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Dark memories coming back to me

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Friday, 29 April 2016
I have read the recent reader's problem about the Helen and Rob storyline in the Archers. I myself was a victim of domestic abuse ten years ago, yet why is it when following their continuing story, that I feel so tearful and almost a sense of panic overcomes me. As the story progresses it's bringing back those dark memories. I too was in prison, for finally standing up for myself and attacking my husband, and like Helen was separated from my child. I keep thinking that if only I had recognised the signs, and acted sooner by leaving him, I would have never experienced such an ordeal. I have no-one to speak to about my past, as I feel nobody would understand. Do you think counselling would possibly help me, even though my trauma was such a long time ago? I appreciate it would be much simpler to turn the radio off, but for whatever reason I feel addicted to the storyline and am wanting a happy ending.

Patricia Marie says...

Thank you for entrusting me with your heartrending story. I am so sorry for what you have had to endure. Being a victim of domestic violence is devastating in itself, yet to be sentenced to prison and to have been apart from your child under such shocking circumstances is utterly unthinkable. It is no wonder you are feeling as you do whilst listening to The Archer's current riveting storyline, but you are not alone, as this powerful drama continues to touch so many people in the real world. Yes, you could turn the radio off to stop it affecting you, but somehow, if the show's writers had not portrayed domestic violence as being so horrific, it would undermine many of the actual victims suffering abuse.

Please don't blame yourself for not leaving your husband sooner. There are a myriad reasons it can be untenable to leave an abusive partner – fear of retaliation, having young children and nowhere to go, worrying others will disbelieve you, and often victims convince themselves that their abuser's behaviour will improve. The scars you can't see are the hardest to heal. It is never too late to seek professional help. Many years after victims have escaped their abuser, it's not uncommon for them to develop symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), such as flashbacks, nightmares, tearfulness and panic attacks. As you are displaying these signs, I feel that therapy would be of great benefit, to explore any emotions that may have been repressed, and allow you to move forward and leave the past very much behind. Women's Aid can provide both individual and group counselling, where you would be able to meet other sufferers of domestic violence, and feel very much understood. You could also draw comfort from the group, as members who start off as strangers, can, after sharing each other's experiences, become a valuable and trusted source of support.

I would like to offer you my best wishes for a happy ever after, and one that we are all wanting for Helen too.

Women's Aid 24 hour helpline on 0800 2000 247

The Archers is affecting me

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Friday, 08 April 2016
I feel terribly panicky and need some help. I never miss The Archers on Radio 4, and have been following the Helen and Rob storyline. Yesterday's episode has affected me very badly. You see, I am in a relationship with a man who has been mentally and physically abusing me. He is extremely powerful, and to outsiders he is regarded as a pillar of society. I feel no one will believe me when I tell them what I have to put up with. After I moved in with him last year, his kind loving manner changed, and he has become increasingly critical and aggressive towards me.

I was dealing with things okay, until I gave up my job three months ago, because my partner became jealous and thought I was too friendly with my work colleagues. I miss them so much, as work was an outlet from my home life. I did have a best friend, but the last time she came to see me, my partner made her feel so uncomfortable that she has since stayed away from me. My parents and I have fallen out because I refused to leave my partner after he hit me, and they called me pathetic for putting up with him. Nothing I do for him is right. He insults my cooking, and just yesterday threw a meal I had prepared for him over the kitchen floor. He told me that I don't deserve him and that I am a useless girlfriend, and insults me in the bedroom too. I feel so worthless, and can't see me ever completely moving on from this experience.

Listening to The Archers yesterday has made me realise I have got to get away from this monster, but I am so scared, and don't know how to go about this. Please don't think of me as being weak for putting up with this man's behaviour. I don't know how it reached this state. What do I do?

Patricia Marie says...

Observing other people's lives, either from listening to radio productions, watching soaps or indeed, in real life, can often allow us to see our own situation more clearly. Helen and Rob's domestic violence storyline in The Archers on Radio 4 has gripped the nation, and would have affected many, especially those, such as yourself, who have experienced this type of abuse.

By writing to me, you have shown great courage in taking the first step to change your life. Understandably, you are scared and fearful, but living as you are must no longer be an option. You have allowed yourself to be treated by this man with neither love nor respect, and I urge you now to set yourself free from this intolerable situation, regain some self respect, and live the life you very much deserve.

Do not apologise for being weak. Your partner has used bullying tactics to manipulate you and disguise his own weakness. I feel your parents' reaction was perhaps due to anger and frustration, not a personal affront. Please contact them to explain you have now reached breaking point and need to leave your partner. They will, I am sure, be extremely relieved to hear this, and you need to be proud of yourself for making this life-changing decision.

Remember, you do not have to deal with this alone. Women's Aid are there for victims of domestic abuse, offering emergency assistance, which could even mean accompanying you to collect your personal belongings in safety. As well as ongoing support and legal advice, they offer counselling, which will help you address the low self esteem caused by your partner's continued physical and mental abuse. With professional help and the love of your family you should begin to feel stronger. Be assured too that once you feel able to return to work, you will make friends again and be the person you once were, not the controlled one you became. You will survive this.

For every fictional Helen there are real ones, and as this plot has shown, and mirroring your own experience, abusers are often initially charming and loving, until their partner is fully committed to them. Then begins the gradual process of controlling, intimidating and abusing their victim, gradually isolating them from friends and family, and making them wholly dependent on the perpetrator.

The insightful writers have received much praise for the realism, which many listeners have found disturbing and uncomfortable, never expecting anything quite so shocking to happen in The Archers' beautiful rural village of Ambridge. They have emphasised that domestic abuse can happen in any community, and to anyone, and this powerful storyline will hopefully encourage others such as yourself to reach out for help.

For anyone affected by domestic violence, call the 24 hour Women's Aid Helpline on 0800 2000 247

In which, quite by accident, I solve Christmas.

Posted by Tania Kindersley
Tania Kindersley
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on Wednesday, 11 December 2013
I am not feeling at all Christmassy. This is not due to any Scroogish bah humbug tendencies. I love Christmas and refuse to get cross about it. I don’t even mind that it has become too commercialised, which is the general contemporary complain. The wail is that Christmas has become all about presents and shopping, when really everyone should be sternly contemplating the Baby Jesus. A lot of people get furious bees buzzing in their bonnets and talk crossly of the ‘true meaning of Christmas’, whatever that is.

Usually, by this stage, I would be decking the halls, but the halls remain resolutely undecked. This is partly because I’m running up to another deadline, and I can think only of character arcs and plot development and tightening up my paragraphs. It is partly because my red mare has taken a glorious leap forward in her education and so when I am not thinking about work, I am contemplating the beauty of a soft cue. It is also because dear old Scotland, after a vicious storm which blew in from the west, has reverted to her most benign and gentle state.

Morven, my favourite mountain, usually bright white with snow at this time of year. This morning, it remains resolutely unfestive.Morven, my favourite mountain, usually bright white with snow at this time of year. This morning, it remains resolutely unfestive.

The sun shines every day, and the turf is green and springing, and the temperature soars to an absurd thirteen degrees. We do the horses in our shirtsleeves and each morning I ride up to the top of the hill and look out over the rolling mountains, which are blue and serene in the light. It looks more like October than December. There are no glittering hoar frosts to get the Christmas spirit stirring, no holly berries traced with silver, no hint of snow.

I suspect it is also because I do not watch commercial television. This is not a famous last stand against the kind of cheap entertainment which rots the brain. It’s just that I grow old and fogeyish and prefer Radio Four. So I do not see all the advertisements which want me to rush off to the shops and buy festive items and appropriate foodstuffs. I see no comedy reindeer, hear no sleigh bells, observe no laughing Santas. The nearest I get to anything remotely Christmassy is Linda rehearsing her pantomime in The Archers.

I’m also on a bit of an economy drive. I like shopping for Christmas. It is not just the choosing of clever presents which I enjoy, it’s the getting of a ham, or armfuls of eucalyptus, or delicate silvery jangly things to hang on the mantelpiece. This year, in the new austerity, I am going old school, and making most of my presents, and relying on the old decorations which live in the Christmas cupboard, and next week I shall go out into the hedgerows and gather my own greenery.

The red mare, unbelievably muddy and furry and scruffy. It is too mild for rugs, so she takes the opportunity to indulge in a daily mud bath. I suppose I could brush her up and put some tinsel in her mane, but I almost certainly won't.The red mare, unbelievably muddy and furry and scruffy. It is too mild for rugs, so she takes the opportunity to indulge in a daily mud bath. I suppose I could brush her up and put some tinsel in her mane, but I almost certainly won't.

The funny thing is that, without meaning to at all, I have denied that commercialism which makes everyone so cross. I do admit, it is rather restful. There is not the usual stress and challenge, the annual drive to make this Christmas the most Christmassy ever. It’s all very calm and low key, and leaves my mind free to contemplate vague things like goodwill to all men, and women too. I’m not going to get so pious as to give everyone a goat for Africa instead of an actual wrapped present; I shall impose no self-denying ordinance to ignore the festival altogether. It’s just a rather quiet, bare bones thing this year.

It is amazingly soothing. I wonder if, quite by chance, I have cracked the thing. Perhaps I shall never again have to read one of those strict articles about how to survive Christmas without resorting to strong liquor or having a nervous collapse. I shall ride my dear mare and look at the old hills and feel vaguely benign towards my fellow humans. Perhaps, in a few days’ time, I shall push the boat out and go a buy a nice stollen cake. And that really will do.

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