Hi, this is an article I edited for the CEO of Umbrella, a charity which works towards providing better mental, social and community health. More information can be found on their Facebook page:
Here is another source of information:
This piece revolves around one woman called Anita who has a story to tell. My role in editing this piece was to comb through for spelling and grammatical mistakes and “storyfi” the bits outside of the dialogue (which are true quotes from Anita). I did this by going through what had already been written and rejigging it a bit. Here is the final piece.
“I answered your ad, because…well, because I agree. It is true I think, that we all, everyone has a story to tell. A story no matter how small they think it is, a story that will help others, and yes I guess on some level I also wanted to put something back, do something inspirational, but I think most of all it just feels like the right time to tell someone my story, to leave my stamp on the world, make my mark.”
There was a matter of fact-ness about Anita. Not so much a lack of emotion or a distance from herself, but quite the opposite in fact. Anita was very in touch with her emotions and you could not help but like her.
“I don’t know if my story will do that, but I have a story tucked away. It is a story with sadness about rejection, self-hate, anger, rage even, it is about fear and hurt and pain and loneliness, and it is about a darkness indescribable. About being a victim and about a choice. My choice. I chose to survive and well, now? Now I am choosing to thrive”.
Anita paused, a smile touched her lips. The smile was not for me, but was for herself. It was a smile of recognition, a well-deserved smile of pride for what she has overcome.
“For a long time I lived in a surreal film, one of those arty horror flicks that don’t even make sense to the people that wrote them let alone anyone in the audience. Nothing made sense, nothing felt concrete, as if Salvador Dali was the script writer to my world. I did everything I desperately could to avoid re-experiencing those early feelings as a child, anything to avoid sheer chaos and terror. There is no need for myself to share the ins and outs of these stories, these memories but, to give you an idea, a summary, it involved me at a young age being hurt, damaged and violated. I do not share those three words lightly, far from lightly.”
Again, she paused. Anita took in a deep, methodical, breath, letting it go moments later in an equally methodical way. The rain ran down the glass front of Barista, a local coffee shop on Birley Street in Blackpool. Many people come to share their stories with Umbrella here. It seems to present a feeling of, calmness, maybe. A safe space. Anita looked at me over the rim of her coffee and continued.
“As I got older I came to see more clearly that I was a victim of a series of unfortunate events. The life of a victim is one of sadness and misery and of no self-esteem. You know you have been treated unfairly. You start to blame everything that goes wrong in your life on that one event or those events where you were taken advantage of. I felt helpless, over powered, defeated, crushed, trampled on and left an empty shell of a person. My heart was broken, my trust was taken away and I felt lost and alone.”
“Do you want to know what the strange thing was?
Suddenly sunshine broke through the lingering clouds, illuminating the scene. Umbrella and Anita both broke into laughter.
“I’ll take that as a sign then.”
“I had a light bulb moment. More realistically I had a series of light bulb moments that lead me to realise that part of me felt comfortable living the life of a victim. That sounds awful to say.”
“Let me explain myself. The pain and hurt each day was……familiar. Constant. Reliable, always there and almost at times, a friend. But, years of suppressing those emotions made me tired, confused in my mind. I ran out of energy to push them back and they started to push to the front of my mind. My emotions began to consume me. I started to fear for my own life, my own actions, my thoughts, my words. But somewhere inside I began to know that living the life of a victim was no longer for me.”
“I began to make a choice. I decided to be a survivor.”
The door opened and the shop filled with the sounds of people escaping the harsh, unforgiving weather of Blackpool. The sounds combined with the low hum of coffee machines and the Latin beats combined to give the heady feeling of winter during summer.
“For me, you see, being a survivor meant going to war. War against myself, against my own mind and my demons. Some days I won the battle and some days I lost. Surviving at times was a struggle, I fought, I wrestled and I at times, won.”
“I faced bit by bit, step by step how I really felt. I allowed myself to feel a little at first then more. There was so much terror and pain locked away that I could barely glimpse at first. Being extremely kind to myself was my main focus to survive this ordeal and I went out of my way to do anything that would allow me to feel happy or make me smile. I began to expose myself to life again.”
Anita went to the counter and brought back two coffees, returning to the little table by the rain sodden windows. She had an air of, peace, around her. She moved with the ease of someone who had found peace within themselves.
“You know, now I can see why I chose to live all those years as a victim. In some ways it is easier to live with the sorrow and pain each day. Sure it hurts but fighting against it to get better, to be healthier, to be happy takes effort, hard work and is beyond exhausting. It means standing up each day and deciding to be strong, even when inside you fear the very moment of being awake.”
“During this time I pushed myself to keep going, to try my best to live a normal life all the while fighting the demons in my own head. I faced my own anger issues, my own dark depressions, I worked on my hate and my fear. I fought to stay alive, I clung to any reason to live, I worked hard to forgive, I sought validation, I sought acceptance and I sought peace of heart and mind.”
Anita takes another pause, sprinkling and the stirring the brown sugar into the depth of her drink, rotating the spoon clockwise. Time ticking forward. She withdraws the spoon, tapping it against the glass, a porcelain chime ringing out.
In one fluid action, with the grace of a gymnast, she sits up straight bringing the cup to her lips and drinking the brew. She lets out a sigh of satisfaction. She stays up right, looking forward as if this is what she has really come to Umbrella to say.
“I am happy living life as a thriver. To me a thriver is not someone who is happy all the time, that isn’t possible. No, someone who thrives is someone who is always trying to move forward and who genuinely tries to grow and develop. I believe in taking time out to care for myself. My ultimate goal through all of this has been to stay mentally sane, to keep it real and to respect and acknowledge how I feel each and every day. I have worked really hard to earn every ounce of self-esteem that I possess, every ounce of self-respect and every ounce of happiness.”
“I no longer live a life where I am always seeking the approval, the acceptance and the validation of my actions or thoughts from others. I get up each day and count my blessings. I plan my life so that I move forward, experience new things. I test myself and I fill my life with love and good deeds. I still have days where I feel low but the difference is now that… I now allow myself to feel”.
“In my soul I no longer have hidden boxes of sorrow. I have a heart full of love filled with my family and my life. I have replaced bad memories with loving, joyful and fun family moments. My life is still not easy and on some days it can be a battle but I am no longer a victim or a survivor, I am a thriver and a thriver knows how to take a stand. A thriver aims to grow and that is what I plan to do for the rest of my life”.
Anita smiles warmly, inviting Umbrella’s final question. “What do you do if, or when, painful memories come flooding back?”
“They don’t often these days but when they do as a general rule they hold less power over me. They cripple me so much less than they did a few years ago. That’s not to say I don’t feel pain at times. That I don’t cry. But I am in a place now where I can and do speak to that little girl inside. And I remind her that she can rest now, she is free, the pain isn’t happening anymore and she will grow up to be happy.”
Only a few years ago did Anita fall into a black depression. She was moved around different Mental Health Services finally resulting in an attempt to take her own life.
After deciding to take control over every aspect of her life, years on Anita is a mother, a wife, and is studying for a degree in Film. Anita is from, and still lives in, Blackpool and she has a passion for Film Noir movies.