Saturday, June 17, 2006

Take a load off

I am exhausted. This is what it has been like for the last few weeks: Get up, deal with emails, go to work. (Have started getting taxis again because I had a panic attack last week: the weather was wet and grey and muggy, like 7th July. The train was crowded. I started to smell the bomb, hear the bang, taste the smoke and blood. I was shaking and running with cold sweat, heart thundering, mouth dry, ringing in my ears. I walked away, arrived at work late. I can't cope with the journey at the moment, I know I am supposed to master the fear and get better that way, my therapist says, but I haven't the resources right now.)

Lunchtime: reply to more emails. Work in the afternoon. Evening: reply to more emails. Weekends: reply to more emails. Sleep badly.
The emails are mostly from the media wanting me to put them in contact with survivors. I don't give out names, but I have been passing messages on. In the last two weeks I have been contacted by:

BBC World Service, BBC News, ITN, Channel 4 news, More 4 news, Channel 5 news, Sky news, BBC Radio, GMTV, BBC Breakfast, CNN, Grazia, Closer, More, Woman, Woman's Own, 3 Japanese TV companies, 4 Japanese newspapers, a Swedish magazine, a Danish newspaper, The Sun, the Mail, the Mail on Sunday, the News of the World, The Times, The Mirror, the Sunday Mirror, the Evening Standard, Finanicial Times, Reuters, Associated Press, Capital Radio, RTE Radio, Scotland Sunday Mail, Sunday Telegraph, Readers Digest, Radio 1 newsbeat, LBC, BBC Radio Yorkshire, Asian Network, Able magazine, Time Out, the Guardian, 3 TV programmes, Panorama, Bella, Eve, You magazine, Real, B magazines, Deutsche Welle TV, Sydney Morning Herald, ABC, CBC, someone writing a book on trauma.

All of them want the same thing - a survivor's take on the day/a year on. Bite-size camera-friendly chunks of someone's soul. We need a full time press officer for this, it isn't really fair that survivors should be managing all the media enquiries. Maybe this is a learning that we can share with the Home Office and Tessa Jowell when we meet them again.

I have tried to reply to everyone and to pass their requests onto people via the group messaging services that we use. Lots of them want to talk to me, particularly, because of this blog. I feel over-exposed, I say no, mostly. I will do some, but it is mad being all over the news. It's scary. I do not want to be famous or recognisable. This is temporary though and soon I will go back to obscurity, hooray.

There are some survivors who want to speak out, but not many, and most want to stay well away from the media. I can see why, this is a news machine that is voracious and right now, feels out of control. And after you have spoken again to a kind professional stranger, of the fear, the screams, the painful aftermath, whether you are numb, or angry, or have tears in your eyes for the ones you couldn't help, what then? The cameras and microphones pack up and move on, and you are left shuddering and exhausted in the aftermath, transported once more to that place of private fear and guilt and sadness, the toxic smoke of a year ago.

Some of us are willing to do it, because we are campaigning for a public inquiry, and better compensation for those left to buy their own wheel chairs after the bombs maimed and changed lives irrevocably. Some of us are considering one last push to tell people about Kings Cross United, the group run by survivors for survivors, that is non-political, and private, and is the place where passengers can find the people who stood near them in the darkness, trapped underground, people who know what you mean when you say that you are haunted by last July still. There are 700 from our Piccadilly line train who may not know that others feel as they do, and if it will help, if they want to find us, we are here.

(kingscrossunited AT Other people feeling affected by July 7th may want to call the 7th July Assistance Centre 0845 054 7444 - which is for anyone feeling affected by the bombs)

However much I try, I haven't enough hours in the day now to do this enormous task of managing the massive media interest in 7/7 people for the next few weeks. I know it will go away soon, and I am looking forward to it. I am not interested in being a flipping celebrity bomb survivor; that is not my game plan for my life. I am however interested in writing, that was the good thing that came out of the bombs for me, I started to write. We all do what we can to help, use the skills we have. The group web strategist set up the website, designed a logo, helped with media strategy. Other people who live near each other act as travel buddies. People who get the intermittent official communications share them with those who don't. I have tried to help, but it is too much to cope with as a second job, being an unpaid press officer for dozens of people, especially as I am noticing that the anniversary effect is starting to take me back to where I hoped I would no longer have to go. I keep wanting to cry, having headaches. I haven't been to the gym, barely seen my friends, done anything apart from work work work and July 7 work work work. I am weepy and sorry for myself because I am tired.

The media approaches by the most part have been sympathetic and kind, and even a little hesitant. But this gentle approach 'works' very well on me, I naturally want to try to help so I have been running myself ragged trying to meet all these reasonable demands which when taken cumulatively are not reasonable and are too demanding.

Yesterday it came to a head. I found out that a magazine was going to press with an interview in whcih they had - accidentally I hope - broken my anonymity - they had interviewed my mother, and though I had said I did not want to be quoted or pictured or identified, they had done just that. I begged. They changed it, at the 11th hour, stopped the presses and safeguarded my identity. (I was upset, because I have a stalker, whom the Metropolitan police are now investigating, working with with Thames Valley police, to whom the obsessive person is well-known, having a history of harrassment of others and seeming to thrive on engineered conflict. I've taken legal advice and now lodged a formal complaint with the police, who are now going to investigate fully. The stalker reacted to this news by making a police complaint against me, and blogging vitriolically, sending sneering or angry anonymous/psedonymous comments wherever I post, leaving anonymous comments supportive of herself on her blog, and rather bizarrely, accusing me of everything that she's been up to herself. So now, I'm the stalker, I'm the bully, I'm alleged to be insane and need psychiatric help, I'm sending her angry emails, have a vendetta and so on; now the police have apparently warned me off - when it is her odd complaint against me that has been found to be baseless. The police must be well fed up with her. This distinctly odd behaviour completely confused me until I read up about bully profiles and tendency to projection and other disturbed behaviour at this useful site. Anyway, now I get it, and so am taking steps to get it all sorted out. The more she carries on, the more evidence I collect and pass on, so she can be stopped. ) The main issue was my legal right to anonymity because of the attack in July 2002, so. I was very upset at the threat to it. But the magazine listened, and the feature was changed so I was not identifiable, or pictured or quoted. Thank God.)

Enough, though, that was the last straw. It frightened me. It really shook me up, and I was at work, it didn't look good to be dragged into all this. Fortunately it happened in my lunch break.

I am so pleased, relieved beyond measure that I have asked for help and I have now got it. A top PR firm has offered to help, for free, to protect us and to manage the requests which increase in number every day. We don't want money, or fame, we need protection and help and advice. At last, we have got it. I am so grateful and pleased. Last night I slept for eight hours, I felt physically lighter with the burden taken off me.

I have found that there are people who really want to help, and this practical assistance is the most helpful thing that anyone could have done for me right now. I have to finish off the handover notes and some writing I have promised this weekend, then I can stop. Then I can finally stop. Then I can be me again, and have lunch hours and evenings, pay bills, do admin, go swimming and dancing, see friends, go for walks, eat dinner with J. I can't wait.


Blogger Ally said...

I am so pleased that you can hand it off; it sounds like you have been dealing with it brilliantly for far too long.

Re the revisiting thing because of the anniversary - perhaps this will be a watershed?

I know it is not the same; but when I was much younger, I had a miscarriage, which devastated me at the time. In the weeks running up to the anniversary of it, I re-experienced all the grief / trauma I had gone through; despite having done a lot of work on myself in the interim twelve months.

After going through the anniversary period I felt as if something had lifted.

I know this may not help and it doesn't come anywhere close to what you have been through. But it might give you something to hang on to when you are feeling very bad. Just be kind to yourself. From what you write here, you're doing fine. x

June 17, 2006 10:45 am  
Blogger Clare said...

I'm so glad you've managed to find people to help you Rachel. How you've managed to cope with that workload so far is amazing. I hope you get a break soon.

June 17, 2006 11:36 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad to hear you've got help - there are good people out there.

I've just caught up on the news about your nephew - excellent, I really love being an auntie, I'm sure you will too - and its a fine excuse to buy (and play with) all these great toys!

June 17, 2006 2:11 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Rachel.
Good luck and best wishes for your future, may it be happy and peaceful and stalker-free.

June 17, 2006 9:14 pm  

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