Half-English/half-Irish, I am an ex-teacher, dedicated foodie, and modern art/street art enthusiast constantly seeking new places to travel to. At the start of 2018, my life was rubbish – I was unhappy in my job, my relationship, and struggling with poor health after being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, a chronic medical condition. Life felt like a daily battle until I had an epiphany. I underwent a radical detox, leaving behind my old life, selling my possessions. In June 2018 I set off round the world with a heart and mind hungry for new places, people and adventures…
The catalyst for the life change was having to leave my teaching job in Dubai in 2018 because I wrote a controversial blog post exposing my ex/boss’s abuse of power and emotional abuse. After I left, I made a complaint of professional misconduct to the company we worked for. A conversation to agree a fair resolution and an apology would have been an acceptable solution. Instead I was forced to sign an NDA. The attempt to silence and scapegoat me backfired though as I continued to speak up about my experience, and about emotional abuse to raise awareness. Even after I left Dubai and reported him, my ex found ways to contact and manipulate me so I kept blogging and speaking up. I was villainised for telling the truth. What happened to me was dismissed as a he said/she said situation but evidence exists that proves everything I said. I’ve never said anything publicly I couldn’t prove in a court of law. The company we worked for were simply not interested in investigating my complaint. If speaking out means I’ve ensured he doesn’t do it again to another woman, then all the trolling and negative consequences – loss of job, home, friends – will have been worth it. Blog posts Get Lit (Not Gaslighted…), Gaslighting Survival Guide, Invisible Scars and In Control outline the emotional abuse within this relationship and these posts will hopefully help others. No one is above accountability and everyone has to take responsibility for their actions. Ultimately, I was held accountable for speaking out; my ex/boss was not held accountable in Dubai for a situation he created. In August 2019, he was, however, reported to the UK police for harassment/cyberstalking; I wrote Dear Dubai Ex: Closure to ask him to stop and to close this chapter of my life. Though my solicitor has advised me that I have enough evidence to proceed with a civil case for damages from my ex/boss and company, I have decided not to pursue the matter further. I’ve never been someone motivated by money and I don’t need to win a court battle to prove I’ve always told the truth.
No man should ever get away with abusing a woman and damaging her career because she refuses to sleep with him or be controlled by him. Definition of coercive control: when a person with whom you are personally connected, repeatedly behaves in a way which makes you feel controlled, dependent, isolated or scared. Controlling or coercive behaviour is an offence in the UK (Serious Crime Act 2015). Statutory guidance states that the aim of the Act was to highlight,
‘the importance of recognising the harm caused by coercion or control, the cumulative impact on the victim and that a repeated pattern of abuse can be more injurious and harmful than a single incident of violence.’
According to Evan Stark, (2007) Coercive Control. How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life. New York: Oxford University Press, ‘Not only is coercive control the most common context in which women are abused, it is also the most dangerous.’ As someone who has experienced the detrimental impact of coercive control (manipulation, gaslighting, controlling behaviour, cyberstalking, etc), I am passionate about educating others about this issue. After four of the most challenging years of my life, I’ve now made my peace with this chapter and have become a stronger and wiser person as a result. Good can come from the worst times in our lives.
My Fibromyalgia is not cured – there is currently no cure for the condition – but my health is much improved. When I was diagnosed aged 39, my quality of life was diminished; I was in constant pain, severely fatigued and scared my health would never improve. I didn’t think I would be able to manage to work full-time again. I’d resigned myself to feeling old before my time, convinced I would never be pain-free. Leaving teaching and travelling the world for a year saved me and gave me back my life. I am now medication-free and doing a very physical full-time job in hospitality which I love. The key to recovery has been the removal of stress and all toxic relationships from my life, and ensuring I get plenty of rest when not working. I still experience symptoms when over-tired, such as muscle stiffness and blurred vision, but the chronic pain has become just an occasional nuisance and today I’m living a life that seemed impossible two years ago. I’m a happier and healthier me.
Travelling teaches you that there are always people worse off than you and that everyone is just doing their best to live a decent life. Regardless of geography and cultural differences, we all want the same things: to be safe, secure, loved, respected and happy. The paper crane, my logo, is a symbol of peace, hope and survival. When I visited Hiroshima in 2017, I was profoundly moved by the story of Sadako Sasaki who was two years old when the atomic bomb was dropped. Years later, she developed leukemia and whilst in hospital, she made it her goal to fold 1,000 paper cranes. She died aged 12, but her legacy endures and people all around the world continue to send folded paper cranes to Hiroshima to hang at the Children’s Peace Monument. The colourful strings of cranes are a powerful reminder of the human spirit’s need to connect and our desire to be positively united together.
CONNECT with me: Instagram @uncaged_artbird