7 years

I was asked this morning to write a small piece for LinkedIn for IWD as the most senior woman in the company. Just a quick soundbite and a photo. Whilst writing it I had the most overwhelming feeling of gratitude and disbelief. The most senior woman in the company? Me? Had you told me this 7 years ago almost to the day I wouldn’t have believed you. Because 7 years ago this month my whole world turned upside down. I have only told about 3 people in my life the story of what happened, and probably nobody the reason why it happened. But it’s time, and it’s all part of a healing process to look back, remember, appreciate and importantly move forward. So here’s my story, probably the most important part of my history, and the hardest one to write so far.

March 2014 I was in peak self destruct mode. I’d spent 3 years sleeping around with anyone that would have me, just to feel valued, appreciated, wanted. It wasn’t working and I went from weekend to weekend, drunk, out on a Friday and Saturday night and trawling the nightclubs for my latest prey. I would go out on my own, stay up all night, all weekend until I was back to work on Monday. I lived for work, it was the thing I was good at. I was promoted quickly and every couple of years and was a rising star at the business. It was where I was most like me, where I felt complete. The weekends were just me spending money and passing time until I could be back to work again. I was addicted to work, and if I could have worked 7 days a week, I would. It left very little time for anything else, least of all building relationships.

I had been sleeping with a guy called Greg since about November, on and off and basically just a Saturday night shag arrangement. I wasn’t sleeping with anyone else, and neither was he, but neither of us wanted anything more. The guy was an utter disaster. 38, lived with his mum, jobless, gambling addict and out every Saturday. I started to lend him money pretty quickly, which I still haven’t had back to this day. That’s how little I valued myself at this time. Of course, I didn’t realise it then, but looking back now I was in a cycle of exceptionally toxic behaviour. He treated me despicably, never wanted to be seen with me, and we would hook up after the club had closed. Always at mine, because he had no space of his own. I couldn’t see that our relationship was bad for me, and probably bad for him. When I look back on that relationship now I know that it was extremely damaging to me, my mental health and it was perpetuating my already rock bottom self esteem.

At the beginning of March I went for a regular std check. I used to go every 6 months, and would invariably use condoms on any one night stands, but I wouldn’t if something became regular with one guy. I was on the pill and had been for years. I wasn’t expecting anything to be wrong, but the actual results were life changing.

I was pregnant, 14 weeks pregnant and I’d had no idea. At this point I would suggest not reading on in case you find anything triggering, as those that have followed me for a while know I don’t have any children.

I didn’t tell a single, living soul that I was pregnant. Only the nurse knew, and then the people at the clinic that I arranged to go to. I didn’t even considering keeping the baby. I was a single woman, with a good job and potentially great career in a male dominated industry. I had a mortgage to pay, bills to pay, and no viable partner to rely. I never told Greg, and he still doesn’t know to this day, which I regret, but I knew from his actions with me what his reaction would have been. So I made the appointment and kept it a secret from absolutely everyone.

I took one day off work, and attended alone. That day is a blur if I’m honest, but there was general anaesthetic and tears and a recovery room filled with couples and I, alone. I stayed for an hour afterwards as per doctors orders and then I lied, said I was getting a lift home and left, driving myself the 20 mins home. Clearly I wasn’t thinking straight. I abhor drink driving, driving under the influence, anything to do with not having full control of a vehicle. I got home, I went to bed, I pushed everything to the back of my mind. My speciality. I slept for the night and went to work as normal the next day.

3 days later I was called to meet my boss for an impromptu meeting, I assumed it was a bonus conversation as it was year end and that’s usually when we met up. Instead I was called into an office and suspended from work. The day after my abortion I had queued up to buy my lunch as usual, been called away by a customer and then gone straight to the canteen and eaten a £1.19 sandwich. Someone had whistle blown and reported me. My boss asked me if it was possible this had happened and of course I straight away said that it could have. Turns out that was a huge mistake, as I admitted guilt and there was actually not a shred of proof apart from one persons testimony. No CCTV, nothing. I was summarily dismissed a week later. I told my disciplining officer that I had some extenuating circumstances. I got a note from a doctor. The first person I had to tell about my abortion was the man who sacked me. It made no difference, and to be fair, it shouldn’t have done, I made a mistake and I should have been punished. It felt disproportionate after 15 years of service, but I understand it.

This was the turning point in my life. My behaviours and actions had led to this. I had lost the thing I loved the most because I had no love for myself. I got a job in a pub pulling pints the day I was suspended. I worked 60 hours a week to pay my bills whilst looking for a new job. I launched an appeal and later represented myself in an employment tribunal. I stopped drinking, I stopped going out. I started working out, walking loads, generally looking after myself. It took the darkest of times to make me see the light, and for that reason I don’t regret a single thing that happened. It made me the person I am today, and I am stronger because of it. I got a job with the company I work for now exactly one month after losing my other.

Now, I am valued. Now I have a work life balance, which is the main reason I went off the rails the way I did in the past. Now I am respected as a woman, and given personal time if I need it. Now I am the most senior woman in the company, before there was a glass ceiling.

I feel better for writing this down, for getting it out, for verbalising it. It’s cathartic. It reminds me just how far I have come in the last 7 years, and a reminder that, on social media people only know 1% of me. They know nothing about my life, and choose to judge anyway. Or make assumptions. This is another 10% of me, a bit more understanding. And if anyone is going through the same, just know, it does get better if you let it, and that no one will love you the way you love yourself.

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