January 24, 2013
I’ve been trying to write this for weeks. In fact since the 15th November. Since I read the ‘Paedogeddon: of God and Monsters’ written by Sara Kewly Hyde and published on Threads here;
I’ve been trying to respond since then. And I have written and rewritten this blog several times now. And then I decided I would write it, and try and put down in words some of my personal thoughts. The thoughts I had initially.
Because however hard I try to come up with something deep and meaningful, I am not sure I can. However hard I try to come up with something that is ‘seen’ as ‘theological’ I am not sure I can. In fact I am sure I cant.
I’ve discovered all I can actually come up with is my own personal, deep down, gut instinct response to what Sara wrote.
I have been challenged. Big time. I have not been able to stop thinking about it. Since I first read what she had to say, it has played on my mind, and I have thought about it at least once a day, often more.
I am a survivor. I grew up being abused by the people who should have been caring for me. By the people I should have been able to look up to. The man who should have been a father to me abused me. I was abused by someone else who was unable himself to deal with being abused.
I also, as a young adult, in my early twenties was assaulted one day, in the street, just down the road from where I was living at the time. When that happened, that day, my life changed. Forever. Yet another thing was taken away from me.
I had nothing left. It pushed me to the brink of death, because just over a year later, I would try to kill myself (here by the grace of God and all that).
Sometimes I am able to eloquently describe and talk about what it is like to be abused, and raped. And sometimes I am not. Sometimes I am able to put into words the pain, shame, fear and torture that fill your mind. It is torment.
However hard you try to wash, scrub, cry, scream, cut and plead away the pain, the memories, the nightmares, they don’t go.
They will never go. They will always be there. And even though in time, you may be able to try to start living a life, a different life again, those memories will always exist. Sometimes they are more painful than others. But a day does not go by, when some memory surfaces. Somewhere, sometime during a normal day, something will trigger a memory. It could be a smell, a word. Something. Anything.
But what I have learnt as I grow stronger (and I shall be forever grateful to those people who support me in this journey) that life can be lived, and lived well. And that is the journey I am on, learning to live life, and live it well.
I am learning to laugh again, to smile, to be loved, and to love.
And it is going well. I think.
But then every now and then something comes along that halts you. Makes you stop. Makes you remember even more intensely than you already do. Makes you reflect more so than ever before. And makes everything so loud once again in your head.
That has been my experience since the Jimmy Savile expose happened. Since it was revealed that he was a predatory child abuser, and that his victims could be as many as 500 and counting.
Since everyone has been talking about child abuse, and rape. Since it has not left the front page, and Internet, the conversation in the street. Since the topic has been everywhere. And that is why I wrote this:
To put into words, and convey some of my thoughts and feelings that had been aroused so much more than they usually are.
However, reading Sara’s Paedogeddon article made me realise that my response was just that. It was my response. It was the emotional and personal response of someone who has experienced the pain of abuse.
And this is where the clanger kicks in for me: it was NOT a Christian response. And it was not a response that considered the offender. In fact I never really thought about it from those points of views. I never really thought about what it means to be a Christian and a survivor, to the point where I have to then think about how I think about and respond to people who rape and abuse. Not properly anyway. Not deeply. Not with any meaning.
Until I read Sara’s thoughts. Her article was so well written. And it touched on topics I have not wanted to, have not been able to, and have tried to ignore.
But I have no choice but to. I have no choice, as a Christian but to confront these issues.
So how would I respond? If I was face to face, or in the position where I had to be with or engage with an offender.
And this is where I come a little stuck. This is where my head goes round and round in circles, and this is where I have written this blog so many times, and still not managed to write a coherent answer.
The best I can offer is I don’t know.
The best I can offer, after chatting about this to many people, including close friends, other survivors, and my minister is this: I don’t know.
The truth is, I really know how I would respond to someone who I knew was or had been a child abuser, or a rapist. I don’t know how I would love them, or even if I could. I don’t know how I would respond to someone sitting in front of me in church, who was a known sex offender.
Maybe I would want to hit them. Maybe I would want to scream at them. Maybe I would want to walk away and never have to think about them again. Maybe.
Or maybe I would want to talk to them. Maybe. I don’t know. Maybe I wouldn’t.
But I ask myself this: do I have a place myself, a place in a Christian community if I am not willing to accept this line that Sara wrote:
‘The church needs to be a place of acceptance and healing for the abuser and the abused’.
But it is true. Painfully true.
If I talk about, and expect, and desire, and wish to see His church, THE church understand, accept and have a place for a survivor of abuse, then surely I have to accept that it is also a place for an offender. I have to accept that there can be/is/has to be a place for them too. That they also need to be part of a community that will accept, love and support them. I have to accept that they are people too.
She says this
‘There has to be grace for those who have committed even the most atrocious, life wrecking crimes , and those cripples by the effects of these crimes, otherwise the cross is a nonsense’.
As a survivor, and a Christian I HAVE TO BELIEVE that Jesus came for the people who abused and raped me too. That He came for people who abuse and rape others. Otherwise, as Sara put it so well ‘the cross is a nonsense’. And deep down, no matter what state my relationship with God is, I know it is not nonsense.
But that is big. That is big stuff to get my head around. But I am trying to. Slowly.
But how does this actually play out?
And again, that’s where I come to ‘I don’t know’.
I could give you the answers I’m ‘meant’ to. The answers where I say I would greet them with open arms, welcome them into my community, my family, and love them. But whether I would or could, I don’t know?
I could give you the answers that I have thought about for the last few weeks, that have gone round and round in my head, the ones where I have tried to be deep and super spiritual, but actually those answers wouldn’t be being true to myself. Because the answer I have is I don’t know. I simply don’t know.
But I do accept that there has to be a place for them. The church has to have a place for them. Because deep down, deep down where it hurts so painfully, I know Jesus has a place for them. He loves them, like He loves me.
Knowing that is not easy. Trust me. I don’t say it in a blasé way.
But it’s the truth.
I have to accept that these people have the right to be engaged with, supported and part of Gods Kingdom, like I do.
But I also have to accept that I do not have to everything and anything to everyone and anyone.
When I threw this topic out on to twitter a few weeks ago, I had a chat with Jon Beech who you can find here: @_jonb
I asked something on the lines of, how as a survivor should I/could I engage with offenders. His response startled me. I was not expecting it.
He asked back whether I should have to.
His point was: I cannot, and not have to engage with absolutely anyone and everyone I come across. I do not have to be all things to all people. I can’t be.
So I have to accept my limitations. Whilst accepting child abusers and offenders may have a place in my community, and probably already do, that I just don’t know about I have to accept I don’t HAVE to engage with them. And that unless God somehow struck me with lightening and convicted me in such a way that made clear that I was meant to, that actually I can keep myself safe.
At the top of Sara’s article on Threads, it says this in a blue box ‘ who has all the answers? Not us, that’s for sure. But ignoring the questions doesn’t make them go away’.
And that’s the truth. Who has all the answers? I certainly don’t, but the questions will not go away. So we must keep discussing them. We must keep talking about them. And we must be honest.
So, I bring this to an end, probably without writing about what I started out intending to. I am a Queen of tangents.
But rest assured, these topics are ones that roll around my head on a daily basis, and are never too far away from my thoughts, so if you ever want to join in the conversation with me, feel free to contact me. I’m open to all thoughts.
October 31, 2012
Most days I sign into here and I often glance over how people have ‘found’ my blog. Its often by googling something, and then they land here. And often the things people type are relating to surviving abuse, depression, church, mental health, self harm amongst other things.
Sometimes people land at Fragmentz by typing something like ‘is there hope …’. Is there hope for … a self harmer? A depressive? A survivor?
My response to those people is YES. LOTS. And I really hope by stumbling across this blog that those people who are typing those things are able to find hope in this space.
And that those people are also able to find hope in the life they are living.
Because there is hope. Maybe it is small grains of sand shaped hope, and maybe it might be something bigger. Maybe it is something very quiet, or something very loud.
But however big or small, quiet or loud there IS hope.
Whatever it is you are facing, whatever storm you are in the middle of, keep hanging on to hope.
If you are unwell with depression or other mental health issues: there IS hope.
If you a survivor of abuse and/or rape: there IS hope.
If you battle with self harm: there IS hope.
If you struggle with suicidal ideations: there IS hope.
If you are fighting to stay above the water, for whatever reason: there IS hope.
I believe this for you, if you are a Christian. I believe this for you if you are not a Christian.
However some of the searches people have typed and found my blog with, related to battling issues and Jesus. I truly believe Jesus still loves you, whether you are depressed or not. Whether your self harm or not. Whether you battle with God or not. Whether you are a survivor or not.
He loves you. And has a hope and a future for you.
One of the most important bible verses when it comes to hope, and my own life, is this:
Jeremiah 29 verse 11 – ’I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for’ (The Message)
Please know, wherever you are, whoever you are and whoever you believe in,
you are precious.
You are valuable.
You are beautiful.
There is a hope.
There is a future.
As I sat writing this blog, the last verse of a poem I wrote called ‘the whisper’ came into my mind. It is this :
As the years pass by, the scars never go, but begin to get lighter
She sits down, and watches life go by, and the sun getting brighter
And as she confronts all of the things in her life she fears
In the stillness the previous whisper of ‘I love you’ is all she hears.
I dont pretend there is an easy way for life to happen. There isnt. Life is tough. But please know and live in hope that brighter days can exist. That even though the memories never go, they can be lighter, things can be brighter.
Please know you precious, your are valuable, you are beautiful.
You are loved. Loved. LOVED.
October 28, 2012
I simply can not write a new blog without mentioning the previous one. So this is just a little blog as a response to that blog. The one just before this one that I’m typing right now. The ‘Some thoughts on Jimmy Savile, and being a Survivor‘ one.
It was a blog I wrote in reply to several weeks of press coverage, and several weeks of intense conversations with people, all over the place, from work to queues to twitter to all over.
It was a blog I wrote in the space of an hour, after several days of ‘attempting’ to put something into a coherent piece of writing. And then, all of a sudden, after being out and about one day, having a flu jab, meeting a friend for coffee, I got home, turned on the computer and there it was. In my head. And I just typed. My thoughts. On the Jimmy Savile eruption and being a survivor.
I pressed send, and as per usual tweeted that I had blogged.
Within the space of an hour, the blog had been RT’d (retweeted – for those not on twitter this means re posted by a twitter user so their followers can see it) by many people. And it continued in that way. So that by the next evening, 24 hours later that post had had more people read it than my whole site has ever since I very first started this site.
It was immense. I had emails, messages, tweets, RT’s, texts, and it continued to be passed around the blogosphere and twittersphere. I never could have imagined how many people would end up reading it. How many people are reading it. Even now, every day I get a regular stream of people coming by to Fragmentz to read that post.
I was also very honoured to have it included on the www.threadsuk.com site, which is a great space for articles written by twenty something christians on a really wide and varied range of topics so its definitely worth checking out sometime.
I never thought my little post, my little blog, my little piece of writing with some thoughts from ‘just me’, an unknown person who just tries to make a little dent in the world she lives in, would be so popular.
I also never thought the response would be so immense. That I would feel so overwhelmed by it. But it was. I did.
And so, I’d like to say thank you.
To every person who read it.
To every person who Rt’d, or emailed it, or passed it on to someone else for them to read.
Thank you to every single who took the time to engage with what I had written. Who responded. Who contacted me. Who texted me, emailed me, tweeted me. From the people who mean so much to me and have played/do play such a huge part in my life, to the people I have never connected with before and everyone in between.
Thank you to everyone who has been incredibly kind and supportive. To those on a deep and personal level and to those who have connected in other ways. I know there are some amazing people that surround me, that I could simply not do life without. So, again, thank you to you.
There have been several times when I have just cried from the simple emotional of feeling so valued and listened to. Because ingrained into the way I think about myself is that I am of no value and not worth listening to what so ever. Which on a rational level I know is not true, but programming your mind to totally think something completely opposite to what you have grown up with can be a challenge sometimes.
But I am growing, learning that is not true, developing and starting to raise my voice more and more. Over the years, as I have grown, been nurtured, been loved and supported and continue to be so, I have found that voice. My voice. The voice that is able to speak out, type out, talk out about my experiences.
And if by using the voice I now have, and am learning to use more and more, I can connect with people, raise awareness of the issues that are relevant to me, and so many other people then its worth it. Worth being vocal. Worth the emotional cost that can occur when you spend hours in a day talking about such emotive topics.
I have had the huge privilege of being able to connect with people who have contacted me over the last few months, and the last few weeks in response to things I have written here. Its an immense honour to be able to chat with them, have coffee, email, and talk with them. About the issues that effect them. Issues that have also affected me. And although I can offer no professional help, and don’t ever suggest I can, I can offer an ear. A tissue. I can walk along side their journey just like I have had and do have people who walk along side me in mine.
I have also had the huge privilege to have been contacted by/and to connect with people who have read my blog and have been challenged on their views of survivors/mental health issues and how society and the christian church responds to them.
And that is why I write. That is why ‘www.fragmentz.org’ exists.
If one person can feel less alone because of something they have read here, or because they have been able to connect with someone else who has been abused, and survived, who has tried to die, but survived, who has depression but is surviving, then deep down in my heart it makes me realise that good IS starting to be weaved out of some of the most traumatic events in my life. If one person has been challenged and is able to go away and then start speaking out themselves, and raising awareness of the issues then that IS good starting to be weaved out of the traumatic too.
I do not believe for one moment, any more, that God intended/created it all to happen so something good could come out of it. Not at all. BUT I do believe that out of chaos, deep deep pain, black living and darkness, God will eventually weave it together and bring something good out of it. And I cling on to that. That hope.
And so that is my hope with this whole blog space. That is/was my hope with the blog about being a survivor and the Jimmy Savile thing. That by writing and sharing, something, however big or small would come out of it. And it feels like it has.
So, to everyone who has contributed to sharing it, so that people have found it who have in turn then felt less alone or been able to start raising awareness of these topics themselves, Thank you.
October 13, 2012
The most talked about topic of discussion in my work place for the last few weeks has been Jimmy Savile. In fact, the most talked about ‘current affairs’ topic I have talked about full stop has been Jimmy Savile. It is what everyone is talking about. Even sat waiting in the Dr’s surgery earlier for my flu jab, were two little ladies sat discussing it. Discussing the ‘story’. The accusations. The revelations of the alleged, but now as the Met seem to suggest, not so alleged abuse. And those revelations have been coming out, thick and fast and as the days go by they seem to increase. So I thought I would try and coherently type out a few thoughts. I have had some passionate online conversation in various places, including Twitter, and have heard many many views/opinions spoken. Some sensible ones, some sad ones, some shocking ones and some unbelievable ones. But opinions never the less.
As always, when I write, I will say I am not an expert. Because I am not. Nor am I anyone who many people take any notice of. I am just a little drop in a big ocean who is finding her way through life and who likes to write as a way to process and say what I am thinking. What I have to say on this issue may not be relevant to anyone/anything. In fact it is most likely not to be. That is fine.
As said above, I’m not an expert. And thats true. And I start with saying that, but I don’t always start with what I am. And what I am is a survivor. A survivor of childhood abuse, from people within my family, and people around me. I was seriously bullied at secondary school at the same time as trying to deal with being abused as a primary school aged child. As a teen I was also, on top of the other abuse as a younger child and bullying, physically (violently) abused by another member of family. So I am a survivor. I am also a survivor of a totally unrelated ‘assault’ as an adult, one day whilst walking down a street I often walked down, in daylight.
I am a survivor of ‘trying to die’ because roughly 5 years ago life was so hard and tough that I felt there was no other option or way out. I am a survivor of hard knocks. I am a survivor who is learning to live again, learning to laugh again, learning to love again. And learning to be loved. Its a long process and I am always and forever grateful to those people who are in my life/choose to stay in my life and continue the process with me. Its not an easy one sometimes.
I am learning to live in hope. I am also learning that I can be a voice. Someone who can speak out. Someone who can tweet, write, talk, share and hopefully raise an awareness of what ‘surviving’ is like, whether that is surviving abuse, or surviving mental health illness. And as I continue to learn to keep growing as a person, and keep living in hope, I am learning to use the voice that I have. To speak out, to be that person who can potentially make a difference to someone, anyone (this is why I am not so worried about blog ‘stats’ – because if one person feels they are not alone by my sharing on here, then it is worth it). I am learning to, want to and try to be someone who IS able to speak out, on behalf of those who are not. And those who are not able to are many. More than you can ever imagine. And I used to be one of them.
One of the main reasons I got to the point of being suicidal (aside from the abuse) was the fact that I was unable to talk. To speak to anyone. To let anyone know the pain I was in. The hurt. The anger. The shame. The guilt. How could I possibly sit in front of someone, who would potentially judge, potentially tell me not to be silly, potentially tell me to ‘not worry about it’, to ‘get over it’, to ‘forget about it’. How could I, as a child possibly tell the people around me what was being done to me. The very person who was hurting me was an ‘outstanding member of the community, with an exemplary military service record and so on …’.
So, it has been interesting, and quite hard at times to hear peoples views of the victims of Jimmy Savile. The Jimmy Savile who for years was ‘held in high esteem’ for his charity work, his brilliant television career and other things. (If you have no idea who I am actually on about, and the kind’s of work/volunteer/fundraising stuff he did, google him). The Met Police released a statement in the last few days calling him a predatory child abuser. That gives the impression that there is no doubt that he carried out these alleged crimes. I can not possibly write all the accusations that have been revealed. The fine details of the case. But if you want to know more, just google, or go to one of the UK’s newspaper sites. Or the BBC. Its all there. The whole story gets more and more shocking and sadder as the days go by.
There has been much conversation about the ‘insitutions’ that Jimmy Savile was involved with. For example his involvement and work for the BBC. The hospitals, and schools that he fundraised for/volunteered with on his days off. Much of the earlier conversations I was involved with/heard was a conversation of disbelief. ‘What? Jimmy Savile? No! Don’t be silly. Not Jimmy Savile. Not the children’s/teen’s programme presenter. Not the fundraiser. Not the charity worker. Don’t be silly. Anyway, even if he did do something ‘dubious’ they (the victims) probably asked for it anyway’.
When I first, very first heard this break, I was horrified. Shocked, in a non shocked way. Shocked, because as a child, I idolised Jimmy Savile. The weird guy who wore odd shell suits, on TV, fixing up the world for children. I idolised him, and what he did. I wanted to write to him. For him to come and ‘fix’ my world for me. To ‘fix’ my problems. To ‘fix’ anything I wanted. I wanted him to be my second Grandad. He was amazing. As I grew up, got older, I became aware of him being an eccentric old man. I would never have thought ‘Jimmy Savile’ and ‘child abuser’ in the same sentence. Never in a million years. Yet, when I heard the news, at the same time as being shocked, I was not shocked. Because it is all so plausible. All so real. All so credible. And whats more, people who abuse can be anyone. Absolutely anyone. Including the powerful, rich and famous. In fact, those people are able to better disguise what they are doing. Better able to keep it away from the public, from prying eyes, and much more able to ‘pay people off’ if anything ever was muttered that was not favourable to them.
So, I fully believe it. I fully believe the victims. Because they need believing. They need, for once, at last, someone to say ‘yes, we will stand with you’.
Two of the ‘views’ I have heard a lot of this week have been ‘well why didn’t they report it back then’. ‘Why didn’t they just say ‘no”.
Because as the case has continued on, it would appear that some of these people were braver than I ever was as a child. They did report it. And yet were still ignored. The power and money of Jimmy Savile proved more than anyone was able to contend with. So what does that say to the others? Those who were unable to (understandably) find that voice to speak out, what does that say to them? Nothing whatsoever encouraged those who were unable to initally speak out, then to do so.
As for the second point. Anyone who utters the words ‘why didn’t they just say no’ truly does not have any understanding of how abuse works. Its not so easy as ‘just saying no’. ‘No’ does not work. ‘No’ has no power when you are being raped.
I have been quite shocked at times to hear the vitriol towards the victims. Another question thrown out a lot has been ‘well why did they wait until he was dead’.
My response? – They didn’t. There are records, investigations, programmes made that were shelved. Police starting to look into things and then mysteriously stopping. They did not ‘just wait until he was dead’. Many of them tried to speak out before he was dead.
From what I have read and seen, and understand, Mark Williams Thomas who is a child protection expert, and private investigator was the guy who ‘heard a rumour’ soon after JS’s death, and began to look into it. He then made a documentary, after speaking to one person he knew of. That then led him to the many other woman. My understanding, of the moment, in the documentary where he said ‘he then was lead to other victims’ suggests that he dug. He approached people. He made it clear what he was doing. And this gave courage and power to those people who have been victims of JS.
Imagine you are sitting in your school class, and you get called out by your head teacher. There is someone well known in the town, lets say the Mayor for example, who just happens to be rich, famous, and very well known and popular. They take you in to a room, and rape you. Abuse you. They are twice the size of you, and although you do say no, you scream, you kick, you try to get away they are able to overpower you. Hold you down. And they tell you that if you ever utter a word to anyone, you and your family will be made to suffer. Killed. Or you will be ignored. Not believed, and your life will be hell. They tell you that you are a slut, you asked for it, and deserve it. They tell you that is what people will say and think if you breathe a word. Imagine being so traumatised by what has happened, and so scared of it happening again that you have to do what they say. You have no choice. You are so ashamed of yourself, you spend your evenings scrubbing your skin, trying to get the dirt out of your body, carving your body to release some of the feelings inside of you. Your life is never going to be the same again. You turn on the television, and on the news there you see your head teacher and the Mayor. The Mayor has just fundraised and donated millions of pounds for a new tech facility at the school. The crowds are there. Its amazing. Everyone is talking about how fantastic these two people are. But you, you know different. You know what they did to you. But who do you tell? What will they do to you if they find out? Who is going to believe you? You have no idea that they are doing this to several girls in your class. Because, they like you, fear these two big powerful men. They too, like you dare not speak a word, because, hey, who would believe a 14 year old teenager who has been in a little trouble, like any teenager.
So you don’t say anything. Neither do the other girls. No one does. They get away with it for years, while you some how have to work out how to live. You get a job, start a family, live life. But the memories never go away. And then one day, in the paper you find out the Mayor has died (the Head teacher did years back). And you hear a little rumour that someone is talking about … apparently they used to rape young people. And then you realise this thing is so much bigger than anything you ever realised. And as an adult, who now has a voice, who now has nothing to fear because they are dead are able to, for the first time in your life speak out.
You realise there are many more people out there like you. More victims. And you are able to find courage to say what happened to you. To back others up. To add to the chorus of people speaking out, raising awareness.
Imagine that is you.
Would you have acted any differently?
I dont know if you would have.
I dont know if I would have.
But I certainly don’t blame or think that the victims were wrong to not be able to speak out back then.
And we must remember those who did. And who were ignored.
Which is what I think this current investigation will start revealing more information on.
WHY were those people who did speak out ignored?
WHY were people who were in positions of authority back then, and then continued to be in high powered places not say anything.
WHY was this allowed to happen?
So many questions. So many thoughts. So many views and opinions and so so much more that I could write about. Discuss. Talk about. Mention.
But what I would like to end with, for now, as I may well come back to this again sometime, is please don’t forget the victims. In all of the talk, the chit chat, please don’t forget that out there are people, woman, and maybe men who are victims.
People who have had what can only be described as the worse possibly life changing abuse perpetrated against them.
Whether we think they ‘should have spoken out sooner’ or whether we accept that they were unable to for the various reasons outlined roughly above, and the many other reasons that I probably have not even touched upon, whether we think they are ‘out for the money (which incidentally is going to be extraordinarily hard and very doubtful for them to get) or whether we think they are very brave people who have found strength because of circumstance, because of the fact that they are no longer afraid, and because other people are speaking out they are able to voice their experiences, please remember they are the victims.
They are the victims who, at the time and most likely for many years after felt so alone, now have found out they are with others. Others are with them. They are not alone.
Let us stand and let them know that. Because being a survivor can be a very lonely place to be.
My friend, Concetta who is an amazing Mosaic artist has a wonderful website at glitteringshards.com and she also wrote a blog on this, which was very moving, tear inducing and beautiful. Please read it heres if you have the chance.
Please know, if you are a survivor, you are not alone. You are not guilty. It was not your fault.
October 13, 2012
This is a photo I took while visiting Crosby Beach, Liverpool and seeing the ‘Another Place’ installations by Antony Gormley. I took a set of photo’s, one of which I framed and gave to the friends I was staying with and who are some of the most amazing people in my life, and then I kept some.
This is one of the one’s I kept. I periodically look at them, and remember the beauty of the place. The day we went was cool, calm and collected. The lighting on the sea was stunning, and as the tide came in, it covered many of the figures, and at many times it looked like people standing, in the midst of the water.
I look at these images, and each and every time they say something different to me.
What does this one say to you?
© Fragmentz Feb 2008
September 10, 2012
‘What is it like to be accidentally alive on purpose?’
Someone asked me that on twitter last week having stumbled across my blog and some of the posts I have made.
What a brilliant question. Its been a little while since someone has asked me something that has felt so deep, something I so desperately wanted to respond to with an answer immediately, yet that I also had to go away and consider.
My initial response was this ‘scary yet wildly exhilarating and exciting’. And whilst I have tried and tried over the last few days to come up with something as deep in response, I have not been able to. The only answer I have been able to come up with, and continue to come up with is that. Its scary. Yet it is exciting and exhilarating.
The reason they asked that was because they read something I had written a bit back, that talked about ’4 years since …’. Because 4 years ago, I wanted to die. Seriously wanted to die. In fact I was devastated that I didn’t when I tried to.
If you look back into my blog (you wont have to go that deep) you will find various writings which talk about that experience. That desire and longing to be dead.
That feeling of hopelessness, darkness and complete brokenness.
It was inconceivable that anything could or would change. My heart had broken and it felt like it would and could never be fixed, mended, put back together again.
Why am I writing about this again? Because today is World Suicide Prevention Day 2012.
You may have seen people tweeting about it, face booking, blogging. I have been truly moved by the many many different things I have read today. Peoples experiences, lives and families.
Every year on the 10th September is the World Suicide Prevention Day. And this year marks the 10th anniversary of that day. 10 years of research, prevention and education.
For more information on this and the organisation its ran by check out World Suicide Prevention Day
Here are some points made about suicide from their website:
* Data from the World Health Organization indicate that approximately one million people worldwide die by suicide each year.
This corresponds to one death by suicide every 40 seconds
* Suicide is one of the leading causes of death among the young
* Suicide is estimated to be under-reported for multiple reasons including stigma, religious concerns and social attitudes.
* Suicide affects everyone, but some groups are at higher risk than others
In just those few things are some really worrying and sad statements. True though. And so today serves as a day to remember those who have died, those who are considering it, and those who have come through it. It is a day to remember and think about those who have been effected by it, even if they themselves have not attempted suicide. Because for every person these facts suggest, is a family. Is someone who loves them, knows them, has at some point been in contact with them, and therefor are also affected.
As I wrote several years ago, on this day, in 2010, before I ever got to a point in my own life where suicide felt like the only option, I had already come into contact with it. Already knew someone who, when I was a young person, and they were my youth leader, felt their life could not go on. And it didnt. They hung themselves. I’ll remember to this day, that day we got a phone call to tell us he had died that morning. I was a teenager. His wife was left, with two young children. His parents were left. His family, friends. It affects everyone.
Today serves to raise awareness. Of the issues. Of the fact that so many people out there live in darkness, real torment. A life of no turning around. No where to run. No where to hide. No where o seek solace. No where to find peace. No where to find rest. There is no choice for them. Actually, there is, one choice, the only choice. To die. For then may their souls finally be still.
We must begin to/continue to speak out about this issue. Not be frightened to address it. Not be scared to utter ‘suicide’. We must bring it to the forefront of conversation. We must not be scared to open up the ‘box’ so to speak, and to allow people to explore the topic. We need to be aware.
As some of you who follow my twitter feed may remember a few months ago I spoke in an evening service at church. And I was frustrated, and hurt more than frustrated by the criticism I received straight after by the minister for mentioning ‘suicide’. I spoke about a different theme but mixed in with that some of my own story, to which I bought up the fact I had wanted to die. He had felt in ‘inappropiate’ because some young people 15/18 year olds were in the room who have had a family member commit suicide when they were very young. The young people themselves were fine. The vicar wasn’t. My impression was that he was uncomfortable with it. Which has been my experience of church generally. Whether thats because they choose to be uncomfortable with it, or because lack of knowledge and understanding leads them into fear, I don’t know, but I do know it needs to change.
We must not/cant be afraid to talk about it. We must change perception and stigma.
And today is part of that. Its been moving to see people posting many things online, and to see a movement of people coming together with one focus in mind. To raise awareness or suicide and the prevention of it.
What we must make sure of though, is that today is not a stand alone day. That those people who have tweeted, written, talked about and passionately ‘involved’ themselves in the conversation continue to do so after today.
For people like myself, and others affected, it does not go away after ‘one day’.
I was really moved to see a friends picture of her wrist today. With many other people, she marked her wrist with the word ‘Love’. As a sign of solidarity. Thanks Jasmine for letting me share this here. So simple yet so moving.
Lets keep moving on with this issue. With trying to understand it, and working out how we can support those people around us who feel there is no option other than the final end.
August 30, 2012
I Am Returning To You.
I am returning to you,
with all of my heart,
with all that I am,
I am turning to you.
I am returning to you.
I am returning to you,
you have always been on my mind,
and have never drifted far away,
from the complicated space that is my mind.
I am turning to you.
I am returning to you.
I am returning to you,
because I remember when I first fell in love,
with you, your kindness, your beauty.
and for a moment I felt that again.
I am turning to you.
I am returning to you.
I am returning to you,
for my soul longs for your arms,
to be wrapped round tightly, never letting go,
comforting, consoling, loving.
I am turning to you.
I am returning to you.
I am returning to you,
for when the blackest clouds closed in,
there was nothing to see or feel,
but learning to live again is happening.
I am turning to you.
I am returning to you.
I am returning to you,
for even when I screamed profanities at you,
still your remained there,
never did you go anywhere.
I am turning to you.
I am returning to you.
I am returning to you,
make me into what you want,
help me to live a life,
that means something to someone, to you.
I am turning to you.
I am returning to you.
July 10, 2012
A few months back, I had a few quid in ITUNES vouchers. When it comes to music I’m pretty eclectic. Listen to all sorts. And my collection of ‘Christian’ music – whatever that is – is pretty limited. So I asked for some suggestions/recommendations. One of the responses was to tell me about Joy Williams. The suggestion was her album ‘Genesis’. It is an amazing album.
The album has several incredibly powerful songs, and this is one of them. It so resonates with me deeply in many ways.
Here are the lyrics. Do they mean anything to you?
Hide by Joy Williams
To anyone who hides behind a smile
To anyone who holds their pain inside
To anyone who thinks they’re not good enough
To anyone who feels unworthy of love
To anyone who ever closed the door
Closed their eyes and locked themselves away
You don’t have to hide
You don’t have to hide anymore
You don’t have to face this on your own
You don’t have to hide anymore
So come out, come out, come out wherever you are
To anyone who’s tryin’ to cover up their scars
To anyone who’s ever made a big mistake
We’ve all been there, so don’t be ashamed
Come out, come out and join the rest of us
You’ve been alone for way too long
And if you feel like no one understands
Come to the One with scars on His hands
‘Cause He knows where you are, where you’ve been
His scars will heal you if you let Him
June 18, 2012
‘Happy Fathers Day Dads! AND to all those who take on the role. Have a fab day x’
‘My biological father was and probably still is (who knows) a violently abusive person, and the kind that makes me pleased divorce exists.’
June 12, 2012
Ever been in one of those situations, be it a social one, or some other kind where you are meeting new people … and after the weather, marriage status and a few other small talk topics, the big one of ‘what do you do for work’ comes up …?
Yeah? Me too …
Ever been in the situation, where you asked the question first … ‘So, what is it you do …?’. And the responses vary. ‘I’m a teacher/doctor/lawyer/estate agent/youth worker/fireman (the list could go on) … what about you, what do you do?’.
There, theres ‘that’ moment … the moment where they ask the question back. So you squirm, stutter a bit and whisper out ‘Well, erm, I’m just a care assistant in a nursing home”
Ever been you? Maybe or maybe not … I don’t always know who reads this blog, so therefor I don’t know what kind of job roles are covered by us all but I’m pretty sure we’re not all Care Assistants.
In fact, as I write this now, I am currently not a ‘Care Assistant’ although I still work within the care/nursing home care system as an Activities/Pastoral Co-ordinator. I have however, for the last 5 years been a Care Assistant, and before I went to live in London for the time I was there, I also was involved in care (with adults with Learning Disabilities).
When I worked as a Care Assistant, I held the view that all I was was ‘JUST’ a carer. As I said above, it is what I would mutter to people when asked what I did. And the responses I got would vary. Mostly the responses were ones that made you realise people did not really understand what the job you did entailed. And also, you would get the impression it didnt hold much in their eyes. After all, in general terms, thats what society see’s you as … ‘JUST a care assistant’. In fact, more often or not (I will point out here before everyone jumps on me and says I am being stereotypical, there are some exceptions, a few) it is what even alot of Managers/Care Home owners/top people of the big corporate companies who own alot of homes around the country, think of their staff. They are ‘just’ the care assistants. Its is fair to say that working conditions and pay certainly reflect that attitude.
However, as I climbed the ladder slightly, and became a Senior Care Leader and part of the Senior Care Management Team I began to feel the responsibility of building up my staff seriously. Having been in their shoes, having worked the floor, having done the shifts they do, and having dealt with the things they do on a daily basis, I KNEW they were not ‘JUST’ anything. They were and are not ‘JUST’ Care Assistants. I didn’t want my staff doing what I did. Seeing them selves as ‘Just’ this … because they were and are more than that. They ARE Care Assistants. They assist people with their care. What a huge thing to do?!
They are the people who turn up to work their shift early in the morning, in the middle of the day, and late at night. They are the people who through the night, through the bank holidays, through special days such as Christmas and Easter (without so much as an extra bonus/or extra pay for doing so).
They are the people who work often in crap conditions, with crap pay – most Care Assistants earn no more than the minimum wage all year round. No pension. No sick pay (except for Stat Sick Pay) – (I’d like to point out at this point, that I am talking about Care Assistants who work for the Private Healthcare Companies that own most of the Nursing Homes/Care Homes in this country). I’m sure/know people who work for other national organisations and complain about its conditions/pay/pensions etc, but I see them as lucky for being paid above min wage, for having a pension and for getting paid if sick)
Care Assistants are the people who often drop what ever it is they are doing on their day off to go into work when they get the phone call.
Care Assistants are the people that the residents/patients see first thing in the morning, and last thing at night.
They are the people who assist people who need it, in their every living need. From getting out of bed in the morning, often using heavy equipment (if accessible) for those who need it, to holding hands with the person who needs gentle encouragement to get up.
They are the people who assist said residents/patients in getting washed. Top to toe, including assisting them to the bathroom or with their personal hygiene needs. They are the people who comb hair, brush teeth/dentures and put them in, shave the men (with either an electric razor or a wet shave!), assist ladies in putting on their lipstick, do up buttons of shirts, get out matching clothes for the resident/patient, make beds, ensure rooms are tidy. They are the people who ensure the patient/resident is well dressed, clean, tidy and comfortable/settled and happy.
Care Assistants are the people who do that very thing for multiple people in the space of a very short time, whilst still trying to make it person centred, focussed on the individual and not rushing, despite the fact they know they have x amount of other residents to also get up/assist with all the above before breakfast.
They are the people who still have to carry out the same role and duties whether they have the correct amount of staff on, or whether they are short staffed which is often the case.
Then comes breakfast. Care Assistants are the people who assist those who cannot eat and drink by them selves to eat and drink. (This includes breakfast but also mid morning drinks/snacks, lunch, mid afternoon snacks/drinks, tea, and evening snacks and drinks. And if they are not assisting a resident to actually eat or drink then they are taking out the trolleys and trays to other residents who can eat and drink themselves but who need their meals/drinks taking to them wherever they are, be it the dining room, lounge or their bedrooms.)
After breakfast Care Assistants are the people who then continue to assist multiple people to get up … right up until lunch time. Some people choose to get up late. Some stay in bed all the time, and so are assisted with personal cares throughout the morning.
During the time between breakfast and lunch, as well as continuing to get residents up/washed/dressed/cared for personally, they are also making beds, making sure things are tidy, and trying to carry out the ‘bath’ rota. This means thats each and every resident is assisted in having a bath. On a regular basis. Some are residents who can go in a bath, with the aid of hoists, and some need to be ‘bed bathed’. This can take any thing up to 30 mins to an hour for one resident, depending on their needs.
Did I mention the bells? Maybe not … but now is a good time. Each and every resident has a call bell system, which enables them to ‘call’ a member of staff at any time they need one. And each member of staff has a bleep, that alerts them to the fact that ‘Mr Z’ in Room 100097453 is ringing for assistance. Who knows what Mr Z needs … maybe he would like to go to bathroom, maybe he would like a cup of tea, maybe he would like to make a phone call, maybe he would like to chat. Maybe he would like assistance in some other shape or form. Or maybe he has fallen or is feeling unwell. Care Assistants are the people who, at the same time as bathing other residents, at the same time as assisting people to eat their meals, at the same time as making beds and trying to assist people to get up, have to also answer these bells, as and when they ring, as quickly as they possibly can. And ring they can. On a very very regular basis.
Care Assistants, are the people, whom after lunch carry on with the ‘routine’ of assisting people with bathing and personal care. Assisting people the toilet, ensure people are settled, comfortable and clean and dry.
Care Assistants are the people who have to ensure very poorly residents are ‘turned’ (for people who are in bed all of the time) on a regular basis, often an hourly one.
Care Assistants are the people who have to take the clinical waste outside at the end of a shift, sort out the laundry accumulated throughout the day, sign books, ensure records from the day are up to date.
Care Assistants have to make sure at all times that every health and safety issue is carefully observed. They are the people who have to make sure lounges and corridors are tidy and clear of obstruction. They are the people who are called upon by other staff such as the domestics to unblock toilets if need be, or to pick up other things that may have been found around that others wont touch.
They are the people who answer the phone when the nurse/manager is not around, and they are the people who have to answer the door bell every time it rings. They are the people who have to offer visitors drinks (then go make the drinks), and show people who have never been in the building before around.
Care Assistants are the people who escort residents to appointments, be it doctors, dentists, opticians or the hospital. Sometimes they are the people who take a resident into town because the want to do some shopping.
Care Assistants are the people who care for patients and residents as they are dying. They try and deal with every need possible that needs dealing with, for all residents, dying or not, from personal care to emotional care. However when someone is in their last days, they often need much more intense assistance.
Care Assistants are the people who talk with and build relationships with the residents/and their families. They are the people who sit with them as they die (although, in my particular place there are some dedicated members of staff who do this so Care Assistants dont have to, however if those dedicated staff members are off on holidays, sick, days off, it is the Care Assistants who pick up that role).
Care Assistants are the people who provide what is seen as the last possible care available to someone who has died. They spend time with the deceased person, washing them, ensuring they are comfortable, for family to visit if they want, if not, ready for the undertakers to arrive.
Care Assistants are the people who sometimes sit in stunned silence in the staff room or the office when someone has died, pondering what it means to be alive, what it means to die, and what it means to do the job we do. They are the people who shed a tear, or a few, but behind closed doors, so when they go back on to the ‘floor’ they are smiling.
Care Assistants are the people who work a job role that is not exhaustive. There is no end to it. No end to the list that is their ‘job description’. They are expected to and do anything that is required of them to ensure the ‘running’ of the home they are working in, and to ensure residents/patients are cared for.
I could sit and write all night of the different jobs a Care Assistant may find themselves faced with, but I hope I have managed to highlight just a few above.
Care Assistants are the people whose role is very often not understood. They are people who others often think are ‘JUST’ Care Assistants. I can promise you they are not. They are people working a job that is often very badly misrepresented. Misrepresented by the media/the press. You hear/see the bad stories, yes, and I don’t deny that those people need to be bought to justice, however it can often paint a target on the back of those who genuinely care. I’ve gotten into several twitter debates with people keen to tar us all with the same brush. I don’t deny the problems. They do exist. But often those problems stem not from the Care Assistants, but from what has become ‘private healthcare’ where profit is often more important than care.
I can assure you, for every bad penny in the care industry, there are thousands and thousands of people who work a job that they don’t do for the money (you can get paid much more working as a shelf stacker in a supermarket, not to mention pensions and sick pay) but the do for love of the job. For love of the people they care for. For love of wanting to try and make a difference in the lives of those who are not able to care for themselves. For the love of loving other people.
And having worked the role for many years, and now, although I am currently one stepped removed, I’m still very close to the role and the people who work it, I cant express enough how much respect I have for those people who ARE Care Assistants.
You are not JUST anything. You are valued. By the people you care for. By me.