Friday, July 06, 2007

Not a good 24 hours

Thursday 5th July was not a great day. Did an interview arranged by the publishers with the Outlook programme, on BBC World Service, which was a good interview but which upset me more than I thought it would. Relentless calls and emails all day, and no internet connection so I had to decamp to an internet cafe full of noisy Algerian youths down the road in order to continue to work. I was glad to meet up at the end of the day with some friends from KCU (Kings Cross United, which is the Piccadilly line explosion support group), and with other friends who were involved at the other sites on 7/7.

The lovely George from KCU was telling me that he was already halfway through my book, Out of the Tunnel. I have a few preview copies, so I gave one to George when I met him earlier in the week. The book isn't out until next week but the copies people have pre-ordered from Amazon were dispatched early so some people have already got copies. I worry about the effect the book will have on people who were directly involved in 7/7. They do not need to be reminded of how bad it was: they already know. Out of the Tunnel is dedicated to them, and to all who have helped them, helped me come out of the tunnel and into the light, particularly the police and emergency services.

The book is told through my own experiences - a personal journey through PTSD, which I developed as a result of the two experiences I had in swift succession when I nearly lost my life through stranger-violence. I wrote it because I wanted people to understand more about this wierd psychological injury - which affects many, many thousands of people, not just bomb survivors, but people who work in the armed forces, the emergency services, war correspondents, as well as people who have survived serious accidents, natural disasters, rape, child abuse or torture and other life-threatening, psychologically-overwhelming situations.

When I first had PTSD I did not know what was happening to me. I honestly thought that I was going mad, and that I would never be able to function normally again. I could not understand why I was re-experiencing the event in my dreams, in flashbacks when waking, why it haunted me, affected my moods, immune system, ability to concentrate and get on with life. Surely, I thought, I should feel glad to be alive? Why do I feel guilty for still being here? Why am I so numb, so frozen inside, so angry, so sad? People are worse off than me.

My G.P was no help at all. So I looked for other people's stories to see if I was normal, to see if I would get better. There were many stories of survival, but very few about the long hard slog picking up the pieces in the aftermath. As to books about post-traumatic stress disorder, all I could find on it were medical textbooks, back then. Finally I found a website where people were sharing their stories anonymously. I shared mine and read theirs. I read up on what was happening to me and to them. I began to get better.

Last night the people round the table shared their feelings about how they were getting on, and how the last two years had been. None of them had heard of PTSD before 7/7 either. All of them had been helped by reading each other's accounts and listening to each other's ongoing stories in the months after the bombs exploded. We looked back on how far we had come. We drank to life, and health, and the future.

When I got home I checked my (mail) messages, and found a long angry message left for me by someone using a pseudonym, in which he demanded of me repeatedly why I ''felt so hard done by''. He had seen the report on the BBC, in which Thelma's quote about feeling like a ''forgotten person'' as she battled with the lengthy compensation process to prove that yes, she really did lose her lower limb on 7/7 , was used next to my photo, to infer that we were all ''forgotten victims''( which was not something I said). The man was very clearly angry with me. He told me about his partner who had been injured by a drunk driver and was ''crippled'' and in constant pain. Why did I feel so ''hard done by?'' he wanted to know.

I felt absolutely terrible; I cried, and I could not sleep for hours afterwards. What could I say to him? I wrote the book to help people understand about PTSD. I push for an inquiry because I believe that having all the facts in one place and sharing the learnings will save lives in future, and bring healing and greater understanding and preparedness to defeat terrorism. I speak out when asked to, by people who want to speak, but whose burdens are greater than mine, and who cannot face the cameras, the public. I get flamed for it, by people who want to have a go at me for their own reasons. I try to develop a thick skin. I do not have a thick skin yet.

I cannot help everyone, how can I? I can only do what I can, and what I think is right. When I was attacked and left for dead in 2002 there was no publicity, no charities set up to support me, no media asking questions, no politicians expressing concern. But I did not ever think of writing long emails to people I saw on the news asking them what they had to ''feel hard done by'' about.

I do not think his anger at me was appropriate: there is no hierarchy of suffering, this is not a competition, and being the victim of a high-profile event brings with it a different set of problems to being the victim of a terrible event that does not make the papers. Speaking out means you get brickbats. I should be used to it by now. But his email was a slap in the face. And I do not know what I can do or say to help him. I do feel very sorry for him and his family. I do not know what it must be like to be him, or to be his permanently injured wife. But I do not suppose that he knows what it is like to be me, or to be Thelma struggling to get money to pay for a new £10,000 prosthesis and £85 a session physiotherapy, two years on, or how it feels to be anyone else battling their demons and injuries, their grief and their ghosts.

I really hope the book helps people. I hope what I am doing is right. I suppose I should prepare for more people to hurl their anger at me, because they see me on TV and in the news and think I am making a fortune from this, milking it, trying to be a celebrity or whatever. Yeah, right. If they knew, they wouldn't say it. Or maybe they still would, I don't know.

I hold onto this: that people I care about have heard me and held me and supported me, and told me that I should keep going. And that is enough; it has to be.



Blogger Kris said...

How did Mr Angry get ahold of your phone number?

I think events yesterday on the central line might have sent me over the edge. It can't have been an easy week.

Hang in there.

July 06, 2007 9:01 am  
Blogger Joanna Young said...

Hello Rachel

I am sure it will be a challenging time for you. Sorry that your work is attracting negative comments and attention. I think what you are trying to do is driven by positive intention, to make things better for other people. I'm sure you have more supporters than detractors - perhaps we need to tell you more often :)


July 06, 2007 9:05 am  
Blogger Glamourpuss said...

Aww, petal. I do feel for you. We live in a society that does not encourage us to take responsibility for our feelings and manage them healthily. The uselessness of your GP is testimony to this. And so when we do try to heal and help, those less enlightened often feel threatened, envious, bitter and we are the obvious targets. Logically, we know it isn't personal, but we are still vulnerable, still human, and it hurts. Whatever you do, don't develop 'thick skin', just be kind to yourself, and accept that you still have healing to do. Mr Angry is clearly in a lot of pain and clueless about how to get better.

Sending pole dancing hugs.


July 06, 2007 10:17 am  
Blogger Justin said...

I hope what I am doing is right.

You know you are. You shouldn't have to look too deep to see that.

None of this is your fault. Most people would have curled into a ball. You didn't.

July 06, 2007 10:20 am  
Blogger IainC said...

Yes, you are (right to continue). Of course you are.

You've had the misfortune to have survived two anonymous attempts on your life, being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But you've had the fortune to have been gifted as a writer, and was in the right place and time (in your media career) to make use of it.

By understanding the non-significance of what happened to you, you've managed to turn it into something positive. Others are still stuck in their own tunnels, their own anger.

Outrageous fortune can sometimes change lives for the good, by offering us the chance to transcend ordinary responses. FJL and Anonymous cannot, have not, may not ever. But you have. It's why we're still with you.


July 06, 2007 12:18 pm  
Blogger Henry North London 2.0 said...

Keep on trucking as they say. Henry x

July 06, 2007 12:32 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When people run out of people to blame for their situation they look to others they can bring down. Sadly this man, affected by tragic circumstances has his own issues to deal with, but is probably agrieved by seeing people speaking out about being "forgotten" about. It doesn't make his behavior right, and it's even harder not to take it personally.

The bottom line is that you are not responsible for his situation, he's looking for someone to take it out on. You are fighting for a lot of people who don't have voices in the eyes of the people it should matter to. You can't be a voice to everyone. Know that every step you take to achieve your goal is a great step and there are many people that admire your tenacity to achieve this.

I watched the news last night, and I'm utterly amazed you held it together, I probably wouldn't have done. You're doing something really amazing, don't beat yourself up over one person's opinion.

July 06, 2007 1:08 pm  
Blogger KG said...

Hiya sweetie,
It is already the 7th here. You know you are doing wonderful, amazing work.
We love you heaps,

July 06, 2007 1:15 pm  
Blogger Unknown said...

It looks like a tough read, but I will definitely buy this book.

All the very best.

July 06, 2007 2:14 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

Thank you - it is good to come here and vent sometimes! The issue arose because the BBC Online team put a picture of me next to the headline about 'forgotten victims', the quote was actually from Thelma, and now her pic has replaced mine, which is much better. I have blocked Mr Angry from contacting me: I don't think there is much constructive that we can say to each other. The phone keeps ringing all the time: mostly foreign journalists wanting 7/7 stuff, yesterday there was a Danish journalist, French TV crew, Spanish newspaper, Italian someone and a Japanese paper all wanting me to find them quotes. Argh.

It's still going on.

THANK YOU though for your cheering words! What lovely readers you are. I am very lucky.

July 06, 2007 3:02 pm  
Blogger dc007 said...

I just got a message from Amazon to say your book has been dispatched. Hope it arrives in time for the weekend. Keep up the good work. x

July 06, 2007 3:11 pm  
Blogger Unknown said...

I just wanted to say that I read your blog in the early days and re-found it as a result of that BBC post. You are to be admired in being so open about your situation and supportive of others'. I moved away from Central London in May 2005 and went through terrible waves of survivor guilt even though I wasn't even involved (my trains and routes were) and so I can only begin to imagine what you and the other survivors and families are going through. The link to the article on Anniversaries was extremely helpful, too.

Thank you for what you have done, and what you continue to do.

July 06, 2007 3:13 pm  
Blogger Dr. Deb said...

I am going to try to buy your book from Amazon UK. I wonder if it is linked in Amazon US? I'll check it out.

July 06, 2007 4:03 pm  
Blogger Dr. Deb said...

"Out of the Tunnel" is not in the Amazon US listings, but I was able to buy it via Amazon UK. Hooray. Should get here next week. I so look forward to reading your very importanat work, Rachel.

July 06, 2007 4:19 pm  
Blogger Henry North London 2.0 said...

yes my order has also despatched..

July 06, 2007 5:23 pm  
Blogger Stobart Stopper said...

Sorry to read about that rotten email. It's a sad fact that there are people out there who will try to attack you, whatever you do or however you go out of your way to help others.

If you get any more like this, just try not to read them. I know it's hard but you have to ignore people like this, he's probably lying anyway.

Hope you get through the next few days ok.

July 06, 2007 9:12 pm  
Blogger Penny Pincher said...

Dear Rachel, I've left a comment once or twice before on various blogs. But this time - more serious note - I want to say please ignore the negative comments from the angry man. My husband heard you on Outlook this afternoon. He suddenly identified with what you were saying. He had a bad Road traffic accident in 2001 from which he walked away. police and fire service were amazed. The injuries manifested later - minor problems within days then more weeks later - he was faultess in the accident. He thought the car was likely to catch fire and fought to escape. Compensation took years and in the end he got very little - we still don't fully understand why. He wasn't in a fit state mentally or physically to cope with the legal side and i think was let down by his legal team and the 'experts'. In the end he gave up through pain and exhaustion. Now along with pain and ongoing effects of the injuries we struggle to cope with his 'moods'. He suddenly identified with all you said and is now wondering whether he is experiencing PTSD. I will find out all I can to see if it will help him. At least now he doesn't 'feel he's going mad'. So please do be glad - you connected this afternoon with one upset, angry and sad man who is struggling to come to terms with his accident and the consequent changed circumstances.
I also turned to blogging to try and help my feelings of frustration. Ignore the unkind comments - take to heart the well meant ones. you've had a hard time. Best wishes. xx

July 07, 2007 12:20 am  
Blogger Beaman said...

I think what you are doing is great. To reach out and help others in whatever way can only be a positive. I've followed your story for quite a while, about the 7/7 and cyber-stalker incidents. You are one brave lady and can only wish you the very best for the future.

July 07, 2007 12:43 am  
Blogger Jo Adams said...

I've just read the article in the Daily Mail. You make my problems look very small and insignificant! Hang in there you are an inspiration to us all and if we had a few more like you about the world would be a much better place.
Jo x

July 07, 2007 4:18 am  
Blogger Deborah Arroyo said...

Read your story on Yahoo! and I was amazed at the things you have gone through, yet you have made something positive out of it by sharing your story. Thank you. I wish those things never happened to you, or anyone.

July 07, 2007 5:55 am  
Blogger Snoskred said...

Delurking to say hi, I'm Snoskred, I read your blog. :)

Some people look for ways to take out their anger on others. I'm sorry this angry, bitter man somehow managed to send you an email.

It is really hard to develop a thick skin. And sometimes I wonder would anyone really want to? It's not until our "thin" skin is pierced that we really begin to think about things. Thick skinned people can go through life without ever being really touched by things. Who would want that?

You should say to him exactly what you said in this post. That you are sorry about his situation, you're just trying to help people, and you don't know why he wants to flame you for that. But I really hope you just send him the blog post you wrote.

The bottom line is, Rachel, that there are people out in the world who WANT to hurt others, like the terrorists, like criminals. There are people out there in the world who DON'T CARE if they hurt others. Like the drunk driver who injured this man's partner.

Most of us are hurting. Very few people are immune, except those with thick skins and sometimes even they find things cut through that thickness, right down to their core.

Who is he to try and suggest that his pain is worse than anyone else's? How do you judge whose pain is worse, who suffers more? You don't. You just keep putting one foot in front of the other, trying to get to the other side of it.

I've been watching you put one foot in front of the other for a while now, and I think you're getting somewhere. Keep walking. ;) and good on you for speaking out, good on you for shining a light on PTSD, good on you in general.

You did not choose this path yourself. Nobody ever would, right? But I am sure that when you get to the other end of it you'll understand why you've been walking it, and the lessons you have learned along the way will be valuable to more than just yourself.

I look forward to spotting your book and grabbing a copy. ;)


July 07, 2007 8:27 am  
Blogger Unknown said...

This angry guy has it all wrong. You are doing something of great value. Just do not freak because someone does not understand. Be kind to yourself and remember you are admired by many. We need this inquiry.

July 07, 2007 10:30 am  
Blogger Steve_Roberts said...

Don't let one angry guy hurt you. There are many many more people who value and are helped and inspired by your work. Two things never cease to amaze me, how terrible events can bring out everything that is best in human nature, and how the internet allows 'ordinary' people to find a voice, connect to a community / audience and make a real difference.

July 07, 2007 12:18 pm  
Blogger Tina - omme i London said...

Big hug to you (((((((((((Rachel))))))))))). I'm sure this can't be an easy day/time for you.
I can't wait to read your book. It's on order from Amazon!

July 07, 2007 1:00 pm  
Blogger Sir-C4' said...

No one can please everyone Rachel, that's life, so stop worrying about individuals critising you.

July 07, 2007 3:17 pm  
Blogger dc007 said...

I was out till 4am last night at our regular Friday poker night at a friends house so was somewhat irritated when the doorbell rang to wake me at 8.00am this morning. I pulled on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, went downstairs to answer the door. It was the postman with a package too big to fit through my inadequate letterbox. I took it and thanked him; still sleepy eyed, I was ready to put it down and go back to bed for some much needed shut-eye when I noticed it was from Amazon. 'Ooh - must be Rachel's book' I thought and opened the package. I sat on the sofa and thought I'd read a couple of pages before going back to bed.

Before long I glanced at the clock and it's 10.30 and I notice the sun is shining outside. I decide to take the book into the garden and enjoy the weather, as it's a welcome break from the endless rain we have been having. It's a rare thing for my to start a book and not be able to put it down. Apart from opening a bottle of wine at 6.00pm, I haven't been able to stop (just realised I'm very hungry - just finished the book!)

It is very easy to read and very addictive. It is, of course, a harrowing tale but also surprising witty in places, for example when the hippy goes to the toilet and the city executive takes her seat - 'I'm sorry I think that seat is taken' had me laughing out loud. It also makes me realise how tough it has been for you - something that never really came across as a casual reader of your blog.

I really hope that this day - the second aniversary of what happened in 2005 has not been too much for you - your story is an inspiration and I think you need to prepare yourself now... This is definitely going to be on the bestsellers list very soon.


July 07, 2007 8:35 pm  
Blogger Andy Ramblings said...

Stupid blogger is in Dutch! Yep, I'm in Brussels...

As mentioned, your doing the right thing, never doubt it.
Take care.

July 07, 2007 9:13 pm  
Blogger Clare said...

Keep doing what you are doing Rachel and don't let one angry man put you off.


July 08, 2007 12:04 pm  

Post a Comment

<< Home