There was a particular time a few years ago when I wrote about a time when I was unwell, with depression. I have no history of depression and have not had it since, I was ill for a short period of time and now I am better.
I don’t regret it at all, writing what I did, I think I helped people.
However…. There has been a slight downside to it all, which I did not foresee at the time. When you write, you write your thing and then you move on. However for people reading; your words become immortalised in time, forever frozen. So I still now get people giving me a sympathetic look and they say “How are you? Hope you are well?”. I have to stop myself looking behind me to see if they are actually talking to me. And for a good year afterwards the best one was…. “Are you back at work yet?” “Back at work? I went sick in 2013 for six weeks; of course I am back at work!” That’s like me saying to them “How are you? I know you broke your leg a good three years ago but is it really mended?” I know people are just trying to be nice and kind, I get that and I feel a tad mean for having a little grumble but really they should ask themselves why are they still enquiring? It would be different if it was back then, when I had just come back to work, I would have loved it if people had asked me how I was but to still ask am I ok now years later?
I think it perhaps demonstrates how uncomfortable some people still are around issues like depression. Although times are definitely changing and people are generally much more understanding. I think we still have some way to go, I don’t think we are yet at that place where there is absolutely no stigma left and mental ill health is as accepted and understood in exactly same way as physical ill health.
Part of me fears it may be exactly the same as this blog, by writing about uncomfortable subjects, people sometimes think you should for evermore be treated with kid gloves. That it makes you perhaps a weak link, or in some way vulnerable.
So I guess what I am saying, it’s not people like me who talk and write about stuff you need to worry about. Be more aware and kind to the people immediately around you, the ones who don’t talk, the ones that maybe don’t quite seem themselves. Your best mate, your work colleague, a family member, maybe even yourself?
When you start reading the following, you may well be asking “Why on earth are you sharing this?” My answer in return would be “Why on earth, shouldn’t I?” Maybe when you reach the end, you will understand why. I think some people will understand, others might not but that is ok.
So anyway here goes, when I make a decision to publish something I have written, I never do it on a whim. I spend hours, days and weeks thinking about the possible impact of pressing that button. So please do not think I have not given this considerable thought. Without doubt this is the right decision for me and in doing so may help others. I have also consulted with people who know me and personally know this story, to forewarn them I am writing this and I have their approval.
My story isn’t really even that shocking, yet even so, all my life it has left me with feelings of anger at being manipulated, plus guilt and shame. These feelings must be magnified many times over for people who have experienced worse.
I do however feel that after this blog, for a while I may take a little break from the heavy stuff and go back to just writing my silly, funny, life observations. Like my early blogs, Death by Cornish Pasty, 1970s white dog poo, or bathrooms and piss witches.
Don’t share your dirty laundry in public!
I agree. I cringe sometimes when I see what people share on social media, be it the fact they have just had a row with a neighbour, or so and so is having an affair with the postman, or even that they themselves have got a nasty case of thrush. Sometimes the world just does not need to know these things.
However what about when someone else’s dirty laundry has ended up in your nice, fresh, clean laundry basket and it festers there for years, making your own washing always feel like it is a bit grubby?
You kick it out! So after thirty-odd years by writing about it that is what I am doing today.
So I think this is the right point where I should put in one of those warnings – the following could be upsetting or triggering to anyone who has experienced the same.
Being groomed by a paedophile
Like many pre-teens, I had low self-esteem and a desperate need to be liked, it is important that I tell you that, so you can understand how what happened next, happened.
What follows now is text book grooming, I know that now as an adult with 26 years in the job, with many, many years in Child Protection. However you have to remember this was back in the late 1970s/early 80s, people did not have such an awareness of things, especially me; I was only a child.
So the old man who lived on his own opposite, he is dead now, been dead for many years. He always seemed to attract lots of children in his garden and house. In the summer he would put the garden sprinkler on all day and the kids would love to play on the lawn and jump through the water. He always had toys and teddies in his windows and house, even though he lived alone and had no young children or young relatives of his own.
I was slightly older than the other children who visited him, I was 12/13 at the time. With me he would help me with my homework, teach me to play chess (to a very high level, I would add) and do general knowledge quizzes. See, for other kids it was all about the toys and the garden sprinkler but I was not interested in that.
I liked reading, writing, learning about life – anything that engaged my brain. That’s what paedophiles do; they find what the hook is for that individual child. So he told me I was important, he told me I was very clever, he told me I was his favourite, and that I was his best friend. He made me feel like I was a special person.
I remember one night my mum wasn’t home, she was ill and an ambulance had taken her to hospital. I was asleep in bed. I felt someone stood above me, I woke up and he was stood there. It was about 11pm, he had let himself in with the spare key; my mum had given it to him, to be an in-case-of-emergency person. My mum had no idea of what he really was; remember paedophiles don’t just groom the child; they groom the whole family and the whole neighbourhood.
I woke up startled, with him staring down at me, saying “Don’t be frightened, I often like to watch you sleep, you look like an angel when you sleep.” I remember thinking, bloody hell! That’s a bit freaky! And then I went back to sleep.
Now as an adult, two thoughts have continuously haunted me over the years. The first being Oh hell! I hope he waited until he got home to knock one out. The second, even more disturbing thought was, his words “I often like to watch you sleep.” How many times had he done this before, how many times had he crept into our house to watch me sleep?!
Anyway shortly after this incident, he started to become quite distant and irritated with me. I felt like I was nothing more than a nuisance and an irritation to him. He never wanted to play chess or chat about life stuff anymore. I felt really rejected and thought it was my fault, that I must be a really awful person. A lot of younger children were now visiting and as soon as they turned up, he couldn’t wait to get rid of me.
I can tell you everything about that day, up to a point. Even though it was over 30 years ago, it was like yesterday. The image, along with other traumatic events over the years, is forever burned into my brain. However this is one of the most vivid.
I had been over his house when a small child turned up. They must have been 5 or 6 years old at the most. I didn’t know the child, it was just a local kid from the neighbourhood and I have never seen them since. As soon as they turned up, he – as what was now becoming the norm – was desperate for me to leave.
So I said goodbye and I left.
I started walking back over the road to my house, when I stopped. Every part of me told me something was wrong but I was not old enough to articulate in my head what exactly I was sensing. I just knew something was wrong. I just knew I had to go back to his house, and I needed to sneak in, and I needed to be quiet.
I let myself in the house, they were not downstairs. I walked quietly upstairs. I remember stopping for a second and watching the sun shining in through the landing window. I quietly opened his bedroom door, I can still remember my hand slowly turning the door handle. I opened the door and I saw him with that young child… and I saw what I saw.
Time froze at this point, everything went weird in my head, I know now I was in shock. I remember him saying “Please don’t tell anyone!” I replied “I won’t tell.” I then shut the bedroom door, walked back out of the house and went straight back home, immediately told my mum and the next thing I remember were police turning up, and a crowd of neighbours gathering in street.
A male Police officer took a written statement from me in our lounge, I remember it was all very awkward for him and me. I remember him asking me to ‘describe it’ . Me thinking, what? What? Describe what? There was this uncomfortable few minutes where he was trying to give me clues as to what he was talking about and me pretending I was so worldly wise, when really I didn’t know what the hell he meant.
He then looked up from his paper, put down his pen and said “Did he have an erection?” I answered “I don’t know.” He then said, “You do know what an erection is don’t you?” I can remember so clearly thinking, of course I do, I also know what blow job and wanker is, as me and my mates have been chatting about it at school.
The truth was, I didn’t know whether he had an erection or not. When I opened that door, I saw what I saw and time stopped. I looked away and stared at the bedroom wall in the far corner of the room. It was shock! Pure and simple, at that point I couldn’t even remember my name, let alone the state of his penis.
Anyway regarding him, he was arrested, pleaded guilty, and went to prison. Then when he came out, he died a few years later.
Me? Well I can’t remember as a child ever really thinking about it again after that day. I know though, following this I started misbehaving. It may have been just general teenage angst, or anger about what had happened, I don’t know. However shortly after I started getting into trouble at school; skiving, being cheeky, smoking, and engaging in risky behaviours.
Haha! I laugh when I say engaging in risky behaviours – the most rebellious thing I did was sticking a 5lb bag of King Edwards under my jumper and walking out of the greengrocers without paying. It is ok, don’t panic, I was never really an evil criminal mastermind, the intention to permanently deprive was not there. I just wanted to see if I could get away with it. I immediately felt terrible guilt and took them straight back into the shop and told the greengrocer I had forgotten to pay. He just sort of rolled his eyes and sighed and that was that.
Prior to publishing I have discussed this blog with a few people to gain feedback and gauge reactions. During this, I have been asked if this is why I decided on a career in policing, in particular is this why a large part of my service has been in child protection. My answer is perhaps subconsciously it was a factor, I really don’t know. What I do know is the moment I finished in Child Protection I felt like I had no purpose. I needed another way to feel I was helping people; this was when I then set off on my mental health and wellbeing at work path to try and help my work colleagues. Although that doesn’t make me anything special, everyone feels like this, we all need a purpose and we all want to feel we are helping others.
So really that is where this story should end. However it didn’t, as I have carried it in my head all my life, buried deeply. Mainly the feeling of guilt, terrible, terrible guilt.
As an adult I would look back and think. You left them there! You left a small child in a room with a child sex abuser. It was only a matter of minutes but still, I have spent years trying to forgive myself for that but it is so hard. I know I was only a child myself and I know I was in shock, but now I am a police officer for god’s sake, years in child protection. Why didn’t I grab them?! The nightmares I have had over the years where I relive that day… in my dreams I am now an adult and I burst in, I grab the child and nick him.
When I was unwell in 2013, I was dealing with a CP job at work with many similarities to what I had experienced. Nothing unusual with that really, as I had dealt with hundreds of similar jobs in the past, and had never connected the two or thought about it before. However this time because I was unwell, the past where I had unresolved memories was becoming the present. So for example I would go home and wake up having nightmares confusing and connecting the current CP job with my memory of what happened to me. Him from the past would appear in my dreams.
So one reason for writing this is when someone goes sick with ‘stress’ (hate that saying as it is never just stress) please, please always be kind. That final incident, is very often never the real reason. It can be many many life and work things that have built up over the years.
When they go sick, you might believe they are making it up, you might feel resentful that you are now covering their workload, you probably feel under pressure yourself. That is understandable but please always hold this thought in back of your mind; You don’t know them! You don’t know their past; you don’t know what has brought them to this moment. They really will have not done it on purpose; they most likely feel terribly scared at what is happening to them and feel very alone, I know I did.
I know it is possible, a few people reading this may think, “Well just suck it up buttercup!, don’t be a wuss, just toughen up. Or if you want sympathy, best you find it in the dictionary between shit and syphilis as you won’t find it here. And that is fine, as long as this maybe makes them question why they think that then that is all I could ask for.
DCC Andy Rhodes said on Twitter “Emotional numbness is a negative form of resilience brought about by repeated exposure to pain/trauma”.
So, so very true! I think that often happens to people in the emergency services, we look after the public but can be quite hard and judgemental on each other at times.
Just remember these people, these work colleagues, these humans; we are all on the same side. We all have skeletons in our closets, it’s called life and it can be tough at times. So please, please always be kind, it could one day be you, never think you are infallible.
Anyway that is the first reason for writing this, but it is not the main reason.
My main reason for writing is this; it should never have been my dirty little secret in the first place, it was always his.
So today he can have it back!