Interviews and Articles

The London Premier of Counting Backwards

30th July 2014

For the last week I’ve been wondering how to start this article, as it’s been 5 months since my last one and so much has happened.  In the previous article I had discussed the events leading up to the London film premier of ‘Counting Backwards’ and its effect on me.

The morning of the film premier felt a little like Christmas morning.  I was so excited for the big day ahead, as I had waited 4 years for it to happen.  I’d bought a new dress to wear, had a spray tan, had my hair done at the hairdressers and once I was ready, I felt fantastic. Emotionally the build up to the film was tough at times.  I had always felt fine watching the film itself, but as I’ve said before the film doesn’t just affect me, it affects my family and friends, which obviously has an impact on me.

My friends, Darren and Abi and I drove down to London with a buzz of excitement in the air. From what I remember I probably talked non-stop for the whole journey. When we arrived we met up with friends who live in London and planned to meet up with them later that evening, after the premier. Then we set off across London looking for the Curzon Cinema and also somewhere nice to eat.

The three of us had a lovely, relaxed meal together before heading off to the big event.  I phoned my parents to let them know I was ok and to see how they were baring up, as the film was a traumatic experience for them to deal with, as it meant reliving it all again.  Unlike me they are haunted by it on a daily basis.  They have put a large amount of guilt on their shoulders, as they feel they have failed as parents and feel they couldn’t protect me from the dangers and dark people of this world.  I on the other hand don’t feel this is true at all.  I’ve had a fantastic upbringing; I’ve been loved dearly and had the best supportive parents anyone could wish for.  It hasn’t all been sunshine and rainbows, as my attack left my parents consumed with fear, as well as the guilt.  It’s been hard for them as I’ve dealt with the attack, whereas they have been understandably traumatised and nearly destroyed by it.  They have struggled to move forwards in the past, but have recently taken a huge step forward, which I will discuss in the following article.  I’m sure anyone who has children will understand why it’s been so hard for my parents.

The Curzon Cinema was the perfect location for the first screening, as it was nothing like I had expected.  I guess I expected it to be similar to the Showcase Cinema, it was the complete opposite.  It was a unique cinema where you could buy beautiful cakes, alcohol, and special treats.  There wasn’t the usual Hotdogs and Slush drinks that you would see at your local Showcase.  We walked down the stairs to a room filled with people, all waiting for the three screenings of ‘Counting Backwards’ and mingling.  My friends and I were met with excited smiles from the Producers, Jon Sloan and Eddie Deighton, we were introduced to their family and found ourselves in the VIP area.

It wasn’t long before other familiar faces arrived, Geoff Thompson who wrote ‘Counting Backwards’ with his wife Sharon, then Sean De Sparengo who directed the film.  It was lovely to meet up with ‘Counting Backwards’ actresses Hetti Bywater, Wendy Albiston, Sarah Hoare and fashion stylist Emily Jerman.  Some were nervous and a little critical of their own performances, which they really didn’t need to be, as they are were amazing, which I made sure I told them so!

At one point I casually looked around to see the Eastenders actress Jessie Wallace who was standing next to me.  Lots of people within the acting and film industry had been invited to the screening.  I said to Darren and Abi jokingly, “Oh look it’s Jessie Wallace, I don’t remember inviting her?”

It was time for the screenings to be shown.  I started to feel nervous excitement.  I knew most people at the premier didn’t know that I was the person that the film was based on, but there were many that did.  The first wave of people went in to watch ‘Counting Backwards’ with excitement and smiles on their faces.  When they returned their expressions had completely changed.  They all seemed quiet and almost stunned.  Each person that I spoke to said how powerful, emotional and well written the film was.  It left people feeling emotional.  A few people were told that I was the person that the film was based on.  They couldn’t believe that smiley, bubbly, positive me had been through such an ordeal. Suddenly, they had lots of questions that they wanted to ask me, which I happily answered.  An announcement was made to say the second screening was about to be shown.  It was at this point I realised it was time for me to go and watch the premier of ‘Counting Backwards’ which I had waited years to see! The moment had finally arrived! I rushed over to Darren and Abi and together we went into the screening. There were two special people who were missing from the screening who were meant to attend, but due to work obligations couldn’t come.  One being Fran Checkley, who is married to Darren.  The second was my cousin Dylanie.  Both have been there for me along with Darren, Abi and many of my other friends to help me through some really tough days.

Another special person who watched over me that night was my beautiful Nan Olive, who had passed away a couple of years ago.  I have some amazing people in my life; some whom I had never met until recently. These people have text me, listened to me on the phone, I’ve cried on their shoulders, received special cards to remind me that I’m a good person and I deserve to be happy, on the days when I struggled.  They all helped me through some tough days or at times even months.  I knew the film would help so many people and would inspire them, but in the process it was very painful for my parents.  They still struggled to cope, and at times it felt like I was ripping my family apart, this made me feel extremely guilty, as the last thing I wanted to do was cause my parents pain. This led to me continuing to binge eat due to the stress and the worry of it all.  I always have been an emotional eater, now it reared its ugly head, stronger than ever.  I was at my most anxious and was eating food as if it was my last ever meal!

I started to feel a little out of control with my binge eating and I knew the stress wouldn’t die down until after the film screening. Darren and Fran helped me and encouraged me with my eating.  I was recently diagnosed with IBS. Since then I have been keeping a food diary to eliminate any intolerances, but stress will be a key factor.   Darren hasn’t got an ‘I’m full’ button and could eat anyone under the table, but even he admitted after seeing my food diary that I would be a close second to him if we had an eating challenge.  I guess it’s not something to be proud of, it just highlighted how out of control my eating habits were due to stress.

I had a good chat with my good friend Anthony Somers, who is also a qualified counsellor and life coach.  After talking to him I soon realised that I’d spent over 20 years trying to prove to people that I had dealt with my attack and had moved forward, that I worried about other people’s opinions of me, that I had been holding on to a large amount of guilt because of the pain and suffering I was causing my parents with the film being made and shown to the public, that by going public with my websites WWW.Michellefightingback.co.uk and Facebook profile ‘Michelle Fighting Back’ and with the film ‘Counting Backwards’,  it meant that people who didn’t previously know of my attack, soon did and my parents weren’t really ready to discuss it publicly.

My friends and I sat down in an extremely quiet atmosphere, I sensed a bit of tension and anticipation in the air. After an introduction by Sean De Sparengo briefly discussing the film, thanking me for allowing him to make the film and that he hoped he’d done me proud, the film began to play.  After watching the film many times I knew what to expect.  What I didn’t expect was how much more emotional it was on the big screen, whilst sat with a room full of people.  I sat wondering what everyone thought of the film, wondered what they thought of me, wondered if it would change their opinion of me, would they be able to look my in the eyes afterward, as I have had people unable to in the past after finding out.  I wondered if people would ask me lots of questions or would they still joke around with me like they previously had before the film started….lots of thoughts ran through my head.  Alongside those thoughts were the memories of the attack.  The film is about 95% as it was, even down to some of the conversations that took place.  I remembered how hard it was dealing with the aftermath of it all and trying to move forwards, but feeling as if I was being pulled backwards.  Within the cinema room at times there was an eerie silence, almost as if people were holding their breath. Then you could hear the quiet sobs and snivels.  One scene is quite funny, and I’m glad the audience saw it as it was meant to be, maybe for them it was a moment to release the tension that had built up.

The Film had finished, every person within the cinema applauded and seemed to breathe once again.  The room then filled with a buzz of people’s opinions and questions that they had.  Many had that same stunned expression that I had seen earlier and had gone quiet.  Every single person that I spoke to that evening said the same thing, that ‘Counting Backwards’ was an extremely powerful film, it was harrowing and that they couldn’t believe that some of the scenes were actually true.  I’ve always found it hard to accept compliments, but managed to that night after being told I was so brave, so inspiring and that they all couldn’t believe I was so positive after such an ordeal.  Everyone unanimously loved the film and thought it would definitely help and inspire others, which is the reason I’d agreed to do the film in the first place.  All the stress and anxiety seemed worth it.

For the rest of the evening I chatted to the cast and crew, and also answered questions that they wanted to ask me.  My friends and i decided to leave after a few hours and meet up with our friends, before heading back home.  We said our goodbyes and discussed what a success the Premier of ‘Counting Backwards’ was with Geoff, Sean, Jon and Eddie, had lots of emotional hugs then said farewell.  I do have to point out that we were standing right next to the cake counter, so we left the film screening with our boxes of cake! We headed off across London for a few drinks, then had a tiring couple of hours drive back home.  I felt shattered by this stage of the evening, as did my friends, as we didn’t get home until 2am, after leaving the house around 1pm.

The next two days I felt completely exhausted and emotionally drained.  I locked myself away in my house, only leaving to eat a quick fry up at Chiquito’s.  I barely saw a soul and locked myself away from the world to process all the events, thoughts and feelings.  It was just what I needed to do.  I needed to recharge my batteries, so I watched movies, had naps and just sat peaceful thinking it all over.

Then a thought occurred to me.  There was going to be another screening for the public at the Warwick Arts Centre…

Big Hugs

Shell x

Michelle Fighting Back

The Dress…

By Michelle Fighting Back
15th February 2014

As the ‘Counting Backwards’ film premiere is on 17th February I have spent the last few weekends shopping in Birmingham, Solihull, Leamington and Coventry twice, in an attempt to find a new dress for the event. I wanted something that I would feel special in. I have felt really excited at the thought of going down to London with my friends for the film premiere. I have waited years for this moment to arrive; it has been a big part of my lie for the past 4 years.

Each time I came back home from dress shopping feeling totally deflated and actually felt really stressed. I told myself it was silly to be so stressed over a dress, but I soon realised it wasn’t the dress that I was stressing over. I was feeling anxious about the film screening. Last Sunday I came home from dress shopping, went straight to the kitchen cupboard and sat and ate a big bag of popcorn and a layer of a box of chocolates. I try to eat healthily 90% of the time. I generally don’t eat that kind of food, especially as I’m intolerant to it, I’m training hard for my next event and I also have a photo shoot at the end of the month, so it’s not food I wanted to be eating. As I put the food into my mouth all I could think of was that I didn’t actually want to eat junk food and that I was just eating away my emotions. I sat and cried briefly. The following hour I went to the cinema and for a meal with friends, which cheered me up. However, I continued to binge eat, I had ice cream at the cinema and afterwards went straight to Franky & Benny’s where I had a burger, chips, followed by a chocolate brownie sundae!

The next day I still felt a little bit emotional. I decided to take the junk food in to work so my friends could eat it all, so that way I wouldn’t sit and binge eat at home, to then regret it minutes later. My little plan back fired, as a few hours after telling my work friends why I had brought in the food, I sat and continued to binge eat. I was already full from my lunch, but that didn’t stop me. I know I’ve always used food as a comfort in the past, but since I started to eat clean last Easter I’ve had a healthy control over my food and not linked it to my emotions. I had basically stopped binge eating and felt great for it.

After a second day of binge eating I started to feel better within myself and began to get excited once again. Furthermore, I spoke to Geoff Thompson (Wrote Counting Backwards), Sean De Sparengo (The Director) and Eddie Deighton (one of the producers) about how I felt. They all agreed that I may have times when I would feel emotional and to expect it, as it is a huge emotional experience that I have been through.

It was back in 2010 that Geoff first rang me up asking if he could write a film script, based own my story. There were times when I thought that maybe the film wouldn’t be completed, due to the time it took to complete, the lack of money, which was always raised and other issues that cropped up that couldn’t be helped. I was so relieved to hear it had been completed….then the excitement kicked in ever since then.

A couple of months ago I spoke to Sean and Jon Sloan (the other Producer) about what kind of dress code I’d like to have for the London screening. It might sound silly but I wanted to feel special, I wanted to make an effort and to look nice. I asked if it would be possible for the dress code to be smart, that way I could buy a lovely dress, have my hair done and really make an effort for such an important occasion. Geoff keeps saying to me ‘How many people do you know that have a film wrote about them?’ which I always reply ‘Erm you have one written about you’

I finally managed to get a new sparkly dress, it’s not what I had in mind, but I’m happy with it. After all the dress isn’t really important, the film is and it’s message.

I have continued to relax over the last few days and I feel emotionally ready for the screening on Monday. The screening is a closed screening for the cast and crew. I will let you all know any details for a local screening which you can attend, but that can’t happen until after the film has been entered into the film festivals around the world.
I will let you know how it went.

Thank you so much for all your support over the years and kind words, I know I always say it, but it really does mean the world to me and I do appreciate it.
Big hugs as always
Love Shell
X x x

A new year…A fresh start

By Michelle Fighting Back

17th January 2014

It has been a funny start to the year for me. Part of me feels I would like more time off work to sit and relax, whereas the rest of me is glad to be back into a routine.I had two weeks off work for the Christmas holidays. I did the usual things like eating my body weight within a single hour, had nights out drinking far too much Gin and had quite a few lie ins.

I made the decision to start my usual healthy routine, of exercise and eating clean, earlier than I had originally planned. I was inspired and motivated by other people’s articles or their new year resolutions. I know most people make resolutions and don’t always stick to them. I decided that I wouldn’t make any resolutions as I already had some goals to work towards, which I’d decided on last year.

I didn’t look forward to going back to work and getting up at 5.15am each day. Although I looked forward to my new training programme, just not getting my bum out of bed, especially to go running. My training partner Fran felt the same.

However, I went back to work and really loved being back. I had built up such dread at the thought of going back, as I didn’t feel ready. It’s amazing how we can build up something in our mind, so I was surprised to come home each day with a big smile on my face.

I loved the fact that I had more energy from the mornings training session and that I’d had such a good day at work and still had the evenings to myself. My training partner Fran and I discussed how we had both built up such dread at the thought of running again. We hadn’t trained for 2 weeks, so we knew we would struggle to get back into the routine, the temperature had dropped and it was raining frequently. Psychologically we felt weaker, even though we knew we could do it physically. We only had to run for 2 miles, but it still felt like a struggle. I have ran for 8 miles before, so 2 miles is just like a warm up.

Over the last two weeks we have been frustrated at times, as we know we can perform better, but due to giving blood on Friday it left me and Fran with low energy levels. We decided that we would take things easy and just run at a nice gentle jog. That way we wouldn’t beat ourselves up mentally if we didn’t perform very well. We actually enjoyed the run more and it felt achievable.

Far too often we beat ourselves up for things mentally, we just need to remind ourselves that each new day is a fresh start…

I hope you’re well & smiley
Big Hugs
shell
X

Offended?

By Michelle Fighting Back

I had a really interesting conversation last night with a friend of mine.  We discussed how we have both written things in a text message or on Facebook and how differently people can interpret your meaning. 

Without body language, intonation and eye contact an innocent comment could at times cause a lot of trouble or offend someone.  We don’t always get a chance to explain ourselves or express what our intentions are.  Some would say ‘Who cares what people think? I can say what I like’   I am one of those people who do worry what people think of me, although I know I shouldn’t.  I would feel awful if I offended someone, when I didn’t mean to.  I’ve always been like that and it’s a hard habit to break.  

We sometimes react to situations or comments when our head is not in a good place.  When we are like this the littlest things can trigger anger or make us upset, especially if we are already feeling low or depressed.   Often we can blow things out of proportion or react in a way which can be quite out of character. It can be good to stick up for yourself, but there are times when you wish you hadn’t said anything at all.  Once something has been said you can’t rewind the moment and take the words back.

Some people always think before they speak, whereas others say exactly what they want to say, at the moment they want to say it.  Personally, I like the idea of being able to do both.I have to admit that I don’t like confrontation, I don’t like to offend people and often don’t say what I think, but there are times when I will say exactly what’s on my mind, regardless of the consequence. 

It’s always better to deal with things face to face, but due to living in a world of technology there will always be misunderstandings and people will continue to be offended by comments.

We are human so we won’t all feel happy, confident and secure 100% of the time, so the next time someone reacts to a comment on Facebook or a text you could remind yourself of the following

* What is my intention?

* How have they interpreted what I’ve said?

* Are they in a good place emotionally?

Just something for you to think about

Hope you’re happy and well

Big Hugs

Shell x

My Rollercoaster

By Michelle Fighting Back

28th December 2013

It’s been awhile since I last wrote an article. Over the past year I have had my ups and downs, as have most people. I have been happy, sad, tearful, excited, hurt, angry, thankful, exhilarated, and confident, had low self-esteem at times and the list goes on. It has been a rollercoaster of a ride.

When I look back over the last year I realise it has been quite an emotional one. At times I have felt very low due to situations that arose, cried myself to sleep on many an occasion and basically really struggled. 90% of the time I’m a happy go lucky person, so I really find it hard when I’m low or upset, I’m just not used to feeling like that. I have allowed other people’s actions to affect me, which lead to an increase in my stress levels, eventually it started to affect me physically, this lead to migraines that lasted for days and painful massage treatments to release the stress build up, mainly in my back and shoulders. I have since made changes in my life to reduce the stress, which has had a huge impact on me. I have amazing family and friends, who at times picked me up off the floor and put a smile on my face once again. I eventually realised with the help of Tony Somers that I needed to look after number 1 more and to put my own happiness first, before others. I know my ups and downs are small compared to what others have been going through, but I guess they still had a negative impact on me.

As well as reducing my stress levels i have also really focused on living a healthier lifestyle. I started training with Darren Checkley at Achieve Bootcamp, Personal Trainer Andie Ennis and also have an amazing trainer partner Fran Checkley from Achieve Bootcamp & Achieve Pilates. I have followed the training programmes that they have all given me and have enjoyed doing something new. I attend Fran’s Pilates class on a weekly basis. I love the way it totally relaxes you and switches off your mind.

I started to eat clean, which is part of the Achieve Bootcamp programme, which means cutting out the foods which don’t agree with your body and that have no nutritional value, for example processed foods. I’ve never eaten so well and I soon realised I was Dairy intolerant, my migraines reduced greatly, my hair and nails looked healthier and my skin had never looked so good, at times it glowed. Some people found it hard to accept that I was eating clean, as they didn’t know anything about it and were worried, as I gone from being between 10 and a half /11 stone down to 8 and a half stone. It wasn’t easy as I had daily comments from a number of friends, some meant well, telling me what I should and shouldn’t eat, that I deserved a ‘treat’. They didn’t see that I’d ‘treated’ myself for over 20 years, which at one stage lead me to weigh 13 stone! Some comments were negative, brushed off with humour, but I took their comments to heart and it eventually started to upset me. I hope they now realise that it was a lifestyle change for me and not a ‘fad diet’, my skin has since toughened a little and I don’t seem to hear the comments anymore. They seem to have accepted my new shape and my new lifestyle.

It has been great to have something to focus on. I’ve always found exercise a great release and I ended up giving myself some physical and mental challenges. Firstly, i signed up for the Wolf Run, which is a 10km run with obstacles. A group of us signed up for the event and raised over £1,300 for the local Myton Hospice. We had a giggle crawling and running through mud and working as a team to get over the obstacles, we even had to swim across a lake. I felt a great sense of achievement when we crossed the finish line. We signed up for another run, this time the 5km Santa Dash for Myton Hospice, again to raise money. Two months after the Wolf Run I also signed up to the Reaper Event, which is also a 10km run with obstacles. I seemed to quickly become addicted to the challenges and the sense of achievement they gave you; especially knowing we had raised money for a good cause in the process.

Next on the agenda was a cross country run called Suicide Six. I can honestly say I have never done anything so physically and mentally challenging. It was so hard. Fran and I trained 6 days a week to prepare for the run. Our training plan consisted of strength training and running/sprints at a lovely 5.45am, for 5 days a week, then at the weekends we did a longer run. It was great to have a training partner that pushed me when I needed to be pushed and vice versa. Most people would struggle to lift themselves out of bed at 5.15am to train, never mind dead lifting weights! Our hard training on those cold early mornings paid off, as I surprised myself by completing the course in 1 hour and 9 minutes. Fran also beat her previous time, so we both crossed the finish line with huge smiles ? and great satisfaction. I’m looking forward to my future challenges, which is a 10km run at Long Leat, my 2nd Wolf Run event, followed by my first ever Triathlon in the summer.Next week Fran and I will begin training for the events and also a photo shoot, so we have lots of hard work and cold mornings ahead of us, but that won’t stop us ?

In addition to my normal daily life, I also received news regarding the completion of the film ‘Counting Backwards’ which is based on my story, when I was raped at knife point. It has been a long wait for the film to be completed, but was worth the wait. Geoff Thompson who wrote the film script and Sean De Sparengo who directed the film, wanted it to be perfect before they released it, as it is a powerful story, which we hope will change many lives and inspire people around the world. I am looking forward to meeting up again with the cast and crew at the film screening and hope it is received well at the film festivals that it is entered in to. It’s not been easy, as the film can bring up a lot of feelings, memories and emotions for all that were involved, especially my family. Sometimes I can have tunnel vision and don’t realise the affect that the film and its release will have on them.

I hope this article finds you happy & well

Big Hugs Shell x

The text message that changed my day…

By Michelle Fighting Back 

February 2013

I had a little surprise text message last week from the lovely Tony Somers.  I have got to know Tony and his working partner Paul Regan through mutual friends and from training over the last couple of years.  They have always been very supportive and friendly guys.  I was so pleased when together they opened the Self Empowerment Academy, within Coventry.  Both Tony and Paul have years of experience, training and knowledge in helping others and changing people’s lives.  So as you can imagine I was so excited when I read Tony’s text…

Tony and Paul run workshops, 1:1 sessions and help people to look deep within themselves to find the answers they are looking for in life.  Tony explained in his text message that they had started doing weekly talks with a key speaker and were wondering if I would be interested in doing a talk at the Academy.  I didn’t even process the information, as I immediately started to type my reply to his message…as far as I was concerned it was a big fat yes from me!  I became so excited and felt truly honoured to be asked to do it.  I couldn’t wait to pop down to the Academy to talk it through further and arrange a date for my talk.

The very next day I arranged to meet up with Tony.  While we were talking through the details of my talk, Paul popped into the office.  They both explained the process that they go through when they work with someone and the kind of work that they do.  Gradually the conversation became quite deep, thought provoking and meaningful to me.   We discussed the way I am as a person, what pushes my buttons, what pleases me, what infuriates me, what can at times make me a ‘people pleaser’ and other aspects of my personality. Then we delved deeper into the reasons why I am like this.  Tony and Paul both asked me questions and made me question myself to find the answers, suddenly everything seemed clear.  Some of my key personality traits which had been rooted within me from childhood, were now highlighted.   I now had some idea as to why i think, act, feel the way I do.  We had only scratched the surface and could have delved even deeper.  It was a fascinating discussion and it really opened my eyes to my personality on a much deeper level.

We all try to be better people and improve our lives, but I guess sometimes we don’t always delve deep enough into why we are the way we are, why we behave the way we do.  There are lots of activities and distractions that can improve our way of life, that make us feel happier, but the deep rooted issues can still be dormant under the surface and reappear at any time. The self-doubt, anger, frustration, guilt, feeling unworthy, lack of confidence, hurt, suffering in silence, hate and the list goes on… we all have periods in our lives where we feel good and everything is going well for us.  Then when something happens all the deep insecurities and I guess, mainly negative traits start to reappear again…ready to cause upset, damage and destruction.  Nobody’s perfect as they say, but it’s not until we start to delve deeper and recognise the issues than we can truly become happier to our core.

I found the discussion that Tony, Paul and I had very thought provoking and it was good to see things from a different point of view.  I guess I’m not going to change my personality overnight, but at least I have an idea of where to start…

Big Hugs

Shell x

My Motivation…If found please return – by Michelle Fighting Back

Posted on The Self Defence Expert.com Website  January 24, 2013

This is another guest article from the brilliant motivational speaker and martial artists Michelle, who can found at http://michellefightingback.co.uk/, I suggest you check out her work and book her for some motivational speaking at your gyms, schools or dojos. Trust me she is brilliant! I am certain we can all relate to this article. Don’t forget to comment below and share your motivation issues and how you over came them.

Andy

Have you ever found yourself saying the dreaded words ‘I’ve lost my motivation?’

For the past 3 years training has been a huge part of my life. I used to train anywhere between 4-7 days a week without fail. I studied a wide range of arts which included Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Kali, Boxing, Panantuken etc. Anyone that knows me will know that I rarely missed a training session, regardless if I’d been invited to a party, attended a funeral, it didn’t matter where I was invited to I would nearly always train first. Then my life changed.

Gradually my training schedule changed and during 2012 I bought my first ever house, which brought with it a lot of hard work. I have put everything into transforming my new house into a home. I’ve never been happier, but it has left me with no motivation for the thing I used to feel so passionate and dedicated to. However, I have managed to go for a few runs and done some lamp post sprints, but my fitness level is really poor now. I have gained a stone in weight. My diet isn’t as good as it once was and my water intake is at an all time low. There have been occasions when I could have gone training, but I just couldn’t motivate myself and was left wondering…’Why has my motivation gone?’ and ’Will it ever come back?’

I did go to the Boxing Technique class a couple of months ago, as I thought ‘Right this is it!…I’m back training!’ It felt strange to be back at Boxing after such a long absence. I had really missed my friends and exercising. Unfortunately it didn’t give me the buzz that it once had. I walked out of the Boxing gym feeling that training had lost its sparkle and I wondered if it would ever return. Something had changed inside of me. Its left me wondering where has that passion, energy and excitement gone? I want to train again, but I also want to enjoy my training like I once did. I’m not moaning and I don’t look for sympathy from anyone. I know I’m the only person that can make the changes in my life.

It’s a new year so hopefully I will find my motivation once again.

Happy New Year to you all I hope you have a happy, smiley and motivated year ahead.

Big Hugs

Shell x

Michelle Fighting Back

 

 

You have just hit the nail on the head

I’ve just got home from Geoff Thompson’s Masterclass, which runs for 6 months at a time. Geoff started the session with, as always, a motivational and inspiring talk. Once again I left the building feeling totally inspired. Geoff always makes me see things clearly and he seems to say what I need to hear, just at the moment I need to hear it. Today’s talk was about how we should serve others, which means to help people, to give to others selflessly and to inspire them. When we serve someone we shouldn’t expect anything back in return and that the good we have passed on would return back to us in some form. Most people would call this Karma. What you give out, will come back to you. The talk made me reflect over the last few years of my life, my own personality and what changes I needed to make…

We all try to improve ourselves and strive to be a better person, but it is not always easy. I am the first to put my hand up and say I have struggled during the past few years with serving others. I always try to serve others, but over the years there have been occasions where I felt I’d been let down by others, disappointed, misjudged and at times I felt that I’d been taken advantage of. I will be honest, I have felt like this towards family, friends and also at work. Many people would probably relate to this feeling. I am quite a sensitive person and sometimes I worry too much about how others view me. Most people would probably shrug their shoulders and say not to worry about it. I have always been quite a chilled out person, but over the last couple of years I have noticed a difference in my stress levels and the affect it has had on my body. I found myself getting frustrated, upset, emotional, felt down and I even felt ill at times, with stomach cramps and feeling sick to my stomach from worry or stress, all due to situations or issues that have occurred over the years.

My beautiful Nan passed away last year. She was one of the most selfless human beings I have ever met. She would serve people on a daily basis, regardless of how they treated her. She once fed and clothed a man, after she found him stealing clothes from her washing line. My Nan never had a lot of money and really struggled, but she knew the man needed help. How many of us would do that? I strive to be half the person she was. My mum also takes after her mother; it is how we have both been brought up, to help others and be there for them, to put others needs ahead of our own. In this day and age many are consumed with greed or power. They find it unbelievable that someone would do something for them, without expecting anything in return. If we were all selfless and helped others more often, the world would be a happier place. By serving others we can hold our head up high, knowing we had done the right thing. It’s usually the small gestures , which can make a big difference to someone.

With everything in life there needs to be a balance. There are people in this world that I have come across who will steal from you, lie, cheat, threaten and the list goes on… I have been in situations in the past where I have unknowingly served people like this, befriended them, helped them, supported them, to then later find out their real character. Over the years I have found myself saying things like ‘I can’t believe she has put me in this situation, after everything I did for her’, ‘Everything he ever told me was a lie…but I trusted him’ I had served these friends and I had expectations of how they should treat me, that is where my problem lies…Don’t have expectations of others. I know some people would take revenge, or lash out, but that’s not in my nature, I would prefer to be the bigger person and hold my head up high. We need to serve people, but obviously there is a boundary, a time when we should walk away from them. If someone is taking advantage of you, causing you harm or hurt, then you need to walk away. People say I’m too soft, but for me it’s about helping people, being a nice person and feeling happy in the knowledge that I’ve served someone. After listening to Geoff today, I felt that he had hit the nail on the head, I realised that I should continue serving people, without expectations. I may find it hard to find the right balance, to know when to walk away and who to serve, but at least I’m giving it a go…

You can never be judged for having a big heart

Big Hugs
Shell
x

Letting go…

Just over 2 years ago I made an exciting decision…I was going to move out of my parents home for the first time in my life. I was so excited. I was leaving loving parents that couldn’t do enough for me and a beautiful home. ..
I loved living at my parents, but part of me was desperate to be more independent. Almost instantly after I was raped at knifepoint my parents became very over protective, as you can imagine. I totally understood why they were so protective, as I had very nearly been taken from them. I was still their little girl. I don’t want people to have the impression that I lived in a prison, locked away from mankind, or that their over protectiveness affected me on a daily basis, as it didn’t. My parents just worried a lot more than most parents. Over the years we had disagreements, arguments and tears over my determined attitude. My attacker was not going to stop me doing anything in life. I was adamant that I would live the same kind of life that my friends had. It wasn’t easy on either me or my parents over the years. I wanted to do the usual teenage things like going to the pub, nightclubs, holidays with friends etc…and I certainly did do the usual teenage things. All my parents wanted was to try to keep me safe and protect me, as they knew from experience exactly what can happen. My parents didn’t want to stop me from doing anything in life, but the fear was so strong that I guess at times it must have been crippling for them. I don’t have children so I can only guess what they must have gone through and how it left them feeling. No one should have to live with fear on a daily basis. It was a no win situation. I was not going to stop living my life and enjoying myself, otherwise it would mean I’d let my attacker win and my parents were not going to stop worrying about me. My stubbornness paid off in the end and I have had a fantastic life so far, with many adventures. Over the years my parents became less over protective and didn’t worry quite so much. This meant that I achieved what I set out to do. I had the control over my attacker, he didn’t ruin my life. I have travelled the world, met some amazing people along the way and for the last 22 years I have lived life to the full.
As hard as it was for my parents when I moved out, they were so proud of me for doing it. They have always been so supportive of me. Being an only child they really missed me when I left and they found it hard to adjust. I half expected them to be popping over to my new home quite a lot, but between them they made the decision that they would let go of the reigns and give me the independence that I wanted. I didn’t realise this at the time and found myself wondering why they hadn’t popped over or why they hadn’t rang me. It was very strange at first and took a while to get used to. However, I am so pleased that they did as I thrived off my independence and for the first time in 22 years I felt that I could do what I wanted, when I wanted and that felt amazing!
I guess what I am trying to say is that sometimes we need to let go, for us to be able to live. Whether it is in relation to our children, family or partner, we sometimes need to make difficult decisions to be able to move forward in life. We need to keep moving forwards, we need to accept the things that we have no control over and be brave. I have a fantastic relationship with both my parents and see them on a regular basis. I have so much respect for them and what they have done for me and continue to do for me. By ‘letting go’ our relationship has grown stronger and I have grown into an independent happy woman. Sometimes we need to put others needs before our own, but on the other hand some people spend a lifetime doing things for others and they need to put themselves first for a change. If something is holding you back in life ask yourself…Should I let go?

Big Hugs

Shell x

The Good the Bad and the Ugly
I started 2011 feeling extremely excited, energised and looked forward to a life changing year ahead. Little did I realise how life changing it would be. I had a lot to look forward to.
A story about when I was raped was being made into a film called ‘Counting backwards’ and when completed would be entered into film festivals around the world. The film will hopefully change lives, inspire people and help so many. Geoff Thompson who had written the story, kept me up to date with the progress. I would later have emails from the film Director, Sean De Sparengo on how the film was shaping up and I visited the film set/cast/crew and had an amazing day.
I was buzzing with excitement and life couldn’t be better! I really felt that it was going to be one of the best years of my life so far! Then within the blink of an eye that all changed. My world fell apart. My Nan became ill and died unexpectedly. I have never felt pain like it. It physically hurt me, my chest actually hurt. I constantly felt sick and I just couldn’t accept she had gone. I absolutely adored her, spent a lot of time with her and loved her bones. She was my life. How could I live a life without her in it? With the help and support of my friends, family (especially my cousin) and my training I was able to get back to some kind of normality. I knew life would never be the same without her, but I also knew that she was shouting down from heaven telling me ‘For the love of God I’m fine, stop worrying!’ and that I should live my life to the full and be happy.
Over the next few months I continued with my training, which really helped me to focus. I had messages of great support when I lost my Nan, especially from my instructors Mick Tully, Al Peasland, Glenn Smith and Louise Peasland. I also had some amazing support from the people I trained with. Very often it is the people around you that help to glue you back together, with their text messages of comfort, phone calls and big hugs. Without my friends and family I wouldn’t be where I am today.
I started Geoff Thompson’s Master class, which helped me make sense of a lot of things that were happening in my life at the time and I met some inspiring people. I graded twice in Boxing Technique and continued training, until about 3 months ago when I had a silly accident and damaged my Peroneal Tendon, after falling over on my ankle.
Later in the year I worked hard putting together the resources, information and content for My Motivational Talk, which I did at The Hilton Hotel. I stood up in front of around 35-40 people and spoke about how I dealt with my attack and the affects it had on my life, in the hope that someone would be helped in some way. I wanted people to see that you can live a happy life after going through something traumatic and I hoped to inspire people. To be honest I found the event extremely stressful, hard work and very time consuming. I did have people trying to stop me from doing the talk, but I continued on as I knew in my heart that I was doing the right thing. I had a month or more where I had one issue after another,
literally every week there seemed to be a problem. I started to get bogged down by it all and wondered if I had the energy to carry on with Michelle Fighting Back and the talk. I could have easily just walked away from everything, but that just isn’t me. I knew it would definitely be worth all of the stress and hard work. I work full time and was exhausted staying up late each night and also had to miss training sessions. The talk was a great success. From the feedback I’d had from everyone, I had done what I’d set out to do. Alongside the talk I also had a website set up ‘MichelleFightingBack.co.uk’ created by Richard Barnes. I felt that everything was coming together and that I had achieved so much with the help of others. Lots of people helped me get to that stage, they bent over backwards to help me, gave me great advice and they also worked late into the night working on my resources/photography etc..(Mainly Louis Thompson, Mike Ashworth and Martin Williams)
Since starting up Michelle Fighting Back I have had some amazing, inspiring and at times quite heart breaking emails from people, sharing their own stories. Some have been total strangers and others have been people that I have known for years. The messages I have received have been honest and I guess quite painful for them to write. I have answered each message honestly and have told each person how I have dealt with issues in my life. I would never tell someone how to live their life or how they should deal with something, as we all have our own paths to walk, each going in a different direction. Where possible I have recommended experts in Counselling, Martial Arts Instructors and other organisations that would benefit others greatly. I am just glad they felt they could share their experiences with me and benefit from what I was doing.
One of the things I have been reminded of this year more than any other year, is how important our friends and family are. We all have issues, sad news and difficult situations to deal with, but these are the people that are always there for us no matter what, through the Good, the Bad and the Ugly times. Sometimes the bad things can happen when we are at our most happiest. We can’t pick and choose when the Good, the Bad and Ugly things happen in our lives. We just have to be there for each other and support each other. We never know what someone is feeling inside or what someone is really going through, so I think that if we all made more of an effort to… smile at someone, send a nice uplifting text message, give someone a nice compliment, take your partner out for a nice meal or even just say the words ‘Thank you’ or ‘I love you’ to a friend or a loved one. It can really make the difference to a person, it could make their day or even their year…so what are you waiting for?
I am happy to say that 2012 has started off really well, I’m happy, I’m looking forward to the year ahead and my ankle is getting better!

So on that note I would like to wish you an amazing, healthy and happy 2012!

Big Hugs to you and huge smiles coming your way :-D
Michelle x


My exciting day on the film set of ‘Counting Backwards’

The day had finally arrived.  Filming for ‘Counting Backwards’ had started on Thursday 1st September 2011. I was so excited. My cousin and I met Sharon Thompson at the train station. The three of us were collected by her husband, the BAFTA winning writer of the script Geoff Thompson, and the film runner in a minibus and driven to the film set. After a few minutes I noticed the minibus seat was wet, by the time I got out of the minibus I had a big wet patch on the back of my trousers!  I couldn’t believe I was turning up at probably the biggest, most exciting event of my life so far, with a huge wet patch on the back of my trousers! I was about to meet the Director, Producers, the actresses and all of the crew, looking as though I’d had a ‘little accident’. Geoff kept saying he was going to mention the fact that I had wet myself in the minibus on his next podcast.

Geoff explained what scenes were to be filmed during the day and described how emotional the scenes were the day before.  All of the film crew had been crying and found the scenes really hard-hitting.  Hetti Bywater had some very powerful scenes, in which she blew everyone away with her acting and the crew were left emotional wrecks after watching her performances. She suffered from headaches after the filming, due to the intensity of the scenes.  I mentally prepared myself after hearing this and was glad I had already put a packet of tissues in my bag just in case. Yesterday’s film shoot had included scenes with Jo McInnes, Ronnie Fox and Hetti Bywater. Today’s cast were Kathryn Prescott and Wendy Albiston, as different scenes were being shot.

We drove down a quiet street and you could instantly tell where the filming was taking place, due to the huge trucks parked up. The set consisted of two big houses within a quiet street, which were directly opposite each other. The large drive ways and gardens of the properties had become villages of filming equipment, toilets, and catering services.

By this point I was still really excited, but became a little nervous too.  I was about to meet really important people, who were changing my life in so many ways. I had heard about them through Geoff, but had never met them, apart from one of the producers, Jon Sloan.  The people that I was about to meet knew all about me.  The first person I was introduced to made me giggle; she was a lovely lady who was standing in the drive way recreating the newspaper reports which were to be used in the film. She also showed us her artwork, which was to be used in the film. Every last detail had been covered in the making of the film and some of it was on display in the front garden. Walking into the house we were greeted by the rest of the crew. Everyone shook my hand or hugged me with big smiles on their faces and made me feel at ease once again. After the introductions we soon got onto the subject of the little wet patch on my trousers, and fortunately at that point someone suggested getting a cup of tea, so we left the crew to finish setting up for the scene.

For most of the morning the crew were setting up the scene, getting the equipment in place and finally, when everything was ready, we were called back to watch the rehearsals.  Even though it was a very big house there was not much room to stand due to the equipment and all of the crew needed for the scene. I was very lucky as the director Sean De Sperango kindly fetched a stool for me to sit on, from where I had an amazing view of the actress Kathryn Prescott who was ready to start directly in front of me.

I quietly sat listening to Sean explain to Kathryn what he wanted from the scene and how she should have the angle of her hands, body and face.  Within a few seconds Kathryn was ready to rehearse the scene.  Everyone in the room seemed to suddenly hold their breath as we heard the words, ‘Everyone quiet please…action!’  My body was frozen to the chair, as I was so worried that if I moved even slightly my bracelets might make a noise or that the chair would squeak! It was at that point that I remembered how much my stomach had been grumbling with hunger when we were outside, just moments before.  The cameraman and the sound engineer were the only two people in the room that dared to move, and that’s only because they had to. The crew in the front and back gardens were also told through a headset that they had to be silent due to filming. I watched Kathryn rehearse her scene, whilst praying to God that my stomach wouldn’t suddenly burst into life and sound like thunder! Everyone in the room soon became emotional and transfixed on Kathryn’s performance.  One moment she was smiling and asking how the director would like the scene to be, the next moment she was acting, looking confused, traumatised and heartbroken.  She seemed to gasp with emotional pain, she looked so distraught as if her whole world had been turned upside down….suddenly the scene ended and she was back to herself again, smiling. I have seen endless TV shows and films where a character has played a fantastic and moving scene, but I had never seen anything quite like Kathryn’s performance. Sitting directly in front of her, watching her suddenly burst into character and leave everyone in the room stunned by her performance, was truly magical.  When she had finished there were beaming smiles on everyone’s faces, once they had wiped away the tears that is, and it was at this point you could hear everyone begin to breathe once again.  I looked up at Kathryn and said, ‘That was amazing!’  Sean then decided to film from a different angle, which meant everyone had to move to the other side of the room, so this seemed like a good point to get some lunch.

We walked across the road to the neighbour’s drive way for our lunch.  The catering company had brought big containers with hot food, cakes and other goodies. Geoff, Sharon, the two producers, Eddie and Jon, my cousin and I helped ourselves to food and drink.  It soon became obvious that I had the biggest plate of food. Obviously I didn’t want to ruin any scenes with my stomach grumbling, so I filled my plate up. I was eating so much just for the sake of the film and not because I’m greedy! A member of the crew walked over to us to say we could have our lunch and then suddenly realised we were already half way through our lunch and that we were discussing whether to have chocolate cake or carrot cake for pudding. He then informed the rest of the crew, through his headset that lunch was ready. I had the urge to grab the director Sean’s plate and pile it with food as he barely had anything to eat and was working flat out every day. The sun was blazing down on us while sat talking and telling funny stories to each other.  Geoff had made me a cup of tea when we first arrived on set, now Jon the producer offered to make me a cup. It was a beautiful cup of tea, so I thought I would let Jon know that his tea was better than Geoff’s, not that I would want to offend either of them, as one had written my story and the other is producing it! The rest of the afternoon was spent on the drive way chatting or wandering over to the set to see the progress that had been made. Once the scenes were set up again we were called back over to the set. This time we watched Wendy and Kathryn act together.

The photographer came over to show us the photos that he had taken of the previous day’s filming. The photos were of the scenes, behind the scenes and of the actors. I joked with the photographer that he was probably jealous of my own camera, my Fuji FinePix, which I had brought with me to the film set. The quality of his pictures was fantastic, as you would expect. The pictures were also of the actors who weren’t present on today’s filming, Ronnie Fox, Jo McInnes, Hetti Bywater and a few others.

We also managed to have a chat with Kathryn and Wendy, talking about the scenes that they were in and that my cousin and I had travelled down to the set just for the day. I felt quite sorry for Wendy as we had watched her having her make up done when we first arrived on set, but she wasn’t needed for filming until late afternoon.  She had patiently waited around all day long. I guess that is part of being an actress. Whereas Kathryn seemed to act and rehearse throughout the day, well when she wasn’t waiting for the scene to be set up.

Throughout the day we popped back and forth to the film set across the road.  We watched the filming on one of the TV monitors, which was located in the front garden.  We also popped into the house from time to time, trying not to knock over any equipment or get in anyone’s way.  We sat for a while in the back garden, where one of the crew members who worked on the wardrobe started to chat to me. She told me about the previous day’s filming, especially about how Hetti Bywater had reduced everyone in the room to tears with her amazingly emotional performance.  You could see her look a little bit worried about her choice of words to me, as if she didn’t want to upset me or offend me. She said something that came as a bit of a surprise to me; she said ‘You’re so brave coming here today.’ A few members of the crew said the same to me during the day. It didn’t occur to me that coming to the set would be a hard or upsetting task as I was so excited. I think the crew had the impression that I would easily get upset and find it hard to watch the scenes.  I quickly explained that I am a very positive person; I’ve dealt with my attack and accepted it a long time ago and I was just thrilled to be part of something that had the potential to help so many people and change their lives. It was one of the most surreal days of my life so far.

By late afternoon we had decided to settle in the back garden. One of the crew members brought a big basket full of sandwiches and two plates of cake.  I was still full from lunch. A few times a member of the crew would pop out to grab something to eat, take a couple of mouthfuls then be called back on to the set, leaving their sandwich behind.  The crew all worked flat out throughout the whole day, every day. The front and back garden had huge spot lights, which you would expect to see on a film set.  When we first arrived on set we actually thought the light shining into the house was natural sunlight, only to find that it was the huge filming light. We made jokes about the huge light in a Peter Kay style saying ‘Can someone turn the big light off?’ and ‘Who needs a sunbed when you have this kind of light?’ The photographer also informed us that it cost £2 per hour to have the ‘Big light’ on.

The filming seemed to start very early each day and then carry on until around 2am. At around 7pm Geoff and Sharon needed to head back to their home in London.  My cousin and I thought it would be best to head back with them.  We all said our goodbyes; I thanked everyone and said I looked forward to seeing them again at the film screening.  We got some last few photos and were then driven to the station. They rest of the journey home was spent talking about the day’s events with my cousin. The adrenalin from the exciting day had worn off by then and was being replaced by tiredness. We met some life changing, talented, amazing people, who were kindly working on ‘Counting Backwards’ knowing that it was not about the money, as they did it all for free. Each member of the crew from the Director down to the runner, was offering their talents and they would be helping so many people as a result. I will let you all know when and where the film is being screened.

Big Hugs Michelle x

Coventry Times

“Rape trauma has made me fight to help other people”

By Lucy Thomson

Nov 3 2011

A COVENTRY woman who was violently raped at knifepoint as a teenager is to speak about her traumatic ordeal in a bid to help others. Michelle*, now 35, was just 14 when she was dragged into bushes as she took a shortcut home alone from a friend’s house. “The fear and adrenalin was unlike anything I’d ever felt before,” Michelle told the Times. “It was paralysing, I couldn’t speak and I was shaking uncontrollably. I was begging him ‘please don’t kill me, please don’t kill me’ – I really did think he was going to do it.” After a terrifying 20-minute attack, the man left her and she walked back to her friend’s house to call the police. The man was later jailed. Michelle said: “I was told his crimes were escalating and that eventually he would have killed someone so I’m actually very lucky to be alive. Other women thanked me for doing what I did. “A police officer told me he had raped other women and it had completely destroyed them but I refused to ever be a victim. “I just thought ‘I can’t let him win’ – I’ve got to fight back. “It’s not who I am, it’s just another experience in my life.” She launched the ‘Michelle Fighting Back’ website earlier this year and will hold her first public talk in Coventry later this month. “I never really knew what I wanted to do with my life but then a friend of mine asked me to do a talk at a self-defence class about knife awareness and personal safety. “The response I got was incredible. In some ways it makes me wonder if this happened to me for a reason – to help others. “That thought is what has pushed me through it and kept me positive.” A short film is also being made by local director Geoff Thompson based on Michelle’s story and how it affected relationships with the people around her.

 

She said: “I didn’t expect my experience to have the ripple effect that it did. It was really hard because all I wanted to do was be a teenager but obviously as much as I wanted life to stay the same, things were different.”

Michelle says she learnt the hard way and is determined to help stop others going through the same ordeal. “My advice is to be selfish about your own safety. Be aware of your environment at all times and don’t take dark isolated paths – spend that little bit more on a taxi or accept that lift from a friend. “In a way I want my attacker to know that what he did hasn’t affected my life. “I have gone months before without thinking about it and it’s not going to stop me doing anything. In fact I’ve now got more drive to push myself and be positive.” Michelle’s talk takes place on Friday, November 11, at the Hilton Coventry Hotel, Paradise Way, Walsgrave, from 7pm until 9pm. Tickets cost £20.

 

* Surname withheld.

Coventry Evening Telegraph

Coventry woman brutally raped at knifepoint at 14 speaks of ordeal

By Cara Simpson  Oct 27 2011

A WOMAN who was brutally raped at knifepoint when she was 14 has spoken publicly about her ordeal for the first time.  Michelle, aged 32, of Coventry, hopes the story of her fight to live a normal life will inspire others.  It was 20 years ago that she became the youngest victim of a serial rapist who attacked four women and teenage girls . He stalked Michelle and dragged her into bushes not far from her home as she walked alone from a friend’s house.  She thought she was going to die as he held her up at knifepoint, and said she still feels lucky to be alive.  “I was paralysed with fear,” she said. “I was trembling and I could barely speak.  “I was begging him ‘please don’t kill me, please don’t kill me’. I really did think he was going to do it and the thought was running through my head ‘this is it’.  After about 20 minutes, he left her sobbing and she walked back to her friend’s house where she called the police.  Amazingly she caught her attacker after recognising him and her bravery led to him being jailed for 15 years.  Officers were in no doubt that he would have continued to rape other women were it not for her bravery.  And despite what happened to her, Michelle has gone on to live a normal life and has vowed never to be a victim.  She now holds down a full-time job and sees life as an adventure, taking opportunities to travel abroad and indulging in her passion of martial arts and Boxing.

Michelle says she has put the incident behind her and is more confident than ever.  She said: “A police officer told me I was lucky to be alive, that he had raped other women and it had completely destroyed them.  “They were powerful words and from that moment I told myself I wasn’t going to let that happen to me, I wasn’t going to let him destroy me, let him beat me, that not for one second was I going to let what he did to me affect my life.”  The rapist’s reign of terror ended when Michelle courageously came face to face with her attacker by chance.   He failed to recognise her and she raised the alarm.  The man was arrested.  She said: “Seeing him brought back the fear, I felt paralysed again but I knew I had to tell the police. “I left and felt relief. It brought peace of mind for me and his other victims.”  Inspired by her survival of the horrific experience and the fact she saved others the trauma, she launched the website Michelle Fighting Back earlier this year.  She will hold her first public talk in Coventry next month.

A short film made by a local director and Bafta winner Geoff Thompson is also being made of her story.  She said: “In one way I’d like my attacker to know that what he did hasn’t affected my life, that I’ve gone on to do some amazing things and had fantastic experiences and there are days when I don’t even think about what happened.  “I don’t feel anything about it, I just feel numb. I’m not a victim. I’m fighting back and I want to show others that they can move forward from traumatic experiences like I have.”  Her talk takes place on Friday, November 11, at the Hilton Coventry Hotel, Paradise Way, Walsgrave, from 7-9pm. Entry is £20.

 

Michelle Is Fighting Back

By Mike Ashworth | October 20, 2011

Yesterday I wrote about Dewey Bozella, an American guy who was imprisoned for 26 years for a crime he did not commit, but he never gave up and serves as an inspiration to many.

Today I’m focussing on someone much closer to home.

At the age of 14 Michelle was raped at knifepoint. However, she was determined to not be seen as a “victim”, instead she has grabbed life by the scruff of the neck and said “come on, i’ve got things to do”.

I’ve met and trained with Michelle on a number of occassions and until I’d heard about the forthcoming film, I had absolutely no idea of what had happened to her at such a young age.

I feel that many of us, perhaps myself included, stereotype people who’ve had such events happen to them. Perhaps influenced by how much of the media portrays them, helpless, timid, lacking in confidence and self esteem, men haters etc.

I can tell you now that Michelle is taking any and all of these preconceptions that people may have of “victims” of rape and turning them on their head.

She is not prepared to let that event be the defining moment of her life.

Here is a video of Michelle talking about her life at one of Geoff Thompson’s Masterclasses in Coventry.

I’ve written about Geoff previously, an amazing guy, who has also turned his life around. Abused when he was young, bullied, menial job in a factory, to becoming a BAFTA award winning writer, teacher and world renowned martial artist.

Film based on her life

“Counting Backwards” is a short film based on Michelle’s story. It is heartbreaking, beautiful and ultimately triumphant.

It describes how a young girl, her family and best friend struggle to deal with an awful and tragic event and follows the inevitable echoes that continue to ripple through the next generation.

This is a film about bravery, love and friendship between friends and family.

Geoff Thompson has created a powerful, shocking and deeply moving script which is being directed by Sean de Sparango, mutli award winning director including a Cannes Lion for his Anti-gun crime campaign.

Lucy Speed (Natalie Price in Eastenders, The Bill) plays Michelle in later life.

This is actress Kathryn Prescott (Emily Fitch in Skins) she plays the part of Kelly (Michelle’s daughter) in the film.

counting-backwards-geoff-thompson-1

Here is a photo of Michelle with Kathryn Prescott

counting-backwards-michelle-kathryn-prescott-geoff-thompson

Her Motivational Talk

Michelle will be taking about her life and experiences on the 11th November at the Hilton Hotel in Coventry.

Interview with JOE.ie     

How Martial Arts could save your life

We hear the story of Michelle, who recovered from the ordeal of being raped at knife-point in her early teens to rebuild her life through martial arts.

By Fergus Ryan

The rise in popularity of Mixed Martial Arts has polarised opinions on combat sports and their place in society. The easy, much peddled argument is that it’s too brutal for general consumption and those that engage are satisfying a primal blood lust. These views, though, are given from a position of ignorance. For every ten competitors in combat sports there are hundreds of people who train just for fitness, to build self confidence or, more importantly, for self defence.

Though not foremost in people’s minds, self defence may be needed now more than ever. In the 32 years since the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre was established calls to the national 24 hour helpline has increased from 76 in 1979 to 14,289 in 2009. The easiest form of self defence might be to stay inside, shut off from danger behind closed doors.

I caught up with Michelle, who comes from the UK but has family ties in Belfast, Cork and Dublin. For the last 20 years or so Michelle has been living life as completely and positively as she can. In the last number of years Michelle began training in a wide range of martial arts for all the benefits listed above.

Michelle had been a typical teenager: everything was about her friends and she had only a passing interest in sport. Her life changed forever when she was 14, one night on the way back from a friend’s house. Taking the usual route home down a secluded path Michelle was raped at knifepoint.

“There isn’t a guide book available at the local library that tells you how to react, how to behave or how to deal with the after effects if you have been attacked or raped,” she says.

“One minute you’re in a nice routine – going out with your friends, going to school, and worrying if the local shop had stocked up on your favourite chocolate bars … and the next minute your life changes forever.”

While dealing with one of the worst things that could happen to a young girl, it was a family member who reached out and introduced Michelle to an activity that would help rebuild her life. “After being raped my uncle asked me if I would attend a local martial arts class. I said I would give it a go and he took me to the class.

“I was very nervous and to this day I still get a little nervous when I train somewhere new. I was surprised as I really loved Martial Arts and now have my uncle to thank for that. It really gave me a lot of confidence, it’s a great way to release stress and you feel energised due to the exercise. I have made some fantastic friends through the Martial Arts world and training.”

She trained in Wado Ryu Karate amongst other martial arts for about six years before the club closed and Michelle stepped away for a while. “One day I messaged an old friend of mine who I used to train with, Mick Tully. He had started up his own Martial Arts club ‘Complete Self Protection’ alongside Al Peasland and he asked if I’d like to pop down and train with them. I went along and have never looked back.” Tully, who originally hails from Dublin, moved to Coventry as a child. He now runs Complete Self Protection programmes in Coventry and Milton Keynes.

The programme at ‘Complete Self Protection’ acknowledges that there is no one martial art that has every solution for all situations. For Michelle and many other students this mixed martial arts training is about personal development. “Since I have started training again it has totally changed my life entirely. With ‘Complete Self Protection’ I now practice Boxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, Real Combat System, Jeet Kune Do, Kali and Knife Work, Panatukan, Grappling/Wrestling. Also about six to eight months ago I started Boxing Technique at Redcorner Boxing Academy. I used to only train 1-2 hours a week and I now train anywhere from 5-8 hours a week at least. I just love training and learning new skills.”

With more experience than most at a relatively young age, Michelle is unequivocal on the benefits of training in combat sports and martial arts. “I think everyone should try Martial Arts/ Self Defence at least once, as it could save or change your life. The most important factor is being more aware of your environment and the people around you, knowing what to look out for and being selfish about your own safety.”

However, Michelle explains there are some things that you can never learn in the class. Sometimes flight can and should overpower the urge to fight. “Rule number one is to run, screaming, as fast as you can if you feel you are in danger; don’t hang around to see if your technique works on the street. It’s only if you can’t get away that you should attack.

“You don’t know how you will react physically when faced with an attacker. Unfortunately for me, my body reacted negatively to the fear and adrenalin, which meant I couldn’t speak properly, I was shaking uncontrollably, my brain told me to run but my body was frozen and paralysed with fear.

“You could know every technique known to man, but when faced with a life and death situation it doesn’t necessarily mean your body will allow you to react in the way you want it to. There is no saying my body would have reacted any different if I had any martial arts training. We are all different and react in different situations.

“I would still recommend that it is better to equip yourself with some training and knowledge, as it could save your life. My instructor often offers a women’s self defence workshop, which is a one off session where the women learn key life saving skills. It’s a shame it’s not taught in all schools as part of the curriculum.”

In addition to the fitness, added confidence and potential life saving skills Michelle has acquired, she is immensely proud of her training to date. This is just one of her achievements after an event that could have caused her life to spiral downward. “Some of my greatest personal achievements include that I have progressed in my Martial Arts, have made my family proud, I have started doing motivational talks (www.michellefightingback.co.uk) to help others, and that the story of my attack is being made into a film by Geoff Thompson, which will hopefully help people who have been through similar situations.”

Sometimes, the last word on a serious crime is that the perpetrator has been prosecuted and jailed. In this instance we’d like to give Michelle the last word, which may inspire you to join a martial arts club or may help somebody who has had a common experience.

“Being raped at knife point is just another thing that has happened in my life. It’s just one of my experiences. It hasn’t stopped me from doing anything or made me a negative person; if anything it’s had the opposite effect. It has helped me to challenge myself, to strive for better in life and made me appreciate what is important in life.

“I really don’t like the term ‘victim’. I’ve never been a ‘victim’ and refuse point blank to become one. As far as I’m concerned the word victim suggests a person has been beaten, that the attacker has won. I decided my attacker could only win if I allowed him to destroy me, if I gave him that power and if I allowed him to defeat me. I believe we all have an inner strength that helps us to deal with tough situations throughout our lives. Never let anyone take control over your life and don’t give anyone the satisfaction of knowing that they have ruined your life. Fight back… I did!”

 

Interview with Stuart Williams         

Raped at knifepoint when she was 14, Michelle is the subject of Counting Backwards, the forthcoming film from BAFTA winner and Oscar longlisted writer Geoff Thompson. She is a motivational speaker and martial artist, and a great role model for anyone who wants to make more of their life.

She is based in Coventry and her website www.michellefightingback.co.uk is a terrific resource for all – check it out.

She’s also the sort of person who confirms my dearest belief – that you banish darkness with light, not more darkness. I’m honoured to have her as a friend.


Stu: Hi Michelle, thanks for taking the time to have a chat. The whole point of your website is to inspire and promote better living, in spite of fear or trauma, so I’m going to get right on with it:
As ridiculous as it to attach clichés to people, it probably is tempting for some to think of people who have been raped as Walking Wounded, or Victims. Your life seems to utterly refute that sort of thinking – has that been a deliberate strategy?


Michelle: I’ve always been quite a private person when it comes to my feelings and emotions. I’ve never been the kind of person to sit crying in front of people; I only cried a couple of times at the time I was raped.

When I was attacked everyone expected me to be upset, to get angry or to break down in some way. I didn’t feel like I needed to act in that way. I have often said that there is no guide book available, that I am aware of, that tells you how to behave after you have been raped. Everyone worried about my reaction to the attack, but for me I had accepted what had happened and just thought I should get on with my life, as I didn’t want to give my
attacker the satisfaction of mentally beating me in any way.

Stu: Have there been times when you’ve found yourself straying into that kind of thinking and had to find a way back?

Michelle: I have used my attack to push myself in life, to challenge myself, physically and
mentally, and to become the strong, positive person that I am today. I’m not saying I wouldn’t get stressed if my car was to break down, but in regards to being raped, and it affecting my life, I am 100% determined that it will not ruin my life, or affect my life in any negative way.

I don’t personally like the word ‘Victim’, as in my eyes it means that my attacker has won or beaten me in some way. So, to answer your question, I have never felt like a ‘Victim’.

Stu: I’d love to see the word Victim go out of the dictionary from lack of use – it sounds like a word being spat out, to me, like an insult – so even if that guide is already available, no one else has your voice, Michelle – I think a lot of people would benefit from such a guide written by you.

Given how pro-active you are, how does it feel to have your story feature in a Geoff Thompson film? Can you describe the range of emotions that must have arisen since the idea first came up?

Michelle: I’ve known Geoff since I was a teenager, but I was still surprised to hear his voice on the phone when he rang me.

He explained that he wanted to write a film script, and asked how I would feel about him writing about my attack. I instantly said yes, but that I obviously had to speak to my family about it first. Whilst Geoff was on the phone talking to me I started to react physically to the whole situation. From the moment he rang me my stomach was churning, and for a few hours afterwards I couldn’t stop shaking.

The churning in my stomach continued up until I met up with Geoff the following night. We sat talking for a few hours, and I left him feeling calm and totally at peace with myself. It was really good to talk it all through with him, especially as he had some understanding of how I felt. We talked over the details, facts and memories, and I also gave Geoff eight pages of notes with more details on, which I’d written with my mum.

Stu: Is that a rather surreal experience? it must take some adjusting to.

Michelle: Sometimes I feel like it’s all just a dream, and I have to look at Geoff’s text messages or emails to remind myself it is all real, and it is actually happening. It’s not everyday that your own life experience is made into a film.

It is actually very scary as it means walking into the unknown, but I have always tried to face my fears, and challenge myself. On the other hand I am also extremely excited.

I just hope the film helps people who have been through similar situations, or that people are inspired by the film to live their lives to the full, and realise what is important in life.

Stu: The martial arts are a big part in your life, as for many of us – how significant has that been to your personal development, do you think? For the benefit of those who might be a bit nervous about trying an art on for size, but want to learn more, would you give a little bit of your MA history?

Michelle: After my attack my uncle asked me if I would attend a local Martial Arts class. I said I would give it a go, and he took me to the class. I was very nervous, and to this day I still get a little nervous when I train somewhere new. I was surprised, as I really loved Martial Arts, and now have my uncle to thank for that.
It really gave me a lot of confidence, it’s a great way to release stress and you feel energised due to the exercise.

I have made some fantastic friends through the Martial Arts world and training, and throughout my teen years my parents had some peace of mind, knowing that I was going to the pubs and nightclubs with the people from my Martial Arts class as we all became such great friends.

My Martial Arts instructor was also a doorman, so we would often all go to town together feeling very safe. The style I practised at that time was Wado Ryu Karate, and also anything else that might work on the streets. After about 6 years the club closed, and I didn’t train for over 12 years. One day I messaged an old friend of mine, who I used to train with, Mick Tully. He had started up his own Martial Arts club and asked if I’d like to pop down and train with him. I did go to train with him and have never looked back, training regularly with Complete Self Protection which is run by Al Peasland and Mick Tully in Coventry and Milton Keynes, and at Glenn Smith’s Red Corner gym in Coventry.

Starting to train again has changed my life entirely. I now practice the following styles: Boxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, Real Combat System, JKD, Kali and Knife Work, Panatukan and Grappling/Wrestling. I used to train 1-2 hours a week but I now train anything from 5-8 hours a week.

I don’t tend to drink alcohol very often or go nightclubbing as much now, due to the fact of the times I train. I think everyone should try Martial Arts/Self Defence at least once, as it could save or change your life. Everyone is so friendly, supportive and inspirational within Martial Arts, and all the people I have met or trained with have had the same kind of outlook in life, very positive, facing their fears, and they leave you feeling energised.

Stu: What might a beginner expect on a first session, and, what would you say are the important things to look for in a club?

Michelle: The key to a good club, for me, is that everyone shows respect; they all help each other; are not there to dominate others but to learn; and that the instructor shares their knowledge of the Arts and is not afraid to become a student if someone has more knowledge or skills than themselves. A good instructor will teach you good basics and will teach you techniques suitable for your skill level, and, above all, will make a relaxed environment where people can feel at ease and learn new skills.

No one learns in a stressful, scary environment. When you are having fun and you are relaxed you are more likely to retain what you have learned, and you will definitely want to attend the next session. This is why when it’s bitterly cold outside, there is heavy rain, or snow, and the temperatures are below zero I still manage to get up and go training – because I enjoy it so much. I remember many occasions when the Dojo was so cold that I had 3 pairs of socks and a woolly hat and coat on.

No one should let their nerves stop them from doing anything in life…
Take the risk…
What’s the worst that could happen?
It might change your life for the better like it did mine.

Stu: Did you ever have any counselling, or therapy? If so, how helpful did you find that?

Michelle: My parents had counselling. I was offered it but didn’t want it. The Police did mention that I could go to CRASAC, an organisation that helps people in similar situations. Personally I didn’t want counselling, I felt I didn’t want to speak to a stranger as I could speak to my friends about how I felt if I wanted to. Over the years I did worry that maybe I should have had counselling. Would I be any different if I had?

I have since asked a counsellor if I had made the right decision – she told me that not everyone needs to have counselling, we are all different, we deal with things in different ways. She said that sometimes it’s better to leave Pandora’s Box closed, if you have been coping well and it is not affecting your life.

I think that, in her eyes, because I accepted what had happened to me and coped with it so well, I didn’t need counselling.
Counselling does help so many people though, my parents included, so I would definitely recommend it. I’ve never had therapy either, I don’t know enough about it to comment on it, to be honest.

Stu: Are there any particular books you found that helped you be positive and forward looking?

Books that inspire me? There have been so many! I love to read books, so I will just pick out a few.

Firstly, Geoff Thompson’s book The Elephant and the Twig. I’ve read it twice now and each time I have got something different from it. The book helps you to look at your life and makes you think about your happiness, your future, the people around you, and where you want to go in life. It inspires you enough that you actually start to make changes within your life.

The second book that I think is inspirational is a book my friend Adam bought me for Christmas, SAS Heroes by Pete Scholey. The book is about some of the bravest, toughest men, who became legends within the SAS; who faced fear on a daily basis, harsh conditions, and challenged themselves mentally and physically. It’s definitely worth a read.

The last book I have chosen is a teen book called The Edge, by Alan Gibbons, and from the first few pages you are hooked. The book deals with so many issues, domestic violence, racism and relationships. It has been inspiring to me and is one of my favourite books.

Stu: Are you spiritual or religious? And what sort of effect has that had on your personal journey so far?

Michelle: I’ve always felt that I have had someone watching over me and looking out for me. I am a Roman Catholic, although my parents did not bring me up as one. They felt I should decide for myself when I was older. But coming from an Irish Catholic family I was always around religion anyway, as other family members were practising Catholics. Up until recently I used to take my Nan to mass each Sunday and receive communion. I have never pushed my religious views on to anyone, as for me it is a personal choice.

Some people find peace and comfort from their faith, especially when faced
with difficult times. It has helped me get through some tough times over the last few years and I have made some amazing friends along the journey.

Stu: Michelle, thanks so much for your eloquence and strength. You’ve reached out to many people already. Good luck with your ongoing journey, and I look forward to doing this again with you in a few months to see where the road leads next.