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Storytelling

One year ago today The Last Taboo, a Falling Tree production documenting my experiences as a silent child sexual abuse survivor through the mental health system, was broadcast on BBC Radio 4. The documentary has been broadcast twice and the first time was late in the evening. As the day progressed I began to get cold feet. I remember thinking what on earth have I done? There were things my own family didn’t know about the abuse and I’d sent an email explaining this and suggesting that they didn’t listen to it live, late at night whilst on their own.

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The Flying Child Project

One Year On…

One year ago today I took a deep breath and presented The Flying Child Project to approximately 100 teaching and support staff in a local school. It was the result of two years of planning, the idea sparked by a conversation with a headteacher, and whilst I was convinced there was a need for lived experience in educational settings, I had no idea of how it would be received. I have previously blogged about the bad reactions I’ve experienced personally since speaking out about CSA, and because of personal connections to the school I knew I would recognise some faces in the room and feared the worst. I added these words at the end:

For those of you who know me, I hope you will be able to look me in the eye when we cross paths because I am the same person I was before you knew my story. If you can’t, I recognise that the shame lies at the feet of the man who abused me, not at mine.

As it turned out, I didn’t need to worry. The feedback was positive and constructive and September 1st 2021 was to be the start of a pretty remarkable year.

We have reached around 1000 professionals since the pilot and have worked with social workers, students and NHS staff as well as continuing to work in schools. We have affiliated with AC education, and are taking bookings for 2023.

This year my work as a survivor activist, has also gone from strength to strength and I have loved every moment of it.

I can’t go back to yesterday. I was a different person then.

Lewis Caroll Alice in Wonderland

At this time in my life I feel this quote is particularly poignant. For many years I was unable to see life beyond my own pain. I stumbled through, often from one crisis to another, not coping, or coping in the only way I knew how to, by pushing away the pain. Shutting it down. Overdoses, self harming, chaotic and self-destructive ‘living’ of a life I didn’t want. I didn’t think I would survive to see my children reach adulthood and I am grateful to be here today and to witness my first child moving into her first flat and my second preparing for university. So many survivors of CSA have shortened lives, as the result of poor physical, mental and spiritual health, or addiction. The project is dedicated to a survivor who once crossed my path, who was unable to continue. Trauma is a cruel thief. It takes everything. Our childhood, our innocence, our trust. It steals hope, joy and the lives we feel we might have had. Trauma is insidious. It infects those closest to us, the ones we love the most and it begins to rob them as well.

This has been the year of tipping the balance. Of fighting back. With hindsight, I am the same person I was before you heard my story wasn’t strictly true. There is no going back to ‘yesterday’ because I am different as a direct result of speaking out about CSA. I am a different woman entirely, one who is learning to listen to instincts, believe in her own abilities and accept her own limitations. I am a different mother, a more regulated and present one, doing my best to break the intergenerational cycle of trauma.

Life still challenges me at times but these challenges are hills or mountains to climb, not hopeless, unfathomless voids in which to drown.

I’ve appreciated slowing down over the last six weeks but we start again tomorrow, working in a small infant school in the morning and on to a larger school in the afternoon. I look forward to seeing what the next twelve months bring, and to more ‘tomorrows’.

No Space

This was one of two poems I performed at an event by Drop The Disorder: an evening of spoken word performances to challenge the culture of psychiatric diagnosis and the pathologising of emotional distress.

I wrote it recently, on a day where I felt overwhelmed and exhausted by the consequences of CSA. In the past, I would have equated this with poor mental health and considered making an appointment to see my psychiatrist. I don’t do this anymore because the psychiatric system was unable to support me with trauma. I never experienced relief with meds, there was never enough time, my trauma history was not acknowledged as the root cause and I didn’t receive the empathy or gentle care I needed to heal. On the contrary, treatment felt punitive and came with undertones of threat and a distinct loss of autonomy.

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A Journey of Missed Opportunities

Preventing Suicide in Adolescents was the theme for the conference delivered by HSSCP & South Tees Safeguarding Children Partnership. Professionals across various agencies working with children attended the event.

This week I delivered my second workshop as part of this event.

The title of my workshop was CSA, the consequences of trauma: a journey of missed opportunities. This was the first time I’ve used my own story as the sole case study and participants were asked to identify indicators I might have shown and where the missed opportunities occurred. There was a breakout activity for small group discussion on how to open conversations with child survivors.

When there is an increase in child suicide and professionals come together to try and work out why, and what can be done to prevent it, really the only people who can tell us why are the children but they can’t because they’re not here anymore. By rights I shouldn’t be here either.

The Flying Child Project
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Drop The Disorder Poetry Night

I consider myself a survivor of CSA and the psychiatric system so was pleased to take part in tonight’s event by Drop The Disorder: an evening of spoken word performances to challenge the culture of psychiatric diagnosis and the pathologising of emotional distress.

One of the most significant moments of my journey was the time I reached out to a GP as I was leaving an appointment. She was kind, but as there was no screening for trauma, I was set on a path that delayed recovery for an entire decade. She didn’t intend to cause me further harm, she probably had little idea of what else to do with me. Trauma-informed pathways are long overdue and it is time for change. It is hard to have conversations like these without being accused of stigmatising mental illness but those who are harmed by the system must feel able to speak. When I do, I’m not denying the experiences of those who benefit from treatment, I’m validating my own experiences as someone who was failed by that system.

I regret hesitating at the door. This poem is called Door Handle Moment

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