Chapter 23 —Surviving not living.
In all my life, through all my struggles, I have never actually made an attempt at taking my own life. This is despite spending my whole life wishing I was dead, up until 2011 when I first came across Cognitive Hypnotherapy and my life changed for ever. I used to joke that I wish I would be run over by a bus, but always lived somewhere where there were no buses! At the end of the day I didn’t really want to die. I just wanted to stop hurting and nothing worked apart from burying it as deep as I could, disassociating from my body and my emotions. My childhood had taught me that doing those things was critical for survival. Those lessons allowed me to be very successful in life
Chapter 24 — First time seeing a therapist
I was very good at what I did. I have a knack for explaining stuff in a way that others can understand. Because I had learned not to listen to the inner voice, I was not subject to all the limiting beliefs that everyone else had. This meant that I was soon promoted within the company I worked for. I started off working for a company of around 20 people in Watford. By the time I left 10 years later, there were over 17,000 employees worldwide and I’d continued my rise to the top. I travelled all over the world, helping call centre businesses improve, and eventually, in 2000, I moved up to Dundee to run a flagship call centre. I’ve lived here every since.
I am not a maintainer. I am creative and love to problem solve, but once that is done, I get bored easily. This meant that although I was in the same company for 10 years, I never did the same job for more than 18 months. Some time after moving to Dundee it was time to move on again. I set up as a consultant and travelled the world working with callcentres and people all over. It was a great time.
Except it wasn’t. I was so unhappy. It was all an act. I was visiting the most amazing places and meeting the most amazing people and I was too scared to leave the hotel room and experience it, and I just wanted to die.
Paul eventually decided something had to change and he found me a counsellor in Aberdeen. She did person centred counselling. I started seeing her in 2005 and went every few weeks for about a year and a half.
As part of that process I reached out to my mother. I had found a letter when I was still living at home, between my mother and the friend I told, where it was clear that neither of them believed me. So I wrote an email to my mother telling her everything. She replied along the lines of “Oh gosh you must think I’m the worst mother in the world. I’m surprised you still talk to me”. She then went on to reassure me that she did believe me. To make the point she talked about my grandfather and how, as soon as I’d told her, she’d reported him to the police.
When I reported my stepfather to the police for historical abuse, it took about 2 years to get the information the CPS wanted and to get it through to court. It was 2 years of pure hell, which included a face to face interview with the police and a 4 hour video of me talking through all the details, which I then had to watch in front of the judge and jury during the trial. I can’t describe how horrific that whole experience was. But I knew he had abused others and would go on to abuse more and I wanted to be their voice and stop him. So I did it. There was a specialist policewoman appointed to work the case. When I reported him I told my mother. She said she would do anything that she needed to do to help. But then she wouldn’t meet with the police. About halfway through the process, not long after the hell of giving my evidence on video, the policewoman said my mother wasn’t corroborating my story. So I gave her the email thread which I’d saved, to show she did know and had admitted it.
This email thread, and my mother not believing me and protecting herself, is why he was found not guilty. More on that later, but suffice to say she had not reported anything I told her about my grandfather to anyone.
I met with my mother while I was seeing the therapist in Aberdeen. She was still with my stepfather at the time so we met at her friends house. She told me she had kept an eye out after I told her, to make sure it never happened again. She offered for us both to go to therapy together. It was clear my mother just didn’t get it. It was really hard to deal with and I distanced myself from her more and more, eventually writing to her and telling her that until she showed any sort of understanding of what had happened, I couldn’t be around her.
Towards the end of the therapy, I had my first abreaction with my therapist, although I didn’t know it at the time. It was towards the end of the session and she had asked something. Everything in my head went black and it felt like I was falling into an abyss. I couldn’t move or talk. But I could hear fine. I could hear her talking to me, insistently saying “Dawn…Dawn are you ok?” again and again but I couldn’t respond. I thought I had gone insane. Eventually I started shaking and was able to move again, and then speak. My therapist had a couple due to come in after me for counselling so the session had to end and I had to leave. I wanted to find a cliff and drive off it. I thought I had finally lost my mind.
I now know it’s called an abreaction and it’s what my brain does to shut me down when I’m talking about stuff I shouldn’t. I’ve always been told not to talk. As a result, I’ve always find talking about what happened to me almost impossible. It’s caused many abreactions over the last 10 years, including many in court. In fact, I had to warn them that it happened in case it happened during questioning. It didn’t, but as soon as I got to the room after giving my testimony I went into an abreaction. Nobody has ever told me not to type stuff though, so I find I can be free with the written word in a way I can’t with the spoken.
Chapter 25 — two thousand and sh*t part 1
At the end of 2006 I quit the consulting job and got a senior manager position in a large UK telecomms company. Although I was travelling all over the UK, there was no more international travel. It was nice to have a break from that and have a more stable job.
That Christmas Paul really wasn’t well. He seemed to have some sort of flu thing that never went away. One day, I was heading out to see a friend when Paul phoned me. He could barely breathe. I phoned an ambulance and raced it home. I arrived as the ambulance crew was walking my husband down our front steps into the ambulance. They sat him in it and put an oxygen mask on him. They said he could either go to hospital or wait until Monday to see his GP. I told them to take him to the hospital.
Paul’s father dropped dead suddenly of a heart attack at 50. Paul was overweight (his accident meant that exercise and even walking caused him pain), diabetic, and a former smoker. They did all the tests and decided to admit him. But they were only really admitting him because there wasn’t an available doctor. They put him on antibiotics. It was a nightmare and he refused to stay when nobody was even looking after him.
But he didn’t get better. I managed to persuade him to see the doctor again, but she fobbed him off. We were now into January and Paul couldn’t leave the house because he kept getting breathless. I eventually managed to get him to go back to the doctor one last time. The doctor said he thought he knew what it was and sent Paul into hospital for a treadmill test. I left him there and went down to the riverside in Dundee to do a scheduled conference call. When I went back there was no sign of Paul.
He’d had a heart attack on the treadmill and was now in cardiac intensive care. It turns out that one of the things about being diabetic is that you don’t usually feel the pain of a heart attack. You just have all the other symptoms. He had an angiogram and they found he had 3 blocked arteries and needed an urgent heart bypass if he was to live.
The bypass operation was scheduled for February up in Aberdeen. I took him up there and stayed overnight at a local premier inn. On the day of the operation they had to cancel because there were no ITU beds for after. They sent him home. He kept calling his consultant and there was no news. Eventually we phoned Aberdeen hospital and they asked how the recovery was going. They thought he’d had the operation. When we asked about rescheduling, they said it would be at least June. The doctor had said he only had weeks to live if he didn’t get that op.
And when he was in cardiac intensive care, I’d found out I was pregnant. So now everything was more critical (like it wasn’t bad enough already!).
We ended up extending the mortgage and paying for him to have the operation privately at a hospital in Glasgow. In March 2007 he had 4 arteries unblocked. The operation went well and within a week he was back home and recovering. He missed the 12 week scan but at least he was alive — no thanks to the doctors. It really was some sort of miracle.
Chapter 26 — two thousand and sh*t part 2
As mentioned, while we were trying to make sure Paul lived, I found out I was pregnant. I never wanted kids. Firstly I could not bear the thought of screwing up someone elses life in the same way that mine had been screwed up. I wouldn’t be the one responsible for that. Secondly, I could barely go to the dentist because I was so scared of being touched. The idea of being exposed in the way you are when you are pregnant and have a baby was horrific.
However, my body clock kicked in and all reasonable thought disappeared and I decided it was time to get pregnant. It seems my mind and body thought this was ok, because I got pregnant quickly. I travelled back and forth to Glasgow to visit Paul in hospital every day and it made me so sick. I realise now that I have terrible travel sickness when I’m pregnant.
Apart from the constant sickness, everything seemed fine with the pregnancy. Until I went for the 20 week scan. My blood pressure was too high. Paul was recovering from the operation and was not in a position to do hospital visits with me so my friend came along. I went into hospital so they could monitor my BP over a few hours. I was convinced that it was only high because of how stressed I was at being in hospital. I hated it and was terrified. It made sense to me that my BP would be high. They sent me home but told me to rest — not that easy when you have a hubby recovering from a heart bypass back home and you are terrified of giving birth.
When I went in for my 24 week scan they were worried. Development wasn’t where it needed to be and my blood pressure was still too high. I ended up going into hospital overnight so they could monitor things. It was the weekend of Paul’s birthday, the 3rd July, and Adam’s due date was my birthday, 12th of October.
On the 6th July I went in for another scan and the doctors said he wasn’t getting enough blood to his brain and the only way to give him any chance was to deliver him that day. I was exactly 26 weeks pregnant. Paul was at home and had to dash in while I sat and sobbed. They gave me a steroid injection, and that afternoon Adam was delivered by c-section. He weight 1lb 6oz. He was taken straight to neonatal intensive care and I was taken to a room. I had been determined to breast feed my child. I wanted to do everything to give them the best chance. I started expressing milk as I knew the first stuff was prescious but it was almost impossible because I hadn’t even seen him.
The doctors told us he had little chance of survival. It all felt surreal. I forced myself to visit him multiple times a day. I wanted to make sure I formed a bond. For the first week, most nights the doctors told us he only had hours. Somehow though, each time, he kept fighting. I was send home and returned to visit twice a day. Every time we spoke to the doctors, they told us there was little chance. We decided we’d hold on to hope and always make a decision to fight unless he was suffering. We even sat in a local park one day, talking about what we’d do when he came home. It felt like he was going to make it.
Then one of his lines burst. He had lots of lines going into him, but it was really tricky because his veins were so little. When one burst it caused a burn on his skin. I believe this was just more than he could deal with. He could either fight to live or fight to heal the burn — but not both.
On the 3rd of August, the doctor said that if he was to have any chance, we need to give him a steroid injection. This would pause some of the cell repair which would give his lungs a chance to regenerate. The risk was that without the cell repair the stomach lining could tear. We said ok. I wish we hadn’t.
I visited him on the 4th and he was clearly in pain. It was so awful to see that I had to leave. On the way home we got the phonecall I’d been dreading. Late that night we went back in and were told he had developed a tear in his stomach. He was dosed up on morphine but there was nothing they could do. As we always said we would not let him suffer, in the early hours of August 5th I held Adam in my arms, for the first time in his life, and his life support was switched off. I was desperate for him to prove them wrong and breathe. But he didn’t. He died peacefully in my arms, 30 days after he was born.
We had him cremated. He was too small for any ashes so we have an area in my garden and every year Amy and I buy a new ornament for it. My mother travelled up with my brother for his funeral. She organised it all without involving us.
When we found out things were going wrong with Adam, and had no idea of the outcome, Paul and I agreed we would have another child. If I had kids, I knew I always wanted 2. Sadly, I’ve had 2 kids, but only have 1 with me. Paul said that my mother had earned the right to be a grandparent when she came up to Adam’s funeral. I knew I had so much stuff that I couldn’t trust my view on things. So I listened to Paul.
By October I was pregnant again with Amy. She ended up going 2 weeks over her due date!
My mother was allowed in our lives again and loved being a grandmother to her, until the trial in 2015 when she lost that privilige.
Chapter 267— my daughter changed me
In July 2008 Amy was born weighing in at 6lb 10oz. Everything was fine.
She has been the light of my life. I have never laughed as much as I have since having Amy.
It was so hard though, because as Amy grew older, I would look at this child and know I would do anything to stop her being hurt. I would protect her at any cost. What was wrong with me, that as a child noone looked at me that way and thought that. I must have something very wrong with me.
When she was around 3 years old, she started asking “Are you happy mummy?”. I would answer yes, through gritted teeth. And she kept asking. I turned to Twitter and asked what I should do. They said she was learning empathy. I said not very well!
I decided that I was not going to let my screw ups screw her up. I was a blogger, and a lot of my friends were using a product which was an MP3 download that you listened to, and lost weight. My weight had been out of control my whole life, and after having Amy I was at my heaviest ever. I figured for £29.99 it was a no brainer. After a week of listening I decided it wasn’t going to work for me, and I tweeted that. The company responded and asked why. Damn. Called out. I just said I had stuff. And then she asked if she could call me and discuss. Double damn! I spoke to the lady and, as usual, avoided telling what had happened but dropped hints. Turns out she was a therapist, and she said it should work, but I might want to consider seeing this therapist guy in Harley Street in London.
I was still in my senior manager position and travelling to London regularly, but even so, thought of visiting a Harley Street therapist for a couple of years at the price they charge seemed ridiculous. She said he would only need a few sessions. I laughed. She had NO idea!
But after I got off the phone I thought, what if it was true? What if someone could help me?
I emailed Trevor. And over the next few weeks I was in no doubt that this guy could help me. But there was a catch, he was a Cognitive Hypnotherapist (actually he’s the founder of Cognitive Hypnotherapy) and there was no way on earth I was going to sit in a room with a strange man with my eyes shut. The lady from the weight loss company said she would sit in with me and the deal was done. I thought it was a lovely offer, not realising that most people would jump at the chance to sit in a live therapy session with the founder of that therapy!
In May 2011 I had my first session with Trevor. I was so scared. I knew I couldn’t talk through this stuff and went into the session determined not to cooperate (not helpful I know!). I remember Trevor trying to find a significant memory but it just kept going really dark in my head and the shadowy image of my stepfather kept appearing. He tried a different tack, looking for a happy memory, but that was even harder! Eventually that memory I mentioned earlier popped up, of the first time my stepmother hit me. We changed the way I remembered that.
I left there feeling surprised. It was certainly nothing like that other therapy sessions I’d had. I was aware I’d been a pain and did not expect much to change.
Sitting in London City airport later that day waiting for my flight home, I became aware of something different. There was a silence in my head. I hadn’t realised there was a noise until there was the silence. I was floored. How was that possible? How could so much change in such a short space of time, and with me not even helping?
By the second session I was convinced that everything in my life had let me to this point. I couldn’t believe this thing existed that was like magic and nobody knew about it. I had to learn how to do this myself. The catch was I had a senior manager job that required lots of attention and travel, and a 3 year old back home being looked after by a disabled husband.
….by the third session I’d signed up to train to become a cognitive hypnotherapist. It was 1 weekend a month for 10 months in London. As ever, Paul was hugely supportive. I would not be where I am without him. Although I planned to work my out of my job, I got the chance to be paid off and in July 2013 I left paid employment and became a full time therapist.
I qualified as a Cognitive Hypnotherapist in August 2012 and as a Master Practitioner a year later. I then went on and got a Masters in Psychology from Dundee Uni because I love learning, and love the brain!
All in all I’ve had only 8 sessions with Trevor since May 2011. I am self aware enough to know when something has me stuck. I will talk with friend and fellow therapists and then get help to clear it.
My training doesn’t make me a better therapist. My childhood experiences don’t make me a better therapist. It’s overcoming those experiences that makes me a better therapist. I know, with certainty, that I can help you. Not because I’m qualified, but because I’ve done it myself and overcome all of that. I believe in you.
Chapter 27 — Taking my abuser to court
Ever since I had the conversation with my mother back in 2005 I’d felt guilty. I was 99% positive my stepfather was abusing someone else. But I just couldn’t speak up. I lived in fear that people will learn my disgusting secret. I blogged my journey when I started seeing Trevor, but I never talked about what happened — I just talked about how it affected me. I published the blog posts into a book. Trevor said people would be able to guess, and I was horrified.
But as my therapy journey freed me up, I found all that fear disappeared. I could easily talk about what had happened to me, which meant I could now do something about him. I wanted to be the voice for those he’d abused, and stop him doing it to anyone else.
In 2013 I phone the NSPCC and said I wanted to report historical abuse. They took it from there. I had an initial visit from the police, then I attended a local police station and spent 2 hours giving a written statement. I forgot to warn the police woman about my abreactions and freaked her out a bit at one point, but we got through it and it was done.
I phoned my mother and told her I’d reported him. She said she would do anything she needed to do.
The case was passed to a specialist unit in North Wales that deals with rape and abuse cases and a lovely police officer was assigned to my case. She kept me informed. She asked if I’d refused the option of the video. I said I hadn’t been given the option. Apparently if I did a video it would mean that could be played in court so I wouldn’t have to talk through it again. I offered to go and give my statement again, this time on video. I recorded a 4 hour video giving all the details of the abuse. It was a horrific experience. At one point I had an abreaction and they had to stop the video. It freaked them out. I hadn’t warned them because I assumed they’d seen something like that before. Turns out they hadn’t!
While I was going through this hell, my mother was refusing to talk to the police, and when she eventually did, she did not coroborate my story. The police wouldn’t tell me what she was saying. The friend I initially disclosed to totally refused to talk to the police. In the end, in desperation, I gave them the email thread so they could use that to get my mother to talk.
The trial eventually took place in May 2015 in Caernarfon crown court. My friend travelled down with me. Because it was an abuse case I had special measures, so there was a screen in the court so I couldn’t see him, and I came in to court through a rear entrance and into a special private room. Two little old Welsh ladies from witness support were there, as well as my friend.
During my trial there was a trial of a major drugs baron. The court was surrounded by armed police officers, which the Welsh ladies (I called them tweedle dum and tweedle dee) loved! What it did mean was my trial was delayed because that trial had first dibs on jurors as it was going to last for weeks. I got what was left, which turned out to 10 younger student age people and 2 older people. Not really my peers. Each day and least one member of the jury overslept and was late.
Eventually, later in the day, the trial started. I had to go into a small room and watch the first half of the video I recorded, at the same time as judge and jury. There was a camera on me, watching my reactions. It was horrific. I was reliving the abuse in graphic detail again and again.
Another friend sat through the whole trial in the courtroom so they could report back to me. On day two and the friend that had travelled down with me sat with the other friend, while I went up to snowdonia. They reported back to me. They told me how both the prosecution and defence had called my earlier childhood, before the abuse, as horrific. Social services and school records talked about us being neglected, starving, and covered in bruised. It was a revelation to me. For the first time I almost felt sorry for the younger me.
His testimonial was apparently dire. At one point he was being questioned about abuse that had happened while we were on holiday in Ireland. His reponse was “Well I wouldn’t have done it then would I? It would be too easy to get caught”
My friend, who is now a psychologist, showed up for me and gave evidence to say I’d told her about the abuse.
But there was a problem. His defence was clever. They said it was my grandfather that had done everything I described, not my stepfather. They got this from the email I’d given to the police. The CPS scrabbled to trying and find records of my mother reporting it, but of course there were none. Because my mother never actually reported what my grandfather did. When they questioned my friend and suggested it was all my grandfather, all she could say was she’d not met him. There were no records for the prosecution to use. It was his word against mine.
The only person that could have categorically sorted that was my mother. My mother didn’t attend court. Not only did she not attend, whatever was in her statement would not have helped, so they didn’t even read her statement out. It was better to let the jury believe that she wasn’t there because the abuse never happened, than to read out her statement.
I had to go home before the day of the verdict. But the friend that had sat through the whole thing was there. She said he turned up to the verdict with a large suitcase. There was no doubt in the mind of the police, the judge or even him, that he was guilty.
But the jury found him not guilty. Because they didn’t have to say it didn’t happen. Just that it wasn’t him.
He walked free from the court room. He has no record. He moved and now he can abuse anyone he wants.
I went through all of that and he still walked free. Because my mother didn’t show up for me.
I cut my mother off. I wanted nothing to do with her. It was the final betrayal. And in cutting her off she lost accesss to anything to do with her grandaughter, who I know she doted on.
I had to live with the consequences of her looking after herself, now she would have to live with the consequences of her choice.
For me, it was liberating. I was believed for the first time in my life. Not only that, I always felt like I’d made a big deal about nothing in my early childhood. Now I knew the opposite was true — I’d underplayed how bad it was. And the not guilty verdict freed me up. I could let go of those memories. If it was guilty I would probably have written about it and talked about it more. Now, there was no point. I had to let it go.
Apart from the knowledge that he is abusing others, it was a liberating experience. I wouldn’t advise that route if you want closure though!
Chapter 28 — today and my mother dying
On July 2nd 2021 my mother died. I had been told a few days before that she was seriously ill and wouldn’t have long left. Amy had sent her a lovely message, and I sent her a message letting her know I forgave her and she could let go know. All is equal on your deathbed. None of what went before mattered and I wanted her to be at peace. I didn’t hate her. We had some really good times together during childhood and she was the only adult that demonstrated any love at all. But at the end of the day she always put herself first, and so I had to protect myself from being hurt by that.
I’d told Amy that she was a great and doting grandmother, and I was more than happy when she turned 18 for her to pick up that relationship again — I just couldn’t be part of it. She won’t get that chance now.
When I posted on my Facebook that my mother had died, the friend that attended court sent her condolensces saying it was hard to lose a close friend but harder to lose a mother. I had been good friends with this person for over 10 years. We’d talked about my mother and she claimed she didn’t know her. Now she was publicly almost boasting that she was a close friend. I messaged her and asked her what she meant. She simply replied that she had been very close friends with my mother for over 15 years.
She had never been friends with me. She was using me to feed stuff through to my mother, and she was proud of how she’d played me.
And the worst thing is, if she was actually at the trial for my mother, she could have told her what was happening and got her to show up. As far as I am concerned they are both responsible for others that he abuses.
Between things this friend said, and the memories that unlocked once my mother died, I’ve made some more connections. The funeral is this week and Amy and I will go. It will be a final goodbye and I will walk away from that chapter of my life.
The only family I am connected with now is my half-sister and her 3 kids. I have to move forward and leave the past behind.
This is a really difficult time. That is a huge betrayal from a friend — when I’ve always put my faith in friends because I couldn’t rely on family. And losing my mother brings up complicated and confusing emotions.
I will try and use it for positive transformation one day, but right now, everything just hurts.
Overall I’m very lucky. I have helped hundreds of people clear their trauma from childhood over the last few years. If it wasn’t for my own experiences, my path would not have led me here. I hope to help many more in the future. You can be free