How the World Silences Survivors of Sexual Abuse, Assault and Harassment – Me Too and Shame

As a survivor of child sexual abuse, rape and sexual assault there is never a day that these things are not brought up by the world around me. From rape jokes, depictions in literature and on screen, news stories about sex offenders and those who perpetuate and uphold rape culture. On top of this there are flashbacks, nightmares, and suffering from post traumatic stress disorder to contend with. This is torture, however it is the reality of victims who have survived.

Recently an old campaign was brought back to life after the revelations from the victims of Harvey Weinstein and his continued sexual offences were brought to light. The movement is called Me Too (#MeToo) and was started 10 years ago by Tarana Burke – to unify those who’ve been victimised by sexual assault.

“It was a catchphrase to be used from survivor to survivor to let folks know that they were not alone and that a movement for radical healing was happening and possible.”

“What’s happening now is powerful and I salute it and the women who have disclosed but the power of using ‘me too’ has always been in the fact that it can be a conversation starter or the whole conversation – but it was us talking to us,” – Tarana Burke

As a survivor who survives by using my trauma to educate people about sexual offences and offenders and who shares to help other survivors feel less alone through my art and writing, it was only natural for me to support the movement and join in. It felt odd as there was a sense of relief that I was not alone and that others were speaking out – however there was also the realisation of just how many #MeToo statuses I was seeing in my news feeds across social media platforms; not being surprised by these revelations as I am very familiar with the truth of how prevalent these crimes are.

Then the usual erasure started. Victim blaming was loud and clear, with those who have never experienced these crimes and trauma chiming in with their privilege – mainly white able “feminists”, such as The Big Bang Theory star Mayim Bialik. Mayim arrogantly used her platform to victim blame and projected her own opinions on those (who are in fact survivors) to suggest modesty protects against sexual offences, that not being “conventionally attractive” could also protect you.

Read the full article here

In response many survivors took to twitter to criticise this blatant ill informed and damaging piece.


As well as this many of us (the survivors) were subjected to people criticising those of us who had used the ME TOO hashtag, saying it was attention seeking, a “trend” and even people making comments such as:

“I hate people jumping on the bandwagon, with their #MeToo victim mantra”

or trivialising the movement by suggesting that women only feel harassed when they don’t fancy the man harassing them.

Fashion Designer Donna Karan was quick to blame women for their assaults and harassment by stating:

“How do we present ourselves as women?” Karan was reported as saying at an awards ceremony Sunday evening in response to a question about the accusations against Weinstein. “What are we asking? Are we asking for it? By presenting all the sensuality and all the sexuality? What are we throwing out to our children today? About how to dance, how to perform and what to wear? How much should they show?”

“It’s not Harvey Weinstein, you look at everything all over the world today, you know, and how women are dressing and what they’re asking by just presenting themselves the way they do. What are they asking for? Trouble.”

Far-right hate preachers such as Katie Hopkins used survivors (as she often does) in order to further her prejudice campaign against Muslims, as she “believes” that rape and child molestation are crimes perpetrated by Muslims and mainly against white girls.

As well as this (which is her usual rhetoric) she went on further to suggest the women who have come forward, have exchanged sex rather than being subjected to rape, assault and harassment. Clearly stating she herself is NOT a victim of sexual violence – begging the question, why comment? Well it is a simple ugly truth, Katie Hopkins uses suffering to gain financially and has no remorse for who she affects as she is blameless with her arrogant (teenager) style inability to be held accountable, shrugging her actions off, suggesting always that it is the “other” who is wrong or to blame. Many on the far-right of the political spectrum use survivors (especially children) in order to scaremonger and portray the white supremacist ideas that people of colour are feral and are more likely to rape, steal and murder. Katie’s agenda is to ban Islam, stop refugees from seeking asylum in the UK and to flip the reality of white privilege and suggest that “white genocide” is on the cards. This is why she uses the fear of sexual violence and child molestation as pertaining to certain ethnic groups over others in order to divide – but mostly for fame and capital gain.


The movement was also evolving and most of the community were quick to offer support to one another, as well as addressing the issues such as the inclusivity of men, trans and non binary people, remembering that often these are the most unlikely to come forward or have the platform to express their trauma. We addressed the issue that the movement was misquoted as being started by ALYSSA MILANO when in fact it was started by Tarana Burke as stated at the beginning of this piece, which left many rightly angry that the voices of black women and women of colour were being pushed further down and not being given the credit when it was due. Reminding us all further that #BlackLivesMatter is still a very necessary movement. We also made sure to include those who are unable to voice their #MeToo and I reminded people that there are also the children (like I was) who aren’t even aware that they too are victims, unaware that they have been abused, still being abused and who remain voiceless.

Another side emerged due to the movement – where certain survivors were criticising other survivors for taking part. My heart felt heavy reading the statuses and comments projecting their pain and anger toward those of us who have been speaking out and those who (for many it was the first time) shared their story, only to be met with one-upmanship making those who shared retreat into the shame that we are all to accustomed to. When these games are played within the survivor community they can be misunderstood and met with understandable hostility.

To the survivors who were doing this:

No one is denying that what happened to you was terrible. You have been through hell and back and probably find yourself in a purgatory like state often. However you must try not to allow yourself to be goaded in to proving your trauma. You don’t have to justify your story with evidence or ask for others to do so either. We are all hurting and the invalidation that we have endured is infuriating and the feeling of being disbelieved and unheard can send us into a panic, triggering the emotions felt at the time we experienced the trauma. This I believe can be a feeling of such isolation and desperation that jealousy can rear its ugly head, when hearing of others and their stories – especially if it is perceived the other individuals are being heard and validated, isolating you further, making the bait of competition or minimising the other very tempting. This is understandable and I admit that in my twenties feeling jealous of the survivors receiving more support from crisis and health services, those who had families who were comforted, protected and those who were not left disabled from their experience, made me feel jealous and angry. This was misdirected anger on my part, not yet strong enough to realise that I was in fact a victim; my ability to protect my abusers in my mind and see myself as the problem was only dismantled in my early thirties. I finally saw my sexual abuse, rape and sexual assaults from the eyes of an adult, not the child who had no idea what consent was and just wanted to be loved. Allowing myself to finally direct my anger to my predators and the rape culture in which we live in, through my art and writing aiding in my continuous recovery, giving me purpose in order to live each day. This is my process.

The #MeToo movement is a way for us to feel less alone, it is for us (the survivors), it is not for anyone else. People will always chime in as social media allows us all to voice every thought that rattles around in our heads. The victim blaming, erasure and triggering through abuse is a serious risk to those suffering from trauma. Your safety is important! Please do not share if you do not feel strong enough. Even though people assume I am very strong due to the fact I am open about my story. What isn’t often understood or known about me is that it took me 15 years to accept what had happened. The fact that my trauma started in childhood means it has been something I have always known, my abuse started at the age of 4 – a life without abuse is not something that exists for me. There are times when protecting myself and stepping back from my activism, art and writing is all that can be done in order to stay safe. Especially when trolled on social media by people who wish to abuse me further by using my experiences against me and to even threaten me at times.

We know better than most what abuse is and the fact that when we speak out – we are abused further, is the reality of the world we currently live in. The hope is that through education in schools on consent, that addressing patriarchal systems and toxic masculinity, allowing survivors the space to tell their stories safely, that mental health services will do better, that justice systems do not use character assassinations and arbitrary details of the victims life as the key defence, that less stigma is given to those suffering, that the rhetoric of disproportionate “false rape” claims does not over shadow the prevalence of survivors,  that we support the marginalised within survivors – people of colour, mentally ill people, people with disabilities, religious minorities, trans people, non-binary people, men and children; if we are able to start with these things then progress will come. However the need for allies who are from the  most privileged groups in our societies and who have the biggest platforms is needed and their silence or silencing of others is telling.

We don’t owe the world our stories, our lives are not “inspiration porn” and our suffering is not a currency to be used to further hate and this is only when we are believed. When we have to prove our trauma because YOU choose to believe the abusers or victim blame us – you become part of the problem, you facilitate the rapist, the child molester, the sex offender. You give them the signal that this is still acceptable and that their accountability is not an issue. Society tells YOU that the risk of a false accusations of rape is more harmful and a higher risk than actual rape, that clothes determine whether or not “they asked for it”, that men and boys can’t be raped or sexually abused, that to be a sex offender you have to appear to be a monstrous being – when the proof is all around us with well loved “nice guys” being exposed as some of the most harmful predators; such as Bill Cosby, Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris. Or people excuse behaviour due to “genius” with men such as Woody Allen or Roman Polanski. The world is full of examples of how rape culture prevails and how survivors are pushed down – making us some of the most vulnerable people in society.

Next time a movement starts or reemerges don’t trivialise it because it doesn’t mean anything to you – either step back and listen or help. Next time someone is accused of a sexual offence – don’t be so quick to react in their defence, always take time to remember the facts, remember that there is nothing to be gained by accusing anyone of a sexual offence – so why would someone do this. If you begin to victim blame – challenge yourself! If you avoid helping a loved one who is a survivor for fear of saying the wrong thing or feeling uncomfortable – push past this! If you feel the need to ask survivors for more information on what rape culture is, don’t – we do not have to hold your hand, do your own research, we are never rewarded for our emotional labour. Don’t fall for the rhetoric that rape is more prominent in certain races and religions. All I ask from you all is to do better! Unfortunately you never know if you will fall victim next or if someone you love will – in this chaos all that is left is to be kind.


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This Body Survived - By Charlotte Farhan
This Body Survived – By Charlotte Farhan

Confronting my own blood – the aftermath of sexual violence

There is something which disturbs my mind every day, which no one knows to look at me – no one suspects that throughout my day I have to endure pain and flashbacks due to the metallic, heart pumped liquid that flows through our veins. When I was violently raped at 15 years old the injuries suffered were severe. Having to have vaginal and anal surgery was another violation but medically necessary.

Knowing I had been damaged severely during the rape and straight after, never having experienced such pain, it felt like being ripped open; however as a young girl who wanted to fit in with her friends, assuming this was “normal” and how sex was for girls, my immediate reaction was confusion and relief it was over. Even though my mind would flash with intense warnings to what had just occurred, such as the images of me faced down unable to breath, crying silently in agony as he split me open, or of me on my back paralysed as I was held down and forcibly penetrated and the image of being gagged from oral rape with no air supply and fearing for my life. However shock and dissociation kicked in, in the immediate hours after, wanting to be loved and not understanding what had happened led me to ignore the sever pain and remain silent.

It was not until the following morning that the realisation that my entire world had changed; waking up in a pool of blood and in agony was the beginning of the end. Knowing this was not menstrual blood, the shock of it all was still so incomprehensible – writing this now I understand this better, but then as a child in 1999, it was not clear what had happened to me. Still then – thinking that this was my fault and that because my other friends had not experienced this that it must be because I was a freak of nature. Did I do it wrong?

Upon telling my friends Mother (who I was staying with), what had happened and that I was bleeding heavily from both ends, her reaction was simply; “what did he do to you”? This sentence which still rings in my ears was the first indication that something wrong had happened to me and it was not all in my head.

The following days were excruciating, physically and emotionally, it took a few days before I was taken to a safe house, where my statement was taken and a medical examination was held with a rape kit. The doctor and nurse were horrified by my injuries and could not believe I had been walking around like this for days. Then they broke the news to me that I would have to have surgery and a lot of stitches – vaginally and anally. When I came out of the examination room, my Mother looked at me and she said the same thing “what did he do to you”? There were no answers, just a word which people -the adults kept saying; rape!

When people heard that this had happened to me most did not believe me, the reason being that at the age of 11 my mental illness had come to the surface, as a self harmer and a child who had tried to kill herself several times before 15, people treated me like a demented child who made things up for attention. The Mother of the boy who raped me even went as far as to suggest to the police and school that the sever wounds suffered, were actually done by me and not from vaginal and anal forced penetration, saying I had deliberately self harmed my genitals to accuse him of rape? Obviously this woman was not a fan of Occam’s razor.

The surgery was at Winchester hospital and it was a sunny day in mid June, I remember this, the memory of laying on the stretcher going into the operating theatre with beams of light dancing over me as we passed a corridor of windows. All I could see was myself as from above, having dissociated and experiencing psychosis my mind was detached. Another violation was happening, another medical necessity, defiling me once again.

When awoken from surgery, the first sounds which were audible to me, were my own screams – yelling at the top of my lungs, “this was not supposed to happen, he was supposed to love me”. It didn’t feel like the noise was coming from me, it sounded like it was coming from a little girl trapped somewhere, who I desperately wanted to find and rescue. Still detached and now suicidal, with no energy and so much pain, the world seem to drift by and all that was important to me was death, ending it all. This is when I was put into the psychiatric adolescent unit in Epsom.

Today as a woman who has only recently accepted what happened to me at 15, the blood still haunts me. Suffering from C-PTSD the flash backs which come about can be so intense causing sever vaginal and anal pain, it strikes me like lightning and locks me in the terrifying moments which happened. There are also everyday things which cause these triggers to overwhelm me, such as the fact I have PCOS which causes me to bleed a lot and often, every time I see blood – the violation and violence washes over me and drowns me in trauma induced psychosis. Another complication is that I can not have smear tests or any vaginal examinations, which puts me at great risk, especially as someone who has PCOS, as we are more likely to have cervical and ovarian cancer. Sex has also been an ordeal, throughout my late teens and twenties, not knowing when a flashback would occur and often happening during sex. Luckily with my husband through kindness and love I eventually was able to have sex without it being painful. Blood will always be the worst trigger for me, it even affects me having blood taken – which is essential as a diabetic. As well as having unexpected triggers, like when my husband recently cut his hand badly and blood spat everywhere – seeing little droplets all over the bathroom floor sent me into a psychotic state. Furthermore as I sit writing this – it has taken me weeks, as the need to step away and have breaks from this piece was required for my own sanity, it is overwhelming writing this and reading it back.

The reason for me sharing this with you is because the only way I can continue to survive is by helping to create change for others. My life started with sexual abuse in my own home (at 4 years old by a family member), which is then where I was raped at 15 at an overnight party by a boy in my year who was also only 15 years old. There is so much more to be told, however this piece is the most open I have been before, this is scary but it is necessary and having survived far worse than revealing this to you, this can only make me stronger. When I close my eyes at night the colour red is all I see, it has never left me in over 16 years, it remains my biggest trigger, however the more we “the survivors” share the more awareness is created and hopefully this will happen less or be dealt with better if it does.

Confronting my own Blood - By Charlotte Farhan
Confronting my own Blood – By Charlotte Farhan

 

This painting has been one of the most revealing and allowed me to confront my own blood. It is part of my ongoing collection:

Art to End the Silence on Rape 

For information on available originals or prints for purchase or for galleries wishing to exhibit these paintings in their venues please contact using the form below.

Art to End the Silence on Rape – Head on a Stick – Art and Poetry by Charlotte Farhan

Head on a Stick - By Charlotte Farhan
Head on a Stick – By Charlotte Farhan

Head on a Stick

By Charlotte Farhan

I offer my head to feed their eyes and tongues,

judgment spat at me with venomous vigour,

my body discarded leaving me without lungs,

crowds come forward with their mouths even bigger.

“Her head on a stick” the rabble loudly shout,

“she was asking for it” they scream insanely,

“But it’s the truth” I say, day in and day out,

“please believe me” I plea to humanity.

Life feeds on death; a self-destructive fury,

on public display my shame is left weeping,

my fresh blood is doused over the grand jury,

headless, with sexual organs for reaping.

The executioner offers salvation,

delivering me from my sin and evil

sex used as character assassination,

loss of life force, my soul is in upheaval

Like Medusa before me, our heads have rolled,

forasmuch as we were thought monstrous women,

our Fathers never let go their stranglehold,

still our legs run red with the deepest crimson.

The crowds start to disperse from around my head,

I feel I may be able to find some peace,

ripped apart, I could lay on my deathbed,

culpability placed like an altarpiece.

A victim I was, but a victim they blame,

told this violation does not happen here,

our voices attest; the night must be reclaimed,

identities are shaken and disappear.

Rape is not the act of sexual desire,

it is not uncommon as you may believe,

our minds are ruled now by an occupier,

we are the scapegoats, left – to be disbelieved.


This piece of poetry is from my degree course in Creative Writing.

The theme of this poem is that of victim blaming and the impact on the victim of sexual violence.

I am a victim who survived sexual abuse as a child, sexual violence and rape as a teenager as well as 2 sexual attacks in a psychiatric ward as a teenager.

Please take a look at my other articles and art on this important issue:

Click here: Art to End the Silence on Rape

If you would like to support my mission to end sexual violence and rape culture please like my awareness Facebook Page:

Click Here: No Excuses – Sexual Violence Must End


 

For any further information on my work please fill in the contact form:

The Agoraphobic Artist – How I live in the captivity of my mind

Artist Charlotte Farhan
Artist Charlotte Farhan

Some see agoraphobia as simply not being able to leave your home or a fear of being outside. But I am here to give you a true insight into this disorder.

So lets look at its definitions:

Dictionary definition:

Agoraphobianoun, Psychiatry.

an abnormal fear of being in crowds, public places, or open areas,sometimes accompanied by anxiety attacks.

General definition:

Agoraphobia is what is known as an anxiety disorder characterized by anxiety in situations where the sufferer perceives the environment to be dangerous, uncomfortable, or unsafe.

For more information visit The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) diagnostic criteria via psych central.

So how does my agoraphobia impact my life and what symptoms do I have?

  • I have not left my home or been outside alone for over 9 years. I spend 5 out of 7 days without leaving my home at all. When I do I have to be with a trusted companion, I have a handful of friends and my husband who I trust to do this with. I have to go to familiar shops and take familiar routes. I mainly go to the supermarket, local shops, friends houses and a few outdoor and indoor activities.
  • I can’t answer the door to people, unless I know it is a friend and a scheduled meeting.
  • I find very open spaces terrifying. Such as mountains and rolling countryside, which is difficult because I also love them visually. When in these environments I am on high alert. I am able to go to these places with a companion, but feel like I am going to fall off the earth. Places I have visited like this include The Brecon Beacons in Wales, the deserts in Jordan and The Alps in France and many more, but these stick out in my mind as I felt so overwhelmed by the “exposure” of the the elements and how insignificant I am on this rock in space.
  • I find large crowds panic inducing. A busy shop, a packed cinema, a concert, festival and many other environments are either impossible on most days or need a lot of planning and even then can just be too much.
  • Bridges make me feel physically sick!
  • Most public transport is a big NO! But I can take a plane to visit family in Jordan or for a holiday as long as with my husband. Trains and the underground are the worst and most of the time I would not be able to use these at all.

This is not everything I suffer from but are the main factors within my agoraphobia.

Having had lots of treatment for my agoraphobia but none being successful, has been disheartening. My only success is in my acceptance of the illness, my ability to recognise behavioural patterns and to express my feelings of how it is to live with the condition and raise awareness and understanding, so that others who suffer feel less alone and for those who do not know what it is or how it affects a person, they are able to learn.

This is why I truly believe art is an effective tool within my treatment and general mental health. As well as being something I can do for the wider cause, by sharing my art I am sharing my experience and allowing there to be a visual testimony which will allow others to feel less alone.

Here is my latest piece of art:

Agoraphobia – By Charlotte Farhan 

Agoraphobia - By Charlotte Farhan
Agoraphobia – By Charlotte Farhan

My agoraphobia was born from my PTSD and this is very common for those suffering from these conditions.

The motivation behind my brains need to protect me is a reaction to the trauma I have suffered. Having survived childhood abuse from a family member and then at 15 being raped by a someone I knew and liked, sent my brain into a dissociated state, which in turn built up a fortress in my mind, trying to protect me from being in any further situation or from seeing the abusers again. Unfortunately, since then I have seen them, a handful of times but a handful which was enough to suffocate me and make my illnesses worse, reliving the experiences and feeling like I am a child again, or that 15 year old girl who was just looking for love and kindness not for life to repeat its torture and leave her as a broken doll who had been dragged through dirt.

quote about rape and ptsd

Although my agoraphobia is like a prison, it is also a safe house, a place where I can protect myself and feel like I have done everything in my power to prevent further pain.

Many feelings arise in me due to this forced mental committal, such as being an eternal child/adolescent, shame, guilt and vulnerability to everything. Often I am ashamed that at the age of 31 I am unable to leave my house alone, that I can not go to a shop to buy a pint of milk or far more important things, such as visiting a friend in distress, I lost my independence.

What I wish for you, the reader to remember is that no two people suffering from agoraphobia or any of the conditions I have mentioned are the same. Our experiences are our own and instead of assuming you know why, ask them or just mind your own business.

Just be mindful that there is no simple solution and please do not feel it necessary to try and dominate an individual into doing anything they are not comfortable or ready to do. We are not a “feel good” project for you to tackle, we are people living with a complicated psychological illness which does not need to be fixed by you, your empathy (not sympathy) is the most valuable of comforts. Listen to us, learn about our lives and reasons, do not judge, do not bully. If then, and only then, we ask for help or you wish to offer it, simply accept what we need and if you can help we will be most grateful.

 

mental illness quotes

 

Living with agoraphobia is like being a caged animal who fears its capture and environment. My mind passes back and forth and my panic increases with everyday that passes. Daily events round the world confirm the need to be locked away, for my own safety and sometimes others. On occasion certain parts of my mind wish to escape the confinement the agoraphobia has created, parts of my other illnesses such as my borderline personality disorder and psychotic depression bash their metaphorical heads against the bars of my prison. This illness is the child of my post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), from trauma comes anxiety and this ultimately changed my entire behaviour and personality.

Charlotte Farhan - Photography by Lisa Reeve
Charlotte Farhan – Photography by Lisa Reeve

If you or anyone you know suffers from agoraphobia please find more information via these links:

ANXIETY UK

NHS

Psych Central 

Here is another article I wrote on this subject:

The Agoraphobic Artist – My Story

 

 

The Agoraphobic Artist – My Story

MY STORY

IMG_13041

My story of Agoraphobia starts when I was 16 years old. Only recently discharged from an adolescent psychiatric hospital and having wanted and attempted to die for almost 5 years, (including standing in front of an oncoming train, but being rescued by a very brave train guard) I had survived and started to believe that it was a cruel, never ending punishment. However I was struggling with so many things and was having very vivid hallucinations and believed that I was indestructible.

Then at Reading festival in the year 2000 just after I had graduated from secondary school with almost nothing to show for myself as I had been in hospital for most of my GCSE’s, I went with the attitude that life was a massive joke and I was the punch line. There I met my (now) husband Mohammed, I was in love instantly. I even told my friends I would end up marrying him, they (as usual) thought I was insane, in most medical opinions I was. Sure enough I started dating Mohammed and he was and still is everything to me.

Having never had a kind, loving male in my life, having been abused by my Father and then abandoned by him and having been raped by a classmate when I was 15 (hence the break down and hospitalisation) I had found my prince in shining armour. Mohammed gave me and still gives me more than enough love to compensate for my Father not loving me and being treated the way I had been by boys and men. Mohammed truly saved me from taking my own life when I was a child. A gift of life he gave me and I was not about to waste this gift!

So after wanting nothing more than to die, I now had swiftly changed perspectives, I didn’t want to die, I didn’t want to leave Mohammed, not for one second! This I have later found out is due to my borderline personality disorder and something which we have as suffers which is called black and white thinking (also known as splitting).

bpd 2

 

Everything suddenly felt unsafe! The world became scarier than ever, everything was potentially going to kill me, kill Mohammed and separate us. Slowly but surly I became withdrawn and anxious and developed Generalised Anxiety Disorder. I had gone from someone on the highly at risk register to someone who was preserving my existence with such an attention to detail that it was taking over my life and caused mine and Mohammed’s life to become harder and harder. We were kids, now living on our own and we were in over our heads. After almost being sectioned in an adult psychiatric ward in Guildford at 18, I decided I had to keep my mental illness hidden as much as possible, this also fed into my reclusive behaviour and soon enough I was not going out on my own, then only once a week with Mohammed to do the weekly shop and back.

images (12)

This continued for a year, then when I was 19 I found ecstasy, a class A drug which allowed me to do things which I would never be able to do, it gave me back my flip side, my fearless side. Just 2-3 pills and I was able to counterbalance my heavy anti-psychotic drugs and fear, so that I could be like my friends and hide my torment and struggle.

I wouldn’t go out, especially without Mohammed and then orchestrated my life so that it was not an obvious problem. But soon, I was put on heavier medication and became like a zombie for a year and didn’t move really, let alone going out. I was starting to create my own world.

 

A spoon full of sugar - By Charlotte Farhan http://www.charlottefarhanart.com/
A spoon full of sugar – By Charlotte Farhan
http://www.charlottefarhanart.com/

Then just before my 21st birthday I suffered a complete psychotic break from reality and broke up with Mohammed. I convinced myself that I was holding him back and that I was not good enough for him and wanted to become my other self, my reckless other side. I couldn’t make sense of anything and felt out of control. This led to a year and a half of heavy drug use, dangerous behaviour and living life as a fearless crazy person. I changed my identity, hide my illness, made friends out of enemies and had no regard for my future, just instant gratification, the thrill of being on the edge again.

However, one day I looked at Mohammed (who I was still very close friends with and who I still loved like no other) and I realised for the first time in my life that he was my future, my partner and my family and that in order to be with him I had to confront everything.

Formidable Love - By Charlotte Farhan  http://www.charlottefarhanart.com/
Formidable Love – By Charlotte Farhan
http://www.charlottefarhanart.com/

Mohammed and I got back together in 2006, although understandably he made me work for it, I had to prove myself and I put everything I had into winning Mohammed back.

After 6 months of being back together, I started feeling the panic coming back, the fear that I would die and not get to live this life with Mohammed. So I started withdrawing again from the outside world and sometime in 2006 I went out for the last time on my own.

My agoraphobia got worse in 2010, I moved to Portsmouth and within a few months of being in the city, I decided that maybe I could start working on my exposure work for my agoraphobia, so one day I decided to take a few letters I wanted to post to the post box a few meters outside my front door, Mohammed was indoors and I felt I could do this!! As I walked to the post box, I saw a man walking towards me, I didn’t really pay attention as I was on my mission. Suddenly I caught his eye and I realised it was my attacker who had raped me when I was 15, I felt all my blood escape my body, my heart stopped, I started sweating and hyperventilating, I turned on my heels and ran to my front door, thumbling around, franticly trying to turn the key, I fell through the door and couldn’t catch my breath and vomited all over myself.

PTSD - By Charlotte Farhan http://www.charlottefarhanart.com/
PTSD – By Charlotte Farhan
http://www.charlottefarhanart.com/

I felt this was another cruel joke which a sinister God was playing on me. I knew this man lived in Portsmouth, but it is a massive city and did not think this could happen. My world came tumbling down around me and I felt trapped and frightened.

This led to me not being able to go to a “normal” university as I couldn’t attend classes, even with supervision or assistance. I was then told by The University of Portsmouth I was to unwell to study and had to leave. I took this as a massive failure and as I could’t work either I felt I was nothing.

This is when I turned to art (Art Saved My Life) and am now an artist who works from home. I started at the end of 2010 and now am a professional visual artist, illustrator, art mentor and I am an artist in residence as well as being a massive promoter of art and it’s benefits to aiding and managing mental illness. I also raise awareness and break down the the stigma of mental illness through my own art.

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It has been almost 7 years since I last went out alone, I am still able to go out with Mohammed, my Mother and a few safe friends, but this is only to certain places and it has to be all pre-planned with warning.

I do all this from inside my home, without leaving the house and it is a struggle everyday. I am still receiving medical treatment for my mental illnesses and am working towards a future when I can just pop to the shop across my road to get a pint of milk. People take for granted these little things which no one would think is a massive ordeal for some. I long for my independence and for freedom from my own prison. I take one day at a time. I am the sort of person that has evolved through all my trauma and pain to believe that we have no excuses, I have days when everything hurts me like I am covered in burns and other days when I can inspire over 36,000 followers and live out my dreams. All I know is that I am blessed to still be alive and to have the people I have around me and I will do everything in my power to help others like myself through art, change the world and I can only do this if I am alive, here and fighting the fight for us all.

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Thank you for reading my story.

All my love, Charlotte Farhan xxx

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