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Cuts, bruises, sex and self-destruction

Background

It has been 10 weeks since we split up. We started going out just before I started uni and we went out for 9 months. We were very happy at the beginning but it all went down hill on Valentine’s Day. This was the day I told the first person (one of my lecturers) about my wrist. My boyfriend was staying over at my college, mainly as it was Valentine’s Day, but also because I had my cheer-leading competition the next day which he was coming to watch. Just before we went to sleep, I decided to tell him about my wrist as I thought it was unfair that a lecturer knew and he didn’t. He had asked about the plaster quite a few times and I had been passing it off as an accident while coking.

When I told him, he was really supportive. I felt guilty for burdening him with it as he is younger than me, I am his first girlfriend and it’s a lot to take on board. However, I assured him it was a one-time-thing, which it was at the time.

He came to watch the competition as did my mum and his mum, and our college came 3rd. This was a massive improvements as apparently, we had been disqualified in the last 2 annual comps. We should have come 2nd but we had points deducted before we even stepped onto the mat as our uniform didn’t cover our shoulders.

First time

A few days later, he came over to stay as he had to get up early to row. We started arguing over something pathetic and it resulted in him punching me. He is 6ft5, a rugby-player/rower, whereas I am 5ft3 size6/8. (Although I realise that size and build do not necessarily matter as small women and men are just as capable of hurting others). It really hurt – I was sobbing. I know I should have kicked him out and left him then and there – but I didn’t. We just went to sleep and said nothing more about it. I thought it was just an accident and a one-time thing.

I covered the black eye up with make-up and luckily no-one noticed it, apart from one lecturer but I just passed it off as an accident when I was play-fighting with a friend.

A few days later, he stayed over again as he had early rowing practice. I had a really bad headache, as I often do, so got into bed around 11pm, which is very early for me. I was just drifting off but before I knew it, he was on top of me kissing me. I told him that I had a pounding migraine and a 9am lecture the next day but he didn’t acknowledge what I said and just continued. I started to question whether I had actually just spoken or just imagined it, so I repeated myself but nothing. I couldn’t get him off. I had a single bed at college and I was pinned up against the wall. I just couldn’t get him off. I was crying and trying to push and kick but he was just too heavy and strong. We were both virgins when we started going out and we were both very considerate of each other, spending a lot of time discussing if, how and when we wanted to take things further. This is why I couldn’t believe what he was doing. Afterwards, he just laid next to me and went to sleep. I was pinned between him and the wall. It had finished but I still couldn’t move. I just cried myself to sleep.

The next day, I went over the “I’M SORRY” scar on my wrist with my knife as I felt it was my fault and I had something to feel sorry about. I also starting cutting myself on other parts of my body as I felt as though my body was worthless and didn’t deserve respect.

And again…

To try to stop it happening again, I would try and wait for him to fall asleep before I climbed into bed, started wearing more clothes but it never worked. To keep this short, between January and June it happened a few more times and he kicked and punched me on a regular basis. It got harder and harder to cover up all the bruises, not to mention the cuts I was creating. He knew about the increased cutting but didn’t care.

I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone about what he was doing as I felt like a hypocrite. How could I tell someone that my boyfriend was regularly beating me up and forcing sex on me when I was simultaneously injuring myself by cutting? I thought, well I obviously think I deserve to be hurt as I am cutting myself, so how can I have an opinion about my boyfriend hurting me? This viscous circle, my self-hate, low confidence and detachment from reality are what kept me in the relationship for much longer that I should have been.

What is wrong with me?

I detached myself from reality – just switched off my brain. I just floated from day to day, just doing what was essential to stay alive and stopped thinking all together. One night, I was ready for bed a lot early than normal, around midnight, and instead of climbing into bed, I put my skirt and shoes back on, grabbed my purse and just ran out of my flat. My college is on the edge of Durham and I ran down the road, all the way into town. I just walked around. It was either a Sunday or in the Easter holiday, or both and the town was eerily quiet. I had walked over a couple of the bridges and decided to walk over every one. I then walked towards the viaduct – a part of Durham I am not familiar with. I got lost but didn’t care. I just kept walking. I spent some time trying to stroke a hedgehog and later, a cat. I finally found my way out of the viaduct and started walking back to college. I got some chips and started walking back. My feet were in a lot of pain as my ballet ups were rubbing so I took them off and carried them. When I got back to college, I spent some time trying to stroke some rabbits but they were too fast.

The next morning, I was not sure whether it was a dream, but when I got out of bed and tried to walk, I realised I did actually go out as my whole body ached and my feet were dirty. I did that a few more times, but often just walked all the way up to the top of the Mound (our colleges central hill) and would just sit then in just a nightshirt, looking at how beautiful Durham is at night. It would be freezing up there but I never seemed to notice. I just stopped thinking – just pretended that I was not me.

After breaking up

When I first broke up with him, I spontaneously ran all the way into town from my college, without a coat or my phone and just my purse. I went into the bar/club where I used to work at, bought one drink after another. Each time a different, random drink. I was just stood by myself surrounded by people dancing and drinking with people. I hadn’t gone out at all during Epiphany Term because of all the trouble and upset from my flatmates etc and I just didn’t feel like I deserved to have fun. I remember making out with someone random – which I would never normally consider doing -and I don’t remember anything after the 7th or 8th drink. I do however, remember waking up with some random socks and boxer-shorts on my bedroom floor. I didn’t care as I didn’t care what happened to my body as I still thought it was worthless and free for anyone to do what they wanted with. Although, I did get myself checked out a few days later and everything luckily came back clear.

Back home

A few weeks after we split up, I had to move out of college and back home. I was hoping to concentrate on getting out of my depression and on my revision – but I wasn’t able to. My mum was very depressed herself, and was constantly asking me to make dinner, do the washing, washing-up tidying etc, despite the fact I had a lot of revision I needed to do and she was just playing games or watching TV. If I said that I couldn’t or I would in a minute, she would get very aggressive. That’s why, on the first possible day I could move into my new house (1st August) I did.

Being free

The other day, my friend invited me to watch her dance and I started to say “I just need to ask…” then I realised I didn’t need to ask for his permission – I was free to do what I wanted – in reason. I was so happy when I realised that.

However, my ex’s school is on the same road as the house I am renting and my friends are not moving in until next month. A few days after moving in, I was going round the house checking all the doors and windows were locked and I found the patio doors in the kitchen were unlocked. I locked them and went up to my room to work. When I came down for something to eat, my ex was at the bottom of the stairs. I screamed at him to leave but he just smirked. I was crying and screaming at him. I couldn’t run to my bedroom and lock the door quick enough and he picked me up and threw my onto the bed. After a lot of fighting, I managed to get him downstairs and out the house. I could not sleep that night. I was in a massive 8 bedroom house by myself in a very quiet area.

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What IS wrong with me? – Why am I self-destructing?

In these last few months since we broke up, I have been trying to get my head around what to make of it all. I have been trying to reconnect with the real world. The problem is, I am nowhere near normal, my exams start tomorrow and I know I have no chance of passing any of them. This means having to resit them next May so I won’t get any Student Finance and I will have to get a job/some jobs in the next few weeks as I need to earn over £170 a week just to keep on top of my rent, bills and food – not to mention my mum’s endless bills and debts – all while trying to revise for the resits.

Why can’t life be simple for once? I just want a bit of peace and happiness.

Hopefully this year will be a massive improvement on last year – especially as I am going to be living with 7 awesome people – but it is going to take time.

I shouldn’t be selfish – there are people much worse off than me all over the world. You just have to watch the news to realise that my problems are actually nothing compared to theirs.

My Personality Disorder Test Results

 

Paranoid |||||||||||||||||||||| 91% 50%
Schizoid |||||||||||||| 54% 40%
Schizotypal |||||||||||||||||||| 87% 56%
Antisocial |||||||||||||||| 66% 46%
Borderline |||||||||||||||||||||| 92% 45%
Histrionic |||||||||||||||||||||| 93% 52%
Narcissistic |||||||||||||||| 68% 40%
Avoidant |||||||||||||||||||||| 99% 48%
Dependent |||||||||||||||||||||| 93% 44%
Obsessive-Compulsive |||||||||| 40% 45%
*scores in gray are the average web score

 

Test Note: Read the descriptions below to avoid misinterpreting test results (for example, the Antisocial classification does not mean you are a loner, it means you tend to be insensitive towards others).

Disorder Info

Eccentric Personality Disorders: Paranoid, Schizoid, Schizotypal

Individuals with these disorders often appear odd or peculiar.

Paranoid Personality Disorder – individual generally tends to interpret the actions of others as threatening; preoccupied with suspiciousness/paranoia. They are stuck between their need for others and their mistrust of others.

Schizoid Personality Disorder – individual generally detached from social relationships, and shows a narrow range of emotional expression in various social settings; emotional zombies who stopped feeling due to trauma(s) and/or can’t feel due to organic depression

Schizotypal Personality Disorder – individual is uncomfortable in close relationships, has thought or perceptual distortions, and peculiarities of behavior; preoccupied with seeing themselves and/or the world as strange/odd

Dramatic Personality Disorders: Antisocial, Borderline, Histrionic, and Narcissistic

Individuals with these disorders have intense, unstable emotions, distorted self-perception, and/or behavioral impulsiveness.

Antisocial Personality Disorder – individual shows a pervasive disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others; Preoccupied with disdain/contempt for others and often a need for control/power over others.

Borderline Personality Disorder – individual shows a generalized pattern of instability in interpersonal relationships, self-image, and observable emotions, and significant impulsiveness. Core issue is an inability to regulate emotions.

Histrionic Personality Disorder – individual often displays excessive emotionality and attention seeking in various contexts. They tend to overreact to other people, and are often perceived as shallow and self-centered. Core issue is attention addiction.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder – individual has a grandiose view of themselves, a need for admiration, and a lack of empathy that begins by early adulthood and is present in various situations. These individuals are very demanding in their relationships. Core issue is entitlement.

Anxious Personality Disorders: Avoidant, Dependent, Obsessive-Compulsive

Individuals with these disorders often appear anxious or fearful.

Avoidant Personality Disorder – individual is socially inhibited, feels inadequate, and is oversensitive to criticism. Core issue is an inability to resolve their codependent need for connection with their codependent fear of rejection and/or discomfort/anxiety around others.

Dependent Personality Disorder – individual shows an extreme need to be taken care of that leads to fears of separation, and passive and clinging behavior. Core issue is the need to be parented by others (i.e. avoid growing up / becoming self-sufficient).

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder – individual is preoccupied with orderliness, perfectionism, and control at the expense of flexibility, openness, and efficiency. Core issue is mental and behavioral rigidity/inflexibility.

I-love-my-Mum_Mary-Middleton-Design

My relationship with my mum

  1. Just me and you
  2. Difficult times – mum’s physical illness
  3. Living on the street – not by choice – but not homeless
  4. Difficult times – mum’s OCD
  5. Difficult times – my OCD
  6. Difficult times – mum’s violence
  7. Manipulation
  8. Me

 

Just me and you

My mum and dad met whilst working at Glaxo and they went out for 2 years. When she found out she was pregnant and told my dad, she found out he was married with 2 sons and a baby daughter. She moved back in with her mum and she planned to go back to work after I was born and my nan was going to look after me during the day. However, when she was pregnant, my nan found out that her breast cancer has returned in her liver and it was terminal, so when I was born, my mum left her job to look after me and become my nan’s full-time carer. When I was 15 months, my nan died. Therefore, it has always just been me and her. We are more like friends, we can talk to each other about anything, even stuff like sex. Some people may think that kind of closeness is weird but I never did.

Difficult times – mum’s physical illness

When I was 3, my mum and I moved to Dorset where the houses were cheaper. My mum was very ill, suffering from very heavy periods which would last 3 weeks every month and massive blood clots would just fall out. From as young as 3, I would have to clean up after as if she bent over to clean it up herself, more would just fall out. I never complained though as I loved her and would never have considered doing anything other than helping her. I never considered it a chore.

She would always sit on a big, black bin bag which needed changing frequently and would take the roll of bags out with her wherever we went. She would put a bag down to sit on on buses etc, but I never felt embarrassed to be seen out with her and never actually ever considered it to be something people should have a problem with, it shouldn’t even be something for them to spend time thinking about. She was my mum and that’s what she needed to do. However, growing up and realising that it could draw attention and how judgmental some people can be, I realise how awkward and embarrassing it must have been for her.

She would frequently go to the doctors, begging for help, constantly asking for a historectamy so the problem would just go away. However, they kept turning her away, saying she was too yonng and might want more children despite almost being 40 with no partner.

When we moved to Co. Durham, her periods were just as bad and a lot of our carpets and furniture got ruined. After many operations, they finally stopped, but she has put on over 10 stone due to being depressed and not being able to exercise, meaning she is still far from healthy.

Living on the street – not by choice – but not homeless

When we moved to County Durham,  I came home from school to see my mum being wheeled into the back of an ambulance and driven away, and me left locked out of the house. That had happened a few times when we lived in Dorset and I used to just sit in our back garden and wait. However, our new house in Co.Durham has a very small graveled garden and had a very low fence which was falling down and the gate had been stolen. I tried to stay in the garden. There was this woman in the alleyway (which I now realise was a prostitute) who didn’t bother me but then there were these men in hoodies injecting themselves which made me feel unsafe as I had no protection in our garden, so I decided to go somewhere else. I walked passed the women in the alleyway who was with a man (now I realise they were having sex – but I was only 7 at the time) and as we had only just moved there I just headed towards my primary school as that was the only place I knew.

My school was on the other side of town. I had to walk over a metal bridge over the railway. The bridge was covered in graffiti and stank as it had things like dirty nappies stuck to the sides. I then had to walk down a path surrounded by trees, which at night, was terrifying. It started pouring with rain and thunder and lightning. I realised there was no point going to my school as it would be closed but I was almost there. I went into the nearby park, saw the skate park and decided to take cover under one of the ramps. I thought I was protected from the lightning, not realising that a metal ramp may not have actually been the safest place. I slept under there for 2 nights, walking all the way home to get stuff out of our bins to eat. I managed to find my way into the centre of town where I saw a bus heading to Bishop Auckland which is where I knew the closest hospital way. I followed it, obviously I would lose it, but then I would just keep walking, waiting for the next one to pass, until I got there. She had been rushed in for an emergency operation and a 4.5 pint blood transfusion.

She was rushed into hospital quite a few times, often leaving me locked out – it was as if no-one knew I existed.

Difficult times – mum’s OCD

Apparently, my mum’s mum and dad were amazing people, soul-mates and very loving and family-orientated. My granddad got a brain tumour and died a few months before my mum’s older sister was going to get married over 27 years ago. My Auntie Gilly was 28 at the time, my mum was 26, Uncle David was 21 and Uncle Alan was 18. My auntie almost cancelled the wedding but in the end, decided to go ahead. My mum was chief bridesmaid and Uncle David was best man. As my granddad was going to give my auntie away, she asked my Uncle Alan, who was only 18, to give her away. Unfortunately, as my oldest cousin is now 26, my granddad did not get to meet any of his grandchildren.

Obviously everyone was very upset and my mum started putting on weight and went fro a size 10 to size 18. However, my nan helped my mum loose it as they would take the dogs out for more walked etc.

However, when my mum was pregnant with me and my nan’s cancer returned and it was terminal, my mum left her job after she had me to be her mum’s full-time career. When I was 15 months, my nan died. Although it was hard for everyone, it was particularly hard for my mum as she had been there 24/7, cleaning up when my nan had sicked up blood etc. When my nan died, Auntie Gilly was married with 3 (out of now 4) children, Uncle David was married and although they had been struggling, his wife had just found out she was pregnant, and Uncle Alan was married and his wife was days away from giving birth. My mum was the only one without a partner to support her. Not only that but when she died, my mum and I lived in the big family house, while they all packed everything up ready to sell the house.

My mum did not want us to sleep upstairs as it brought back to many memories, so she slept on the settee in the lounge and I slept in my pram. She used to watch TV and eat all through the night. She started picking up habits such as having to go round kissing all the photos of the family before she went to sleep. This resulted in any that were not in frames to get ruined by her lipstick. I only found this out a few years ago when I was scanning old photos to put on facebook and when I saw them on the screen, they all had loads of lip prints on them.

When I started primary school, she developed certain things we would say to each other before I left for school. It developed and in the end it would take about 5 minutes for us to say it. This then developed into a note she would write for me every day and put in my lunch box. She would rip an A4 piece of paper in half and every morning, write the exact same thing but with a different date at the top. She never threw them away either and we ended up with massive bags full of them. We also ha a set of things we would have to say to each other before we went to bed.

At the time I thought it was normal as I never knew any different. However, looking back, it was very weird. If we got a word wrong, we would have to start over and she would say “I’ll talk to God” to make sure nothing bad would happen to us.

Difficult times – my OCD

I started making my own rituals without realising it. For example, whenever I got dressed, it had to be done in silence and if I heard anyone talking, even if it was people outside, I would have to take the item of clothing off and start again. Sometimes, I would be rushing to get dressed fro college and my mum would shout something up to me. She knew I had to get dressed in silence but obviously did not know when I was getting dressed. If she called out something to e when I was getting dressed, sometimes I was scream down to her that now I have to start again and it’s her fault if I miss my bus to college. Obviously it wouldn’t be her fault as her talking should not mean I have to get redressed and she had no idea I was getting dressed when she called. However, most of the time, I would just answer her and start again without shouting at her. I even used to take the item of clothing off and put it back on if I her her talking to our cat, Midnight.

I believed that if I didn’t get dressed in silence or didn’t check the door handle a certain amount of times or stepped on a crack on the pavement, that meant that something bad would happen to my mum. The thought of loosing my mum is the one thought I cannot bare. She is all I have. I think I stepped on a crack on the pavement on the way to school and came home to find my mum had been rushed into hospital. I got it stuck in my head that it was my fault and that the 2 events were somehow linked. I had many other rituals but I won’t go into them.

When I was 17, I finally managed to convince myself that my actions did not have any affect on whether y mum fell ill or had an accident. I managed to stop some of them such as getting dressed in silence although I would start doing it again if my mum took a turn for the worse or during exam times.

It was only when I moved to uni that I was able to stop most of them. My mum would ring me up about 10 times a day. She would have to ring first thing in the morning and last thing at night so we could say our special things. I was 18 and these had been going on since I was 4. I told her I wanted to stop saying them. She was hurt and upset, but she agreed. She still rings me just as much and every morning and night and still says the same thing to me every day. However, they set things she says are much shorter and less ridged.

For example at night, all she says now is
Her- “don’t forget to lie on your side”
me – “I won’t, you too”
her – “promise?”
me – “promise. you promise?”
her – “I promise, now get a good night’s sleep and I’ll call you at 7am”
me – “I’ll try, you too. Thank you. Night night, I love you”
her – “Night night, I love you too.”

This is MUCH shorter and less rigid than it used to be. It took her a while to get used to it but I think she is ok with it now.

Difficult times – mum’s violence

For as long as I can remember, my mum has had a violent temper. My mum’s family always had loads of different pets and when my nan died she had a westie dog which my mum took as although we didn’t have a lot of money, Auntie Gilly’s family and Uncle Alan’s family both had loads of pets of their own and Uncle David’s son was allergic. From as young as 3, I remember my mum would throw things at me or Defore (our dog – D – for dog :P ). She would kick one of us or throw things like remote controls. I remember when I was about 4, she got angry with me because I didn’t want to go to school as I was getting bullied. She grabbed hold of me, threw me at the armchair. I landed on my knees on the hard floor with my head on the armchair. She then proceeded to sit on my head. Unbeknownst to either of us, there was a mirror on the chair. When she sat on my head, the mirror broke and a piece of me cut the back of my neck. I still have a scab that won’t heal, over 15 years later.

If she took her anger out on the dog, she would immediately be apologetic to him, stroking him and making sure he was okay. Me, on the other hand, she would usually be apologetic but after a few hours, and sometimes she would never apologise as she believed it was my fault for winding her up or being in the way.

Growing up, I have learnt how to control her anger. I generally know how to diffuse a situation which may lead to violence. I often just make sure I don’t do anything which may annoy or upset her. However, sometimes when I am going through a difficult time myself, I am stressed or just tired, I may not deal with it in the best way and then she gets violent. For example, if she asks me to make dinner or hang the washing out but I am busy with work and I say “in a minute”, that makes her very angry and if I don’t do what she asked immediately, she gets very aggressive.

When I was 7 and we move to Co. Durham, I had a bunk-bed and whenever she would start to get violent, I would run up the ladder to the top bunk then pull the ladder up so she couldn’t get to me. Then I realised that she couldn’t climb the ladder as it hurt her feet so I stopped removing it but once she managed to climb up as she was so determined to get to me so I resumed pulling the ladder up so she couldn’t touch me.

I think me coming to uni has helped. I try to go home as little as possible but when I do, she is much less violent.

Manipulation

Whenever we had an argument, she would threaten to take an overdose with all her tablets (for diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol etc). She knew that would get to me and I would automatically snatch the tablets out of her hand, apologise profusely and beg for forgiveness. She knew I couldn’t handle the idea of loosing her.

That’s not to say I was an angel. I knew what buttons of her’s to press. Sometimes, if we got into an argument and she got violent, I would run out of the house, especially when I no longer had my bunk-bed. We usually argued at night and the thought of me being out in the dark by myself would mean that by the time I returned home, she was generally apologetic although we would continue to argue.

Debt

For as long as I can remember, I wasn’t allowed to answer the door in case it was the bailiffs, we always had to keep the blinds shut and had to hide when someone knocked. When I was 16 and started college, I got a job in a local pub (I know – illegal). I got paid about £3 an hour,worked from 7pm-2am and had to always wear short, tight dresses or skirts with high heels as part of the “customer service.” I spent more of my time acting like a bouncer than a bar tender or waitress. I hated it but wanted to help my mum as best as I could. However, after a year of working there, my boss made an advance at me and I threw a load of gravy at him, which surprisingly terminated my employment. When I started uni, I got a job in a very busy and popular bar, working over 24 hours each week from 7pm- 4am on the busiest nights of the week. My work really suffered but the threats of bailiffs and court actions were getting more serious and more frequent.

Me

I can’t cope with the idea of my mum dying as it will mean I will be all on my own. Since moving to uni, I have tried to get my mum to contact me less. Although I have been independent from a young age I think I have actually got more dependent as I’ve got older. In Dorset, I used to walk to school by myself from when I was 4, and I used to walk to school when we moved to Co.Durham despite it being a miles and me only being 7. From as young as 8, I started going out and doing weekly shops for us as otherwise we didn’t eat. I would make us food, as basic as it was, and I would do the washing, washing-up and general tidying. I was happy to get on a bus by myself or walk for miles by myself, in order to get things done. Obviously that hasn’t changed but I’ve realised I need someone to lean on. I can’t cope by myself.

During my first year at uni, I’ve done things in an attempt to be seen, as I often feel invisible and unloved, although I now realise that some of the things I did would appear weird to others. I am tired of having to be strong and just want to bit of happiness. However, university has been far from happy.

law-school

I may be different, but I never claim to be better

Different – but not better

I am coming to the end of my first year of studying Law at Durham University. I am the first person in my family to attend university and the first from my school to pursue an academic route. I don’t think that makes me a better person, though. Everyone should strive to do whatever they want to do with their life – as long as it doesn’t harm others – and it just so happens I wanted to stay in academia longer than those around me.

All my aunties and uncles and the 3 cousins who are older than me, all have jobs and are very hard-working. My mum has an older sister who is married with 4 children. Her husband, who has just taken early retirement, started at the company as an office boy and worked his way up to Director, with a flash company sports car, regular trips abroad etc. Their 3 older children all got jobs when they left school and their youngest is still at school. My mum has 2 younger brothers. The older of the two sadly lost his wife back in 2002 when their boys were just 6 and 2 years old, but he has done an amazing job with them and they are still at school. My mum’s youngest brother is married with two daughters, the older of which is finishing her A Levels and plans to join the army (or be a chef).

My mum left school back in 1976, in London when she was 16 with average CSEs and got a full-time job in Nat West Bank in the strand. She went from one successful job to another, working for massive companies, from Agfa Gevaert to Glaxo Smith Kline, getting promoted etc right up until she was 34 when she had me. When I  was 3, we moved to Dorset. My mum was very ill but managed to get a part-time job dong admin for a factory but the company went bankrupt after a few years. When I was 7, we moved to County Durham but my mum was too ill to work and was rushed in and out f hospital. She was slowly getting better and in 2006, she going a part-time job as a dinner lady at our local secondary school and we both started there on the same day. The job was meant to be temporary and she was trying to get a full-time admin job. However, her health still wasn’t great and after 8 years, she is still there desperately trying to get a better paid, more challenging job. She, like myself, does not have a lot of confidence but I have talked her into doing an OU degree course in Business Studies. She is really nervous about starting but I think once she realises how capable she is, it will do her the world of good.

Wanting to go to uni – but not knowing how and when

When I started secondary school, I didn’t know how many years I was supposed to be there for. I knew universities existed but I only knew of Oxford and Cambridge – due to the boat race. I knew there must have been more but I didn’t realise just how many. I didn’t know if you went to uni straight after school or if there was something in between.

In year 8, I realised that I was supposed to leave when I was 16, but I still didn’t know if you then went straight to uni. Our school used to have employment talks and talks from the army. We also had a couple of talks from a local vocational college but nothing about how to take an academic path. At the end of year 10, a teacher gave me an application form for a sixth form college, but I had no idea what that was. I applied anyway, someone came to interview me and I got accepted as they could see I was likely to get 5 C’s or more. It was only during my first year at college that I realised that I was supposed stay they for 2 years, start applying to unis in my second year, and hopefully go to uni when I was 18, typically for 3 years.

School and college

My best subject at school was Maths as I got an A* in year 9 and the highest anyone else got was a D. However, I hated Maths and had always wanted to continue with Biology. On the 17th of June 2011, my boyfriend at the time, Scott, and I ran out of the school as fast as we could after our last GCSE exam – Geography. We got the train to Middlesbrough and went to the see the film Bad Teacher while everyone else were crying and hugging over the fact that they were leaving school. I, on the other hand, could not have been happier to leave. Five very long and miserable years at that school, filled with bullying, kicking, punching, spitting, rock-throwing, name-calling, mind games, etc. I never did find out why I seemed to be singled out and picked on. One day it was because of my London accent, the next it was my hair, my spots, my walk, my quietness, my small bra size, yada yada yada. But none of that mattered anymore, I WAS FREE.

At the end of school, I was awarded the Moira Cansfied Award for Maths Excellence for being the only person to achieve and A* and I also won the award for the Best Overall GCSE Results. As I wanted to study Biology at uni, for my AS Levels, I chose Biology and Chemistry, then randomly chose Law and Psychology. The college also made me do Critical Thinking as although you needed all A*’s at GCSE and I (only) got 3 (Maths, Biology and French), they could see what kind of school I went to and saw that I had potential.

It was hard at college because everyone started with a group of friends from the secondary school, whereas I started on my own. I used to sit in one of the individual study booths in the library during break and lunch, trying to eat my lunch quietly and discretely. Half way through the first year, the girl I sat next to in Chemistry asked if I wanted to get lunch with her. We went to the common room, I waited for her to buy her dinner then we sat down. I had never eaten in the common room because all the tables were designed for groups of people. Even though she had friends fro her school and church with whom she would get the college bus, we seemed to hit it off and started spending all our tie at college together. We never saw each other outside of college as we lived too far away. I had a friend. AN ACTUAL FRIEND. Not like the friends I had had in the past who just used me for their own gain, but someone who actually cared about me.

What subject?

I got 3 A’s in Biology, Law and Psychology, and 2 B’s in Chemistry and Critical Thinking. Only after a few months at college I realised that I loved Law more than Biology although Bio did come a very close second. However, Chemistry came a close third and I was happy if I never thought about Psychology again. The problem was that Psychology was the subject I had done best in (95%) and out of the 4 subjects, I performed worst in Chemistry (79.9% – 1 mark away from an A!) so in the end I dropped Chemistry and CT, and continued with Bio, Law and Psych. I also chose to complete an EPQ researching the law on rape. I chose this area of research partly because my mum had recently told me about her boss raping her when we lived in Dorset. It made so many things make sense. I looked his name up and luckily for him, he is now dead. If he wasn’t, I would have happily gone down there and finished him off myself.

I realised Biology wasn’t the right subject to study at uni as it involves a lot of pratical work which I do not have the precision and patience for. At college, I loved learning about Biology but I didn’t like the practical side so much as I was always too clumsy and impatient. I have the highest admiration for the people who excel with the practical side, spending days in the lab, carrying out tests, figuring out unknown territory and finding ground-breaking (or piecemeal) knowledge, cures etc. I wish I was like that. But I think it’s best for me, and for the world of science, that I stay out of the labs.

How I got here

In year 11, a teacher suggested that  I should apply for the Supported Progression Scheme at Durham University. At the time, I didn’t even know that there was a uni in Durham despite having lived in County Durham for 9 years. I applied, got accepted, went on a week long summer school where I got to try out 3 subjects, but it was mainly focused on social activities such as putting on a talent show. My group decided to put on a dance to Lion King music and we got our faces painted as lions which I was worried about as I had really bad acne at the time (well, still do). We were the worst group but luckily we were the first to perform so hopefully our performance was soon forgotten. Although we could escape being associated with the bad performance as we had our aces painted. Nonetheless, it was a great show and a great week and I met some wonderful people.

I applied for the year 12 scheme where you had to choose the subject you wanted to study at uni. As I applied in the first few weeks of college, I chose Biology, although I soon changed my mind. Luckily, they provided a 3 day Easter residential where you can try your subject and one other and I of course chose Law as my second taster. After the residential, I applied to switch to law and luckily they accepted. In the summer of 2012, I went on a 3 day summer school to Northumbria Uni, followed by a week long summer school at Bristol Uni, followed by my week long summer school at Durham. By the time I arrived at Durham, I was exhausted and had become very ill. The other 2 summer schools were more about fun whereas the week at Durham involved 2 days of learning followed by 2 days of hard work which determined whether or not I got a guaranteed lowed offer from Durham. The mentors really wanted me to go home as my hands and feet were lumpy and swollen, I had a persistent cough and kept almost fainting. However, I was not going to let the opportunity go so I persisted, did y group presentation and handed in my individual report. A few weeks later, I got an email to say I had passed – only just – but I passed. I was thrilled. I had a guaranteed conditional offer from Durham (provided I did well in the arduous LNAT exam!) and the entry grades were lowed from A*AA to AAB. I was thrilled. Over the 2 years on the scheme, including 3 residentials and multiple day visits, I had fallen in love with it, and as it was only 2 bus rides (1hr) away from home, it meant that if my mum every got ill or needed me, I wouldn’t be too far away.

After the 3 day summer school at Northumbra, the idea of studying in Newcastle really scared me. I had an great time there but it was too concrete and urban for me, not to mention massive and I have no sense of direction. I liked the quirkiness of Durham. Despite its small size, you could live here for years and still stumble across places you never knew existed. I used to find the hills challenging but after my week at Bristol Uni in the scorching heat, I found Durham’s hills a doddle. I really liked Bristol Uni as well, but the distance from home put me off. I had to get an 8 hour coach journey down there by myself for the summer school and and 5 hour train journey back with multiple changes, and I couldn’t imagine doing that every time I wanted to come home. In the end, I applied to Durham, Bristol, Northmbria, York and Leeds, sat the arduous LNAT exam in Middlesborough on a very wet and stormy day which I was adamant I had failed. However, I receive conditional offers from all 5 unis. I obviously put Durham down as my firm choice. I would have put Bristo as my insurance despite the distance, however, Bristol, York and Leeds all required 3 A’s and as Durham had been lowed to AAB for me, I could not put any of them as an insurance choice. As Northumbria asked for ABB, I put them as my insurance choice. The only thing that put me off Northumbria was the size of the city and the amount of concrete.

Celebration

Summer 2013 was a very difficult time for me as I had to sit my exams only weeks after what had happened to me (re last post) but I just put it to the back of my head, pretended that it didn’t happen and got on with them. Results Day was amazing. I had got 3 A’s in Biology, Law and Psychology, and an A* in Extended Project (plus a B in AS Level General Studies which I didn’t now I was doing until the day before the exam!) I WAS GOING TO DURHAM!!! My mum and I celebrated by going for a meal at Wetherspoons in Darlington and my friend Holly and I celebrated over the summer by going for picnics by the river, going to a Jessie J concert, going to the cinema etc. We even went swimming whichwas a big deal for me as my face is covered in scars from acne and my back, shoulders and chest are covered in scars from when I had boiling acid chucked at me at school. She was going to Teesside to study Psychology and I was going to Durham to study Law.

 

Reflection

Looking back, I have no idea how I got here. I only learnt that there was more than 2 university in the country when I was in year 13. I seemed to have just plodded through life, knowing what I would like in the end, but having no idea how to achieve it and not knowing where I was supposed to go next. It’s a miracle that I am actually at university now. The majority of my peers here had their academic path planned before they left primary school, with their aim of getting a 1st in a good subject from Oxbridge or Durham. I, on the other hand, always knew I liked learning new things and was fascinated by science, especially Biology, but just happened to randomly pick Law as an A Level, just to fill my timetable, and ended up falling in love with it. I never chose to apply to Durham for the reputation, but rather for the awesome people I met here and the amazing times I had. I also loved Durham for the greenery. I know that sounds stupid, but I loved all the trees and quirkiness. I never chose Law for the well-paid jobs it can lead to, namely barrister or solicitor. I chose it because it fascinated me and it still does. I still keep up-to-day with Biology in the news but I knew I would struggle with the practical side. I’m still not sure what I want to do if I manage to survive my degree. I think I either want to be a teacher or police officer. Looking back at this school book my mum had when I was younger, where every year, she stuck in my school photo I answered the questions about who my friends were, my favourite sports, favourite subjects etc. For the question asking what I wanted to be when I was older, every year I would alternate between teacher and police officer and unfortunately, I am still just as indecisive, but luckily, I still have time to decide. Whenever I talk to someone at Durham studying Law, the question about jobs is always “so, do you want to be a barrister or solicitor?” and the look of horror when I reply with “neither, either a teacher of police officer” has surprised and slightly annoyed me. It baffles me that many people can’t understand how you can like Law but not want to be a lawyer. A job which largely involves being behind a desk and loads of paperwork does not appeal to me. I did consider the possibility of becoming a barrister but I always feared that I did not have the confidence, and my recent experience of mooting confirmed my fear. However, having a job where I get to help improve the community in a more hands-on way has always appealed to me. That’s why I want to either help keep the community safe by enforcing the law or help improve the education of children and young adults. However, before I start planning my career, I need to first survive my degree.

help

“The thing that happened last summer” – (26th May 2013)

This is my first post and I am about to write about something I have not been able to talk out loud about, so I am hoping that starting a blog will help. I started to keep a diary but the fear that someone I live with might read it stopped me from using it.

It’s been a horrible first year for me at uni. Something happened last summer, just before my last A Level exams, which I thought I was able to deal with, until my flatmates at uni turned on me at the beginning of this year, when they found out I live on a council estate and went to a state school. The stress and upset they caused triggered me to have a recurring nightmare, which started to haunt me during the day in the form of flashbacks. They were very distressing and debilitating and knew that they were based on what happened to me last summer, but I kept telling myself that it didn’t happen and it was just me going mad. However, when I was talking to my best friend from college on Facebook, I went back in our conversation and found a long conversation we had on the night that it happened, where I told her everything. It meant that my hope, that my nightmares and flashbacks were not of real events, was shattered. I could not bring myself to read it fully as I did not want to remember all the facts. I printed the conversation out and put it in my diary in the hope that I could pluck up the courage to read it at some point – but I haven’t.

So for the purposes of this post, I am going to write about the lead up and then just copy and paste our conversation. I am not writing this for an audience (unless anyone who reads it has a magical solution for me to pull myself together), I  am just writing it for me – in the hope that it may clear my head and bring a bit of normality back into my life.

——-

I was at college 16 hours each week as well as working behind the bar of a local pub over 30 hours a week. I would finish work at 2am and wake up at 5am to get my neighbour’s kids up, dressed and fed, and walked them to school and nursery. I would then get the 7:30 bus to college, get home around 5, then get to work for 6pm. The friends I had made at college lived miles away and the closest was Stockton. I never went out, partly because I didn’t have the time, but mainly because I didn’t have the money. Every penny I was making was going towards my mum’s bills and debts. I had grown up knowing she was constantly getting threats of bailiffs and court actions and I wanted to do all I could to help her.

The college only consisted of year 12s and 13s but had over 2000 students. Nonetheless, I had seen this particular guy around a lot because he was really tall and for the majority of the 2 years, he was going out with the daughter one of my Law teachers. We were in the same EPQ class in year 13 but had never spoken. He always seemed to treat his girlfriend with respect and they seemed a very cute couple (with about a 2 foot height difference). I got on really well with his girlfriend’s mum as she had been my Law teacher for the full 2 years and was my EPQ supervisor for my second year and she seemed to really like him. However, they split up a few months before the end of college.

It was Fri24th/Sat25th May 2013. A few weeks before my last A Level exams. I got a friend request from him. I accepted and we got talking and seemed to hit it off. We both did A Level Biology and he suggested we met up to revise together. As I was working so much, I hadn’t had a chance to start my revision and I thought that it might help. He lived in Darlington and asked if I could get the bus there and we could meet outside our college. I forgot that the buses ran differently on Sundays so couldn’t get the bus I usually got to college and had to get a different one which takes twice as long and doesn’t go near the college, so I had to get off in town and walk.

It was a really hot day and I was wearing a green dress with a belt and black high heels. I was still getting over a cold and still had an annoying tickly cough which I had told him about. We met in the park opposite my college and despite my high heels, he still towered above me. It was a bit awkward. I thought that we were going to stay in the park and sit on a bench or on the grass as we didn’t have any money, but he said that he knew of a park which was quieter and had picnic tables so would be easier to revise. We were walking for at least half an hour when he said that the park was further away than he thought and that there was a lake through the bushes we were near which we could use. I agreed as my legs were killing me. We climbed through the bushes but the lake was slightly flooded so we had to jump over some water onto a wooden walkway which stuck out into the late. He laid his coat down for us to sit on. We talked for quiet a while, got to know each other, made each other laugh, and talked a bit about our exams. He laid down to look at the clouds and suggested I did the same. I vaguely remember what happened next and have frequent flashbacks, but I don’t want to write about it, so I am just going to copy and paste the conversation I had that night with my best friend:

  • Me: Hey :) x
  • Friend: hey gal :) x
  • Me: What’ve you been up to today? :) xx
  • Friend: well our family just had a few friends over for sunday lunch so it was quite a relaxed day. What about you?
  • Me: Sounds nice :) Well, do you know *** ********?
  • Friend: yes i do, he was in my biology this year and last and i think he is *****’s boyfriend?
  • Friend: you still there? x
  • Me: I know he was her boyfriend for quite a while but they split up a few months ago.
    He added me on Facebook on Friday as he recognised me from our EPQ class and we talked quite a lot yesterday. He said that he wanted to meet up on Monday but I suggested today as tomorrow is a bank holiday. I did really want to start my revision but I never go out so I got a bus into darlo today. As it’s Sunday, I had to get a different bus and get off in town and we met at college. Neither of us had any money but he said that he knew a nice park we could go to. It was quite a walk and so decided to stop at a quiet lake. It was a bit flooded but we managed to leap onto a little wooden walkway that stuck out into the lake. We were chatting and laughing for a while but then suddenly he started kissing me and pushed me back. I tried to push him off but I couldn’t. He lifted up my dress and took of my knickers and started to use his fingers. It was really painful and I was constantly trying to push him off but I couldn’t. He then pulled down his trousers and was trying to, well you know. I finally managed to get through to him that I didn’t want to and he sat up and kept trying to push my head down towards his legs
  • Friend: you know for some reason i thought you were going to say that :( did anyone see? and did he – sorry to sound crass but actually put it in you, like do you think you might be pregnant and what happened after like did he apologise did you talk or go home?
    I’m so sorry for you Katie
  • Friend: also it’s really strange because *** doesn’t seem like that kind of boy, although i don’t really know him properly so..
  • Me: It was a very remote place. There were a few people around every now and then but not when this happened. He didn’t because I was fighting back and because I’m a virgin, my “cherry hasn’t popped” (sorry, didn’t know how to word it lol), so it wasn’t as straightforward for him, so I won’t be pregnant. It did really hurt though and I was in tears. When I got home, I had blood in my knickers even though my period finished over a week ago. He didn’t apologise, and that’s what I thought. I always thought he was really nice although we never spoke. I don’t know if it was some sort of rebound thing with *****.
  • Friend: maybe but he still shouldn’t have done it. i think you should still take a test just in case and you should tell your mum.I don’t mean to make you think about it but as you studied it , do you think what he did was rape? did you walk back to college together?
  • Me: He also put his hands inside my bra and was squeezing my boobs, then started licking and biting one of them, and made it bleed. I grabbed my stuff and clothes and ran off but he caught up and insisted he walked me to the bus stop which was a very awkward 50minute walk. I won’t be pregnant as he didn’t fully penetrate me and he didn’t ejaculate. I can’t tell my mum as she would seriously hunt him down and kill him. Also, she would be soo upset that I have lied to her as I told her it was nice and we just sat and chatted, although she thought he was going to ask me out or ask to see me again and she’s disappointed that he didn’t and she keeps telling me to text him and I don’t have an excuse to say no. It wasn’t rape as you need penetration but it may have been attempted rape, but I’m not really sure what to think.
  • Friend: you really need to tell your mum katie, you can’t keep it all inside. How do you feel?? Also don’t even think about texting him that would be insane!
  • Me: I’m still in a bit of pain but I just feel confused. I still don’t know how I got from accepting his friend request on Facebook on Friday to this. I haven’t texted him. I’ve told my mum I have and she keeps asking if he’s replied. She will probably get annoyed in a few days that he hasn’t replied and will forget thinking he would make a nice boyfriend.
  • Friend: I’m praying for you and maybe you should talk to God if you want, just let him know what’s happened even though he knows and he can keep you company and look after you. I also prayed that the pain will go away and that you won’t be scared. I really think you should tell your mum because she went through the same sort of thing so knows how you feel.
  • Me: Thank you :) I have and I am going to talk to him more. I don’t want to upset her though. If I told her, it would break her heart :(
  • Friend: that’s good :) and i know it will but you need to tell her she’ll be more heartbroken if she finds out years later and knew you had to struggle through it without her. I’m really sorry this happened to you Katie it breaks my heart too. Please look after yourself chick :( I’m sorry but I’ve got to go to bed know, I hope you sleep well and we’ll talk tomorrow. Love you xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Me: I don’t want him to get into trouble though as I think that he is a nice person but just did something bad. I will. You look after yourself too :) I hope you sleep well and thank you for listening to me, sorry if I’ve now depressed you. Love you too xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Friend: any time Katie, goodnight :)  xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Me: Thank you, Goodnight :)  xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx