• I had a miscarriage – and it was necessary.

    On the 21st March, it dawned on me. I was in the shower, scrubbing away the day, when my baby fell out of me. I didn’t register it at first, but then soon found myself scrambling to salvage the foetus. Holding it in my hands, I wasn’t disgusted by it – instead I felt like I had lost a part of me I never knew I had.

    I wasn’t very far along. I hadn’t even taken a test. But I knew I was pregnant. Or had been. Missed period, morning sickness, nausea, fatigue, food cravings. I had been ignoring the signs, but when I stood there in the shower looking at the strange form I was holding, l couldn’t deny it any longer. I flushed it down the toilet because I didn’t know what else to do. I was scared. I didn’t want to admit I had been pregnant.

    Aged eighteen, I wasn’t ready to cope with a baby. Not only that, but my child would have been fathered by a man that made my skin crawl with disgust. A man that was three times my age, a stranger I’d never met. A man who worked in the porn industry, who had paid to conceive my baby in a hotel room. So yes, my baby was conceived through sex work.

    When sex workers become pregnant

    We don’t talk about the effects of pregnancy on sex workers mental and physical health, their lifestyle, and their future. We don’t even talk much about the effects of pregnancy on woman who don’t sell their bodies. But yes – sex workers can, and do, get pregnant. Even if it was just the one time selling your body, like mine.

    Most sex workers take precaution against pregnancy and sexually-transmitted infections, however some don’t. The one time I was paid for sex was a horrific experience. I was young and didn’t understand the ‘industry’. The client was only going to pay me if I let him have sex without a condom. I thought that since I was on the pill, everything would be fine. Except, I wasn’t great at taking said pill.

    When a sex worker becomes pregnant, it is for them, and them only, to decide whether or not to keep the baby, and whether or not to keep working. Some decide to terminate the pregnancy, think about adoption or giving guardianship to an extended family member, or experience miscarriage or stillbirth. Still, some don’t have a choice. Sex work stigma, inability to negotiate proper condom use and failure to access medical services perpetuate the struggle that women who have become pregnant through sex work have to face.

    Why are we made to feel a certain way about miscarriage and stillbirth?

    I was sad about my miscarriage. I still am. But there is another side to it – one of relief, of gratitude. I feel grateful that I didn’t have to experience carrying a pregnancy to term, because my mind and my body could not have coped with that. I am relieved that the choice was made for me, because if it came to it, I’m not sure I could have made the decision to terminate without intense mental turmoil.

    Ten percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage. Yet often in society, if a person does not feel devastated at the loss of her/ their baby, it is looked upon as unloving, ungrateful or just downright strange. Instead of being a blessing or a medical necessity, a public-health concern or a consequence of a past misdeed, miscarriage is now often associated with just one word: “grief.

    Actually, it is totally the opposite. The financial, mental and physical relief that arises from not having to carry and care for a child should not be invalidated. For some, miscarriage is a necessity, as it was for me.

    Recovering from miscarriage

    One of the things I found to be most helpful in the weeks after losing my baby was the book ‘I Had a Miscarriage: A Memoir, a Movement’ by Jessica Zucker. Zucker talks so openly about the ‘silence, stigma and shame’ surrounding miscarriage, validating every single emotion you could possibly feel, because in reality there is no set requirement for how we should behave, act, think or talk after losing a baby, just how no experience of foetal or infant loss is the same.

    There are days when all I think about is the child I could have given birth to. But there are days when I am grateful to not have the responsibility of being a mother, at least not just yet. In the future I would like to have children, and that future may or may not come. For now my healing, grieving, remain ongoing.

    To anyone who has or is experiencing miscarriage or pregnancy loss, please know that you are not alone, and there is support available if you want it. x

    To read more about this topic, visit:

    https://www.glamour.com/story/when-miscarriage-is-a-relief

    https://www.vogue.com/article/why-is-there-so-much-silence-around-miscarriage#:~:text=For%20one%20thing%2C%20at%20a%20time%20when%20methods,reason%20not%20to%20put%20voice%20to%20that%20feeling.

    To read Jessica Zucker’s book, visit:


    For support on miscarriage and pregnancy loss, visit:

    https://www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/

    https://www.tommys.org/baby-loss-support

    https://www.miscarriagehurts.com/find-help/support

  • PTSD Awareness Month

    and what the colour Teal has to do with it.

    Photo by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels.com

    Back in 2010, The National Centre for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the USA designated June as PTSD Awareness Month – a month dedicated to raising awareness of PTSD and C-PTSD (Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).

    This campaign is centred in the United States, although the charity PTSD UK also take part in the event, the only charity in Britain dedicated to raising awareness for PTSD and C-PTSD (founded in 2015). Teal is the colour used for the awareness ribbon and is associated with courage.

    History of PTSD Awareness

    The term PTSD was only officially introduced in the 1980s, even though it is a condition that has been around for thousands of years. It has gone by numerous different names in the past. The first official case of psychological distress can be traced back to 3000 BC, when it was documented in ancient Greco-Roman soldiers. Similarly, ‘chronic mental symptoms caused by sudden fright’ were reported in the account of the battle of Marathon by Herodotus, written in 440 BC. Later, ‘shell shock’, became the diagnosis for combat stress in soldiers during World War I. It then changed to ‘Battle Fatigue’ in World War II, and ‘Gross Stress Reaction’ during the Vietnam conflict.

    Why is PTSD awareness month necessary?

    It is only recently that PTSD has become recognised as a reaction to stressors other than conflict and war. Non-veterans can be affected by it, as psychological research conducted on Holocaust victims and rape survivors has helped to prove.

    Our bodies were not designed to cope with huge amounts of distress. Because of this, PTSD is estimated to affect about one in every three people who have a traumatic experience (however, it is unclear exactly why some people develop the condition and others do not).

    Part of the awareness month involves education on the causes of post-traumatic stress, which are wide-ranging and encompass so many types of experience, including natural disasters, violence, serious accidents, life-threatening illnesses, and physical, emotional or sexual abuse during childhood or adulthood, as well as resulting symptoms and treatment.

    By recognising the way in which trauma can affect people, we can treat post-traumatic stress and prevent trauma from being repeated later on in life.

    Simply letting those with PTSD know we are there is impactful. A large part of the treatment of PTSD involves social support and opening up to others. Encouraging open talk and facilitating conversation helps us to understand this condition better, and is vital if we are to move forward as a society in responding positively to people with PTSD.

    For more information, visit:

    https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd-and-complex-ptsd/about-ptsd/

    https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/p/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd

    References

    National Today. (2022). National PTSD Awareness Day – June 27, 2022. Retrieved from National Today: https://nationaltoday.com/national-ptsd-awareness-day/

    NHS. (2022, 05 13). Overview – Post-traumatic stress disorder. Retrieved from NHS: https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/overview/

    PTSD UK. (2022). About PTSD UK. Retrieved from PTSD UK: https://www.ptsduk.org/why-ptsd-uk-is-here/about-ptsd-uk/

    Ree Medical. (2021, 05 12). Ree Medical: Helping Veterans Obtain Benefits. Retrieved from Why PTSD awareness month is important and how to raise awareness about the condition: https://www.reemedical.com/why-ptsd-awareness-month-is-important-and-how-to-raise-awareness-about-the-condition

    U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2022). PTSD: National Center for PTSD. Retrieved from https://www.ptsd.va.gov/

  • ‘I wish there was a manual’ – Coping with Trauma

    Coping with trauma can be difficult. If you are reading this, it is likely you have experienced your own sort of trauma.

    We often feel like nobody understands us, trapped within our bodies with no way of expressing our innermost struggles, in a world which often feels unsafe and full of threat. It’s time we understood that experiences of trauma are incredibly diverse, as are our reactions and responses to those events which may have harmed or hurt us in the past.

    There is no right or wrong way to feel.

    Often in my life I wished for a handbook, some sort of manual, that would teach me how to cope with trauma. Unfortunately, no such thing exists. This meant I had to navigate the aftermath of my trauma alone, without a guide, wading through the depths of so many frightening thoughts and memories.

    – I wished for a handbook, some sort of manual, that would teach me how to cope with trauma.

    You may sense that when you try reaching out to people, you are met with well-intentioned yet detached responses, since it can be difficult to understand the effects of trauma without first-hand experience. Your family/ friends/ mentors/ teachers/ instructors/ doctor/ religious leader etc may try to help or ‘fix’ you, or ‘fix’ you, but might not understand feelings such as shame, guilt, or anger.

    Whilst often not deliberate, insensitive responses to trauma from those around us can make us believe we must behave, react or think in a certain way – and that if our inner voice does not align with those behaviours then we are somehow ‘broken’ or unworthy of help. Society has taught us to be afraid of talking about trauma, to shy away from conversation, and thus we can find ourselves at a loss of what to say.

    Phrases such as ‘although it seems bad now, you will eventually get over it’, or ‘I went through something similar and it wasn’t that bad’, ‘leave the past behind’, ‘focus on the positive’, and ‘have you tried yoga/ meditation/ mindfulness/ etc?’ can aggravate hurtful feelings, because they imply that healing is linear and time-limited. Some suggest we should be ‘over it’, or shame us for talking about past trauma. That increases the isolation and shame survivors often feel.

    The reality is that everybody deals with trauma in their own way – some may perceive the ‘healing process’ as a lifelong hurdle they must constantly work with, others may overcome it relatively quickly with minimal distress. You may be anywhere on this spectrum. It is different for everyone, and there is no right or wrong way to cope.

    You deserve to be heard.

    If you received a response which invalidated or negated your experience of trauma, please know that whatever happened to you was not your fault and you deserve to feel respected, believed and validated. It is okay to feel hurt, angry, sad, ashamed, guilty, frustrated, confused, frightened, vulnerable, anxious, irritated, troubled, disgusted, miserable, hopeless, lonely, bitter, defeated, vengeful, offended, tired – the list goes on and on. Or you might feel none of these things – you might feel hopeful, optimistic, proud, triumphant. You might feel numb, or empty. You might feel every single feeling there is to feel. That is okay. Allow yourself to feel however you mind, body and soul want to.

    So… how do I cope?

    Really, there is no one universal ‘manual’ that can help us cope with trauma, because each experience is individual. Although, there are things that do help some people navigate trauma. These can involve: connecting with people online or in-person, seeking professional help, learning about the effects of trauma on the body, finding an outlet to express experiences, thoughts and emotions (whether that be creative, academic, physical, rhetoric etc), and reading books about similar situations. If you would like to explore some of these, please visit the ‘Resources’ page on this website.

    Though it can be difficult, you can still live a healthy, fulfilled life. Please remember that.