MeToo

MeToo

I was 16. I was asleep. At first. I continued to pretend I was asleep. I understand now that reaction was fear and weirdly self-preservation. The incident did not last long. I managed to roll myself out of it. I never said a word, not that day nor for a long time afterwards. I was too scared of the consequences; the fall out. I felt guilty. I felt it was my fault. IT WASN’T. There was no counselling, no support, I carried on as if nothing had happened. Lots was happening though, inside me. I was fucking angry. It’s like a ball of fire in your gut. It seeps out at times, the wrong times. It colours everything you do. My confidence was shot to pieces. If you think I’m confident, I’m a better actress than I know. Without counselling an incident like this colours your life forever.

I became bulimic. You stuff food inside yourself to supress the raging emotions. Then vomit it all up – it’s exhausting. I eventually went for counselling for my bulimia, group counselling, it didn’t really help I just learned that other girls were suffering too but we never discussed why.

Many brave faces have been put on. I wanted desperately for someone to protect me. I also wanted someone to beat him up. Basically, you experience a wall of emotions.

Directly after I got married I became quite depressed. (Sorry Noel – but if anyone knows that you do). I was 39 by this point. I was really happy newly-married to Noel, and the depression was so confusing, but this was nothing to do with him, I just couldn’t shake off this particular depression. I went to see a counsellor in Dublin. When I sat in her chair I could feel this ball of anger welling up inside me, I started crying, I could not stop. It was all to do with that incident when I was 16. I was still carrying around this fog, 23 years later, and it felt like yesterday.

Just after moving to Gorey – again a happy move – the fog came again but I got an appointment with our local psychologist.  He listened to me at length and suggested I go for counselling sessions here with the Rape Crisis centre. I met a wonderful woman called Imelda. After I explained everything she told me she wanted to check something out and the next week said ‘Alyth, by law, you were raped’. Now you may think I would know this? – as we all know what rape is – but rape can be many things. However, Imelda saying that to me made a real difference. She gave a name to this pathetic incident that had scarred me so badly. The guilt stopped. I believe people call that understanding ‘owning it’ (though this is nothing I wanted to own.) I was told to write a letter to him. I did. You don’t have to send that letter – writing the letter is facing the facts – but I did. He denied it. I am not surprised – who the hell would want to admit to something like this. I was annoyed, but now I am truly over it. I have no dealings with him. I don’t think much of him. I get on with my life. He has to live with it.

I know – with great sadness – I am one of millions.

If you experienced something similar I hope you were able to cope better than I, but if not find a way through it till it is truly over, otherwise it will never leave you. The problem with being a victim is you have to find the strength, the ability to heal even though you did not set this thing in motion. Respect and sex education need to be an open discussion. My thoughts about Lewis at that time was – there was too much religion and not enough reality but that would not be exclusive to Lewis.

What I regret most of all is my confidence being shattered and draggin’ this through my life for so long.

It has not been easy writing this as I am aware that once you post something you are open to any reaction but the objectifying and disrespect of women is far too commonplace to stay silent.

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‘What you can do to prevent cancer’

It’s not a cheerful subject but cancer is something we hear about more and more. I don’t think we should shy away from it. Both my parents have had cancer. My Mum when she was 36, she is now 71, and my Dad a few years ago. Cancer has often been spoken of in our house. My parents survived, my Auntie Joan did not.

I was trawling through a local bookshop the other day, something I love to do, and I came across a book called ‘What you can do to prevent cancer’ by John McKenna he is ‘a scientist, a retired medical doctor who has been practising natural medicine for 25 years’.

Because of my parents experiences I thought I knew a good bit about what cancer is and how it ‘works’ well it turns out I need to correct some of the ideas I have and in doing so could help myself strengthen my own immune system to fight against it. It is no guarantee but now I am in my mid 40’s cancer is something I think about more regularly. I’d also like to try to help my husband stay cancer free too. So, I am reading this book and would like to pass on some things I have learned.

  • It’s a western disease – African and other non westernised countires have lower forms of cancer: cancers related to chronic infections eg hepatitus.
  • It used to be an illness of the young and elderly as their immune systems being underdeveloped or in decline.
  • We develop cancer cells everyday it is a normal process, dealt with by our immune system, it is when this system goes awry problems occur.
  • A great many cancers are ‘exogenous’ that is ‘external so can be prevented’
  • Cancer’s main source of energy is glucose so that’s refinded carbohydrates – rice, pasta, porridge, potatoes, bread and – of course – sugar.
  • ‘Genes are only a small part of the picture’lifestyle and enviroment are a bigger factor and it is the ‘interaction between our genes and enviroment that determines’ whether our genes will be triggered.
  • ‘Epigenomes are the receptors in DNA that are a major factor in determining whether cancer will develop’
  • ‘The single major enviromental influence on epigenome is diet’
  • During the 2nd world war food was scarce so agricultural chemicals were developed to boost crops, these nirtogen fertilisers weakened plants making them ‘susceptible to infection’ so pesticides were developed to ‘strenghten’ them. These chemical are still in our enviroment.
  • Agricultural chemicals have been around since 1949 younger farmers don’t necessarily know how to farm without them.
  • Antibiotics are oversubscribed which weakens the immune system.
  • We should not eat ANY processed foods.
  • We should not eat anything anything labled low fat as this = high sugar.
  • Perfumes and body products are still not properly regulated they, like plastic, contain hormones disruptors.

My husband and i live in the countryside and love where we live. We work hard for this to be our home. We are surrounded by fields and nature – agricultural fields. As we are far from the main road we have a well as our water source and the water runs off the hills surrounding us. Hills and fields that are sprayed at various times of the year. The first thing we are having done is have our water tested. I am not panicing but I would like to be better informed.

I will continue reading, learning and reporting.

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When life throws you a big ugly curved ball.

On the 27th of September I was shocked to see the first headline in The Guardian newspaper was: “Endometriosis: the hidden suffering of millions of women revealed” Wow! This was front page news? Most recently there had been pieces about Jeremy Corbyn which I gladly read – even the crazy allegations – or the desperate stories of migrating refugees, but this was a front page article about Endometriosis. Unheard of! I had to read on.
‘1 woman in 10 of reproductive age has endometriosis’ and approximately 176 million women around the globe may be suffering from it which are similar figures, according to this article, to the number of cases of diabetes but still very few people know Naked Cave (2)about this disease. However Endometriosis is not unheard of to me. I’ve suffered from it since 2000, well actually I’ve probably suffered it since well before then but that is when it really raised its ugly ‘freaking’ head.
I had always had painful periods. I considered it my norm. My Mum had painful periods before me and told me stories of Feminax tablets being passed to her under toilet doors as she crouched, doubled in agony. We girls compared stories in school but I just accepted that periods were painful and that you just got on with it. While growing up I don’t remember them ever being so painful that I was unable to do things – once I had pumped myself full of painkillers at worst – but then maybe I’ve blocked those instances out. I think we have a habit of blocking out physical pain, as well as emotional pain, I mean why would you ever wish to remember such things?
The path to my diagnosis was not a pretty one and began one Sunday afternoon in my, then, flat on Church St in Glasgow’s West End. I was making some food, it was early afternoon and felt that telling abdominal pain that my period was likely coming soon. That dull ache. Nothing serious, at first, but over time the pain intensified. I began to pace about the flat unsure of what to do. Sitting down didn’t help, lying down was useless. My boyfriend at the time was with me and was concerned, never having seen me like this before. I felt like an injured animal, bewildered by the pain, pacing and pacing. As it was Sunday I couldn’t just pop into the doctors which was only fifteen min walk away and by this time I was in so much pain I was obviously not thinking straight as I phoned the emergency doctor to ask how much pain you have to be in before you can go to accident and emergency. Gosh we women are strong when it comes to pain! I mean you can’t go to A&E for period pain?? I was in and out of the toilet. I wasn’t quite able to explain to my boyfriend what was happening to me. I remember he genuinely, helpfully and well meaningly told me through the toilet door at one point (this was probably after my sixth visit there in 40mins) that I ‘probably needed a good fart’ and that I shouldn’t be embarrassed. (Oh I wish that I were that genteel). You have to laugh, if you don’t laugh you’d cry….though I don’t remember crying with this pain, that day. Again another thing I may have blocked out. What I hadn’t told my boyfriend was while I was in the loo I was bleeding from both orifices – yes endometriosis is a very attractive disease! – but I didn’t tell him as I couldn’t compute it myself. The blood itself, was black.
Thankfully though I eventually figured out how much pain you need to be in before you go to A & E, that’s when you begin ‘involuntary’ projectile vomiting; which happened most spectacularly in the stairwell when I thought maybe I should begin my journey to A&E. (Actually writing this it just occurred to me did I ever clear that mess up? At the time, however, I realised the seriousness of the situation and just kept going). When I got to A & E, an aching three minute walk across the road to the Western General Hospital (and to think if it had been a weekday I’d have walked the fifteen mins to the GP’s) I was not triaged. The nurse took one look at me through the glass at reception and said the words I will never forget ‘we’re taking you in straight away, you’re grey’. I was in too much pain to care, the way I looked didn’t register with me at all, I was just relieved she said ‘straight away’.
Now when a nurse says ‘straight away’ you think: ‘Oh thank God, any minute now this will be over’ but that wasn’t to be. The symptoms of endometriosis are similar to many other illnesses such as gall stones, urinary tract problems, bowel problems, so I began a series of tests and the tests could not happen quick enough neither could the waiting for the results of the tests. I was roaring with the pain.
I am probably perceived as a fairly chatty person, who is noisy when laughing mostly, but I’m a very good patient. I become very ‘Yes, Doctor, thank you Doctor’ as I have the utmost respect for hospital staff and the job they do and don’t wish to cause them any more trouble than they may already have, but I just could not stay quiet. I felt like a thousand knives were stabbing me repeatedly in the stomach. Stabbing and twisting and ripping themselves out then entering again harder, meaner than before. It was endless. It just got worse and worse. The dull ache was long forgotten. Eventually, I don’t know how long it was but it felt like days, I was given morphine and finally, slowly, the pain began to ease. ‘Yes, Doctor, thank you Doctor’ returned and I was told to sleep. I was out for a few hours and when I woke my ‘vitals’ were taken and shortly after I was told I could go home. That was it. 3 mins back across the road. Home.
By this time it was early evening and that night I was sitting on the sofa, doing what I had always intended to do that night, watching ‘The Royle Family’ on TV. Except, this was different. I had just been through the most excruciating pain I had ever in my life experienced, a life changing pain, yet here I was sitting on my sofa pain free, as if nothing had happened. There were no external signs. I don’t think I felt dopey or anything. Everything was ‘normal’.
Yet no-one had been able to tell me what happened, why it had happened and, most importantly, if it would happen again.

Sometimes things just click…

Last night I was invited to a party. I knew the hostess but not the host. I know him now.  I knew the ‘band’ we’re on tour together but currently are playing arrangements for Trace Adkins, beautiful arrangements I must add, but it’s Trace’s music for his Christmas show. Last night with the help of their friends or spouses everyone played their own music, what they’ve written and what they perform and it was glorious. A joy to behold. I knew before but I know better now there is some serious T.A.L.E.N.T on this tour.

I hold the belief that music can heal. Not as the medical or surgical fields can but it can lift your soul. It can inspire and it can change the way you feel. Possibly not forever but it can give you enough light in your day, in that moment to see that there are other feelings you can experience.

Last night was full of light and laughter, moments of real beauty. Not the 3 minute alotted radio time or the xfactor hysteria that fades as the next season comes along but true beauty. Last night and those beautiful souls will stay with me for ever.