Sobering thoughts on my 'Anniversary'

I was hoping to have this post completed and ready to be posted for September 2nd, but unfortunately that's not been able to happen, however, I still want to share this.

I will begin by warning all that there may be triggers regarding topics such as rape/sexual assault, self-harm, alcohol, suicide and PTSD (+ general mental health) and some of what is being shared may be upsetting, especially if those of you I am very close to are giving this a read. I will say though that this post does have a positive and happy ending, so if you do choose to read it then please do stick with it to the end.

Right...deep breath...and here we go.

I tend to bang on about how much I love Autumn, which I do, and normally I am met with the response of, "Oh no, why would you like Autumn, it's cold and horrible.", "It's all about Summer for me, give me the sun any day." "But, surely Summer is better for your Psoriasis".

Well, yes, it has been proven that the sun is great for Psoriasis and also for mental health, I won't deny that, but personally, the Summer for me has always been a bit tricky and more so in recent years.

When I was younger, I struggled with life and I had no idea why. I didn't have google to quickly search through to try and figure out if what I felt was normal or not. I was too afraid to tell my parents, and the idea of going to the doctors just seemed ridiculous. In my very early teens I started to drink alcohol. If I could find it, I would give it a go and if I got drunk, that was a bonus because it took me to a whole new reality...however, this reality started to become even more terrifying and when I sobered up I was more confused about life and all these unknown emotions I had. I'm not entirely sure where the idea and courage came from, but after twiddling with bracelets and picking at my skin, I cut myself for the first time. I didn't know why and part of me knew it was a really bad idea, but, at the time, it was what I needed and it felt as though all of these horrid, scary and confusing feelings were leaving my body. In turn, this resulted in my wearing long sleeves as I did not want anyone to find out.

When I was 17, I thought I was a badass and went to get my first ever tattoo. That bad boy is covered up now but at the time I thought it was the best thing ever. My parents knew nothing about it and I was under age so again, I kept wearing long sleeves, even in boiling hot weather. As I got older I got more and more tattoos but still felt afraid to show my parents (most of the time they knew anyway, but I was stuck in my child-like mentally).

Over the years I continued to self-harm but not to a severe or extreme point.

When I was 21 I woke one morning to find a strange rash on my skin. Not the sort of rash I had seen before. I rang my Mum panicking thinking that it may be Meningitis (I had recently started Uni and moved in to halls). Luckily it wasn't, but the next day this rash had spread all over my body. I went to the Doctors and what I was left with was...*Doctor scrolling through Google* - "Yeah, I have no idea what this is. Keep an eye on it and see how it goes". Urmm, okay. Luckily at this time my Mum was still working at our local GP surgery back home, so, I returned home and registered as a temp patient. I saw one of my fav GP's who immediately knew and diagnosed me with Psoriasis. Now, I knew of it, but had NO idea of how bloody awful this disease would be and is. I felt so hideous that I kept the majority of my body wrapped up.

Third year of uni and I had the WORST flare up I've had to date. I was pretty much bed ridden and in constant pain. Creams, ointments, nothing was helping. I went to see a dermatologist and we got the ball rolling with steroid based lotions and UVB light therapy. Short-term this was great, but I still felt like a monster and stayed covered up. My weight was fluctuating a ridiculous amount so I also felt even more self-conscious.

Fourth year of uni (I started one one course and moved to another so was there longer than planned). I moved in to my very own flat. A tiny attic conversion which at the time seemed fantastic and full of hope. I had lost weight, my skin was REALLY starting to clear, so that Summer I got the courage for the first time in YEARS to say, "Sod it, I'm wearing what I want to wear." I felt amazing. I had confidence, my life felt like it was starting to come together, my mind was in a better place than it had been for years and I felt like I could take anything on.

september 1st 2011.

It was one HOT day. I had been working and so had a dear friend of mine. Her birthday was the next day, September 2nd, so the plan was to go out on the night of the 1st and dance our way in to the morning of her birthday.

We got dressed round hers and headed out for the night. It.was.great. I hadn't made too much effort, but I felt comfortable in my skin. I didn't want to stay out too late as I had plans for the next day. Flash forward to another club where we witnessed a fight break out at which point we thought enough was enough and it was time to call it a night.

Early hours of September 2nd 2011 my life changed forever. I was raped. I can sit here and type this now. I can sit here and type this without a bottle of red wine next to me or a plan to somehow hurt myself, and here is why.

(The actual night it happened)

(First day of court)

(A painting i worked on for months after the assault)

This past month has been a true eye opener. For, 6 years now, I have not seen anything. I have not taken anything in. I have not smelt anything. I have no tasted anything. I have been lost and I have been numb.

Around a month ago I was walking home from work when a young gentleman with a learning disability walked past me and pulled my shirt open in the middle of the high street. His carer apologised and they quickly walked off. Time and everything around me sped up. I walked as fast as I could to my car holding my breath and it wasn't until I shut and locked the door that i exhaled and started to shake, cry and completely break down. I got home and I drank, and I drank, and I drank, to a point where I self-harmed and lost complete control of everything. Now, I've been here before, sadly more times than I care to remember, but when i was sober, something in me switched. I saw the pain in Mitchell's eyes, I saw the pain in the eyes of colleagues who knew and were there trying to help me. I saw the report which had been written to OC Health and sat thinking, "This can't be about me", but it was. the weather was warmer, id spent weeks building my confidence to wear short sleeves and now i was back to hiding myself again.

I think for once in my life I truly scared myself. A few days after this event I met my new baby cousin. I spent time with family. The other weekend, instead of going to a festival, I drove to Devon and spent time with my parents. It was hands down of the best memories I have had in a long time and one of the highlights of this year.

After that night over a month ago, I decided to stop drinking. I also decided to come off my anti-depressants. It was a gamble, but for now i feel like I've hit the jackpot.

Friday night leading in to Saturday morning would normally be an ordeal for me. Something I'm scared of every year. Most people welcome an anniversary but this is one I have never chosen to have. On Friday, without even thinking about it, I got home from work, absolutely shattered, freshened up a bit and left the flat with Mitchell to go to a gig. After this we headed to London Road Brew House. I cannot explain to you how brave I feel for doing this. The night I was raped, we had been in Bedford Place and on London Road, and ever since it has been somewhere I have tried my hardest to avoid.

I know there was part of me which was filling with anxiety, but as I looked around I was surrounded by amazing people, people who care about me and people who I care about. The gig was beyond AMAZING. The beat vibrated through my body so much that at points I nearly cried with pure joy and happiness.

Mitchell kept thanking me for a great night and all I could think have NO idea how much this night has meant to me.