Stop victim blaming!

 

So, I read this post today, and it really got my back up. It is about a Canadian Judge who asked a rape victim why she couldn’t just keep her knees together to avoid being raped. Not only is this disrespectful and upsetting in the extreme, but it is a prime example of a huge problem we have in today’s society. Our justice system is so geared up towards protecting the criminals, the victims are left hanging. It is disgusting. No wonder so many crimes go unreported, especially serious ones like rape, because people are too scared to come forward.

I once had a police officer tell me there was no point pursuing a prosecution because the lawyers would rip me apart due to my past, and he would very likely get away with it anyway. She suggested I save myself the pain. And before that, when I spoke up about the person that abused me as a child, for SEVEN YEARS starting when I was 6… the police spoke to him, gave him a caution and a few years on the sex offenders register… and just let him go. With ‘justice’ like that going on it is very easy to see why so few crimes are reported. It is also easy to see why vigilante behaviours start.

I understand that there are countless extremely dedicated and understanding police officers that do their best, but the justice system is stacked against them. Even the ones that are sent to prison get TV’s in their cells, 3 meals a day, access to a gym, plenty of social interaction with other inmates, a shop where they can buy anything from cigarettes to cards and sweets, clean clothes to wear etc etc. In my opinion, that is not a terrible life- in fact it is a far better life than many people are living. Sure, they might not get to see their friends and family much but aside from that they have got things easy!

Meanwhile, the victims have had their lives changed forever. For some of us, the trauma causes our minds to shatter and mental health problems like Depression, PTSD, BPD and anxiety disorders set in. And while the government are paying for TV’s for the inmates (and they get new ones if they get angry and smash the ones they have…), they are severely reducing vital funding for mental health services across the board. Leaving the victims of crime without much-needed help.

They face having their lives destroyed. And while all of that is going on, you have idiots like this judge. That poor lass, only 19 years old, was brave enough to report the crime, go through the whole prosecution service, relive the event over and over and over again, feeling the same fear and pain each time she has to go through it, then she went through cross-examination where her character was dragged through the mud… and after ALL that, she is asked, by the judge no less, why she didn’t simply close her legs. Wow… who knew rape could be eradicated all over the world if we simply close our legs?! Why didn’t these incredibly insightful men tell us this before?

This is a massive problem that needs to be addressed worldwide. YES, we can do things to help ourselves. Locking our front doors and securing our homes is a good idea. Not walking alone at night is a good idea. Not getting so drunk we make poor decisions we otherwise wouldn’t make is a good idea. But I don’t care if I was drunk, high, walking butt naked through a dark alley at 3 am on my own. NOBODY has the right to touch me without my consent. We need to be teaching our children to respect all other people from a very young age. We need to teach our children, by example, that stealing from other people is WRONG. That hitting anyone is WRONG. That trashing other people’s homes is WRONG. That hitting elderly ladies on the bus is WRONG. We need to show them that whatever language they speak is beautiful, and that they should use their words rather than their fists. The crazy thing is that all the parents too lazy to raise their children properly will be the one’s suffering when they are old and frail and their disrespectful children do nothing but steal their pension and refuse to help them out.

Victim blaming is NEVER okay. Every person on this planet has the right to live without fear… and bringing up our children properly is the only way we can improve the world.

And yes, I know that dream is unrealistic. But wouldn’t it be nice? We can make our own contributions to making the world a better place, and you never know how much a kind word and a hug could help someone. Not that long ago, I offered to help an elderly lady with her shopping bags… and had to convince her I wasn’t trying to rob her in the process!!! How sad is that? That you can’t even trust an offer of help these days. She was so grateful she kept trying to push money in my hands afterwards, which of course I refused. We need to be the best we can be and encourage our children to do the same. Only then can we tackle the bigger issues.

Have you ever been subjected to or witnessed victim blaming? I would love to hear from you. Feel free to use the comment box below or write a comment on the blog itself.. Your email address will never be disclosed to anyone else.

 

Is victim blaming ever okay? Share your thoughts below!

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Getting your own back on cold callers!

These days, it seems I get more junk and spam phone calls than phone calls from my friends and family! It is enough to make you want to bin your phone all together. Calls on the land-line are especially annoying as it is a difficult number to change. A lot of the calls I get are scammers, people trying to get your money any way they can. I am fortunate, I grew up in an age where we were taught about the dangers of these sorts of calls but there are plenty of people, particularly of my grandparents generation, that get duped into giving away their life savings. There are many different types of scam, some include trying to get the victim to hand over their bank card and trying to push double glazing that gets paid for and never delivered. Part of the issue is that the more we wise up about the scams, the more clever and convincing they are becoming. And sometimes you don’t even need to fall for a scam to fall victim to a scammer. With things like ransomware clicking on one wrong link is all it takes for them to hold your computer and everything on it to ransom.

My most recent caller caught me at a particularly bad time. I am frustrated at the moment due to only having one arm (the wrong one at that) available after breaking my scapula (shoulder)… leaving me in a sling and in considerable pain. In reaching for the phone I leant on my bad shoulder… which HURT. And then I get told, in very broken English, that my computer has a virus that could make me lose ALL of my data in an irretrievable way unless I paid him £249.99 upfront and gave him remote access to my computer so he could remove it.

I figured I had two options.. one tell him his mother should be ashamed of him for trying to scam vulnerable women and hear him hang up… or have some fun with him. I went with the latter. Mostly because the scammers are used to being insulted so it doesn’t phase them in the least, and partially because I was bored.

To begin, I pretended to start hyperventilating and crying. I started yelling about how all my precious pictures were on the computer and that I couldn’t bare to lose them. I pretended I was getting my bank card when instructed while simultaneously telling him I couldn’t breathe and that I needed an ambulance as soon as we were done talking. I read out the first two numbers of my card, while he was telling (begging, really) me to calm down. Then I turned it up a notch, and demanded to know what this virus was called and then asked him if it was contagious and if I was going to die or if I needed vaccinating. He genuinely sounded worried about me actually bless him. I read out the next (fake) two numbers of my card before crying about my parents having to bury me so young and my daughter having to be without her mother, and I asked him why this virus attacked me and what I did wrong. He was telling me to take deep slow breaths and I could hear the chatter in the background die down a bit. He kept saying “you won’t die, you won’t die, don’t worry” over and over. I was genuinely starting to cry with laughter a bit at this point, which was probably why I was so convincing.

Finally, I decided enough was enough, I had had my fun. So I ended the call by saying, in a suddenly calm and serious voice “Well, this was fun. We should do it again sometime!” then ended with “You let yourself down, you let your mother down, you let your country down…” *click*.

Job done!

Things you should never say to someone with mental health issues.

There are some things people say that really get my back up. And it isn’t because they come from a bad place, it is mostly ignorance and a lack of forethought. So I thought I would create a general list of things people with mental illness really don’t want to hear. It is imperative that you don’t compare yourself to someone who is mentally unwell. Our brains work differently, we cope with things differently, and we experience things differently. This is true even of completely ‘normal’ minds, but when there is mental illness involved it is a completely different kettle of fish. It is like comparing oranges to apples, black to white, and stripes to spots.

“Just…….”

Putting ‘Just’ before a sentence implies what you are asking someone to do is easy. There is no ‘just’ when it comes to mental health issues. They are by definition messy and complicated, and different for everyone.

“Get over it”

Again, this implies that it is something easy to do. You wouldn’t tell people to get over a broken leg, so why tell them to get over a broken mind? If it were that simple, don’t you think we would have done it by now?

“You’re making excuses”

This one really is a pet hate of mine, as I have a friend who says it all the time. I am not making excuses, I am giving you reasons. Just because this is something you can do doesn’t mean we all can. Imagine trying to teach a 2 year old algebra. Their ‘excuse’ is that it is just to hard for them. Do we try to guilt them into learning it? Or shout at them for not knowing it? Do we make them feel stupid for not doing it? Of course we don’t. We know that their brains just aren’t quite ready to handle it yet. There are some things my brain is perfectly capable of understanding, but not capable of doing. When I tell you how something is going to make me feel, that isn’t me putting limitations on myself or making excuses, it is me knowing how I will react. Say if I walk 10 steps, on the 11th step I would fall over. If that has happened the last 100 times I have walked those 11 steps, it is more than reasonable to expect it will happen again. Of course, I cannot be 100% sure until it happens, but expecting it to happen and preparing for it to happen is not the same as making an excuse. In fact, preparing is the smart thing to do, and if I can arrange it so I only walk 10 steps at a time and not the 11th all the better.

“You have the same illness as _____ and s/he manages just fine”

A broken leg may be a broken leg, but it could be a fracture of the femur, tibia or fibula. And even on the same bone, you could have a hairline fracture, a clean break, a spiral fracture and so on and so forth. So while I may have the same mental illness as someone else, it doesn’t mean I will experience it in the same way. More than that, finding the right treatment plan can take years. The amount of time you have lived with a mental illness plays a role in your recovery too. For example, BPD generally gets a little better with age. So it is really intense in your teenage years and slowly gets better until (for most people, particularly those diagnosed in their teens) by the time you are in your mid thirties it has mostly gone. If you didn’t get it until your 30’s, however, the age at which you recover will be later. Therefore it isn’t fair to compare one persons recovery to another’s.

“You seem normal to me”

I get this a lot. People generally wont know I have mental illnesses unless I tell them, and most people are very surprised to hear just how many I have. I blame the media for this. ‘Crazy’ people in films are often shown in the middle of huge breakdowns, unable to communicate properly, unclean and untidy, often sitting in a chair muttering and rocking back and forth. This isn’t the reality of mental illness. The truth is unless you know someone very well it is easy to miss the signs, and we can come across as perfectly normal. That doesn’t mean we are normal though. There is a lot that goes on behind closed doors, and we aren’t at rock bottom all of the time. Mental health waxes and wanes, sometimes you are okay and sometimes you aren’t. The chances are you aren’t seeing the whole picture.

“Stop focussing on the bad stuff”

You are assuming that simply focussing on the good is all we need to do to get better. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Also, lots of mental health issues make you think of the bad bits without really wanting to. Depression sucks all the colour out of the world, PTSD shoves painful flashbacks and nightmares in your face, BPD amplifies negative emotions 100 fold, GAD makes you excessively worry all of the time. Mental illnesses can be all-consuming. That is hard to fight. And it doesn’t mean we don’t cling to the good either, it just means we can’t simply blot out the bad.

“It could be worse”

That is true. For every single person on this planet, their problems could be a LOT worse, and there are always going to be people who suffer more than us. And I know people say this to try to make us feel better. But I don’t feel the way I do because I think nobody in the world has suffered more than me, I feel the way I do because what I have been through sucks. Knowing someone else is going through worse makes me feel bad for them, but not better about myself. I count myself as very lucky, and very blessed. Making me feel guilty for complaining when others have it worse though wont help. When you get a flat tyre you don’t think “well at least I don’t have cancer!”… you think “damn, I have a flat tyre. What a pain”.

“It is all those tablets you’re on, you should stop taking them and then you will feel better”

This infuriates me. And I hear it a lot. It makes me cross for two simple reasons. 1) If I was fine, I wouldn’t have gone on them in the first place. I didn’t wake up one day and think “Hey! I know what! Today I will go on antidepressants! Because they will make me have mood swings and put on weight and make me numb and that will just be so great!” 2) I dread to think what I would be like off the meds. Here is a simple fact… without medication I wouldn’t be here today. It really is as simple as that. And I know that medication alone is not the answer, and I know medications aren’t right for some people. But you aren’t my doctor, you don’t know my medical history, and you don’t know where I was without them. So don’t comment! Advising people to stop taking any medication is dangerous and frankly stupid. Please don’t do it.

What makes me sad is that people with mental illnesses (or any other ‘invisible’ illness like Fibromyalgia or ME) still have to justify themselves to others. I shouldn’t have to explain why I feel the way I do. If you love someone, you should love them warts and all, and realise the line between encouraging someone and doing them harm is frightfully thin. Raising your voice and demanding people snap out of it, or just do what you do, or just get on with it is harmful. More than that, it is out of order. You wouldn’t tell someone with a broken leg to stop making a fuss, get off the crutches and start walking already.

Stop wasting the time of the NHS!

I love the NHS. It is one of the finest institutions in the world, and it is so popular people come from all over the world to try to take advantage of it. Free at the point of use. Magic words! Unfortunately, we face losing our beloved institution. Unlike popular thinking, this is not just the fault of our government. It is OUR fault. It is astonishing how many people abuse the system.

A&E should NOT be the first port of call for every minor grievance. We complain of long queues in A&E, but that is because people go in with colds, mild headaches, splinters (that are easily removable), sore throats, bad period pains, because they are drunk, and with issues that have been going on for weeks.

A&E should be for EMERGENCIES only. You should only ever go to A&E if you feel your life is in danger or if you have had accidents that can’t be treated elsewhere, like broken bones. But even broken bones can be sorted in some walk-in clinics. It really should be for when you are at death’s door or fear you are becoming seriously ill.

There are many branches to the NHS, and some are underused. For mild conditions like athletes foot, thrush, the morning after pill etc. you can see any local pharmacist that is part of the minor ailments scheme. They are able to prescribe treatments for a number of illnesses (a list can be found on the NHS website). Your GP should be dealing with any ongoing issues, you shouldn’t just decide you have had enough of feeling under the weather and go to A&E.

However, the GP’s are overcrowded, again because people go in for silly reasons. If you have a cold, don’t spread your germs around, have some paracetamol and hot lemon then go to bed and rest it off. Doctors can’t give you antibiotics for a virus. Stop asking for it. They wont work, and in fact will do you more harm than good, because one day we will run out of antibiotics since their overuse has made bugs immune to them! That is why we have super bugs like MRSA. You don’t need to walk out of the office with a prescription every single time. Honest!

There is also your out of hours doctors for when symptoms worsen when your regular doctors is closed. They should be used before going to A&E if you don’t believe you are seriously ill and need to be admitted to hospital. They are there to help!

We also have 111. The new ‘NHS Direct’. This should be used when you have an urgent problem that doesn’t require a phone call to 999. They will help figure out where you need to be (out of hours doctors, A&E, in bed at home etc). They can provide advice to help make you more comfortable, and about how to treat at home if that is what’s best.

This is a decent website to look at and it covers more of what the NHS offers.

Not everything is simple, and I understand that. Sometimes a cold is pneumonia, a headache is a tumour and sore throats are throat cancer. Ultimately the choice of which service you pick is yours. Only you will know how bad you feel. I think many people who use A&E know whether they are there for the right or wrong reasons. We live in a world where people don’t expect to be unwell and when they are feel they should just get some tablets to feel better instantly. It doesn’t always work like that. Sometimes we need to feel rough for a week or two while our bodies do their amazing thing and defeat the virus.

If people would only accept that, and accept we don’t have a cure for everything, perhaps there will be less stress on the NHS. We have the power to make the choices that are best for us. And the fact that it will benefit the NHS too is great!! When we pick the right service we are making sure we get the best possible care. If we all did it, it would reduce waiting times across the board and ensure we are getting the best possible care for our needs. Don’t forget, in A&E you often get trainee doctors that are trained in emergency medicine, not the more mundane ailments. You will find the service you receive is better when you pick the right place.

There are talks of making people pay to go to A&E to try to combat this problem. That goes against the very nature of the NHS but is a real possibility if we carry on abusing it. So I say now is the time to take action and think before you start that drive to the hospital.

Say you are having a heart attack, and you are waiting to be triaged. If the three people in front of you were all there for minor ailments that a pharmacist could have solved, would you be happy? Knowing that the damage from a heart attack gets greater the longer it is going on for? Or what if you were the patient going in with something minor and you find out the guy two people behind you in the queue just dropped dead and may have been saved if he hadn’t of had wait for you? These aren’t just theories. I was genuinely in a triage queue with a man having a heart attack… and the guy in front of us had a cold. Fortunately in this instance the man having the heart attack was fine. But it could have been worse.

To save our NHS, we need to change our behaviours before we start campaigning against the government.

The truth about: living in pain.

Pain can take many forms. Most people will be acquainted with physical pain, but there is mental pain too, and phantom pain. I am writing this because I live in pain. It is constant. I have both mental and physical pain.

The problem with pain is that it starts of a cycle. I am living in so much physical pain that it starts to hurt mentally. You start trying to find ways to cope with the pain… and when hot baths and morphine don’t help where can you turn? If you are me, you turn to cutting*. Mentally, you start to get really, really fed up with the pain. You ask “why me? What did I do?”. You wonder how you can cope with another day in so much pain. The physical pain makes the metal pain worse. The mental pain makes you less able to cope with the physical pain, which feels even worse.

The truth about chronic pain is that it destroys lives. I can’t do the things I want to with my daughter. I am confined to my bed often. I sit and cry because I don’t know what else I can do to cope. It is pushing me right to the edge and there is nothing I can do about it. The pain isn’t going to get better. There is no end in sight. THAT is what chronic pain does to someone.

So next time someone  you know lashes out a bit, next time you get fed up of someone moaning about pain yet again, please try to imagine what it is like to go through. Imagine how happy you would feel when you hurt constantly. In some people, the pain will be obvious. In others, they may look perfectly normal to you. But you don’t know the struggle they go through.

Friends and family of those with chronic pain can feel quite helpless… after all, there is no magic wand to make it all better. The truth is chronic pain isn’t something you can imagine easily. That makes it harder to empathise. We get that. The truth is if someone you love is struggling with pain, they need  you more than ever. Make the effort to give us a hug. Make the effort to go over and talk to us since we may not be able to get to you. Don’t abandon us because we never come out any more. You may never know just how close to the edge we are.. and your kind words may help us cope.

The truth is pain isolates you. You feel alone… like no one understands. We have more time than most to sit and think… which inevitably leads to us to hating ourselves for not being able to do much. There is nothing you could say to make us feel worse, so your opportunity is to make use feel better. It doesn’t take much, but a few kind words can mean the world.

 

*If you feel like self harming, please refer to my crisis box! xxx

 

I am not a wall flower!!

It is very easy to treat someone like me (with mental health problems) as fragile and in need of protecting. It is certainly true that my Borderline Personality Disorder means I display emotions very openly and I am prone to crying. A lot. Like all the time. At stupid things like adverts. However, that crying is merely a release. It passes quickly and it helps me cope. I spent so long bottling things up and it did so much damage. So now, I let things go, and I am not ashamed about the way I react to things. It shows I care.

That being said, I am one of the strongest people I know. The things I have been through, the things I have faced would break many people. Hell, it nearly broke me. But I got through. And that makes me the BEST person to lean on. Because I wont buckle.

I don’t need to be protected from bad news. I need to be told it as soon as is reasonable so that I can process it and then do something about it. The later it is left, the longer it will take me to process it and the harder it will be for everyone, including me. I might burst in to tears while my brain spends a couple of minutes sending the news to the right places but after that you wont find a stronger person to lean on.

I have seen some of the worst things life has to offer. It sometimes feels like I have stared at the devil right in the eyes. And I still won. If you want someone who can handle the bad stuff so YOU get a bit of support, talk to the person that has spent their life fighting. Fighting a little harder for a while wont be a problem.

I understand the desire to protect people from the bad bits. I expect some of my friends and family will worry that I am on a knife-edge and one wrong move could knock me down. But the truth is no news has ever broken me, it has only ever been self sabotage that has landed me in serious trouble. The only thing I need to cope with life is the one thing I have always had and always will have, and that is the love of my friends and family.

If you know someone with mental health problems, please understand that it is a constant battle. And a battle like that makes warriors of us all. You would be surprised what I can cope with. In fact, you would be surprised what I HAVE coped with.

What I need isn’t protection. What I need is for someone to tell me that I have done a good job fighting. That they are proud of me for what I have achieved. That I have come so far. It is much better than hearing the disappointment when I do mess up. Trust me I do a better job of beating myself up than anyone else could do. I need recognition for the good things. It seems there hasn’t been too much of that recently. I am not a constant screw up!

My life isn’t easy. It isn’t perfect. And it isn’t what I want for myself and my family. But what it is, and what it has always been, is progress. And the motivation to do better. Ten years ago I was bottling things up, I didn’t trust anyone, I was self harming all the time and self sabotaging even more. I hated myself. I was putting myself at risk. Last year, I had a huge wobble. And guess what? It only made me stronger. If you mix a tornado with a volcano I will still win.

The police just woke me up at 3am by banging on my door!

 

I am annoyed. I am tired. I am scared. I am bloody pissed off. I just had 4 policemen show up at my door. I wake up to hear them literally banging on the door, threatening to ‘break in by force if necessary’. Unfortunately this is now the third time this has happened.

I am not a drug dealer. I am not involved in anything illegal. I was there alone, and asleep. And yet I get  treated like a criminal and they barge in to my HOME to have a look around. Why? Apparently because I was screaming again. That is what happens when you have PTSD. You get flash backs. And apparently my neighbours thought I was being murdered. Again.

It  is absolutely terrifying, and, to be perfectly honest, I really, really need a cuddle. The police didn’t do anything wrong. They settled down when I told them what happened and they made me a cup of tea. They managed to calm me down a little, though I am still in shock. I am an idiot. I didn’t even check for ID, I just let them barge in without so much as a word. Don’t get me wrong, they were legit, but they don’t take into account that people are not as vigilant when they have just been woken up.

I have to put up with these flash backs quite often. My daughter lives with my parents at the moment, and this is partly why. When she is here, I stay awake, all night, because I am terrified I will have an ‘episode’ while she is there. So I just sit there quietly all night.

Apparently, the police have to report this to my landlord and someone else I can’t remember. According to them, if I continue ‘disturbing the peace’ like this my tenancy could be in jeopardy. They said they were sorry they had to tell me that. Now I need someone to tell me what on earth I can do to stop this from happening again. How am I supposed to stop it?

Nightmares are awful. Night terrors are horrific. But flash backs? A flash back is reliving the worst things that ever happened to you over and over again. It is so real you can smell, touch and feel everything that is going on. It is exactly like it is happening again. Those who have never had a flash back can’t understand what it is like, and I hope they never have to find out.

I am shaking, and crying. I feel weak. I feel vulnerable. And if I am being perfectly honest I have a very strong urge to cut. I feel lost, and I don’t know what to do about it. I don’t know how to fix this. I don’t know how to fix me.

Just to kick me when I am way down, my BPD is making me feel everything 100x more than ‘normal’ people do. My depression is consuming me. My anxiety disorder is pushing me on the verge of a panic attack and I am trying to write to calm myself down. I am trying not to go into a dissociative state. I am fighting no less than SIX separate mental health problems at once. You tell me. How am I supposed to win?