Thank you so much for all your touching responses to my blog earlier this week. I have been overwhelmed by people's kindness. It is so different to my experience in 2005, when friends just stayed silent after I told them, or said "But you're over it now, right?" When I wrote the post very quickly at the weekend in a rush of catharsis, I was just expecting to post it on my blog, and that maybe ten people would comment. I didn't expect so many people to share the link, that the Guardian would take it, or that the Huffington Post would feature the story.
For the first time in my life, I no longer feel ashamed or alone - I feel accepted. I hid the truth about myself for so long because I was scared of the consequences of being honest. I feared the worst kind of response, but wanted to publish the piece to break down the stigma and let others know they weren't alone. Instead, I received grateful emails from women and men all over the world who have had similar experiences to me. It is depressing that so many other people have experienced elements of my story or worse, but I'm very glad that they felt able to share their stories in response to the piece.
For so long, I felt a tremendous amount of guilt over the abortion and my breakdown. I hid them both carefully - I used a false name at the BPAS clinic, and initially told everyone outside of my family that I'd had a miscarriage. It took a long time for me to confess to all my friends that I'd had a termination. (One of them quoted Stephen King, saying "Life is cheap: abortion makes it cheaper.") After the first year, I no longer felt guilty about the abortion, but was angry at pro-lifers instead, and wrote this post under a pseudonym on a Guardian article on comments from the Archbishop of Canterbury.
My breakdown took much longer to come to terms with, probably because I am unlikely to ever be fully better. If I forget to take my pills, I have disturbing thoughts again within twelve hours. I used to repeatedly beg the handful of people who knew about my breakdown not to tell anyone about it; paranoid, I wrongly accused a friend of telling other people. I would also go into the chemist's with my head down and a hat pulled low over my eyes to get my prescriptions filled, in case anyone I knew recognised me, and once had a panic attack when I realised every chemist I had visited kept a record of my medications.
Now I feel liberated enough to say that I am on olanzapine, pregabalin and clomipramine. I know there may be dark days ahead in the future, but the fact that I will be able to be honest about my illness and that people will understand means the world to me. I know that it takes time to feel ready to open up, especially if you suffer from anxiety or paranoia, and that there are many issues involved - but I wish I'd done it sooner, and I hope anyone wondering whether to be truthful about their own illness can take heart from that.
Thank you again, so very much. I will reply to all the emails as soon as I can.