#MeToo: A Social Storm To Stop Suffering

In response to the #MeToo campaign, why it’s so important to take a stand and not be afraid to speak out about the suffering behind seemingly smiling eyes. I touch on my own experience and my hopes for this movement helping both the victims and perpetrators involved in such sex crimes.

A campaign that predated social media, set up in 2007 by Tarana Burke who up a non-profit organisation aiming to provide the resources and support for victims of sexual assault and harassment, and committed her time and energy to be with those who had experienced abuse.

Now, in response to the allegations made against Harvey Weinstein, the social media movement #MeToo has resurfaced. 

Retweeted earlier this month by actress, and producer, Alyssa Milano, the responses to movement highlights how common these problems are, and just how many have suffered (or are suffering…) as a result of sexual misconduct.

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The response; devastating and heartbreaking.

12 million posts in the first 24 hours – CBS News

All stories, from minor assaults, to full on abusive disclosures, are harrowing.
Hard to read, but equally harder to experience.

#MeToo gives women everywhere an opportunity to speak up and break the social taboos that prefer to sweep such suffering under the carpet, when really the response has highlighted the phenomenal rate in which these misconducts are being experienced.

#MeToo is integral for the future protection and safeguarding of young people in society. Since statistics show that around 1 in 10 young people will experienced sexual abuse or assault by their 18th Birthday, making child sexual abuse the most prevalent health care problem with devastating consequences to later physical, emotional and social development.

Feelings of blame.
Isolation.
Self-hate.
Confusion.
Problems with body-image
Anxiety

Such experiences of sexual assault an abuse lead to many developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and disordered eating, that can turn into chronic and distressing mental health disorders. 

Whilst victims should not be made to relive their experiences, it has given many the freedom, and voice, to stand with thousands of other women, without shame or disgrace, and shout out that any form of sexually oppressive behaviour is not acceptable, and demands change. 


My #MeToo

Whilst I will not let myself relive this episode of my life, I want to take this opportunity to stand with those women who have bravely spoken out. Formally acknowledging the wrong that was done to me I hope will encourage others not to keep their grief and suffering  hidden behind smiling eyes as I once did

I can empathise with the feelings of confusion and self-doubt many have posted about, as for years I buried a series of persisting sexual assaults that desecrated 5 years of my childhood, and later robbed me of my teen years. 

38% of children never report sexual abuse or assault. Many never say anything.

So why you ask didn’t I speak up?

I was certain the whole thing was my fault.
Confused about it all.

I felt I was the burden on the family, the one with all the issues who it’d be better of without, so I just won’t say a thing… and being such a young age I did not have the capacity, or vocabulary, to fully understand or portray, the situation; not even to myself.me2_3

All I knew was that I felt unclean.
Tainted.
Unworthy of love and affection.
I hated my body.

So I remained silenced, petrified that should my family ever find out they would think I was disgusting, or that they wouldn’t believe me, and maybe they would disown me. 

 

I silenced it from everyone, and even tried to bury it forever through silencing myself through years of disordered eating, body image issues, low-self esteem, and one failed suicide attempt. 

Many years later I sat in a therapy session in a Psychiatric Hospital where I was being treated for anorexia nervosa. It was there I finally allowed myself to look back and connect with this experience.
Head in hands and uncontrollable floods of tears followed.
I  was crying for the four year old inside of me; looking back on her and finally welcoming her as part of me instead of locking her out with blame. I wanted nothing more than to hold and comfort her brokenness.

Although investigations and trials were carried out the case was closed due to old legislation, and a crafty solicitor on the defendant’s side.

I never got the closure I deserved, nor the acknowledgement from an apology I so longed for.

MeToo2But now I see just how weak he really is. 
Weak for not having the balls to when the time came to it taking responsibility for the suffering he caused, not only to myself but also my family.

It makes me strong.
Strong for breaking out of that suppressed state where I felt powerless, and deciding that his past actions will not dictate my present happiness or health!

I have now overcome my eating disorder, in fact most the time I love being in my own skin. 
Most importantly I finally look at myself with worth, respect and sheer joy for being where I am today.
Every day is a blessing, and I intend to make everything I do in life a blessing to follow this.


#MyHope

They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, it is #MyHope that the #MeToo enables girls and women everywhere no longer live in fear, confusion, or with the notion that this behaviour is acceptable, neither are they deserving of it.

#MyHope is that they can be proud that they are survivors, and feel supported and united – whether they choose to publicly say anything, or privately follow the campaign with newfound hope in their hearts.

We all have a responsibility to take a stand, and raise awareness about these issues. To realise that we can’t allow people to grow up believing that sexual misconduct, harassment, assaults and abuse, are to be expected norms of treatment in any relationship.

I would also like to commend the men who have responded to such posts with #IHave and #HowIWillChange, as this is an equally brave movement, for sometimes the power of remorse, acknowledgement and a desire to change, is all that’s needed to amend the mess.

 

 

Coping with loneliness

It’s winter. It’s cold. It’s dark.

Let’s face it the lack of Vitamin D does nothing for anyones mood, and with my current routine being bogged under with revision for January exams, this post seemed very relevant to write about.

People don’t like to admit their lonely; it sounds needy, desperate and maybe even weak I guess?

But severe bouts of loneliness can lead to depression, anxiety,  increase alcohol dependence and lower self-esteem.

It is not a shameful thing to admit you are feeling alone, we are social beings, designed for relationships and interactions.

Being around the right people can help raise self esteem, make us feel supported and loved, give purpose, motivate and inspire us. We experience amazing amounts of growth when we spend time with those who reciprocate our friendship.


Lets get psychological about relationships….

Maslow’s renowned hierarchy of needs specifies its importance in his stage of “belonging”. For those not familiar with Maslow’s theory of self actualization, he believed that each stage in the hierarchy needs to be met in order for a person to reach, what is termed, ‘self actualization’. It is then that we are able to reach our full potential, learn and develop ourselves into well established, grounded, individuals.

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I would argue that relationships also are important for other areas of his hierarchy, such as  “safety” and “esteem”, because it’s through developing good relationships, and spending time with people who make you feel good, that you feel safe, supported and are given positive reinforcement. This in tern builds identity and purpose.

However loneliness can be split into two categories:  circumstantial loneliness, the type that can be given context and is often easily resolvable, such as living alone, working alone, dealing with bereavement, losing touch with social contacts or from the experience of discrimination.

But the other loneliness is more pathological and has links with depression. This is the type of loneliness experienced when you are surrounded by loved ones but still feel nothing but emptiness.

It is ongoing, pervasive and intrusive to all areas of your life and levels of functioning, including higher levels of fatigue or insomnia.


What should we watch out for?

With both types of loneliness you may suffer from many cognitive [thinking] errors, such as:thoughtsemotions

  • Catastrophic thinking
  • Overgeneralizing 
  • Black and white thinking
  • Disqualifying the positives
  • Personalisation
  • Mind-reading

 


So, what are the key things to do when feeling a little lonely, or bogged down with the January blues what can be done to lift your spirits?

Learning to spend time alone with yourself is crucial to self-love! It’s OK to be alone. Trust me I’d rather be made to learn algebra in Russian whilst suspended from the Eiffel Tower by a pair of dungarees than be with myself for too long (OK maybe that’s a tad extreme…but you get the point). But here are some tips and tricks to beat the loneliness blues:

  1. Even if you feel down make an effort to meet with friends and make contact with people: Now this may seem obvious – you feel lonely go and see someone – but for fishfriendthose suffering with depression as well this is hard because although you want to see people you also want to be alone, making plans can feel like a lot of effort and you may even put it off completely because you jump to the conclusion that because you feel alone no one likes you.

I will tell you now, you are wrong to think that. So it’s important to make as much social contact as you can, even if it’s ringing a friend/relative for a quick chat, going for a coffee or lunch break, or speaking to someone on social media. Don’t knock what a good conversation can do for you!

  1. Join a new club and make new connections: Whatever your hobbies are use them to get up and out. Meet new people, make new friends and don’t be afraid to try something new. Be proactive and productive to instigate change.
  2. Ask for a hug: cuddles are amazing. And if you have a partner snuggling up for a cosy cuddle and cheeky kiss will bring a smile to your face I’m sure! But for those singletons out there [I feel ya’] ask for a hug from a friend, and when people ask if you’re ok it’s ok to say you’ve been missing seeing people later and need a coffee and chat. Honesty is the best policy!

Reflections…

For me, learning to be happy with being alone was a major step to loving myself more! Spending time doing stuff I enjoy for myself, such as art, music, cooking, cycle rides or writing more. You’ll find you become genuinely happy and at peace with your loneliness… In fact, I even look forward to those days and evenings spent alone!

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