It’s been a year to the day since I started this blog and thus started my speaking out journey. I’m struggling a little bit with the concept. Where has time gone? Equally, how has it gone so slow? A year ago feels both like yesterday and decades ago simultaneously. I remember the stomach clenching fear as I pressed ‘publish’ on my first post, how I was so nervous of losing friends or being judged, of what my life would become once the huge secret was out. It’s truly been a journey and a half, and couldn’t have happened without a whole multitude of people, and most importantly…the journey people have helped me take, this journey has reached many many survivors and helped. Everyone who has supported me on this journey has helped more people than they could ever know, therefore, because I couldn’t have done this without them all.
This blog site has had 34,558 individual views over the course of the year, with views from 142 different countries. I’m stunned. This is incredible. The numbers make no odds to me personally – if it had just one view and that one view had helped the person, then that’s what it’s all about and worth it. But this blog has potentially helped hundreds or thousands of people across the globe. By helped I’m not at all suggesting that every single person who reads this is an abuse survivor – this is of course not the case. Some are supporters, some just want to learn more, some struggle with different mental health problems and have emailed me to say that even though they don’t share my exact experiences, hearing someone able to be honest about mental health has really helped them. Others have said they’d never thought of writing before, and decided to try it after reading it, and have found a new useful outlet for whatever is going on in their lives. Some have thanked me for writing when I’m having a bad day – for showing the world that recovery can be and is a nasty piece of shit at times, but that this is normal and you don’t need to feel guilty. From the various emails I’ve received, some have been utterly heartbreaking, most very moving and humbling, some inspiring, and all fuelling me on. Frequently I question whether or not to continue writing, and then discover one sentence that seemed irrelevant to me really spoke volumes to someone across the globe, and so I keep going. Help can come in so many ways – understanding, education, validation, support, honesty… all I am doing is writing, it’s really nothing special, is quite cathartic for me anyway and doesn’t take a vast amount of my time. And yet its reached 142 different countries. It’s reached people across the globe and even when I’m having a bad week and can’t write, it continues reaching people. Writing is so powerful and timeless.
Some people ask me why I blog, and the above paragraph is my answer. In all honesty it would be easier for me to keep a personal diary and keep it secret. This wouldn’t tackle the secrecy problem surrounding abuse very well, however, nor would it show other survivors breaking out of the secret is possible and rewarding. Nonetheless, a diary would be easier for me, especially in the initial weeks when I was writing. I often feel like I’m exposing my most fragile and vulnerable aspects of my spirit to the entire world – literally – and I am always nervous of potential backlash. And of course there’s been some. But it reaches people, and that’s ultimately why I do it. Writing helps me make sense of my head and heart, and writing reaches people and helps people in so many various ways, that I could never have anticipated. I once had an message thanking me for my appalling grammar (which I hold my hands up and admit to!) as they realised they didn’t need to be a perfect A grade English student in order to express themselves through writing. I of course don’t write with bad grammar as a deliberate strategy to help people!! But somehow it helped one person, which amused me on some level, and also just amazed me. There is a misconception that to help people, particularly people recovering from horror and hell, you have to do something huge. You just don’t. Compassion, just caring, is powerful enough, by far. And you never know what random things you do – such as bad grammar – which turns out to be helpful for someone. You never know if the text you just sent someone was just at the right time for that person. There are so many little qualities and things we all do which unknowingly help others, and that to me is quite beautiful. I struggle to accept I might help people, but I can accept this blog helps people, and this blog couldn’t have happened had I not received and been receiving help in the first place.
The year has been undoubtedly hard. At times indescribably hard and there’s been several periods of not believing I can keep going, or indeed not wanting to at all and drowning in suicidal feelings and attempts. But there’s also been some high points, and for this blog post I’ll focus more on them. Of course every journey has its twists, turns, ups and downs and I’m not discounting the awful moments at all. It’s just that, for the moment, they can just be held whilst I consider other stuff.
Previous to May last year not many people knew I was abuse survivor, far less what abuse I had survived. Since May last year pretty much every person I know at university knows that I am a survivor of abuse. Initially this prospect scared me, as it felt more like the abuse was becoming part of my general identity. But if anything it’s done quite the opposite; in being very open about it, I feel like it’s less of a taboo subject surrounding me, and people can see I don’t hold it close as a part of who I am, but talk about it in the hope of showing the world that however much I will allow it space to impact and influence on me, I will not allow it to reduce me or determine me. I am an abuse survivor, not a victim. Abuse was inflicted onto me; abuse is not just inherently a part of me.
In a strange way, the hospital admissions ignited my need to speak out. I met women who had been (or were still being) abused and didn’t have supportive friends, or their friends had turned away, or they felt too scared to tell anyone. I will always count myself exceptionally lucky to have the friends I have. Whether I deserve this level of compassion is a different discussion, but I am nonetheless incredibly grateful. This journey simply couldn’t have even started without them, would have halted to a stop a few times if they hadn’t been there, and has made the journey more of one including lots of light, rather than too much dark. I am lucky to have that – to have friends who will hold me or make me laugh, or both. I needed to speak loudly so other survivors realised they can be helped too.
Without my friends and without the strangers across the globe fuelling me on, the journey could not have happened. I would have been too scared, at times too overwhelmed, and too unsure that it was helping people to be worthwhile. So again I say, thank you to everyone who’s made this journey happen, thank you for your part in it, thank you for the incredible positive impact you have led to happen.
I have given talks at two different universities now, with more lined up. I am hoping to visit schools and talk to staff, and I work with media and charities to speak out as well. A year ago the idea of appearing in a national magazine, working with an organisation, or being brave enough to speak to a group of strangers at a different university, would have had me in fits of disbelieving laughter. The fact that I can do this now feels like a miracle, and I am so grateful to everyone who’s helped me reach this point. It does help me, on some level, to speak out of course. But mostly I’m just grateful for the chance to turn my hell around into something which might prevent someone from falling into the hell, or might pull them out if they’re already there, or nudge them towards recovery if they are out of hell and scared of what happens next. I’m grateful to everyone, every single safe person I have met and spoken to, who had gently reminded me therefore that I have a voice. And that my voice can simply talk, and that can show others they haven’t lost their voice either.
There are several other speaking out projects lined up. As ever, I’m nervous about each. But I’m also hopeful that it might help just one person. We cannot fix the world, but we can help soothe a person’s own world. You have all helped mend my world, and in turn you have all helped other people’s world too, across the globe.
Thank you all so much. It’s been a very hard year. Very hard. But it’s also been a very humbling and inspiring one, and a strengthening and empowering one. My whole life has shifted from victim to survivor. Abuse isn’t a secret I carry, it’s not a burden I drown entirely in, the abuse is something I have been helped to turn around and reach others with. I am safer now than I’ve ever been. I can see a future now that I couldn’t really believe in before. I am me. I have ownership over that me. Speaking out has reached people and that’s amazing, but speaking out has also healed me in more ways than I could have anticipated.
Thank you. Thank you thank you thank you. Without you all, this journey just could not have happened. With you all, I am stronger, and together we have helped reach, soothe, educate and encourage people across the globe. You are all amazing.
What a year. So much has changed. So much hurt and yet so much light.
Thank you. xx