Category Archives: General

Today is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Today is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. This includes all forms of violence, be it physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual or financial.

In 2009, I made a documentary of myself interviewing my own Domestic Abuse Outreach worker, I wanted to share this to give an insight into the depths that the abuse can go and to show that actually, so often we ourselves have no idea why we actually stay.  If you know anyone who needs help, please share this.

Thank you.

The last few days-19th September 2010

I have had the most incredible days, this week has been very very powerful.  I feel that there have been so many forces working with me as I get up, pray, ask God for guidance and hand my day over, to be greeted by hunches and ideas and following them.  I have sent the synopsis and query letter off to an Agent I would love to work with, I have got closer to registering Addicts4Addicts just waiting for a few little things to be concluded.  I have finished shooting a documentary series for my blog www.PennySnowball.com and I am due to edit this coming week.

I have to say that some days I am full of fear about how things will turn out, financially I worry about making ends meet sometimes and yet somehow I believe that all this is for a reason and it will all work out.  I am on the cusp of change, I spoke to a friend the other day and said it feels like the sea has parted and it is my time to run through it before it closes again, like some third dimension of happenings, everything lined up for this moment to go, I have been working my socks off, but the time is there, so I am pushing through.  It feels like everything is being lined up, people are coming my way, thoughts, dreams and even what I am saying to friends and how I feel.  I just wanted to log this before I go for a few days into the editing room to complete the edit for In Search of My Mental Health, a series of interviews each lasting 10 minutes about a lot of the things I have done in the past 14 years to try and get the help I need.

I had not realised I have not written here for a while because I have been so busy and I miss writing on here, I feel like this is such a part of me and I really hope that soon enough I will be completing the book and getting publised.

I may well be writing again in diary form what is going on during the edit as it brings up so much emotion for me, the filming was intense I have had the most incredible days, this week has been very very powerful.

Thanks for following me, I love it when I read your comments so please do keep them coming.

Penny

August 2010

Saturday was a very helpful day.  I went to meet some friends and ended up crying my eyes out, I feel in so much pain.  I have been trying to help one of my brothers who is homeless and he has been staying here.  We row and clash and it has been really difficult, neither of us is strong enough to help the other and I had to ask him to leave.  Now he is on the streets somewhere, hopefully he has called a friend and I feel so bad.  I know I needn’t and I will get over it.  My role has always been care giver, and I am struggling enough myself at the moment.  I never understood what people meant when they would tell me that he was not good for me to have around.  I tried and tried and it has cost me.  I am not yet capable of distancing myself, I find it hard to hold myself in his company and to not allow our way of communicating to drag me down.  He was asked to leave a homeless shelter for being aggressive, I find that a bit strange, at 11pm for a man to be kicked out and asked if he would like a blanket.  He says he was distressed, and I believe him.

It has all shown me the dysfunction of our childhood, our inability to communicate and our inability to be able to put ourselves aside.  I was having a real problem with him because our pattern of behaviour is so ingrained and I find it really hard to be around now.  I don’t want to be spoken to in a certain way, I was totally unaware of it before, I just knew I felt like shit, but not knowing why.  It is subtle and when asked he would deny it, but the family dynamic set up so many many years ago is a hard one to break and I am not able to be around it for very long before I begin to feel damamged all over again.  I feel very sad about it, nobody does anything on purpose and I am certainly not blameless.

I spoke with a friend earlier who told me of another friend who had fallen out with her good friend over a similar thing, when two people are in a bad way it is impossible for either to help the other.  Add to that a dynamic that has never been looked at really and it can be a disaster.  I was really hoping for some resolution but it will not be happening anytime soon.

We have both been diagnosed with something, depression, bi-polar? who knows what and how the hell are we supposed to help each other.  Coupled with that, I am living on Housing Benefit at the moment and Income Support while I try and get myself help and I am not allowed anyone to stay with me for more than 6 days, so that puts added pressure on the whole situation.

I just wanted to write an up-to-date, current part of the book today, it felt the most pressing thing to do. Sometimes sharing in the moment is a good thing, it is part of my story.  I have realised some pretty impressive things about our family which answer a few questions.  Realising that both our parents were completely inappropriate with regards to sex is something I have always known, but to have it confirmed is a real relief.

Sadly our mother is still a drinking alcoholic, she apparently thinks it is totally acceptable to discuss shagging our father with her grandchildren, my father used to use his position at the airport as a casting couch for air hostesses and on the stories go, no wonder there were no boundaries in our childhood.  As one of my brothers said what makes her think that is ok, discussing it with your grandchildren or children for that matter.  Yuck yuck yuck, I am so glad it is all coming to a head, that we are all begining to see the real dysfunction and standing up to it too.  I know it has affected me, I can only speak for myself, I just have to make sure I hold onto my truth and work through it.

On a lighter note,I have met someone who has told me about an editor, apparently she charges £1,000 and that is cheap,  to get this book edited and then into a place to be put onto the web, so I am praying for a grand or another editor to come along who is not so expensive and has a track record.  It is all coming along and I know it will happen, it is.

Writing Lessons with Marilyn(1)

During 2006, I was fortunate enough to have stumbled across Marilyn Horowitz. I had been praying for someone to help me get started with my book and it is so wierd to think this was six years ago.  I have had a lot more to do before I was ready to write and now is the time.

I was trawling the internet and looked at Women in Film and Television and there she was, so I clicked, thought why not, and so began a relationship that helped me to develop my writing and give me more and more confidence and although it has not been the right time for the book, I have not stopped writing and have been able to express myself more and more.

Marilyn certainly got me started and I am really glad I had the courage to click the email send button and once a month speak to her and go away and write my tasks and then send them and so it went on.

The following was one of the first pieces of work we did, entitled ‘How I got so f…… up

There was room to explore everything and that is one of Mailyns greatest talents in my opinion, she journeys with you, I needed that and still do. It helped me expand, grow and explore slowly.  I will always be so grateful to have met her and to still know her.

How I got so f….. up

As I lay opposite my therapist staring her in the face, it was becoming clear, the world has been a very scary place for me, my entire life.  I am terrified to open my mouth and tell her how I really feel about the next stage of our relationship, the deeper we go, the more scared I become, I am still not completely sure why.  Imagine a child having four primary care takers by the age of 9 months.  According to Erickson’s stages of development one has to work bloody hard to get it right.  I have never felt safe, never imagine anyone can see me or thinks of me, when I leave the room, nobody is there.  It is the lonliest and scariest place in the world and, until now, I thought that was totally normal and could not understand what it felt like to be safe.  To feel secure and know that someone loved you and would not leave you, everyone always left and when they did, they never came back.  I have lived in a constant state of trauma and anxiety and have always found it so hard to make connectins with anyone.  I wonder if it had something to do with the fact that at the age of four and a half months old my parents left me with her step-mother, a woman who she hated and went on a cruise for five weeks.

I have some body memory and flashback feelings of a baby in a cot, crying, nobody coming and being cold and numb…….my head goes into a frozen place when I get scared and I do not come out of it for ages.  It feels like nobody is there and nobody exists at all, it still happens now.

As I woke yesterday morning I had a picture of me lying on the ground, tiny and bright, pushing back a huge black cloud as it moved toward me to try and squash me, I was pushing it up with all my might and arms stretched out screaming no, no, and pushing what felt like a ton of concrete away from me, I felt like I was fighting for my life, my emotional life……………

4. Mid-2000

During this time all hell was breaking loose.  I had been to Housing Benefit to see if there were any properties available, they had absolutely nothing to offer me.  I was on the waiting list and also going around to local estate agents, not one of them would touch me because I was on housing benefits. I put an article in our local newspaper, went with a letter to every church in the area and still nothing.  I was being helped by a wonderful woman at the Citizens Advice Bureau who would see me whenever she could as I was really struggling to hold it together, I was terrified of being homeless again.

I felt such a failure and could not see anyway out.  At the same time, unbeknown to me, a friend had been asking my friends if they could all rally round and help me to buy the property, she had wanted to surprise me for my birthday, but when it came to my 40th birthday weekend, she was so upset to tell me what she had been trying to do and not managed to.

I had my party, an open house for the whole weekend.  Breakfast with my son and a lovely friend of mine Zora , a picnic where everyone brought something and then a lovely long evening followed by people crashing out and breakfast the next day for those who stayed.  One thing that I had not taken into account was how unwell I was, even then, emotionally.

An old friend came along, a friend of mine who none of my other friends really liked and who always put me down, the odd comment and I was a gonna.  She had entered my life again and I was begining to see why she had been out of it, but I was like a bee to honey.  We were outside in the garden, me and the girls, five of us altogether and all of a sudden, from nowhere came this slap down,  I was powerless to stop it.  I went inside and cried my eyes out as she carried on with  my party.  A school friend came and found me, I told her what was going on for me and she could not really understand it.  I had no resilience to this and never have.  I could not cope, thank goodness she was so lovely to me, as I watched the girl dominate my party, become the life and soul and me slowly shrink, I knew something was wrong, but I did not know what. My school friend had been down a few weeks before and I finally told her I had to go to the doctors, she asked what for and I told her about my mind and thoughts and she burst into tears, she had not idea, I had become so good at pretending, masking my pain and playing at being happy, I had almost fooled myself as well as everyone around me.

I managed to enjoy the time, although somewhat subdued and of course my other friends could not really work out what had happened.  Fortunately I was sober because this stuff was what I drank on, being put down, and staying down instead of having the language to say, please don’t speak to me like that or something to take care of myself.

The Bradshaw man had asked me what I would like for my birthday and in my mind I said, a car.  I was with my prayer partner a few days before my birthday and we were praying for the house situation and also about how my son was going to get to the school and how I was going to manage the whole thing.  I got a picture of a black car, just the front of it like on a brochure and she got the same.  We often had this when we prayed together, it was a very powerful experience.  A few days later, the Bradshaw man turned up with a brochure of the same care I had seen in our prayer meeting, and asked me if I would like a car like this.

One of the things  I was very clear about when being offered this opportunity was the practicalities.  If my son was going to take up this offer, he was not going to be a poor boy in a rich school.  Also there had to be a promise of meeting all the school fees etc because I often didn’t know if Iwas going back to school one term from the next and it was very stressful for me.  Also the school was not on a bus route and to get to the classes, after school clubs, sports days etc was a necessary consideration.  I could not believe my negotiation skills to be honest but I was sick of having crumbs and feeling so less than.  He and I sorted out a very good arrangement and everything changed for us from this moment on.

I also had to put in place the budget for petrol because on benefits I could not afford it.  I was behind with all my bills, electricity, water,  he also helped me to clear those up as well, together with a littlewoods catalogue debt I had accumulated so I could afford clothes.  There was a time when I could only afford pants for my son so when he grew out of his boxers, I would wear them and buy him new ones. Same with his clothes, some of his trousers were ok for me.  The other supply for me was friends bringing round their stuff before putting it into the charity shops, it felt very humiliating.  I could not even choose colours anymore, I just had to take what I was given.  I think there is something about choosing stuff from a charity shop if you can afford  other things, and not being able to afford it and having no choice, I felt so totally crap about myself.

I remember his school friends all had kicker shoes at £80.00 a go, this was totally out of our league but a must have, so we would wait til the sale and then, get his feet measured, and see which ones they had left in his size at £40.00 and I had managed to save up enough for those.  I had no way of understanding just what was going on inside of me at this time, I just knew I was ok for a while and then, I was out of it again.

The housing people offered us a place, a shitty, dark, damp, electic wall heated ( the most expensive) with lino on the floors which my son refused to live in.  I was beside myself.  I asked the man where the carpet was and he replied it is not our place to provide people like you with carpet……….I slid down the wall, tears in my eyes and said, I hope you never find yourself in this position and if you do, that someone doesn’t speak to you like you are speaking to us now.

We refused the property and because of this were penalised by the housing list.  The only other thing they had on offer was a single parent hostel miles away………..it was all looking pretty bleak.

One friend said to me, why don’t you ask the man to buy you a house or put a deposit down on it.  Surely that is more important? Somedays I think maybe that would have been a good idea but at the time it didn’t occur to me as he had not offered and to me getting my son a good education was paramount in my mind.

Little did I know that as I was seeing the lady at the Citizens Advice Bureau and talking with her, praying with my friend and asking others to pray and obviously doing it myself, another friend of mine had spread the word amongst her friends in our area to see if anyone knew of a property for us.

During my prayer time I got a picture of a house on a hill, with windows all around it and masses of greenery, huge garden and lots of light, somehow it gave me hope.  I had no idea where it was but it felt like there was somewhere for us to go.

One man who I had never met, had never even heard of yet, said to  my friend he wanted to help, and rang around everyone he knew.  At that time, another man was waiting for his mortgage to come through and was about to move into a property, and nobody knew of any others……….then all of a sudden, two weeks before we were due to move out, 1st September 2000, the mans mortgage comes through, the house becomes available and we are moving into one of the poshest areas in our town with a garden the size of 4, rhodedendrum bushes my favourite colour and up on a hill as I had seen in my prayer time. The garden was overgrown and the house had been empty for 6 months but friends came and helped us. Unfortunately for the friend who had offered to move us, we had done virtually no packing at all, I had just ground to a halt………….

3. Keep on believing……..2000

I was trying to get help to buy the house because it had so much potential.  It needed gutting but I love doing all that and I knew it would be so worth it.  Also I was desperate to have a home of our own, that we could own and nobody could ask us to leave, I really hated being at the mercy of others.  Somehow it was just not happening.  In the April, a friend told me her daughter had got a place at a local private school and I was so jealous.  I walked up my road, I will never forget it and said please God, can my son go there, I feel so jealous and some of his friends went there and please can he go.

Within a matter of weeks, the Bradshaw man, as he will remain known, asked me if I would like my son to got to that particular school, I was speechless.  He told me he was really impressed with us, that he would like to help and that he believed my son would really benefit, it was amazing.  My prayers had been answered.

We had to go through all the decision making, discussing how it would work.  My son did not initially want to go, but I made it pretty clear that this was a not really an option as he was not benefiting from 30+ in a class and all that was happening for him.  He went for the interview, and  as I was wandering around I remembered one of my old teachers used to work there, and to my surprise still did.  I asked one of the pupils if he was there and he went to tell him I was there and asking for him, fortunately for me he remembered me and when I was being interviewed by the headmaster, he rang in to tell me he was waiting in the drawing room.  It felt amazing.

We talked for ages afterwards and it felt like home, he remembered how I was at school, how lost I was and also how much he always appreciated me.  He was a friend of a friend in London and we occasionally met there years and years ago.  Here I am, catapolted into another world and it all feeling so wonderful and I was again begining to have hope.

My son was offered a place but his school had to call the school to discuss things.   The new school rang the old school several times and when I rang the new one to ask what was happening they said they were waiting for the old one………so when I followed that up I was told by the head she had not bothered to call back because she thought he would not get in……………..

2. The Power of Prayer from 1999-2000

During 1999 I had also begun to have my sons friends back to ours on a Friday night because I did not want him out on the streets late at night so opened our home up to them all.  I got a lot out of it too, the girls would watch videos or come and chat to me and the boys would generally go upstairs to play computer games and I would occasionally give them something to eat and it meant they were safer. They were 14 years old and hanging out on the streets was just boring as it was cold and generally wet.

I also began to have a few of his friends home after school whose parents were working and would invariably give them supper, a couple of them had never seen a red pepper before which I found really sad, they were left with the choice of chicken nuggets and chips or pizza, so would come over to ours.  This is a reality of both parents having to work, and the children really wanted company and someone to sit with them and talk about their day or attempt to get them to do their homework.

As a single-parent I lived on welfare because making ends meet was proving to be impossible and unbeknown to me, my depression was creeping up on me thick and fast,  which was making it very difficult for me to function consistantly. The combined stress of trying to find a job that paid enough for me to come off welfare and still see my son and  the underlying problems I had that were bubbling away was all proving too much for me. I was brilliant as putting on a smile to the world and pretending it was all ok and screaming inside would someone please come and help me……….somehow the words just did not make it to my mouth.  I was trapped in a prison of hell. Terrified of telling anyone how I felt because I was desperate to be a good mother and if I told the doctor I believed they would take my son away.  I had also begun therapy and was struggling with all the stuff that was coming up, and did not know what to do. No longer able to use  the booze to numb it out it was all getting a big scary for me.

On top of this, my son was really struggling at school.  I look back now and can see why, but at the time none of the dots joined up.  The school was not really catering for his needs, he was slipping through the gaps and I was really scared. He was diagnosed with ADD and was put with a support worker which he found totally humiliating.  He was also losing interest and I was fighting them regularly.  To give an example of what I mean.  He took a Science test in the class room and got 48% approx, and when given the same test in a quiet room with the door and curtains closed he got 98%. The school were not listening to me and I was so desperate that my son would not slip into some great big back hole when he has so much potential. Parents evenings became a real problem for me and I found some of the teachers just unwilling to listen.  I booked to see the head of Science and talked to him but there was little that could be done for some reason, I still don’t understand it.  Sorry for the rant about the education system but it was failing my son.  I know he is not perfect and messed around and all the rest of it, but he needed a lot of help that he was not getting.  And this of course just compounds the problem.

Several of his friends who were in similar positions were going to private school and we just did not have the resources.  I had tried to get him into a couple of schools on a bursary but nothing ever came of it.  I was doing a cleaning job to pay for extra maths lessons as I was allowed to earn £15.00 a week on benefits so that paid for it. I felt so trapped in our life and could not see a way out.  I felt totally desperate.

The man from the Bradshaw group had been around to our house and seen what I was doing with my sons friends, having them over for supper, having them all round on a Friday night, and unbeknown to me he was pretty impressed.  He was also impressed, he told me later at what an amazing mother I was.  How my relationship with my son was and how close we were, against all the odds. And that my son had such impeccable table matters! How funny is it that some people think poor means crap, it never ceases to amaze me.

In contrast to this life on welfare, I was to go to a Ball at my old boarding school, thank goodness I had something to wear and a friend lent me her car. Later that December a film of mine was showing at a private view at BAFTA. I had to borrow the train fare and something to wear.  It was such a strange conflict, and I would always feel so sad whenever I went to London and anything to do with the film world because it was as though somehow I could not have it……….and I hated it.

The following January, 2000, I was collected as normal to go to the workgroup and an envelope was put into my hand, with £1,000 in it.  This was a spiritual gift to help with my bills, a little extra to make the world an easier place and it was incredible.  I was so blown away by it and not  really sure how to handle this.  I also found out that the man was no longer married and that his wife had left him.  We became friends and for me that was as far as it would ever go.

January was a whole lot easier until the landlady told me she was selling the house and I could have first refusal on it but I would have to be out by September whatever happened………………………….

A Day at a Time

I am in a learning period, learning to allow myself to be held, to allow myself to be just where I am, right in this moment. Learning to trust, on a much deeper level, that everything is going to be alright.

At the moment, I have nowhere to live, I am staying with various friends, thought I had found somewhere to live and once I mentioned Housing Benefit to the potential people who were trying to help me, they closed down the offer.  It is a test of my self, to trust that there is something so much better around the corner.  At 52 years old I find myself crashing on friends floors, living with most of my stuff in the back of my car and traveling around as I look for somewhere to live. I am grateful for all the provision I am being given. One of my friends has allowed me to base myself at her house, so I actually have an address!

Two weeks ago tomorrow I moved from my home of 3 years, and this is the best thing that happened, because I had no choice, the house was sold.  I have wanted to leave Surrey and move back to London for so long, and this dream it is on it’s way.  In the meantime, I get to see just how loved I am by the generosity of friends.  What a gift.

I feel scared, I feel excited and I feel closer to myself and God than I have done for so long. Each day is a new beginning. I guess it always is but somehow this is so much clearer than before. I am sitting with my computer in a lovely  place, near to Pinewood Studios, that opened it’s doors and a kind young man helped me get onto the internet, not my strongest skill!!

I am loving being here, it connects me with the me that drove here many years ago to sound edit my graduation film in the Bond Studio, driving to Denham to do the negative cutting and the colour, oh how I love film making.

I have asked for help, I have received it with open arms and I am actually more in touch with the generosity of mankind than I have been for so long, it is a wonderful feeling, it is also very humbling and that is always a good thing, maybe not always comfortable, but I need it.

Russell Brand on Addiction

What a breath of fresh air Russell Brand is…………….I have to say I am so grateful that he said what he did……….it is time to treat Addiction as an illness instead of a crime……..absolutely.  It is an illness, it is not only a physical one it is also psychological and spiritual one.  Russell goes on to say that what really needs to be addressed are the symptoms of the illness, the route of the problems.  Once these are addressed, with good quality, supportive and compassionate treatment, the chances of recovery are greater. Sadly, even after almost 33 minutes, the government people on this clip still seemed to be missing the actual point!

This is so very true and something that seems to be missed all over the place.  Punitive, punishing approaches have been the way to deal with most things of an emotional nature over the generations as a rule, and lets hope that in the not too distant future we will see the wind of change.

Below most addictions, if not all is, as Russell says, is a lonely, sad, unhappy and detatched person who uses drugs or alcohol, or both, or food or anything else they can to stop the emotional pain.  The real problem comes in my humble opinion, when the addiction is addressed and the addict is left with the emotions, the reasons why they use whatever it is they use…………….that is where the real work is and where compassion is essential for anyone to get well.

I was horrified the other day when talking with my NHS Psychologist, she told me that new evidence has shown that Compassion is the new kid on the block, so to speak, when I said it is not rocket science……….I was told it is in the NHS………compassion for oneself, most of her clients have no idea of how to be compassionate to themselves……..and I am one of them, although I am getting a lot better than I was at taking care of me………the reason for this in my opinion is simple………to be compassionate towards oneself, one firstly needs to know what that is, what it looks like and then why they are not able to do it, and the worst thing of all, what is missing because of the lack of it.

As babies and children, we learn how to treat ourselves by how we are treated, we internalise it and then do it to ourselves.  If we have had a compassionate carer, we are naturally self compassionate…………….and the same goes for if we are treated badly.  I believe this is a social epidemic. Love and compassion are the way forward and they always have been………we have just lost sight of it in the crazy stressed out world we live in.  I salute Russell Brand for his candid honesty and hope that the government finally begin to listen to what the real issue is.

Borderline Personality Disorder/Emotional Intensity Disorder….what’s worse? Finale

What a ride……….I have not been able to write for a couple of weeks due to the overwhelming feelings that have come up with this realization. I feel like I have had a psychic shift so huge and it is taking me a long time to reformulate, my life will never ever be the same again…….I feel like the Iceberg that has had it’s head poked above the water for years and years, but it is only tip, and now, it has crashed, no more iceberg………… it is all reforming………….it is quite an incredible state to be in and I am actually grateful, painful as it is.

I feel like I have been staring at a jigsaw puzzle with a thousand little pieces and no box to match them to, no idea where the pieces go and now, I am slowly getting the completed picture to follow, bit by tiny bit, as I put the pieces of my fragmented mind together.  It will take time, and that is OK, I will give it time.

I have made the decision to put a hold on the Social Enterprise I have been working on, as the person who really needs my help right now is me. Painful as this decision has been, it is the best thing I can do, if I cannot be there for myself, how the hell can I be there for anyone else.  It has all come as a huge shock to me, and I am still processing all the ramifications of what this all means.  It is not the diagnosis that has rocked my world, it is the realization that the way I have seen the world is due to the level of abuse that happened to me, and that I now need to heal.

I have also made the decision to leave the STEPPS group with the advise of my psychologist and therapist, for me, it was not working. I think the information is amazing and really helpful, but I needed support along side the group on a regular basis and this was not available due to lack of funding on the NHS, it is patchy and that is the way it is, but it doesn’t help me. Many of the people who are on it are doing really well apparently, but for me, I needed something different.

I will not give up my search and will always be grateful to have finally seen that there is a clear reason for me being the way I am and that I am not actually the cause, I have been reacting to what happened to me……….this is not blame, it is just fact.

If I am not around for a while, it is because I am taking it slowly and will be here when I can and when I have revelations to share.  Thank you for all the amazing support I have had since doing this series of blogs, I have so appreciated it and it is so supportive for me.