her noiseless cries fill the air & the world groans.
in window reflections for a second she exists
do you ever truly live if you are left unseen?
hugs & kisses to the obnoxious ones
show your gums succumb
even if not hands-on, i’ve lived she says
tasted death’s distress
shown nipples & heard giggles
pistols taken out
she escapes to find herself & yet find none
look at the sun & fish another soul
for it is a treasure the living
till someone cracks your skull
& you become dull
wake up & swallow shears
immortal that bleeds
escape & hide between sheets
get sucked by pits of broken dishes
lose hearing & choke with thick vines
drown under him
Written by Daniela P Camejo Sanchez Illustrated by Afternoon Delight
Daniela is a Venezuelan writer and her work focuses on rebellion, womanhood, disease, and more. Her work is soon to be featured in The Ethel Zine, Olney Magazine, Pastel Serenity, New York Quarterly, and more. You may find her on Twitter as @danielapcamejo
shadow girl is a poem about toxic and abusive relationships, and more importantly, losing yourself because of them.
My seahorse baby, I am sorry your eyes did not form your body was not warm—
I am sorry your heart worked only in me and that it stopped only when he made you come out of me.
Raw, mauve, and numb— limbs replaced by a tiny tail. you shall now stay silent like the first time I saw you.
I often dream of you— what you may have been: Caramel curly hair, olive-colored eyes, Half-freckled face, almond skin, and lingering lashes.
Scribbles with orange markers, hoarse infinite laughs along a baby’s breath garden and early night readings of other planet ventures.
You are gone and yet you never arrived.
You shall remain nameless Not because I don’t want to call out your name— But because you never got one.
Written by Daniela P Camejo Sanchez Illustrated by Afternoon Delight
Daniela is a Venezuelan writer and her work focuses on rebellion, womanhood, disease, and more. Her work is soon to be featured in The Ethel Zine, Olney Magazine, Pastel Serenity, New York Quarterly, and more. You may find her on Twitter as @danielapcamejo
The subject matter of Daniela’s work, for many, can occupy feelings of shame or inadequacy. The loss of a pregnancy is a private and personal experience, and can be extremely difficult to talk about due to the emotional toll of the grief that accompanies loss. Many individuals feel pressure or expectation to keep their grief hidden, in part due to societal branding of these subjects as taboo.
Talking about infertility and miscarriage, if you feel comfortable to, serves to deconstruct common misconceptions and ’normalise’ experiences through the reassurance that if you’ve experienced it, you aren’t alone.
Resources: If you are affected by the themes of this post, you can visit https://www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk for information, or this page on their website for personal stories, videos and poems by people who have been affected by pregnancy loss.
It’s a hazy September evening, the kind where the air is a warm pillow and the day passes slowly, like a wasp drunk on spilled beer. I step onto the busy pavement outside the office, insects trying not to sway into each other’s paths, when I see the top of Tom’s head sticking out of the swarm.
When we dated he was 24 and said the rest of his hair would fall out in a few years. I thought it suited him, but then he ghosted me and I thought it suited him even more, so much so that I keep refreshing his social media pages instead of celebrating their good riddance. He’s not interested but still I travel in circles, hovering around thoughts of our expired conversation. I send him a text denouncing his choice to ghost me, then immediately worry what he thinks of me.
Why are we so obsessed with checking up on ghosts?
“BASTARD!” The strangled scream falls out of my mouth before I have time to catch it. My hands flail in the air, frantic wings that thrash too slow. He sees me and covers his face, hailing a taxi from the road. He’s laughing as he gets inside and I stare at my reflection on the glass in shame, wishing the embarrassment would burn me like a moth in candlelight.
When I was 22, I was mortified that I had ever sent him a text, wishing I’d deleted his number and moved on instead. Why are we so obsessed with checking up on ghosts? Now I’m 26 and I know I should have been more concerned by what I thought of him, rather than worrying what he thought of me. He treated me with less respect than I deserve and it’s not embarrassing to call him, or anyone, out for that.
When walking to the station after work a few weeks ago, I was approached by a man crossing the road. In the rain the city moves too slowly, inhabitants retreating to its corners like snails to their shells. When I walk I sometimes talk to myself, quietly cursing pavement traffic, forgetting that without a mask my lips are laid bare for the world to see.
In the side streets behind Trafalgar Square a slug emerges from the undergrowth, crawling towards me through the dirt. He looks me up and down, eyeballs bulging as brain cells slowly connect to formulate his next sentence. “You should smile more”, he said. “You’d look so much better.” To him, I think.
“You should smile more” he said. “You’d look so much better.”
I don’t exist to look attractive for strangers who shout at me from the darkness of street corners.
I almost turned around to shout expletives at him but I did not, afraid of retaliation. What astounds me is the confidence men have to direct me like I’m on stage for their audience. If I smiled, it would be because I wanted to, when I wanted to, not because I was told it would make me look better for someone else.
We caught up with Abbie Jackson, a 22-year-old actress and writer from the UK, who is striving for change in the way eating disorders are portrayed in the media. She is a member of the National Youth Theatre, and will be going to study acting at Institute for Contemporary Theatre in Brighton in September. Recovery is a short film about the realities of eating disorder recovery in young adults, and is Abbie’s first project as a producer, writer, director and actress.
Content: Please note that this article contains references to eating disorders.
Afternoon Delight: Can you tell us about your journey into acting and what led you to pursue it at university?
Abbie: I started performing when I was about 12 – I just turned to my parents and told them I wanted to be an actress! I have no idea where it came from, I just knew I wanted to perform and create things. I trained in musical theatre for a number of years, but my heart was always with acting. When I did my acting intake course with National Youth Theatre in 2018, I knew that it was what I wanted to pursue as a career. It’s taken me a few years to get to this place and I’m so excited to go to a great drama school and get my degree!
Afternoon Delight: Your film, Recovery, is about a therapy group for young adults in recovery from an eating disorder. Due to the virtual nature of communication during the Covid-19 pandemic, it is set on an online video call. Could you introduce the film for those who haven’t yet seen it, and tell us why you chose to write it?
Abbie: The short film focuses on 4 young adults in an eating disorder therapy group, and is based on my own experiences of therapy and inpatient treatment for anorexia. I wanted it to focus on the recovery aspect of an eating disorder, as opposed to the relapse and struggle we often see portrayed in the media. I wrote this script because I wanted to turn my own experiences into something that might help others, and to give anyone struggling from an eating disorder a more positive, hopeful film to watch (as opposed to the films that are already out there that can be quite triggering and upsetting.)
Afternoon Delight: Recovery is a passion project for yourself, as well as the cast and crew, operating on an almost zero budget. It’s amazing that you’ve been able to produce the film in this way, which really speaks to your commitment to the subject. Could you tell us why it is so important for stories like Recovery to be made? What messages do you hope audiences will take away from watching the film?
Abbie: It felt really important to me to make Recovery to go against the grain of the typical portrayals of eating disorders, particularly anorexia, in film and television. People who are struggling should be able to see truthful, honest messages of hope, not just triggering stories centred around calories and low body weight.
“I hope anyone who watches the film takes away that with the right support, recovery from an eating disorder is possible. Healing isn’t linear, there will absolutely be ups and downs, but it is possible to get better and thrive. I also hope that it gives people who have no experience of eating disorders some knowledge on the subject, and an understanding of what people with eating disorders go through.”
– Abbie Jackson
Afternoon Delight: The film came about from your own experience of being in inpatient wards for anorexia, which must have been incredibly difficult. It’s really empowering and inspiring that you’ve taken your personal journey and turned it into a means to spread awareness.If you feel comfortable to, could you tell us about your experience and why it stimulated you to strive to show the realities of recovery?
Abbie: Of course! I’m very open about my own history with anorexia, and I always have been. It was a big part of my life and although being unwell was awful, I wouldn’t change it, as it’s made me who I am today. And this film wouldn’t exist without it!
The experience that inspired this project was when I was struggling with anorexia in my late teens. I spiralled out of control very quickly, and was admitted to an eating disorder unit when I was 17 for 3 months. Whilst I was there, I met lots of other people who were also having treatment for anorexia. The friendships I made during that time were really special, and I’m still in touch with people now. The script was very inspired by conversations that we had whilst in hospital, and in the years beyond that.
Afternoon Delight: Was it difficult to act with a script that was so personal to you?
Abbie: Not really! I think because I purposely didn’t want the script to be too dark or upsetting, I haven’t found it too hard to act in it, apart from maybe one specific moment which is more serious. I think it also helps that my character, Hannah, is the bubbly and fun one! She’s very fun to play.
Afternoon Delight: Your personal goal with filmmaking is to tackle the industry’s representation of eating disorders and recovery, through film. Did you ever find, whilst growing up, that consuming media and popular culture had a negative effect on your body image?
Abbie: I think that although my anorexia was not caused by the media and pop culture, it does definitely have an effect on body image in general. I know that I found websites such as Tumblr had a negative effect on my body image at a young age! I also think that the things that we are told are the beauty standard and are “desirable”, such as being thin, has a huge effect on how we perceive our bodies. Fatphobia is so rife in the media – we are told being fat is unhealthy, bad, disgusting – all of which is not true, and this means a lot of us have internalised fatphobia. I wish things would change and we could celebrate all body types equally.
Afternoon Delight: The landscape of knowledge consumption has become culturally-influenced in the digital age; discourse written into the scripts of fictional film and television is a relatable and affecting way to acquire information. Netflix’s Insatiable received criticism for its portrayal of binge eating disorder (BED) that played to harmful stigma, with calls for it to be cancelled before it even went on air. (The show went on to have two seasons). BED is one of the most common types of eating disorder, yet society’s stigma towards overeating, perpetuated through shows like Insatiable, has conditioned the public’s lack of understanding of its seriousness as a mental illness. When these forms of culture fail to use their platforms sensitively, it can be damaging to the (often younger) audience, many of whom will be struggling with the themes portrayed on screen. Do you think the industry should be held to account for generating projects that reiterate misunderstanding instead of spreading awareness?
Abbie: Absolutely. More often than not, projects that are about eating disorders often end up being more triggering and increasing the stigma, instead of being helpful and raising awareness. I think one of the ways to help fix this is to have people with lived experience of eating disorders being involved in the project every step of the way. From the very first script all the way to the release of the project! And the same for having an eating disorder specialist involved if possible. I also think holding focus groups with people who are affected by eating disorders, including families, partners, doctors, would really help.
Afternoon Delight: Insatiable sits in contrast to Netflix’s To The Bone, a film that presented a more positively-received portrayal of treatment. The lead actresses of both dramas, Debby Ryan (Insatiable) and Lily Collins (To The Bone), have both talked openly of their personal experience of eating disorders. Lily shared that she was complimented for the thinness of her appearance in preparation for the film. Such comments, she says, are why the problem exists. As an actress, do you feel more self-conscious in the spotlight?
Abbie: I definitely do, and I’m not even really in the spotlight! Especially with my experience of musical theatre training, I found it so hard to not compare myself to everyone else when we were all standing in tiny leotards in front of full-length mirrors day after day. I have found that acting training, in comparison to musical theatre training, feels like a much safer space. But appearance is still very much focused on in acting, and it’s easy to feel self-conscious. Watching myself back on film is something I often find difficult!
Afternoon Delight: In a society that glorifies thinness and smaller bodies, negative and often dangerous standards for body image are created. As model Tess Holliday recently shared about her own struggle on Twitter, eating disorders can affect individuals of all body types and sizes, and are fuelled by society’s insistence of equating appearance with self-worth and the (over) representation of ‘thin’ body types in the media. How do you go about managing the expectations of society regarding body image when you have an eating disorder?
Abbie: It’s very hard to do when the stereotypical view of a person with an eating disorder is someone being deathly underweight. In the start of my recovery, I hated anyone seeing my body, and worried that people would think I was suddenly “fixed” because I was no longer underweight. An eating disorder can very easily become something you feel defined by, and to me, that felt like needing to “prove” that I was skinny and still unwell. The truth is, anyone can have an eating disorder at any weight.
For me now, I try to avoid looking at my body for too long so that I don’t start to over-analyse how I look. I also follow people on social media with a range of different body types, and really admire people who are strongly against the societal obsession with weight loss (amongst other things such as the policing of women’s body hair and periods), like @em_clarkson on Instagram. (She also has cute dogs!)
Afternoon Delight: This week (at the time of writing) is Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK, which seeks to encourage conversations about mental health. The deep emotional and psychiatric effects of eating disorders are important to recognise in order to understand the full extent of the mental toll effected. Do you have anything you’d like to share about your own experiences with your mental health to someone reading this who may be struggling with an eating disorder or body confidence?
Abbie: I’d love to be able to share some magic cure, or something I did that completely eradicated my eating disorder, but that thing does not exist! What I can say is – you deserve to get help. You are “sick enough”. Your body is the only body you get, and you deserve to take care of it. Getting help is very difficult and I wish it wasn’t, but there are some brilliant charities that you can reach out to, like Beat and SEED.
Abbie: The pandemic definitely had an impact on my mental health, as I also suffer from anxiety and low mood. I felt hopeless and lonely at times, and turning to my eating disorder often seemed like a “solution” for the lack of control I felt. Luckily, I have brilliant friends and family around me, and have been doing well in my recovery still! There are always highs and lows, but I am in a good enough place that I am able to get back on track if I’m struggling.
Afternoon Delight: Looking ahead to the future and your time to university, do you have any projects in the works or things you’re most looking forward to as lockdown restrictions in the UK continue to ease?
Abbie: I’d love to do another project with the same cast and characters of Recovery, but in person! I was telling another cast member (Nichole Cook, who plays Gemma) that it would be a dream to have the four main characters go on some sort of therapy field trip – we had a few of those when I was inpatient, and they were always entertaining! In general, I’m just excited to be moving to Brighton and being able to have some more normality back. I also hope I get the vaccine soon! Most of my family are vaccinated and I’m not, so I feel left out!
Kaitlyn Boxall is a 21-year-old independent film director from Welling, UK. She has recently released a film called Behind Closed Doors, which has received international praise for its realistic portrayal of domestic violence. Kaitlyn is working to support female empowerment, and encourage women to speak out about their experiences with the support of the charity, Women’s Aid. We caught up with Kaitlyn to discuss her filmmaking during the production of the sequel, which will be given to a distribution company in partnership with Netflix.
Please note this article contains references to domestic abuse/violence.
Afternoon Delight: Our zine was created as a space to tell empowering stories because we believe in the power of shared experiences. We all have our own stories, whether they are important moments from our lives or fictional imaginings, and there is much to learn from hearing what we each have to say. Can you tell us about your journey into filmmaking and what brought you to pursue this career path?
Kaitlyn: I got my first ever camera when I turned 10 years old. Ever since I held my first camera, I felt an instant passion for it. I think it’s the aspect of being able to catch moments that will never happen again which has always meant a great deal to me. What motivates me about filmmaking is the creative and storytelling aspect. To have that creative control to convey a story through the eyes of a lens, expressing a storyline and having it play out on a screen is an amazing form self-expression aside from it just being a form of entertainment for viewers.
Afternoon Delight: The pandemic has seen a devastating increase in cases of domestic violence across the world. With the stay-at-home order of the lockdowns which began in March 2020, victims were left isolated in confined spaces with their abusers. In the UK, the domestic violence charity Refuge reported a 61% increase in demand for its helpline during the Covid-19 pandemic. Your latest film, Behind Closed Doors, covers domestic violence before and towards the outbreak of Covid-19. Could you introduce the film for those who haven’t yet seen it, and tell us how the story evolved?
Kaitlyn: The film explores the story of main character, Lisa Crawford, (portrayed by Holly Prentice) who is living through an abusive marriage until her best friend, Alison (Ellie Mulhern), refers her to a counsellor named Aaron, primarily known as Mr Smith, (Vasile Marin). Lisa, reluctant to the idea, finally accepts her need for a counsellor and arranges to secretly attend to Mr Smith’s appointments regularly. It’s not long until their professional relationship becomes a little more intimate than they anticipated. This storyline was one I had written up when I was about 15 years old, but I didn’t pursue it with my filmmaking at the time. I’ve always written little stories as I was always quite an imaginative child.
Since the outbreak of Covid-19, I realised domestic abuse was also becoming a pandemic. Every human being in the world has been confined to their homes for months on end, and deaths were occurring from domestic outbreaks as well as from the virus. It felt important for me to use my knowledge and filmmaking to help raise awareness on domestic abuse, because it has not been addressed as much as it could have been. Also, domestic abuse is a big societal issue across the world as there is a large proportion of the population who are or who have experienced it. In order to convey this story and make it factually correct, my Mother was my main point of research, as she has been a victim of domestic abuse. The film carries personal segments, based on the characteristics of real people and true events.
Afternoon Delight: The film contains many personal segments, and it’s really empowering that you’ve taken a subject so close to you and turned it into a means to spread awareness. Could you tell us why it is so important for stories like Behind Closed Doors to be made? What messages do you hope audiences will take away from watching the film?
Kaitlyn: It is so important for stories like Behind Closed Doors to be made, because not only does it have the power to raise awareness, but these types of film can also educate a younger audience and create positive influence in terms of showing people what the signs are of abusive and controlling behaviour. Behind Closed Doors conveys one vital message which is also very powerfully narrated, and that is: “You have the power to change the ending.”
The film seeks to influence victims who are currently in abusive situations, encouraging them to seek help and change their endings. There is absolutely no shame in seeking help. The educational aspect of the storyline is shown in the counselling scenes, where Lisa’s counsellor tries to make her see the abuse she is experiencing. Her character lives in denial, so we do get to see that intense journey of her slowly coming to realisation but feeling shame to leave her husband due to pride.
Afternoon Delight: The production of Behind Closed Doors was created in collaboration with Women’s Aid, a charity working to provide life-saving services and build a future where domestic violence is not tolerated. Can you tell us about the charity’s involvement in the project?
Kaitlyn: Women’s Aid helped me to build up-to-date research of the current levels of domestic abuse. My Mother’s experience was 20 years ago, and there is a lot more help available now than back then. So much can be accessed and there are so many different ways to seek help confidentially. Knowing these aspects of today’s world and the charities, I wanted the film to be set in the modern day, and be relatable to a large audience so that families could relate to it. My intention has not been to base it on my Mother and I, because I wanted the film to hold that realistic portrayal of what it is like to marry into abuse and feel trapped with two children. My Mother was brave to escape my abusive father, and she made the choice to not put me through years of experiencing abuse.
I took true events of my mother’s experience and the insight I have had from listening to her talk about it, which has allowed Behind Closed Doors to pick up those personal segments of her experience, forming it into a story where everyone across the world can relate to it in one way or another. Women’s Aid not only was used as assisted research, but they have also been our supported charity that we have helped to raise donations for, through this production.
Afternoon Delight: Your filmmaking is raising awareness of domestic violence to help change and even save lives, but within the industry there have been many films glorifying sexual violence, coercion and abuse. Netflix’s 365 Days (2020) sparked widespread debate about the danger of romanticised depictions of abusive relationships when it was released last year. Should the film industry be held accountable for these kinds of films, which have the power to influence our perception and understanding of what this violence looks like?
Kaitlyn: As a filmmaker, I do have an understanding of creating a romantic twist in order to help a dramatic piece hook viewers in. There is a large audience who love a romance, regardless of how this romance is delivered. I myself love romantic dramas and I do have that insight as to how romance can create tension in a storyline.
However, I do think it’s very important to not glorify physical/mental abuse or abductions as a love story. You have to remember that films have the power to influence people, as well as act as a form of entertainment. You’re not just entertaining an audience, you are also influencing them – whether the intention is there or not, either way, at least one viewer is going to come away from that film and be somewhat influenced. A lot of young people can hold perceptions of life that stem from how a film can depict societal issues. This can be problematic, however, because many films are combining societal issues with sexual relationships between characters, and delivering them as a love story. This can then glorify things like abductions, abuse and stalking. This is concerning when younger viewers are consuming that kind of content and can go back into the world thinking that it is reality, when it is not.
Afternoon Delight: Behind Closed Doors has received international praise for its more realistic depiction of domestic abuse through the storyline. Could you tell us about this, and the interpretations of the film’s discourse?
Kaitlyn: Behind Closed Doors has a romantic element between Lisa and the counsellor, which can come across as quite controversial. There is a very clear meaning behind the tension between the two characters, as it is stressed that the counsellor witnessed his Mother’s abuse first-hand as a child. That being said, he feels empathy for Lisa, understands her as a person and he holds a need to help her in ways he could not help his mother. He tries to show her a life where there is no abuse and this in no way glorifies the abuse she is experiencing, as he attempts to encourage her in escaping her abusive marriage. This perception of a storyline gives the ‘correct’ type of influence for an audience, where a love story forms between the correct characters, and not between the victim and their abuser.
Behind Closed Doors can also be interpreted in other ways, such as counsellors being corrupt. Aaron, the counsellor, is seen overstepping his boundaries with Lisa, which possibly can be understood as taking advantage of a vulnerable woman. This is the controversial aspect that the film holds, but Aaron as a character is drawn to Lisa for meaningful reasons, in which is later on explored towards the end of the film.
With this in mind, an audience is able to understand Aaron more as a character and why he has so much interest in Lisa out of all his other patients. This is the strong element within the storyline, which has made the film so popular, because it takes us through that journey of a character being shown a normal life, where they can be shown real love, trust and empathy. This makes Behind Closed Doors a film which should be entered into with an open mind, and look at characters with a level of understanding without judgment from the very moment it begins. Because the journey of the storyline expresses a realistic perspective, without a glorifying tactic.
Afternoon Delight: You are working hard to encourage victims of domestic abuse to speak out. We’ve witnessed the power in this, most recently with the platform Everyone’s Invited, a movement to eradicate rape culture by sharing personal testimonies from students in schools and universities. Can you tell us about the response you’ve received for Behind Closed Doors, from the victims of domestic abuse who have come forward as a result of seeing the film?
Kaitlyn: Surprisingly, a lot of responses have been from other countries, where domestic abuse is (shockingly) regarded more as a normality, because the laws are different there compared to the UK. A lot of people have come forward talking about not just the abuse they have experienced themselves, but also individuals who have witnessed abuse between their parents, as a child. This made me realise afterwards how the film has become relatable in so many different ways, not just to victims themselves but also to witnesses who have had to see it first-hand as children. I think this makes the film so meaningful on a number of levels, and I did not expect it to get the attention it got.
Afternoon Delight: In discussing this, it is important to acknowledge that personal experiences of domestic violence can be incredibly difficult to talk about, and not all survivors want to share their story. For those who aren’t ready to speak out, or who don’t wish to, it is still valuable to read and hear other people’s stories. Did you ever find it difficult to initiate conversations with your Mother about her personal experiences, and write about a subject so close to you both?
Kaitlyn: It has without a doubt been shocking to hear my Mother’s experiences, but I have also found it challenging to bring those experiences to screen in the film. It has been important for me to show her experiences to viewers, and help the storyline come across as close to the reality of abuse as possible.
Afternoon Delight: You are now going into production with a sequel to Behind Closed Doors due to the international interest it gained, which will be given to a distribution company in partnership with Netflix. This is a major achievement which we look forward to following news of. As a filmmaker who has achieved success in a male-dominated industry, have you got any advice for other young women seeking careers in writing and filmmaking?
Kaitlyn: Never give up. Whatever your aspirations are in life, keep going and don’t take no for an answer. I like to think that it’s best to aim for the moon…because if you miss, you just might hit a star! So, aim high, and don’t be afraid to just go for it! Life is too short to live in fear or avoid risks. Take those risks and make the most of life, whilst being the best you can be.
Afternoon Delight: Covid-19 has changed the landscape of film production significantly, with many projects forced to be put on hold and unable to be screened in cinemas. Behind Closed Doors as well as your short film, Someone Like You, were originally released on your YouTube channel, Ginger Paradise Productions. What are your thoughts on the future of online streaming services as platforms to showcase films, and why did you choose to publish your films this way?
Kaitlyn: Since the rise of Covid-19, I have noticed more opportunities have become available to independent filmmakers. Cinemas have been shut, steering audiences to social media, which has increased exposure for independent film productions. It has been pretty much an online world for over a year due to lockdown, and this has become a massive advantage in terms of advertisement for small creators, who use social media to get their content across. I have always used social media to share my films, simply because this has been my way of learning about how to market, advertise and create self-exposure of my creativity. It has allowed me to network with many creators, and that is the positive side to the social media world.
Afternoon Delight: Finally, do you have any words you’d like to share to individuals who have faced events of domestic violence?
Kaitlyn: The rates of domestic abuse have spiked since the start of the pandemic, and it is horrific. My Mum was very proud of the film, but it was a hard watch for her. She wants to plead to every woman that you can get out of it! 20 years ago, there was very little help. She spent two years in a refuge, and today she now says, “To leave your house keys on the table, and go to a refuge is tough. To live a lifetime of abuse, where your children see you being beaten, is far, far worse.”
My Mother met many women during her time at the refuge. She is so thankful, although how hard it was, that I was only 3 weeks old. So, I, myself, do not hold any memories of those dark times. Many women in the refuge had older children who had already witnessed so much.
I pledge to any victims; do not let your children witness such horrific actions of violence! I understand it can be difficult, but a lifetime of abuse can be changed to a lifetime of happiness. You can do it! It is heart-breaking, as you probably still love your abuser, because they make it seem normal. You end up knowing no different. To all victims who are living domestic abuse, before lockdown and during, I promise you that there is hope! Material things do not matter, the big posh house, the out lookers looking in, thinking your life is perfect. The psychological affect is devastating. Get out, and do not be ashamed to ask for help. Peace of mind is invaluable. You CAN start again, and you WILL.
If you are affected by domestic abuse or know somebody who is, help is available now. Women’s Aid’s Survivor’s Handbookcontains information on every aspect of seeking support. Other useful resource links are listed on their site here.
Respect is an advice line for men, providing services aimed at men who are experiencing domestic abuse. Survivors UK is a charity supporting men who have experienced sexual abuse.
They haven’t seen each other in over a year. The last time they spoke, he called her ‘difficult’ and she still thinks of this often, admonishing herself for not challenging him on it, and worrying if perhaps there was some truth to his comment.
The last time they’d seen each other in person, he’d broken up with her, and told her he didn’t see a future. She never wanted a future, only a chance to get to know him better. Again, she wishes she’d said this to him at the time, but he is so sure of himself and it takes her too long to decide how she feels about things. Even now, she doesn’t know what she wants from him.
She’s on her way to meet him, he’s invited her for a drink but she’s not sure why. There was no hesitation in her yes. She checks her reflection in every shop window she passes. Does she look good enough? She wants him to want her again, but she also wants to appear unattainable. At no point does she worry about what he might look like to her. She knows she’ll look at him and adore him again.
When she gets to the bar, she’s early, but still there’s a fluster to her cheeks, and it takes some time for her heart to slow. He arrives, and she feels that tug in her stomach, the pit that she’s about to fall into. There’s no kiss on the cheek, or even an embrace, he just sits down, then looks at her.
She calls him by his surname, an intimacy they established long ago that slips off her tongue so easily, burrowed inside the muscle memory of her heart. He looks different, not quite as neat as she remembers. They talk about how they’ve been, he says she looks good, and she flushes with a pride that she’s almost ashamed of.
She’d like to tell him that she’s missed him, but he hasn’t said it and she’s not going to go first. There’s the same frisson between them, an energy they give to one another that puts them on edge and that they mistake for excitement. She asks him about his weekend plans, fishing for evidence about a new lover, but he gives nothing away.
After two drinks, she’s brave enough to ask him why he’s invited her here. There’s a flirtation in the way she asks the question, and it masks the anxiety she feels about the answer. He thought it would be nice to see her again, he’s always enjoyed her company. The vagueness irritates her. She asks him again, blunter this time. He repeats himself, but when he adds that he’s still not looking for a relationship with her, she feels something break inside her. In all the ways she’d imagined this meeting, this was not something that he would say.
There’s a pain in her throat – the hot beginnings of tears – but she won’t let them out whilst he can see her. It stuns her, how much she still wants him, even after he breaks her heart again. Why this man? Why is there nothing she won’t forgive? She does her best to smile at him, she wants to leave him with a good memory of her. There is still some part of her that wants him to return to this moment, and regret what he has done.
It takes all of her resolve to slip her jacket over her shoulders and gather her bag into her hands. She’ll never want to say goodbye but if she doesn’t let him go now, she’ll never leave. There’s a brush of their skin as he goes to shake her hand, and she leans in to kiss his cheek. For a moment, she’s lost in his touch. To never feel his skin on hers again feels like agony.
She says goodbye, and calls him by his surname, one final time. It’s a word she knows she’ll never say again. There’s no sadness in his face, just a blankness that she knows now has always been there. She’s loved for the both of them, but he will never give her what she wants.
Outside, back in the cool air, she hugs her arms to her body, and feels the hope drain out of her. She’s ready now, she thinks, to erase him from her mind. She is ready to say no.
Written by Sophie Raoufi Illustrated by Afternoon Delight
Sophie is a British Iranian poet and writer who takes inspiration for her work from love, loss and technology.
It’s been a year since the start of the pandemic, and with this in mind we’re looking back on the past twelve months and reflecting on what we’ve learned. This is the second part of Katie’s SadGirl 2020 – you can catch up on part 1 here.
Chapter 3: Summer of Love
Summer was around the corner and with the days lasting longer and lockdown restrictions getting looser there was a new sense of hope in the air. I had been working now for 3 months and happily passed the probation period at my new job. I was loving what I was doing and being given more responsibilities and varied briefs.
I did still feel like I didn’t really know anyone but that wasn’t through lack of them trying. Bless them, they had really tried every step in the book to try and get people to integrate but with everyone working from home that wasn’t an easy task. A few people had also been newly employed after me, to various teams. They were both really nice and the one who stayed on was really social. He could just chat away and make jokes and as you do when you’re an insecure, socially inept mess I couldn’t help but feel a little jealous. I kinda ended up putting a lot of pressure on the social side of things at work. Pressure which naturally would make me start to overthink a lot of the interactions I had with colleagues.
To distract myself from this anxiety I really delved into dating apps. Who doesn’t love validation in the form of cringey one-liners from strangers on the internet? This girl! This girl is a big fan. Anyways, I started talking to a boy in April and he was cute and we were kinda hitting it off. I remember we got talking and I suddenly realised his distance said something wild… like near on 3,796 miles wild. I messaged him about it and turns out he was at uni in London, where he matched with me, but originally he’s from Virginia, USA. He was visiting home at the same time lockdown began in England, which left him stranded there. As he was in America we obviously couldn’t meet up so we ended up talking on Hinge for near on 3 months before we actually got to go on a date.
It was the beginning of July and he had been home a couple weeks or so when we finally got to meet up. With covid still in full swing but the rules for summer being less restrictive, our options for a date were limited. We ended up going for the ever-romantic park date in Clapham Common. I remember it was a very weird feeling being in London. Due to lockdown and living with my parents, my contact with other people had really been limited. To go from that to getting a train into London to meet a stranger my nerves were all over the place.
Anyways we ended up having a great date, chatted for hours and ended up finding a socially distanced Spoons to chat in once our alcohol purchases had ran out in the park. We talked about everything and he was pretty cute, I won’t lie. We ended up having a cheeky kiss at the entrance of the tube station, probably to the disgust of the other masked train users. And that’s the last of the date I remember. As about two seconds after that kiss I drunkenly black out. Somehow luckily my drunk brain managed to get myself onto a train home which honestly is impressive and I am still going to give myself props for.
After that we went on dates about once a week and there was a spark; we really got on. 4th date loomed and I was finally staying the night at his. I had managed to wangle out some messy lie to my parents about where I was that night as the thought of telling them “BTW I’ve been dating this guy and it’s the forth date so I should probably have sex with him now” didn’t really seem like a good option. We went to a few bars before heading back to his where he showed me around his flat. We sat down on his bed where he proceeded to pick a police drug dealer action movie. It’s safe to say I didn’t really watch a lot of the movie and not for the reason you are probably thinking, keep your dirty minds out of the gutter!
The movie wasn’t particularly romantic. Not a movie that allows for a smooth transition into naughty adult cuddle times, if you know what I mean. The blood and guts and gangs and guns weren’t really doing it for me and I spent the majority of the movie confused as to why he had picked it and how he was going to go about starting the more intimate chapter of the date as we lay like pencils side by side. Eventually he did manage to make a move and we had a good time…. some might say a great time!
With the warmth also came the ability to see friends in their gardens. This was such a blessing as I think a lot of my friends like myself were isolated with parents and it was so nice to finally see some people face to face and actually talk and catch up. I also booked a little weekend away with one of my oldest friends in a cottage. Being 24 and definitely not boomers we had the fullest expectations of getting drunk and having a giggly girly night… Although turns out the Harry Potter Battle for Hogwarts board game is actually very addicting and our initial plans were scratched for a night of strategic game playing followed by slightly too clay-y face masks, the movie “Made of Honour” and an early night. Living the high life at 24, don’t get too jealous!
Chapter 4: Christmas time, no mistletoe and a lot of wine.
I was still dating the boy and we were getting pretty close, I was starting to really like him. We went on some cute dates to the Horniman Museum and to Kew Gardens and I had met his friends and everything was going well. Unfortunately for us the fun was cut short with Lockdown 2.0. Everything was shut again and I was back to being a shut-in in my parents house and the boy went back to the US to wait out the British lockdown with his family.
Suddenly my beautiful distraction was gone and I was back to my thoughts and myself. Safe to say the winter months of lockdown weren’t the best for my mental health as I’m sure many others can agree. The first lockdown had this weird sense of excitement attached to it. Everyone wanted to do zoom quizzes and socially distanced park drinks but this time round the enthusiasm had definitely dried out. Gone were the days of zoom calls being a fun way to catch up, now they felt like a chore and the logistics of anything outside seemed like way too much planning to be fun. Anyways thats enough moaning about winter there were some highlights…. I’m sure…. Can’t quite put my finger on them right now, but I’m sure there was definitely something.
I’m just kidding, Christmas was fun at least and I realised that I should definitely go back to therapy. LOOOOL
I think what I’ve learnt from this whirlwind of a year is how to be myself again. Through uni and school I’ve always kept my self preoccupied and been busy but being able to find solace in myself has been comforting but also awoken me to areas in my mental health I need to work on. Not only that but with the lack of activities it has really allowed Nikitah and myself to push forward with Afternoon Delight. I can’t express how much having a creative outlet like this has helped me in the past year. It gave me something to focus on and be proud of when I felt like I had nothing going on. So thank you readers for giving me someone to write too. I hope you’re as excited as we are for what’s to come and the future of Afternoon Delight. xxx
Ella Greenwood is a British actress and filmmaker. At the age of only 19, she is the director of her own production company, Broken Flames Productions, and has had her work selected for BAFTA accredited festivals. She works as a mental health activist and is an ambassador for teen mental health charity, stem4. We caught up with Ella to interview her about campaigning for better representation of mental health in the media and getting into the film industry as a woman.
Afternoon Delight: We originally founded our zine as a space for honest discussion about our lives as we navigate through our twenties. Society puts a lot of pressure on young people to achieve particular milestones to a timeline, such as finishing school, graduating from university, getting a job and embarking on the path to ‘adulthood,’ whatever that might end up looking like, and we’ve definitely felt this pressure growing up. You progressed into your career straight after completing your A-Levels, and didn’t attend university. Did you ever feel a level of pressure or expectation to go to university? Have you always wanted to be a filmmaker or has the direction your career has taken changed from what you originally thought it might be?
Ella: I never felt pressure to go to university, I’ve wanted to be an actor for most of my life, but drama school never appealed to me, so it wasn’t something that I had intended on doing, and then when I started filmmaking, I fell in love with it. The direction of my career has definitely changed, though I’m only where I am now because of what I originally wanted to do.
Afternoon Delight: Your first short film, Faulty Roots, was nominated for an award by Film The House as well as being selected for many festivals, including the BAFTA-qualifying Bolton International Film Festival. Could you describe the premise of the film for those who haven’t yet seen it, and explain why it was important for you to write it?
Ella: The film follows a teenage girl with depression whose mother tries to cheer her up by making her reconnect with an overly positive childhood friend. It was important for me to write it, as I wanted to share some of the experiences that I had when struggling with my mental health as a young teen, and to bring a more normal and accurate portrayal of teenage mental health to film.
Afternoon Delight: You’re very passionate about creating projects that raise awareness of mental illness, a topic that you’re a vocal advocate for. stem4 is a London-based charity whose mission is to promote positive mental health in teenagers and those who support them, through education and awareness. Can you tell us about your work as an ambassador for this charity, and what it means to you?
Ella: stem4 are an amazing organisation and it means so much that I get to support and promote all of the good that they do. They have incredible ways to really help young people, and for example, one of my upcoming films Smudged Smile is supported by them so we will be able to give the audience a place where they can access help and resources.
Afternoon Delight: We’ve read in one of your interviews about your passion for writing characters who experience mental illness, but whose lives don’t mean any less for having them. Your work is important in creating ground for moving portrayals of mental health into honest and accurate representation, away from stigma and harmful stereotypes. As the young generation of actors and filmmakers tell more honest stories about living with mental illnesses, do you hope the industry as a whole will be influenced by positive change to be more representative?
Ella: Definitely, I hope that so much! Change has definitely been made, but it’s still very slow and there’s also been the issue with recent work still doing more harm than good, and romanticising suicide. It’s important that the industry is more representative but in an accurate and positive way.
Afternoon Delight: Faulty Roots is now being developed into a feature film, which is an incredible achievement that you must be so proud of. As a 19-year-old, how have you coped with the growing attention of your work and attainment of success at a young age?
Ella: I’m just so grateful that I get to tell these stories that I’m so passionate about, and that I hope will have a positive impact on people, and that I get to work with so many incredible people. My work is what’s most important, really trying to make a difference with it, and so I just feel very lucky when it gets to reach people and gets that attention.
Afternoon Delight: You founded your production company, Broken Flames Productions, with the aim of telling important stories. As someone who has achieved success in a male-dominated industry, have you got any advice for other young women seeking careers in writing and filmmaking? What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career so far?
Ella: My advice would just be to go for it, don’t wait until you feel like you’re ready or qualified, just start creating work! Also make sure to reach out to other people, those that inspire you or you feel you could learn from, women in the industry are so wonderfully supportive. The biggest challenge is probably powering through stressful situations and getting over rejection, those things will always be hard, but I’m learning the best ways to get through!
Afternoon Delight: For us, engaging in honest conversations about mental health has been really important in developing a greater understanding of ourselves, helping us to reach a level of self-acceptance that we didn’t have as teenagers, struggling with emotions we didn’t understand. Did you ever find it difficult to initiate conversations about mental health whilst growing up, and do you have any advice to give your younger self? Do you find it easier to speak through your work and the characters you write?
Ella: I definitely found it difficult, and honestly, I barely had those conversations whilst growing up. Mental health wasn’t something that I had an understanding of at all, and then when I started struggling, I just kept it to myself as much as possible. I would say to just always remember that you won’t feel that way forever, no feeling is permanent. I find it easy to talk about mental health in general now, whether that’s through my work, or whether it’s just me talking on a podcast or interview, it’s a lovely transition to now be able to and also to enjoy sharing my experiences.
Afternoon Delight: The charity Mind recently revealed that more people have reported experiencing a crisis in their mental health during the pandemic than ever before. There seems to be more of a sense of urgency to the conversation now as more people seek support. Do you think the pandemic has changed the way society as a whole is engaging with the mental health discussion?
Ella: There’s more awareness of the fact that so many people are struggling, but I worry that articles and statistics are about as far as it goes. Saying that a lot of people are struggling is one thing, but then implementing ways that those people can get help and support is another. There’s also always going to be those steps forwards and backwards; you see those positive stories about slight changes being made, but then you also see someone on a primetime TV show refuse to accept that someone was having suicidal thoughts.
Afternoon Delight: The pandemic as a whole has seen the closure of many cinemas, with films premiered on streaming platforms instead. Has the pandemic changed your production company’s approach to making films? Do you hope the future of film returns to the big screen again, or will you look to showcase your work on online platforms?
Ella: It’s been interesting for us, some of our projects had been made and in the festival circuit just before the pandemic started so we had no choice over what happened to those, in terms of being shown at virtual festivals etc, and then all of the work we have made since then is almost finished or in pre-production & development so now things are starting to open up again, we have those options. I love the cinema so much, but I also love streaming platforms, it will probably depend on the project as both have pros and cons, and I really do like both.
Afternoon Delight: Looking to the future, Mental Health Awareness Week is taking place in the UK in May and this year’s theme is ‘Nature.’ Over the course of the pandemic we’ve found solace in taking walks and looking after our houseplants. Do you think you will get involved in some green-fingered activities? Are there any self-care rituals you engage in during your downtime when you’re not working?
Ella: I most likely will not be getting involved in green-fingered activities, gardening just isn’t for me and honestly, I hate walks. So many people have said how much they love going on walks and how much it helps their mental health, but it’s not something that works for me, I just really don’t like them. I’ve been binge-watching The Office and New Girl for the first time and they definitely help, I love them!
Afternoon Delight: Finally, can you tell us about your upcoming short film, Self-Charm, and what you’re looking forward to doing the most once the UK’s lockdown restrictions end?
Ella: Self-Charm focuses on a teenage girl who is struggling with self-harm and it stars the amazing BAFTA nominated actress Bukky Bakray. I’m looking forward to literally everything!! Seeing family and friends, going to the cinema, going to restaurants and pubs, travelling, going to events again, I just cannot wait to leave my house!!!
Soooo… 2020… What a year… 😦 We have decided to each write a year in review. I think everyone hears enough about the world every evening on the news, so this is more to do with what we have been up to, and what we have learned over the last twelve months.
Katie I’m not really sure where to start with this one as so much has happened with the Big Corona and what not. I flip flop between thinking I’ve done absolutely fucking nothing this year to remembering all the small (and big) victories/few losses I’ve had.
Chapter 1: the realities of unemployment
I graduated with a degree in Graphic Design in the summer of 2019. When January rolled around I had been unemployed for not too far off a year, and was somewhat living in despair of the whole thing. I decided to have a bit of a break from applying for jobs over Christmas, but once January hit I was to have no more fun. In hindsight, this was not the best for my mental health. I basically decided that I was not going to see anyone, not spend any money and not do anything other than send applications and do interviews. I put a ridiculous amount of pressure on myself to find a job and even though it did eventually work it meant I put a lot of friendships to the side and wasn’t the happiest in myself…which probably showed in my interviews. I mean, who wants to hire an unhappy person?
I remember feeling like I was on the edge. I felt like I had a mask on that was slowly losing opacity. The fear that people would be able to see through me was constantly looming. Everyone would know I wasn’t worth shit and that I was as useless as I felt I was. I know in my heart of hearts this isn’t the case but when you’re in that “walking on the edge” state I felt wholly transparent and completely breakable, unable to complete tasks or have motivation to do anything.
I would love to say that freelancing and job hunting helped me get out of this mindset, but that wouldn’t be quite true. The number of freelance-jobs-won and interview-invitations-received were fleeting accomplishments, quickly cut down by my ever-growing self pity. It felt like whatever I achieved was just putting a fabric lid on an ever-filling jar of water. I could hold it off from spilling for a little bit, but before I knew it I was falling under, drowning under the weight of responsibility and uncertainty of the future.
One weird thing I found some comfort in was Wicca. Now hear me out, I know it’s a bit out there but I came across it from Harmony Nice’s clothes hauls. I basically had a bit of a binge of her content and ended up finding out a bit about modern day Wicca as she practices it.
I ended up buying her book secondhand and as I opened it a hand-painted bookmark fell out. On the bookmark the previous owner had written “My Darlings, Enjoy living a thousand lives.” On the reverse was a beautifully hand painted moon phase.
I had a Roman Catholic upbringing and never really saw religion or belief systems as particularly welcoming or happy things, but, hand on heart, I have never felt more accepted. Maybe that sounds stupid, but it’s how I felt. I’m now open to learning more about Wiccan ideologies. Maybe I’ll make it into a blog posts, maybe I won’t – who knows 🙂
Chapter 2: being the new girl at work
When March came around I was still in the teetering state. I had received a job offer so 50% of the self loathing had dissipated but it had been replaced by an influx of new job anxiety, happily taking the place of its predecessor. I had also started dating someone. I’ll be honest and say the whole thing didn’t last very long; we went on about 4 dates before he ghosted me, something that I am still convincing myself is based on covid restrictions and not on my personality or my awkwardness in bed.
I started my new job around a week into March. Everyone was lovely, I literally couldn’t find a bad word to say about anyone. The job was good and the people around me were all really happy to help me gain my footing in my role. They would talk me through jobs and briefs and help me understand what I was meant to be doing, which honestly was so much more than I was expecting. Unfortunately for my training about a week into being in the office the government ordered everyone to work from home and a new house-bound normal became reality.
Once we all started working from home the ability to turn into myself excelled and isolation became easy. I’m not a very loud person or someone who shares their opinions easily, especially in a new group. Even if I’m with two of my closest friends I will often shut down verbally. I’ll still be in the conversation and listen but I struggle to input verbally when it’s more than a one on one. On top of that, group chats are my one and only true nemesis and now, in the times of lockdown, they had become the only way to communicate.
I don’t know what it is about them but they make me feel like my brain is going to explode. I can be writing the simplest message and ponder it for hours and then eventually end up deleting the app in frustrating as I can’t make myself press enter. Because of this ridiculous social anxiety I have formed, I managed to create this internal state of forever being the new girl at work and forever existing in a place of not knowing where I stand with other people.
Although the last two chapters have had right negative-Nancy vibes, there were some good things that happened.
Nikitah and I really gave this blog a good start. We designed a logo, brand, and website, started blogging, posting on social media and overall I’ve really enjoyed this new exciting creative outlet. It’s also given us something to be proud of and be in control of during this time of uncertainty.
My friend and myself started sending each other “vlogs.” We basically recorded 5 min video logs every week, showing what we had been up to and other bits. One time I even bought a Cameo, asking one of her fave people to make her smile. If you’re bored and your friends fancy it this is a great way to waste your time.
And also it was nearly summer so that always perked me up… Plus I had kinda started talking to a new boy who you will hear more about in the next chapter.
The next chapter of Katie’s SadGirl 2020 will be out soon, so keep your eyes peeled for updates on dating and friendship.