There is a metaphorical bump in the carpet, an elephant in the room, a tiny chip on the windscreen that is slightly visible in almost all of my posts. People have brought it up to me in person, so it’s noticeable.
Almost 7 years ago I got into my first serious relationship where my Mum and I decided it would be best I start taking the contraceptive pill. Little did I know at the time that this would be an incredibly huge contributor to the deterioration of my mental health. At 16 I didn’t really understand the seriousness of depression, and it certainly isn’t mentioned as a side effects when you’re choosing your means of sprog prevention. A few months into religiously taking the pill I began to change, my hormones were all over the place. I was angry at people for no reason which then made me angry at myself and it was a vicious cycle of anger right up until me and my ex broke up. I felt that I was low almost every single day (that still reigns true), sporadically bursting into hysterical tears until my eyes were puffy and I yawned myself to sleep.
I used to think that depression was something that had to have came about because of an emotionally traumatic experience, which I guess could be the reason I shoved that word aside right up until the summer of last year.
My second year of University was one of the best, if not the only insanely amazing year since my mental state changed. Granted everything I did and everyone I met/lived with/shared an intimate relationship with were and still are amazing, however that thick dark cloud only became invisible temporarily. It still lurked and was rumbling from within, ready unleash a big fucking storm. It never goes away, and I don’t even know how to make it go away to be honest. How naive of me to think it would just disintegrate when I moved to University, or ran across the world to a city where you can go a day without coming into contact with anyone who speaks your language.
It’s pitiful to admit that I seek intimate company and attention from men wherever I go. Why is it that for so long my inner self convinced me that finding value and happiness in myself could only be achieved through other people? Striving to seek some kind of permanent distraction from how I really feel.
It’s almost as if my subconscious conjures the Protego charm – there are hundreds of Dementors floating on the outside, watching through their long scraggly hooded cloaks… they begin trying to force themselves through the shield. On the inside 2 pairs of eyes are locked in a trance, fingers tracing the hot flesh of the torso whilst underneath hearts are beating rapidly. She’s entangled in the sound of him each breath, word, sigh and she becomes numb to the darkness trying to fight its way back in. She’s in ecstasy but his his hands loosen their grip and the sound of his voice gets harder to hear and the groans of the dark hooded figures get louder and louder. She needs to find that numbness again to stop the deafening screeches from within the scraggly black cloth.
Ultimately third year was really hard for me. I started off relatively well, I had a lot of body confidence because I was pretty small… I had lost a lot of weight that year when I was with a guy who I thought was totally out of my league (again my socially conditioned subconscious telling me I needed to look a certain way). My eating started to go downhill though, I was stress eating and was so easily influenced into eating shit food with the (wonderful) girls I lived with. Then came my PaR research about the ideology of femininity, and as most of you know I shaved all my hair off. It was intense and emotionally exhausting to be so concerned with how I looked and what other people thought of me, and this constant anxiety and stress lead to weight gain again. I collected these thoughts and feelings and began making my own work. This work got me a fucking sick grade to graduate with which I am so proud of… but was it worth putting fuel on the already small burning flame? Definitely not.
Moving home was also incredibly difficult. I was overwhelmed with loneliness that I’d never felt before, when you’ve spent three years waking up, studying and partying with your friends almost every day of the year it is the strangest thing to suddenly not have that. It was then that I really became aware of how I was feeling and admitted to myself that I was suffering with depression and had been since 2013.
Me and my friends were in Liv’s summer house having a really lovely evening, it had been so long since we had all gotten together like that due to some of us being at University, so it was full of catching up and sharing stories. Liv is the human I share absolutely everything with and so I had already offloaded a heap ton of shitty thoughts and feelings on her. When someone asks me “How are you?” my first thought is to say “Terrible. Really, I am truly not okay.” but I don’t wanna burden them long sighs and empty stories as to why I’m sad, so I just say “Yeah I’m alright, plodding along.” At this moment, in the summer house, I felt that it was enough bullshitting to myself and other people – Liv lead me into the conversation with a soft hand (she’s always been good at that) and my voice croaked as I told them all that I just wasn’t okay and I hadn’t been for such a long time. They asked me why but I didn’t have a sufficient answer.
They suggested that I come off of my pill, so I did and funnily enough this helped a little. It’s fucking terrifying that this small pill that young women choose to take to prevent themselves from unwanted pregnancy (which is a whole other conversation on mental health itself) leaves this this horrible weight on their shoulders that is so difficult to shift.
Like I said earlier, I foolishly thought that coming to China would have been an opportunity to leave that big thick rumbling cloud over England and I’d step into sunshine, rainbows and air pollution. And it could have been if it wasn’t such a train wreck the moment I was in the country right up until now. Here’s why:
- I came to China on a 10 year Business Visa with multiple entries 90 days at a time.
- Agency #1 set to change this to a Working Visa on arrival. I left them within two weeks.
- Get new job. The boss was supposed to apply for it. Never applied, reason unknown.
- I am underpaid and over worked.
- Boss decides she wanted to apply for it. I had low-key made plans to leave.
- I signed a contract with Agent #2. Redid a medical check for Working Visa. Agent#2 takes 2 weeks to realise my results had been delivered. (In those two weeks I had no work, thus no money).
- Moved to Spencer’s Kindergarten for a week and a half. Left because the PSB were tipped off about my Business Visa.
- Another 4 days of no work.
- Began work at a temporary kindergarten. Left 3 weeks later and returned to Spencer’s Kindergarten.
- Left Spencer’s Kindergarten again after another week. 5 more days of no work.
- Move to another temporary Kindergarten.
- Agent #2 begins applying online for Working visa. It fails because crazy ex boss applied for a fake one when I left. My documents were detained.
- I had to arrange documents to be authenticated in England and then sent here. More money wasted.
- Agent #2 figured out a way to reapply.
- Temporary Kindergarten sacked me off because they hired a full time teacher. 4 more days of no work.
- Same day Agent#2 says the PSB refuse to give back a specific document. Finds a way to get around it. Asks me not to reorder the document from England.
- 10 days later he tells me to order it.
I made the decision to stay in China for another 2 years so that I’m able to save enough money to see the world. However, 3 months of constant fuck ups, loss of money and moving about woven into exhausting uncertainty and I’m just about fucking done with it all. I refuse to give up though because if travelling is going to anything like Vietnam was it’s going to be amazing.
That’s where I’m currently at working wise. Where am I at social wise? Truthfully, I am not enjoying China.
I shut myself out a lot. I did back in Year 13 and I still do now. My only really close friend here in China is Spencer, and that’s been my own fault (I’m not shit talking her, I love her I just mean like I have chosen not to associate myself with anyone else). I’ve felt too exhausted to have the same conversations over and over again; too exhausted to entertain more than two people at any one time; too exhausted to get to know people when I struggle to really understand myself. This got progressively worse when I returned from England and all this work shit began.
The only other people I’ve really made time for is 3 men that I’ve been intimate with here in China. One back in August-September who was really lovely but our schedules were too mismatched/his interest in someone else. Another which I’ve been on off seeing recently, purely physical but we get on so well. And Tian.
Tian was my Chinese ex-boyfriend. So. Well. Fuck. I just took a big breath in. With the recent sexual assault case in Ireland regarding a young woman and her underwear being used as “evidence” against her, I’ve felt the need to share this. I’ve been really open about this in person with a lot of people, some really close to me and others I speak to irregularly.
Now, my time with Tian was okay but things were a little tense at times when it came to language barriers, misunderstanding and his outbursts of heated emotion whenever I would drink. We were together for 3 months and for 80% of that time I had contracted UTI’s and a yeast infection which are not pleasant, thus asked to steer clear of sex. This was fucking hard and occasionally I’d give in, terrible for my health I know but it’s only human.
We’d often get heated and then I’d remind him that we couldn’t go any further because I needed to get better down in the lady garden. One evening I’d began drifting into sleep as he was holding/tickling my back and legs. He began moving closer to my vagina and started to touch it, with my still conscious. I began to stir and kept murmuring for him to stop because I was trying to sleep and he did. I thought nothing of this.
A week or two later we got all heated and I said I couldn’t have sex and didn’t want to because I was tired. Again, I began falling asleep and the started doing the same thing but this time I made no attempt to stop him. I stirred, he removed his hand and stopped dead still. He thinks I’m asleep. This happened three times. He began to slowly open my legs and at this point I thought to myself “Okay let’s see how far his going to take this because you have the power to shove him off.” He thinks I’m asleep. He continued to use his finger as a means of penetration, then he stopped. He thinks I’m asleep. He stood up, opened his draw and fumbled around. He was getting a condom. He thinks I’m asleep. I hear the wrapper tearing, and then I feel him about to penetrate me. I found my voice and shouted “DON’T YOU DARE TRY TO HAVE SEX WITH ME IN MY SLEEP!” and he body shot from the bed to the other side of the room. He spoke and said “wait, you were awake?”
Here’s a little how the conversation went:
“Yeah I was awake, I’ve been awake this whole time. What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”
“I.. ummm… I…”
“You were going to have sex with me in my sleep.”
“Well, umm… you looked so good lying there, your ass and vagina. You got me turned on and then stopped.”
“I couldn’t give two flying fucks if I began giving you head, told you I didn’t want to and then stopped, you do not get the right to have sex with me when I’m asleep. If I cannot say yes, you cannot have sex with me. That’s rape.”
“Rape? I’ve never heard that word used before now.”
“Yeah well that’s what this is, attempted rape.”
“Have you done this before?”
“Have you done this before?”
“No I’ve never had sex with you whilst asleep but”
“But what? What have you done?”
“I’ve maybe touched you in your sleep.”
“How many times?”
“5 or 6 but this was the first time I’d tried to have sex with you.”
A million questions were whirling around in his head I could see it by the horrifically confused look on his face. He couldn’t grasp how I was awake, nor that he had just attempted to rape me. He was very apologetic.
I stayed with him for another month after that and my sex drive became almost non-existent and my fear of falling asleep in his presence was high. I began telling this story to a lot of people using the phrase “tried to have sex with me” as opposed to “he tried to rape me”, I laughed about it and I’ve no idea why. I began to understand the extent of what happened when Jack from home sat me down and told me that reacting like that is okay but “please please understand how serious this is, I’m not trying to tell you how I feel but I’m concerned that you’re being too chill about it.”
After this talk my outlook on the situation changed a little. But it changed A LOT in Vietnam. The last 3 days of our trip and we were in Cat Ba, couch surfing with a Vietnamese guy. The first two nights Spencer and I had fallen asleep together, but the third she had conked out almost immediately and the host was downstairs. Even though I knew in my heart of hearts nothing would happen when he came into the room my body stiffened and I didn’t fall asleep until my body couldn’t fight off sleep any longer.
I was reluctant to pour out my thoughts to Spencer because I felt like I had no right to be distraught about what happened. I made the conscious decision to let someone almost rape me, and then chose to stay with him afterwards, thus you cannot complain. It saddens me how true this is of so many sexual assault victims, and the phrase “If this was someone else what would you say?” rang like an old school alarm clock in my head but for some reason I refused to let myself not be okay with it all… right up until then.
We’re in the Beijing airport waiting to go through security check, 24 hours since I confided in Spencer about how I felt and I glance over to the Chinese Citizen line and guess who I see… Tian. 24 hours after I had to come to terms with how my body reacted to be awake in the presence of another male at night. My stomach churned, eyes widened and I said to Spencer “Tian is there.” Within moments a wave of heat washes over me, my heart to beat at what felt like a million beats a minute and I begin to pant. I turned so quickly away from Spencer to hide the stream of tears rolling down my cheeks and had to force my legs to stop from their violent shaking. She was amazing, she spoke to me so calmly told me to focus on her and gave me a run down of what we could do to get past his eyesight.
I didn’t quite realise how much the sexual assault had affected me until that split second in the airport where my body just shut down at the sight of him. My reaction immediately after the assault compared to that reaction in the airport continues to haunt me, let alone not feeling comfortable around some men I’ve met since.
I’m in a mentally unsettled place right now but I know I am which is probably a whole lot better than being completely unaware. I can feel that I’m trying to prove something to myself with regards to men and sexual relationships. I feel as if my actions in most recent months is me trying to reclaim my body, trying to come back stronger and also as a distraction from this ongoing pain in the ass that is my mission to get my Visa done and go back to work with Spencer.
I know this feeling won’t go away immediately and probably won’t until I get that fucking visa and a full paycheck but As I knew it would, typing this all out has really given me a sense of relief.
It is incredibly scary being on the other side of the world away from familiarity, comfort and family let alone when things just aren’t going to plan. Life can be a bloody shit storm at times and it throws you off balance. I’m now even more determined to stick this out, save money and absorb myself in the beauty of the world.