Journey

Everybody has a book in them, or so it's said. But it's something else again getting it onto the page and to a place where it might be shared.

I have been writing since I was a child. Always, my dream was to see my name on the spine of a book. Books gave me life, a dream to live by. Through their portals I could escape easily into other worlds. Books also saved my life ... yes, really!

This is the story of my books and my journey as an author. I hope it will inspire and give hope to writers young and old.

Getting published can be a waiting game. It's hard .. and it's getting harder. But then sometimes it happens in unexpected ways and suddenly, we are living the dream. And we realise that it isn't after all the winning that is important so much as the journey along the way.

I would love to hear from anyone who connects with what is written here. A signed copy of any of my books is available. You have only to write and ask:

janineharrington53@gmail.com







Sunday, 28 February 2016

TO THINE OWN SELF BE TRUE

'Seascape', copyright: Janine Harrington
My mother was a Visionary. She had great strength of character born of her experience of war and loss. She lived by William Shakespeare's words:
'... to thine own self be true'

The full quotation from 'Hamlet', Act I, Scene iii, is Polonius speaking to Laertes:
'This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.'

Mum was the strongest and most honest faithful woman I have ever known. She became like a lioness when it came to protecting her cubs. She was the Pragmatist, my father the Poet.

However, I live by another quotation, having lived most of my life in fear:

'to deny one's experience
is to deny one's Self'

It explains why I always write about personal experience ... both my own and other people's. 

My most recent writings are of people who understand the concept of fear having battled their own demons during the Second World War, flying deep into the heart of Germany. Published by Austin Macauley in December 2015, RAF 100 Group - Kindred Spirits became my greatest challenge, both in terms of writing and having it published. It is a weighty tome of over 200,000 words, sharing the wartime experiences of a very special breed of veterans and those who flew in partnership with them, leave me feeling humbled, yet privileged to know personally these 'forgotten heroes' who received neither recognition nor reward. Under Bomber Command, their work and operations were hidden under deep layers of secrecy - identifying and jamming enemy Radar, working with the Resistance, dropping and collecting agents, using new experimental equipment of the day.
People and their life experiences in whatever genre they belong fascinate and draw me to them because of our connectivity.

Life can be unexplainable.

Experiences can unexpectedly lead us down a road less travelled, confusing our senses, leaving us helpless, hopeless, unable to see a way out of our situation or understand quite how we ever got there in the first place. Veterans of war had been trained to react to situations they might face. However, the reality of their experience changed them forever. Ordinary people living in extraordinary times.

My own 'PhD in Life' began with control, living in fear, initially as a victim of child sexual abuse by a specialist at the hospital I attended three times a week because I was born disabled. The abuse continued on by a music teacher at school and in his home. It remains an open case today, waiting for another victim of what they term as 'historical sexual abuse' to report what was done to them at their local police station. I was also raped by my boyfriend both in and out of marriage ... ending up a battered wife, then mentally and emotionally abused in my second. Control lay at the heart of the abuse, as is usually the case. Abuse isn't really about sex, it's about control ... and there are many today who may not realise that the law has recently changed to make control in a relationship a crime. If you have to account for every penny you spend to your husband/partner/boyfriend. If he tells you what to wear, what to eat, what time to be in, or prevents you seeing friends or going out ... that is a crime and should be reported. However, breaking through that element of control is still something today people don't understand. It's a mindset. Told enough times you're worthless, stupid, hopeless at doing something even though you know you can, you come to believe it's true. You lose your sense of self-worth, your self-respect, believing in the end you are everything he says, taking the blame upon yourself ... 'if only I could do this, or that, or the other, then our life would be better!' It saps your confidence, your strength, your ability to say 'No!' It took me many years of therapy, but I learned to break out of the mindset mould and to talk and share and write about my experiences openly in the hope of helping others know they aren't alone, it isn't their fault. Yet, in turn, it remains a life sentence for us all, repeatedly battling the same automatic thoughts that drag us back into a past we thought we'd left behind us.

These are experiences well documented in past books I wrote and had published. When they first came out in the early 1980s it caused an explosion in the media. I took my turn on the Breakfast sofa, in discussion programmes, radio phone-ins, newspaper articles and Hotlines ...

It's the reason why, all these years later, when meeting Tony at the beginning of 2010, I truly believed I had finally found my 'happy-ever-after' ending. My story was finally done. End of. We were Yin and Yang. We seemed to fit like two pieces of a puzzle. For the first time in a lifetime of control and abuse, I felt safe, reassured enough to start writing for pleasure, to actually take control of the beasts of this world, creating stories born of imagination, using past emotions in effective and positive ways, knowing something good was finally coming out of all that bad.

Five years on, married, feeling complete and whole, still experiencing so many 'Firsts', it's the reason it came as such a shock to receive his email five years on, in July 2015, saying he didn't want me or the home we had created together. In truth, he was leading a double life and had been for some considerable time ... maybe even starting just one year after we married. As a Love Cheat, he had a second home in London, a woman he'd met on the Ashley Maddison website, with a well-paid contract close by. What more could a man wish for, with a wife and a Mistress?!? Content with his lot, and well settled, he's just waiting for the divorce to be finalised to make him a free man.

Meanwhile, I've had a breakdown, a serious dose of bronchitis/pneumonia, and continue to battle depression and loneliness, grieving for the love I lost ... all the more so because of the experiences of my past ... confused by a tsunami of emotion in which most of the time I'm drowning in an ocean of tears.

What happened? Where did I go wrong? What did I do? How could I have done things different? I realise I'm asking all the same questions I used to ... did I confuse care and support with control?

I'm back into PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Panic attacks make me sick on waking to another new day, my memory remains mashed so that everyday tasks take twice as long. To complicate things further, I have 'Fugues', now known as 'Disassociative States'. Everyone has them to a certain extent. Driving on a motorway, you become aware that you've lost track of time, unable to remember where you are or how you got that far. It's not necessarily that you're tired so much as that your mind has numbed, switched off, while you continue on automatic pilot. However, when people have a trauma ... a car-crash, a death, rape, sexual abuse, something which completely throws them out of sync ... it can mean the mind shuts down as a form of protection. It's a survival instinct. It's the body's way of saying: 'Okay, you're not protecting me ... so I'm going to protect myself'. It goes into hibernation, sucking what has happened into the deeper recesses where you can't easily find them.

Again, today, I'm living in fear!

What makes it so much worse is that it's like the good guy did this to me!!

I didn't remember my first abuse by the specialist at the hospital which started when I was just four years old until I gave birth to my only daughter, the daughter I was told I could never have because of abuse by my violent first husband. I'd had unexplainable feelings for years, with no idea what they meant. I self-harmed. I carried a sense of dread, as if something terrible was going to happen to me. I ate comfort food and became bulimic, but then stopped eating as a way of trying to take back control of my life. I also had images I couldn't place. Flashes of memory which didn't belong came from out of nowhere. It was only in working through the past with a Clinical Psychologist I was referred to by a new doctor that I was able to identify gaps in what I could remember about my past life, and begin to restore what had lain dormant in the darkest recesses of my mind. It became safe to let them out, to talk and share and describe them:

Forgiving isn't forgetting
It's about remembering ... and letting go

Working through past memories, however bad they may have been as a child, is the only way I know to heal. It takes someone you can trust in a safe space to share through a child's eyes where everything is so much bigger than it really is ... and discuss those mind-pictures and past pain as the adult you have become today.

Why am I sliding down the slippery slope back into my past?

It's what I call 'The Domino Effect'. If you line up dominoes, and the first one falls, the effect is they all follow suit. So it is with memories when something bad happens today.

With everything that has happened to me since July last year in terms of my husband who I can't help but love now, leaving me, simply driving away without a word about his intentions, and worse, betraying me by leading a double life since way back when ... it brings me back into the shadows, into the pain, the nightmares, the moment by moment existence in order to get through one more day.

Does that make any kind of sense to anyone out there?

It also brings back emotions I have fought so hard to conquer ... guilt, shame, dread, fear, mistrust ... the list is endless. I feel like an alien. Somehow I'm out of sync with the rest of the world. This time, however, something new has kicked in which never happened before ... an inability to write a book!

Now that's really scary ... because writing has always proved to be my escape mechanism.

Right now, it's like living in a minefield, not knowing where the next explosion will happen, however careful I tread.

I also feel Controlled.

DIVORCE
It will happen eventually, but is held up because of finance. The law on divorce changed two years ago. It means that only if a couple are mutually agreeing their marriage is over, and produce evidence they have tried Relate and Counselling will a divorce go through. Otherwise, there are three barriers:

children,
property,
finance.

Until they are settled, there is no way a divorce will be finalised and given the official stamp of approval. Meanwhile, pressure comes every day in one form or another ... while the interminable awful aching void of loneliness washes over me, reminding me this isn't the way it was supposed to be. I married in good faith. I offered unconditional love. I loved with everything I have to give. There were no secrets on my part, just a belief that finally, I had found my inner peace, and the dark days were behind me. I no longer can be certain about anything or anyone, or where the future might lead.

PUBLISHERS
Writing and publication become part of the minefield, threatening explosions. There are good publishers ... and there are bad. There are those who work with their authors, and those who work for themselves, just wanting the job done and to move on to the next project. I cannot praise the SOCIETY OF AUTHORS too highly for their wonderful help and support over recent weeks. Any writers/authors out there who are reading this should take note. You should become a member of the Society of Authors immediately. They are there for you ... to guide, protect, inform, and work with you on getting you the best deal. They are professionals. They know what they are doing. As a member, you are entitled to free advice and support from a solicitor. It is a solicitor under them who has been there for me, advising in two recent crisis'.

If you have a problem or an issue that arises with a publisher, or you simply need someone to read through a contract to feel assured it is right for you, never be afraid to reach out and share. There are many unscrupulous publishers out there today. It's changed beyond all recognition since I began having my work published in 1984. As I said before, there are those who care about their authors and take care of them, and there are those who are only interested in their own profit margins and business, the way they look to the rest of the world. I do get letters from writers/authors asking about publishers, whether they're kosher, and who to be wary of. I have even been asked to look over contracts. All of this I am happy to do from personal experience. However, the real experts on this are the Society of Authors, and I would urge all writers/authors to sign up with them and become a member. That way, you are covered for the future.

There is a lot going on for me right now in my everyday life.

There are days completely wiped out because I just don't have the energy, exhausted by the constant fear of what is happening, feeling controlled by others all over again, and in consequence, experiencing PTSD as well as heightened physical pain from my disabilities. Under contract currently with a publisher, I cannot give myself 'Time Out' which I so desperately need. The pressure is relentless, unforgiving, and without compassion.

I believed I'd found my 'happy-ever-after' ending, that I was in a happy marriage with a man I loved deeply. I miss him so much and the life we shared. How could that be wrong? Maybe I was naive, despite my PhD in Life. But I don't think so. Everything that was happening in real time on his part was hidden deep beneath the surface. I had no way of knowing until it was too late ... and he was gone. There were no rows, no discussion, no time for talk and openness and sharing. He simply left for work as usual, and never came home.

I heard today about a new trend on the internet, stretching across social media networks, of people posting pictures of semicolon tattoos. Semicolon Tattoos? What's that about? Grammatically, the symbol represents a sentence that is incomplete, with something else to add. The adoption of this as a tattoo has become a declaration, saying that despite their struggles, people will continue on.

It isn't a full stop. Therefore it isn't an ending and beginning. It is an extension, something incomplete.

The story isn't yet over ... but then, neither is mine. So I guess I should also adopt the sign of a semicolon, acknowledging the fact that my story isn't over ... I'm not yet done ... there's more to come. God knows I hope it's a shift in the current tide, and new and better things await me!

I may exist moment by painful moment, and some days become a fog of uncertainty and fear, but ...

I AM!

This is Me!!

There is only One who can offer me hope, in whom I can believe, and who continues to empower me to write, to share my experiences in the certain knowledge there are others out there who feel equally alone, helpless, vulnerable, afraid ... God!

In Him alone I trust ...

Semicolon;

Sunset, copyright: Janine Harrington









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