Saying Good bye to ‘Fragmentz’ – Part 1

I’m saying goodbye.

Goodbye to  ‘Fragmentz’ – both on Twitter and eventually on this blog.

This is the first of a couple of blogs that I’m going to be publishing over the next day or two explaining where things are at and why ‘Fragz’ will no longer be …

It may be a bit ‘bitty’ and long but please bear with me, its really important for me to write this out.

Last year I quietly (yeah, I can do quiet sometimes) embarked on a little journey on my own, a journey to try and seek out a way to live a healthier and happier life. I knew this meant I finally had to address some of the issues my life has and does face, including issues with my self esteem, weight, and the constant horrific nightmares that have plagued me forever and a day, and still do.

See, in the grand scheme of things, the nightmares, the weight, my self esteem have been insignificant. When the bigger picture is about fighting to stay alive, and not die, other things take a back seat. Fade into the background. Are not important. And that has been ok. Because when life was consumed with blackness, and I had a desperate longing to kill myself, and when self harm and destruction was my normal way of coping; having a nightmare, or not thinking I had any value, or whether I was too fat or not didn’t matter. Nothing mattered then.

When I took the overdose, just over 5 years ago, I expected to die. I wanted to die. But I didn’t. I lived. I was alive. But that was about it. I was empty. The years before that, when I thought I was low, and could not get any lower, I did. Life did. Until I was nothing. Or thought I was nothing. But I was alive.

And thats when ‘Fragmentz’ entered the picture. I joined twitter, and was blogging/writing on another site under a different name. During one of the particularly messy months of life, I deleted everything, and went ‘offline’ for a while. And then I realised that writing had become a tool for me. A way to process. A way to reflect, think, sort what was going round my head. An outlet. And so one night, not too long after the OD attempt, with a few bottles of wine and several packets of ciggies I reconnected with the online. And Fragz was born.

That evening had been particularly tough – when it had been decided to let me home, and not section me, the Crises team had taken everything out of my flat that I could have used to hurt myself with, i.e knives/razors. So I smashed the mirror the bathroom. I had a ‘needs must’ mentality. The problem with that was that it was quite a hard mirror to smash. Instead of breaking into big pieces with sharp edges so I could use bits as a makeshift razor, it actually sharded. I continued trying to break it/smash it to get something from it that was useable. In the end I threw it, in temper and frustration. I was walking from the bathroom to the lounge via the kitchen, and I just chucked it, really hard on to the floor. So hard that it did smash this time. But not into anything useful. It smashed into thousands of tiny little pieces. Little shards. Into tiny tiny fragments. And I crumbled on the floor, in the kitchen, surrounded by these tiny tiny little fragments. And thats how I felt. Like tiny little fragments of life, totally smashed and crushed, and broken. (you may remember a blog or a poem I once wrote about a vase smashing into tiny tiny pieces, being broken and broken and broken until all there was left was dust – that was inspired by this). I was alive, but all I was was little fragments of mess and more mess. Thats what my life was. Fragments.

It was the perfect name for twitter, and a blog. In which I vowed to use as my space and place to be as open and honest about how I was feeling as possibly, because for that time of life, I felt totally alone, alienated, and unable to express to anyone what was going on behind the closed doors. I was alive, but I was not pleased about it. I was breathing but I didn’t want to be.

And so I started, tweeting and blogging. And people starting reading, and following, and I started to engage with people again. And as time went by, a few more people followed me, and a few more people would read my blog. And then every now and then I would write something that someone would like, and pass on, and then it was passed on again, until sometimes a blog or something I’d written had thousands of people reading them.

I wrote about depression, self harm, being a survivor of abuse as a child, being a survivor of rape as an adult, about church, God, life, everything and anything in-between. I would write what was on my heart, stuff I was unable to verbally speak out. Stuff that for a long time I was unable to look anyone in the eye and say. Stuff that I felt so ashamed of, and so alone in that I felt unable to even utter that I was struggling to the ‘outside world’ because I didn’t want people to think I was weak.

What I wanted was people to see a happy person. A strong person. The person everyone thought I was. I wanted people to see what they saw, and nothing of behind the closed doors. That meant when I first moved back to Lincolnshire, after the assault, and leaving London, no one knew what had happened/was happening. It felt unsafe.

And yet, I found the space and place to express everything and anything that was going on here. And on twitter. By writing, by poetry, by art, by photography, and by talking, honestly, openly and bluntly online. Because I was ‘fragmentz’. And that was ok. It was OK for Fragz to be herself, because there was a distance. A barrier by default, the computer. It meant I could be honest but not have to look into anyones eyes. Or have them look into mine, because the last thing I would want is people to focus on me, because I inherently believed that I was worth nothing. Even to this day, I struggle at times when people look at me, look me in the eyes, especially if people are being nice to me or we are talking deep. So I find myself looking downwards often. And its why I found myself being able to communicate much more easily online than face to face. Especially when addressing the issues that have affected me, such as the abuse.

I never pretended to be anything online, so much so that my bio has always said ‘I appear to be intellectually challenged at times and very uninteresting. Am good at saying alot about nothing in particular’ because I never sought out for people to take any notice of me. I started on the assumption that no one would anyway, because who cared? But writing, having this blog, being Fragmentz was for me. My outlet. I didn’t care what anyone else thought. I really didn’t (hence managing to often get into confrontations with people).

But I attracted people, because of the things I was writing about. People related and engaged, and I discovered a whole new world of people, online, who were like me. Who had no idea how life turned out to be so fragmented. Who had no idea which way to turn next, or who struggled with the big things and who were not easily placated. I discovered people who knew what it was like to be told ‘get a grip’ or things like ‘God intended all this stuff to happen for a reason’ and could relate to the desperateness of feeling out of control.

As life progressed for me, I started to manage to control life a little bit better. With the help of professional’s who took me through counselling, and a CPN who to this day I will always be forever thankful for, I started to learn to live again. Slowly. And it feels like its been really slow. But I started to learn to live again. I started to learn to laugh again, and very very painfully started to learn that I could and can love others again, and that possibly they can love me. And so thats what I worked on. I worked hard on controlling the self harm desires, the destructive behaviour, the smoking. I rebuilt. Rebuilt to get to where I am right now, where I sit and write this blog, right now, having not self harmed for several years (something I’d done for 10 years or more) and being deeply grateful that I did not succeed in my attempt to die.

And that took me to last year, where as I said at the beginning I embarked on my own little journey, during which my GP suggested counselling again. Something called EMDR, which is a type of therapy that focusses specifically on trauma. At that point I’d been discharged from all mental health services for a couple of years, and the thought of going back into the ‘system’ albeit in a totally different way ie through choice, and it being a community service as opposed to a crises one. He felt that it could be a way forwards. I was not convinced. And so I started to think about other options available …

One of the things I am very good at, is believing things for other people. I’m very passionate about people, other people, and their value and worth. I believe one hundred per cent that people are beautiful, complex but beautiful, and that everyone, everyone deserves love. Everyone except me. And in the process of rebuilding life, learning to live, laugh and love, the most hardest part was the ‘being loved’ part. I became so aware of the painful reality that deep deep down in my soul I don’t believe I deserve to be loved. But it was easier to focus on other people, throw myself into loving others, by doing the job I did, by being part of a church again, by supporting people online and offline in support networks and survivor groups, and generally be the strong person for everyone else. And forget about what I felt about myself. Except I couldn’t/you cant. Its not that easy to just forget, anything, whether its an experience/trauma or just what you have inside your head. For a while I managed it, but all the time it would come back to me, my own failings, my hatred for myself. But I’d push it to the side. I’d gone back to church, I as rebuilding life, doing everything we should do to be a good person. But it didn’t and hasn’t bridged the gap. The hole. I even embarked last year on trying to pick up where I left off when I moved to London. The whole point of taking a few years out to go and work for a church in East London had been to progress with the idea that God was calling me into ‘ministry’ (ha). So I started to pursue that again, last year, too. Thinking that it would bridge the gap. Fill the hole. Sort everything out. Make me a better person. Thinking it was a good step forwards, picking up where things were so abruptly halted. But it wasn’t meant to be. The Church of England don’t want me as it happens, but thats ok, I’m not sure I want it either but it went very badly, to the point where one meeting I had with the one person I needed to impress I was left me unable to speak. In the meeting. I couldn’t open my mouth. As you’ve gathered, I’m not often lost for words. But I could not speak.

So the journey progressed, I continued growing stronger, jumping around a bit when it came to God, and church, but I got stronger. Have got stronger. AM stronger. And I started to started being able to vocalise my story more openly, able to support other woman who had experienced similar situations, and be able to share where I have been. I got more and more involved in conversations about abuse, rape, surviving etc. I wrote a couple of blogs, that got a lot of attention, and I’ve found myself being asked every now and then to write something specific or to be involved in a particular conversation. I found myself becoming the person people thought of if they needed to talk about the issues I became known for writing about. I became known as ‘fragmentz – the survivor’. I had several organisations approach me to link up. Several radio stations contacted me, all via ‘fragmentz’.  But that felt like a good place to be. A strong place to be. Surely that meant I was doing ok? That meant all was fine, I’d come through the darkness, I’d battled the clouds, and come through the other side. After all, thats what people told me, thats what I told people, gave the impression of, and to some extent its not wrong. I’ve passed through the darkest of dark for the time being, and can look back and see there is hope. Hope for someone like me, a survivor. And I felt I needed to be there/support/tell this to others.

And so ‘Fragmentz’ evolved. Fragmentz moved from being the broken shards, simply writing because there was no where else to express what was happening and the horrors of life, to being someone who ‘spoke out’. Became a voice. The last six months that continued more and more, my time line got busier, and I started to get involved in stuff both online and offline. I started focussing mostly on issues that affected woman, tweeting and retweeting and throwing myself into the never ending conversation about things like rape culture, and the never ending talk on issues that were in the media that day relating to abuse and rape. It felt really empowering to begin with. I felt like I had something to contribute. And that I was strong enough to. And so it went. But it soon started to consume me. It soon became the only thing I talked about it. The only thing I tweeted about, or retweeted. The only conversation I’d have with people would be about violence against woman, rape, rape culture, my own story. It became really heavy. Really heavy on my heart. But I continued because its what I had become, its what I knew, what people knew me as. I think I became dependant on it. Defined by it.

All the time in the back of my head was the journey I had started that I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, 18 months ago. Seeking out a healthier and happier me. To begin with, being this person, being ‘Fragz’ felt like that was a part of it, but over the months I then started to question who Fragmentz was. Who Fragz is. I started to question whether I had become two different people. Or whether ‘Fragmentz’ had become more of a persona than anything, and that I was living up to that persona. And that was impacting how I wrote, tweeted, lived. And how I related to and communicated with people offline too.

A few weeks ago, someone approached me and asked me to share my story for something they were involved with. I don’t know why, because usually I’d be happy to, because I had gotten good at talking the talk, saying what I needed to, not going too deep so it affected me particularly but being explicit enough that I was able to connect with and reach out to other people who needed support that I could offer – but anyway, I would normally say yes. But this time I was not sure, and spoke to someone who I respect very much. Their only hesitation, and their piece of advice was to just consider whether I was starting to become defined by the ‘fragmentz’ identity, and whether or not that was holding me back from ‘living’ and moving forwards. I remember them telling me how much more I am than just ‘fragmentz’. It jaw dropped me. They were right. Because they summed up, and hit the nail on the head on a few of the vague thoughts I’d started to have myself. I had/have become defined. I have defined myself. And I was living to that definition.

I love writing, blogging, tweeting, connecting, chatting.

I am a fighter. I am a survivor, of abuse, rape, depression, suicide, self harm and a few other things in between.

But that is not ALL I am.

I am rediscovering that those things are not ALL that I am. I do not have to be defined by them.

I have also rediscovered God. In a way I never expected. Which I will write about tomorrow/over the next couple of days, because that is also incredibly important, and has also HUGELY impacted the decision to move forwards and say goodbye to Fragmentz.

Because you all mostly know me as Fragmentz.

But actually, my name is Helen.

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The day I got into a fight with a street Preacher …

I was reminded the other evening about the day, a few years ago, when I got into an eyes red rage fight with a street preacher. Actually, maybe it is unfair to say that we had a fight, because I never gave him the chance to speak. I’m amazed actually that I didn’t punch the guy.

It was in the middle of a city centre. That I was visiting. And waiting for a friend to arrive for coffee.

A few minutes earlier, as I was arriving at our meeting place, I could see the crowd gathered, so being the nosey that I am decided to go and see what was going on.  I stood at the back of the circled crowd of about 60 people, with shopping bags in one hand and a smoke in the other. And I watched. And I listened.

I was starting to get a bit bored, but decided to stick it out a bit longer because my friend had text to say they would be 5/10 minutes as they were running late.

So I stuck around and continued to watch and listen. And that’s when it got a little bit more interesting.

Because that was when someone else, who had also been watching and listening decided to have their say too.  Someone who looked like maybe he had been sleeping rough. Someone who looked like maybe he could do with a good wash, a shave, some clean/non ripped clothes and a good meal or five. Someone who maybe looked as though he had been in a few scraps.  Someone whose words were slightly slurred, because they’d perhaps had a little bit too much of whatever cheap alcohol he had been able to lay his hands on.

Someone who looked like they just needed some love and care.

Someone who felt that he needed to respond to what the guy on the stool was shouting.  Someone who felt that life’s darkness and pain was better dulled with alcohol and drugs, and someone who felt that we could find our own happiness. He was someone who needed to tell the crowd to just be happy being who you are.

This guy made me smile. Because despite his obvious dishevelled-ness and alcohol induced merriness he had a beautiful twinkle in his eye (the eye that was not black and healing from wounds) and an apparent desire, however big or small to cling on to whatever life was offering him.

I’ll never forget seeing the shock in his face, and I’ll never forget the horrified feelings I felt when, whilst addressing the crowd with his own ‘be happy’ message, the preacher guy, having stepped down from his stool grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled him backwards, so he could get back up on his stool, and tower above the merry man, whilst still having a grip on the merry mans shoulders.

And with one hand gripped on his shoulder, which appeared to make the merry man powerless to move, with the other hand he started waving and pointing at the merry man below him.

And then it started. The preacher man, holding and pointing started shouting at the gathered crowd, which was getting bigger as each second went by.

Addressing the crowd, pointing at the merry man he was shouting at the top of voice –

‘do YOU want to be like this’, ‘do YOU want to end up looking like THAT because if you don’t follow God you will’

and a couple of other things I don’t recall. I simply could not comprehend or believe what I was witnessing. And then he yelled

‘do you want to be like him? a nothing, worthless, a no one’

What? Did I just hear that right? Well I didn’t have to question long because a second after he said it the first time, he repeated it again, pointing at the merry man and asking the crowd if they wanted to end up like him, a nothing, worthless, a no one.

The look of bemusement and bewilderment in the merry mans face will never leave me.

It was at that point I saw red. It flashed across my eyes.

I grabbed my bags, stormed through the crowd, up to these two men, one on a stool with a firm hold on a vulnerable merry man and intervened. And when I say intervened I got hold of the merry man and moved him out of the way, and put myself in his place, but instead of facing the crowd and having this guy looking down on me and berate me, I got my finger in face and started shouting back as loudly as he had been shouting at the crowd.

As I said at the beginning, I’m amazed I didn’t punch the guy. Or swear. But I didn’t. However, my mouth ran away with me (what a surprise I hear you say) …

I shouted at him how dare he. How dare he speak to someone like that, how dare he lay his fingers on someone, how dare he pass judgement on someone. How dare he abuse and mistreat the vulnerable. How dare he suggest that someone was not worth anything? How dare he?

I shouted at him that the Jesus I knew would love a person like this. That the Jesus I know and I have read about in the Bible would love, cherish and care for a merry man like him, that the Jesus I know about is a Jesus who believes in people, all people, including this merry man being worthwhile, precious, valuable and definitely not a no body. That the Jesus I knew about was a Jesus of grace and mercy and kindness. And on I went, for about 5 minutes, telling him and the crowd about the Jesus I believed in which was everything opposite to what he had been preaching.

I ended by shouting at him that the Jesus I knew about would LOVE this man.

At this point, the merry man had wondered off. I stopped to draw breath and realised I had run out of things to say, so I picked up my bags, turned on my heels, leaving the street preacher speechless, and a crowd clapping and shouting as I stormed back out of the circle and back down the street we were in.

Why am I writing about this now? Well, simply because I have been thinking about it. Every now and then over the last few years I’ve thought about the merry man, wondered where he is now, and hoping he is ok. I hope that he knew he was/is loved by someone. And I’ve thought about the street preacher and the continued untold damage he is doing in ‘Gods name’ and hoping those that he affects negatively are being scooped up by gentle souls who can whisper the real truths into their lives.

I think about the anger it stirred in my soul. The red rage that flashed because someone in front of my very eyes was being told they were not worth anything. That person could have been anyone.  It could have been me.

It has been me, over the years.

I don’t believe anyone, who ever they are, where ever they have come from, wherever they have been, whatever they have done is worthless.

This is what stirs my soul into action, to speak out against injustices when I can/when I see it, such as this time, or other times when I speak out loudly on behalf of other people.

Its what stirs my soul to work with vulnerable people, be it young people, the dying, people with mental health issues, people with learning disabilities, people on the fringes of society for whatever reason.

I believe that Jesus loves people, including this merry man. That He is full of grace, and mercy, and that He cherishes and sees all as worthwhile.

I just hope/long for the day when l fully believe that that includes me too.