Saturday, April 27, 2013

Writing as therapy: When the self saboteur comes visiting

Writing as therapy

This is going to be one of those posts that I whine about my failures. Particularly my bloody weight issues. It takes up so much of my headspace that this blog would be a lie if I didn't write about it here. And anyway, when I asked Shrink for his advice on how to get back on the diet bandwagon he said "blog about it".

The self saboteur has come again

Chocolate is my drug of choice these days and I am in full blown active addiction. Again.

I've gained back all 5kg I lost last year and I'm not liking it at all. Yet my self saboteur grabs another Malteaser and shoves it in my gob, the smooth chocolate coating combined with the perfectly crunchy centre soothes me, if only for a second.

Chocolate, cake, ice cream, lollies and lots of them. I'm even drinking more Diet Coke than I usually allow myself because my self saboteur says I can. She plays with the fact that I have absolutely no self control of my addictions especially when I've been rejected, criticised, blamed or judged poorly.

Last year when I quit sugar and did Droptober I felt so determined and full of motivation to lose weight and get healthy. I felt light, my moods were more stable, my headaches were gone, I slept better and woke up better. I felt clean and I even felt like I actually loved my body. It was such a sweet lovely feeling. And my self saboteur was nowhere to be seen!

That's all gone now. I feel heavy and toxic. My headaches are back and my joints ache. I'm back in my fat clothes and I certainly do not heart my body. I feel old. My self saboteur is back and she encourages me to consume yet another bowl of ice cream and chocolate sauce. It will make you feel better, she says. Who cares if you get fat, she insists, this tastes too good to give a shit. You've suffered and you deserve a reward. My self saboteur is very convincing.

I've put it out on my Facebook feed, and on this blog, so many times that I'm back on the wagon, this time will be it, blah, blah, blah. Then I get a little set back and she's back! She can smell my fears and sensitivities from a mile away!

Last night I put this tweet out there...

...and got this response

I wish it were that easy!

I hate myself when my self saboteur shows up but I feel completely powerless by her control over me. I am simply unable to sacrifice "short term gratification for the sake of long term goals" to quote my schema therapy book (which I highly recommend but should note I've also had extensive experience with group and one on one schema therapy). This is especially the case when I'm not feeling great about something.

You see I have the insufficient self control/self discipline schema (or as I call it my self saboteur). This is a basic summary:

"Insufficient Self-Control/Self-Discipline
This schema refers to the inability to tolerate any frustration in reaching one’s goals, as well as an inability to restrain expression of one’s impulses or feelings. When lack of self-control is extreme, criminal or addictive behavior rule your life. Parents who did not model self-control, or who did not adequately discipline their children, may predispose them to have this schema as adults."
- A Client’s Guide to Schema Therapy

I don't have tantrums any more (although I did up until about four years ago) but I'm impulsive. I always have been. I do things without thinking about the consequences, much like a toddler does. Although I know the consequences, I just choose to block them out during that moment of frustration or upset. Couple insufficient self control with my defectiveness schema and I'm the perfect candidate for addiction because I use the vice (in the past drugs and alcohol and now sugar) to overcome or avoid those feelings of defectiveness. It is a self defeating prophecy because by constantly failing to stem the impulsivity, and tell that bitch the self saboteur to fuck off, I'm just fueling the defectiveness. It is a vicious circle I've been playing in all my life.

This schema refers to the belief that one is internally flawed, and that, if others get close, they will realize this and withdraw from the relationship. This feeling of being flawed and inadequate often leads to a strong sense of shame. Generally parents were very critical of their children and made them feel as if they were not worthy of being loved."
A Client’s Guide to Schema Therapy

I want to find that golden moment again where I make the decision to tell my self saboteur to go to hell, and flick that magic switch in my brain that turns me back into the person I love: Motivated, pumped, committed. I want to hold onto that chick forever but I never do.

I told you all a little while ago that I was seeing a guy that I really liked. I put the hard word on him and I waited for a response. And I waited. The prick kept me waiting, giving me little life lines along the way but never having the balls to come straight out and say what he needed to say. When it became clear that it was over I just ate more chocolate. My self saboteur sniffed rejection and said fuck it, what is the point in being slim if a man doesn't want you, you might as well alone and fat forever.

I've come to the realisation that my diet is related to whether or not I'm dating. I lose weight, feel good, start dating, meet someone, get complacent because the relationship isn't right, put on weight, the relationship is over, mourn with chocolate, want to start dating again, lose weight...

Yes, I am a geek that keeps a record of my weight in an Excel spreadsheet and have done so for 10 years!

My whole sense of self worth must be centred around whether or not a man could love me. My defective self thinks I am unlovable if I am overweight so my self saboteur swoops in to provide evidence of that fact. Are you with me?

It has been a month since I sent him that text asking him where our three months of dating was heading. I've gained 2.5kg in the last four weeks and 2kg in the month before (which I can attribute to my attempt to return to office work).

I don't want to blame that dick-face for my weight gain. Or my anxiety about work and my subsequent mood slide. I need to take responsibility for my own health. I just hate that when I feel like shit (defectiveness schema) I do my utmost to make myself feel shittier in the guise of trying to make myself feel better (insufficient self control schema).

I guess it is lucky I have a psych appointment this week to work this shit through.

If you made it this far through this "writing as therapy" session, thank you.

What are your coping mechanisms? Go for a nice long walk? Meditate? Or shove your gob full of chocolate cake like me?


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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

What Noo loves: Superheroes and modern art

Following on from my last post is part two of What Noo loves (the first part is here). I love watching my son grow and develop his taste for things. He's definitely got a much longer attention span than I have. I can get really passionate about something and then be totally over it in a flash. I wrote about it here. Keeping this blog for nearly three years is my most enduring hobby ever.

I am Iron Man and you are Pepper Potts!

My parents bought Noo his first superhero costume. The Superman suit they brought home one day, with its moulded chest for muscles, was a little too big and uncomfortable at first. As Noo grew, and the suit came to fit, a new love was born. Dressing up as superheroes came way before the shows or the books or the action figures.

Last winter we weren't able to leave the house unless Noo was dressed in one suit or the other. My Instagram feed was packed with Noo dressed as Batman, Superman, Spider-Man or Iron Man. I had to play the girlfriend that corresponded with each character. I was Vicky Vale to Noo's Bruce Wayne, Mary-Jane to Noo's Peter Parker, and my favourite, Pepper Potts to Noo's Tony Stark.

The collection of action figures followed, and my bank account was diminished, as I forked out for the ever growing pile of plastic super men and women in tights!

The best bit about this passion of Noo's, in my view, is the films that accompany each character. Or should I say the hot actors that play them. Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Jeremy Renner as The Archer, Chris Evans as Captain America. So easy on the eye! 

My little superhero!


The most surprising love that Noo has maintained is for contemporary art. Coming from an art loving family I guess it isn't surprising that he likes looking at pretty pictures but the fact that he will often choose visiting a gallery over going to a playground is pretty impressive. He also has a very mature understanding that art does not have to come from paint, textas or clay (or any other traditional medium) and you don't have to be able to understand what the object/image is. He has definitely acquired a love for the abstract.

One of Noo's favourite places to visit is Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art. Ask him who his favourite artist is and he will tell you Anish Kapoor. When we visit the MCA Noo likes to visit all floors, even if he has already seen what is currently on display. He stops and asks the guides for an explanation of a piece if one really catches his eye. We often stop to talk about what we see and how a piece might make us feel.

We recently saw the 13 Rooms exhibition down at Walsh Bay. Noo was really excited about going when I explained to him that we were seeing performance art which is very different to the installation pieces he had grown to love in the Kapoor exhibition (which he saw twice!).

After exiting the first room, which contained a pair of twins, Noo complained "I want to see art!". He couldn't quite see the art in Damien Hirst's offer at the exhibition. As we moved from room to room I enjoyed watching Noo's reaction to each piece as much as the performances themselves.

When we reached Joan Jonas' piece titled Mirror Check Noo's enormous restraint and respect made me one proud mumma. In this piece a naked woman is standing in one spot, holding a small round mirror, scanning her entire body at a very slow pace. There were about six of us in the room quietly viewing the performance including Noo. It wasn't until we walked out that Noo said to me "you have to be very quiet in that room". For a boy that doesn't do still or quiet very well, I was most impressed.

The piece by Xu Zhen totally freaked Noo out. He wasn't in the room for more than a few seconds before he ran out in horror at what he'd seen. I was fascinated by the fear the performance invoked in him. He can watch anything on TV without so much as a flinch but the performance in this room scared him silly. Mum said to me later that he'd told her he thought the person in the room was dead. You must check out the link to see what he's talking about.

From top left: Anish Kapoor at MCA, 13 Rooms at Walsh Bay, Cardboard City at the MCA,
Anish Kapoor out the front of the MCA, drawing at the MCA, Noo and me at 13 Rooms; last row - MCA

When my parents took my sister and me to galleries when we were little I thought it was one of the most boring ways to spend my time. It actually wasn't until I went to Vienna in my early 30s that I fell in love with contemporary art so it pleases me no end that Noo has got into it early. I know kids go in and out of phases as they get older and their interests change but I really hope Noo's fascination for creatives arts continues to flourish and that we can keep discovering new artists together.

Now to encourage Noo to pursue our family's passion for music.

What hobbies or passions do you share with your kids?
Are there any in particularly you'd like to encourage them to get into?


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Sunday, April 21, 2013

What Noo loves: cars and cats

As Noo gets older and his little personality evolves I love watching his tastes develop. As his mum I reckon it is my job to expose him to new experiences and then let him decide what he likes. Over his almost four and a half years of life there have been some standout interests that have persisted for long enough to now call them passions.

I'm going to tell you (and brag a little) about them over my next two posts.

Beep, beep!

One of the first words to come out of Noo's mouth was 'car'. From when he was a little bub he loved anything with wheels. Playing with the wheels on his stroller or toy cars, trains, busses all brought him such delight!

Strangely, Roary the Racing Car was too daggy for Noo but he has always loved the Disney Cars franchise. Lightning, Mater and the gang can be found in many places around our apartment and in my car. Hot Wheels vehicles have also had a persistent presence around our place. And who could forget the Little Tikes Cosy Coupe? I have probably done permanent damage to my back pushing that thing around with Noo inside!

The Cosy Coupe, car rides at the shopping centre, the big race of Hot Wheels cars and other vehicles

Meow! Can I be your girl kitten?

Noo's love of cats has been mentioned on this blog before. It all started when a friend of my mum's gave Noo a black and white toy cat that he named Transformer on sight. He fell for that toy immediately which was a big surprise to me and his grandparents because Noo had never really shown an interested in stuffed toys before. When I was still pregnant I bought the little bub growing in my tummy a beautiful plush puppy called Marco. I thought, being a boy, he would love dogs! How sexist and wrong I was. 

After Transformer there came Running, Treetops and Lulu followed a little later by Sushi. There was a stage that all "The Cats" had to come on every outing with us. Luckily for me I don't need to drag that menagerie around with us any more. 

Noo also loves cat videos on YouTube, #catsofinstagram, as well as Tom (as in Tom & Jerry), Garfield, Puss in Boots, Mittens from the movie Bolt.

Playing at being a cat is a huge thing for Noo too. Not just any cat - a girl cat. "Can I be your girl kitten?" he asks me at least once a day. So very, very cute! All five of Noo's toy cats are girls. He says he likes girls best and who am I to argue with that? 

When a teacher left Noo's daycare recently all the children gave a message to the departing staff member on a farewell card. Noo's quote was, you guessed it: "Meow!".

My boy loves girl cats!

The next two - superheroes and art - will come next.

Do you have kids with special interests or hobbies? If they are older kids, did they start young and carry them on as the grew up?

Hope everyone has had a great weekend!


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Thursday, April 18, 2013

What's the drama?

Yep, there's more drama to be had here at No, not more sex, drugs and rock n roll! I'm talking sponsored posts. There seems to be a lot of chatter around the interwebs about bloggers getting paid to give opinions on brands and their products or services. Readers seem to either love them or they hate them. It's controversial! It's divisive! It's dramatic!

I actually enjoy reading sponsored posts if they are for a product or service I'm interested in. I'm one of these people who doesn't buy anything major without having read good reviews about the product first. I scour the web for beauty bloggers' opinions on mascara or through tech blogs for reviews on the latest gadgets/computers/software. There's no way I'd buy any major appliance without having found a thumbs up from a blog or a review site.

I am also a total sucker for marketing and advertising. I love pretty packages and catchy jingles. I'm a shopping addict with a disgraceful love of consumerism. But I have little money in the bank. If I spend my cash I want to get the most out of every dollar. Reading reviews of products and services from bloggers that I trust can help me form a decision about a product.

You know what else I love? Free stuff. I've won stacks of cool things from blog competitions. I've won $100 worth of shoes for Noo, a lunchbox, some yum cha products, chocolate, tickets to Masterchef live (although the announcement email got lost in my spam folder), tickets to take the kids to see Elmo's show that's coming up in June, some pelvic floor exercise balls (yet to be tested). Oh and I won $500 for writing this post for the Digital Parents Conference sponsors RAMS. Sweet!

Blogging is my second love at the moment (after my family of course). I never really knew I could put words together to make sentences that form paragraphs that end up coming together to give you a story. My story.

Blogging takes a lot of time. I don't begrudge that time, I wish I had more of it to give to my space. I love spending time on my words and my pictures. I love reading other blogs and commenting. I love social media and being connected. I love the sense of community. I love the comments that I get that are so often filled with support and care for me. I've been overwhelmed by that support. I thank each and every person that comes to read what I have to say, not just the commenters.

I am lucky that I do have an income outside of blogging. My blog is my hobby not a business. For me to choose to do the odd sponsored post is not really all about money. Although the fifty bucks I might make to write a post like the one I did recently for Office 365 really helps. That's my coffee and cake money for a week! Of course, should my readership grow, then I may need to ask for a bit more than snack dollars.

I've enjoyed writing the few sponsored posts that I've done because I like being given a project. In each campaign that I've been involved in I've still given a little story of my life. I've never just rewritten the media release. I always mark clearly at the top that the post is sponsored so the reader can chose not to read if they wish.

Why am I going on about all this? If you haven't already noticed I've put together a little Work/Contact/Network page in the hope some more sponsored gigs might come my way. And there could be a few coming up in the near future. I just thought I'd put it out there to you guys. This is a PR friendly blog. Without compromising my voice I'd like to be able to work with brands. And, as my readers, I hope you don't mind that I do.

What do you think about the whole sponsored post malarkey? 

Yay or nay?


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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Part 8: The dad question

I've been holding on to this part of the dad question series for ages. Now you know almost everything about The Assault, this part will make more sense. I know I've still to resolve what happened after I found that letter, but you'll just have to wait for part 7 because I'm jumping ahead!

If you are new to my blog the saga of my journey From Rock Bottom to Parenthood can be found here:

And then came Noo 

“He’s got red hair!” Mum shouted.

After 39 hours of labour at 9.39am Noo was finally suctioned out of me.

I was exhausted. Traumatised. I didn't feel like I'd just had a baby. I felt so removed from what was happening.

The small red ball of flesh still attached to me via the umbilical cord was placed on my chest for the briefest of moments. My sister cut the cord and he was gone.

I vaguely remember pushing out the placenta and the midwife holding it up for me to see.

“I can't hear him”, I whisper.

“Why isn't he making any noise?” I'm seriously starting to get distressed.

My newborn son had been whisked away from me and onto a neonatal unit where there seemed to be a lot of hospital staff surrounding him, prodding him.

My mum was hovering near the crowd but for some reason wasn't answering my questions.

“What’s going on?” I begged.

And then I heard a squeak. He sounded like a baby monkey.

“3.47 kilos!” Mum announced with pride but I wondered if she understood what that meant not being in pounds. My wonderful mother, who'd just spent the last 39 hours with me, was taking photos of her first born grandchild being weighed.

My sister Yolanda was by my side. My legs were spread and shaking. A doctor was stitching me up.

“Can I hold him?” and finally my Noo was wrapped in a hospital blanket and passed to me. It was the weirdest sensation in the world. Ever.

The epidural was wearing off. My legs felt like balloons, massive and out of my control. Noo’s face was fat and squished looking. He did have the brightest red hair and the most perfect rosebud lips.

I fell in love in an instant.

It wasn't long before my dad, brother and sister in law arrived. I saw my dad’s eyes well up at the sight of his grandson. The moment was pure joy. After nearly two years of horror and worry and despair, I’d finally brought some happiness to my family.

Lots of photos were taken as Noo was passed around the room. Finally everyone left, except for my parents, who held Noo as I showered and cleaned myself up.

Still with a catheter attached I tried to clean my body which didn’t feel like it was mine. I felt brutalised. Quietly in that shower room I felt a sense of disgust at what I'd just experienced. Still affected by the painkillers the doctors had given me I couldn't fully cognate my emotions.

I was given the option to either walk or be pushed in a wheelchair up to the maternity ward. Walk? Yeah, right! I gladly took the chair.

I sat down and winced. The pain was excruciating. It rocketed me back to the last time I couldn't sit down without pain. I shook the flashback off and looked down at my beautiful little boy.

My parents left after settling me into my private room and Noo and I were alone. I didn't know what to do. Hospital staff came and went. I was overwhelmed by the number of people who needed to look at Noo, to check one thing or another.

Midwives came to show me how to breastfeed. It was horrible. Noo wouldn't latch on. A midwife hand expressed some colostrum from me into a cup and we syringed it into Noo’s mouth. There was nothing nice about it. I felt like a failed farm animal.

At one stage a midwife told me about water filled frozen condoms in the freezer of the shared kitchen. I was told to put one in the maternity pad I was wearing so it could help numb the area. It felt pretty gross but did the job nonetheless.

In between going to the toilet to change pads and attempting to feed my new baby, I just looked at him with wonder. At the perfection of his face. I thought he could possibly be the best looking baby ever to have been born (doesn't every mother?).

Friends and family visited but essentially I was alone with my son. Day three was Christmas Eve and the baby blues kicked in. I couldn't stop crying. Midwives asked me if I was ok. It was the most bizarre emotion. I felt terrible but it kind of felt like a relief to cry. I felt like I was crying for everything bad that had ever happened to me but at the same time the tears were euphoric with the love I felt for my baby.

I wanted to be left alone for more than five minutes to cry and cry and cry but still people came. Midwives, doctors, social workers, psych consults.

My sister arrived. I burst into tears again. "It's just the baby blues", I assured her. She suggested staying the night seeing it was Christmas Eve and there was no father to share this moment with me.

A chant in the distant regions of my mind started to become louder and louder:

A square peg in a round hole.
A square peg in a round hole.
A square peg in a round hole.

I'd been saying it over and over during the birth but was only just able to hear it.

I cried some more as I made the realisation that my body and subconscious had connected what was supposed to be one of the most glorious experiences of my life with the worst experience of my life: the night I was raped.

It is why I felt brutalised, why I hated giving birth. I should have had a caesarean section rather than pushing through 30 hours of pre- and nine hours of active labour of a posterior positioned baby.

The juxtaposition of emotions made me feel so out of kilter. Having my son is the best thing that has ever happened to me but I seriously do not wish to go through labour like that ever again. The next baby, if there is one, will be planned. From the beginning through to the end.

Despite everything the fiercely intense love I felt (and still do feel) for this newborn being was not lessened by the trauma of his birth.

I love you my beautiful boy Noo.


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Sunday, April 14, 2013

How to quit smoking

I'm taking a mental health break from dredging up the past to make a community announcement. If you're a smoker I just want to say this to you: Quit. Just extinguish that fag in your hands, soak the rest of the pack in a bucket of water and never light up another cigarette again.

Quitting smoking is easy.


OK, I lied. Quitting smoking is one of the hardest addictions I've ever had to give up. It is two years since I've had a cigarette and I know that I will never have another one. When I finally quit it was probably the 100th attempt. There might have even been more failed attempts. Who's counting?

Honestly, I loved smoking. Loved, loved, loved it. I loved sliding a fresh ciggie out of the pack, placing it between my lips, the sizzle of flame from my initialled Zippo lighter against the tip, taking that first inhalation, sucking the smoke back into my lungs - ahhhh - exhale. The taste, the buzz, the ritual. I loved it all.

The first time I learned to inhale I was about 15 years old. Laying on my back along a pier up on Pittwater, with my cousin and best friend, I remember sucking that smoke back and, rather than a cloud escaping my mouth, a long stream of smoke elegantly made its way straight into the night air. I think I knew then this was going to be a long affair.

From then on, while I was still at school, I smoked when I could. All my friends did, except maybe one. We obviously weren't allowed to smoke at school and my parents would have killed me if they'd known I smoked regularly.

Styvos, Kent, B&H Extra Mild, Dunnie Blues, Winnie Blues, back to B&H, Marlboro Gold and finally Marlboro Menthols. I must have spent thousands and thousands of dollars on fags over my 20 year chuffing career.

A packet of ciggies cost about $3.60 when I was a teenager. I remember when I was in boarding school in year 11 and my beloved B&H Extra went up to $5 for a packet of 25. My friends and I were mortified. We had to give up now! But of course we didn't.

I went on to work and became one of the many suited office workers taking breaks to go and feed our addiction on the busy city streets, blowing smoke over innocent people walking by. Of course schooners of beer go hand and hand with a smoke so the love affair became a threesome. Throw in amphetamines just after my 21st birthday and I had scored the trifecta of addictions: ciggies, booze and drugs. Each complemented the other but having a fag was the only one you could do at 8am without being socially outcast or fired!

The first time I gave quitting a good crack was back in early 2003. I was depressed, constantly ill, overweight and generally felt like shit all the time so I decided to go on a health kick. To prepare I got rid of all smoking paraphernalia out of the flat I shared with my sister. I emptied the ashtray of our 1981 Honda Civic, washed it and left it in a cupboard in the flat. I changed all my routines around smoking. I even went a different way to work hoping that by not passing my usual smoking spot out the front of my building I would avoid being triggered.

I stocked up on patches and gum. The patches gave me nightmares. It wasn't pleasant. Because I was on a health kick I also gave up drinking for three months which made it much easier to avoid the fags.

I lasted nine months before I caved and started up again much to the disappointment of my family. That was the year I moved to London and the anxiety and excitement of moving overseas got too much for me. The endless farewell parties also contributed to my weakened resolve.

Five months after I moved to London my mum had to have open heart surgery. My family chose not to tell me until the day after the life saving operation. My mum's last words for them to pass on to me, should she not make it through the procedure, was that she loved me and PLEASE QUIT SMOKING!

Talk about guilt trip! But I got it. Heart disease and cigarettes don't mix. I gave up for the briefest of periods. When I felt like a ciggie I'd have a glass of wine instead. Not really the best strategy looking back. Over the almost four years I lived in London I gave up so many times it is not funny. I read Allen Carr's famous book The Easy Way To Quit Smoking but only lasted a couple of months, if that, before I was back on the darts. I participated in a program through Boots the Chemist that included weekly counselling but got kicked out of that after the first week when I admitted to having a ciggie two days in. There were even times when I smoked while wearing nicotine patches. Crazy!

After The Assault I was smoking well over a pack a day. When I was in the psych hospitals this went up to two packs a day. My lungs ached but still I sucked on. I finally gave up when I fell preggers with Noo. A few years went by and then I would have a few here and there when I went out (which was rarely!) or when I caught up with friends who smoked (there were only two). I didn't want to be a smoking mother but the odd one in secret didn't make me feel too guilty.

In early 2011 I started dating a smoker. As the relationship got more serious so did my smoking. I was buying whole packets! I couldn't believe it. Every time I headed out to balcony to smoke after Noo had gone to bed I felt like a fuckwit. Why was I at this again?

As the relationship began to fizzle so did the fags. I got a chest infection for the first time since getting sober and I was sneaking around like a teenager just to inhale noxious fumes into my lungs. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

I quit the relationship and the fags at the same time. Over and out.

I never crave cigarettes now. I see people milling about out the front of office buildings when we walk around town and I pity those people. They stand there in the freezing cold or the blazing sun, eyes cast down on the pavement, nothing but a slave to their addiction and the cigarette manufacturers. Smoking looks dumb too. And really, really ugly. It ages you. Smokers have large pores on their faces and more wrinkles around their lips. I don't need to go through the list of health issues (you know like cancer and death) that smoking cigarettes can cause. We all know them!

Honestly, I have no idea why I did it.

So the only way to quit smoking is simple: Just don't smoke.

Do you smoke? Or have you smoked? How did you finally quit?


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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Part 4: On being a victim of rape culture

Warning: This post could be triggering for people who have themselves been victims of sexual assault.

On being a victim of rape culture

Part 1: The day before
Part 2: Where am I?
Part 3: The day after

Reporting the crime

As Monday morning dawned and the familiar smell of freshly baked croissants filled the air, the butter seeming to permeate my pores, I became conscious one again of the constant hum of the air conditioning units below. There was a split second before I was completely awake that I forgot what had happened. Just a few tiny moments where I was free from the horror that was my life until - BANG - it all came flooding back. This was going to be a very difficult day.

I dressed for work wondering what I was going to do about sitting down at my desk all day. My coccyx continued to throb in excruciating pain and even sitting forward, putting my weight towards the edge of the seat, was insanely painful.

The walk to work was uncomfortable. Had the person who had assaulted me found me walking home along these streets on Friday night? Is that what happened? Was I not able to get a cab out the front of the office so decided to walk home after all? Maybe I'd fallen over and that was why my coccyx screamed in agony every time I shifted my weight? The questions were never ending.

The first thing I did when I got to the office was stop by the kitchen to get a coffee. One of the young guys who'd been at work drinks Friday night was there making his breakfast. I don't remember his name now. I spoke to him while I waited for the coffee machine to do its thing. I can't remember word for word what I said. To quote myself now would be complete conjecture. I think I made a comment about the night, that I didn't remember much. He seemed embarrassed. I was embarrassed. I didn't know this bloke enough to question further. Now, in retrospect, I wish I'd ignored my fears and made him go over with me every frigging detail that he recalled. Someone must have seen something!

In my team's room everyone was busy either looking at Excel spreadsheets or speaking to clients on the phone. I attempted to sit at my desk wincing as I lowered myself onto my chair. The first thing I did was email the female manager I remembered talking to just before I lost all awareness of was going on. I asked her what she remembered of the night. What did I say to her out the front of our building?

While waiting for a reply I told my boss, who had become a friend over the years, that I'd hurt myself falling over and needed an alternative seating arrangement. I ordered one of those funny backless ergo chairs that you kind of kneel on.

I couldn't concentrate on work. I wanted answers! Surely someone would know something! But who to ask? I desperately wanted that manager to email me back and say that I'd said I was going to another bar. It would explain why I ended up where I was. Kind of. Maybe that would have meant that I met this person the normal way. That I wasn't stalked and attacked. That it wasn't premeditated.

Finally the email came through. She wrote that I had said to her that I was going to catch a Black Cab home and that she caught the Northern Line home. She said she was really drunk too and fell asleep on the train, waking up at the end of the line.

My heart sank. To me these words confirmed my worst fears: I had been attacked and raped. I retrospect, either way you look at it, whether I went there willingly or by force, I was raped. An unconscious woman can not consent to sex. An unconscious person cannot consent to anything! It has taken a long time for me to accept that.

Blood rushed through my ears, my vision blurred, I thought I was going to vomit all over my keyboard. I had to get the fuck out of there before I exploded. I had to tell my boss, my friend. I couldn't speak to him even though he was only sitting on the other side of the petition. I knew the only thing that would come out of my mouth if I opened it would be a scream or a sob. I didn't want anyone else in the room to know what was going on. So I emailed him: "I need to speak to you privately. Now."

He looked through the glass dividing us and could see my upset face. "Let's go for a coffee", he suggested. I got as far as through our office door. To the left was a door that led to the fire stairs and goods lift. I lurched left, quickly yanked that door open and went inside, my boss following me, and collapsed in a heap as I wailed "I've been raped".

I lost it then, fell apart in my boss's arms as what little hope I had of things getting back to normal finally disintegrated. He held me and I knew he was crying too. Pulling himself together he stood back and said I had to go to the police. I argued that they would just say it was my fault. I was drunk! What sympathy would they have for me?

My boss said no matter what happened I had to do it for me. By going to the police I would be acknowledging to myself that something had happened to me. That I was not to blame. That a crime had been committed against me.

Next my boss told me to go downstairs to one of the cafes on the ground floor. He would call the manager who I'd emailed and ask her to come and talk to us about what she remembered. It felt so good that someone was on my side! Someone was taking me seriously.

The manager sat down with us for a coffee and repeated what she remembered of those last moments of the Friday night before everyone headed home: I had categorically said to her that I was catching a cab home. She had no reason to believe I would have gone back into another bar. By that time, all the venues but the nightclub were closed anyway. I thanked them both and walked to the police station.

Not understanding that the City of London had it's own police force I went along to the only cop shop I knew. It was the Liverpool Street Police Station. I used to catch my bus home to Battersea when I lived there from the bus stop just along the way.


The entry to the police station was unassuming and quite small. There was a police officer behind a counter and a couple of people waiting to be seen to. I had no idea what to do. I just walked up to he counter which was in earshot of the people waiting and told the office that I needed to report a crime. He asked me what crime would I like to report. "Um, I ah, yeah, I was raped", I stuttered out.

I felt about sixteen again. Scared and alone in a foreign country. I wanted my mum - anyone familiar to me - to be there with me to hold my hand.  The officer looked embarrassed, as if he didn't know what to do. Finally he ushered me in through a door on the left and along a hallway to an internal waiting area. I wasn't there long before a WPC (woman police constable) led me through what turned out to be a massive complex of rooms and offices.

It was about 10.30am by this time I think. I remember the hallway was wide and long. On the left I noticed an open door that led through to what looked like a classic London pub. Off duty police offices who must have just finished the nightshift were drinking beer. At least that's what I thought I saw. People have doubted me when I've told them that part of the story. I swear it is true. Later in the day, walking down that same corridor, I remember seeing bar snacks on the counter. Like pickled onions and cubes of cheese. Maybe I imagined it.

I was escorted up to a room that was especially designated for victims and witnesses. It was comfortable yet clinical. There was a sofa, a TV and some toys. Posters advertising crisis centres and other such services were up on the walls. I was left there while they figured out what to do with me. You see I'd come to the wrong place. The crime had been committed in Shoreditch which is in the Greater London area only a couple of kilometres away. That area came under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Police. As I waited in that beige room for victims and witnesses I felt a loneliness and despair that is beyond description.

Fear returned to me then as I thought over my life and how by being there, at the police station, it could be put under scrutiny. I've watched a lot of Law & Order and countless other crime shows and I realised that my life was turning into an episode of Special Victims Unit or The Bill. If the cops ever got this guy and it went to court all my secrets would be exposed. All the lies I'd told to my family and my employer would be dragged out in court. Everyone would know about my addictions, my financial debt, my promiscuity. I had visions of my friends and work colleagues being questioned in the witness box as to my character: "Yes Your Honour, Vanessa loves to party. Oh yes, she's known to have slept with a few blokes from the office...".

The wait dragged on as I frantically searched my own handbag and wallet for remnants of cocaine. It would be just my luck for the cops to find an old wrap of lotto paper with scratchings left behind. When I came up empty I scanned my mobile phone for dealer contacts and deleted every single one. Of course I was being irrational. The police weren't going to search me. Or were they?

Finally two Met WPCs came and sat with me. They had come from a large police station in the area where the assault had taken place. They asked me to tell them exactly what I remembered. I think they left again. I just remember waiting. A lot. Next thing I recall the two WPCs, who would be my escorts for the entire day, drove me to my flat. We were to collect the clothing I wore on the Friday night. I text my flatmate to warn him that I'd be home soon with a policewoman in tow.

My jeans, top, underwear and socks were all on the floor of my bedroom where I'd stripped them off just two mornings earlier. I half expected the WPC to crouch down by my dirty knickers and pick them up with the end of a pen from her pocket like I'd seen done so many times on Law & Order. Instead she donned latex gloves and bagged each item in separate brown paper bags. I wondered why on the telly the cops used plastic evidence bags. Why didn't the shows' producers ever get that detail right?

Back in the police car the three of us were to do a drive by of where I thought the assault had occurred. I can't tell you how horrific it was to return to the scene of the crime. I was so scared I'd see him on the street! That he'd see me in the back of the police vehicle cruising past the flats where he lived. I slouched down in the back not wanting to be seen. That rush of adrenalin, as the urge to run overtook me, whooshed through my senses and I couldn't focus any more. I had to get out of there. I think I pointed at the building and we left.

(Out of morbid curiosity and/or to challenge myself I looked up the place on Google Maps just two days ago. I really didn't think I'd find it but I did. The building is just how I remember it. Those streets I walked along they are still there just as I recalled.)

Back at Liverpool Street I was returned to the room for victims and witnesses. I waited some more. In that time a friend called. She didn't know what had happened and when I explained the story to her she said she'd come to me immediately. It was around three or four in the afternoon by then. This friend of mine, who I'll be forever grateful for, left work early to come and be with me.

I've just done the numbers in my head again. If I arrived at the police station at around 10am by the time my friend turned up at 4pm I'd been with the police for six hours. We didn't make it back to my flat until three the next morning so there is 11 more hours of this story to tell you. For both our sakes I'll save it for the next post in this series.

Thank you once again for reading and for your supportive comments.


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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Writing as therapy

Wow! What an intense week it has been here at I'm so overwhelmed by the supportive comments about my last three posts and thank all of you who have left these words for me. Writing about this time has been a really interesting and therapeutic exercise and your support has made it all the more worthwhile.

If you missed the first three posts of On being a victim of rape culture check them out here:

Part 1: The day before
Part 2: Where am I?
Part 3: The day after

Me and my beautiful boy almost
six years to the day later

The last session I had with my psychiatrist was about a month ago. In that session I had to discuss with him the freakout I had when I attempted to go back to work in an office. Rather than tell him verbally how I felt about the whole thing I gave him a printout of this blog post. Easy!

From now on, whenever I need to see a new mental health professional, I think I'll just hand them one of my business cards and say "analyse this!". My backstory is nearly all here and I find it easier to express myself in the written word than in person. The ADHD in me likes to chop and change around the story all the time which makes it difficult for anyone listening to follow.

There is something incredibly cathartic about organising past events and the emotions around them into words, sentences and paragraphs. I've re-read the last three posts so many times I can almost recite them verbatim. Something has happened to me during this process. I could almost be letting go of it. The pain I mean.

Until very recently I haven't even been able to say the 'R' word. Just saying it made me feel so uncomfortable, nauseous actually. Whenever I talk about what happened to my family or friends I refer to it as 'The Assault'. I guess it deserves capitalising because it was the one pivotal event that changed the my course of my adult life.

You might think I'm fucked up in saying this but I don't regret it happening. It was horrible, it nearly killed me, but I survived. My life was fucked up and heading towards Rock Bottom anyway. I had been trying for six months previous to get clean but nothing was getting through. Not that I was getting the right support (more on that later) but I was trying. At least I had taken the first step to recovery: I had acknowledged to myself and three other people that I was in active drug and alcohol addiction.

Something major had to happen to get me out of the toxic waste dump of a life I was living. The way I rationalise it is even though this path lead to the complete deconstruction of my soul, it gave me an opportunity to rebuild and it led me to Noo, my beautiful boy.

While I still have my many demons and my battles with mental illness continue, my life is a million times better than it was before The Assault.

Do I thank the person for doing what he did to me? Absolutely not. But I guess I forgive him. Hating him like I did for so long, just hurts me which hurts Noo.

I've had enough of hurt.

The next part of the story will continue with the 13 hours I spent with the Metropolitan Police. That was almost as bad as the Assault itself.

To be continued...

Do you write for therapy?


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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Part 3: On being a victim of rape culture

Warning: This post could be triggering for people who have themselves been victims of sexual assault.

On being a victim of rape culture

Part 1: The day before
Part 2: Where am I?

The day after

Grief and shock overwhelmed me. Pain, both physical and emotional threatened to completely engulf me but I tried to hold onto some hope. Maybe what had happened was something I had wanted, it was just a bad, stupid, drunken one night stand. I couldn't sit down because of the pain in my coccyx. I looked in the mirror at my naked body and saw that I was bruised all over my left shoulder and on my forehead and I knew these injuries did not happen willingly.

Questions kept ringing in my head:

What happened to me last night?

Why can't I remember anything?

Why was someone having sex with me when I was out cold?

How long was he taking advantage of me before I came to?

What exactly did they do to me?

Why was my coccyx so damaged?

How did I bruise my forehead and left shoulder?

At what point in the night did he meet me? In the forecourt of my office building or somewhere on the way home between the office and my flat?

Had I been complicit or did I struggle, causing the bruising and coccyx pain?

I rang the girl who I had started the evening with. I didn't really know her at all, she had not worked in our office for long. I can't even remember her name now or what she looked like. I felt awkward talking to her on the phone. I can't remember the conversation very well which is weird but I remember the feeling it gave me. She didn't want to know about it. I felt I was making her uncomfortable when I told her that I didn't remember anything from about 10.30-11pm when we were all leaving to go home. I told her something bad had happened to me. I think I asked her if she'd seen me talking to any strangers. I didn't get any worthwhile answers from her and the conversation was over quickly.

For some reason I couldn't stand the thought of sleeping in my own room. I set myself up on one of the three large sofas in our lounge room. With my pillows, doona and the TV going, I had to lay on my side because of my coccyx that burned in agony. My flatmates offered to go to Boots the Chemist to get the morning after pill which you can buy over the counter without a prescription in the UK. I took a stack of Tylenol PM which I'd bought from the States. It was an over the counter painkiller with a sleep aid in it. I just wanted to sleep and wake up with this nightmare over.

In my head I tallied up the amount that I'd drunk the day before: 1 third of a bottle of white wine with lunch, 2 bottles of beer between 4.30-5pm, 1 whole bottle of white between the two bars, 2 vodka shots. Quite a lot but I doubted enough to make me not remember anything. I never black out. Ever.

It got me thinking: Maybe my drink had been spiked. The use of date rape drugs in the UK is a significant problem. In this article I just found from early April 2007 on the Guardian newspaper website the author states that date rape drugs are used in one in three sexual assaults in the UK. Maybe that's why I couldn't remember anything from 10.30pm through to 3.30am: someone had put something in my glass. Remember we had been sitting/standing at two tables near the entrance to the bar. It could have happened when I went to the toilet. Or when I went outside to call my dealer.

But who would have spiked my drink? My first thought was that I'd got into a minicab out of the front of my building and the man whose flat I ended up in was the driver. A version of this is still one of my theories.

Minicabs in London are 'private hire taxis'. They have to be pre-booked and are not to be flagged down in the street unlike a Black Cab. But they are always found touting their service out the front of pubs and clubs on busy nights looking for fares. Minicabs are not put under the same level of scrutiny as Black Cabs. Anyone with a car with a satellite navigation unit can look like a minicab driver.

The message is everywhere not to get into minicabs off the street. I just found this latest advice from Transport for London. It basically says do not get into a minicab unless you have booked it through the minicab office yourself. I remember adverts on the back of toilet cubicle doors in clubs with statistics about unlicensed minicabs and rates of sexual assaults against women.

Pretty much everyone I knew got in them despite the warnings. You come out of a nightclub in the small hours of the morning and all you want to do is get home. The drivers mill about at the exit to venues and call “taxi, taxi, taxi!” trying to get your business. You then negotiate your price home. It’s a flat rate, not on a metre like a black cab. If you've only got twenty quid left in your pocket who’s to debate it when the driver offers to take you across London for that price?

The not knowing what happened was driving me insane. I had to know! A very vague image came to my mind. One of me struggling. Of putting my arms up and pushing someone away. The memory is so hazy that I don't know where I am but I think it is dark and that maybe I'm outside. Maybe I'm on the ground and I'm trying to get away. I don't know. I've thought over that tiny shred of information for six years. Has it changed in that time? The mind plays tricks.

From Saturday morning through Monday I laid on the couch popping painkillers, smoking cigarette after cigarette and drank beer. I wouldn't sleep in my room. I kept the TV on for distraction. I did everything I could to avoid processing the events of Friday night but the image of his face kept popping into my head no matter what I did to try and block it out.

I don't know why I didn't just go straight to the police. I guess I felt like it was my fault. I asked for this. I got drunk and went home with some guy, passed out and he fucked me. It was my fault. I was so drunk I must have deserved it. My luck had finally run out. No longer could I brag about living dangerously without a cost.

I felt lucky I hadn't paid the ultimate price for my stupidity and irresponsibility: my life. The shame that crept over me was all consuming. What would they say at work? Did my colleagues see me with this person? What would they think of me when I asked them on Monday morning to help fill in the gaps of Friday night?

My reputation at work was already pretty bad. I often came to work hungover. I had got pretty good at hiding it but sometimes I would come to work on a Friday morning still drunk from the night before. The year round sniffle was speculated to be cocaine addiction which was of course true. And to top it off I had slept with a couple of men from our office after drunken work functions. I might as well have had "Drug Fucked Slut" tattooed across my forehead. I knew that's what they all thought of me. My work colleagues would think I'd finally got my comeuppance.

And that's exactly what I felt like: Scum of the earth who'd got what she deserved.

So began the victim blaming.

And I blamed myself for everything.


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Sunday, April 7, 2013

Part 2: On being a victim of rape culture

Warning: This post could be triggering for people who have themselves been victims of sexual assault.

Part 1: The day before can be found here.

This is part 2 of my story about being a victim of rape and of rape culture. The recent Steubenville rape case has stirred many emotions for me both personally as a victim and also as a woman living in a society where too often victim blaming is the norm.

So often the word "misogynist" is used incorrectly in these times of quick sound bytes and political catch phrases. A man who has sex with a woman when she is unconscious is a misogynist: A hater of women. He is also a criminal.

Where am I?

I woke with a start. An overweight black man was on top of me, penetrating me. I pushed him aside. "Where am I?" I asked.

"Who are you?” I was so confused. I must have blacked out. But I never black out!

"Where am I? Who are you?" I asked again when there was no answer forthcoming.

"Aw, don't you remember?" came his reply.

"No, sorry, I don't remember anything. Where am I? Who are you? How did we meet?"

"I met you with your work friends. At the bar. Don't you remember?" He made it sound like I had insulted him. How dare I not remember!

"No I don't remember anything. Where did we meet? What is your name?" He dodged the questions and talked about something else. I can't recall what.

My brain was so fuzzy and I was having trouble piecing together my surroundings, how I got there, what had happened earlier that night. I didn't remember taking my clothes off but I was stark naked. I felt woozy but not drunk. Not hungover in the slightest. Strange. I never black out, I kept telling myself.

He had jumped off me so quickly and was standing there naked, lighting a cigarette. I asked for one. They were Lucky Strikes. Every time I see a packet of Lucky Strikes or hear them mentioned now I cringe.

When I tried to sit up I screamed. The most intense pain shot through from my tailbone and up my spine. Where the fuck am I? What happened to me? How did I get here?

I looked around the room: It was small, messy, disgusting. It stunk of semen. What had gone on here tonight? The bed didn't have a proper sheet on it. I remember the bare mattress that was pressed into the corner of the room under a window. A tall cardboard box leaned next to it as a makeshift bedside table. There lay my earrings, silver rings and watch. So neatly sitting there. That image still haunts me. It made me think I must be have been a willing and compliant participator in this scenario. But I have no recollection of taking them off. I never black out!

I looked at my watch: 3.30am. Where had the last few hours gone? How did I get here? Who was this person? Why am I at a stranger's flat? I never go back to a man's place on a one night stand. What happened to my work colleagues?

I asked to use the bathroom. I remember walking naked up a small flight of stairs. There was no toilet paper. He handed me a Chux wipe. I felt pain.

Confusion overwhelmed me. Shock I think. I couldn't do the mental battle with what was going on. I accepted it right there and stopped asking questions. Convinced myself everything was ok. This is normal. I got back in his bed naked and went back to sleep. I surrendered.

The sun came up. Laying in the foetal position with my back turned to him I felt him trying to come at me from behind. I pushed him away. Part of my mind was saying sleep Vanessa, don't wake up and face this nightmare just yet. But then it hit me: I'm not supposed to be here!

I sat up with a jerk. My body screamed in pain. "I've got to go home my flatmates are expecting me home". I was all of a sudden afraid. Something bad had happened to me. I didn't know what but it was bad. I'd been violated, injured. I had to get out of there.

Complaining about my tailbone I remember he told me to put Chinese herbs on it. So strange. I dressed quickly, grabbed my jewellery, my handbag and tried to get out of there as fast as I could.

"Can I have your number?" he asked. As if everything was normal. There was no fucking normal. Normal was over. Forever.

"Um, yeah ok". I didn't want him to see my fear. I gave him my number changing one of the digits.

He walked me out the front door. We were in a council estate across the road from Shoreditch Park. I was still confused about my surroundings but walked away with purpose so he couldn't see my vulnerability.

I walked stiffly towards the left up the main street but nothing looked familiar. I am usually pretty good with my sense of direction but I had no idea where I was. I asked a passer-by which was the way to Liverpool Street Station. I walked that way and before long I could see the familiar and comforting silhouette of the Gherkin in the distance and I knew I was heading in the right direction.

I felt dirty and sore. A shit storm of emotion was brewing inside me. Confusion still reigned but terror started to pervade me. What the fuck happened last night? I walked along streets I'd never walked along before until I reached Old Street and I knew exactly where I was. Walking down Charlotte Road Shoreditch I passed my favourite hairdresser in the world (fuck I miss him now!). I said a shaky hello and averted my eyes as he looked on me with concern. I realised then I was holding my emotions in check but was ready to burst.

Two minutes’ walk later and I was in my flat. I stormed into my room, stripped naked and ran for the shower. It was so surreal. I let the hot steamy water stream over me while I cried and cried and cried. This isn't happening to me I thought. I'm in a B-grade telly movie about a rape victim who stupidly washes off any DNA evidence the moment she can get to the shower. It wasn't happening to me. I was watching someone else crouching in the shower crying in shame. 

I scrubbed and I scrubbed my body. I washed my hair and tore at my face to remove any smudged make up that was left over from the day before. My brain was a mess of confusion and disgust: What had I done to myself? How low had I sunk? What the fuck happened to me last night?

I couldn't focus. I got out of the shower and back to my room and sobbed. My flatmate and his girlfriend were in his room next to mine. She came into me, "are you ok Vanessa?"

"No, no I'm not. I think I've been raped."


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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Part 1: On being a victim of rape culture

Warning: This post could be triggering for people who have themselves been victims of sexual assault.

I've been avoiding writing this post. I know it is going to be long and it is going to be painful. It is going to hurt to dredge up the memories. It might free me or it might bring back my post traumatic stress disorder flashbacks. I don't know. I just feel I should write about it and tell my story of being a victim of rape culture.

The recent case in Steubenville, Ohio, in the United States has brought it all back to me. I've read article after article about the appalling crime that happened against an innocent 16 year old girl. I've also read about the disgusting backlash against that young women. The victim blaming she has suffered because she was drunk and passed out at the time two men raped her while her peers looked on and did nothing has been reprehensible.

It is six years this month since the night I was raped. 

Me in a pub in Shoreditch four months earlier
This is the story:

It was Friday 19 April 2007. The day had started like any Friday. I woke up hungover and tired and in a bad mood. I was living in Shoreditch in East London in a three bedroom flat that was inconveniently located above a bakery. You might think it would be lovely to wake up to the smell of freshly baked croissants but I can assure you, it is not. Hot, humid and buttery the air made me feel a constant hum of nausea just below the surface of my skin. Probably because I was hungover most of the time.

That day it was cool, but not as cold as it can be mid April in London. I dressed in my favourite blue Lucky Jeans jeans, a black knit sleeveless cowl necked top, black velvet blazer from Gap and my cherry red Doc Marten ankle boots and headed off to work.

My office was about 20 minutes walk from the flat. The not so fresh London air woke me up as I pounded the back streets to get to the centre of the Square Mile in time for work. I had that usual Friday morning feeling: Gagging for the end of the working week so I could party all weekend.

Lunchtime came around and a couple of the girls from other departments asked if I wanted to go for lunch. We went to a restaurant not far from the office. It was Italian if my memory serves me. We shared a bottle of white wine between us. I remember we talked about our party lifestyles. The other girls both had boyfriends but they still liked to go out and drink with their mates. I remember gloating about the risky, outrageous life of sex, drugs and music I led. About how trashed I could get on the weekend without anything really bad happening to me.

In those days I was proud of my ability to consume vast amounts of alcohol, cocaine and ecstasy. Either alone or, usually, together. I thought the double life of corporate slave by day, drug loving rock chick by night was so incredibly cool. But the reality was that during the day I hated myself. At night the drugs and the booze set me free from that hate. 

To stop the self loathing I was drinking earlier in the day, every day. On the weekends I often woke up (if I slept at all) and began drinking not too long after. My hangovers stopped seeming so bad because they just kind of felt normal. I bruised easily and always had the shakes. My nose ran constantly and the excuse of year long hayfever was starting to wear thin. 

We returned to the office late from lunch and as the buzz from the wine started to fade I felt agitated and annoyed that I wasn't tipsy any more. By 4.30pm our trusty Friday arvo drinks trolley made its rattly way around the office floor. Drinking a couple of beers in quick succession took the edge off but just upped my desire for more.

My flatmate had text me to say he was making a roast lamb dinner and did I want to share it with him and his girlfriend who was practically living with us now. This really annoyed me. Why the fuck would I want to spend Friday night home with a couple? As if on cue, one of the girls I'd had lunch with emailed and said she was going for a drink in one of the bars on the ground floor of our building, did I want to join her? Yes, bloody oath I did.

We shared another bottle of white wine. If you've started to total up the amount of grog I'd had that night you're probably thinking I should be pretty wasted by now, at least a little tipsy. But as I said earlier, I was used to drinking one or two bottles of wine a night during the week so a couple of beers and half a bottle of wine (not to mention what we'd drunk at lunch) was really not a lot for me.

We discovered there was a group of people from our office drinking in the bar next door so we went there hoping to score some freebies. The corporate credit card was over the bar and the drinks were flowing thick, fast and without cost to me. My friend and I shared another bottle of wine. By this stage I was definitely on my way. That familiar edginess started to overcome me and I went outside to call my dealer. Alcohol just made me want coke and vice versa. There was no answer so I went back into the bar.

All my work colleagues were as pissed as girls on a hens night while a couple of trays of vodka shots were passed around the group. I pretty much always stuck to beer, wine or cider in those days but not to be outdone, or to miss out on free grog, I joined in and downed a couple. Things started to get hazy then.

There must have been at least six people from our office there. They weren't from my department so I didn't know them well but that didn't matter. We were all pissed and having a laugh. We milled around two high circular tables near the entrance to the bar which was pretty busy being a Friday night.

There were four bars in our building, one of them being a nightclub. When it was near last drinks at the bar we had been drinking in a couple of people suggested going to the nightclub for a dance.

I vaguely remember going down the stairs to check out the club and then coming back up the stairs. I remember the girl I had originally gone out with had gone back up to the office to get her bags before heading home. I remember standing in the forecourt of the building with a manager who had been drinking with us and we talked about how we were each going to get home. She was getting the Northern Line to go home to South London. I was going to get a cab because I didn't like walking the backstreets late at night. It must have been around 10.30ish.

I have no recollection of what happened in the five hours that follow.

Over the last six years huge amounts of my mental energy have gone into trying to piece together what happened to me in those five hours.

Right now I am overwhelmed by emotion just writing this. My breathing has become shallow. Noo is in his bed behind me so I'm trying not to dip too deep into this chasm of fear lest I start crying.

I've often wondered why I need to know. Isn't it better that I don't know? That I wasn't conscious?

Thank fuck there were no smart phones, no Twitter or Instagram to have recorded it. Facebook was so new that only a few of my friends had started using it. Not like the 16 year old Steubenville victim who had her photo taken as she was carried by her hands and feet by two animals who managed to gain the sympathy of the mainstream media because their lives were going to be ruined by the evidence they spread around the world via social media.

I feel weird right now. I'm just typing for typing sake. What comes next? What does come next in this story of the night that changed my life forever?


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