Choose Love

I’ve found myself repeating the following words lately “It depends on your perspective”, and sometimes they land of deaf ears. While I’ve made the intention to disengage with people who ask me for my opinion as an invitation to defend their own <personal challenge #1!> I’ve also tried to understand these words from another perspective too.

I’m a big believer that there’s a universal energy at play which we may not pick up on or understand but which may be working away under the scenes to bring certain situations towards us. Call it astrology, energy, God or positive thought, seriously pick the term that serves you or leave the concept altogether, your choice. For me though, this belief takes a huge weight off my shoulders and allows me to surrender to wherever the flow of life takes me, which of late is one of love. I don’t mean this in the sense of romantic love, well at least I’m not limiting it to that, what I mean is that I’m starting to experience a lot of situations around me that come from a place a love. Simultaneously, situations around me that rose from a place of fear are starting to fall by the way side, and I’m full of gratitude for getting here.

I know I’ve had glimpses of this over the past few years, but as the pivot has swayed between love and fear, my neutral point always rested slightly within the fear side. Now that I’m noticing more and more loving situations around me, I know it means that I’ve reached a place within myself which is more full of love too. To put it simply, my pivot is shifting from one end of the spectrum to the other.

I wonder if this has come from my earlier intention to be back where I used to be before all these events happened. Or maybe it’s that I’ve actively chosen to change my perspective? Rather than dwelling on difficulties in my life, I’ve been practising complete silliness with friends, stepped away from heavy chats, and I’m dancing, flirting and laughing again. In turn it’s as though I’m being rewarded with situations that mirror my intentions – new and old friends who are in head over heels in love, the most perfect work situations I could ever imagine with the nicest loving people, and the witnessing of kindness from one stranger to another on the street.

I wonder if this is what it means to change your perspective? And I don’t know if this is the reality of what happens or maybe I’m not noticing all the ‘bad’ stuff that happens now. I know that I don’t give it the same attention anymore at least. Or maybe my internal peace is drawing these situations into my perspective? I guess we can never say for sure, however when it comes to beliefs I live by this rule – if it serves you, believe it. If it doesn’t, drop it. The belief that choosing to see love is bringing it closer to me, is one belief that’s serving me just fine.

I want to create a world of greater wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. That’s why I’m starting an honest conversation about wellbeing; encompassing self care, emotional intelligence, body and mind awareness, personal development, and authenticity. If you’re with me on this mission, please like, comment, share and sign up. 

Sending self care vibes, 

Shereen x

Photo by Anthony DELANOIX on Unsplash

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What Is Integrity And Why Should We Care?

The word integrity gets flashed around a lot these days, but I wonder how many of us understand what it means and really know what it means to practice it?
To me, it’s like a constant questioning of my intention. A questioning that gets increasingly harder to answer as I delve into the various layers of emotional depth. The stronger my fear is, the more it’s running the show and often it’s only after that I can reflect and say ‘that wasn’t the best version of myself and it’s not who I want to be’. That necessary reflection is usually kicked in by a feeling of shame. A necessary feeling. If you read my word often you’ll know that I’m a huge admirer of Brene Brown and her work on shame, vulnerability and emotions in general and something that I think that is often overlooked in her work is the necessity of shame and how important it is that we feel it. It’s literally our signpost to align us back with our moral, our integrity.
I feel like there’s a convoluted message in society these days, as though we’re all striving for perfection to be the best human that we ‘should’ be. Appear to have integrity. Look good. Make money. Say the right things to please people. But along the way have we forgotten that we’re human? That the trick isn’t to act how we ‘should’ constantly, and thus avoid ever feeling shame. But instead, to look out for that feeling of shame (or guilt which it sometimes can be), acknowledge what it that’s triggered that emotion and reconcile what wasn’t aligned with our values.
The thing is that this constant awareness is actually a daily struggle and it takes a whole lot of self policing to stay on top of it. Was that me or my ego? Am I sabotaging or acting intentionally? Am I happy with the person I am right now?
It’s difficult for me. I’m still very much run by fear somedays. The fear that I’ll get hurt emotionally or physically and the stronger the fear, the more conflicted my emotions. At least with the questioning and reflecting I can look back and decide which version of Shereen I like best and make reconsiliations if necessary. To me that’s the real meaning of integrity. But as always I’m open to comment, call outs and debate. After all, I’m still only learning.
Photo Credit: Massimo Mancini
Originally posted on www.shereensoliman.com

I’m Leaving Trauma on Tour, for Shereen Soliman…

Dear Followers, Friends and anyone who finds their way to this blog,

Thank you for following me on Trauma on Tour, I really appreciate your support and I hope that you’ve enjoyed my blog posts this far.

It’s now the time for me to move this blog to my personal website as I continue to work on my Personal Development and Wellness Concept. So, from this point onwards you’ll receive emails from me, Shereen Soliman, rather than Trauma on Tour. To give you an update on my current work: I’m bringing out my first book in January – The Backpackers Natural Beauty Book, which is a collection of skin care recipes that are easy to make, chemical free and completely natural and ecological. Following this, I hope to bring out In Search Of Compassion, a book of short stories which takes the reader through a journey of situations, giving perspective on human behaviour and the necessity to have compassion during the most challenging times. This book is finished and ready to go but I’m going to try and get a publisher for it.

On my personal website you’ll find the same style of life observing blog posts, therapy reviews, therapy guides as well as my concept and book information.

It’s been an interesting year, exploring my psyche and the path it’s taken me on in my state of recovery but it’s now time to share the lessons I learnt on a wider scale.

Thank you for reading, writing encouraging comments and accompanying me on my journey this far. If you’re interested in personal growth, awareness or self care then please follow me on facebook, pintrest or twitter for more inspirational sharings.

Best wishes and Happy New Year!

Yours sincerely,

Shereen

 

A Little Bit Of Perspective at Christmas

I read a lot of books. Usually about 5 at any one time because I need to switch around a variety to stay engaged. Typically in my reading portfolio there’s a business book, a self development book, a science/research type book, a book about spirituality and a novel of some kind. The novels are usually about someone’s life story or life events, obviously because I love analysing human behaviour.

Recently I was recommended ‘The Girl On The Train’ by Paula Hawkins. I’d seen adverts for this book plastered all over the place – most notably the displays at train stations – and I noticed that there’s a lot of hype about the book at the moment. It made me wonder why. From what I read, I wondered if it seemed quite reflective of the situations that many people in modern western society find themselves in. Popular books usually hit a common note with it’s audience if it resonates with them, usually through the stories or the characters. That thought left me feeling quite sad about the society that I live in. Let me summarise the characters to give you an idea why.

There was:
A alcoholic who is avoiding the depressive life’s she’s created for herself and appears to drink as a way to numb the pain – at least from what I can make out.
A woman who has narcissistic behaviour and uses intimate relationships as a way to fill the gaping void of grief for the death of her brother that she hasn’t fully deal with.
A mirage of other characters who live in the illusion that they’re happy because they have a job in the city/own house/status quo happy relationship (inc baby in one case) even though their secret thought patterns are very negative.

The book is very well written and the author did a great job of creating character depth and drawing the reader into the situations. However, I simply couldn’t finish it because the reality of the situation made me feel so deflated. In one sense it’s a compliment to the author because I was clearly so drawn into the book that it was evoking such a depth of feeling within me. However, the feeling itself was depressing. It made me realise how inept we are as a culture of dealing with certain life events. The very popularity of the book made me wonder if we face an epidemic in western societies – a subconscious apathy in the illusion of happiness?

Lucky for me I already had another book to switch over to: ‘In Order to Live’ by Yeonmi Park. This book is about a girl who escapes life in North Korea. It talks about the famine and what it was like to live through starvation. How she and her family would risk their lives and walk for miles to receive less food than one UK family might throw away in a week. This girl has to repeatedly physically fight off men who constantly try to rape her while she is trafficked across borders like a commodity. She’s 13.

In the second book there is no opportunity to create significance out of hardship, because everyone is in hardship so there’s no difference. However there is a strong sense of compassion and human intimacy between the characters, which together with the hardship seems to create a wealth of emotional resilience.

Both these books made me ponder about psychological trauma and the significance of it in the perspective of our lives. I believe that it’s necessary to acknowledge and validate a difficult life experience in order to process it. But I wonder how much quicker this process would be if we didn’t have the opportunity to claim significance for the story. I wonder if this perspective on life might make someone think differently about their situation.

As we come closer to Christmas, I remember how difficult last year was. A quite Christmas day with a gaping void that so many painful emotions swirled around in the absence of my Father. What I remember most though, is how we talked about missing him and how the conversations always ended with gratitude. We were grateful that we had such an amazing person in our lives for so many years. We were grateful that we had each other. We were grateful that we had our health, a roof over our heads and food on our table. It’s easy to say thanks flippantly but when we allow ourselves to immerse in the situation of others, that’s when we can really feel gratitude. I wonder if the characters in The Girl On The Train might think differently about their privileged lives if they woke up every morning with the excruciating pain of life threatening hunger? Or if they were separated from their family and anyone who spoke their language, in to a trade channel that constantly tried to rape them? I wonder if we might think differently about our own pain if we could see it through the perspective of others?

Even if we are missing someone at Christmas, have hardship or ill health it’s valuable to remeber that there are people in the World who don’t have food, safety or shelter at one of the most joyous times of year.

Wishing you a Christmas full of gratitude x

3 Values to Live Your Life by. From my Father, a Good Man

Nothing can quite prepare you for the phone call you’ve always dreaded. The panicked voice from a parent, relaying direct information down the phone.

“There are three paramedics resuscitating your Dad”

It was all my Mum had to say.

I got up from the cafe I was sitting in and heading down the escalators with the phone to my ear.

“Ok. I’m leaving now. I’ll be home in 3 hours”

“Ok” She replied and hung up.

I called my brother, he was on his way home too. It would take him 1 and ½ hours to get to our family home and in the space in between my Mum would sit and wait. Luckily a neighbour and friend went round to comfort her. The ambulance outside giving something away.

It took me 3 and a ½ hours to get home. Straight up the motorway from the bottom of England to the middle. I have no recollection of the actual drive apart from the vague feeling of the rush I had within me to get there and get there fast.

As I pulled up, there was a silver van outside my house. There were two men sitting in the front seats wearing black suits. Men from the morgue. I knew. I’d known all along. I’d known he’d had died before I got in my car and drove, but I hadn’t allowed myself to entertain those thoughts in case they sent me off the road spinning.

The rest of the evening was a blur. Each one took our turn to say goodbye to him before the men from the morgue took him away. Some family friends came round, someone made us food, and then all of a sudden it was dark and it was just the three of us. My Mum, my brother and me. Standing outside the house in silence.

I remember the night clearly. The moon was a waxing crescent and the sky was clear, the stars shining through sharply.  We all paused there, outside the back door, my Mum lighting up a cigarette. We stood in silence at first, no one really knowing what to say about the loss of someone so great. Not just for us, but the world. To lose a man of such good values, a local hero. Before long we were talking about what my brother and I had learnt from him, values which had been installed in us to live through a legacy. Values demonstrated without words and through actions. Values that will stay with us forever.

  1. Have integrity. No matter what the circumstances, my Dad would always come through on his word. Even in the most difficult situations, and trust me if you’re a community Doctor there are many difficult situations. Integrity was something that was installed in him and he expected of those around him, his children included. It was practised daily in our family life, something that my brother and I thought was the norm of society. It’s only now, as adults that we realise that it’s somewhat of a rarity in the world these days.
  1. Be compassionate to others. I never truly understood what compassion was until my Dad passed away but looking back I know that he completely embodied it. There was the time that a grief stricken family tried to sue him for an error that wasn’t his, only for him to say that “People act in unusual ways because of grief”. There’s also the time when a patient with psychiatric problems waited in his surgery car park to attack him, by slapping him across the face with a belt. All he would say is that it wasn’t the patient’s fault, and that they just needed some help to get on back on the right track. At the time I felt puzzled with him and angry at the people trying to do him harm but I can hear his voice clearly respond to me “You never know what someone else has been through, and maybe if you did, you might see things differently”.
  1. Have courage to stand up for what you believe in. The most admirable thing about my father was that he always stood up for what he believed in, no matter who he was up against. Amongst many strong and positive beliefs, he believed in providing the best health care possible for his patients, a value that would often come up against boards of directors when discussing health care budgets. My Dad would never compromise his values and he wouldn’t sell out on his patients, even if it meant losing his job over it. It took a tremendous amount of courage for Muslim Egyptian man to exercise these values in predominantly White, Catholic, ‘old boys school’ type environments but my Dad didn’t see the differences on the surface that many of us do. He just focused on what was important at the time – ‘what’s the best for the patients?’ Then he stood by it and fought for it.

The death of a parent, a spouse or any family member is always a difficult part of life, but what got us through the darkest parts was the reflection that we had such a decent man in our lives. Of course I would have loved to have my Dad around for another 30 years, and I miss him every day. But in the 30 years that he shared with me he gave me some of the best gifts I could have ever wish for – good values, and for that I’m grateful.

Follow Your Intuition, Have Intention and Find Courage

I’m on my way home now (via Jakarta, Bangkok and London) but I’m heading in that general direction. Home. The place I went to when I first felt the pang of heartbreak, the place I flew straight back to after the attack and the place where I said my last goodbye to my Dad. It feels good to be heading back and I’m looking forward to seeing my family, friends and the cats. Mostly I’m looking forward to starting a new chapter of my life. I came to Asia with the intention of working on myself and the emotions that came up following these traumatic events, in the hope that I could somewhat heal the brokenness that I felt inside. I made sure to follow my intuition to steer me on my path along the way and it’s not been without its challenges. Although I know that I’ve always had a lot of courage, there have been times when I’ve had to search every bit of me to find what it’s taken to get through the toughest bits but I feel much better for doing so.

I really believe that each person ultimately knows themselves better than anyone else on this planet so by listening to what ‘feels’ right should be the best guide for healing, but without a real intention this intuition can often go unheard or ignored and without the courage to act, then both are useless anyway.

The events are still relatively fresh for me but I find that I’ve reached a turning point where I’m ready to drop the trauma story. I’m not quite sure what that means for this blog yet, I guess I’ll write for as long as it feels right, or maybe I’ll change it or develop it into something new (suggestions very welcome: traumaontour@hotmail.com), but I know that for now I’m ready to change the trauma record. I reached this point in the last week or so and something that I feel sped it up somewhat, was having some intense Traditional Chinese Acupuncture (a therapy that I’ve always respond to very well). I was lucky enough to find an intuitive therapist in Bali, who worked with me to push my limits as much as I could emotionally and physically handle and within the safety of the practice – based on both our intuition and his expertise and knowledge. This application of intuition and knowledge was applied with awareness, then sense checked, reflected upon and evaluated to really measure progress and I reinforce this kind of evaluation in my learning experiences in life, be it for personal development, therapy or learning a new skill. I mean this is commonly done in work environments, why wouldn’t we apply it to our own personal development, growth and healing?

Listening to my intuition resulted in me to staying in Ubud for over six weeks, surrounded by great people, including my inspirational roommate CJ, an awesome self-built entrepreneur, who’s been like a sister to me. Deepi was the third member of our crew, a lively Canadian/Indian chick who speaks her mind and takes no shit. These two women have been an influential part of my healing because we created an environment where it was safe to talk about everything, and I mean everything including difficult personal feedback about vulnerable situations, upfront truths that needed to be heard and all our emotions in all their colourful shapes and intensities. All without judgement and with wholehearted compassion in the hope that we would learn about ourselves and grow more in the process. I certainly feel like I did. Maybe if everyone had an environment like this, where they could talk so freely without fear of being judged or ridiculed then the World would be a much better place. I can imagine that traumas might be processed faster at least, especially because talking so openly and frequently about them would eradicate the taboo and discomfort that so often comes with this kind of sharing.

Now, following your intuition is one thing but it’s not just a case of landing in Bali and expecting to be healed, even if your intuition is screaming “Go to Bali”! No, because nothing really matters unless it’s done with intention, and the right intention at that. I came here with the intention of healing because I wanted to get back to living the nomadic, adventurous, fun filled life that I used to and nothing was going stop me getting there. I knew that I would have to sit through some uncomfortable challenges, that I would have to experience all the darkness of my traumas and the emotions that came with them to process them and get through to a more positive and stable state of mind and it’s not been easy getting here. I knew there would be anger, tears, confusion, embarrassment, shame, blame, apologies, confessions, panic attacks and a whole host of ‘break down’ type moments in front of a variety of audiences (I’m totally cool with public crying now). The thing is that I was ready to look all these moments in the eye and crawl through the sludge of them because I also knew that I had the grit, humility and endurance to do it, I knew that I had courage. Sometimes that meant reaching out and asking for help, regardless of how weak this made me feel at the time. As if I’d somehow failed at life because I was having to ask someone to be there for me or that I was lesser of a person because I couldn’t help but break down at certain situations that ‘normal people’ wouldn’t be phased by. It’s the overcoming of this shame and breaking the silence to speak that took a huge amount of inner courage, especially when to even voice my traumas brought out reactions in others that made me feel outright rejected, unsupported and unwelcome for sharing. I know this comes down to other people’s discomfort at not wanting to deal with these situations but overcoming these rejections (that’s what they felt like) when I expressed myself was a hard thing to keep overcoming. I actually remember a captain friend of mine stopping me on a walk back from the pub to tell me how brave I was to seek counselling straight after the attack. I guess I didn’t quite realise it back then because being from a medical type family going to counselling made sense to me – experience a psychological trauma, go and see a psychological expert – but looking back I don’t think that’s what he meant. I think he meant overcoming the stigma of opening up about my vulnerabilities, and having the courage to speak out. He was right, it was brave.

What I realised is that speaking out takes a different kind of courage. It’s not the courage that you need to live the life of a nomad without financial stability or the security of a fixed base, it’s not the courage you need to jump out of a plane even though your heart is thumping in your throat and it’s not the courage you need before enduring a hike to Everest Base Camp – trust me I’ve done all those thing and they were easy in comparison. Speaking out took a deeper level of courage that I wasn’t even sure I had, the courage to go somewhere that no one wants to go. The kind that makes you feel like you’ve exposed your deepest darkest secrets in front of the whole World and its judgement. Like you’re the helpless child in the playground, being humiliated, alone, being pointed at while the whole school laughs at you. I’m sure you know the feeling, it’s the stuff of nightmares. It’s often the fear of this feeling that silences us while we continue to tear up inside, telling everyone on the outside that we’re “fine” while we sink into a pit of loneliness which gets heavier and heavier until it’s almost unbearable. Having the courage to break that silence is real courage, and as with all things that involve hardship, it pays off, at least it did for me. By communicating and sharing as much as I have I’ve created stronger bonds with people because deep down we all have our trauma secrets, by sharing them it brings us closer together. It’s made me stronger too because I’ve got to know myself well through all these events and I’m sure that I’ll push myself even further with this new depth courage that found.

So I’ll leave you with a thought today. Tap into your intuition about a situation that feels vulnerable for you, see what feels like the right thing to do. It’s most likely the hard thing, that you subconsciously make excuses to avoid without realising. If you do realise what it is, find the courage to do something about it, with intent and see where it leads you. It might be saying sorry for your part of an argument, telling someone how you feel about them or just admitting that you need some help right now.

With courage x

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Motorbike Accident

I really like Koh Phangan, in fact, it’s my favourite Thai island. I like it because it attracts a diverse group of people, there are so many different beaches, activities and scenery to try out and once you have a motorbike to ride around on, everything becomes so much more accessible. There’s a great sense of freedom on the island, to explore, have adventures and be totally carefree. Although enjoyable, these pleasures can also turn the island into a bit of a crazy place at times, and sometimes Koh Phangan reminds me a little bit of Never Never Land. You know in the film

You know in the film Hook? When grown up Peter Pan arrives at Never Never Land and sees all the lost boys?

He asks them, “Where are your parents?” Then demands,

Then demands, “Who’s in charge here?”. To which, the answer then appears on a motorbike riding through somewhat sketchily made bike tracks stretching from tree to tree. Then all the lost boys sing in chorus

To which, the answer then appears on a motorbike riding through somewhat sketchily made bike tracks stretching from tree to tree. Then all the lost boys sing in chorus

Then all the lost boys sing in chorus “Roof-i-o, Roof-i-o, Roof, Roof, Roofiiiiiooooooooooo”.

Remember that?

Welcome to Koh Phangan.

Koh Phangan Sunset.JPG

Last night Dr Jenn and I were on our way to the West of the Island to watch the sunset before heading off to the south for some market food, when we came across a motorbike accident. Having been on the island for a week and already seeing about 4 people leaving local clinics with bandages, it was inevitable that we were going to see a bike accident at some point. As both of us are trained in first aid, we pulled over and headed to the scene without even thinking about it. When we got there we found a young woman, probably 19-20 years old, lying on the floor. She was bleeding from her face, her elbow and her leg, and she was shaking quite a bit, generally she looked pretty shook up. There was also a crowd of people gathering around her but it didn’t look like anyone was specifically tending to her or taking control of the situation, so without even question – I assumed this position. Firstly I asked if anyone was first aid trained, to which I got silence. Then I asked if anyone had called an ambulance and I got a flurry of different replies, apparently something

Firstly I asked if anyone was first aid trained, to which I got silence. Then I asked if anyone had called an ambulance and I got a flurry of different replies, apparently something might be on the way. Everything from this point onward becomes a bit mixed up, but I remember asking for a guy to call Koh Phangan clinic to get an ambulance, asking Jenn to control the onlookers and I started to assess the girl’s injuries and talk to her to see how conscious she was. The young woman was Spanish so I had to rely on my very rusty Spanish vocabulary to ask her for her name, age and what had happened. I’m not quite sure what information I got out of her, maybe I didn’t manage to translate the Spanish words in my head but I just made sure she kept talking. In all fairness, she was badly scratched and at worst may have broken her arm, but as my priority was to stop her going into shock I told her that she just had a few scratches and it looked worse than it was, while I continued to check her body for any bleeding or serious injury. Whilst I was doing this I was unaware that the traffic was building up on both sides, as cars were stopping to look, and that people were approaching. That was, until a man appeared on my left and commanded that we get her out of the road. Calmly I replied that I didn’t want to get her out of the road yet until I’d finished assessing her, to which the guy started raising his voice and started commanding things at me. At this moment I could feel my heart in my throat as I realised that I had put myself in a very vulnerable position and now I was being aggressively spoken to by someone. That little voice in my head was there again saying You’re under attack – there was my PTSD trigger right when I didn’t need it. At that moment I became very aware that everyone involved in this situation was watching me now, waiting for a reaction. This made me feel like I was under a lot of pressure, simple because I had assumed this leadership position. The only reason I had done this was because, having worked on boats I have very up to date and advanced first aid qualifications and seen as no one else seemed qualified in first aid when I arrived, I stepped up to make sure that the casualty was being tended to. I turned around to face this man who at this point, was literally a few inches away from me and calmly said “I’m the first-aider here and I am not moving her until she’s ready. Can you step back?” and then turned back to the girl. The man then shouted in my face that he was a paramedic but seen as I was a first-aider I clearly didn’t need his help and then stormed off muttering something under his breath. I remember this moment quite clearly because I could feel my heart racing so fast and all I wanted to do was to run away from this situation and cry. Then I started to doubt myself, should I have taken control of this situation? Should I have even got involved? What if my qualifications aren’t good enough? Having then questioned myself, I called back to the guy and said “If you’re a paramedic then we need you, come back” at which, he ignored me so I turned back to the girl and carried on assessing her. One of the cars that had pulled up was a taxi and was shouting that he’d take her to the hospital and after quickly taking this through with the girls and her friends we decided that if she could get up then it was probably best for her to go in the taxi than wait for an ambulance. She managed to get up unassisted and into the taxi. Deciding that we had done the best we could do, Jenn and I continued on to the beach to watch the sunset, where, you guessed it – I burst into tears.

There were quite a few things in this situation that triggered feelings from the attack and as we were on the beach Dr Jenn (putting on her Dr hat) asked for us to talk it out – seriously, having a psychologist on hand at even minor traumas is just the most fantastic thing. After a little bit of talking and crying, and a trip to 7-11 to get a beer, we distinguished that throughout that situation I’d personally had to deal with quite a few things that were difficult for me, so understandably I’d become quite upset. First of all, this incident put us both straight into a very aware state where we had to react, help out and put our first aid training into practice. Having been a natural leader all of my life it’s not unusual for me to do this, especially not in this kind of situation, I’ve actually done this quite a few times with minor injuries but this time, it was different. It was different because at the moment I struggle to feel confident doing things that are ‘normal’ to me, so to take control of a crowd and put myself in charge of someone else’s wellbeing it was actually very stressful for me at this point in my life, however as I was trained to deal with this situation I was under my own moral obligation to act. Regardless of my own discomfort, I had to put this girls pain at the top of my priority and make sure that she was given the first aid and assurance that she needed. As well as this pressure, the girl didn’t speak much English, so we had to converse in my second language, Spanish. The trigger here is that when I got attacked on St Maarten, and I ran into a house for refuge from my attacker and the women in the house only spoke Spanish. This was especially weird because St Maarten is a 1/2 French, 1/2 Dutch island where the majority at least speak a little English but the women who let me in their house only spoke Spanish. So for me, this was the second time I was having to converse in this language in a high-stress situation and last time I was extremely distressed, whilst trying to communicate that a man had tried to rape me. They don’t teach you how to say that in Spanish class.

The worst trigger in this whole situation was when the ‘paramedic’ approached and tried to take control of the situation in what I received as a quite an aggressive manner and I felt like I was being attacked. This isn’t the first time that a man has challenged me, in fact working in Construction and Yachting there are actually quite a few egotistically males that don’t like to see a young woman in charge and in the past I’d had a few different situations where man have either tried to undermine me professionally, come on to me or constantly challenge me to probably try and break me. In the past, I’ve been able to deal with these situations quite tactfully but lately, I feel really, under attack in these situations and handling these kind of egos is difficult for me to do without breaking down under the pressure. I’m actually quite impressed that I held myself together and managed to act as calm as I did during this situation. I’m not sure what the ‘paramedic’ was trying to achieve, whether he was trying to take control and didn’t like the fact that a young woman turned around and told him no – bruising his ego, or if there was something else at play here but either way, I’m quite positive that he wasn’t a paramedic. Having been in a situation before where paramedics have arrived, I know that this is not how they approach a situation, furthermore, had he been, he would have put the casualties needs before his ego and tended to her regardless of what had been said or done. This obviously wasn’t the case, because he stormed off.

I felt quite emotionally bruised for the rest of the evening and questioned myself over loads of things, if I was right or wrong, if I hindered or helped etc. Now that it’s a new day and I can reflect on the situation without the adrenaline and pumped up emotions, I can see that Jenn and I did the best that we could do at the time with the skills and knowledge that we had. I know that I acted calmly throughout the situation (even though I didn’t feel that calm at the time) and I know that I reassured the girl and helped to get her off the road and on the way to help. I’m sure that my Dad would have been proud.

I guess what the most important thing for me to reflect on in this situation is that it’s clear that emotionally stressful situations are still going to have an effect on me because what I’ve been through is still so raw. However, I also know how important it is for me to process these emotions and talk and cry after these events so that I can reflect, move on and get over them. At moments like these when I’m a little shook up after an event or a trigger that Jenn always reminds me of how a gazelle acts when it’s just got away from a lion chasing it – it physically shakes to discharge the overwhelming emotion. As humans we, don’t do this because it doesn’t conform to socially acceptable behavior in Western society, so instead we bottle these emotions up and they get blocked somewhere in our physical system. So instead of pushing these emotions back down she encourages me to let them out, cry and process them, and I’m really grateful that I have a friend who is so knowledgeable and helpful in these situations. I just hope that poor girl has as good a friend as I do to help her get through the motorbike accident.

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Christmas Eve

A year ago today I fought.

It was Christmas Eve and I was in St Maarten (the Caribbean), in between jobs when a local man tried to rape me on the way home to my accommodation. There are some parts I remember and some parts I don’t but needless to say, the event somewhat traumatised me. I’ve spent the majority of this year trying to deal with the post-traumatic stress that wrestles with me regularly.

This Christmas I’m home but there’s someone missing – my Dad. It’s quiet in the house with one less person and it’s left a gaping hole in all of our lives. Being a Muslim, he never really celebrated Christmas, it was a camaraderie that he went on with for my brother, myself and my Mum, who’s Catholic. Being a Doctor, however, he worked every Christmas and when I was a kid I would go to his hospice to give out the lunches to the terminally ill patients that he was taking care of. Everyone seemed to love my Dad. I remember how the patients would fondly talk about him and tell me what a compassionate man he was, something that I would also be reminded of in the wake of his death as ex-patients and colleagues stop me, to talk about him when they see me.

The experience of giving out hospice lunches at Christmas made me very grateful for what I had – two amazing parents and my brother, all of us well and healthy. I think that’s what Christmas should be about too, being grateful for the presence of our loved ones. It’s only when we no longer have this that we realise that the presents, the dinner and fuss don’t actually matter at all.