Looking Ahead To 2015


Photo credit: Aldaron / Foter / CC BY-SA

I thought I’d break up the recent blog post series to do a recap of my progress since I started this blog and how, ideally, I’d like things to progress into 2015.

I haven’t fully written off 2014 as yet, but there’s less than a month to go and I have to be realistic in acknowledging that Christmas often triggers very bad memories for me. As such, while I don’t want it to be an excuse to not “try” and make progress with my mental health, I have to recognise that it is a significant obstacle and it will drain my mental resources accordingly.

I have a sense that finally I’m starting to crawl back out of the pit that I’ve fallen into these last six months.

I still get days where I feel very distressed, but I have started on a skin care routine which has boosted my self-esteem somewhat and most days I manage to do some housework and get the rubbish cleared in good time.

These sound like very small things but it is often the accumulation of such small things which make a day-to-day difference. It is too early to be anything other than cautiously optimistic but I will allow myself that minor luxury.

  • I would like to resume the blog challenges very very soon. Perhaps in a week or so’s time when I have caught up with some of the backlog from my day job. I would be so wonderful to get through that list and see where it takes me instead of focussing all my energies on my OCD and other unhelpful behaviours.
  • At some point I would like to meet someone romantically, but this will probably be at a time beyond the completion of the challenges. I am gravely disadvantaged in the dating pool for a number of reasons (part of which is the requirement that a potential partner is very close to me in age and of a quiet, gentle temperament) – I think it’s safe to say that any decent opportunity is much more likely to arise through organic measure rather than putting myself on display in a dating market which rewards only instant appeal. To be honest I think I will consider 2015 the Year of Me and put all concerns about these matters to one side until I have rebuilt my self-esteem and daily functionality.
  • I would like to start putting more money aside for long term goals rather than frittering it away on unneeded or harmful purchases. I believe if I save hard enough I will be able to afford my dream cottage and a decent car to drive around in (well – I need to tackle the driving OCD at some point but I will try).
  • I’d like to draw a line under the past events in my life (and this doesn’t necessarily mean I have to forgive anyone – apart from me) and try to look forward to the future. This is easier said than done but it must happen.

What I want most for 2015 is the ability to look in the mirror and feel glad that yet again I see me.

POEM: Life In The Twilight


Photo credit: E Dina PhotoArt / Foter / CC BY-SA

Branches naked, gnarled

A pile of twigs snapped upon the forest floor

The trunk twisted, rough bark

Stark against the shadows

Of approaching dusk

Velvet blanket of twilight descends

A rustling within

The body of the tree

Young owlets barely feathered

Awaken and call out

For the sustenance of the hunt

Meanwhile mushrooms

Release spores in the damp

The cluster grows large

At the base of the tree

The upper branches host

A flock of crows

Their noisy chatter dimmed

By the light of the moon

Life pulsating through

Every branch, every root

Life in spite of it all.

The Outcast (Part Five)

TRIGGER WARNING: This blog post is part of a series of posts dealing with the emotional and physical abuse I suffered as a child. This post contains references to violence and as such may be triggering to those who have suffered similar experiences. Please proceed only if you are comfortable with the subject matter.

It was around this time that I first started having thoughts about what it would mean to be dead. To not exist any more. I thought about what level of pain my mother would have to inflict on me before I got to that point and what it would be like to have suffering as my very last thought. These matters weighed heavily on me even though, at the time, I was not even eight years old.

The summer holidays were coming up and whilst everyone else seemed very excited by the prospect of no school-work, all I could think about was being in That Room all day long with no escape from the daily tyranny and humiliation heaped on me.

However, I started to throw my energy levels into devising an escape plan.

Hopefully I could go and find a nice kind person who could help me go back to live with my Asian cousins. I would just have to convince someone that mother was bad and everything would be alright again.

I decided that I would tell Mrs Jenson, the classroom assistant. She was kind to me and I thought her to be clever and trustworthy.

I planned everything I was going to tell her. I hoped that the police would come to take my mother away (as they did my father after the broken plate incident) and then I would not have to think about being beaten and not have to pretend that things which weren’t true were true.

And so I told her.

After that, she began to tell me a story: it was about the Boy Who Cried Wolf.

“You mustn’t tell lies about your mother”, she said “I’m sure she would be very upset to hear you telling tales about her”.

I lifted one of my long sleeves to show her the series of bruises down my arm.

“Yes, I know”, she said.

“Your mother said you had an accident and fell down the stairs.”

I was very upset that my plan had failed and from then on I distrusted Mrs Jenson. However, I did not give up hope. My friend Serina would believe me and perhaps her kind mummy could help me.

Serina listened and she said she would talk to her mummy to see if I could stay over. My hopes began to rise considerably.

However Serina’s mother said that I would need to get permission from my mother first. My heart sank as I knew this would never be possible. I remember running down the road after them on the last day of school before summer holidays pleading and begging. What they thought of it I do not know exactly, but I do know that not one person I told believed me.

Mother was always pleasant and charming to the other parents and their children. It was her word against mine and she won.

The Outcast (Part Four)

TRIGGER WARNING: This blog post is part of a series of posts dealing with the emotional and physical abuse I suffered as a child. This post contains specific references to acts of violence and as such may be triggering to those who have suffered similar experiences. Please proceed only if you are comfortable with the subject matter.

I woke up the next day to a loud hammering on the door.

“Hello, hello! Anyone in there?”

I had to get out as one of the other people in the building wanted to use the shower. By now I was used to sleeping on the floor but this was a new low for me.

I got out of the shower room and went to sit back in the stairway again. I became conscious of my empty stomach and began to cry again.

There was a lady who lived in the building had a little dog. I can’t recall what breed it was exactly although it had some poodle-like features to it. I had always liked animals and used to look forward to the lady letting me pet her dog (much to my mother’s disapproval).

I was very much cheered to see them both this particular morning and I ran to greet them both.

“You’re up very early” said the lady. “You shouldn’t be wandering round in your night clothes, you’ll catch cold you know”. I went to cuddle the dog, but I must have approached it in the wrong way. Startled it plunged it’s teeth into one of my hands and starting growling and barking. The barking for me was far worse than the bite and I started to cry again. The lady went to knock for my mother immediately.

My mother yelled something abusive back through the door.

“Your daughter is out here and has been bitten”.

My mother flung the door open, her face contorted with rage. She grabbed me without saying another word and slammed the door shut.

After she had cleaned and bandaged the wound, she said to me “That was one of them, wasn’t it? One of the bastard old women*. I will kill you if you ever speak to her again”.

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*NOTE: Some of the references in this post will make a lot more sense if you go back and read my previous blog posts in the series. The reference to the “bastard old women” has to do with one of my mother’s persistent paranoid delusions which I was forced to collaborate in.

The Outcast (Part Three)

TRIGGER WARNING: This blog post is part of a series of posts dealing with the emotional and physical abuse I suffered as a child. This post contains specific references to acts of violence and as such may be triggering to those who have suffered similar experiences. Please proceed only if you are comfortable with the subject matter.

Mother was always careful to “keep up appearances”. Despite our now evident poverty and the struggles with her mental health, she fed us all rather well and no matter her level of distress that day she would always wear a full face of make-up. Her nails would be carefully painted and the clothes, of course, had to be immaculate.

Despite the fact that I did not enjoy it, she would always spend a lot of time combing my hair in the mornings, making sure that my clothes for school were clean and that my fingernails were free of dirt.

She was also careful to ensure that any evidence of my beatings were covered up so as not to invite any unwanted questions.

With my father gone away, my mother now had much more opportunity to indulge in her cruel treatment of me.

My only respite was school during the day. Although I was an unusual child, I hadn’t by that stage attracted any serious bullying but neither did I have the social capabilities to form many friendships.

Initially I spent most of the play periods counting and walking round in imaginary squares around the playground. When the autumn came, much to my mother’s irritation, I started collecting leaves and worms. But still these were pleasant enough diversions to get me through the day.

However, I still recall the increasing sense of dread towards the end of the school day.

I found out from chatting to Mrs Jenson*, the classroom assistant, that she had a nice mummy and I began to ask other children about theirs. Another girl in my class, Serina* made friends with me and we started spending time together drawing luxury homes and outfits. She also spoke fondly about her mummy. I would always remember her running to her mummy at the end of the school day to give her a big kiss and a hug. Serina loved her mummy.

It began to dawn on me that my mother was somehow different to all these other mothers, yet I could not shake off the intense feeling that I was somehow to blame for all this. I knew that I was different to all these other children, I was weird, I was Other. I deserved everything I got.

Mother’s moods became increasingly unpredictable. Her delusions and rituals worsened. Whilst she remained attentive to my brother her treatment of me became worse and worse.

One weekend, I must have got the answers wrong in her daily interrogation of me and she threw me outside the bedsit into the landing in just my nightie. I pounded on the door and begged to be let back in but the usual refrain about my wickedness and having to be taught a lesson was shouted back out at me.

I remember sitting on the mouldy carpet on the stairway crying and asking God what I had done to deserve such cruelty.

Summer had come and the school holidays were fast approaching. I thought of Serina and her excitement about all the fun outings and things that her family had planned for her. As for me this was the first time that I thought about whether or not I would be better off dead. All I had to look forward to was a summer of misery. She was so violent and hateful that I started fearing for her life.

I remember nightfall came. I gave up banging on the door some time before (and there was part of me that considered that it might be a good thing not to be let back in). I ended up going across to the communal shower locking the door and laying down on the cold hard tiles.

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*I have changed the names for privacy reasons.

The Outcast (Part Two)

TRIGGER WARNING: This blog post is part of a series of posts dealing with the emotional and physical abuse I suffered as a child. This post contains specific references to acts of violence and as such may be triggering to those who have suffered similar experiences. Please proceed only if you are comfortable with the subject matter.

The image I recall directly before my father left us for the first time was one of my mother standing out in the street, with a large cut to her head where a fragment of porcelain from a broken plate had struck.

The arguments between mother and father had been escalating again ever since my mother decided that my brother had been harmed by being dropped on his head. I was terrified daily from the loud sounds of them shouting and throwing objects at one another.

Soon after the broken plate incident, my mother packed a couple of suitcases and we left the family flat for ever.

We left to go to my mother’s home country where, for a couple of years, I got to experience the love of my Asian relatives and mother seemed to forget about her earlier preoccupations with clothes and thoughts about my father plotting against her.

So this was a brief moment of time in my childhood where I felt happy. It didn’t matter that I struggled at school with learning a foreign language and trying to make friends. I just remembered feeling happy that my cousins were kind and loving to me. They would bring me my favourite hot pandan tapioca dessert from the markets to have at breakfast early in the morning. They would let me play with the house lizards and construct Legos to my heart’s content.

However this did not last. I don’t know why we ended up returning to England, but we did. We went from a life of Asian middle-class contentment to desperate poverty. At first we  stayed at a Salvation Army refuge and later in a dingy bedsit in the other side of the city that I grew up in.

I remember the flat was dirty with peeling wallpaper. There was a semi-blackened one ring stove where my mother cooked our food. If we had to shower or go to the toilet we had to go across the landing to a communal shower and toilet facility.

Unsurprisingly my mother’s mood quickly deteriorated. Very soon she was back to the old preoccupations about the state of her clothes and ideas that I was letting old women into the bedsit at night-time through the window.

What also made the situation uncomfortable was that we all had to sleep in one double bed. I was never a physically demonstrative child and it distressed me that my mother would put her arms round me and hold me whilst I slept. Soon the old nightmares returned, and worse as soon I started wetting the bed.

It became a daily thing for me to be beaten in the morning for bed-wetting and beaten after school for not saying the “right thing” in terms of her pre-occupation with the imaginary old women ruining her clothes.

She got tired of me wetting the bed and seeing that her beatings did not cure the problem she forced me to lie on a layer of newspapers with only a small towel to cover me. I remember laying there freezing at with only my tears to keep me warm.

The Outcast (Part One)


Photo credit: Panal Lira / Foter / CC BY-SA

TRIGGER WARNING: This blog post is part of a series of posts dealing with the emotional and physical abuse I suffered as a child. This post contains specific references to acts of violence and as such may be triggering to those who have suffered similar experiences. Please proceed only if you are comfortable with the subject matter.

Despite the hardships associated with my mother’s behaviour, a younger brother soon came along. I remember seeing him for the first time, frail and premature, but I loved him from the moment I first saw him.

It made me forget The Trouble and my mother seemed very pleased, especially at the fact that he was a boy and not a girl. Not that that it mattered too much to me at the time. It mattered that the beatings stopped for a while as my mother was excited and distracted with looking after him.

However, this state of affairs did not last for very long as my mother became pre-occupied with the shape of his head and used to quiz my father incessantly on the matter.

One evening she asked me if I had been letting in the imaginary old women through the window again. I said no, but she started shrieking again and I then remembered I had to say yes to calm her down. She quizzed me on whether they had touched my brother. She said that it looked like someone had dropped him on his head and that she wanted to know who did it.

I was scared and didn’t know how to answer this new and unsettling line of enquiry.

Mother then said that it must be father that did it. “Your bastard father picked him up and dropped him on his head didn’t he? That’s what happened. Why are you lying and not telling me the truth again you wicked child? Haven’t you hurt mummy enough?”

I whimpered as she struck me.

“I’m going to call the police and you are going to tell them what happened, okay?”

I nodded even though I did not wish to. I knew it was a terrible thing to tell a lie, but it was also a terrible thing to make my mother angry and I had no wish to endure any more physical pain.

I don’t recall what exactly happened when the police came round, although I imagine I did exactly as my mother asked me and for a time, just a short time, she seemed pleased with me again.

Mental Health Book Club


 

Photo credit: Ranoush. / Foter / CC BY-SA

Whilst my blog is primarily intended to feature my personal story and recovery challenges, along with the “Mental Health on The Internet” series, I used to have a regular Book Review slot on a Saturday. Sadly, this has fallen by the wayside in recent times as my mental health has declined. However I had always wanted to find time to resurrect this and get the motivation to start reading again.

A number of conversations on Twitter between myself, Alex (@AJ628studentMH) and Hayley (@calmkitchen) generated the idea for a Book Club, with an emphasis on topics of mental health and well-being.

Timeline

Between us we came up with the following proposal:

Between now and weekend of 6/7 December
Promote the idea and get a list of interested people

Over the weekend of 13/14 December
Getting one or two suggestions from everyone interested as to what the first book could be, then taking a vote. (For those wishing to join us – you don’t have to make a suggestion. You could just check the list of suggestions and make your vote.)

Hopefully by Monday 15 December
Decide on the book!

Early January 2015
Start book!

Format

We would then repeat the process each month. People can leave or join “the group” at any time, even half-way through the month.

In terms of the “group” feeding back and discussing the book, we are still thinking about this. One possibility is doing a # (hashtag) Twitter chat at the end of the month. Other possibilities just include writing a piece on the book and how you found it. You could do this on your own blog site and then share it. If you don’t have a blog site, one of us could post it for you?

We don’t want people feeling that they have to participate in a “live” # twitter chat. Some people won’t be up for that, or we won’t all be able to agree a good time. The hope is that various members of the group will just chat to each other on Twitter during the month about how they are getting on with the book. We can then host a “Twitter meet-up via the #” at the end of the month. Equally if you just want to read the book, type up your feedback and post it, that’s fine.

Are YOU interested?

We are compiling a list of interested people, and will forward more details in due course. The next step will be drawing up a list of books and a vote to see which book we kick 2015 off with.

If you are interested in participating, leave a comment in the boxes below or contact me on Twitter via @RoseWiltshire

In the meantime, check out Alex and Hayley’s blogs too!

Rx

Bonfire of the Books (Part Three)

TRIGGER WARNING: This blog post is part of a series of posts dealing with the emotional and physical abuse I suffered as a child. This post contains specific references to acts of violence and as such may be triggering to those who have suffered similar experiences. Please proceed only if you are comfortable with the subject matter.

Sadly my mother became more and more distressed at the situation regarding her clothes. The rituals involving the checking and refolding of clothes got worse. Of course I was made to feel bad because I had let the imaginary old women in every night to “make mummy feel crazy”.

One evening my father asked me why I was crying. I told him about the dream and that I felt bad for making mother angry. (I didn’t tell him about the beatings and he never asked about the bruises on my body – mother told him that I had fallen over, that I was a clumsy child.)

So he asked her about it and she flew into a rage:

“You disgusting bastard! You’ve been having affairs with all these old women and making that bastard child of yours open the windows to let them in at night!”

My mother started showing him all her clothes pointing out to where they had been ruined. “Look, look, look at this” – she pointed to imaginary marks on the clothes. “Destroyed, completely destroyed! I can smell their bastard perfume all over them! Why do you want to make me crazy – God damn you all to Hell!”

My mother calmed down after a while but all the while she had been thinking of a plan to teach us both a lesson.

One morning after father had left for work, she started gathering materials to make a fire in the garden. I watched fascinated by the dancing flames and I was pleased when she asked me to help get old newspapers. After having stoked up a good sized roaring flame, she asked me to go and find my books. All of them.

I went to gather all the books and started arranging them in piles outside on the patio.

Mother picked up one book and thumbed through it in disgust.

“I don’t like these books that your bastard father buys for you. Mr Men. They teach you how to disrespect Mummy.”

She held the book over the flames and I watched it catch fire.

“This is where they belong”, she said. “Fetch me another book”.

At first I watched enraptured by the flames, but soon it dawned on me that the books that I so loved and looked forward to reading every evening were going away for ever. I started to protest again but she threatened me.

“If you don’t listen to mummy you are going to Hell. Mummy is always right – you’ll see”.