Getting Through The Day

Without going into much detail the last 12 months have been somewhat of a whirlwind. My relationship (which was abusive in nature) fell apart and I found myself without a home. My father passed away after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease and a short fight with bronchial-pneumonia and soon after I began encountering my own health problems. Soon after I landed my dream job of working on the equal marriage campaign within the Rainbow Project, I met someone new and I was accepted into Ulster University to study Counselling & Psychotherapy. Okay so maybe a little detail was needed but as I move into the next 12 months from when all that chaos started I find myself increasingly unable to find motivation or support within myself to get out of bed or to get through the day.

It’s no secret that I have lived with anxiety and depression, at times crippling, since the age of 16 and that over the last thirteen years I have found various methods of coping and readjusting my mindset in order to function and survive. But sometimes surviving just isn’t enough. It isn’t enough to just exist as someone who has depression or who doubts themselves every single day. A soul needs more than the promise of tomorrow to keep going and lately I have found myself becoming more and more agitated by the knowledge that my father isn’t coming back.

Losing a loved one is always a shock and it’s always sudden, even if you know that it’s coming. I have been there several times before when I have lost friends and relatives but it’s a completely different animal when you are faced with the prospect of parting ways with a parent. When you’re a kid you think your mum and dad will live forever, that they’re invincible and that you’ll never have to worry because they will always keep you safe. When the day comes that you have to help them to the bathroom or feed them because they can’t feed themselves you learn to accept the fact that what you believed as a kid isn’t true and that slowly but surely you will have to say goodbye. I watched Parkinson’s disease slowly take my father away from me, my brother and my mother and it is an illness that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. It is sneaky, it is slow and it robs you of the person you love in ways and means that you didn’t think possible.

I realise now that I have been so demotivated and anxious about getting out of bed in the mornings because after dad died I only took a week off work and when straight back to it. Back to work, back to uni, back to the real world with no pause for breath in between. I threw myself headlong into the hustle and bustle of the equal marriage campaign (a job that I love) and into my college work with the aim of moving forward. I thought I was fine, that I was coping and that I was doing well for having just lost my dad but the truth was that I just wasn’t dealing with it.

Running away from my grief wasn’t a healthy way of processing what had happened but it doesn’t make it any less valid as a coping mechanism. What matters is that I recognise it now for what it was and understand that grief is not a five stage process or something that can be summed up in an Insta-Quote. It’s not true either that time heals everything. It still hurts every day, it just doesn’t hurt as much on the good days and it’s important to appreciate that there is no process to this, there is no tried and tested method for getting over the loss of a loved one. Grief isn’t linear and we each embrace it differently, just as we do with everything.

I have surrounded myself with a support network that I am incredibly grateful for, I have decided to take the time I need to process my grief and to be true to my own feelings. I came very close to burning out a few months ago and I forced myself to take a much needed vacation from the world for my own good.

I find it nearly impossible to wrap my head around the fact that he is gone, and often times I find myself crying at a song, a TV show that he would have watched, even something as simple as the smell of an aftershave or joke on the radio. Truth be told I haven’t visited my father’s grave since he passed bar for once when I visited with my mother and brother  last summer. That isn’t how I want to remember him.

My father was my best friend, he was the strongest, kindest and bravest man I have ever known and I owe it to him to look after myself and to take pride in the fact that I am his son. My mental health has always been challenging and such a devastating loss is no small thing to comprehend. On the day he died I wanted to grab the nearest person in the street and scream at them. Why was the world still turning and living? My dad was dead. But it does and we have to carry on, too.

I know this post was a bit of a mess from start to finish but it’s one of the few things I’ve been able to write in the last year and I feel better for having done it. I hope that if you’re reading this and you have recently lost someone that you know you aren’t alone. There is support out there and if you don’t have anyone else you have me. We all have times in our lives when the clouds don’t want to roll away but it’s important to remember that the Sun is just behind the clouds, waiting to break through. Patience can only do so much to mend a broken heart from grief but enriching your life with those that you love (and that has to include yourself too!) and finding ways of coping with the next ten seconds, and the ten seconds after that will make it that little bit easier.

Thanks for reading x

I Was The Victim Of Coercive Control

I haven’t been myself for some time now.

Well actually that’s not true is it. I am myself, who else would I be? I’m just not the me that I like or that I want to be right now. I’m not the me that got me through the last six months. Writing this has taken a long and drawn out process of opening the laptop, typing a few sentences, deleting it and closing the laptop before mentally bullying myself about how weak and useless I am. I rarely experience bouts of writer’s block but when I do I know it’s the sign of something much deeper, darker and more sinister than a simple lack of imagination or creativity. I have had almost no desire to exercise, no attention span longer than about 10 minutes for one activity and a decreasing passion for interacting with people face to face.

I first experienced depression like this when I was about sixteen or seventeen. Back then I was a time bomb of hormones and emotions waiting to go off and about two years later I detonated like a suitcase nuke when I came out as gay. I didn’t just come out – I launched out of the closet. I was like that scene in Deep Impact where the asteroid hits the Atlantic seabed and annihilates several continents. It was a tumultuous time of regret and anguish accompanied by an incredibly painful journey of self discovery with the end result being the man I am today. But that nagging little voice in my head has always been there. Sometimes I can tune him out so that when I tell myself I’m not good enough or I don’t deserve to be happy or successful or loved I can ignore it. My inner Twitter troll as I call it. But sometimes the volume gets turned up a little too much and it distracts my focus to the point that it becomes my focus. I can hear nothing else but that voice and I can’t always fight it.

This bout of depression is something I need to tackle head on. I can’t afford to burn out and I won’t let myself burn out. I know what is causing it and I’m going to talk about it now, not for any grand reason or for publicity but this is something I need to talk about because I didn’t realise it was happening to me until it was too late.

I was the victim of coercive control.

Back in February of 2015 I met a guy by the name of Ollie* who was funny, charming, not bad looking, independently minded and kind. He was fun to be around, made me laugh, was interested in what I had to say and before long I was sure that I loved him and that he loved me too. In the September of that year we moved into his apartment together and looking back on it I know it was very fast but we were in love (or so I thought) and above all else I wanted to be settled and happy. The price I paid was that I was unsettled and deeply unhappy almost immediately.

On the day of my birthday in 2015 Ollie accused me of cheating on him, of not paying him enough attention and threatened to lock me out of the house. At one point the argument got so heated that he put his hands around my throat and I defended myself. The police were called, I was convinced that it was over and tearfully I was prepared to walk away from it. For whatever reason I second guessed what was best for me and I went back with him and stayed with him, all the while being constantly reminded by him of the time I had defended myself but never once was I allowed to mention him putting his hands on my throat first. It got to the point where he began to flatly deny that he had ever done that and that I had hit him first in a drunken, jealous rage.

The crazy thing is that after a while I started to believe it. I started to think that I had an anger issue and that I was going crazy. Over the next few months I seen my own friends less and less, as well as my own family. I almost exclusively hung out with his friends and family and anytime I mentioned making plans with my own friends he would fly into a rage, begin accusing me of cheating, threatening to lock me out of the house and tell the police that I had been beating him. Because I had by this point believed his bullshit about my anger issue I was terrified that I would be arrested and charged with domestic abuse or battery so I dropped the topics of conversation that made him angry. The list of things that triggered his emotional blackmail were things like spending my own money, wanting to see my own friends, making plans to spend time alone without him, going to my best friend’s house (This one became such a sticking point that I was expressly forbidden from seeing him unless supervised), not coming home from work immediately, not spending money on him, if I needed to use the car (he didn’t drive so I was basically his taxi), not lending money to his friends/family when they needed it and often times he would fly into a rage if I didn’t call in sick to work in order to spend the day with him.

Ollie would twist my words in such a way that it made me believe that I was genuinely a bad person. I justified my staying with him to friends and family by claiming that I loved him and that I had been a terrible boyfriend and needed to make it up to him. Ollie would call me names, insult and belittle me about my clothes, my friends, call them names etc. He would destroy things that I owned that belonged to friends of mine that he had a dislike of (I came home one day from work to find that a chest of drawers a friend had donated to me was lying in about 30 different broken pieces in the back garden as Ollie had taken a hammer to it whilst I was at work). Ollie would constantly call me, text me and message me while I was at work and would refuse to acknowledge that I wasn’t able to use my phone in work. In my head I would make excuses for him, even when he would go through my text messages, log onto my laptop (which he later broke) and read my Facebook messages, Twitter DM logs etc. At one point he began threatening a friend of mine via my Facebook profile to stay away from me – all whilst I was completely oblivious to this.

I became miserable and in February of this year I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia – a condition that affects the nervous system and can cause great amounts of pain and chronic fatigue. The condition is exacerbated by stressful situations but Ollie didn’t seem to care. My pains would get so bad that I would have to use a walking stick, something that I found embarrassing and emasculating, yet Ollie would claim that I was showing him up or even faking it. At times he would completely gaslight me and tell me that fibromyalgia didn’t exist or that I didn’t have my diagnosis. My favourite was when he claimed that I had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia to make life difficult for him! Ollie also began taking incredibly potent sleeping tablets that he claimed were prescribed because he was terrified of me and what I might do, so he needed them to help him sleep beside me.

Ollie used the tablets as another way of controlling me. He would take them on week nights at around 6 or 7pm and as they were fast acting he was in bed about twenty minutes later. Ollie would do this regularly if I had suggested meeting up with a friend or doing something that wasn’t explicitly his idea or didn’t benefit him in some shape or form. And since I wasn’t allowed out of the house this meant I was effectively on my own in the house with nobody to talk to unless he had decided one night to stay awake past 8pm.

The tipping point came in May of this year when my father was taken into hospital with a superbug infection in his chest. After about eight weeks of intense treatment and therapy we were told that they could no longer do anything for him and that he would be gone in less than a week. Ollie chose this as the precise moment to tell me that if I didn’t cut off all contact with my friends and the family members he didn’t like then he and I were finished. To rewind a bit, Ollie had met my parents on a number of occasions and was a completely different person with them than with me. He was the golden boy, all smiles and sunshine and could do no wrong so that whenever he and I had an argument there were times when he would call my mother on the telephone and tell her that I had threatened him or harmed him when indeed the reverse was true. This created a situation in which my own parents didn’t believe me at first when I told them the truth which in turn made me doubt myself and come running back to him every single time.

These mind games persisted over a course of about nine months – from September to May. I didn’t realise what was happening and I kept pushing myself deeper and deeper into the lies I had told to convince myself that I loved him, that he loved me and that this sociopathic behaviour was normal.

When Ollie gave me the ultimatum of choosing either him or my friends and family the decision was easy in my mind. With my father dying in hospital I knew exactly where I needed to be and in a moment of clarity I packed a bag, walked out of the house and left, never to return. What followed was a barrage of abuse from Ollie and his family over the next few days, all of whom were acutely aware that my father was on the verge of death but none of whom seemed to care. I was threatened with violence as were my friends, I was told that my belongings in Ollie’s house would be destroyed or sold, that I was going to be arrested for beating him etc – to put things in context it’s safe to say that Ollie isn’t that bright overall as this was all relayed to me via text messages which I screenshot and saved for my own protection.

I eventually got my belongings as he harassed my mother (who’s husband was dying) to come to the house and collect them along with my brother and aunt. I wasn’t allowed near the property and I was only too happy to oblige. The threats and the taunting became such that I threatened to call the police myself if I heard from any of them again. My father died peacefully in his sleep a few days later but I will never forgive Ollie for trying to take even those precious moments away from me. On the day my father died I had a combined total of fourteen missed calls and about twenty to thirty venomous text messages from Ollie. Despite my utter dread that he would do so, he didn’t come to my father’s funeral and didn’t contact me again yet I remained terrified of him until recently.

I was convinced that I couldn’t tell people about what had happened as I couldn’t quite believe it myself. It took the longest time for me to realise that I had been the victim of domestic abuse – psychological, financial, mental and emotional and that it had taken such a toll on me that I had actually become physically ill as a result. I was embarrassed to tell friends about what had happened and found out through the grapevine that Ollie had taken to social media to post update after update about how abusive I had been, how I had broken his heart etc – this was damage control on his part as he knew that it was only a matter of time before people heard the truth.

I still don’t know where I found the strength from to finally pack that bag and leave and I know I should have done it a year ago in that September. I guess I decided that the consequences of leaving him (and I knew he would make it next to impossible for it to be an amicable breakup) were more manageable than the consequences of staying with him. Not once have I ever regretted leaving him and any time I got a tinge of sadness or if I missed him just a little bit all I have to do is remind me of how little he made me think of myself. Ollie made me believe that I didn’t deserve to be happy or have my own personal freedom and independence respected. I realise whilst writing this that the voice in my head is a lot like Ollie’s voice and that makes it easier for me to ignore.

Nobody will ever tell me again that I can’t be happy whilst telling me that they love me. That is not the heart of a confident and loving relationship – that is the core of abuse. I walked away from coercive control but it could have been so much worse.

*The name of my ex has been changed for privacy purposes

World Mental Health Day

Sanctioned for missing the bus.
Unable to afford the train to the GP
Sleeping in doorways to avoid the cold
Stealing napkins to wipe the blood
Because you can’t afford luxury items.

Raped but you’re a criminal if you use the pills you were given by a friend.
Forced to full term because they don’t want you to control your body.
Counting the days in the young offenders centre.
Scraping pennies to organise a phone call home.

Waiting in the queue for the foodbank.
Deciding between freezing or eating.
Not letting your kids watch the news
because they ask what ‘deport them’ means.
Being followed around the supermarket
because you’re young and black.

Not holding your partner’s hand in public.
Wondering if you’ll make it home tonight.
Being put on a waiting list for urgent care.
Fighting for your child to speak to someone who can help them.
Choosing between facing the stairs or missing the appointment.

But it’s okay.
They tweeted #WorldMentalHealthDay

Pride Is A Fire That Burns In Us Tonight

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I could not be prouder of Belfast tonight. We stand shoulder to shoulder and hand in hand with the victims of the terrorist attack in #Orlando. We raise our voices and our fists in defiance of the brutality and murder visited upon us by madmen and bigots whether it be Orlando or elsewhere.

We say love is love and love is beautiful. Love is beautiful and love is kind. Those who try to smash that won’t even make a dent. We laugh at those who try to divide us as with each strike we pull closer together. We have each others backs and all you do is unite us in a way that you fear. We laugh at your fear.

You try to silence us but with one voice we roar it will deafen you. Your time is up. Our time is now and forever. You cannot vanish us. You cannot stop us. You cannot win against power of diversity, equality and diversity. Thank you to those of you who stand with us daily.

Pride is a fire that burns in us tonight. You cannot extinguish the flames with the darkness that you create. A rainbow of sparks and flames that consumes us and reaches all of us from Orlando to Toronto and to Berlin, Sydney, Belfast, Johannesburg and Moscow. It burns brighter and fiercer than the hatred in your hearts. We will overcome.

This Isn’t Goodbye

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A few short hours ago we said goodbye to my best friend, my hero and the best man I ever knew. My father passed away peacefully in his sleep surrounded by his family, holding my mother’s hand.

Our hearts break but you are no longer in pain, nor will you ever be again. A life too full of heartache but one filled with love. We will miss you every day Dad but the time for sleep has come at last and we send you into the arms of God with a glad heart. I am so proud to call you my Dad.

You were the strongest person I knew. The bravest, the kindest and the man who instilled in my brother and I the qualities that make a good man. I only hope that we can live up to that example. Don’t worry about Mum, we will look out for her as she has looked out for us. This will be tough without you and my heart swells with pain, knowing that you will never sit in that daft old chair of yours again, but we will get through it together.

Sleep now, Dad. The time for tears is over and this world is better for have known your kindness and your love. 💙

Miss you with all my heart, until we meet again x

The DUP & SDLP Can’t Wrap Their Arms Around The Abortion Problem

In a recent leader’s debate on UTV the leaders of the five main political parties in Northern Ireland were all asked about their response to the conviction and suspended sentence that was handed down to an unnamed young woman who had procured pills to induce an abortion – I’ll come to that in a second but here’s a bit of backstory for you. I like to get you all caught up before I delve into a serious rant.

Despite the fact that abortion is completely legal in mainland Britain, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, the 1861 Offences Against The Persons Act is the law of the land in Northern Ireland in matters concerning terminations of pregnanies. It is a criminal act in Northern Ireland in 2016 to procure an abortion or assist someone in obtaining an abortion – the only other option is to travel to the mainland to have the procedure which isn’t free (unless you’re a resident of England, Scotland or Wales) but it is safe, and it is legal. It is not a crime for Northern Irish women to access abortion procedures in other jurisdictions.

Earlier in 2016 a young woman was reported to the PSNI for inducing an abortion through abortifacent pills that she had requested online. She was subsequently convicted and given a suspended three month prison sentence. The issue, of course, has generated much debate which has become a key issue in the lead up to the 2016 NI Assembly elections with all parties and almost all candidates declaring which side of the debate they are on. Arguably these positions should have been clarified long, long before devolution even became a reality but we are where we are. In responding to the question on whether or not the young woman in question should have been criminalised for her actions both the Arlene Foster and Colum Eastwood claimed that as a society we should “wrap our arms” around young women in a crisis – so why then did they sink any attempt to amend the existing laws when the opportunity presented itself during the amendments to the Justice Bill?

We cannot hope for our judges to show leniancy and compassion if and when another vulnerable woman is brought to a courtroom for taking matters into her own hands. Personally expressing your concern and hoping for compassion whilst stopping short of changing the law to prevent those situations even ocurring when you have been in a position to do so is bare faced electoral opportuism. It’s cowardice and it does not help the almost one thousand women who had to travel to Great Britain to access abortion care. Women have been pushed to the brink by having to self-medicate for a healthcare issue and face a criminal record for doing so. The current law as it stands is unfit for purpose and both the SDLP and DUP’s leaders can gush their hearts out until they are blue in the face on TV when asked about criminalising of abortion but the fact of the matter is that we are in a situation where we could potentially have a woman be handed a life sentence for procuring and using abortion pills. The current law allows for such and the SDLP, DUP and even the Alliance Party, Sinn Fein and UUP have fallen way short of providing the type of legislative compassion and leadership that is needed.

Simply leaving the matter down to the individual conscience of elected reps or only pushing for abortion in certain circumstances is not brave or sensible. They are opt-outs dressed as compromises. The main parties have all voiced their opposition to the extension to Northern Ireland of the 1967 Abortion Act (which regulates the issue in Wales, Scotland and England) when asked about reforming the current laws here however that is a non-issue and a clever side-stepping of the issue. With a Conservative majority Government in Westminster which may rely on the support of SDLP, DUP and pro-life UUP MPs to see off backbench rebellions there is next to no chance that the Secretary for State will move unilaterally on the matter without calling into question the undermining of devolved issues and royally pissing off the DUP. What Northern Ireland needs is for our MLAs to legislate for the matter in the Assembly and do the right thing and worry about the frankly irrelevant electoral impact in 2019.

I suspect the issue will dent the SDLP more than the DUP in their stronger areas such as South and North Belfast – especially amongst younger voters. This was an opportunity for Colum Eastwood to outflank Alliance and the UUP but it looks like more of the same, unfortunately.

Doing the right thing and doing the popular thing are seldom the same however the matter of abortion has saturated the airwaves and become a key battleground for political parties in Northern Ireland – forty nine years after the rest of the United Kingdom agreed that it was better for women to have safe, free and legal access to medical care rather than hope for the best by consulting Google and procuring tablets on the internet.

Women On Web Website Blocked? Here’s How To Access It

NOTE: All information below is taken from the Women on Web website here: https://www.womenonwaves.org/en/page/4599/women-on-web-website-is-blocked

In some countries, you might find that the Women on Web website is censored. Here you can read about several ways you can try to circumvent the blockage.

world map freedom of information

Send an email and ask for the online consultation or any other information. 

For android phone users: You can also download the Women on Waves safe abortion app from google play store and complete the online consultation there. 

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.womenonwaves.app

You can send an email to info@womenonweb.org and ask for the consultation or general information about medical abortion. The form will be emailed to you. Please always check your spam box for the reply.

You can also download and use the TOR browser https://www.torproject.org/projects/torbrowser.html.en

If the Tor Project’s official website and mirrors are also blocked, you can use TOR GetTor via SMTP (email). Send an email to  gettor@torproject.org with one of the following options in the body of the message:

  • windows: If the user needs Tor Browser for Windows.
  • linux: If the user needs Tor Browser for Linux.
  • osx: If the user needs Tor Browser for Mac OS X.

GetTor robot will reply with links to download Tor Browser.

 

Try to redirect with a short URL

 

Sometimes the URL’s are blocked but you can access the website’s through a short URL.

For Women on Web you can try the following short URL’

http://moourl.com/avortement

http://moourl.com/abortomedicinal

http://moourl.com/abortomedico

http://moourl.com/aborsi

http://moourl.com/aborcji

http://moourl.com/aborsyon

http://moourl.com/kurtaj

For Women on Waves you can try the following short URL’s:

http://moourl.com/medicalabortion

http://moourl.com/cytotec

 

Use an anonymous surfing site

 

You can use downloads from Tor Project  or Tails

Here you can find lists of websites that offer anonymous surfing

90+ Proxy Websites To Access Blocked Websites and

http://www.proxy4free.com/list/webproxy_domain1.html. 

If you click on any of the websites on these lists and fill in http://www.womenonweb.org, you should be able to access the website.

 

Use online translations services to bypass the block

 

Go to one of the Online translation services like AltaVista, BabelFish, Google Translate and fill inwww.womenonweb.org or www.womenonwaves.org.   and click translate even if you don’t need to and Google or AltaVista  or Babelfish will fetch the website.