Tuesday, 25 February 2014

The First Wig Worn

Whilst tolerating appalling amounts of noise in the house (long story) I decided to try and keep myself away from cyberspace interaction tonight. During this, I finally decided to do what I'd been a  bit nervous to do - try on the wig I bought on my last payday.

I had been nervous and didn't clock why until today - it made what I was doing all the more real and closer. Nothing will stop me from doing this but that doesn't mean I don't feel anxious. It's a pretty major thing I'm doing. I mean I'm getting rid of all of my hair. It's not like I'm just getting a perm or getting it dyed. There is a massive difference and it's going to take a long time for all my hair to grow back to the length I want. 

Having said all this, some things are worth a lot more than that. Some things are worth fighting for and some things are worth the sacrifices. This is most definitely one of them. With that in mind, here is me in my first wig:

I bought it off Amazon for £16. Very easy to put on and comfortable to wear. The hair net fitted over my current head which has a full head of hair so there should be no problems when the hair is gone. It wasn't quite what I was expecting but it's fine. This is a brunette/ginger look. For the next wig, I am going to go blonde.

4 months and 1 day to go until the day of the Big Cut. If you can, donate to my JustGiving page. If not, just continue to show your support by getting the word out far and wide. 

I'm just one person... but one person can make a difference. 

Lots of love and solidarity <3 xxx

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Million Women Rise

Million Women Rise is the biggest protest in Europe against violence against women. As much as we've made real progress in the past few decades, we still have problems. Don't believe me? In the United Kingdom...

  • 1/4 women will experience domestic abuse at some point in their lives
  • 2 women a week are murdered by either their current or ex partner
  • For every minute of the day there is a report of a domestic abuse incident
  • Domestic violence is the most repeated offence than any other crime
  • 5% of reported rape cases will make it to court.
  • 1/4 of women will be sexually assaulted in their adult life
  • Over 1,400 women are trafficked into the UK for sexual exploitation every year
  • 250 cases of forced marriages are reported every year
  • Over 20,000 women could be at risk of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
  • Nearly 90% of local authorities do NOT have a Rape Crisis Centre
  • One woman a month is murdered in the name of 'honour'

I could find more statistics on violence against women and I know I've quoted more in my blogpost about the reasons why I'm cutting off all my hair for Rape Crisis.

The march is on Saturday 8th March 2014. The suggested colour of choice to wear is red although this is not mandatory. I fully intend to attend. Will you?

If you wish to know more about Million Women Rise check out the page for more information!

Lots of love and solidarity <3

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Raising the Bar

So far, I've managed to raise over £300 for Rape Crisis through this pledge to cut off all of my hair. That was a lot more than I expected - I fully expected to raise no more than £100 despite my target of £250.

Tonight, I've decided to challenge it further. I've officially raised the target from £250 to £500. So far, £323 has been raised so only another £177 to go until the next target is smashed.

Considering the support I've already recieved, I think it can be done. Prove me right by donating to my Just Giving page or giving me money if you see me in person for me to pass on to the wonderful people at Rape Crisis.

19 weeks and 1 day to go!

Lots of love and solidarity <3

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

As one would expect, you can never escape a rape unscathed and the consequences can follow for years if not for a lifetime. I had spent a significant number of years struggling on/off with depression and anxiety before this ever happened. This was further complicated by having Autism. I was beginning to make real strides of progress in the aftermath of a rather traumatic school life and an emotionally abusive parent who fled the family home for greener pastures. My parents soap-opera divorce proceedings were 2/3 weeks away from a court hearing and I was less than a fortnight away from moving away from home for the first time. There is never a good time to be raped but this definitely was a case of appalling timing.

I shut down. I couldn't function and I had to start from scratch without a guide or a clue. I was just beginning to heal but now I felt like I was cursed. One thing after another after another after another...

I still have nightmares and flashbacks on a near-nightly basis. I am hyper alert at the best of times. I don't have a good grip on my emotions: some days everything can and will irritate my core, other days I'm numb and detached with little motivation. I feel forever exposed and can hardly do anything right. I am a very troubled sleeper (especially if I'm sleeping somewhere for the first time) and prone to waking up multiple times a night. Physical intimacy, regardless of how much I crave it, can be a challenge. My appetite is either non-existent or ravenous (90% of time it's the former.) If I let you buy or make me a drink without me watching you, you really have my absolute trust which is an extremely rare commodity.

After almost 5 months and 3 different types of anti-depressants failing to help or causing outright sickness, I went to a GP at my practice who specialises in mental health. She sat me down and allowed me to explain my situation. At the end, she was able to explain something very clearly: I suffer from a severe case of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)....

...and it's no surprise considering the list of traumas I've experienced and prior mental health conditions which has made me more vulnerable to it. It is estimated that 3% of people will experience this in their lifetimes. Some studies have found that 1/5 of firefighters, 1/3 of teenage survivors of car crashes, 2/3 of prisoners of War and 1/2 of female rape survivors suffer from PTSD. It varies in severity and length in every person. There are many treatments available including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), self-help and anti-depressants. 

If you know someone whose got PTSD, it can be tricky to know what to do. First and foremost, I strongly discourage you to suggest they can 'just get over it and move on'. It's clearly not easy for them and that will only make them feel worse. Secondly, look out for mood-swings and changes in behaviour like avoiding work. Thirdly, if that person wants to confide in you let them: feeling listened to can make a huge difference even if just for a moment. Don't shame what they tell you. If they say anything like "I'm sorry, this must be really stupid," assure them it's not and they're doing really well in articulating their feelings. Unfortunately there's still a stigma around mental health issues which are damaging and toxic. Finally, don't coddle them. Don't assume because they have any degree of mental health issues they are incapable and need to be sheltered away from every little thing. 

I'm due an assessment for therapy in under 3 weeks. I have good days where I can function perfectly and enjoy myself. I also get really hard days where I just want to create a fort in bed and stay inside and not come out. The unpredictability is astounding. Honestly, I'm pretty scared I'll put off anyone I might be interested in in being with me by what I'm recovering from. I'm scared of driving away my closest friends and family despite the fact they have assured me many times that I'm not. I'm trying my best and that's all I can do. The key is I'm trying. I'm trying to recover and I'm trying to help as part of that. I want to take a stand in getting rid of all of my hair not only because I passionately believe in what I'm campaigning for. I'm doing it because I'm trying to convince the part of me that's still hiding that she doesn't need to be frightened anymore. I'm trying to convince myself that I can be strong. I'm trying to keep stand. 

Please check out my JustGiving page and keep following the blog. I am just over 20 weeks away from The Big Cut and counting down. 

Lots of love and solidarity <3

Monday, 3 February 2014

The Clothing Issue

I've always been an advocate for men and women wearing whatever they wish to wear without shame and judgement. Who am I to care whether you cover up entirely or don't cover up at all? It's not like clothes really matter at the end of the day. They're eventually going to break and wear away like everything else.

Yet people can be motivated to do wonderful or awful things provoked merely by what they or someone else is wearing. There are still people out there who think that a woman deserves to get raped and sexual assaulted because of what she is wearing. "She deserved it - she was showing clevage." "She shouldn't have been wearing that mini skirt or he might not have attacked her." There are people who'll shame others merely for what they are wearing.

Case in point: I went to London on Sunday. I was just going out to meet an old friend of mine and go to an event for the afternoon. I decided I was going to wear something a bit daring. Why? Because I could. Because I own the item of clothing and...oh yeah...because I CAN. Because I want to be able to wear what I want when I want to. I want to feel comfortable in my own skin. Apparently that wasn't acceptable on the train over to London from High Wycombe. This is how the interaction went. Bear in mind I am wearing this... (with a huge leather jacket on)

Yes, I like corsets. This one happens to be a bit big...

Woman: Do you think you're being appropriate wearing that?
Me: Yeah I am.
Woman: Well you're advertising sex.
Me: I'm just wearing an outfit.
(Woman shows her daughter who looks like she's in her early twenties)
Woman: (Outraged.) This is my daughter.
Me: She seems lovely. What's your point?
Woman: It's wrong to parade yourself like that and present a bad example for women like her.
Me: Actually I'm showing you can wear whatever you like and it's totally fine. If anyone is showing a bad example it's you for shaming women.

A while passes where nothing is said. I go back to listening to music. The woman and a gentleman with her scowled thinking I couldn't tell but I'm not too bothered. I'm more focused on getting to the meeting point to find my friend. As I was about to get off the train, the man came up to me and tapped me on the shoulder.  I took my headphones off and this occured:

Man: (Sarcastically) I bet your mother is proud of you.
Me: She is, actually. She'd be proud of me if she could see me now.
Man: What is she - a prostitute?
Me: A published author so I'd show a bit more respect if I were you.

At that point, I was on the platform at London Marylebone. I promptly put my headphones back on and walked away, not wishing to engage with them anymore. I wasn't in the mood anymore and I felt like if I had to keep going I was going to descend into yelling at these ignorant people. I've spent a long time trying to control the anger I feel over the traumas I've gone through. I'm still trying to keep a tab on the emotions I've felt in the aftermath of everything. I am not perfect at that.

However, something else happened. I felt motivated and inspired to keep going. Keep on raising awareness no matter how little I help. Keep on raising money through my JustGiving page and other ways. Keep on surviving, living and doing the things I wish to do for myself. The fact I went out in a corset alone means I've made some progress considering I was in a place 3 1/2 years ago where anything I wore that wasn't baggy risked causing anxiety attacks.

Moral of the story: Wear what you want to wear. Someone is always going to have a problem. It's not you, it's them :-)

Lots of love and solidarity <3