I am a survivor of extremely severe ritualistic childhood abuse and sadistic systematic torture. This blog has helped me get my voice back and documents the journey I'm on to heal from the trauma and damage caused by that appalling abuse. Now is the time for me to tell of MY experience by speaking the truth about MY life. I will be silenced no more! On this blog I share MY life, MY healing journey; helpful quotes/stuff I come across and MY thoughts along the way. The more I speak out the more liberated I am from the shame and trauma of the abuse. My broken wings are gradually being repaired. Without God in my life I wouldn't still be here. But somehow, I keep on staying alive, surviving and rarely, occasionally, living a little!

Monday, 29 January 2018

THE 32ND ANNIVERSARY

This weekend saw the 32nd anniversary of me being beaten up and left for dead by my parents back in 1986. 

I am amazed that I am still here, that I am still alive somehow and that I am managing to live a little, not just exist, even if it only happens fleetingly. 

I had a migraine all weekend and my sleep has been severely disrupted. There is so much tension in my body and entire system. I really don't know what to do with myself.  I also don't know what I think or feel about it at the moment but it is important for me to acknowledge the anniversary, and the hugeness of it. 

I may not know how I think or feel but my body sure does and it is telling me what a massive traumatic turn of events it was for me.

The bizarre thing I do have to acknowledge is that it did physically free me from the abuse they subjected me too.  It brought 20 years of abuse to a sudden abrupt end. It left me totally alone in the world but it also made me safe for the first time in my life.

Although they stalked me for years afterwards, trying to control my life from afar, trying to constantly remind me who was really in control. It took me 20 years to finally get free of them, but I eventually managed it.  

Changing my name was the best thing I have ever done for myself, and I am really proud of that.

I am also immensely proud that I broke my silence and went to the police even though that did not lead to convictions. 

But I do take great delight and comfort in the fact that they do not know who knows what about them and about what they did. 

That gave me back some sense of control and continues to remind me that I am in control now. I am free of them although I am not free of the effects of the abuse in my life. I will be dealing with the effects and impacts of the abuse for the rest of my life. But I am safe now and no longer carry the weight of terrible secrets and the crippling shame that came along with those secrets.

So against all the odds I somehow continue to stay alive. I continue the healing work and I continue surviving and learning to live a little. Most of all I am at peace with myself in a way I never have been up until now. That, 32 years on is progress and something to shout about.

SAGE ANNIVERSARY

The first anniversary of starting SAGE was on 11th January. 

It was really nice to recognise how good it feels to have 5 wonderful women in my life who would not be part of my life had it not been for the SAGE group. 

That first year has come round really quickly, the way it ended still hurts. But I am proud that I did the group and stuck the entire process. I can recognise progress which resulted from the group experience, even if it is impacted by the poor ending.

CHRISTMAS 2017

I had an absolutely fantastic Christmas in Holland and Germany. In fact Christmas 2017 is up there as one of my best Christmas-es ever, if not the best ever. 

I had a bit of a blip during Boxing Day afternoon and evening after being triggered by events outside my control. I was on a downer for several hours and could not pull myself out of my triggered state. It was really horrible and I could have done with it not having happened but it did not wreck my Christmas. 

Overall, I think it is no exaggeration to think that, emotionally and mentally, I maybe had my best Christmas ever.

I also really enjoyed the company of two lovely women who were also beautiful human beings with whom I surprisingly found myself feeling relatively safe and whose company enriched my Christmas and my life too. 

I came away from the holiday with loads of happy memories, and for once, most of those memories are not mostly of solitary activities. 

It was a Christmas of winging it, taking loads of risks and finding myself being mostly rewarded for those risks I took. I surprised myself recognising the risks but also enjoying being less solitary than usual.



Sunday, 19 November 2017

I'm Still Here

It's been a strange couple of months with me back in survival mode doing whatever it takes to stay alive and keep going. 

The ending of the SAGE group which was a shockingly poorly handled total farce. It knocked me sideways and I've been finding it impossible to get past the trauma of that which triggered me big time and left me actively suicidal and wondering why I ever thought doing SAGE was a good idea.

October is historically an awful time for me to negotiate, especially as the end of the month and transition into November. And this year was no different probably made harder by what had preceded it and I completely lost 3 days to dissociation during the last week of October.

My mental health support has settled down. For now my Care Co-ordinator is doing a good job of holding things together and reassuring me she wants to make sure I feel supported. It's still impossible for me to really trust the system and I'm waiting for the next time she goes off sick and hoping she doesn't, which is horrible. But still I do feel a little supported and encouraged by how she has responded to what happened earlier in the year.

I am still suicidal but not actively so - I have no plans to do anything but it's really hard to shake that inner voice which says "well you're going to, it's inevitable, you will die by suicide, so why not just get it out of the way". Thankfully I have a strong survivor in me who manages to over-ride all that stuff and give me reasons, some very tenuous, but still reasons to keep going. 

And in to the mix has come the DWP. I've just received my PIP claim review form. It's soul destroying to know that after putting my heart and soul in to the form it will be a toss of a coin as to what happens to my PIP claim, I could lose everything, keep everything, lose some of it, and somewhere along the way I may well be lied about.  I have 2-hour appointment on 29th Nov booked with the CAB to fill in the form, it's good to have their support! And so it begins... what I will be put through is unknown. I just hope I'm not as traumatised by the process as I was 2-years ago. I am hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.

So I'm still here, looking forward to putting the Christmas decorations up, visiting Christmas markets and counting down to my Christmas trip to Holland.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

DEALING WITH MENTAL HEALTH SYSTEM

The last few months I have found myself yet again, for the umpteenth time with no support from mental health services due to staff illness and other staffing issues.

In March I was moved to a new care co-ordinator who was on a permanent contract and in post to work intensely with people who've been diagnosed with personality disorders. I was moved to this worker because my current care co-ordinator could not give me the level of support I needed post SAGE.

I had 6 appointments with her, it was going well, I had the feeling along the lines of this is someone who I feel I can do great work with. Then I had 2 cancelled appointments during the first half of June. Then middle of June I got a phone call informing me that she had left and was not going to be replaced. That left me feeling deeply depressed, not valued by the system and uncertain as to what all the meant for me going forward.

To not replace her was the fatal error. I can understand why they didn't, how it was easier to save money by not replacing her but that shows a short-sightedness which is endemic at all levels of mental health care at the moment.

At this time I had my final appointment with my SAGE support worker who had massive concerns and said she would send a strongly worded email stating that the failure to give me extra support is hugely impacting on my mental health and that I needed solid support as soon as possible. 

Next I found myself reverted back to the care co-ordinator who couldn't give me the support I needed. At that time she was doing training and said she's be in touch once she finished training. I heard nothing for nearly a month which seriously did my head in. By now it is late July. Then out of the blue in mid August I had a call from her saying I'm back from leave, I've had an email from SAGE stating you need extra support. 

Well thank you for NOT informing me you were going on leave immediately after finishing that training. Aargh!!!

We made an appointment for the following Friday. She did not ask me if I was ok or needed help during that phone call.

The following Friday came and I had a message from the admin team informing me that my appointment was cancelled because my worker was off sick.

So at this point, the last support appointment I had with the team was 26th May 2017.

On 3rd August I had a call from the manager requesting an appointment with me. I met him on 7th August. He said he was there to reassure me. It felt like a charm offensive to me. He categorically stated that my worker has stated she will return to work 14th August and that he would email her to say get in contact with Fi as soon as possible, sooner rather than later.

14th August came and went with no contact as did the 15th and I thought she's not bloody come back to work has she! On the 16th I got a letter from the manager stating that my worker is not at work indefinitely and that if I needed support to phone duty or the Samaritans or the Crisis Team. It was a very cold impersonal letter which undid all the good of our meeting on the 7th.

The other issue with the letter is that it states clearly in my care plan that if my worker is off sick Duty is not an appropriate level of care to offer me. Obviously that care plan is not worth the paper it's printed on nor the effort that went in to it.

So yet again I have to fire fight a mental health system which is not fit for purpose, deal with that fact that yet again I have no support because of the crap system and have had to put on hold post SAGE processing for the time being which is very annoying and is having a detrimental effect upon my mental health.


Muddling Through

The last few months have been one heck of a roller coaster. 

I'm slowly getting used to live beyond SAGE. And I am really enjoying the connections I've made online with some other members of the SAGE group. That means so much to me.

Adapting to the positive changes in me resulting from SAGE has been very difficult, and maybe harder than dealing with negative stuff because I know how to deal with the negative stuff, I don't know what to do with the positive stuff, it is a brand new experience.

For instance finding that the ultra fiercely independent Fi who didn't need nobody has found that actually Fi really does needs others, needs the social connection and the interactions. That was a tremendous shock and is taking a huge amount of energy processing.

I've found that I am communicating with much more clarity and have in mind what information I will give away and that which I won't and my reasons for that. So my boundaries in communication are much better than they were.

I've also gone from being numb to being able to feel, and feel really deeply. That too has been a shock.

Getting used to a Fi who thinks, feels and communicates very differently is seismic! Coping with, and adjusting to, what those wide ranging new thoughts are like and feeling so much on so many levels is going to take a lot of getting used to.


Thursday, 29 June 2017

ADJUSTING TO SAGE ENDING

It's 13 weeks since my last SAGE group therapy session. I am very slowly adjusting to SAGE not being there any more and to missing the wonderful women I had such a privilege to work with. I'm getting used to how it feels and not feeling quite to raw about it. The deep sense of loss is lessening a bit. 

About a month ago a couple of women from the group found me on Facebook.  At first I was a bit thrown by that and wondered if I wanted to be in touch in that way. It took me about 4 days to realise that yes I did want to be in touch with them. That challenged all the programming inside me that said they wouldn't want to know me outside of the group. There are now 4 out of the 6 group members now in touch on Facebook. It makes such a difference knowing they are there.


Sunday, 30 April 2017

THE SAGE GROUP THERAPY

Following up on my post in Dec 16 I've now completed the specialist childhood sexual abuse therapy group. It ran from early January to the end of March.

It was the most incredible experience of my life and I feel extremely privileged to have done it.

Beyond that, at the moment, I don't have words for what the group experience was like.

I found the ending extremely difficult. That is a huge understatement! What did help me through was hearing the other women, including the group facilitators, having mixed feelings around the group ending and not wanting it to end. So I finally that something to challenge the internal critical voice about “not being able to cope, and I should be able to do better” blah blah. Actually, no, there is something about endings and grief that really knock me sideways.

Because it was such an unbelievably positive experience the void left by the ending felt almost too much to bear and remains very painful, one month later. The first couple of weeks I was totally broadsided by the loss and spent a lot of time “hiding under the duvet” as my mental health support worker puts it. I had my 1-month review with the group facilitators this week which was really helpful and it was good to have a consensus as to what next.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

SEXUAL ABUSE GROUP THERAPY

It's really nice to have something positive to write about for a change.

After nearly 9-years on the waiting list I have been offered a place in the group therapy which begins in January and will run for 12-weeks to the end of March.

Yay!!!

It feels great to finally be at the brink of doing this therapy, which I have been working towards during the last 5-years of one-to-one work.

This group work is the next logical step in my healing journey. It will be a new phase in my recovery process.

I also know it is going to be hard. I know I don't think I can ever be fully prepared for how hard this therapy may turn out to be. It is a massive step for me to take!

But for now, I'm just thrilled to have accepted the place offered to me and to know that it is going to happen now!!

Scary!!!!
Exciting!!! 
Daunting!!!

RELATIONSHIP ENDED WITH TRAUMA THERAPIST

I ended my relationship with my trauma therapist on 16th November 2016. I had the help and support of my mental health Care Co-Ordinator and her manager. This was after months of damaging comments, atmospheres, arguments, manipulation and lack of focus which had me walking on egg-shells around her. I got to the point where I did not want to turn up to sessions and dreaded our sessions. The relationship had become toxic, damaging, and abusive. There was real damage being done to me, to my therapy experience and to my mental health. And it had to end. 

The many questions evoked for me were along the lines of -- how is it going to be possible for me to end the relationship? Can I end it? Am I just going to have to tolerate it until a more natural ending presents itself? Or do I just walk away? What do I do? How do I do whatever I decide to do? Can I do anything? Will I be believed? All those questions and many more went through my mind.

When I asked myself early in November why I was tolerating a relationship which was actually hurting me and making me feel bad - my answer was "because I have to". My response to that was err no!!!!! I don't know have to! I'm trying to do things differently and get out of patterns from the past. 

Shortly after that I reached breaking point and just could not do it any more so decided the only right course of action was to end the relationship as quickly as possible.

The trouble was I didn't think I would be believed when I found the courage to tell my care co-ordinator what had been going on. That showed me how abusive the relationship had become. 

My Care Co-Ordinator was horrified by my revelations. She fully believed me and was totally supportive. She gave me all my available options and left it to me to decide what I wanted her to do next as well as what I wanted to do.

It was really hard walking in to that final meeting with my now ex-trauma therapist. She was extremely evasive, manipulative, defensive and argumentative. I was very glad that I had my Care Co-Ordinator to witness it and to safeguard me.

She pretended it was all a big surprise to her, that there was nothing wrong, that I had never intimated to her that I wanted to end the relationship, that I had misled her. 

When I challenged her she eventually stopped the arguing and lying and admitted that I was speaking the truth. 

She also admitted that she had been holding a grudge against me for an entire year. I knew that but had telling myself for months that a therapist of her standing could not be holding a grudge against me and I must be imagining it. But I had, in fact, been absolutely spot on!

What was even more shocking how she admitted it, she lounged casually in her chair and said... 
"oh yes, I've been holding that against you". 

There was no sense of regret in her manner. There was no recognition that it had been wrong for her as a therapist to do that, and for an entire year. There was also no awareness from her that there would be consequences for such an admission. She was as casual and careless as you like. 

For a moment I was silent in total disbelief of what I had just witnessed!

Unbelievable! Staggeringly and shatteringly unbelievable!! 

I still cannot believe that. I am finding it very hard to get past that. Deeply shocking does not get anywhere near it!

She actually used that grudge against me 2-weeks earlier when I informed her that I was thinking of ending the relationship and attempted to blackmail me in to taking a different course of action.

That final meeting was utterly awful, it was like pulling teeth. But I stuck to my guns. I refused to let her get away with her lies. I refused to be manipulated or persuaded by her to not end the relationship. 

I gave her a letter to read there in the meeting stating my reasons for ending the relationship very clearly with no ambiguity or room for interpretation.

Her response to it was shocking. We both watched her read the letter to the end very very slowly. Then even more excruciatingly slowly she folded the letter up. It was obvious that she was deciding how she was going to respond as she did that. And her response?
"I don't understand!!"

Which was met by a totally shocked silence for a few moments.
"I don't understand" is always her response, it is her "go to" default response to things she doesn't like and is how she manipulates and creates confusion and arguments.

I was not to be drawn in to any of that and kept bringing her back to the fact that I was ending the relationship and I was not going to change my mind.

After nearly 15 minutes of arguing I decided I'd had enough, got up to go and told her I was leaving. At that point she pulled out her masterstroke. She turned on the tears are said... 

"but there's all the things I can't tell you about what's been happening to me."

Erm so!! 

I was halfway out the door at that point and turned back a moment and said...
"and that is the problem and is why I have to leave"

It was staggering that as I was walking out the door her focus was not on me, her client of 5-years walking out the door to never walk back in again -- but upon herself and her personal difficulties. 

I had known for months that personal stuff was going on because she brought it into every session with her lack of focus and inattention. And again I was spot on! 

But for a therapist to act like that, it was deeply shocking. I have no words!!!

All that happened in that room confirmed to me how totally right it was for me to end the relationship and to do it there and then and to do it the way I did with a witness and support.

However, emotionally the impact on me has been enormous. I've had to deal with feelings of guilt, of having been horrible to my therapist, of having "ratted" on someone. Even though the facts show I wasn't. 

All the stuff about being a bad person have been triggered too. 

I seriously self-harmed a week later after I received a letter from my ex-therapist acknowledging the ending of the relationship but pretending nothing had been wrong and she could not understand why I would not want to continue working with her. 

My Care Co-Ordinator was absolutely furious - not only at the content of the letter but also at the fact that she had bypassed all due processes and sent it direct to my home address instead of through the proper mental health channels. I believe disciplinary action was taken over that, but the outcome of course is unknown to me. What I have been told is that several other clients have had similar experiences with that therapist and that I have helped them by doing what I did.

I was re-assessed by the Psychiatrist following that episode of self-harm and changes have been made to my medication as a result.

I am the only person who thinks I am a bad person. I am the only person who think I did a bad thing. 

Mentally, yep I get it, but emotionally, it's a different matter.

And I was heard, believed and supported in the process and since. As I am the only one who thinks I did anything wrong, it proves me to that I did nothing wrong. And somewhere deep down, I know that is right.

It was all really hard. Much harder that I can find words for.

But the main thing is I don't miss her!

I miss the atmospheres and the fear I felt every time I had to see her. I am very relieved I never have to see her again. But, no, I don't miss her, and that tells me all I really need to know!

But if there's one thing I have learned it is that my gut intuition is always right and I can totally trust it.


Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Care Co-Ordinators

My mental health care co-ordinator is off sick at the moment. I have not been seen by anyone at my local mental health facility since early July. 

There were supposed to be 2 workers who I could contact by phone if my worker went off sick. So more than a month ago I requested a phone call and was informed that I was not allowed one because patients were being allocated temporary workers. It had taken me so long to find the courage to use the emergency phone call to be told it was no longer available to me pulled the rug out from under me.

Instead I've had emergency phone calls with duty workers but no allocated temporary worker until last week when I got voicemail message followed up by a letter introducing me to my new temporary worker.

Today I was due to meet my new temporary stand-in care co-ordinator for the first time. In fact I should have been meeting with her right now. 

Instead, I had a message on my voicemail this morning informing me that she has gone sick.

Oh the irony of it. And the frustration too. And so the lack of support goes on!!

Monday, 5 September 2016

The 4th Anniversary

It was the 4th Anniversary of my father's death last week. And it was hard. It told me that there are issues left behind after an abuser dies which do not get better with time.

I experienced a spike in random nightmares and vivid dreams and disturbed sleep during the fortnight leading up to it. That has only just begun to calm down although my sleep is still massively disturbed.

I also had the memory of an incident when I was 6 resurface during that time. It was a memory I thought I had dealt with, but it came up with a different perspective and different feelings than I've had about it before.

I was 6. The family was on holiday and we were visiting Birmingham. It had been a very long, hot day. We were traipsing around the outdoor market of the old Bull Ring in Birmingham. I recall that I had had enough of wandering round. I was hot, tired and cranky and gave voice to my feelings. 

My father was walking in front of me. He turned around and hit me so hard that I was sent flying through the air and smacked hard into the chest of a stall holder and upturned him and his stall. 

He was understandably very angry, not at me, but at my father, as were a number of bystanders. I remember thinking "oh great, the police are going to be called and he is going to be locked up and it's all going to end.

But my mother being such a charmer in public managed to talk everyone down and convince everyone that they had not seen what they thought they had seen and nothing had happened.

A few things stuck with me about the incident.

First, it was virtually unknown for any abuse to happen in public. Image was everything so a happy, smiling family was what was presented to the outside world regardless of the truth. So for my father to hit me, and to hit me so hard in public was a very rare event - it just did not happen.

Secondly,  it struck me that me, aged 6, was not shocked by his actions, I was used to being on the wrong end of severe violence. So, on one level, nothing out of the usual had happened. It was what I was used to. But for him to hit me and to hit me so hard in public was extraordinary and so I felt it must bring an end to everything. And, of course, it was all my fault. I had made it all happen by my "bad behaviour".

I now recognise my "bad behaviour" as being quite normal behaviour for a cranky 6-year old.

I remember feeling crushed when I realised the police were not going to be called and the crowd slowly melted away as if nothing had happened. 

I remember thinking "no-one is going to rescue me from them, there is no escape and no rescue." I felt very alone and very afraid. 

I remember feeling hurt, confused and disappointed by all those adults who witnessed something appalling but who turned a blind eye and a deaf ear. I remember I was disappointed, deeply disappointed, by those were taken in by my mother's charm, which of course only existed in public. 

I remember how I couldn't believe that no-one held my father to account for his actions that day. Not even the disgruntled stallholder who was not quite so convinced by my mother's silver tongue but was mollified enough to do and say nothing about what had occurred and who just turned and set about putting his stall to rights while I stood there alone, confused, uncertain, wondering what had just happened. I couldn't get my head round it. I still can't get my head round it.

I also remember how I knew that I was in for it, a line had been crossed and I was going to pay dearly for crossing that line and creating that situation! I was shit scared, and with good cause.

I cannot tell you what happened afterwards. It is a total blank. I have no memory of what happened, which tells me the repercussions were horrific. There's always a good reason why there are memory blanks.

So along with the resurgence of that particular event came very conflicted feelings about my father. I've always had conflicted feelings about him which have got worse since he died. Now I understand a little why. 

My father was someone who could be very nice to me, and he was very nice to me sometimes, especially in parts of my early childhood. But he was also someone who could quite literally turn on you. One second being very nice to you, then a split second later being the total opposite.

I often used to hide him behind the fact that many things he did were because my mother ordered him to do them. But as this incident shows, there were times he did terrible things off his own bat, not to please her. His indifference to my feelings and needs, his terrible violence and unpredictability were partially offset by his moments of kindness, which created confusion for me and conflict in my feelings and my memories.

So I still feeling conflicted by how I felt about him then and how I feel about him now. My feelings and my thoughts are conflicted. And I hate him for creating that scenario. And I guess it suited his agenda to do so.

But I am still very glad that he is dead and cannot hurt or abuse anymore.

I am also very glad that he suffered towards the end of his life, although no amount of suffering could ever compensate for the suffering he meted out to me.

I still have to deal with deeply rooted thoughts about how that makes me a bad person. But I know that it does not actually, and that is isn't really about that. It is all about and because of the brute of a human being he was.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

6 YEARS

It is six years since my parents and brother were on bail following my police interviews. What a six years that has been for me and for my life. I am more accepting of myself, how I am and how I deal with the challenges of life alongside living with the consequences of severe abuse every moment of every day. 

I have no regrets about going to the police, though I still feel betrayed and let down by them and the CPS. It may not have turned out the way I hoped - with my still living abusers charged, found guilty and put away for a long time. 

But my life is very different now. 

I am proud that I broke my silence. I am proud about the hard work I've done in therapy during the past four years. 

I am not the same person, and that is all for the better. 

Yes life is still an enormous struggle and it always will be. I often wish I wasn't around having to deal with the pain, abandonment and trauma, every moment of my life. But my self-understanding and self-acceptance is phenomenal which I would never have believed possible. 

The last six months has been one illness after another, the trauma of the PIP process being the main contributing cause.

But I'm still here and I've turned 50, which is another miracle too.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

MASSAGE

I had my Christmas massage yesterday which we always try to make special.

But this time it was going to be different because my body's all over pain levels have been extremely high for weeks with all the stress I've been going through and I am aware that my whole body feels very tight.

Normally my body relaxes when Caroline gets in to the massage but yesterday it wouldn't or couldn't. 

I was flinching when she tried anything more than just a gentle surface massage, even on my back. So she eventually gave up and just worked on my shoulders and neck instead. 

That is the first time in over 3-years of having massage with Caroline that I've not been able to physically cope with the massage. In her words, "there is so much stress in your body and your tissues that you just didn't have it in you for a proper massage today, physically or emotionally".

But the good thing which came from the massage I only realised later in the day.

I realised that just by having the massage I felt human again. I also realised I've not felt human for a long time. 

Instead I have felt instead like a cog in the wheel of a vast system which is treating everyone who comes in to contact with it in cruel, nasty, inhumane ways without the means to meet even the most basic human needs through no fault of my own. That has felt really awful and been really disempowering!

So I realised that hey, it's good to feel human again. It's good to be able to feel my body, feel my skin, notice my breathing all over again, almost as if I've never felt any of those things about myself before.

It is something I need to hold on to that there is more to me than all the stress and how that stress has impacted my life, my mind, my emotions and my body.

I am alive, I am human, I have feelings and I have needs.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

CHRISTMAS

I am looking forward to going away for Christmas in a couple of days time. I am due to leave during the small hours of Wednesday morning for the long drag over to Dover for the ferry.

I am having a complete change this year. I am not going to the Alps I am going to Belgium. And I am going on a specialist holiday for solo travellers which means my travel is taken care of from door to door. I don't have to worry about expensive taxis.

I will be staying in a hotel near Mons, going in to Brussels on Christmas Eve to explore the Christmas markets, discover the Manneken Pis and enjoy what I believe is amazing architecture. On Christmas Day we have a quiet morning at the hotel then go to Mouscron in the afternoon to visit their Christmas market. On Boxing Day we will be visiting Dinant. Then the following day I imagine we shall visit a Belgian Chocolate factory shop on the way to Calais on the way home.

The weather looks like it will be mild and mostly dry, which makes packing relatively straightforward.

I'm looking forward to speaking French, wearing my Christmas ear-rings, my new santa hat,a new Christmas jumper and to enjoying Christmas, Belgium style!

It's going to be something very different for Christmas for me. And most of all, I'm glad I do not have to face oodles of travelling which going to the Alps entails. It should be a nice gentle time, which is probably just what the Doctor would have ordered for me.

SINCE THE ATOS ASSESSMENT

I was in bed for 5-days following the assessment. I was suicidal, I self-harmed seriously, it was one of those times when self-harm, in this case cutting, was one step back from suicide and kept me alive. I could not get thoughts of death off my mind, they were there constantly.

During the assessment I developed extreme head pain and horrific pain shooting through my right eye, I thought I was going to have a brain haemorrhage, it was so bad. After a few days of this I spoke to the Dr on the phone because none of my medication was touching it. She said she thought it was a severe stress headache and decided to treat it by increasing my Amitryptiline by one dose, Amitryptiline widens your blood vessels and is a preventer, it is also a tricyclic antidepressant which works well alongside my other antidepressant Mirtazapine. It took about 6-days for the full affect to kick in but it did the job. I went from not being able to touch my right eye, from being blinded in my right eye to gradually over a few days I could touch the eye and my sight gradually returned too. One week after changing the dose the headache became to a dull ache and remains a dull ache every day. But I can cope with a dull ache. It also means I can notice when a migraine is starting and treat accordingly.

I've now had that headache for over 6-weeks. I saw the Dr the other day and she has agreed to keep me on this level of medication until the end of January, when hopefully my financial situation will begin to be taken care of and the pressure on me will ease. My physical pain levels have also been appalling since the assessment. The stress has come out in my body in all sorts of ways, but the escalation of my all over physical pain has made everything so much harder. My sleep has massively impacted. I've found it very hard to get off to sleep and I've found it very hard to stay asleep which has compounded the fatigue and exhaustion to almost un-liveable-at levels.

On 15th November I received a letter from East Devon District Council who handle my housing benefit and council tax reduction informing me that my DLA had been stopped and I was now in receipt of PIP standard rate daily living, my mobility had been stripped away completely. I could not believe what I was reading. I could not believe that the DWP could inform the council ahead of informing the claimant, I was absolutely disgusted by that. It was obviously a proforma letter so it is obvious this happens all the time. The speed of that decision made it abundantly clear that the DWP waited for the report for the ATOS assessor, took her report as the basis for their decision and ignored everything else. The DWP also did not ask for further medical evidence from anyone named on my form which makes their decision extremely flawed.

It took the DWP until 25th November to get around to informing me of their decision, their reasoning behind it and what points I had been rewarded for what. It was very triggering reading over and over “you report problems doing ….. but I say you have no difficulty…. [or similar words] and there is no evidence otherwise….” Which was a lie. It was very difficult coping with that kind of thing because it was so reminiscent of how abusers work-- “you say this but I say this is [about you, about what is going on etc] and my version of events is the right one”. What you have to say has no value or influence on me at all, because it is my interpretation which is the only thing which counts.” That is a horrible dynamic which the DWP used over and over in their reasoning and it ripped me apart with trauma.

It was obvious they had no understanding of trauma or of M.E. and had disregarded everything I wrote on my form. They disregarded the supporting evidence too. None of what I read rang true because it which was plainly based upon a flawed report from a bullying ATOS assessor. It was obvious they had totally ignored all the mental health issues I have. It was a total shambles. As for Debbie, well she read it, put it down and said very slowly “what a load of total shite, but at least we have loads about which to take them on. What I read in this report is not the 'Fi' I know, they have not got you at all”.

The loss of two-thirds of my income was instant which was catastrophic for my finances. My income had been dropped by £85 a week - £340 a month - which meant my finances were instantly in free fall. My bus pass went immediately which was a huge blow on top.

The stress, massive financial loss and uncertainty of knowing I may have to face an appeal tribunal at some stage to prove how ill I am, to get the disability benefit which I, and everyone who knows me, would agree I am legally entitled to. The instant timescale of financial loss followed by an indefinite timescale for how long the appeal process may take makes it very hard and is absolutely horrible.

The DWP are very clever at putting very difficult to achieve timescales on claimants but give themselves no timescales at all!

Without family to fall back on, coping with such huge loss brought into stark focus the reality of my vulnerability. I live every day with that knowledge and that vulnerability but don't focus on it because if I did, I would not be able to function at all. So having that brought into such sharp focus has had a massive destructive impact upon my life and my ability to keep going and face each day. This is the longest period of my adult life that I have been constantly suicidal, with thoughts about my death and my funeral there at the front of my mind 24/7. There is a very strong survivor child part within me who has taken over functioning many times during the last 6-weeks or so. She is exhausting to be around but without her I would not still be alive. Without self-harm I would not still be alive. And without any really good coping strategy – distraction – I also would not still be alive. Without the professionals around me and my friends I would not still be here. 

I have been astounded and overwhelmed by the response from everybody – it's been the same, give or take the odd word - “no this is not fair, you don't deserve this, after all you've been through, to have to deal with this kind of stress.” Even my massage therapist said, with tears in her eyes “this is not on, after all you've been through to be treated like this, if you with all your disabilities cannot qualify for PIP then who possibly can?”

I spent the remainder of November and the first half of December preparing a formal letter requesting a Mandatory Reconsideration of the decision – this is the first step of the appeal process. It was incredibly stressful having to reiterate what I had already told the DWP but to make sure I do it in such a way that the information is presented to them in a totally different way. It was also very stressful having to negotiate with the professionals involved in my care to provide supporting documentation evidencing and backing up everything I was saying in my own letter and all within a very tight timescale. The paperwork went off last Wednesday and I know it has arrived safely well before the date given beyond which no appeal could be considered.

I have been comforted by the overwhelming support I have received from everybody, whether that has been emotional support, food boxes or financial contributions to help me cope until I am able to get help to sort out the financial mess this has put me in. And somehow it has given me the strength to keep going.

It has also been comforting to know this is happening to people all over the country. As I was preparing my Mandatory Reconsideration – C.A.B released figures showing they have in the region of 300,000 cases nationwide concerning PIP. They are absolutely swamped by the volume of people needing help with perverse PIP decisions. The C.A.B.'s position is that the DWP are not getting it right at initial assessment stage, they are not getting their decisions right, probably because they are relying on ATOS assessors rather than information from claimants, GP's, surgeons, mental health workers, physios and so on.

My G.P. told me that they are dealing with this every day, that they are fed up with the DWP ignoring their evidence or not even asking for it in the first place.

I have been referred to an organisation for help with my finances and then once that situation has been stabilised, more general budgeting and financial advice. I was referred to them in November with the request that I be seen in 1-2 weeks maximum. Unfortunately, they, just like the C.A.B. are overwhelmed with referrals and requests for help. However, I was informed a couple of days ago that I do now have a named worker, so it looks as though early in January that support is likely to kick in.

I don't expect to hear anything from the DWP until the middle of January. I am hoping common sense will prevail and my Mandatory Reconsideration will be allowed. I do not want to have to face what could be a long drawn out damaging appeal process and I should not have to face that. But the DWP are a rogue department with no accountability for their actions so I will just have to wait and see, hope and pray and keep my fingers and toes crossed that they will realise the errors in their original decision and do the right thing!

In the meantime I am absolutely exhausted, mentally, emotionally and physically. I am totally drained. I have nothing left. The last couple of months have taken me to the brink and over a few times. And still my body does not want to rest. It is obviously going to take a while for those stress hormones in my system to calm down, hopefully my holiday over Christmas will help that process.