In 2020 Rufus, who is autistic, struggled more than we could have predicted. This struggle with the lockdown, the structureless life and the uncertainty that we were all living with, took a major toll on his mental health. This culminated in him attempting to self-harm in a desperate cry for help. This was the worst moment of the whole pandemic for me and if you know what else was going on for us at the time, having my worst moment relatively near the beginning is quite shocking. I still have flashes of that moment in my mind to this day and I don’t imagine it will ever completely stop. Thankfully we answered Rufus’s cry swiftly. His school were amazing and got him a place in the key worker group immediately and we were finally acknowledged by CAMHs and began the process of counselling and diagnosis for him. Rufus is a lot more stable these days and in fact does not really remember his worst moments of 2020. He has come such a long way and I am so proud of everything he has achieved despite the extra emotional challenges he has to cope with. The question that has plagued me, though, is did I let him down? Could I have done more to get out in front of the situation? If I hadn’t have been so distracted by his younger sisters, maybe he wouldn’t be so emotionally unstable? The answer is, nope and nothing. Growing up is a never ending learning process and you throw a pandemic into the mix and it’ll turn that learning curve into an almost vertical line. Rufus and I, as well as the rest of the family are all figuring out life as it goes along. I am still learning to be a parent – even now, 10 years in. It changes all the time because I am human raising 3 unique humans. Rufus was rocked to his core by the change in his routine, caused by Covid-19, and there was no way we could have prepared him for it, seen it coming or known how he would react.

In my early 20s I was in an abusive relationship. For the most part it was just emotionally abusive but there were moments of physical abuse too. In the years since I have been able to see the red flags in that relationship that I didn’t or couldn’t see at the time. I can see the control that started from the jump and how it didn’t happen all at once, it was a chipping away at my self-esteem, my boundaries and my values which resulted in me being raped by the man I was sharing my life with. For the first decade after it happened I mostly blamed myself. How could I let it happen? Why didn’t I fight back? What did I do wrong? The answer is, my only failing, was that I was flattered by the attentions of an older man. I had never been popular with boys or men. I was everybody’s friend but nobody’s girlfriend and to have this conventionally attractive man flirt and show me special attention was like finally being seen after years in the dark. He saw that in me. He saw a girl who had been overlooked, who didn’t know she was valuable without the attention of another person. He saw the most vulnerable part of me and he used it to break me down completely and the scars remain to this day. I question every fight Nick and I have, am I being abusive to him? Am I trying to manipulate him? I do it all the time. Nick and I are loud fighters, yelling, slamming doors and on occasion I have pushed him. This is certainly not something I’m proud of and it doesn’t happen every time, and I certainly make no physical impact on him. However I must make an emotional impact on him and I hate that. I hate that I hurt him. We’ve talked this issue through many times and he is adamant that he is not abused but the question is always there in my mind.

Rationally I know that I am not at fault for these things, but emotionally the knife of guilt remains.

It was brought to my attention recently that someone in my sphere has been accusing me of being abusive and responsible for Rufus’s self-harm attempt. This person has been telling it to other people in the same sphere and while I know they’re doing it to gain a reaction, all it really does it hurt. This person has done other things to me over the years but these ones really hurt, really cut and I am unable to shake it off. Whenever I’m alone I find my mind obsessing over it and tears rolling down my cheeks. I don’t know what to do now. I don’t know how to move forward but I do know that it’s not my fault…right?