A few months ago, at the start of July, I was excluded from working due to my deteriorating mental health.
Was this a blow? Absolutely!
A shock? Not so much.
In the weeks after my assault, I had tried going back to work, only to have my attacker and his wife come into my place of work. After another few weeks off, I went back again.
Customers would approach me and introduce themselves. I’d forget their names almost instantly. If they were male, I’d feel the panic start to set in. If they were angry, the panic would set in faster. I felt trapped behind my desk. In a place that was all about putting customers first, I knew I was doing far from that and unable to change. People would sit down and I’d just focus on getting them out the door as quick as possible, all the while trying not to panic-vomit all over them.
In the few minutes I’d be serving a customer, I’d finish the transaction feeling dizzy, gasping for breath, sweating and needing to excuse myself for a couple of minutes. Working in a sales environment with performance based incentives, you can imagine how my work was being effected.
I felt like a complete and utter failure. As a high school drop out, I’d always felt compelled to prove myself. There’s that ever popular stereotype that a high school drop out is a bit dim and sits at home playing computer games and collecting welfare. In a world that misunderstands rape and sexual assault so much, I knew I’d be forever feeling guilty while I was at home and constantly needing to prove myself while off work. I’m constantly being met with questions of why I’m not back at work yet, and if I should just go back and distract myself with work. I wish it were that simple.
I’d worked so hard for so much, and because of the actions of a few horrible people, I’d lost the career I’d started to build for myself. The day after the assault, I had a job interview. This job I was interviewing for was more hours, with slightly less responsibility but nearly a $6000 pay raise. I’d been after this job for over 2 years and I felt really confident.
However, going into that interview, everything fell apart. I forgot important questions to ask, I felt like I was reacting slightly to slow to questions and was shaking and pale, and my eyes red from crying. I knew I’d stuffed it. Not only had the events at Project Group ruined my mental health, but they’ve essentially destroyed my career. A career I’m going to have to build back up again.
One thing I was grateful for was the fact that I’d upgraded my income protection last year. So we weren’t without my income, this would prove to be an enormous blessing in disguise later. Three weeks after my going on extended sick leave, my partner was informed he’d be made redundant. I figured it would be okay, though. He had the same income protection as me, so at least our finances would be okay.
That would not be the case, as we would later find out. I’d been caught out by tricky wording and his redundancy was not covered under the protection. We were now on one wage with 2 cars that need repairs, a broken oven, blocked pipes to the en suite, a mortgage and car loan, and my mounting medical fees.
After a chat, we decided our much anticipated trip to Bordeaux and Paris, France, would need to be cancelled so that we could get the refunds to tie us over until he could get a job again. We got about $6000 back from the cancellations ($3000 of which we are still waiting on), which bought us a couple more months. Our town had been hit hard, job vacancies had hundreds of applications. Of the many applications he has filled out, he has been short-listed for one. That was a month ago and we haven’t heard anything new since then.
We also decided that it would be best to broaden our scope and look for work in the south of the state. This is where his family is located, and right now, I do not want to be in this town any more. I’m haunted everywhere I go and I honestly feel like my only chance at healing completely is to leave.
The only thing that has kept me out of a psychiatric unit is the fact that my partner is my personal carer at the moment. I am grateful for this and he is so wonderfully supportive. But I feel guilty. When I was still in shock and processing what had happened to me, my partner’s work had been amazing with letting him come with me to appointments with doctors and the police, and come home to me when I was hysterical. When he received his redundancy, my first thought was wondering if I was the reason he was let go. Was his broken girlfriend making him just too unreliable? I’ll never know, but the thought will always be there.
This week has been a big one for me, in that I’ve taken a few major steps back in my progress. I felt like I was taking control back over my life, when I went to a local art prize and saw a photo of me, which had been displayed with no permission sought. As it was taken at a private function, and it was up for sale, it was in violation of quite a few privacy laws. This was not the issue, aside from me using my likeness in much of my personal artwork, this person had used me against my will and sold a picture of me, to be hung who knows where, without even trying to contact me to let me know. I felt hugely violated, but unfortunately there was very little I could do.
Our local race round was also coming up. I’d always been a regular to the Ladies Day, which is well known for its fashions. I adore dressing up, and was excited to go this year. Considering the state of our finances, I decided to give it a miss. I’d normally spend the day in an exclusive tent, which I’d pay a few hundred dollars to get a ticket for. I did not want to spend the day in general admission, as I figured the risk of running into Person D and Person E was too high. Person D had done superbly well in spreading a smear campaign against me, helped along by her daughter, who I did consider a friend. Apparently my story is “cock and bull”. Since they enjoy cosying up to a rapist, if they were going to be there, then Person A surely would, as would his wife. The thought of seeing that poor woman with such a monster, and probably having no idea what had happened hurts. She is far too nice to be with such an awful person, and her so called “friends” are truly worse than I thought if they’ve kept all of this from her.
I knew running into Person A, D and E (or Rapist, Bitchface and Cuntbag, as I’ve been angrily calling them) would just be too much for me to handle. The thought of being around lots of drunk people also made me uncomfortable. So I was content with staying home, but angry that yet another thing was taken away from me due to their actions.
I was then advised that, for the safety of myself and others, I was no longer allowed to drive. I figured it wasn’t best for me to drive, but there was, yet again, another thing taken from me. The after effects of the assault were nightmares, insomnia, loss of appetite, low energy, restlessness, migraines, hallucinations, poor memory and poor concentration, just to name a few. The concern was mainly that, if I lost focus while driving, that I could cause an accident.
I’d been stage managing a play, which finished up on the weekend. This has been one of two things getting me out of the house, and since I’d been a member of this club since I was 17, I was comfortable around all of the members and felt very safe. I decided I wanted to have a good time and forget my worries for a bit. And boy did I have a good time. It was the best fun I’d had in ages and I really felt I could let loose and come out of my shell a little bit.
There was much laughing and chit chat, deep and meaningfuls in the ladies room and putting lipstick on my partner. In all, I drank close to 2 bottles of champagne and a quarter of a bottle of peach schnapps. Oops.
True to form, I was just a bit stumbly (very stumbly though, on the way back to the taxi), giggly and chatty. There was no passing out, no vomit and no hang overs. I love my liver and my liver loves me, which is why drinking like this is not something I do every weekend (and reaffirms the fact that something must have been put in my drink at Project Group, jerks).
I have been trying to be very careful with my drinking lately, as drinking in public makes me quite nervous now, for obvious reasons. My medication increases the effects of alcohol, plus, the fact that I’m dealing with PTSD, severe depression, panic disorder and moderate anxiety disorder means that putting a depressant into the mix, is probably not the best idea.
After my stumbly walk to the taxi, my partner and I got home. Shortly after getting home, I was triggered into a severe flashback. It was so bad that I don’t remember it. I got to hear about it from my poor, very tired partner.
Apparently I was panicking over the people watching me be intimate with my partner. I wanted them to stop watching me and didn’t like that they were looking at me while I was in a state of undress. I was in hysterics and kept forgetting where I was. I was clutching my head in pain, and was scared because my budgies were chirping and I wanted the noises to stop.
Now, I love birds, so the fact I was suddenly terrified of the noise was very odd. I was worried that I may be sick and I didn’t want the vomit to get over me. Physically I wasn’t close to being ill, but I was clearly back at that night and so convinced I was ill. I came around after about an hour, to my partner asking me if I knew where I was.
I was rattled for the next day. I felt the same as I did the day after the assault, in that I was confused and trying to make sense of the way I was feeling, but not remembering a whole lot. It is an overwhelming feeling and one I do not like feeling.
It’s bad enough when you can be triggered by something as simple as spilling a drink on your foot. I did that a week ago, and I was just so devastated. So I think It’s really something that is hard to explain unless you’ve personally been through it yourself.
These past few months have really shown me that it isn’t just rape culture that needs to be dealt with, but our society does need to better improve its understanding of mental health and the impact things can have on different people and the way these things can manifest themselves.
One thing that has made for lifting my mood, was finally getting our oven fixed. I’ll do a post on the baked goods I made for the cast party tomorrow. (Despite the flashback, it is still probably the best cast party I’ve been to).
I can’t wait to put something a little positive on this blog, that’s what it was intended for!