Rhian C

@boosebot | contributor
As someone who has suffered from Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, and Dyspraxia, in conjunction with Complex PTSD, I've learned first hand that life doesn't go in a straight line. And for a dyspraxic where balance isn't exactly a strong point, that line moves around *a lot*. I'm a passionate believer in equality, and believe that by shining a light on the little things that make life worth living we can all make the world a better place. The Mighty is a perfect embodiment of that wish - the community is not a cry for sympathy, or a circle of clapping and back patting, but instead a community that knows, understands, and reflects a collective everyday experience. My hope is that from sharing my expriences and learning from others, we can come together to affect real change.
Rhian C
Rhian C @boosebot
contributor

When Cutting Ties With Abusive People Leaves You Grieving

Whether on a school trip, at a dinner party, or getting to know a colleague, one question always gets asked: Do you believe in ghosts? At sleepovers, stories of Bloody Mary are told in hushed tones, preteens are dared to summon the legends. Through old buildings, ghostly events, and the power of marketing — we are constantly surrounded by the ghosts. Is there an afterlife? Who knows? What have we or the ghosts done to deserve haunting or having to haunt? Are ghosts dangerous? Have you had ghostly experiences? I used to find it super bizarre when people laughed when I would tell them the disturbing ghostly experiences that had happened. They were half-joking and half-believing. There was something that constantly confused me. The ghosts I had weren’t all dead. Sure, some of them were and I didn’t question that. But sometimes they would be people I knew, acting out something that had already happened. Other times they would be strangers doing something totally mundane. But of course, there would be times when they would do something terrifying. Terror and anxiety stalked me.  When I confided in people, they would tell me I had a very active imagination. Others would tell me I was sleeping. No one believed me. I spent many years believing I was in fact dead or a conduit. I would have a menagerie of animals following me throughout the day — every day. I thought this was normal. Some of them would be exotic animals such as lions, tigers, bears… and of course unicorns. There would also be the pedestrian animals such as cats; in truth, they have been the most faithful and still make an occasional appearance. Sure, I was lonely they gave me someone to talk to, play with, read with — I’m dyslexic and dyspraxic so this was very important for me and my development. The people were much more distracting and troubling. Whispering and telling me things. What is an isolated individual supposed to think? That I’m “crazy?” That I’m haunted? Am I scared of dead people? No. I am haunted more by the things that had happened to me. I was abused from an early age by family members and then an ex-boyfriend. Isolation was a huge part of me. The very first crisis point where I acted in a destructive way, it was driven by the only way I could see to escape the ghosts. Ghosts came and went, but after I went no-contact with my prime abuser, some disappeared forever. Relief is what I expected, but wasn’t what I experienced: loss and grief hit me. To this day, I miss those ghosts. Although they were terrifying, they were familiar. After I had been injured by a previous partner, which in turn ended the relationship, more left me. I had been isolated by all the abusers:  I didn’t have many people or ghosts left. That silence. The emptiness was horrific. As I slowly tried to pull my life back together, different ghosts appeared. The abusers, the fear of what I had done. What I was going to be. Alone. Am I scared of dead people? No. I am haunted more by the things that have happened to me. I have begun to heal and started to talk about the hallucinations that have plagued me. Slowly, I am learning to live with them — some major sacrifices had to happen. My ghosts are not the dead. My ghosts are a subconscious development of abuse.

Rhian C
Rhian C @boosebot
contributor

How Moving to a New Country Made Me Confront My Sexual Abuse

I ran. It conjures up someone sleeping rough, someone fleeing from a dangerous situation,  grabbing only a few items. This isn’t what happened. It was planned with my partner that we were moving to London. I jumped at the opportunity to go with him, not only because I loved him (I still do), but to get lost. Anonymity felt like such a privilege — no one knew me and they didn’t want to. I could do whatever I wanted. I wouldn’t be scolded by family or friends close by. I wouldn’t have to be accountable. The sun rising as I rode on the morning train across Blackfriars bridge hit me every single morning. The natural beauty was astounding of a city filled with millions of people desperate not to know you or your past. There was nowhere I’d rather be in the world. A storm was approaching because of the exact reason I’d run. The Anonymity. It gave way to a massive mental breakdown because for the first time, I had the space to fall apart. Space to figure out who I was and deal with the abuse I had previously endured. My head told me I’d already dealt with it all. Desperately, I wanted to believe this, even though in truth, the surface had hardly been scratched, the exploration of the past became too overwhelming. I knew I  had to find a way to cope, but sometimes there are certain things you just can’t do. Becoming lost, all boundaries and rules went out the window. I did some ridiculously silly things, which I deeply regret. Fast, I was becoming a regular at my local hospital. While repairing, I decided it was my duty to stand up for those who did not have a voice. Sexual abuse is still taboo and I still believe part of this is due to little understanding. I took part in a national inquiry that ruptured my world. I was very vocal about this both to the inquiry and the police involved — they ripped my heart and everything else I had rebuilt out. Although now, I do question whether I would have been as happy as I am now for not going through the inquiry and the following investigations. I was broken — being whole was my illusion as  I couldn’t face up to the reality of what I had been through. But… I found my therapist who helped lead me and my fiance through a very difficult period of our lives. With the love and support of the people around me, I was able to start building a positive life with actual goals: family, career, hobbies, etc. As I grew, I realized something: The foundational reason I had run was no longer part of me. The anonymity was no longer attractive. I was so sure what I wanted was to be alone with just my partner and control when I saw people. When I started to mend, I realized I actually love people (a lot) and was scared of getting rejected (both by friends and family). So, I would be needlessly aggressive, rude, mean, and loud. I wish I could take back all the actions and words that hurt the people I love, but I can’t. I believe I will spend my life trying to repair, repay, and rebuild from that time of my life. Always will I regret who and how I was at that time of my life. I was so violently defensive about so many aspects of my life. I was hurt and not ready to deal properly with that. I had decided I was already fixed and other people just didn’t understand. It caused a lot of problems in my life and in honesty, it was easy to paint everyone else as against me because they pulled me up. As I recovered, I yearned for the people who loved me around me. Clarity about what I actually wanted despite the internalized battle led both of us to a decision. It was time to come home. Difficult decisions and situations would still be. I would be returning a different person, one who was finally ready to face reality as it truly was. Not the lie I had created for myself. The ghosts still appear, but they no longer plague me like they once did. My crime scenes, people, and memories still can overwhelm me. Now, they are accepted as truth I once chose to ignore. I needed to run away to come back as a whole person and I believe I did. As I see the sunrise across our home city, beauty and hope come with it. Do I miss the view of the sunrise across Blackfriars bridge? Of course. However, each sunrise is my own, beautiful and truthful and I never need to doubt that ever again.

Rhian C
Rhian C @boosebot
contributor

7 Representations of Abuse in Media That Validated My Experiences

Everything that I talk about in this article was ultimately helpful to me but does cover some extremely triggering topics: Domestic abuse, neglect, sexual abuse. The other warning is there are a lot of spoilers within this piece, so read no further if you want to draw your own conclusions about the helpful books, documentaries and films. The article talks about: The Vow (2019) Produced by HBO Allen v. Farrow (2021) Produced by HBO The Tale (2018) Written and Directed by Jennifer Fox Ian Wright: Home Truths (2021) by the BBC The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse (2019) by CharlieMackesy The Glass Castle by Jennette Wallis (2005) Instrumental by James Rhodes (2014) One of the most hurtful and stressful things about surviving abuse is the unbearable isolation you experience. I have been lucky and had a couple of different therapists over the time who have helped to understand my experiences, but one of the things that has really helped me has been getting validation from media, such as TV shows and books. The most overused word in this article is honest. You may read this thinking: surely, she could have used a thesaurus? No. A key component of abuse is the secret and shame. Often, many abusers will use threats to keep the survivor quiet. As soon as the secret is told, it takes away a key component of the abuse. Shame and fear of being blamed also is an extremely strong barrier. My personal experience has been disappointing in terms of outcome from police investigation, but as soon as I was able to understand others’ abuse, it helped me to understand my own. My fourth parent (I have a stepmother), lifelong friend and first love has been there for times when other people couldn’t be: television. Whether it is love, fun, heartbreak, validation, learning, reflection to the world around me — it’s always been there. Here are some of the things on TV that have helped validate some of the more indescribable experiences experienced by abuse survivors. I am aware all documentaries and films are created with a specific skew of the issue it touches on, but for me, each of these has helped validate my own experiences. 1. “The Vow“ “The Vow” is a documentary series about the cult “NXIVM” and the abuse of their members. The documentary follows the defected followers and family members of those still in the cult, all with one goal in mind: to bring down this dangerous cult. What makes this cult so different is their target was successful, happy people, compared to the stereotypical outcasts mostpeople would have assumed. Within the cult, members experienced brainwashing , severe mental abuse and breaking what boundaries could be broken. Whether it was disintegrating people’s sense of self or blaming them for aspects of their personality, to forcing many young women to count calories, to having members of one of the Sects (DOS) branding and sexually trafficking young woman. The documentary takes an in-depth look at the history of the cult, the many members who have left and why and the abuse that took place in the cult. Over the lifetime of the cult, many members left and fought this well-resourced company who looked to destroy the reputations and lives of these brave individuals. Even although many lives were destroyed, the brave survivors pulled together to bring down the cult. Fighting until the end. The love and the tenacity of the individuals who had to leave and convince others to leave was extraordinary. The documentary specifically focuses on Bonnie Piesse (who is going to reprise her role as Beru Lars in the Disney Plus series “Obi-Wan Kenobi”). During the time in the cult, Bonnie met Mark, who she then married. She started to sense there was something wrong within the cult — watching women being forced into counting calories, to noticing there were some very strange relationships developing. Alison Mack (most famous for being in “Smallville”) and Bonnie were in a singing group in the cult together. Through this, there started to be some conflict between the two. Others in the cult started to blame Bonnie for this entirely and at this point, she started to detach from the cult. She had an extremely difficult task to convince her husband of the corruption within the cult. Mark, who had been the right-hand man of Keith Raniere (the enigmatic founder) caused a lot of questions within the group. Including someone who had been introduced to the cult by Mark, Sarah Carter. As someone who had been indoctrinated into one of the most secret and exclusive clubs within the cult, she was able to shed some more light on the rumors. Sarah bravely opened up about the branding, blackmail and human trafficking that had been happening. The collaboration by members, families of the followers and journalists ended up producing a newspaper article which pushed the corruption of the cult in to the public eye. The catalyst of the #MeToo movement pushed law enforcement into action to arrest Raniere, Mack and others. An aspect I really identified with was Bonnie Piesse, in the final episode when explaining why they were being filmed in a café to a member of the public. She has a moment of reflection where she says when she explains her story, she is treated as if they were unintelligent for ending up in the cult in the first place. Why would they join something that would ruin their lives? They thought it was an exciting new way of looking at the world and to develop them as people. How many times have we been blamed for being abused in a passive aggressive manner? How could you have allowed for this to happen? Not, how could they have done that to you? 2. “Allen v. Farrow“ I debated putting this down as there is a lot of controversy with this documentary, with a number of omissions. However, at the center is one person and one story: Dylan Farrow. It’s easy to forget with the celebrity status of the parents, the young wife of Allen and the long saga of legal battles that at the crux, is truth. The way Dylan spoke then and now about the abuse she endured hit in a really hard place because in that little girl and woman were some traits I had. Through the years of therapy, there has been a lot of talk about these indescribable emotions and hurt, but it’s heartbreaking to see in another. Dylan Farrow’s testaments and bravery in the face of a powerful force still continues to tell the same story again and again. She also mentions the idea she wasn’t able to talk about her own experiences and people talked around the allegations, but she was never given the opportunity to tell her own story. Sexual abuse survivors must make a choice to fight the perpetrator by disclosing. For the large majority of us, we have an uphill battle against people’s preconceived ideas about a person, where people will be affronted for you fighting an archetype: “How can you say that about your [insert here]?” Not, “How could [insert here] do that to you?” So, imagine having to fight an excruciating battle because of the celebrity status of your perpetrator. As members of the public, we demand celebrities owe us their lives, we have made them famous and deserve ownership to every aspect of them. We don’t. But, when a hero or someone you admire is accused of something terrible, we take it as a personal attack, as if your own character is being questioned. Woody Allen being a renowned director had people often rushing to his defense because of what his movies meant to each individual. But what was his own defense? That he was merely victim of a smear campaign created from the heartbroken mind of Mia Farrow. As someone who is always acclaimed as creating incredible and progressive female characters, this seems a very simplistic explanation. The Yale New Haven Sexual Assault center’s ruling has also always been a constant defense despite there having been questions about the quality of the interview. The defense against the video evidence of interviews conducted by Mia Farrow? Dylan was coached. It is a plausible defense, but it’s not my experience. I would like to make it clear the person who gave birth to me belongs to a very small minority who tried to coach her kids to hurt their father. How did she do this? Fear. Now, I don’t know, maybe Mia Farrow is an evil genius and was able to make Dylan have that glazed overlook; she is an incredible actress. But that sense of dissociation is not something I particularly feel many esteemed actors are able to emulate, let alone perfect. And then being able to coach a 7-year-old on it seems unlikely. One thing I do need to address is his relationship with another one of Mia Farrow’s adopted daughters: Soon-Yi. “Starting” (there is so much debate about when it happened, but if we give Allen his timeline) a relationship with a 21-year-old is not the same as sexually assaulting a 7-year-old. However, it was extremely strange. Even if Allen didn’t “father” Soon-Yi, in a sense he would have been around as a father figure to his adopted two children and his biological son. It is worth noting over many different articles and interviews, he makes it very clear he didn’t live with Farrow and he didn’t see himself as a father figure. In his own mind, this clears him from any guilt or wrongdoing. An ill-advised relationship at best in his own mind. Something that his movies are full of where the intent and intensity is always from the side of the younger woman, in a sense putting all the onus completely on them. Allen’s complete unawareness is baffling. At one point, he claimed to be “the poster boy for the #MeToo movement.” No, you aren’t. Even without the allegations against you, the #MeToo Movement is not about you — it is about people who have survived abuse at the hands of others, speaking up, getting justice and, to an extent, reshaping the world of Hollywood. Not a celebration of people who haven’t abused their actresses (you do not deserve an award for not abusing others). Dylan Farrow is brave. She has had to relive what happened to her, time and time again. Her character has been under scrutiny for over two decades. I went through three separate investigations against my perpetrators and, in truth, it almost killed me. The amount of people who have stood up for Allen or made noncommittal statements about the allegations despite their deep support of the #MeToo Movement is disappointing. The strength she has is unbelievable and I hope for a time where her character or intelligence is not under scrutiny. 3.” The Tale“ “The Tale” by Jennifer Fox is written from her own experience of her mother finding an essay she wrote about her romance/ first boyfriend, but as she reexamines and explores this essay, her life slowly unravels. This film is an amazing examination about the importance of survival and the complexities of memory. The incredible narration of a subject matter, which was once intangible, validated me in a way I had never found before. The cinematography illustrates an extreme atmosphere change, first of romance, and then to one of stark reality. The reconnection from adult to child is done so flawlessly from misremembering how and who she was at the time, to reframing the narrative through an adult’s eyes. The relationship between herself and her mother is extremely important as it covers a lot of important conversations that happen when a survivor discloses to someone close to them, from their anger to, “Did you enjoy it?” Struggling to grapple with the enormous implications of memory and the rapidness your whole life can unravel in was so brilliantly illustrated in this piece. 4. “Ian Wright: Home Truths“ For all of you unfamiliar with Ian Wright, he was a futbol player on teams including: Arsenal, Crystal Palace, West Ham and England as a striker. I became familiar with him as a pundit for Match of the Day. I’m not a huge futbol fan, but Match of the Day is very much a British cultural foundation. Being in a divorced family, I was very much surrounded by females and to me, Ian Wright has always been the epitome of masculinity — and this is partially why this documentary is so important. The documentary was sparked following his very honest episode of “Desert Island Discs” (a BBC Radio 4 show based on the premise that guests choose eight tracks, a book and a luxury to take with them to a desert island). So many people were touched by his honesty and his story that he followed up by doing this documentary. The documentary focuses on domestic abuse. He talks about his own upbringing and about the abuse his mother, brother and himself got from his stepfather, but also in turn, the abuse he got from his mother as a victim passing that frustration and abuse onto her child. This documentary examines the individual aspects of this complex issue — talking to people who also survived domestic abuse as a child, social workers, charities who work with domestic abusers and adult domestic abuse survivors who pass the frustration down to their kids. However, he does explore some of the positive changes since he was a child, the hard work people have put in to stop the cycle and the positive effect a teacher had on him. He was so honest and raw. There was a particular moment when he’s back in the room that he shared with his mother, stepfather and brother and he’s talking about his experience and he starts to cry as he remembers exactly how he felt as a child. While talking with other survivors, they talk about their experiences and he backtracks in the middle of this group invalidating hisown experience, which I think we all have done: “You had a worse time than me, I shouldn’t complain.” However, one of the people there very quickly contextualizes it for him so he stops invalidating himself. Although the perception is now changing, historically, it was thought domestic abuse does not happen to men. And if a man did was abused, this was a sign of weakness on his side and somehow decreased his masculinity. Of course, this is not the case and it is again a passive aggressive way of blaming the victim: “There must be something wrong with you to have beenabused.” Having survivors talk about their experience helps to eradicate a stereotype of abuse victims and their perpetrators. 5. “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse” This book by Charlie Mackesy is not like the rest. It is a book of life lessons with the most beautiful illustrations. I first came across Charlie Mackesy through my go-to social media: Pinterest. As I came across more and more of these incredible pictures, I realized the author was going to release a book. This piece of art is incredible, focusing on the struggles of the everyday. No matter what the problem, I have found this book as a companion and inspiration for mindfulness. One of the most commonly cited definitions of mindfulness is the awareness that arises through “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Charlie Mackesy’s words and illustrations have helped me overcome incredibly hard moments and have given me that tangible moment to understand some of the challenges I’m facing. 6. “The Glass Castle“ “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls is named after the ambitious aspiration of her father, and is a uniquely honest telling of the tumultuous childhood and grappling with that identity in adulthood. The opening details a three-year-old Jeannette catching on fire and going to hospital and describing it as a luxurious destination. Jeannette details the lack of stability and the questionable actions of her parents, mental illness and the poverty the children endure, and the unfortunate truth of the parents squandering any money, property or job opportunity. They willingly put their children in danger and then made them feel terrible, chose to tell the children they were wrong to fight, their grandmother she sexually molested Wallis’ younger brother Brian. Throughout their early childhood, the problematic lifestyle they led is sold as an adventure. They eventually find a “home” where the father decides will be the land the Glass Castle is built. The house lacks the essentials of water and electricity. As the children grow, they become more aware of who their parents actually are. Jeannette and her older sister hatch a plan to go to New York and decide to work for the better part of the year (doing part-time jobs) and then realize their father has stolen their hard-earned money. Eventually, Lori and Jeannette manage to make it to New York and convince both Brian and Maureen to join. Their parents quickly follow, and trouble follows them. As an adult, Jeannette graduates from college and works for a newspaper. Even though her, Lori and Brian are successful (as a writer, illustrator and police officer), each are still not good enough for their parents, citing this isn’t how they raised them. There are many tragedies in this book, but the one that to me is the most devastating is the youngest in the family, Maureen. Lori looked very much into bringing her to New York and looking after her. However, in her 20s, she moves back in with her parents. This ends disastrously as she ends up trying to stab her mother. My sister told me to read this book, and told me this book had validated her in a way no one else ever had. Her choices in books and films are very rarely wrong. Although the book validated me in many areas, the one aspect I really identified with was about an experience that Walls and I both shared in university. When the subject of  poor people are brought up, Jeannette expresses that “sometimes they need to take some responsibility of getting out of poverty” (as per her experience) and the lecturer tells her she couldn’t possibly understand the problems faced by the poor. Of course, the lecturer had no idea of her past. During my first year at university when someone discussed the fact they couldn’t afford to go and see theatre shows, a lecturer ranted back “we were all at university and therefore were middle-class.” I have been rarely so outraged in my life at being told who I was, especially because she was wrong. There is a film version, but like Hollywood always does, they paint Rex (the father) as some sort of inspiration rather than the neglectful and irresponsible parent he was. 7. “Instrumental“ James Rhodes, the author, is a world-class pianist with a beautiful passion for his craft, and not just for the pieces of music, but for the composers and stories behind them. When we think of world-class pianists, we think of child prodigies who are taken away to a prestigious music school and straight onto success. This is not the route to success James Rhodes had. As a child, James Rhodes was raped constantly over a five-year period by a gym teacher and was forced into silence (like many abuse survivors) under the pretense if he told, something bad would happen. Eventually, he was moved to another school after a massive, yet gradual change from a happy, confident 5-year-old to a scared, frightened child. As all of you who have been through the abuse will know, the problems didn’t stop there. One of the key aspects of this book is his blunt honesty. There are no mincing words, just the truth: “Abuse. What a word. Rape is better. Abuse is when you tell a traffic warden to fuck off. It isn’t abuse when a forty-year-old man forces his cock inside a six-year-old boy’s ass. That doesn’t even come close to abuse. That is aggressive rape.” He describes aspects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complex PTSD (C-PTSD) I hadn’t been able to express to therapists because I was really concerned about specific traits I had which, at the root cause, I believed to be because I was morally bankrupt. Not because of the complex feeling I had. Only when I was able to accept these feelings I started to get better. I finally had the words to describe something that had been intangible to me: The anger. The frustration. The hurt. The physical and emotional pain. The destruction. Rhodes talks about the surgeries, about the drug and alcohol abuse, self-harm and suicidal thoughts and attempts. He was institutionalized twice: once in the UK and once in the US. However, he did have one saving grace: classical music. At the age of 7, he came across a cassette of: JS Bach’s Chaconne from Violin Partita No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1004. This started his love of music, and although this was the first piece he loved, it would not be his last. Throughout his life, music saved him in a way unimaginable, and in turn, he was able to possess this passion not just for the music itself, but the stories of the pieces and composers. Personally, I think this book is one of the most important books of the 21st century, not just for the narrative of rape, but of where classical music is concerned in the 21st century and the way the book is structured. Rhodes wrote it alongside a soundtrack, which is available on Spotify. For five years since its release, I have had a copy close to hand to help and remind me when the abuse stops, it doesn’t all magically disappear. There is another aspect to why this book is so important. An early draft was leaked and his ex-wife (in protection of their son) placed an injunction on the release of the book, citing it would be damaging to their son. Although edited in regards to the specific issues of why the injunction was placed, it eventually got taken to the Supreme Court where ultimately Cannongate (the publisher) and Rhodes were found in favor of. For me, this was a massive deal because ultimately when a survivor was being silenced, the Supreme Court ruled Rhodes’ experience was not damaging and should be shared. Since the time of publishing the book, Rhodes moved to Madrid where he has campaigned for a reform of the laws relating to sexual abuse. He is not perfect — no one is — but the honesty about his entire experience has saved me too many times to count. Through these books and documentaries, when I am unable to reach out to people or put words to my intangible emotions, I am able to explore some of the complications associated with abuse. Although it can look like nothing in the abuse narrative has changed, this is not true. The #MeToo revolution was the gateway to finally getting justice for many different abuses, both the former NXVIM members and Dylan Farrow were both able to happen because of the highlight of abuse within Hollywood. Within the UK, again it can seem not much has changed; however, with people talking about the abuse they have endured, the narrative in the repressed UK is becoming more acceptable and easier to talk about. As soon as we are more open, the sense of isolation will not be so overwhelming for abuse survivors.

Rhian C
Rhian C @boosebot
contributor

The Royal Family on Meghan Markle's Suicidal Thoughts Calls for Change

As a child in a dysfunctional home, I often dreamed of being the queen. Living in Buckingham Palace and being adored by an entire country. Growing up in a world where both Prince Harry and Prince William’s suspected girlfriends were annihilated for their looks, I quickly realized I would not have a chance. I became more aware of how amazing these women who were being torn down were. These women were being pushed over the smallest detail and when reflecting on my own looks, I knew the world didn’t deem me as attractive. When Wills and Kate got married, it felt like there was a slight shift from it being all about being royal to being a royal celebrity hybrid (two tiers up from the people on “Made in Chelsea”). It was super exciting when Meghan Markle came on the scene because at that moment, she was an already established famous actress — a very new dynamic for the immediate royal family. It really looked like a step into a new progressive age, but the look was completely deceiving. The Oprah interview wasn’t completely shattering, the racism in the royal family is extremely well documented. As an individual UK citizen, it makes me ashamed. There were many shocking admissions throughout the interview, but the bit that hit me the hardest was Meghan Markle’s suicidal thoughts because she voiced the experience so perfectly. As a UK citizen, I’ve been constantly bombarded by constant news of the royal family. I have even seen the queen herself (from a distance, but I saw her hat so that counts) a total of four times. Anytime the government wanted to announce something super unpopular, the royal family was used as a distraction. Throughout my life, I have memories of key royal events. Vividly, I can remember sitting in my granny’s living room while she was crying over Princess Diana’s funeral — and as a very young child, I was very confused at seeing people wail on TV. I assumed it was to do with it being a member of the royal family. I haven’t seen such a public display of grief when a public figure died since. To give contrast, consider when former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher died, the song “Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead” from “The Wizard of Oz” shot up to number two in the charts. The national love of a member of the royal family is, at its heart, a very strange thing — mainly because it often exists in the rear-view mirror. The reality is lots of people really hated Princess Diana to begin with, but then when she died, she became held as a national icon. Her death was handled very poorly thereafter by the royal family, especially having the young princes go through a public trauma of walking behind the coffin. Both the princes have contributed to opening the conversations around mental health, especially throughout the last decade, no doubt at least in part on reflection of their own experience. So, why was Meghan asking to get help for her suicidal thoughts such an issue? Over time, the monarchy and their power have changed from ruling their countries to being more of a symbolic role. Regardless of what our individual opinions are about the royal family, they set a standard of what is acceptable in society. Meghan reporting she couldn’t get help for her suicidal thoughts because a senior royal said, “it wouldn’t make us look good,” is cruel, and is something countless people can identify with. Not being allowed to get the help they need because of “the perception,” further promoting that fear, shame, uncertainty and doubt. We say we are accepting of people who experience mental health issues, but when it comes to it, some still fall back to the same old cliché of: They don’t actually feel this way, they’re doing it for attention. Is it any wonder members of the public pounced on Meghan saying they didn’t believe her? There were also other celebrities who said the something similar, including Piers Morgan who said “he didn’t believe a word. ” There have been many articles talking about how difficult Meghan Markle is. Personally, I don’t know her and can’t really comment on her. However, what I can say is I have been called “difficult” so many times, especially in a crisis. Just because someone is difficult doesn’t mean they aren’t deserving of our help. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have created a number of different mental health charities through their foundation . The aims of the charities are incredible and highlighting the mental health issues society is phasing is fantastic. Therefore, it’s concerning members of the royal household appear to hold an entirely opposing — and entirely antiquated — viewpoint. As the standard setters of how our nation tackles the big issues in our society, these issues will continue throughout the country. It’s time for the newer generations of royals, with loud voices and influence on mental health, to step up and lead the way. Otherwise, Meghan’s experiences will remain just another case of a missed opportunity for change, and make “the institution” ever harder to identify with.

Rhian C
Rhian C @boosebot
contributor

8 Must-Have Items for an Easier Life With Dyspraxia

During the past year of COVID lockdowns, I have been able to develop new skills and also examine where the gaps are in my life. From the age of 8, I have been diagnosed with dyspraxia. Later, I was diagnosed with dyslexia, dysgraphia and C-PTSD. The latter has nothing to do with the rest. Most people with dyspraxia are diagnosed with other disorders as well. Imagine any slapstick comedy, for instance, Laurel and Hardy where someone finds themselves constantly struggling with every single aspect of life. Falling off a chair, walking into doors. All of these are everyday occurrences for me. You’d laugh, right? Well, that has been my experience of dyspraxia. As a side note, laughing has been a very important lesson that I’ve had to learn. Some things I can’t control, but I can control how I react to them. According to the NHS website, “Dyspraxia, also known as developmental coordination disorder (DCD), is a common disorder that affects movement and coordination.” As we are individuals, it affects us all differently. Here is some background on how dyspraxia affects me, to give you an idea of why I have suggested these items to make life easier. How does dyspraxia affect me? 1. I have issues with accidentally dropping things — almost as if there is a poltergeist in my body that makes me drop stuff while my brain is still telling me to hold the item. 2. I struggle with the feminine aspects of everyday cleanliness, such as dealing with facial hair or make-up. The amount of scars or wonky eyebrows or looking like someone spilled a jar of turmeric over my face is greater than you’d imagine. 3. I find it hard to estimate depth, height and width. I walk into approximately three doors in a day — often the exact same door. 4. I do not cook. I just find it so stressful; there are too many things to pay attention to. Even if I manage to cook a meal, I feel so ill afterward that I often can’t eat it. 5. Picking up skills is a nightmare. I started to knit two decades ago and I’m only starting to get good at it now. I often end up frustrated because I can’t pick it up like other people. Because I have this issue, people sometimes claim, “you’re not trying hard enough.” 6. Many people with dyspraxia struggle with organization. I’m always anxious, always early to places, overly prepared and constantly worried I’m going to forget things. 7. I hate eating. Sometimes it’s because of the texture of the food — for instance, I can’t eat cold meat without wanting to be sick. However, my main issue is the mechanics of eating. I still choke sometimes because of my issue with chewing. The physicality of using cutlery is something I’ve still not mastered, and therefore I tend not to eat in front of other people if I can help it. I’m only comfortable eating around people like my partner, close friends and family. So, without further ado, here are my go-to eight items for an easier dyspraxic life: 1. Multi cup holder Although I don’t drink hot drinks, this has been very valuable for me. I often find cups and glasses really hard to hold on to even if the cup has a handle. This right here solves that issue in terms of balancing and not knowing where to hold it from. 2. Anti-slip serving trays As I said earlier, I struggle with eating and don’t like to eat in front of people. Most of the time, my partner and I eat food in our room as opposed to our shared dining room. I was afraid of constantly dropping plates filled with food, so I would just not carry them. This caused a strain on our relationship, so I found a way around it. The anti-slip trays are perfect, the handles are long enough and there is little chance of the tray becoming unbalanced. 3. Cutlery with larger handles I struggle with the mechanics of eating — not only knowing what to use to eat specific foods, but physically moving the food to my mouth. I use a spoon about 90% of the time. This stylish cutlery is extremely helpful as it gives me a good solid thing to hold onto. 4. Hair and scalp massager shampoo brush I struggled to wash my hair for years, but not anymore. My hair is thick and I always felt no matter how much I tried to wash the shampoo out, it was never clean. It made me feel dirty, disgusting and lowered my self-esteem. This shampoo brush literally changed my life. You squirt a little bit of shampoo onto it and it makes sure every part of your hair gets shampoo. After rinsing out the shampoo with water, you use the brush to get the rest out of it. It also massages the scalp, which really leaves me feeling relaxed. 5. Tweezers with non-slip grips As a side note, I was very badly neglected as a child and was not taught personal hygiene. Adding that with dyspraxia made me feel disgusting because I felt like I was unable to be a woman. It was a steep learning curve, but these helped! These tweezers feel amazing! A very pleasant texture to the touch and easy to hold. After struggling for years on dealing with facial hair and my eyebrows this was an amazing breakthrough to me. 6. Hydraulic rowing machine Being uncoordinated and overweight, I constantly wanted to lose weight without being embarrassed. I often got funny looks at the gym and felt very embarrassed, which in turn made me not want to exercise. There are very, very few things about the pandemic that has been positive for me, but getting this rower in my room has definitely helped. Now, I love watching TV while rowing, with no one to judge me and gaining confidence in myself. 7. Easy-grip pencils Parents of dyspraxic children, I beg you to buy these for your kids. I found them once I was in university and they felt unbelievable to use after years of finger blisters. As a dyspraxic child, I used to lean on the pencil too hard which made the lead snap. This would lead me to constantly having to sharpen my pencils and look like I was trying to avoid work. The other issue was that I used to get blisters from the pencil rubbing on my fingers. This would be excruciatingly painful — but these encourage you to hold the pencil in the proper way, giving extra support with the third side of the pencil. 8. Fidget cube As a dyspraxic person, I have a lot of tactile and sensory needs. I could sometimes waste a lot of time trying to meet this need — until I found fidget cubes. All different sensations and movements can make for a brilliant present for a dyspraxic person. WARNING: This might be great for a dyspraxic person, but it can also be super annoying for anyone else around. These are the items that make my day more pleasant and enjoyable. We each have different battles to face, but life is meant to be lived, and these simple and inexpensive items deliver a huge return for me every day. I hope these items can help improve your life and make each day a little brighter.

Rhian C
Rhian C @boosebot
contributor

Learning to Laugh at My Dyspraxia and Clumsiness

Once upon a time in a far-off land, there was a female Jester named Senat. She was thought to be a spy for the Queen and the Queen regent as well as being an entertainer — a glorious visage in red and yellow with bells adorning the dress. You may wonder who this woman is and why I am talking about her. My first part-time job was playing this character. The job gifted me many things: a good wage, my two best friends and hope. When I started working, it was the old cliche of starting as a chambermaid and working your way up – and for me, it wasn’t a metaphor. Most of the other females I worked with played two characters, a chambermaid and a lady in waiting. I approached my boss to ask if it was possible if perhaps if I could play a lady in waiting. He burst out laughing, so “I wasn’t graceful enough” to be a lady in waiting. There was also a dig about my weight in there too. But hey, I would have been worshipped and considered a great beauty in the 16th century, so the joke is on him! A couple of weeks later he came back to me with a proposition that I would play the female jester. I was ecstatic! What could be more fun? Originally, Senat or Serat (the ‘n’s’ and ‘r’s’ looked extremely similar) was from France. Now there were two ways I could have played her — either using a really offensive stereotypical French accent or as a silent fool (within limits, as part of my job was to talk about the history of the building). I chose neither. Instead, amongst other things, I did fantastic animal impressions, if I do say so myself. Despite the bells, I was able to sneak up on people and give them a fright. And I enjoyed telling the visitors all the stories of the rooms. There was one clear issue though, for a jester of the time. I couldn’t juggle. Why? I am severely dyspraxic. It really bothered me that I couldn’t juggle, so I tried day and night. I’d try to understand the math and watch tutorials from YouTube. Nothing was working, but I refused to give up. After about two months, I finally, by luck, succeeded. I may need to have to work a little bit harder, but I can do anything I put my mind to — dyspraxia or otherwise. Playing the part of a jester gave me a fresh perspective on the role that laughter plays in our world. A guffaw, chuckle, tittering, giggling, depending on the context, can be a delightful sound or a cruel one. I am by no means a comedian, but the ability to laugh at myself has really carved me out as a person. Growing up, I enjoyed the slapstick comedies such as Mr. Bean, Laurel and Hardy and Charlie Chaplin. These characters inevitably get themselves into hilarious snags during everyday situations. We sit on the edge of our seats, anticipating the next obstacle the character inevitably fails at. For me though, this wasn’t just a TV show, it was an expression of identity. I was originally diagnosed with clumsy child syndrome, with the name dyspraxia also attached. I knew I was different. I was terrible at sports, struggled to dress myself, struggled to eat and struggled to write. During my time at high school, I would walk into doorframes at least four times a day. I would break pencils and constantly resharpen them, which annoyed my teachers greatly. I struggled at anything coordination-wise and it really broke me when I was younger. I remember being told off at a restaurant because I was unable to coordinate eating spaghetti Bolognese, an issue I still have today. I used to cry, but as I got older I realized I was going to spend most of my life being “clumsy,” so instead I started laughing. As is fairly common in children with dyspraxia, my speech skills took longer than average to develop. I couldn’t communicate with the world in the way everyone else seemed to be able to. Even as I began to speak, I had plenty of issues forming words. Limited communication and being clumsy was a very stressful mix to keep me in isolation. In a comedy, this is the perfect character to result in hilarity. In truth, it hurt for a very long time. As I became more used to forming words and sentences, I found my early experiences were trailing behind other kids, and it meant I was alone. And how do you practice speaking with no one to talk to? For me, it was doll tea parties (yes, I really was that creepy kid with porcelain dolls) and making up stories to tell. But underneath, I always felt I was going to be weird and alone forever. As I got older and made friends, they still laughed at me for being clumsy and not being able to form words properly — not because they were mean, but because it was funny. I spent so long feeling they were laughing at me, rather than the individual events. Struggling to comprehend this, I ended up telling myself to accept that their laughter was acknowledgment. I grew up and made it to university where I studied Drama and Performance — a place where I could be clumsy and funny and it would be acceptable, even encouraged. I spent time becoming more comfortable with myself. But really, the breakthrough came from that first love: TV. More specifically, from the man, the legend: Michael Gary Scott, the hapless lead character in the hit TV show “The Office.” In Season 6, Episode 8, Michael goes to a meeting with a colleague, Jim, and on the way, Michael falls into a koi pond. Returning to the office drenched, the whole office makes fun of Michael for this. Which, let’s be real, is understandable! As he usually does, he then holds a meeting with the whole team in the infamous conference room, this time discussing sensitivity training where he discloses this isn’t the first time he’s fallen in a fountain, which adds more hilarity. He tries to deal with the issue by making fun of himself, before going too far to the point he ends up crying. In the end, though, after finding the video footage of him falling in the Koi pond, the employees all realize Jim didn’t try to catch him and let him fall in. And after overcoming the initial shock that Jim let him fall, he reconciles and is able to laugh at himself – this time, without going overboard. This is just one example where that show of 22 minutes touched on a struggle I had my whole life. I am clumsy. I am dyspraxic. I have more accidents in a week than most do in a decade. And for years I’d get upset, or go too far “leaning in” on it. But now, like Michael at the end of the episode, I’m managing to find the right balance in meeting my slapstick moments with self-deprecating humor. Last year, I had a very similar moment when my boyfriend and I were in a hammock. He got out. The laws of physics and balance were not on my side and the hammock tipped up, in what felt like slow motion. I trusted that if I stayed in place I wouldn’t hurt myself, and there I was — in a flipped hammock with the surrounding people in shock about this very odd, calm, clumsy accident, almost looking for permission to laugh. And by not being upset, I was able to give that, and turn an unfortunate moment into a great story we still laugh about. If I could tell any dyspraxic child anything it, would be that they will have more accidents than the average person. Learn to recover, how to fall without breaking anything, and learn to laugh at yourself — because as soon as you learn to laugh at yourself, you are learning to accept yourself.

Michaela Rye

The Ableist Language in Taylor Swift's New Song, 'Me'

Let me start by saying, I’m a huge Swiftie. I know the lyrics to all her songs, and so much information about her it’s kind of creepy. I often try to recreate her signature cat eye and red lipstick look. I was also one of the fans following her Instagram, trying to decode all the clues about her new release. When she finally announced she was releasing a new song called “Me” featuring Brendon Urie, I had high hopes. Of course, I sat excitedly waiting on YouTube for the midnight premiere of the song and music video. The video starts with a kind of funny scene in French where Swift and Urie are arguing about the cats. Soon after the music starts, Swift steps out into a colorful hallway. The music is upbeat, and the lyrics are empowering with lines like, “I promise that you’ll never find another like me.” The song is reminiscent of “Shake It Off” and I was kind of excited that maybe this meant her Reputation days are behind her. So, what’s the problem? Well, she uses some ableist language and as a person with a disability, I have a problem with this. In the first verse Swift says, “I know that I went psycho on the phone.” When you Google the definition psycho, it simply means a psychopath. I don’t think Swift is saying she is a psychopath, and was instead probably using a colloquial use of the word. The problem is, while it’s trendy to use words referring to mental health terms like “psycho” or “crazy,” these words are often used negatively. Using these words adds to the stigma that surrounds mental illness. This stigma is oppressive and makes people with mental illness feel like there is something wrong with them, which of course is not true. The second use of not-so-great language comes from Urie. He says, “And there’s a lot of lame guys out there.” He goes on to repeat this line twice. The problem is the word. Lame as a noun means metal woven with silk. Lame as an adjective means cripple or weak limp. It was often used to describe someone’s hands or legs. Lame as a verb means to beat someone to make them disabled. When Urie sings this line, he isn’t talking about metal. I don’t think he is talking about men with a disability, but it’s possible. I really hope he isn’t talking about hitting someone. So, what is he referring to? Well, he is probably using lame as slang for “stupid” (which is an ableist term in itself) or unsophisticated. This is ironic because using slang like this is unsophisticated. Similar to psycho, this slang is oppressive to people with disabilities. It implies that people with physical disabilities are not smart or sophisticated, which again is not true. For a song that has lyrics such as, “Hey kids/Spelling is fun,” it would make sense the artists are aware of the etymology of the words they’re singing, but I guess not. This is also not the first time Swift has used non-inclusive language. Back in 2006, she had a lyric in her song “Picture to Burn” that was not LGBTQ+ friendly. She later went on to change the words to make it more inclusive. I do not expect Swift to change the lyrics of “Me,” nor am I going to boycott the song. I’m just disappointed in her and I’m sad I’m not included in such a fun and empowering song.

Jennifer Fox

How Memory Protected Me from the Trauma of Sexual Abuse

Like many survivors of sexual abuse, I’ve done many things to push away my traumatic memories. Although I was 13 years old when I was abused, it wasn’t until I turned 45 that I uttered the words “sexual abuse” in relation to myself. It was only after that moment that I felt compelled to investigate what happened to me so many years ago, and who I was as a person back then. As I reflected on my memory, I realized how much it served to protect me from the trauma of what happened. To get to the bottom of the complexity of my memory, denial and the overall, complicated nature of sexual abuse, I decided to write and direct a film, “The Tale,” which is based on the true story of my former relationship with my 40-year-old coach in 1973 — when I was 13. I understand each person’s account of sexual abuse (and trauma, for that matter) is different, but our memory-making from them often has some common denominators. We register the experiences that emotionally impact us the most. My hope, as a woman and a survivor, is to help others realize how memory functions for survivors to endure the trauma from abuse, especially at yet another moment in history where women are constantly questioned about their own memories of sexual abuse. Here are five ways my memory ultimately helped me to survive the trauma of child sexual abuse: 1. The bigger the trauma, the bigger the impact it has on us. The brain is a camera that captures the things that impacts it strongest. This means that often the mundane things in our lives are forgotten over time, but the trauma withstands it. Equally, the most traumatizing aspects of the events are remembered, but the “mundane” parts of those events are lost. I always remembered whole scenes and even dialogues in graphic detail from my relationship with my coach, but less important aspects that would be of interest to a court of law have been forgotten. For example, I can describe the afternoon light as I was being led to my coach’s bedroom to escape the cold in the living room with great specificity. I remember my body freezing at his touch and my confusion about what was going on. But I’ve forgotten what time of year it was, or how I arrived at my coach’s house in the first place. Was it my first visit or third? Did my female coach bring me to his house? Did we walk from the barn across the field or did we drive? I could go on. 2. Memory is not just recollecting events, but emotions. We usually think of memory in terms of the physical events that have taken place, but emotions are also a form of memory by themselves. We can repress either or both. In my case, I’ve always vividly remembered the external events that occurred, but (now, in retrospect) realize that what I had selectively repressed or split off from was the very emotions attached to those events. While I knew I felt empowered, special and even loved by my coach, I selectively repressed the feelings of fear, horror, pain and revulsion at the things he did to me or made me do. In fact, I vomited after each encounter. But how I felt about that fact was lost to me for decades. At the time, my coach blamed my nausea on the idea “that I must be getting the flu,” and even though I knew that wasn’t the case, I never spoke up or put an emotion to my vomiting. 3. Memory is complex and contradictory. To make things even more complex, an event can have multiple emotions associated with it that completely contradict each other, for example: beautiful and sad, loving and painful, revolting and enticing simultaneously. For me, while I hated the sexual encounters, I loved the conversation between touches. While I felt ticklish and had to hold my breath with his every touch, I was pleased he was interested in me at all as an object of desire, since I was so undeveloped that few boys my age would even look my way. Everything was so full of multiple meanings, that if my memory had to be tested in a multiple choice exam, I wouldn’t be able to fill in just one circle. 4. Memories mirror the narratives we tell ourselves. There is a lot of discussion about “repressed memory,” especially with sexual abuse survivors. In my case, since I always remembered what happened, I’ve reflected on which memories I’ve preferred over others. I could have told you the sex I had with my coach was painful and that I vomited after each session. But despite this, somehow, I chose to preference the positive things I took away from the sexual exchanges: the feelings of being special, love, and importance, rather than the suffering I endured throughout. Because I told myself I “won,” the narrative I created about what happened to me was tolerable for so many years. Inversely, had I admitted I had been hurt and damaged, I would have ended up the “loser” in my story. Regardless of the fact I was abused is true or “truer” than what I’ve told myself over the years, my memories and emotions mirror the woman I am today. 5. Memories can only be faced when you’re ready. It’s a common belief that people need to face “the truth” about an event immediately. But this is often oversimplified and not what I have come to understand. Each survivor of trauma has to follow their inner clockwork to make sense of their suffering. That may take one year, or 40, or never. It’s absolutely personal and in their own time. I have spoken to Tarana Burke, the founder of the #MeToo movement (and a survivor herself). She adamantly agrees with me on this. No one should force a survivor to face their memories and come out about their abuse unless they are ready. For what good is it if speaking out and identifying your perpetrator further destroys the very person you were trying to help? It is no accident that many people are like me and only face their abuse in middle age. I realize now that I needed to tell myself a story to survive. My story was that the abuse was consensual and that it made me a better person. This story carried me all the way from 13 to 45, when I heard another person’s narrative about their childhood sexual abuse that sounded just like mine. Suddenly, there was a seismic shift in me. It was at that moment I realized I’d been sexually abused. I realized the concept of agency kept me going, whereas seeing myself as a “victim” would have perpetuated my distress and made it impossible to go on with my life without a major intervention (something I was very afraid of.). We prescribe our own lens through which we see the world. Some of us see it colorless, in neutral tones, or through “rose-tinted glasses.” The truth is, neither is objectively right. The colors project what we perceive. As we grow up and mature, hopefully, we can accept the complexity of the rainbow of reality – the bad, the good and the “in-between.” My memory saved me. I spun a story to myself — a story of a little girl who was a hero, who broke up with a man three times her age and went on to do heroic things. Now, in middle age, I am finally strong enough to go back and face the hurt parts of me I left behind.

Juliette V.

24 'Harmless' Comments That Actually Hurt Childhood Trauma Survivors

It took years for me to identify that I grew up in an abusive and invalidating environment. Once I began to talk about it, I was often met with comments like, “I wish you could remember how loving your mom was when you were born,” and, “There are kids out there who are less fortunate than you are.” Sometimes the comments I heard had a more exasperated edge to them, essentially saying, can you please stop talking about this? without actually saying it. Things like, “You need to focus on the positive,” and, “You need to stop living in the past.” While these comments (mostly) came from good intentions, the reality is they were harmful and invalidating. Just because my mom was loving when I was born doesn’t mean she’s off the hook for the abuse she inflicted when I was a child and teenager. Just because there are others who “had it worse” than I did doesn’t mean what I experienced wasn’t painful. And coming to terms with my past trauma doesn’t mean I’m “being negative” or “living in the past.” For some, “harmless” comments like this might seem insignificant, and have little to no effect on adult mental health. But for many childhood trauma survivors (who often struggle with believing their feelings are valid at all), these kind of comments are actually damaging and can set them back in recovery. I’m not the only one who has heard seemingly “harmless” comments about past childhood trauma. Because of this, we asked childhood trauma survivors in our mental health community to share one “harmless” comment they heard that was actually harmful. It’s important to remember what may seem “harmless” to one person may actually be hurtful to another. No matter what anyone says, your feelings are valid, and you deserve support. Here’s what our community had to say: 1. “Don’t be ungrateful. Your childhood wasn’t even that bad…” “Literally ‘your childhood wasn’t even that bad.’ This comment hurts because something that could be seen as a small issue for someone else can also be the biggest and worse thing ever to someone going through it.” — Tess G. “‘Don’t be so ungrateful. You had a privileged childhood.’ The assumption seems to be that people who grow up with money or opportunity can’t have been mistreated. If only that was the case. Having a privileged upbringing simply means abuse is more often or ignored or covered up.” — Heather F. 2. “But that was so long ago…” “‘But that was so long ago. They (the person/people who caused abuse) have gotten over/forgotten it, you should too.’” — Ashley S. 3. “Have you tried forgiving them?” “I have C-PTSD as a result of emotional, sexual and physical abuse. Well-meaning people have often said to me, ‘Just forgive them.’ I have forgiven them, for my own sake. This does not heal the PTSD, it means I have more mental and emotional energy towards helping myself to feel as well as I can, one day at a time. Wish people understood that PTSD is not a character flaw, but a medical condition.” — Donna H. 4. “It’s sad you aren’t close to your family. Family is so important to me.” “‘My family and I are so close. I don’t see how anyone could be so distant from their own family.’ I honestly don’t think I need to explain why that would hurt. Because anyone who went through this would know. Since I’ve always wanted a ‘normal’ family, but I will never have that. Sometimes I blame myself, but I have to remember it’s not my fault.” — Taylor B. “‘It’s really sad you don’t have a relationship with your mum.’ I don’t explain why, but it hurts and I wish people would think before they make this comment. Clearly there is a reason why there is no relationship.” — Esther L. 5. “Just think of all the people who had it worse than you.” “ ‘It could’ve been worse. Think of other people.’ It’s so invalidating! That one always got me. My childhood was so traumatic to me, and I know people have had it worse, but to me, that was the worst. Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind, always.” — Tasha L. 6. “I’ve been through worse.” “‘I’ve had worse.’ I’m sorry if you did, but I’m not you. My bad may not be your bad. And my strength may not be your strength. Don’t try to one-up and belittle me when I’m sharing something that’s difficult to share.” — Ash D. “‘Your childhood wasn’t as bad as mine,’ like its a contest. Trauma is trauma. I got so many ‘they didn’t really abandon you’ or ‘at least you still have both your parents.’ It still doesn’t make my trauma less.” — Adriel C. 7. “It’s not like he ever hit you…” “‘It’s not like he ever hit you.’ Just because my father never hit me doesn’t mean the years of emotional abuse aren’t bad. Actually I would rather have him hit me so I would know why I hurt. Emotional abuse sticks with you. Those names, the things they said — years later they affect me so much. Sometimes I don’t even know why what someone says hurts until I realize it’s what my father said.” — Kaitlynn L. 8. “Everything happens for a reason.” “‘Everything happens for a reason.’ I am a much stronger and empathetic person today because of my trauma, but that doesn’t mean it had to happen, and that doesn’t justify anyone’s actions. “ — Alicia A. “‘It’s all part of God’s plan.’ It always made me wonder why God would make me suffer or how vindictive/malicious God could be. At my worst, I began to hate God because of what He turned my life into. That line is meant to comfort, but it made me feel even more neglected than I already was, and this one cut even deeper because it was God, my Heavenly Father, who was treating me so poorly.” — Candice K. 9. “I know exactly how you feel.” “‘I know how you feel.’ Unless you’ve been through the trauma, you really don’t know how I feel. Having a relative or friend go through it is not the same thing. So unless you’ve actually had the experience yourself, please don’t say this.” — Monica S. 10. “You’re an adult now. It’s time to grow up and stop living in the past.” “‘You’re an adult now, just deal with it.’ Out of all the comments I’ve heard, this hurt the most as it made me truly feel that all I had experienced and endured was supposed to just leave in adulthood and I was responsible myself for it.” — Gemma I. “‘You’re an adult. You can’t blame your parents for your problems anymore.’ People don’t understand that it is a lifelong battle to overcome trauma.” — Chisa P. “‘Grow up and get over your ‘daddy issues.” It’s not exactly the same as those people that dislike their fathers for reasons like, ‘He didn’t spoil me the same as mommy.’ Stay out of my family ordeals.” — David M. 11. “Time heals all wounds.” “’Time heals.’ Yes, time does heal, but if you have PTSD from the trauma, time seems to stand still.” — Alicia A. 12. “How can you say that about your family?” “‘How can you say that about your mother/father/family?’ Uh, because it’s true. It sucks when people can’t wrap their heads around abuse bad enough that I don’t have a normal loving relationship with them. Just because they had loving parents, doesn’t mean all of us were that lucky.” — Jackyn B. 13. “Why did you let him do that?” “‘You let him do that? That’s disgusting.’ It made me feel like it was my fault, and like I was dirty. I was so ashamed. And, ‘It happened so long ago, just forget about it, get a life’ makes me feel guilty that I can’t move forward with my life fast enough to make people happy and feel bad about still needing therapy.” — Ally M. 14. “Well… what were you wearing?” “‘Well what were you wearing? Were you drinking?’ My ex boyfriend’s response to me after telling him I was molested. I don’t know? Maybe a T-shirt and shorts? I was 5, but I could’ve told you that if you would’ve let me finish.” — Madi P. 15. “Your mother will always love you because that’s what mothers do.” “ Any of those quotes about how your mother will always love you because she’s your mother and that’s what they do… obviously not all of them.” — Beth H. 16. “Don’t be silly.” “‘Don’t be silly.’ I grew up being told I was ‘silly’ and ‘stupid.’ I know that often this term is used by those who love us to try to stop us from feeling bad, but for me it just compounds the feelings/thoughts that I’m stupid.” — Lucy B. 17. “You’re acting like your mother.” “‘You’re acting like your mother.’ No. No, I am not. I am communicative and nurturing. My children will never wonder if they are loved nor will they ever want for any of life’s necessities.” — Alexandrea G. 18. “I bet your parents want to see their grandchildren.” “‘You will never have another mother. I bet she really misses you and wishes she could see her grandkids.’ Thank God I only have one mother because she is a horribly abusive person. And no, she doesn’t miss me — she misses having a punching bag! And I’ll be damned if she treats my children the way she treated me!” — Lindsey G. 19. “Have you prayed about it?” “‘Pray about it’ or ‘God’s got it.’ I grew up with a mom who used God as an excuse to do unforgivable things. Though I am a Christian and do believe in God and prayer, those phrases especially from her make me cringe!” — Saga T. 20. “Your parents did the best they could.” “‘Your parents did the best they could.’ Thanks for that feedback, Janice. I’ll remember that when I’m filling $300+ per month rotation of psychotropic medication to treat the complex post-traumatic stress whose origins started in childhood.” — Ashley P. “‘But she’s your mother. She did the best she could. You should still talk to her.’ To me that’s like saying just because she’s my mother I have to tolerate the abuse and keep her in my life. It infuriates me. Unless you have lived my life, shut your trap.” — Brittany W. 21. “Don’t be so negative. Your mom was a good mom.” “‘Oh but when your mom was sober, she was a good mom. Just the best.’ My mom was rarely sober. And she was the meanest person on the planet when high or drunk. She put my siblings and I in horrible situations, including physical and sexual abuse. And not having food for us. After my mother abandoned us and her parents had taken custody, my family would always say this. And it made it really difficult to talk to them about how I was feeling. It made it impossible for me to hate her. And it really invalidated any pain I was experiencing as a result of her abuse, neglect and abandonment. I spent the next 30 years thinking I did something wrong, thinking I deserved it. It’s just in the past three years in therapy, that I realized there was nothing I could have done differently that would have yielded a different result.” — Kristy G. 22. “Just let it go.” “‘Just ignore it. That’s what I do,’ or, ‘Just let it go.’ I can’t ignore it when it’s thrown in my face every day and I feel like I’m still there. Everything — smells, TV shows, an object, even my own thoughts — throws me back into the traumatic events. I stuffed it away and ignored it for almost 40 years until my mind/body forced me to face it. By saying these things, it’s like saying I like being a drama queen or something when that’s the furthest thing from the truth. I want the triggers, flashbacks, nightmares, etc. to go away! Unfortunately, I have to relive it/face it in order to process it.” — Jessi F. 23. “I bet they miss you.” “‘I can’t imagine not talking to or seeing my mum. I bet she misses you’ No. She misses the opportunity to bring me down and blame me for everything. She lied to me, she abducted me, she manipulated everyone around her. I’ve been through enough counseling in my life to realize I don’t need her in my life. I moved to my dad’s when I was 13, and I’m 28 now. I’ve finished my GCSEs, completed college and university. I’ve got a career, a house and a fiance… and none of it involved her!” — Lynsey B. 24. “Look how strong you are now because of what you went through!” “‘But look how strong you are now because of it.’ This is a common reassuring say thing to say, but do you really think I wouldn’t be strong without the trauma? Maybe it’s just me, but I see the weakness it has given to me, even now at 38 years old. I’ll admit it did teach me what not to do as a parent but it didn’t make me stronger.” — Mandy R. If you have a loved one who lived through childhood trauma, and are wondering what you can say to be helpful and supportive, check out this piece that outlines 11 truths childhood trauma survivors need to hear.

Cindy Belz

Giving Up a Career Due to Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome

In 2003, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome took my career. Until then, I had an amazing job. I made a great income and I was so happy with what I did and what I planned to do. I did not know then what I know now, however. When I had to walk into my boss’ office and finally tell him I could no longer work, I had been there almost 10 years. That was the hardest conversation I ever had to have. I fought with everything I had to be able to keep my job; I even dropped to half days in the office, then working from home, however it still wasn’t enough. In 2010 my company’s group insurance policy refused to cover me and basically said that if I was on their insurance next year then everyone in the company’s rates would go up, so at that point I could no longer be employed for medical reasons. I feel thankful and blessed that I made it as long as I did and was able to accomplish what I was able to accomplish. I started out as office manager and ended as almost VP. I was very proud of myself. I had gone back to school, I only had a year left, and then bam, it was gone. My bosses were amazing! They had been through so much with me — pregnancies, back surgeries, having to rush me to the emergency room a few times, taking me to the doctor when the pain was too bad to drive, and hospital admissions. They understood I was always sick because I had an awful immune system. At the end they even went out and brought me a $1200.00 gravity chair so I could lay back, but the pain was just too much to focus. I wasn’t even able to drive, so my husband would have to take me to work and drop me off. Then by 11 A.M. I was in so much pain from trying to sit that my boss would have to bring me home and help me get up the stairs to my house. I am sharing this information because it’s very hurtful when people think those on disability just sit around all day and eat bonbons and enjoy themselves. I’ve had people say things to me like, “It must be nice to sit home all day,” or “I wish I could watch TV all day.” They have no idea the amount of pain, the symptoms I have to manage, the nausea, the headaches, the dizziness, almost fainting, joints popping in and out of place. Taking a shower feels like I’ve run a marathon. Even when I am laying here still, I am in so much pain that I feel like I want to cut my legs off. I have to take a ton of medications to even function. So no, it’s not fun. I would love to change it and I would love to work. People don’t get when you lose your career, you lose much more than just a job. When your body takes it away from you, it’s one of the most frustrating things in the world. You may feel like you lose your independence, your self-worth, your ability to be a role model, your income, the ability to give your kids a good Christmas, and care for yourself financially and physically. People complain about things at work that I would do anything to deal with again. I would do anything to sit in traffic. I would do anything to have a business lunch. I would do anything to have a disagreement with a coworker, or sit in a cubicle, or sit through a meeting. I never even realized how lucky I was until it was gone. When you see somebody on disability, please don’t call them lazy. Please don’t think they don’t want to work. Please don’t think they’re trying to somehow cheat the system, and please don’t make them feel worse. Trust me, there is probably nothing you can say to them that they have not already heard. A little bit of compassion goes a long way! We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .