What survivors and sufferers should say.

Whether you are a survivor or a sufferer, it does not matter. Equally you have been though the mill and equally you deserve to see some light at the end of a very dark tunnel. Yesterday I blogged a list of what you may often hear from your abuser. Well today let’s be more hopeful and write a list of what we should stand up and say. Many of us will never be heard. Many of us still have to find the courage to even say it out loud. It is a start. We need to acknowledge that it was never “our fault”.

  • I believe in me
  • I am worth something
  • My future is important
  • Do not overstep my boundaries
  • I do not deserve this
  • I am allowed to be selfish
  • He/She does not have control over my life
  • I cannot be restrained by fear
  • There are reasons to live
  • One day I will be truly happy
  • I am allowed to feel anger
  • Life will be good
  • One day I will get that power back
  • I have rights
  • NO
  • What he/she is doing is wrong
  • I value my life
  • It is the past now
  • If I need to call the police – I should
  • I feel sorry for him/her
  • I am free
  • Inspire yourself
  • Be the bigger person
  • I can walk away
  • It is not my fault
  • I will not argue with you
  • I am human
  • You have no claim over me
  • I will save myself
  • Only I know me
  • It is not your life
  • Saying what I feel is a God given right
  • I have nothing to say to you
  • I do not expect nor want anything from you
  • I am strong
  • I have a voice
  • I am not afraid of you
  • I make my own choices
  • You have no more control
  • I am capable of love
  • I deserve love
  • I do not “owe” you anything
  • STOP
  • We are over
  • My dreams and ambitions are of worth
  • I am a good person
  • You did not succeed
  • ENOUGH
  • I am not broken
  • There are many paths ahead of me
  • I am supported
  • You lost
  • Goodbye

Again. There are thousands more.

As Emeli Sande puts it:

You’ve got the words to change a nation but you’re biting your tongue

You’ve spent a lifetime stuck in silence afraid you’ll say something wrong

If no one ever hears it, how we gonna learn your song?

So come on come on, come on come on.

I wanna sing

I wanna shout

I wanna scream till the words dry out

So put it in all of the papers I’m not ashamed

They can read all about it, read all about it.

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Before I left – Photo 1.

Before I left - Photo 1.

I look at this photo in amazement. My lonely black chair beside a singular mirror. Who lived there? Nothing suggests this is home to anyone. Yet it was my home, my prison, my shelter, my room. The red walls only magnify my emotions at the time; my anger and hurt growing from the daily abuse. The emptiness echoed my loneliness. This was what I looked at for fifteen years of my life. A blank space. I wasn’t allowed possessions, I was afraid to keep them. Mostly in fear of him and his many, many rules. The fear of him finding a personal touch or something new stopped me in my tracks. So I kept it sparse to pacify him and keep my head above the water. That was until he found a tissue on the floor or a glass on the table and the contents of my drawers would be strewn across the floor. I took a set of photos before I left the house for good. Here is a series of the sadness.

Physical abuse – a new insight.

I have always said that my father did not physically abuse me. However, after delving further into the term “physical abuse” and all that it stands for, I am shocked to see that my claim is not true. He was physically abusive. I just don’t have any visible scars. In my quest to research the different aspects and consequences of abuse, I have fallen on new information. I have always believed that physical abuse was to be violent. The person on the receiving end would have scars and visuals to prove their abuse.

Research has led me to realise that there are many other appearances of this kind of abuse. My abuser was extremely threatening. If he did not get his way or I was disobedient, his threatening behaviour would follow. His deep, bellowing voice would resonate through the house or in public and the way in which he ordered me closer and breathed down my neck, talking at me through gritted teeth, all added to his aggressive demeanour. His physical stance and how he towered over me, making sure he had all the power as I cowered into the shadows. The way he would lure me into believing I was safe, even making a joke or choosing a lighter topic of conversation first before launching into his fit of rage and sudden burst of apocalyptic anger. The constant threats of harm against me that he made, telling me that I needed a punch – that it would “sort” me out or to go and kill myself to make his life easier. I never thought of it as physical abuse at the time but telling your own child to commit suicide must be classed as that. Oh and it’s abhorrent too.

His reckless driving and aggressive behaviour in the car all adds up to physical abuse. He put my life at risk every day I spent in that car with him. Every day I anticipated his anger and waited for another explosion. He deliberately chose the car as a place to shout and rant at me as I (in his words) had “no escape”. I wanted to release my seatbelt and fling myself out onto the open road many a time. The thought seemed better than enduring his continuous barrage of contempt.

A key part of physical abuse that I never recognised was how my abuser prevented me from seeking medical help or care. If I needed a doctor, he had to know the reasons why. When I refused, he exploded. The moment that stands out the most is the day of my massive Asthma attack in 2009* where my father refused point blank to call an Ambulance in the night for me, implying that I was seeking attention and being dramatic. The other option was that he drive me to a hospital at 1.am. He refused that too. He never felt worry for me, or fear for my life.

The way he would sharply raise his hand to my face holding it suspended, mid air, inches from my skin – surely that was physical? Yes, he never released it and let it slap my across my cheek but how can what he was doing be classified as anything else?

My father was an abusive man.

In every way.

* See post Notes.

The lady on the train.

I went out for a rare night out with my friend K yesterday.

It was an awesome night, lots of dancing, just what we both needed.

We left home around half five in the afternoon all dressed up and excited for the evening ahead. After almost seven years of friendship and countless nights out, it had been a while since we had been dancing. We were aching to be let loose on the dance floor and release some inhibitions.

As we entered the tube station and waited on the platform, I noticed a young woman also waiting for the train. When the train arrived and we all boarded it, something stood out immediately about her.

She was crying.

Sobbing.

I instantly felt for her and questions filled my head. She had a pair of headphones in her ears. I wondered if the music was triggering an emotion or memory in her. I subtly pointed her out to K with worry. K was shocked. It was unusual to see someone pouring out their emotion so openly especially in such a public environment. We both wondered if she had just lost someone or found out her partner had cheated on her, did she have a broken heart or ended a bad relationship?

Either way, it was clear to me that I could not just sit there and watch this woman suffer.

I reached into my bag and pulled out some tissues. My friend seemed surprised at my gesture questioning whether it would be appropriate. There was doubt in my mind. I could be infringing on a personal moment and she may want to be alone. However, she made the decision to get on the train, in front of watchful eyes and concerned hearts. I had to do something. I too know that feeling. Many a time, whilst living with the abuser, did I rush onto the tube in tears fearing his presence, anxious to escape. Did anyone approach me with a tissue? No. And I can honestly tell you that people have looked into my eyes as tears streamed down my face and immediately looked back down. Who’d want my problems?

So, up I got. I walked over to her, tissue in hand and sat beside the crying lady. She looked up and noticed the tissue. I didn’t say anything, I just handed it to her and smiled. Suddenly, her face changed. The tears fell into the gentle creases of her face and what was once a frown turned into a soft smile. She mouthed to me,

“Thank you so much!” over and over again.

I rubbed her arm gently.

“Are you all right?” I asked tenderly not wanting to reignite her emotion. She nodded sweetly and said thank you again silently through her smile.

I sat back down to see K with tears in her eyes. She was touched and saw that the young woman felt the same way. Why would I just sit there and watch her with judgement? I couldn’t do that. I had that done to me.

After I moved away from her, the woman wiped away her tears. She leant on the pane of glass beside her and closed her eyes. She seemed at peace.

For the rest of her journey she remained calm and as she got off for her stop, she sent me a gentle wave and mouthed “thank you” as she left.

I smiled and mouthed back,

“It’s okay”.

It’ll be okay.

Health Scare Part 1.

In 2008, after a routine smear test, I was informed that my test showed abnormal cells in my cervix. I had been having smear tests for a couple of years before and the results were always good so I was surprised to see this change.

My initial reaction was “keep it a secret”. I couldn’t tell my mother in fear of her reaction. Her fear of anything related to my health frightened me into not immediately speaking of it. I couldn’t bear her gasps of worry from what was an easily dealt with complaint. The doctors had made it clear that I would have to go through a procedure called a Colposcopy. Here the surface of the cervix is closely examined with an instrument called a colposcope. This device carefully looks to see if their are any abnormalities or cancerous cells. I was warned that a biopsy of the cervix may also be undertaken to determine whether the cells were indeed cancerous. The doctors reassured me that it would not be painful, just uncomfortable but it felt pretty uncomfortable – borderline painful to me.

It didn’t even cross my mind to tell my father. It was plain to me that this would be another thing he would use against me. The myth that cervical cancer developed after being promiscuous was something my father believed. That the HPV virus (linked to Herpes and cold sores) must mean that I was a slut. He had implied how “promiscuous” I was before after a doctor friend (albeit drunken doctor friend who hated my mother and often flirted outrageously with my father) stumbled into my bedroom one day at a party at my father’s house. When I caught her in there, she muttered something in Bengali and left. I went over to my desk where she had been standing and noticed how things were slightly out of place. She had been spying on me and had clearly noticed my carefully placed medicine at the back of my desk. Behind a couple of asthma inhalers lay an open packet of contraceptive pills. I was twenty one years old. Surely, other than proving that I was sexually active, it also clarified that I was being safe.

My father didn’t see it like that and berated me for ruining his reputation. I was not to have any indiscretions or appear reckless with life. Sex was sure fire reckless and crude behaviour to him. Though he happily flirted and flaunted affection at his married, drunkard doctor friend.

Cervical abnormalities can affect most women in their lives but it doesn’t mean that they will certainly develop cancer.

My father did eventually find out whilst partaking in his usual habit of delving through my post. Medical letters were a thrill for him to find as it gave him tremendous power over my basic human right – my health. Of course, after discovering my ongoing problem, my father was quick to verbally scold me, humiliate me and lash out at me. An argument ensued and I was left defending a cause that my father should have been supporting me through.

Once he knew the truth, what was essentially manageable to me became a nightmare for the following three examinations over the next two years.

My father now had control over my mind and my body.

Taking on other people’s problems.

Turning other peoples’ problems away is a big weakness of mine. It is a topic we discussed on the assertiveness course I recently took. Many of the other participants felt the same way. They too were inclined to carry other peoples’ weight on their shoulders. Even when the burden grew to be too much, the fear and anxiety of betraying them or appearing to be selfish would stop them in their tracks.

The sense of feeling needed or wanted can immerse someone with their own issues into much deeper problems. Taking on your friends’ and family’s problems and attempting to resolve their dilemmas are too much to bear. I took on my family’s issues from an early age. My sister and I have both been our parents’ confidante at some point in our lives. She once enjoyed her position so much but eventually realised how unhealthy the whole process was. My mother (the problem teller) never saw it that way. Why would she?

I have, in the past, become the inevitable: a shoulder to cry on for almost anybody around. The want to please and be accepted takes over and personal boundaries are automatically crossed. To be seen as dependable and reliable is the desire, to go against it would be like betraying myself.

However, I am human and no human can live a life like that.

The problem is that when you finally decide enough is enough and you want to please yourself from now on, the people you have been there for at their beck and call, well they don’t like the new you. They don’t like change and resentment begins to build. Questions form on how your existing relationship was originally defined. How did you so easily accept the role of adviser and life coach?

The only life you should be coaching is your own.

If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.
Jim Rohn

Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

I have to be honest, I lack knowledge in this subject and would never have classed myself as suffering from it. Well, not until recently. Within the last two years, due a significant weight gain (related to stress), I have been feeling extremely low about the way I look, anxious even. Walking past a mirror or reflective surface only panics me. It instantly disgusts me.

I am regularly told “it’s all in your head” or scolded for being self-absorbed. Others compliment me, attempting to reassure my fault-finding. I’ve had people drop casual comments that I should start dieting then I might feel better. In actuality that makes me feel a thousand times worse when all I do is diet then binge and diet then binge. Any sign of stress sends me into this destructive path.

I have read other bloggers talk about BDD but would never admit that I too suffer from many of the symptoms. I am scared that friends, family and acquaintances will judge me; that they will think I am attention seeking or fishing for compliments. It’s not that I need to hear I’m beautiful, I just cannot stand the way I look. When I see myself in the mirror I feel sick. I see a stranger staring back at me.

In the explanation for BDD on the NHS website, they say that sufferers regularly find fault in their bodies especially the facial area. I hate my face. I hate it. I think it’s vile. I hate my unsymmetrical face. I hate my twisted nose, my teeth, my double chin. I feel disgusting every day. That’s not to say that I love everything else about myself – I don’t.

I love fashion. I try to make it work but the confident days are ruined when I accidentally see my reflection in a shop window. What seemed like a good choice in the morning becomes a bad decision; one that I berate myself for making for the rest of the day. A decision that leaves me feeling self conscious and extremely aware of how awful I look.

I do not dare say this out loud and am currently too frightened to seek professional help. I feel as though I may be laughed at. After all, people see me as I want them to see me: confident and self-assured.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case.