The Recoil Factor

 

Several of my friends and colleagues have suffered in recent years from a phenomenon that, in my head, I have begun calling “The Recoil Factor”.  This is essentially a negative reaction that those close to the sufferer have after the person goes through a trauma, illness (mental or physical), bereavement or major life change.  This reaction is baffling to those who do not experience it, and unfortunately means that a friend or loved one in great need of help and support suddenly finds those around them backing away, disappearing, and generally running for the hills.  This can often contribute to feelings of isolation, depression, and a low sense of self worth.

Recently the victim of a sexual assault, one of my friends has bravely chosen to tell others about her ordeal so as to hopefully catch the perpetrator, and also so that others can avoid being in a similar situation in the future.  The after-effects of the attack have been traumatic and life-changing, and she is currently suffers from anxiety, panic attacks.  In the short period since the terrifying experience she endured she has been avoided, told to “get over it”, been given the distinct feeling of not being believed, and also due to a period of sickness from work to recover now feels her job may be in jeopardy.  ‘This must be an isolated case’ you cry!  No, sadly this is often the norm, and there are people all over the UK (not to mention the world) who are experiencing the same feelings of rejection and disappointment just when they are at their lowest ebb.

I can cite numerous examples of this.  Friends with eating disorders who are “hard to be around”, victims of psychological and physical abuse who “should’ve just left”, an ex-colleague who survived cancer only to find half her ‘mates’ seemed to have lost her phone number, and a friend whose sibling was murdered who apparently was “just no fun anymore”.  So what is it about tragedy that makes people so damned unappealing?  When we have a relationship with someone, romantic or otherwise, is it not understood that this is for both good times and bad? Often it seems to be a case of when the going gets tough the tough are on their own and the rest get going.

Of course, not everyone does this.  Conversely in the face of disaster there are those who step up, often those the victim of the personal tragedy would least expect to come to their aid.  Perhaps it is the friend who always seemed a little self-centred before, or a colleague who goes the extra mile, or even a stranger on a train.  Sometimes, just when it seems darkest, someone completely surprises you by giving you just what you need at just the right time.  These people will ultimately be the real friends that you treasure for life, while those that recoil are consigned to the friendship bin of history.

Ultimately, your friendships and relationships are a reflection of who you are as a person.  If you find yourself thinking, “that’s terrible, I don’t know what to say” then say nothing – listen instead.  If the situation is difficult for you – perhaps it relates back to a bad experience of your own – then be honest and say so, don’t just switch off your phone or sidestep a person who needs you.  Just remember, if you were in the same boat you’d wish there was someone around to help you keep your head above water.

 

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About Deborah Klayman

Deborah is an actress, musician, voice artist and writer based in the UK. She trained at the University of Northumbria, where she gained a 1st Class BA (Hons) in Performance, and at Drama Studio London (Postgraduate Diploma in Acting). Deborah has performed in the UK and overseas in a variety of roles which include Emilia in 'Othello' and Juliana Tesman in 'Hedda Gabler' in rep, Regan in 'King Lear', Mrs Pugh/Polly Garter in 'Under Milk Wood' and Fluellen/Alice in Henry V. An accomplished cellist and singer, the projects she undertakes frequently utilise her musical talents. Film and TV roles include: Geordie in a TV pilot for 'Dead Man's Cardy', Reporter in 'Mission London', Sarah in 'For Better or Worse', and Nurse Tremaine in 'Another Day. Deborah is also a successful voice artist, recording projects for companies such as M&C Saatchi/Silverfish Media, BP, Oxford University Press and The Scottish Sunday Express. Deborah is a talented writer, penning plays and screenplays primarily on issues surrounding social justice. Her first play, 'Janetarium', was one of three selected through the Traverse Theatre's Class Act project and was subsequently staged at the Traverse and published in Theatre Scotland Magazine. She later joined the theatre's Young Writers Group, and continued to write and devise plays throughout her university and drama school training. In 2005, she co-authored "Eve & Lilith" with Jessica Martenson which was produced at that year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe. In 2011, Deborah co-founded Whoop 'n' Wail Theatre Company with friend, collaborator and writing partner Ali Kemp. Their debut production, 'eXclusion', was produced in association with UK charity Women In Prison and toured to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, London's Waterloo East Theatre, and Bracknell's South Hill Park Arts Centre. Their latest venture, "Whoop 'n' Wail Represents...", showcases new writing that puts gender equality centre stage, working with even numbers of female and male writers and directors to stage plays that pass the Bechdel Test. Deborah was one of the Traverse Theatre's 'Traverse Fifty' (a year-long writing attachment in 2013), and Whoop 'n' Wail's play 'My Bloody Laundrette' recently won the Cambridge University Press "Channel the Bard" competition. View all posts by Deborah Klayman

One response to “The Recoil Factor

  • wretchedlittlethoughts

    Reblogged this on Mental Health & Me and commented:
    This states a lot of the issues I feel affect the mentally ill as well as other sufferers of illnesses and abuse that are deemed ‘uncomfortable’ to talk about. It makes a lot of sense, this blog, and I found the points made and issues raised are things I’ve experienced myself and watched them affect my Mother too.

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