Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Red Flags you’re with a Narcissist

1.    Love Bombing or Quick Attachment – you will quickly receive endless compliments, gifts, a variety of promises and given endless attention, affection and nice gestures. Very early on the narcissist will give you things in order to ensure you are indebted to them and owe them something. The narcissist has shallow emotions and use false praise and flattery and will detach from you as quickly as they committed.

2.    Coercive Controla narcissist will orchestrate the outcomes they desire; in the extreme form, this can manifest as abusive, controlling behaviours. As with most narcissistic red flags, the efforts to control are often far subtler than outright abuse; be on the lookout for changes in arrangements you have made or one who always turns up late to an arrangement. Anything that makes you feel nervous or makes you change your behaviours should be a red flag.

3.     Fragmented Family History - Insecurely attached people can't talk coherently about their family and childhood and their early memories are confused, contradictory, and riddled with gaps. Narcissists often give themselves away precisely because their childhood story makes no sense or don't add up and you can find nothing out about them on social media.

4.    Idol Worshipping NarcissistWhen the idol worshipping narcissist finds someone perfect to be close to they hope some of that perfection will rub off on them and that they will become perfect by association. The fact that no one can be perfect is usually lost on the idol-worshipping narcissist take cover once the narcissist realises this as few experiences can prepare you for the vitriol of a suddenly disappointed narcissist. Be careful conforming to an image of perfection, no matter how lovely the compulsive flattery might feel.

5.    Too Good to be True – a narcissist is a con artist and when a narcissist finds a target he/she morphs into his/her good self and becomes the epitome of a kind caring perfect friend or lover in order to suck you into the world of lies and deceit.

6.    Moves Around A lot – they often move around a lot, that way their past doesn’t come back and bite them on the bum. They are often in between jobs, just leaving or just starting a new job and have had many jobs. They usually do not have long term friends.

7.    Always Someone Else’s Fault – any indiscretions, failings, lies, crimes are always someone else’s fault or you or someone else made him/her do it. It is never the narcissist's fault. They will accuse you of provoking them to do or behave negatively or abusively.

8.    Financial/Economic Abuse – the narcissist will borrow money from you and very quickly pay you back in order to gain your trust so that when they ask for larger sums of money you are in a false sense of security and are sure they will return the money quickly – but they don’t and always have valid excuses as to why paying you back is not possible.

9.    Lies & Gaslighting – you catch the narcissist out telling lies but they will say you misunderstood, got the wrong end of the stick or imagined it. They are convincing liars and make you feel paranoid, insecure, confused and over write your sense of reality blatantly denying their own manipulative and deceitful behaviours. They will tell you, you are mentally ill and unstable and suggest you see a doctor or worse try to have you sectioned. They live a double life – one with you and one with others – they transform themselves depending on who they are around and you find yourself playing detective. They surround themselves with individuals who have been sucked into their game and believe in their lies in order to maintain their status quo.

10.  Selfishness & Adoration – their demand for adoration is insatiable, no one can fill the void of a psychopaths soul. They talk about themselves persistently and play the victim card when it suits their needs. They are selfish and self-centred and want to be adored and crave fame and fortune.

11.  Insults – enjoys putting you down and flatters your own insecurities. Comments about what you’re wearing and often like to tell you what to wear. They will focus on your mistakes rather than their own and if you point this out they will turn the whole conversation back onto you.

12.  No Conscience – they are devoid of empathy and have no conscience and are incapable of understanding how you or anyone else feels. It is only ever about them. They know what they are doing and get great pleasure from it. Their behaviour boosts and pumps up their ego only to make them more dangerous and vile. They get great pleasure from ruining someone’s reputation and will go to any length to achieve their goal.

After an encounter with a psychopath, most survivors face the struggle of hypervigilance: who can really be trusted?

Resources and Further Information:

Serious Crime Act 2015 - Section 76 Statutory Guidance Document here:

Serious Crime Act 2015 - Section 76 - legislation here:

Coercive Control by Evan Stark / Women at Risk by Evan Stark / Without Conscience by Robert D. Hare / Psychopath Free by Jackson Mackenzie

Written by Elaine Hook - Survivor of Domestic Abuse

Monday, 7 August 2017

Narcissistic Abuse

My abuse commenced over 30 years ago when I was just a young girl really and I had no idea what domestic abuse or violence was and had never heard of the word narcissism. I was a young career girl getting on with and enjoying life when I was plunged into a cesspit of abusive behaviours that have had devastating and lifelong damage on me the victim. I now use My Story and experience to help others in similar situations and endeavour to learn as much as possible about domestic abuse and violence and all associated areas.

My own Story of abuse is on this blog where you can read what happened to me and I am also writing a book about my abuse and the effects so I do not plan to repeat too much of that initial Story, nevertheless my abuse was vile and damaging and went on for a very long time and I have spent many years working on myself and healing.

So for those of you coming to my blog for the first time please take a look at My Story and other posts on my blog and please also read this new post I am about to write about the insidious and abhorrent effects of narcissism, narcissistic abuse and a narcissist.

The definition of Narcissism is:
An excessive interest in or admiration of oneself and one's physical appearance

Psychology - Extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one's own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type

Psychoanalysis - Self-centeredness arising from the failure to distinguish the self from external objects, either in very young babies or as a feature of mental disorder

The definition of a Narcissist is:
 A person who has an excessive interest in or admiration of themselves
"Narcissists who think the world revolves around them"

The definition of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)
 The hallmarks of NPD are grandiosity, a lack of empathy for other people, and a need for admiration. People with this condition are frequently described as arrogant, self-centered, manipulative, and demanding. They may also concentrate on grandiose fantasies e.g. their own success, beauty, brilliance and may be convinced that they deserve special treatment. These characteristics typically begin in early adulthood and must be consistently evident in multiple contexts, such as at work and in relationships. 

People with narcissistic personality disorder believe they are superior or special, and often try to associate with other people they believe are unique or gifted in some way. This association enhances their self-esteem, which is typically quite fragile underneath the surface. Individuals with NPD seek excessive admiration and attention in order to know that others think highly of them. Individuals with narcissistic personality disorder have difficulty tolerating criticism or defeat and may be left feeling humiliated or empty when they experience an "injury" in the form of criticism or rejection. 
Unfortunately, I have been exposed to several Narcissists who have been extremely damaging individuals; grandiose, conceited, self-centered, self-absorbed and in love with their own idealized self- image.

Recently I was unlucky enough to come into contact with a narcissist and his “gang” of narcissists who tried desperately to discredit me and smear my highly reputed professional reputation for their own idealized self-image and professional gain. This is gaslighting, grooming and an abuse of power and is about greed and believing you are better than others and above those around you.

This recent Narcissist was a conversation hoarder, always talking about himself, speaking over me and interrupting me and not listening to me and my Story. He also violated boundaries and did not understand social norms and then told lies about me and tried to twist the truth by blaming me – this is gaslighting those around him in order that he didn’t crack or lose the mask that is his idealized self-image. You see a Narcissist cannot cope if anyone gets under or behind the idealized-self mask and if you do they will turn it around onto their victim and gaslight in order that you feel you are crazy or going insane. A Narcissist once caught out will do anything to save face; they have no empathy, conscience or feelings as to how this impacts the victim and their mental health.

Narcissists suffer False Image Projection and do many things to impress those around them to make themselves feel good. A narcissist uses people, objects, status and accomplishments (or not) without conscience in order to look and feel good about themselves; it is always only ever about them. A narcissist will use you romantically, sexually, socially, financially, materially, professionally, academically or culturally for their own gain (and this list is not exhaustive). It is only ever about the Narcissist being worthy of everyone’s admiration and acceptance. All the narcissists I have known display these traits and behaviours and used me and my good nature and taken me for granted, I am sure many of you can relate to what I am saying.

Narcissists have a sense of entitlement and expect preferential treatment and to be centre of attention. They are charming and charismatic and smooth talkers. They will often groom with love bombing and gifts to suck you in, once you are in their clutches the tables will turn and they will blame you, lie to you and take no responsibility for their sadistic behaviour. They are nothing but evil. When they lose interest in you or you call them out on their attitude, language or behaviour towards you that is when you see the real self and they will turn the tide on you and drop you like a brick leaving you confused and traumatised. They have got what they want from you and you are tossed aside like a piece of trash leaving you to pick up the pieces and try to make some sense of what has just happened and what (if anything) you did wrong. In fact, you have done nothing wrong, you have been groomed and gaslit by an evil and sadistic narcissist who has used and abused your good nature, sensitivities, care and kindness and has now left you traumatised all of which can lead to depression and PTSD.

Narcissists enjoy spreading rumours, gossip or negativity to gain attention and make themselves feel more powerful. They will throw a tantrum if you disagree with them or their views; they hate criticism and will respond an argument, cold detachment or ridicule and blame you. Mine recent Narcissist did all of the above and emotionally abused me by using my previous domestic abuse against me. This was a sick and the lowest form of narcissistic abuse and when I called him out on his behaviour he became defensive and even more patronising and emotionally abusive. Narcissists need to boost their own fragile ego, superego and id in order to feel good about themselves.

A narcissist will manipulate by pretending they are the victim and gaslighting and grooming those around them into believing you are the problem and that it is your behaviour that is the problem not theirs. The Narcissist is a very dangerous specimen of the human race and the only way to survive such abuse is to have no contact whatsoever with the Narcissist and try to recover. You may need some form of therapy from a registered therapist in your local area depending on the depth of damage.

Narcissistic Abuse
  1.  Incessantly talking about themselves
  2.  Overstepping boundaries
  3. Doesn’t like criticism; quick to anger; throws tantrums; bullying
  4. Lacks empathy & has no conscience
  5. Is always right
  6. Sense of entitlement
  7. Charming  groomer
  8. Will gaslight you
  9. False image projection
  10. Manipulative
  11. Liar and spreads rumours and gossip
  12. Dangerous and evil
My current and past Narcissistic Abusers (you know who you are) have all shown all of these traits, characteristics and behaviours and thank God I recognised this current narcissistic abuser early enough and stopped it but the fallout has been lengthy and damaging to my mental health yet again and unfortunately has triggered all my past abuse and put me in a bad place. I have asked for professional help and I am on the road to recovery again.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post.


From Charm to Harm and Everything Else in Between by Gregory Zaffuto
How to Successfully Handle Narcissists by Preston Ni



Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Abuse Haunts us till the Grave

I wanted to touch on a subject that I have been thinking a lot about lately and that is – how trauma and memories of abuse (all types) can pop up years later and haunt us. I am sure you will understand when I say that “I think it is over” and then something pops out of the woodwork and throws you right back into the middle of the trauma suffered years ago.

I fled 17 years ago this November but just a month or so ago I was reminded how my perpetrator still attempts to control both me and my daughter from afar. He doesn’t know where I live now, I moved hundreds of miles away to a secret location. Very few people know where I am. He has no contact a with my daughter but nevertheless, he successfully got a message to me via a family member that he wanted to speak to and see his daughter, one last time because he felt he was dying. The family member called me and my daughter to relay the message as they felt “piggy in the middle” and guilty if he did die and he had not told either of us the message.

It’s called emotional blackmail.

Abuse of power and…

…coercive control by proxy.

Through others, family members, friends and acquaintances, my perpetrator tries to find a way to still control me and have contact with me. He will haunt and control me from the grave, I have no doubt.

My daughter fell apart and in turn, I fell apart. You see you think it’s over, that he cannot touch you anymore. He cannot hurt you or find you. I had fled for a second time, into hiding and relaxed into a way of life that was simple, quiet, stress-free and I was happy and content possibly for the first time in 17 years. But the perpetrator just “pops out the woodwork” and everything falls apart yet again.

My daughter and I (for different reasons) were right back in the abuse; right back over 20 years ago to the suffering and pain of being mistreated and abused. The guilt and shame regurgitated itself; seeing each other so upset was far worse that hearing from him. My trauma is often escalated when I see my daughter so traumatised; it’s very difficult as a mother to see your child in such an emotional turmoil. And for her, she hates to see me so traumatised so we both end up in this spiral of complex trauma and psychology endeavouring to help each other to overcome the pain. We both feel guilty for each other’s pain because we hate to see each other so upset not only because the perpetrator pops right up but because we are upset to see each other upset.

So for the disbelievers and the agencies that don’t listen hear understand or believe; for the judges and courts that do not understand coercive control and give light sentences or release perpetrators early, under license or with a community service order, I really need to get over the point to all of you reading this that my daughter and I live a life sentence because it never goes away. Releasing perpetrators early, giving community sentences, releasing perpetrators on tags or licences allows them, to not only carry on with their lives with no conscience but also to re-offend assault stalk or abuse the original victim again or move on to someone else.

So you disbelievers listen up, something always pops up, quite often for the rest of our days. It can be a smell, a sound, a piece of music, a place, a photograph, a voice or a telephone call (to name just a few) that will take us back to the very core of the abusive situation and traumatise us all over again, this is called secondary trauma. No matter how I try to avoid this from happening I cannot stop it; I have no control over it, it is like a force of nature that follows me wherever I go. I suffer from internalised anxiety when my perpetrator reappears and opens up old wounds. I shake and skin pick; my internal organs tremble and my heart has a pain in it so intense I think I am having a heart attack. My flight response is triggered and I often freeze, can’t think straight and suffer insomnia; it can days, even weeks to settle down again. The fight-or-flight response is also called hyperarousal or the acute stress response and is a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival. This is a natural reaction to long term and toxic trauma.

I am sure many of you reading this understand and get it and have similar responses to acute trauma and domestic abuse and violence. Nevertheless, by me sharing my personal story, my experiences and speaking out, maybe, just maybe, a judge, lawyer, detective, social worker or other individual working with domestic abuse and violence and child sexual abuse and exploitation will read this and begin to have some better understanding of the life sentence victims and survivors of DA/DV suffer through the insidious and vile acts and behaviour of narcissists who use coercion and grooming, gaslighting and love bombing, stalking and harassment to control.


Thursday, 27 April 2017

Being Stalked

  • Stalking is not flattering
  • It is not love
  • And it does not mean someone cares about you nor has your best interests at heart as many perpetrators would have their victims believe
  • Stalking is insidious, terrifying, an abuse of power and often renders the victim hopeless
I have first-hand knowledge and feelings about stalking; I was stalked for three years. I also work daily with victims of stalking who bravely share their stalking nightmares with me and many are still being failed by the agencies today.

But first, let me enlighten the disbelievers about my own case which ended 17 years ago. I was stalked by my ex-husband for three years. He would appear anywhere I was and would always claim innocence and just do some shopping or whatever and disappear. He would send me text messages saying he knew where I was, what I was wearing etc. He would telephone constantly, say vile things and hang up. He would threaten to kill me and threaten to kidnap my daughter. I changed my number on numerous occasions but somehow he seemed able to find it again. We moved house several times but he found me again. I reported him and the behaviours to the police on numerous occasions but they did absolutely nothing. They advised me it was domestic and they could do nothing until he harmed me or attempted to take my daughter. Of course, he did none of those things because he was a charming, intelligent, eminent businessman and narcissist who knew the law and knew the boundaries he must keep to stop a caution or an arrest. Even with a restraining order and injunction, nothing was ever done. He broke the restraining order constantly and I eventually did not have the financial resources to keep going back to court. So I gave up. I managed my own life hiding and protecting me and my daughter and eventually I moved 400 miles away. He has no idea where I live now and only a handful of people do.

Just this past week I supported a family where a young child had been exploited and the perpetrator given a suspended sentence and community order and was rehoused by the local housing authority two streets away from the victim. They shopped in the same town. They kept bumping in to him. He was smug and smirked at them. The family had already been rehoused prior to the court case so when they asked to be moved again the council refused. A few days ago they put all their furniture into storage and fled from Yorkshire to Cornwall.

Another woman I supported was terrified as her ex-husband seemed to know where she was all the time. Knew who she was talking to on her mobile and knew where her car was constantly. He even knew what she was writing in her emails. Her perpetrator had purchased from the USA Apps and tracking devices and had installed them on her devices and was watching every move she made. It took forever to get help from the agencies and eventually she fled changed her devices, changed her name and sold her car. He does not know where she is now but no help from the agencies.

I could go on with many more cases but I’ll leave it there.

But the point I want to make is this. It is 17 years since my stalker finally got bored with me and then couldn’t find me but still today the education, knowledge, and understanding of stalking from the victims perspective is not adequate enough.  As with all abuse, coercive control, grooming, gas lighting and love bombing, in too many cases the agencies do not have enough in-depth knowledge and understanding from the victim’s perspective. The perpetrator often has more rights and support. This has to change. Seventeen years ago I was nearly going out of my mind with toxic trauma and PTSD due to domestic abuse, violence, and stalking and here I am today still supporting women and children suffering exactly the same challenges and very little has changed. No very very little has changed.

Like any form of abuse, there are individuals, communities, and agencies that never come into contact with any form of abusive behaviour and do not know the damage and trauma caused. Many do not even believe abuse goes on in their neighbourhoods. One woman said to me “does this really go on in leafy Buckinghamshire”. Agencies still do not take victims disclosures seriously and some still do not believe, many do not even listen. I work every day at ground level with victims and survivors of all forms of abuse and I am appalled by the lack of support and understanding still being launched at victims and survivors.

Unless some of us continue to speak up and out about not only our own stories and journeys but those of others we come into contact with and support nothing will ever change. I will not be silenced about my own journey; I was silenced for far too long. But I will also not be silenced about what I come across in my day to day work because far too many women and children are still be let down by the system and agencies.

Training in narcissistic sociopathic and psychopathic behaviours of the charming manipulators needs to be a priority for agencies and they would do well to use those of us that have experienced domestic abuse, violence, stalking and non-current child sexual abuse in their training sessions in order to hear first-hand the victims perspective and learn the depth of these insidious crimes.

Narcissists have no conscience and believe their own propaganda. They are charming upright citizens. The myth of the dirty old man in a mac behind a tree who none of us know or have ever seen before is a myth that needs to be put to rest once and for all. Most of us are abused or stalked by someone we know (or the family knows) and they are often well thought of by all those around them.

So I urge you to speak up about what really is happening, tell your stories, share your journeys, it not only liberates the victims and shifts a great weight and starts the healing process but it gives other courage and support to find their voice in order to again help others come forward.

I speak about abuse, will you...or will you stay silent and keep the secrets and lies of the perpetrator thus continuing to give power to the abuser? 

I urge you to think about this because we all know someone who has suffered or is suffering right now and who needs our support. Agencies will tell you thing have changed and it is better today, and it is marginally but there is still much more to be done and by speaking of what is really happening at ground level will help the stalking charities like...

to continue to campaign and fight for the rights of victims.

New Stalking Protection Orders - latest news:

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Victim Blaming

You don’t own me
Don’t change me in any way
You don’t own me
Don’t tie me down 'cause I’d never stay

I don’t tell you what to say
I don’t tell you what to do
So just let me be myself
That’s all I ask of you

Victim blaming is a devaluing act where the victim of a crime, an accident, or any type of abusive maltreatment is held as wholly or partially responsible for the wrongful conduct committed against them.

Victim blaming occurs when the victim of a crime or any wrongful act is held entirely or partially responsible for the harm that befell them. Secondary victimisation is the re-traumatization of the sexual assault, abuse, or rape victim through the responses of individuals and institutions.

I was told by a therapist that my behaviour during my abuse assisted my abuser to continue to abuse me. It’s taken years for me to get that phrase out of my head and also to analyse and understand what she meant. Today I understand but do not wholly agree with her analysis. You see I knew no different; I mirrored my parents’ marriage which obviously I thought was normal but today I realise my parents’ marriage was a circumstance of the era and culture (1953) that had also been normalised for them because they mirrored their parents and grandparents. We learn from the people around us, our prime carers, those that are with us day to day and therefore I cannot take all the blame for the abuse I suffered. Consequently, if we grow up with prime carers and extended family that are abusers over time this becomes normalised, you see we do not know what goes on in others family homes, so what we see and know in our own homes is how our brain patterns our own "normal". Victims of abuse then spend years undoing and un-patterning beliefs and behaviours that actually are not normal. I found that the emotional and psychological trauma of "finding out" that my "normal" was a lie was worse than any physical abuse. The betrayal of loved ones who should have cared for me loved me unconditionally and kept me safe was almost too much to bear. The epiphany of waking up to this betrayal and knowledge, and understanding that because of a lie, I went on to marry my abuser and didn't recognise or see the red flags right in front of me because my "normal" was all I knew.

My abuser also learnt from his parents, grandparents and family around him too and due to a certain amount of dysfunction and lack of parenting he grew up with a warped view of life, marriage, parenting and fatherhood. His brain had also been patterned to think his upbringing and home life was "normal". The way he treated me is the way he had been treated all his life from a small boy but this has taken me the best part of twenty years to unpick all this. The brains of victims of acute trauma wire differently; it can be a lifetime of unpicking and unravelling what happened to us and some of us are never able to unpick all the levels of trauma inflicted on us.

Friends also victim blame; I lost serval close and important lifelong friends due to my abuse. They didn’t believe me, they believed him. He was able to continue to bluff some friends with his "charm" and they were gaslit and groomed to believe that I had made up my abuse because I "wanted the attention" before he went on to tell others "I had been sectioned". Disbelieving the victim’s story and minimising the severity of the abuse is secondary victimisation and causes many forms of mental health issues, e.g. post-traumatic stress disorder and complex post-traumatic stress disorder, dissociation, bipolar disorder and in many cases leads to substance abuse, self-harm, eating disorders and in some cases, suicide.

Victims of abuse do not need you or the community to blame them, they already feel guilt, shame, betrayal, anger – victims of abuse of any description do not need any of you to rub it in because they already feel bad enough. Our perpetrators have spent years grooming and gaslighting us to believe we are to blame and worthless; that our behaviour and responses to their behaviour make us somehow the guilty party. I was raised to believe you worked on a marriage, that you forgave and forgot, that tomorrow is a new day – so what did I do – I did just that and I got up the following morning after being subjected to his vile words and forgave, forgot and just got on with it. But I never told my abuser until just before I fled, that I hated the way he spoke to me and hated the way he treated me.

By this time it was too late, I did not love him anymore and certainly did not like him, I was done and nothing in his power or on this earth was going to change my mind. Once I saw the light and made up my mind, it was interesting how I took back my power and he became weak and clutching at straws he tried to bad mouth me and discredit me. He continued for three plus years to try to make me out to be something I am not. He was scrabbling around in the gutter for anything that would make him feel good about himself, you see once I had left he had lost one hell of a chunk of power.

The community victim blames all the time; the stigma and contamination we have to live with as a victim of sexual assault or abuse. There is the stigma of being a single mum; the stigma of being divorced and the stigma of being poor; the stigma of being a victim of rape and child sexual abuse. We are looked upon differently and treated differently but blaming us the victims, releases the perpetrator and abuser, who has committed the violence, from the responsibility of what he or she has done. Blaming the victim plays into the hands of the abuser, they continue to have the power. Society needs to wake up to the fact that it is the abuser who is to blame and society needs to put the blame in the rightful place, with the perpetrator.

It’s so easy to blame the victim but let me give you a few myths around victim blaming:

  • No one wants to be abused, raped or assaulted
  • No one deserves to be abused
  • No one leaves a long marriage or partner on a whim
  • No one wants to put their children through a messy divorce
  • No one wants their children to see them be assaulted
  • Few individuals lie about abuse, rape or assault
So stop focusing on the victim and focus on the abuser; the abuser is the one who must carry the blame. No one asks to be abused, raped or assaulted and no one deserves it either under any circumstances. We need to dispel the myths that we can just get over it or he or she must have done something to deserve the abuse. The abuser is to blame – fact.

“...the study findings suggests that we want to be sympathetic and focus on victims and outpour our sympathy, but that might actually lead us to focus so much on victims and what they could have done differently that we actually neglect to focus on the perpetrators and what they potentially could have done differently”

Laura Niemi, a postdoctoral associate in psychology at Harvard University

We also need to dispel the myth that many victims of abuse disclose their stories with the sole aim of obtaining compensation – untrue – fact. Most victims of abuse just want justice; just want to be believed and see their abuser named and shamed and convicted of the insidious crime that has been committed. Let’s concentrate on the abuser, give our energy to outing abusers, if we do not do this we are complicit, we allow them to hold on to the power. Let’s speak up for victims and break this chain, break the silence, break the cycle. The time is now, so many coming forward, so many speaking up and out, so will you think about all I have said and join me on this International Women’s Day and raise your voices and save at least one victim of abuse.

So never tell me I must have behaved in a way that made my abuser abuse me because I didn’t. Never tell me I am to blame because I didn’t stand up to him or tell him I didn’t like his behaviour because he should have known his behaviour was disgusting and disrespectful. Never tell me I was too sensitive or imagined it or was paranoid because I wasn’t. Never tell me I must have deserved it because I didn’t; never tell me I lied because I didn’t. Never tell me I should have stayed because I couldn’t. Never tell me I betrayed my abuser by leaving because it was he who betrayed me, he who let me down; he abused his power and took advantage of my good nature and personality and abused me in every way possible till he almost broke me. But…

For every last bruise, you gave me
For every time I sat in tears
For the million ways, you hurt me
I just want to tell you this
You broke my world, made me strong
Thank you
Messed up my dreams, made me strong
Thank you



Friday, 3 March 2017

Resilience – and how we cope

Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune, adversity or change; strength of character; the ability to bounce back

Resilience is the ability to cope and rise to the day to day challenges, problems and setbacks that we meet in the course of our lives and come back stronger. It is a challenge, isn’t it? Every day it is a challenge. After trauma of any kind, depression, mental health difficulties, substance abuse, bereavement, divorce, domestic abuse and/or violence and child sexual abuse it can feel impossible to “bounce back” – as the definition above suggests.

How do we come back stronger, where do we find the energy and inclination to “bounce” back and why do some of us have the strength, courage and wherewithal to do this and others do not. It is said that individuals of resilience think and do things differently, e.g. they believe there are only mistakes, have a well-balanced outlook and believe there are also rich interesting and beautiful things to enjoy in life. It's a challenge, isn't it? To constantly find interesting and beautiful things to appreciate on our life's journey can be challenging, but it's the trying every day that is important here. If we can, it's important to endeavour to find something to appreciate in our lives each day, e.g. our children, Spring emerging, friends, peace, contentment.

So how did I “bounce” back after three breakdowns, five major surgeries, a very messy divorce and twenty years of domestic abuse? I haven’t thought about this very much till now but recently I have been interested in what makes a survivor as opposed to a thriver or warrior. I consider myself a survivor and a thriver and on occasion a warrior. I still fall backwards sometimes and I realise now that is ok but generally, I have the resilience to thrive and more often these days I am a warrior. I have really had to delve deep to analyse how I have "bounced" back after each trial, tribulation and breakdown, but I have. 

How did I do this?

Most of the time I am positive; most of the time I have a faith and belief that things will be ok and that I will survive whatever is thrown in my path. Most of the time I trust in the universe and the bigger picture and most of the time I believe there is a lesson to be learnt out of every challenge, hardship and difficulty thrown my way. I believe that out of every challenge there is something positive to take from it and learn in order to move forward. I believe I was put on this earth for a mission and to make a difference; I believe I have a calling to give back and leave an incy wincy legacy (if I can). I believe I owe it to my daughter to role model a strong competent intelligent but compassionate and empathetic woman with strong morals and ethics. And quite naturally I am a positive person (most of the time).

But that doesn’t mean it’s easy in any shape or form, that doesn’t mean I have any superior qualities or that I have a magic solution. There have been dark moments and very dark periods of time. Just like you, I have to work on myself every day and believe me there is still much work to do. I have to learn to trust much more but this is a daily exercise; I have to believe I am worthy and continue to increase my self-respect just to name a few of the areas that need more work. No one is perfect, least of all me, but at challenging times I try to stop and reflect, think and assess; recognise the red flags whenever and wherever I can and ask myself what can I learn from this. And I have learned to appreciate the little things in life, e.g. the birth of spring flowers, birds feeding on my bird feed, purple heather covering the moors, a quiet dinner with those I love.

To assist us in, working towards or achieving resilience, we have to draw on different skills and a variety of sources of help including rational thinking, physical and mental health and relationships around us in order to grow and become resilient. Resilience is not necessarily about overcoming challenges in our lives but more about how we tackle and deal with them as they are thrown at us. We all face challenges every day, big and small, that ask us to call on our reserves of resilience and we work it out without too much thinking but it's the big challenges and trauma that take more resilience, skills and mental health to help us survive, thrive and become those warriors.

There are four basic ingredients to resilience:

·         Awareness – noticing what is going on around us and inside our heads

·         Thinking – being able to interpret events that are going on in a rational way

·         Reaching Out – how we call upon others to help us meet the challenges that we face because resilience is also about knowing when to ask for help

·         Fitness – our mental and physical ability to cope with challenge whilst staying healthy

So on reflection, I now understand that many of my challenges thrown at me over my lifetime have been training and preparation for the next chapter of my life book or journey. On learning my father had young onset Multiple Sclerosis and in turn having a breakdown I learned how to be and work with children and adults with multiple learning difficulties and disabilities. After my spinal fusion, I was lifted quite literally because I learnt I cleared the bar in the high jump at school even though I endured a life-threatening accident, funnily enough, I was ecstatic! After my very messy divorce and domestic abuse, I was able to get up, hold down a job and function because I had my beautiful daughter to take care of and be a good role model too. One thing in the last twenty-eight years that keeps me surviving and thriving is being a good mother; without my daughter, there would be little to get up for each day. I also would not be able to do the difficult work I now do, working with victims, survivors and thrivers of all forms of abuse and exploitation if I had not felt what it is like to be abused. 

There are a variety of things that enable us to “bounce” back at challenging and traumatic times. Remembering that we are all different, our beliefs and thought processes play a huge part in increasing our resilience as do the help, support and positive relationships around us. Surrounding ourselves with positivity and positive people who bring the best out in us, finding our corner of peace and seeing the beauty in what we have got and achieved rather than what we have lost are all important areas of life that help create and grow resilience. But it is not easy and we all have the right to grow and create our resilience at our own pace; it is not an easy task and working on it every day is all we can do. Everyone has much work to do and that is ok. When we experience complex and toxic trauma our brains change and they wire and pattern differently. Toxic stress is when there is prolonged stress in the absence of protective relationships and consequently the brain will shut down to protect us and it. During toxic stress obviously, the brain continues to work but its rate of growth slows right down and the younger the brain (for example childhood) the more damaging the effects of continual and/or perpetual toxic stress. The long-term effects of toxic stress will differ according to the age and stage of development.

It is imperative for everyone to understand and accept that we will all become resilient or more resilient in our own time, space and pace and according to the depth of trauma, abuse, anxiety and exposure to toxic stress. Remember this is your journey, not mine, not anyone else’s. No one should be telling us when to heal or how. No one should be expecting high levels of resilience if we are not ready. We all have to find our own way, and healing can take many forms and many pathways. We will travel hills and dales, negotiate crossroads and T-junctions and navigate oceans and streams finding our own sense of peace, belonging and sanctuary and however long it takes you and whichever road you choose, remember it is your way in your own time and that really is ok.