TW – suicide and sexual harassment
It’s Women’s history month and on Monday it was International Women’s Day. However, IWD didn’t make me feel empowered. The day felt empty, it felt like all talk and no action. Then with the narrative that was playing out in the news, it was a stark reminder that equality is still very much a pipe dream.
Disregarding Mental Illness
In 2011 I tried to take my own life. Shortly after, I saw a mental health specialist who told me that I hadn’t tried very hard so obviously didn’t really want to do it. This professional then went on to detail exactly what I should have done in order for my attempt to be successful. It makes me angry now, thinking about how incredibly f****d up that is. I was given no further support.
Had I been given professional support straight away, I doubt that the ensuing years of self destructive behaviour would have been quite as bad. Instead I was shamed – not for the first time and it wouldn’t be the last – into believing that my mental illness wasn’t real and I was attention seeking.
Ten years later and mental illness is taken more seriously than ever, awareness and professional support has improved. But waiting lists to receive support are at least 6 months’ long and the media still encourages stigmatisation. This week, Meghan Markle and Jameela Jamil have both been called liars and attention seekers for feeling suicidal. Notably they are both women of colour which does make me question, had they been white, would they have been so heavily shamed?
It scares me that people will see the treatment of celebrities and feel too ashamed to seek help. Anyone with suicidal thoughts or actions should be taken seriously, treated with the upmost care and respect. I am so happy that I am still here today. And this is why I openly share my experience, because life is tough, but it is also really worth living.
Women don’t walk alone at night
In the UK we are supposed to have freedom, but for women we are trained to live in fear. It’s been hard not to think about the tragedy of Sarah Everard walking home alone at night. She did everything right and even if she hadn’t done everything from the invisible rule book that all women use to make sure they are safe, it still wouldn’t have been her fault. I feel full of rage that as a woman I have been conditioned to fear men, to always be hyper aware and stay in survival mode when in public spaces, knowing fully well that this isn’t enough to protect me.
I was reminded of a few years ago when Ryan suggested that I could always go for a run at night, which led to a conversation as to why I would never feel safe enough to do that. It is a privilege afforded to men to be able to walk and run alone after dark. I have walked alone, at the dead of night, sometimes with reckless abode, only to be filled with stupidity and relief when I made it home safely. Whilst living in Manchester, there were only two occasions where I left a night club (both times from a club that was 5 minutes from where I lived) without friends and ran as fast as I could to get home. There were so many horror stories of women, alone at night, being attacked by men but there were no measures to protect women and stop the attacks. Our only protection was being told not to go out alone after dark.
It’s not just at night. I’ve also experienced sexual harassment in broad daylight, on busy streets, on more than one occasion. None of my experiences are new or shocking. For women it is all horribly normal. We all brush it off as nothing.
When #notallmen started trending and the victim blaming began again, women across the UK collectively decided enough is enough. This has shown the positives of social media, with women refusing to be shamed into silence and sharing their stories, the narrative has started changing and now men are talking about what they can do to make women safer. On Monday, the house of lords will debate making misogyny a hate crime; this shouldn’t even be a debate, women’s safety should be a priority. Let’s hope that it is more action and less talk.
If, like me, you have been triggered by the news this week, please talk to someone and get support from a professional. Remember that it is also totally OK to disengage from the news and social media.