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!

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.

Clinging on!

1eb88-how-people-lie-every-day

So it is nearly 4am, I can’t sleep, I am in pain… so where else would I be?? 🙂 I thought I would write a positive post for once. As the readers that have been with me for a while will know, my birthday is coming up (17th April). This time of year, I usually have a dip in my mental health. I am not sure why, but I think it is because I get fed up that I have had to fight for another year. It gets me down and wears me out.

This year, however, I am not doing too badly. Whilst I can feel my mental health dipping a little, normally I would be in the gutter by now, and I am not. This is fantastic news!! When I was younger, my mood swings used to be much more frequent, and I would go up for a few weeks then down for a few. Over the years, the gaps between my dips have gradually gotten larger, and now I tend to dip in April and August. It makes sense, as both of them are anniversaries. I have hope, however, that the fact I haven’t dipped QUITE so far yet means the time between dips is once again expanding.

I still suffer with nightmares that make me wake up screaming, and I still struggle with anxiety… but the fact that I am coping a little better each year gives me hope that this battle wont be so hard forever. Of course, I could be completely wrong. It could just be that last years August dip was SO bad that my mind feels it has done its work for a while.

Either way, I am counting my blessings and enjoying it. After all, I don’t know how long this will last so I have to make the most of it while it is here.

It is hard sometimes when you are climbing a particularly tricky mountain to take the time to look down at how far you have come rather than up and how far you have to go. When I look down, it is like looking into an abyss. It is dark, and ever lasting, and miserable, and impossible. If I gaze up a little, I can see the beauty around me. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by so many beautiful people it is sometimes a wonder how I manage to feel sad at all!

So here is my advice to you… if you are reading this and have mental health problems, no matter how bad things seem right now take a second to look back. If it helps, do what I did. Set up a private Facebook group that only you have access to. Write in it all the good memories you have, all the good days you have, all the people you love and everything that makes you feel good. When you are in your darkest moments, you have a good read of that page, and remember the good times. If you do that, you will start to see the beauty around you and you will start to look at how far you have come and what you have got, not the fact that you can’t even see the top of the mountain yet because it is covered by a huge black cloud. And just think, when that cloud clears and you have reached the top…what a view you will have!!!!

That journey will have made you empathetic, sympathetic, a wealth of advice, and your muscles (strength) will be phenomenal. It doesn’t matter if you hit an icy patch and slide down the mountain a bit, because if you do it gives you the opportunity to see that view again. And that is what will help you up.

It helps, of course, if you have a guide to help you navigate and some friends to help egg you on when you get lost. You may lose some of them along the way but you know the ones that are with you when you reach the top will be with you forever. So, don’t be afraid to ask for help. The more people you bring with you the easier it will be. And despite what you think, you will never be alone if you don’t want to be.

Everyone has someone

Now is the time to ask for help. Be that from your best friend, your parents, your GP, your MH support worker, the crisis team or Samaritans, there is ALWAYS someone who will be willing to talk to you and who will want to help. And why not talk to other people in the same boat? After all, some will be able to help you and pull you up, and others you will be able to help, which also gives you a boost up. So what’s your excuse! Get going!

As always, my inbox is always open and I will reply to every message, though it may take a day or two as I get so many. If you feel alone, you have a friend in me!

Q&A Help… will this ever end?

Q&A

Below is a message I got from one of my readers recently. He has been going through a really hard time. I want to make it clear, once again, that I am not a medical professional in any form. I am merely someone who has had a rough time of things and want to help. My advice is only that- advice- and should never replace the opinion of a qualified professional. It is always best to seek professional advice when you are feeling low and unable to cope.

 

Hello Hayley,

I was abused as a boy. I lived with the secret for 40 years before telling my wife. She reacted badly, upset that I had never told her before. The thing is, since telling her I have been having nightmares about what happened. I feel like my whole life has been taken away from me because I can’t cope with the constant memories flooding my mind. I was forced to retire on medical grounds 6 months ago, and since then have been completely lost. I have started having panic attacks and I was hospitalised due to one two months ago.  I don’t feel like a man any more, my wife is now the ‘bread winner’ and I am struggling to cope. How do I go back to how I was before. I was fine for so long, what happened? And how can I deal with what is happening now. I can’t do this any more!

Love John **

 

Hiya John,

I am so sorry you have been through what you have. You have already started dealing with this and seeking help, and I am thrilled you have found my blog useful. It can be easy to block out what has happened. We put it in a box at the back of our minds, and move on. However, in most cases there will be a point where that Pandora’s Box will be opened… as has happened here. In my case, that box opened much quicker. However, now the box is opened, I am afraid it isn’t as simple as shoving everything back in and forgetting about it.

You have remained incredibly strong throughout your life, and your story has inspired me no end. I know we haven’t been able to post your entire story, but for the other readers of this blog I must stress this man has dealt with more than anyone ever should have to.

John, I recommend you seek professional help. It seems to me that you might be suffering from PTSD and Generalised Anxiety Disorder, along with a deep depression. The good news is that these conditions can be managed and treated with medication and therapy. I know you have spoken to  your GP and have recently started some medication that I hope starts to help soon.  Therapies like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Psychotherapy should help you regain control of your life. We spoke about the recovery time, and I know you are aware that this can take quite a while to heal.

I know from experience you can only bottle things up for so long… but once the bottle top explodes, we  have to deal with what comes out. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. Once you have been able to work through what has come out, you will find that you don’t need to bottle things up any more. You will be able to share a more open and honest life with your wife, who I know has been a huge support rock for you, despite her initial concerns. I would encourage you to return to some of my earlier blog posts about ‘A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss‘, and ‘Post Traumatic Growth‘, ‘The Truth About Anxiety‘ and ‘The Truth About PTSD‘. I hope they are able to offer some support and encouragement.

I have a strange little bit of advice for you. It is something that has helped me a lot. Why not try writing a letter to your past self… the child that went through that horrific ordeal. Write to let that small child know that things will be okay, that what is happening is not his fault, and that he will have a bright future and get through this. It is important that you forgive yourself for what happened, and accept that they ONLY person in the wrong is the person that thought they had the right to violate you. You need to let go of the guilt you feel, it will only eat you up.

I know things seem impossible right now, but you have the strength to move forward and cope with what has happened. I wish you all the best in your journey. I know we will keep in touch. It is really important that you don’t give up, because we both you know can do this and you have a lot of support around you. Wishing you all the best.

Lots of love,

Hayley.

 

 

**I have had to summarise the message I received from John (name has been changed) because it was so long. We have spoken in-depth and John has now started getting the help he needs. He is due to start counselling in the next three weeks. The summarised version of his letter was approved by John prior to posting, and he has seen and approved this post. We are going to keep in touch, and I will report on his progress later on in the year.

If you have any questions you want some advice on, you are more than welcome to email me. I will reply to every email, and will only post on here with your consent and knowledge. I change all identifying features of your question. If you just want a friendly ear you are welcome to email me and it will not appear on this blog. I offer advice because I know how hard life can be when you are going through the tough times. As stated above, the advice I offer should never replace professional help from a qualified practitioner.

 

 

The truth about Anxiety

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I have Generalised Anxiety Disorder- GAD for short. That means I am anxious most of the time. It gets worse when I step out the door, and reaches boiling point when I travel somewhere I don’t know.

Everybody gets anxious from time to time, you may remember feeling worried about a new job interview, money worries, meeting your partners parents, waiting for important test results or a myriad other reasons. Your stomach ties itself in knots, you feel sick, you have heart palpitations, your face and palms start sweating, and you breathe more heavily. It is an awful feeling. Fortunately, for most, it goes relatively quickly.

In people with GAD, however, that feeling does not go. Sometimes it lessens a little bit, and sometimes it becomes so unbearable that it launches into a full-blown panic attack. I have had attacks bad enough to result in a trip to the hospital. When having a panic attack, too much oxygen gets into your system, blocking out the carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide occurs in our blood once the oxygen has been spent. As a waste product, it is something we breathe out. However the body regulates how much oxygen is circulating by measuring the carbon dioxide. With the carbon dioxide lowered, the body thinks there is too much oxygen in the body, and it causes the veins to constrict. This is why you get the tingling sensations, which can lead to fainting.

It is easy to want to tell people with anxiety to ‘snap out of it’ or ‘just get on with it’ or ‘why are you worrying? Everything will be fine’. Here is the catch. If you say any of these things, we are just going to have another thing to worry about; whether you still like us or not. If you can imagine a time when your worry was at its worst, press pause, and up the volume a few notches. That is the constant level of worry us GAD sufferers have.

My personal worries stem from my past. I worry something bad will happen to my daughter. I worry my health problems will get so bad I can’t be with her. I worry that my mum or dad might get sick. I worry that I am going to lose my grandma. I also worry about bills, my neighbours, what my future is going to be like, car crashes and people leaving me. And unexpected loud noises (it can even be sneezing) petrify me. It is also a double whammy with me, because of my BPD; meaning I feel emotions more deeply and strongly than others.

Anxiety is not just a mental disorder, it has a huge impact physically as well. My muscles are always tense, and some have even fused together causing damage that might not be fixable. That damage may mean me spending the rest of my life in pain. All from being anxious.  I also grind my teeth to the point where my nerves are starting to show, causing horrible pains. And let’s not forget feeling sick often, forgetting to eat because I was too consumed by anxiety and constantly feeling drained because the worry takes so much effort. It is not easy thinking of the worst case scenario all the time when it usually involves someone I love dying. I often lay awake at night hoping my dad is not seriously hurt in a car crash on his way home from work etc. It is the same if I am expecting someone to arrive and they are late, I think they have been involved in a car crash. It is a horrible way to live.

There is some good medications out there, I am on one that acts as a nerve suppressant, stopping so many panic signals flying at any one time. It helps a lot, but is no cure. I will just have to hope one of the therapies I try over and over again will one day work!

Panic attacks and anxiety are not a sign of weakness, they are a sign someone has been strong for too long. Keep that in mind next time you think someone is over-reacting.