Trapped by the ghosts of my past

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Despite the fact that I had been very careful about managing details about my past someone, somewhere betrayed my trust and gave my details to a tabloid reporter. That one act of betrayal set me into a terrible downward spiral which resulted in me being unable to leave the house for months on end and eventually losing my job.

I have no idea who it was that linked me to the reporter or how they managed to get so many details about me and that scared me as I thought I had managed to cut all ties to the past. In hindsight I should have denied everything but they caught me off balance during the initial phone call I had with them and I gave myself away. They told me that Q had passed away and they were writing a story about his “reign of terror” as they called it. The reporter asked to meet me but I refused and told them I had nothing to say about the matter, they then told me that I ought to speak out, “for the sake of all the other victims” I told them that I didn’t feel I could speak on behalf of others and that they should speak to the others themselves. The reporter then told me that I had to speak for them as they were unable to speak for themselves – so far all of the other victims they had tried to track down were deceased, most of them from drug related illnesses as they had become addicted to drugs supplied by Q. I hung up the call immediately after they told me this, I was shaking and like a leaf.

I tried to carry on with the rest of my day as normal but it was difficult and everytime the phone rang I panicked, particularly if it was an unknown number. That night I had nightmares about the other victims, I dreamt that they were trying to call me to ask for help but I couldn’t hear them properly and didn’t know what to do.

I was still on edge the next day and wouldn’t answer my mobile unless I recognised the number, any unrecognised numbers were sent straight to voicemail in case the reporter tried to call again, which they did, I picked up 2 voicemails from them but deleted them as soon as I heard thier voice, I didn’t want to hear anything else they had to say.

Later that day the reporter approached me whilst I was having lunch in a cafe following a work meeting. They told me that I was, according to them, the only one left that could speak about what Q did. I told them that I had no interest in digging up the past, that I had moved on and wanted to draw a line under it. They acknowledged that I had been hard to track down but they were intrigued to know how I had managed to recover so well when others had failed and that I should share my story in order to show others that it is possible to overcome abuse successfully. At first I was taken in by thier claim but as we continued to talk it became clear that they were only interested in the gory details of what Q had done. Eventually it dawned on me that this person had no interest in helping abuse survivors; they were only interested in a sensational story to sell their paper and garner accolade for themselves. I told them I had changed my mind and would not consent to speak to them or have any of my details used and left the cafe.

The reporter continued to call me over the course of the next week; they also turned up at a number of places I visited as part of my work so I started to avoid going to those places in favour or working from home more and more. The nightmares also continued – to the point where I felt afraid to go to sleep as I knew the nightmares would come. I phoned in sick to work as I couldn’t face going out in case I saw the reporter again. My health continued to deteriorate to the point where I felt unable to get out of bed, I told C and my employer that I had the flu, I thought that I just needed to catch up on sleep but after 2 weeks of being bed ridden I was no better. I arranged for a house visit from my GP, they told me that they thought I had a post-viral illness and signed me off work for a further 2 weeks. I started to recover slightly but everytime I started to think about leaving the house I was overcome with feelings of terror and had panic attacks. I continued to see my GP but the only symptom I reported to them was that of fatigue and they continued to sign me off work for 2 weeks at a time due to a post-viral illness.

After 6 weeks of absence from work my employer became very concerned, I receieved a letter asking me to make arrangements for a home visit by an Occupational Health Nurse appointed by my employer. I tried to call the number but everytime I picked up the phone I was overcome with panic. A week later I got another letter informing me that the Occupational Health Nurse would call to my house, I was terrified by the idea but still couldn’t bring myself to lift a phone. I decided to email the Occupational Health Agency and ask to rearrange the appointment, they told me this wouldn’t be possible but gave me a direct email address for the Nurse assigned to my case. I emailed the Nurse directly and they explained to me that everything we discussed would be in confidence, that the only thing they would tell my employer was whether or not they felt I has fit for work.  Afer conversing with them via email over the course of a few days I eventually admitted that I had been experiencing panic attacks when trying to use the phone or leave the house but was afraid of my employer finding out in case they thought I was insane. The Nurse was incredibly reassuring and we agreed to hold an initial meeting in the back garden of my house, me sitting in the kitchen and the Nurse in the garden.

The Nurse was a great help, I explained to them what was happening when the phone rang or I thought about going out and they asked me what had happened in the run up to all these problems. At first I didn’t say anything as I was worried that they might know the reporter – my mind was going over board with paranoia at this point. The Nurse told me that I didn’t need to divulge any details if I didn’t want to but that they needed to know if I had suffered a trauma or bereavement recently, they told me that my employer would not be informed of this; the only thing they needed to know was when I would be fit to return to work. I didn’t go into detail with them but I admitted that I had received some shocking news shortly before falling ill. The Nurse didn’t probe any further but suggested I would benefit from speaking to a psychologist and that as I had private healthcare provided by my employer it would be best to access a psychologist this way, they reminded me that my employer didn’t need to know who I was seeing and told me that they would send their report to me to read before submitting it to my employer so that I could be reassured that they didn’t know anything I didn’t want them to know. They also offered to make a referral to the private healthcare provider for me and again offered to send me a copy of the referral letter for me to read before it was sent in.

The referral went very quickly, I was initially contacted via email and given some exercises to do and then I had a phone consultation when I felt ready. It was tough going but after about 4 weeks I was able to go to the local shops and back, over the course of the next few months I ventured further and further. I was still suffering panic attacks but I was learning how to handle them – instead of trying to run away or fight it off I let the panic attack run it’s course.

I was assessed regularly by the Occupational Health Nurse as well as the Psychologist but it was becoming quite clear that it was going to take some time before I would be fit enough to return to my full-time duties. After I had been off work for 4 months the HR Manager got in touch to discuss a plan for getting me back to work. We discussed a number of options but at the back of my mind was the feeling that I was a massive burden to the company. After much consideration I decided to resign my post, both the HR Manager and my Line Manager tried to get me to change my mind but I didn’t feel I would ever be capable of returning to my normal duties and my company deserved better.

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