been nothing that I have had less faith in myself to accomplish than write for as long as I can remember.

However, the desire has thankfully overcome the doubt for a moment here and there.

Being gifted at something (or at least that’s what I have been lead to believe about my ability to put words one after another) hasn’t necessarily evoked the positive feedback one would have hoped for or expected.

Rather than be praised for this talent as a young child, it was dismissed. As I got older, I became more and more aware that my familial role models were not ‘ideal’ for a would be writer, nor interested, especially as English for my Mother was a second language. To give her credit, her spoken and written English far exceeds that of many people born and bred in this fair country and her choice of reading matter far exceeds my own. Or did, prior to the dementia robbing her of that joy. It’s hard to read when after you have devoured a sentence or two you can no longer remember their content.

At my second primary school based in Central London, I was one of vey few children in my class who was actually fluent in English, which put the brakes on my learning for a while.

By the age of thirteen, I was determined to be a journalist.

Writing what in particular, I didn’t know but record reviews seemed to be a good place to start, so I used to wander into the Record Mirror offices on my way to school and join in their Friday morning meetings.

Gossip for the daily nationals also appealed but my career there was thwarted somewhat, when after being invited to an incredible celebrity-filled party in New York at the age of 13, if I could get myself there, I didn’t manage to achieve my aims.

I thought perhaps if I offered the Daily Mirror exclusive stories from the party they in turn could pay for my flight and accommodation, so turned up at their offices and asked to speak with John Blake whose name was in big letters above the column.

John and his colleagues (Gill Pringle and Linda Duff) very kindly listened to everything I had to say and John even went as far as speaking with the Editor about sending me on my first ever trans-Atlantic trip – but sadly it was not meant to be. I was too young, they said, but I learned that it’s always worth asking.

By the age of fourteen, my best friend and I were running around like would-be Hedda Hoppers to all of the best clubs and events around London seven nights a week (still managing to study, too) and having a ball as regular gossip columnists for Gay News.

We were on all of ‘the’ guest lists or had VIP memberships to every happening venue and knew everybody that there was to know. The 80s were an incredible time to grow up but for us it was beyond anything we had ever dreamed of. Our first official night out brought us to The Mud Club at Foubert’s, just off Carnaby Street. We were wearing our cobbled together Westwood rip-off outfits that we had made earlier that day from remnants and staples but in the dark who could tell?

Over the following year or so our fortnightly column became a ‘must read’ for all of London’s glitterati, most especially because they were now our friends. We had turned many of these friends into regular characters whose larger than life exploits just had to be followed week after week like a soap opera.

Too soon for comfort my ‘O’ levels started to loom over me and I had to make the decision to concentrate on my studies, so said goodbye to the column. It was an incredibly diffiult decision but had to be done.

I was fortunate to have a good memory and so was able to retain most information from lessons and regurgitate it on to an exam paper which garnered me 8 good grades.  I even achieved a B for my English exam, having snuck out of it early (with my headmistress’s permission) to go and interview the singer and actor ‘Divine’ at Zandra Rhodes home in Notting Hill.

Every day was an adventure and my dream of becoming a journalist seemed to be on its way to reality. I was given other work, providing gossip items for the dailies, even spending time sitting alongside a young Piers Morgan at The Sun, both of us working for Rick Sky. I also worked with Mizz Magazine.

However, I started to have a crisis of confidence. My best friend was a great writer and had limitless support from her parents. She had also not taken me saying goodbye to the column very well and it created a distance between us. As her abilities grew, mine seemed to diminish. I felt uncomfortable trying to compete and so stepped back as she took great strides forward.

Writing was still my solace and I indulged in it all the time. Rather than writing for others I started writing for myself and as an antidote to the abuse (sexual, emotional and physical) that I was still on the receiving end of at home, I thought putting my own story down in words would be therapeutic.

My manuscript started to grow very rapidly. There was a great deal to say and before long I had an inch high stack of paper that contained details of the first 18 years of my life. I had written all the events in chronological order but in the third person. My story was written as a story, which gave me the distance I needed in order to relive it, as I found the right words to convey it to print.

I put that inch of manuscript away in a drawer and left it there for safe-keeping.

Over the course of the following few months, I left home to escape the horrors during a brief conversation in my best friend’s mothers car. She had come to collect me and upon seeing the expression on my face as I closed the front door behind me, suggested that I go back inside, pack a bag or two and officially move in with them.

I moved in but my manuscript didn’t.

Within 48 hours my grandfather suffered a massive stroke which would lead to his death. My Mother refused to call me and so we didn’t get to say our goodbyes, even though he was asking to see me.

By the time I knew what was going on, he was dead. He was the love of my grandmother’s life and so I trepidatiously returned home on a visit to see her.

My grandmother, although devastated, seemed more interested in why I had left home.

“Does ‘he’ come into your room at night?” she asked.

“Yes,” I replied.

Following this public revelation, there was a giant furore and the relationship between my Mother and I was now completely strained. Obviously.

Some weeks later, I returned to the house, firstly making sure that ‘he’ was nowhere to be seen (a pattern that would become fixed for almost the following three decades), to retrieve a few more of my personal things. Including my manuscript.

It wasn’t unusual that things would go missing and not be in the last place I left them. ‘He’ had a habit of trying to drive me insane by moving things and then replacing them weeks later, so initially I was extremely irritated that the manuscript was nowhere to be seen and extremely concerned that perhaps during it’s temporary relocation it had been read.

Every single word in it was truthful but as a child who had been brought up to ignore reality or to steadfastly deny it, I was still afraid of speaking my truth.

What I should have been more afraid of was that it had gotten into the wrong hands.

I asked my Mother if she had seen some of my ‘writing.’ Rather than the denial I was expecting, she said that she had. She also added that she had taken it and given it to a solicitor to use as evidence against me if I ever took the ‘stepmonster’ to court.

I was dumbfounded.

My breath was more than taken away. I felt like someone had kicked me in the gut and had completely winded me to the point of blacking out. There are no words to describe a betrayal of this magnitude; that your own Mother deems you to be Public Enemy No. 1. My Mother had not only chosen to take a side; the side of her paedophile husband but she was also gathering evidence against me. Her child. Her only child. The victim.

Stephen Fry only this week apparently said that survivors of childhood sexual abuse’s ‘self pity gets none of his sympathy,’ clearly not understanding that anything can trigger PTSD. We sufferers do not get to choose what will trigger flashbacks and trauma. If only we did because we could then avoid those things or change them.

Writing for me became a trigger, or at least writing my story and to a great extent, the telling of it. If childhood sexual abuse ever came up in conversation, or indeed, my own experience with the few people who knew about it, I would gloss over the details and feelings as though they had happened to someone else. I still do to a great extent. It’s easier to remove oneself and to experience it in the third person.

When you look around you at all the people you know think about what dreams they may have given up, not because they were not good enough but because the cost far exceeded their emotional budget.

Writing wrongs is far harder than you might think.

*For all the posts in this series, please click here:

https://toulamavridoumesser.wordpress.com/category/my-story/