If you don’t feel safe as a child it is hard to learn.
My heart beats faster as I watch the clock. My liaison officer will be here soon. Today is the day she is taking me to see the safe house where I will start to tell my story.
Safe House. I wonder if I will actually feel safe there. I have never really felt safe anywhere.
The doorbell rings. She is here. This is it. I take a deep breath as we head to her car and remind myself that I have to try hard to trust her. She is a police officer after all. It takes me a lot of courage to look past what I have been through and to trust someone, especially someone new, but I have to try.
The house isn’t far and she calms me on the journey by talking about our favourite music and hobbies. We pull into the driveway. Breathe. I am safe.
It looks just like a regular house from the outside. This eases me a little. Inside however is a little different. There are locks and an alarm system, both of which reassure me. There is a small kitchen and then a waiting area with access to the back garden. There is a bathroom on one side of the waiting area and on the other side is a room the size of a bedroom. This room, she explains, is where I will eventually be interviewed.
I inhale deeply and step inside. The walls are coated in soft material. There are three small chairs and a table. She shows me which chair she would want me to sit in when interviewing me. I don’t like that idea. I ask her if I can sit on the floor in the corner of the room instead. I explain that it was the only way I felt safe as a child, sitting curled up in the corner of my bedroom and that this is what I do in therapy. I think she is going to laugh at me but instead she says of course and that she will just sit down there with me.
She tells me that when I am being interviewed to take my colouring and my notebook with me. She knows I use these in therapy and that they help keep me calm and keep my hands busy. She says for me to take a favourite teddy bear that makes me feel safe. She explains that I will have to talk about a lot of bad things and that I will be reminded of how I felt as a child. That she needs to take me back to that horrible place and that having something to help comfort me is a good idea. My tummy turns as I think about being taken back to that horrible place called childhood. Eurgh.
She points to two cameras on the wall. These will be the ones recording me as she interviews me. This is suddenly becoming very real. I feel a little sick. Breathe. I am safe here.
We head upstairs so she can show me where her colleague will be controlling the cameras and taking notes. That way she can just focus on me and keeping me safe. Seeing the screens and controls make me realise how serious this all is. I am suddenly overwhelmed by a strong sense of fear. I try to remember I am safe.
We head back downstairs and sit back in the interview room. She asks if I can fill in some forms so they can have access to my medical records. I agree but my hands are shaking so much that I can only manage my signature. She explains that is OK and that she will fill them in for me. She is kind and reassuring.
She tells me that she wants to give me a phone to keep me safe. It looks like a normal phone but is linked up to the police control room. It has a button that I would press if I felt threatened by my abuser when he finds out I have reported him. She says she wants to do everything she can to keep me safe and that I can carry it on me at work too. I like this idea as he knows where I work.
This is all becoming so real now. I am starting to feel overwhelmed.
I feel tears rising in my eyes as she starts to talk to me about my self harm and asks me what she will need to look out for when interviewing me. She says she wants to look after me. I feel embarrassed as I explain that she will need to check my sleeves for pins and that if I start fiddling with my hands then that is a sign that I am struggling and want to cut.
I am so used to it I haven’t noticed but she has. As we are talking I am scratching at my hands. I start to panic as I feel like I am going to cry. I don’t want to cry. Not now. I am not ready.
Breathe, I am safe. Breathe, be calm. Breathe, I can handle this. I am safe. She is safe.
She sees me struggling and she wants to take me home now. She says we have done enough for today. She is calming and I agree to let her take me home.
I feel tearful and exhausted. Anxiety is like a treadmill. You exhaust yourself without actually getting anywhere.
I have to be strong. I have to be brave. I have to trust her. I am safe with her. She will get me through this journey.
The journey to justice and finally to peace is one of a thousand miles and must be taken one step at a time. Today, two weeks after walking into that police station, I have taken the next step.
My wings do exist, I just have to be brave and learn how to fly.
When I do, I won’t just fly, I will soar!
Thanks for reading.