Friday, 27 December 2013

#Nurture1314 - Hopes & goals for 2014

Having done much head scratching, time to crack on with aims for 2014. I have done much head scratching, but thought I'd better just crack on with it.

1. A bit like Polonius in Hamlet, I am prone to prolixity, nevermind beating around the bush, I can do the full tango round it, see I'm doing it now. Nelson, be more concise and direct in thoughts, words and deeds.

2. Family - I have merged into the background as a family member, ergo I have neglected them - that old work/life balance thingummy again. This needs to be put right.

3. Friends - I have tested their patience recently, I'm sure. Some old but loved friendships have sufffered over the past year or two, these need to be healed. I'm not quite sure how to go about it, so any advice greatfully received.  I really want to maintain good twitter friendships with all the folk I've met and spent time with so far. You know who you are, and you have kept me afloat in so many ways this year. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

4. A long distance open water swim. This was on last year's list, not done so I need to make it happen this year don't I? Stage 1 - buy a wetsuit, Stage 2 - get in and out of said wetsuit succesfully without pulling a muscle....

5. Deal with the Black Dog better - spending time with family and friends (points 2 and 3) should help with me re-joining the human race, a new hobby, being honest with my doctors and nurse practitioners will help here too. Keep in touch with my #BDamigos on Twitter and blogging will help here too.

6. New job - time out of secondary school teaching is needed before this academic year is up. However, I am not done with education, and I don't think education is done with me yet either. Suggestions as to WHERE I could be well used in differernt educational contexts would be MOST welcome. I am applying for a job as we speak, then speaking to a careers advisor the first week of January. I am also in dicsussions with @StephenDCook about his school in Sierra Leone. We have emailed, and he has told me, bless him, that I would be a 'real asset'. It would be voluntart, I'd have to sort out funding, which may involve selling my house, but with all that's occured while I've been in it, no great loss! However, I'd welcome suggestions of how else I could fund it e.g. asking for sponsorship from pliable businesses, please do leave comments if you have any ideas. *eyelash flutter*

7. Writing - through my blog I have found my blogging niche which seams to be mostly 'brutal honesty' or words to that effect. These are the post that have received the most views. I'd like to improve my writing, like my dear friend @Xris32 perhaps get paid work for writing, and eventually work up to writing a book.

8. The new hobby - I've been Gareth Maloned - I want to join a choir. What's not to love about that? I'm an alto - anyone know of choirs near Atherstone, let me know!

9. Stand-up comedy - I love going to watch this, and I was doing so well on this last year up to when school started in September.

10. Theatre - It has been WAY too long since I've been to the theatre, but this will be put right soon enough with @LisaFarrelll3 and @SaysMiss with trips to Warwick Arts in the pipeline. I haven't been to The Globe in London in 2 years, I need to go there soon! A joyous place to watch a Shakespeare play. Love, love, love it! Anyone want to come with me, say Easter Hols, get in touch!

11. Cooking. I can't remember the last time I actually cooked something decent from scratch, not so much as a Spag Bol. I can cook a mean risotto, a very nice salmon in foil with tomato, balsamic vinegar, garlic and honey. I do a mean chocolate mousse (ask @rlj1981), I can follow a recipe. I also need to cook very healthily to help with the Black Dog too.

12. Cinema - I love going, somethings just need to be seen on the big screen. I aim to get @Chocotzar out to the cinema more often. Got it lady!

13. Meet more Twitter folk (I'll no doubt add to this as time goes by and I remember more names of peeps I want to meet). I'd love to meet: @deadshelly @Pekabelo @vicgoddard @SaysMiss @JamesTheo @tstarkey1212 @flackneymike @JanetteBaker @TeacherGhost (I've got your Stollen love!) @Janeyb222 @JoBaker @scjmcd @CazzyPot @creascentcolours @Jo_Ms_H  @TeacherTweeks @k8rock @janbaker97 @ljrn42 @steer_michael @Mr @cherryylkd @MissBex_M and her mum @biggs_debra @blondebonce @smanfarr @AndrewCowley @MrsRWood @jk_greaves

29th December 2014 - Made good head-way on this one already. I met new people at the #MiddleEarthTweetUp in Sutton Coldfield and met the following:

@cazzypot @TessaLMatthews, @clerktogoverner @sputniksteve @FG20 @RuthKRobinson @Ingotian along with established Twitter chumes @Chocotzar @oldandrewuk and @danielharvey9  Was GUTTED to have missed @webofsubstance who left before I arrived.

14. a) Get an adrenaline rush - do a bungy jump or a parachute jump, Zorbing, white water rafting, Zombie run, that kinda thing.
      b) Keep participating in @ieshasmalls 'Miind-Shackles' photography project. I hate being photographed but I Iesha made me feel relaxed in her company and I really enjoyed it.
      c) If I don't need to sell the house, get the hideous attic room 'done' and maybe take in a lodger - no pyschopaths please. :-)
      d) I have read voraciously while off work, so like some Twitter friends of mine, want to read at least 50 in 2014 AND use my blog to keep a record, even if brief of it. First up will be Jo Nesbo's 'The Redbreast' started in 2013 and will be finished 2014.
    e) Last one, promise...ahem.... get to grips with my iPad better. I have masses of apps on it I barely know how to use. Shame on me.

Monday, 23 December 2013

#Nurture1314 - 2013 review

Good God! A year has gone by all ready? Spurred on by @Chocotzar's wonderful #Nurture1314 review, I'm grabbing the Unicorn by the horn and following suit.

Whilst I'm walking with the Black Dog, this will be a bit like extracting a tooth, but nevertheless incredibly therapeutic to find, remember and write about the good things of 2013. So, without further ado, here goes.

1. This Blog. I have been writing on this for just over a year now and have very much enjoyed the process, especially when positive feedback has been received by Twitter or through comments on this blog.  The blog has had 28,000+ page views to date and my most popular post has been 'The Yin and Yang of The Question Grid' at 5,000+ views whilst my second most popular has, surprisingly, been 'In The Presence of Psychopathy' a narration of a dark moment of domestic violence, receiving over 1, 000 page views (my original claim of 2, 000+ views applies to 'The Doctor's Note' post - doh!). I shall discuss this more in number 2!

2. Squaring up to a personal demon by writing 'In The Presence of Psychopathy', a mercifully short, but nevertheless dramatic account of what can best be described as an attempt on my life by a man who was my partner at the time.  The most I'd told anybody about this was that,"He'd tried to attack me." never going into any detail, not being able to face up to it.  I published it via Twitter and Facebook and the response was remarkable. Adjectives such as 'brave' and 'heroic' were used to describe me, how odd, how incongruous. I am, nevertheless, utterly grateful for such positivity to emerge from such a bleak moment in my Jeremy Kyle life.

3. Presenting at some Teach Meets, if memory serves it they have been: Teach Meet Finham, Teach Meet Brun where @kevbartle was a total ROCK and held my hand afterwards as I was vibrating with nerves both before and afterwards; Teach Meet English in Leeds, and most recently Teach Meet English in Derby with @Xris32 as organiser and fab support (bloody lovely cakes too Chris, well done that man). I have an abject fear of speaking in front of my peers - I think I'm starting to crack it!

4. Teach Meet English in Derby allowed me to meet @LisaFarrell3 - who, as it turns out is the wife of a certain Mr. Farrell who I worked with for 5 years in Tamworth. It's a small world huh? We are now firm Costa and book swap buddies and have some theatre trips in the pipeline.

5. @rlj1981  Rachel invited me down to stay with her in Portsmouth over the summer holiday, a brave move considering I'd only met Rachel twice. Once at #PedagooLondon and the second at the Wellington Education Festival. One visit turned into two over the Summer, and I now feel like her house is very much a second home and Rachel is very much a great friend. Her boys are just lovely, if exhausting! I am back with Rachel for New Year, for another wee Christmas and to make chocolate mousse.

6. Stand-Up comedy. I got into a good habit of going to see local stand-up gigs in a local village called Appleby Magna, which sadly, disappeared come start of school in September - something to resurrect in 2014 I think. Even better I have seen Al Murray and Rich Hall live at Warwick Arts Centre. Nothing short of brilliant.

7. Gromit Unleashed Tweet-up in Bristol organised by @theheadsoffice.  A day of pure unadulterated joy, spent with @Chocotzar and daughter, @RichardFiona and hubby, @betsysalt, @rlj1981, @csf0961, @KDWScience, @digitaldaisies, @hrogerson, @aknill. We walked, we talked, we laughed, we found lots of Gromits and posed for lots of photos, we ate, we drank wine. An exhausting but immensely enjoyable day.

8. Being published by The Guardian Education Network. OK, both times it was anonymous, still, I HAVE BEEN PUBLISHED BY A NATIONAL BROADSHEET. So there. *blows raspberry*

9. Maintained my monthly trips with @Dyskadores (Lisa) to Birmingham for essential purchases from Lush and being ladies that lunch, init.

10. During the Twitter Summer of Love Road-Trip - I enjoyed a drunken, but not so debauched Tweet-Up in Watford with @kevbartle (Helene was as near as dammit there, phone technology and all that), @danielharvy9, @Thatch_Teach and the wonderfulness that was @mrpalomar1.  Oh how it pains me to speak of him in the past tense, but I am also lucky to have spent time with such as man as Jon who was the very definition of 'gentleman' and easily one of the most cultured people I've ever met. We talked, we drank, we played pool to varying degrees of success, we ate and Kev fed us a breakfast fit for a King. Thanks to Kev for being a great host and Helene for 'loaning' him to us for the weekend!

11. Actually had a holiday in a school holiday for the first time in about 6 years. It was with my Brum buddy @Dykadores and we went to Dublin during the Easter break.  The exhaustion of the excrutiatingly early start was easily forgotton upon tasing the Beef and Guinness Stew in the Guinness musuem and the surpringly choco-gasmic chocolate and Guinness mousse. It was our first holiday together, we enjoyed it and more importantly, did not want to kill each other after 3 days together.

12. The peculiar warmth of Twitter. I have met many people on Twitter in the flesh, in 'high defnition' as it were. Here are some particular highlights: @chocotzar who is an awesome support on and off-line and now a great cinema buddy, @betsysalt bloomin' lovely and another constant source of support and encouragement, @csf0961 - I was a 'subject' for her MA and in return I received beautiful flowers and lovely cake, win. @HYWEL_ROBERTS who hugged me upon sight at Wellington Festival and again at #TeachMeetBrumXmas whilst keeping me company before the eveing started. @oldandrewuk - a surprising one this, and not to give too much away, but felt quite Hobbit sized in his company. I have converted him to the occasional Costa - he prefers a hot chocolate but one day, you never know, a Salted Caramel Latte may change his view of hot beverages. He IS tall, he is not 'old' and neither is he made of straw. I very nearly forgot @85teachergirl who has been a great source of humour and support via Twitter and DMs. We finally met at Teach Meet English in Derby and a Costa catch up is on the cards. Fab lady. Fact.

13. Meeting the Welsh author Malcolm Pryce @exogamist in Oxford with @Dyskadores. This was only mid-November, easily one of my most perfect days out. Lisa and I arrived at Oxford in the morning and we spent a lovely time around the dreaming spires, pootling around the indoor market and a lunching in Pizza Express. There there was the wait for Malcolm to arrive in the designated pub. He turned up, it was a bit awkward and nerve wracking to start, we relaxed and chatted about cheese and Ofsted - amongst other things - we thawed and left, each having convinced the other we were not that weird really. He gave us some Aberystwyth Rock, signed our Aberystwyth books and gave us a lovely hug before we parted ways. He tells us, if we behave ourselves, we can meet again in the New Year. Bring. It. On.

Friday, 13 December 2013

The Doctor's note

So, not even a full term in of this and I have been signed off 'unfit for work' by my GP due to depression, mainly to facilitate a change in my anti-depressant medication, but also, in my own words to the doctor, 'I am just not coping.'

If you ARE coping, I salute you, I do, really. *commences Wayne's World bowing'

There are many factors which have lead me to this less than brilliant state of remaining on anti-depressants and being signed off by my doctor.  I do not want to, and nor should I, discuss specifics of my school, which would be daft, foolish and idiotic.  I will have to be more general, I hope you appreciate why.

1. The GCSE Results fiasco of 2012 chain of events.

  • I had a gorgeous class of all girls and worked together like trojans, and the majority did get grades between A*-C, some didn't. This was due to the grade boundary shifts from the exam board.  The department overall came off badly due to this grade boundary shift, thus leaving all of us with an overhelming sense of disappointment. It was crushing.
  • This also had an affect on my progression to UPS2 (that's as much as I'm going to say about that).
  • Our dip in results could be what triggered our Ofsted inspection around this time last year, where our school came out as a Category 4 'Serious Weaknesses'.
  • I was  observed during the inspection and eventually found out my lesson was Requires Improvement. My previous year's lesson observation was Outstanding - so the 'down grade' was crushing.
  • Confidence crushed I struggled to get out of the RI grade for the rest of the academic year.
  • Working in a Category 4 school is highly pressured for everyone. Staff are constantly looking over respective shoulders wondering when the next visit will be. That's just how it is.
  • Working in a Category 4 school, in a department found wanting means increased level of scrutiny in many areas. This is common, I believe, in schools or departments in similar circumstances. Nevertheless, it is a difficult way in which to work, depression or not, it can create or feed paranoia in staff.
There are many more specific things that have contributed to me being here, but it would do me no favours to write about them on here.

2. Those pesky, meddling politicians

  • So, first body blow was the GCSE results fiasco of 2012
  • Policitians using the Press and broadcast news to vent their negative political rhetoric about schools, exam results, teachers and teaching.
  • Our pay-freeze and increase in pension contributions combined with the increased cost of living, which, for all of us, means a significant loss of income
  • Constant meddling with the English GCSE - e.g. changes to 'worth' of Speaking and Listening part-way through the course for Yr 10s.  It may have been necessary, but for it to occur part-way through the academic year was poor for pupils and a blow for teachers and their ability to do forward planning for the courses they teach.
  • The move to performance related pay - pay does not motivate me as a teacher, but rather recognition of a job well done.  I find this hugely demotivating, with the likely outcome being the Government getting an awful lot more work out of me, for much less money. 
  • The seemingly increased 'power' of Ofsted over schools, where the 'data is King' approach which, I think, leads to some morally suspect decision making over when pupils are entered for exams, the exam boards chosen in order to show 'X' levels of 'progress' in order to achieve the desired Ofsted grading. (This is a deliberate generalisation). Somewhere along the line, some humanity has got lost.
  • League tables - they have been nothing short of poisonous to schools since they were introduced and are the root cause of many difficulties and difficult decisions that school leaders are forced to make.

3. Work/life balance

  • I have been teaching English, a core subject, for 12 years.  The last three years have been the most difficult that I can remember in those 12 years. I think has always been notoriously difficult for English teachers to gain work/life balance, mainly due to the marking load, as with Humanities or  MFL teachers, I know we are not entirely alone on this.
  •  Despite trying to be stricter with myself with how much work I do outside of the classroom, as term progressed, I found myself working longer in the evenings, more hours on a Sunday and too exhausted to do anything enjoyable on a Saturday, my one day off work. On that Saturday, I had to do my 'domestic duties' but was also doing less and less of it as I was so utterly exhausted. My house was becoming more and more chaotic and hovel like.
  • I was having no time to speak to my family, spend any time with my friends (oh how that must test their patience) or eat properly.
  •  I was too busy to keep up my exercise regime which is my No. 1 defence against the old Black Dog, combined with parents' evenings falling on one of my circuit class nights, knocking out one of my few times to exercise and socialise outside of school hours.
  • For all those 12 years I have lived by myself and for much, (not all, but much) of that time I have been single. The 60-70 hour week and constant exhaustion has to be a factor here, I am not going with the 'I'm sub-normal' or 'unlovable' thing.
  • The combination of the long hours of teaching, living alone and singleness, I have realised, is an unhealthy combination. I have tried to make this 'work' for 12 years, but it hasn't worked. I've been on and off anti-depressants since my dad passed away in 2005.
  • Do I think this state of affairs is acceptable anymore? I don't think I do.
4. Health and well-being

I used to have the constitution of an ox, however, as time has gone by during those 12 years, I have an increasing range of persistent minor illnesses, some maybe not so minor.

  • An annual sinus infection, usually hitting me around November, if not then January or February. If you've never had one, just think yourself lucky!
  • Recurring ear infections
  • Eczema - this was particularly bad when I took the yr 11 girls group through legacy spec GCSE English and new Spec Lang/Lit in 2 years (3 courses in 2 years, yes!). I had constant allergic reactions on my skin over a period of 2-3 months leading me to eventually need a spell on steroids (I now know how The Hulk feels!) it now reccurs on my hand and legs and is tiggered by stress.
  • Plantar Faciitis - which is tendon damage to my feet, meaning acute foot pain in the mornings and consistent foot pain during the day. This weas initially triggered by my running habit and my naturally flat feet. The cure is 'rest' so I no longer, run, don't run in my circuit class, but I spend most of the day on my feet, so, it doesn't really get better.
Therefore,  as well as my current prescription for anti-depressants I have repeat prescriptions for eczema cream, anti-biotic ear drops and am never without ibuprofen handy for my mal-functioning feet.

5. Personal, one could say 'catastrophic' events since being in this school (I concede, few of these will be unique to me, but the combination might be!)

  • The psychopathic boyfriend - see my previous post 'In the presence of psychopathy'
  • The death of a dear colleague from my first teaching school, Marg, our wonderful tea lady
  • The sudden death of my friend Anthony Fairhurst in the same year as Marg going
  • Falling for a fella big style, and it going pear shaped - sounds minor but god did I do some crying, my self-esteem was battered by this
  • The burglary by my neighbours - meaning the Clogau Gold 'Cariad' ring my mum bought me when my dad died and my Clogau Cariad Cross my sister bought me from Aberaeron (dad's favourite place) were lost forever. I am still in mourning for them. I am still heartbroken about my 'dad ring' being lost forever.  I had to live next door to these neighbours for another 6 months (could be longer) after this burglary. A hateful and immensely stressful experience.
  • My grandmother, the last of my grandparents' died earlier this year. Now, this is terrible to confess to, but I can't remember the exact month. It was warm and sunny, so I think it could have been June or July. I am upset that I can't remember this.
  • A short but painful period of being stalked and harrassed by a Polish man at the start of this academic year. In the 'stalker-o-meter' scale it was relatively minor, however, I was genuinely disturbed and frightened by it.
So, when you average a 12 hr day, and between 60 -70 hrs a week, what you don't get time for is to 'process' these events, your feelings are put on the backburner, parked and boxed up while you plough on with your job. By 'you' I guess I mean 'me', that is what I have done. This is not good for my physical or emotional well-being.

6. Family stuff

  • My uncle got re-married in May 2012, I couldn't go because it was during the week in term time, down in Pembrokeshire  - exam season -so I didn't even bother for asking for time off to attend.
  • Three of my cousins have had children in the last 18 months, I have yet to meet my new family members due to work-load committments. I think this is rubbish, I'd grade myself at least as an RI family member due to this.
How did I know I was 'not-copng' and that the doctor's visit was necessary? Outwardly I can appear just fine, I can do a good job of acting 'fine' - but inside, it is very different.

  • Chronic insomnia
  • Barely eating or not eating at all
  • The monosyllabic communication and monotone voice
  • Some erratic behaviour
  • Not 'in control' of my emotions, sometimes in lessons
  • The 'black thoughts' entering my head again
  • Chronic exhaustion
  • Crawling into my shell or 'building a chrysallis' - wanting to hide from life
  • Sobbing in my classroom on my own at the end of a particularly awful day
  • A general massive dip in confidence in the classroom and my self-esteem
Worries attached to being signed off:
  • the extra pressure it puts on friends and colleagues back at school and the guilt that goes along with that
  • how this affects the pupils in my class
  • resentment that that could build up in colleagues and pupils
  • my future employability, quality of references I may get
  • how it will be when (or if) I manage to step back in a classroom
  • I don't want this to be a recurring cycle  - e.g in at 'full whack' - crack - signed off  and continuing to take anti-depressents. This is not what I want my life to be like.
How am I trying to get better?
  • I am actually sleeping; this is rather novel for a chronic insomniac
  • I am doing an awful lot of reading
  • not dwelling on the points above re. work
  • making sure I am not alone for long spells
  • exercise
  • Yes, using Twitter to keep in touch with fellow teacher friends in a similar position: @aknill, @LGolton, @bellale and @MrsRWood to name but a few. We check in on each other, bolster each other in low spells, hand out advice to each other, generally jolly each other along through the bleak moments
  • still need to sort out healthier eating, eating patterns are still quite erratic and appetite is variable

What next?

I have to make some big scary decisions about my future as a teacher, mainly if I want to continue to do so or not? I have sobbed over this very thought many, many times, as I never thought this was a place I would ever be. 'Teacher' has run through me like Blackpool Rock for 12 years, is it going to continue, and should it, if this is the mental and physical effect it has on me is this?

Thursday, 5 December 2013

In the presence of psychopathy

 Nigella Lawson's all too public pains with Charles Saatchi have made some rather unpleasant memories of mine bubble up to the surface, so, much like lancing a boil I am going to write about these unpleasant memories, purge them in the hope it will do me and whoever may choose to read it, some form of good.

I hope you are sitting comfortably now, as you may not be so comfortable later on in this post.

These memories have been partially buried for some 3 1/2 years. I have a feeling this is going to hurt. I have never really spoken to anyone explicitly about these events, not friends, family or even my CBT counsellor. See, I am fudging already, delaying the exposure, fighting the memories. So, let's crack on.

I was in a relationship with a man about three and a half years ago, for a grand total of 18 months. He was a friend of a friend who lived on my street, also living on the same street. It is a blessing it was so relatively short, as he was a relentless bully, an ego centric and controlling. These characteristics gradually revealed themselves over the 18 months and these two incidents I will narrate illustrate this, I hope, with great clarity. 

The Epitome of Awkward

I'm guessing it was about three Christmas breaks ago now, but I am not entirely sure, that I drove down to his mother's house with him. I had never met or even spoken to his mother before, although she seemed to phone him daily.  It was not an onerous drive, as it was only to Northamptonshire, nevertheless I was as apprehensive as you might expect. 

We arrived and I walked in with him nervously. She greated her son warmly, turned to me and asked, "And you are?" 
Now, she wasn't being rude, she genuinely didn't know who I was.  I'd been her son's partner for about a year, yet she knew nothing about me.

I blushed, smiled awkwardly and introduced myself.  She really was a lovely woman, even whilst I was there, he often spoke to her with contempt in his voice.  I found that wearing and worrying .

The time came to go to bed, we slept in his old bedroom, cramped, full of old computer games (he worked in IT) and the room was dark and dingy, probably unchanged since he was a teenager.  There were twin beds.  I was tired from the drive and 'being good' in the presence of his poor behaviour towards his mother and climbed into bed. 

The bed had a huge, thick, feather duvet on. I am allergic to feathers, I had no anti-histamines with me so it was not long before I began sneezing constantly, and soon began wheezing like Darth Vader.  I blew my snotty nose.

"Shut up." he said sharply.
"But I'm..." I attempted to explain the allergy problem, he cut in.
"Shut UP!" with a more aggressive tone in his voice.
I attempt again to explain, "I'm a...."
"STOP IT AND SHUT UP" he cut in again.

I lie in my bed, trying to keep control of my breathing. Miserable, trapped, and fearful I lay still, working out what I can do.  I just want to leave. I take some time to work up the courage to do something, knowing he is angry. I need to leave.

Slowly and carefully I climb out of bed, taking great care not to make much noise. Finding my mobile phone for light, I move towards my clothes to get dressed, then find my bag and other belongings so I can just leave. It is the dead of night.

He lunged out of bed, turned that light on and grabbed my wrists, swinging me about the room, shouting at me (I cannot remember what was said). I think I rasp a, "Let go of me." and he does.

I remember him saying something absurd like, "I thought you were doing it for attention." At no point did the fact that I was genuinely unwell cross his mind.  Somehow I eventually manage to tell him I am unwell. He is later apologetic, not that I believed him. 

We complete the stay with his mother; I remain there out of nothing more simple than fear.  I don't really tell anyone about this afterwards due to deep, deep shame. 

It took me another 6 months and a much more frightening episode before I did, combined with repetitively asking myself the following questions, often:
Am I happy?
Does he or can he make me happy?
Is it going to get any better?
The answer was always, "No" to these questions.

The night being a teacher probably saved my life

It was now the August after that Christmas and during the summer holiday I had become increasingly intolerant of his unreasonable behaviour. For example, once we had a row over me buying electricity for him at the local Co-Op, which is on his route home from the local train station, but for some reason it was my responsibilty to go and get it and pay for it. I had refused on several occasions. He shouted at me that I had, "Denied him a basic human right."  I think that occured the same day this awful night happened.

For a while I had been trying to tell him I was unhappy, he was not listening. I wanted out and my only tac tic left was texting. I can't remember what I did text, but I know I had to keep repeating myself about the relationship being poor, and things needed to change. He would bat things back, not listening, blaming me for things, telling me that, "If we wanted to go out (we never did) I would have to pay." (I earned more than him) and that he, "Couldn't trust me to behave myself if we went out." 

So, like a dog with a bone I wouldn't let go. I kept trying to make myself heard; to make him bloody well listen to me. It was nearing 11 pm at night at this point. He eventually sent some kind of threatening text back, I bit back and texted something I knew would antagonise him. I did not realise quite how much though; I just wanted an excuse, a concrete reason that he could see that things were over.

A succession of loud bangs at my door shocked me, but I knew it was him (he only lives, yes present tense, 4 doors away) so I opened the door. 

"Stop sending me these petulant texts, or, or...." he bellowed at me.
With the defiance of a truculant teenager I respond with, "Or what?"

Rabid, he lunged at me through my door and before I knew it I was pinned to my sofa with his arm just below my throat, his red, fury filled face inches from mine his left hand, coiled ready and poised in a fist inches from my face. 

I don't scream, but without shouting, well I hardly need to, he's close enough, I tell him to (sorry mum), "Fuck. Off."

I am still pinned to the sofa, his rabid face inches from mine, his fist coiled, quivering, and ready.

Spitting the words as if they were venom, he rasps, "Tell me to fuck off again and I'll beat the shit out of you." 
I believe him. He was not in control of himself. 

"I'll phone the police." I say in an all things considered, a relatively calm way. 

I glance helplessly across my room to where my phone is; making that last comment to him seem almost ridiculous. The front door is wide open, the houses across the street are in darkness, there is no sound of anyone walking down the street. I am alone with him and his rage. 

That doesn't seem to worry him, he once again spits and rasps, "Phone the police and I'll beat the shit out of you." (He was not overly creative in his use of threats)

Here I rely on the teacher's good old, "stuck record" approach and repeatedly tell him to, "Get off me."  

At no point in this exchange did I shout or scream, my tone was level, my pulse rate quicker than normal, but under control.   I think you learn, when faced with anger, and I have done with pupils, the only course of action is to be the opposite. It was like walking a tight rope with a pool of aggressive alligators underneath. Lose your balance, one foot out of place and a bloody messwould be the result of that minor error. 

Eventually, his grip loosens, he stood up and I am released.  I tell him to leave the house and collect his things in the morning. (We didn't live together, but he had lots of things around my house). He refuses, insists on getting things from my house now.  So he does, in a sulk as if he is the wounded party. 

I sit out in the cold on the steps of my tiny garden chain smoking and trying to breathe. I must keep calm still, must stay in control until he leaves. He does, eventually, but he still has my house key.

I don't phone my family, it is late at night and typically of me, I don't want to worry, them, well that and the deep, abiding, excrutiating shame that this has happened at all. What I do do, is go on Facebook (that was when I was addicted to that, my pre-Twitter addiction days) and do a quick summary of the episode as a status up-date finishing with the word, "Single."

It is here the adrenaline kicked in, so still not comprehending what has just happened. My dear, beloved friend Anthony chatted to me on Facebook then rang me up, talking to me to calm me down, making sure I was OK. I was so pumped full of adrenaline, I said I was.  I wasn't was I? How could I be? Damn my stoicism.

It was about 1am when I felt calm enough to go to bed, not that I slept. The whole horrible episode kept replaying in my head, over and over, combined with the gratitude that I was not in fact beaten to a pulp, in hospital, being fed though a tube.  Or dead. 

It was only much later that I can acknowedge to myself, nevermind anyone else, how terrified I was that night.  However, as well as the fear, I had the relief that I was 'free' from his clutches. Well, nearly free. He still lives on my street. I see him from time to time and he attempts to be friendly and say, "Hello." I blank him. 

Why have I not really spoken to anyone about this before?
It is still there, that deep, abiding shame that you allowed yourself to be bullied, coerced and terrorised in a relationship. Do I have trust issues? You bet your bottom dollar I do. I just, hope, I really do, that this can be overcome, although I think it would mean a future suitor (you ARE out there aren't you?) would need a massive heart, and the patience of a saint to take down the walls I have built brick, by brick, by brick. 

N.B. Thanks to wonderful friends, my locks were changed within a day of that incident happening, although it did take me some weeks before I could get some sleep in my own house.

Friday 6th December 2013

I published this post last night and I am stunned at the number of people who read it, the supportive tweets and words such as 'brave' and 'inspirational' used to describe me, and the writing about this event. More than once I have been moved to tears by these responses. Here are some: 


And from Facebook...the ones from my family made me sob.