I am in a race between who gets to fall asleep first; my laptop or me. It’s almost 3am and I am wide awake. Have been for hours. Contemplating as I throw myself from side to side in my bed, as to why I cannot sleep and various options ruminate inside my mind. Firstly, the missing curtain at the window might not be helping; the room is in disarray as I finally… FINALLY! decided to get off my arse and actually paint the bastard bedroom. This has been at the core of my procrastination tower for almost a year now. The walls have holes merrily lodged in them from either the middle son’s fist, foot or over abundance of nails supporting things from LED lights to camouflage nets. Within the short space of time he had this room, he was having one of his most ‘challenging’ periods, as is reflected… on the walls. So right now I am in bed, surrounded by shit and one less curtain and a lot of holes hopefully eyeing up the polyfilla next to me.
Another reason for my insomnia could be due to Beltane.. lots of fiery energy about, according to the wonderful Janetta Morton (Astrologist), and although apparently this is the time for men to whisk off women for lovely unmentionables and despite the planetary set up that is currently gunning for love and stuff, (it would appear I was overlooked but I reckon his sat nav was on the blink)… The best deal I have come up with is having Tarka’s foot accidentally shoved in my mouth as she stretched out on the pillow beside me. More worryingly was the immediate instinct for me to lick it. No idea. Can’t explain it. It was salty though and now at least I know what a cat’s paw pads taste like, (as well as the huge amount of shit they have probably walked through). I wonder if my flooring tastes of salt too….
The influx of fire is welcome though. It has been far too wet recently. I still heartily defend the idea that you can become hypovolaemic through crying too much. Haven’t found any medical evidence to back it up yet, but surely… It makes sense.. if you are losing copious amounts of fluids through your eyes, it must be being taken from other more important cellular shit* that’s happening. Now though, I feel the fire in my belly and I am finding the energy to get on and do stuff that needs doing.
I have restarted running and yoga and even…. lifting (very tiny) weights. In fact my arms probably weigh far more than the actual weights but I don’t want to upset them yet or make them feel inadequate.
And the sun is due to come out this week so if we haven’t all been blasted to smithereens by Putin’s shaky hand then I am planning on a paddle boarding excursion at some point.
In the hope this might help me fall asleep, I shall now sip on a blisteringly hot herbal sleep infusion (tastes like shit) and hope that now my mind has been emptied (which obviously it hasn’t…sooooooooo much more crap bumbling around in there, it’s like a bumper car disco, only even slower).
I come to. It’s dark and the house is quiet. So quiet. I strain my ears to hear and then my little mind to work out how late it is. I call out. Nothing. No answer. I call again. And again, no answer. Confusion flows in as my little 5 year old brain tries to compute what no answer means. Slight panic grows like a tentacle, worming from my stomach up to my chest. No one is there. Paralysed by fear of the shadows and heavy silence, I can’t get out of bed to look for anyone. The sobs are now uncontrollable. I don’t remember when they came home. I don’t remember if I cried myself to sleep. I just remember fear. And abandonment.
I want to rage. I want to let it be known exactly how painful these feelings still are. I want someone to understand and feel the acute, tearing and ripping apart of my entire emotional state that these memories cause within me. This 45 year old is kept held back fighting against the constraints of rejection that hold me. I don’t want this anger anymore. I want to let it all go. I want it to flow back in to a pool of energy where it can be cleansed. I try and do it myself but I think the issue is that when something has happened to you, it seems a bit fucking much that you have to then fix it yourself. I am stuck in this eternal cycle of destruction and repair. Like a shitty car workshop I don’t seem to have got a certificate of gold standard workmanship. I feel like an everlasting apprentice.
Going out, partying, immersing myself in a relationship.. all short lived reprieves. I bring my bag of pain with me everywhere I go. It is so palpable that like a force field, I repel those I would like to get close to. And just in case I actually one day choose to get to know someone who would in anyway be suitable, I ensure I only go for those who are also slightly broken. That way I am too much for them. They push me away. They confirm my unworthiness. So I break down again, slowly crawl and fumble around, collecting my pride, esteem and ego and attempt to rebuild my temporary shelter, just a little more strongly this time. Must put in better foundations this time. A less leaky roof.
I am at a crossroads. One route I am not allowed to follow. So I guess it’s really a no-entry and I must take the other route. Except I am tired. I am tired of rebuilding. I am tired and would so like my adult to come home so I can go to sleep and rest.
It comes to me as I sit in front of the log burner. The metal encasing pops as it expands from the heat, flames licking the additional log I have placed in there. I am sitting on a cushion, meditating. The opposite of clearing my mind, the process instead just waves a flag and screams at any passing-by, any malingering thought to ‘step on in’… aboard the meditation train. I acknowledge and bat them out with the skill of a professional tennis player only they just circle around and re-enter under the guise of another subject, quickly re-emerging in their original form.
In Buddhism, I have read, you do not close your eyes fully but in order to keep aware (and awake), you semi-close your eyes, letting the eyelashes gently flutter and hoping that your contact lenses don’t dry out and stick because you aren’t blinking. Every other meditation has always encouraged the closing of the eyes and it is during this internal debate that it comes to me; as the synthetic fibres in my cardigan threaten to melt with the heat, I think about Buddhism and religions and why I can’t fully subscribe to any of these belief systems. The reason why is because I choose to only worship Mother Nature. She is tangible. I can see her. I look out of my window, or go for a walk and I breathe her in. Birth, growth, life, death. The seasons are her sermons. We watch the world falling apart and her sermons get louder. Angrier. She rages in wild-fires, she wails in mass flooding. We are hurting her, dismissing her, raping her and shunning her. Different species are fading, as if being devoured by the Nothing in The Never-ending Story, our own apathy as a collective society is sucking away the nature that sustains us.
By choosing to believe in a deity, it appears to me that we hand over all responsibility of our beautiful planet. ‘It is God’s will’, I hear repeatedly. Is it? Is it really? I don’t think it is. I think if there was a deity who was running the show they would have probably decided to scrap this project and start again. Shaking their head(s) in disbelief as we merrily blow each other up, murder and torture each other, wipe entire animal and plant species off of the earth. I hardly think they are sitting there smugly, hands wrapped around a mug of hot cocoa, nodding sagely and saying ‘ah yes… this is how I foresaw my little Kingdom, go you… you rowdy little tyrants!’
Is it not time we take responsibility? We have an amazing planet to worship. Instead of praying in a church or mosque (or at least in addition to) why don’t we get outside and pray to Mother Earth? Why don’t we learn to listen to her calls? Ask her what she needs for us all to survive? To be fair Greta Thunberg has been pretty astute at translating her needs along with all the scientists and ecologists and many, many others who have been warning us for decades of what will happen if we don’t buck our ideas up. I practically beheaded my son recently for calling her weird. I raged at him that he would do better to follow her footsteps as someone to aspire to rather than stoop to ridicule. And as my youngest son and I discussed how leaves live on carbon-dioxide, I watched at his face wonder at how we and plants and trees need each other. My primary school explanation of our symbiotic relationship being propped up by the Science and Nature magazines I have been buying for him (and which he pretty much hates because it involves… reading).
So the next time I sit on my meditation cushion, once I have acknowledged the ‘should I/shouldn’t I’ close-my-eyes conundrum, I shall send out as much love as I can to the planet and hope, just hope that my choice of wrapping up in jumpers and having a Defra approved woodburner burning the right type of fuel, is better than having my central heating on all day. I will also continue to try and impart some of the better, planet-caring philosophies onto my children when I can tear them away from their screens and maybe start saving some money to go and stay in a technology deprived, wifi free, log-cabin next Xmas.. I mean they’d LOVE that.. wouldn’t they..???
Losing a womb. I didn’t think about how that might affect me emotionally. I suppose I knew that if I did I might not go ahead with the operation.
It’s the end of a period. Literally. If being single at 45 didn’t make me feel washed up and on the shelf beforehand, then this really does. Not just a floating shelf but one with substantial brackets. Slipping once more into behaviour patterns to stem the tears which consequently, simply opens the taps inviting a fucking deluge. Like the newly fitted, beautiful sparkling taps on my bathtub that have fixed the leak – the leak that threatened an open plan kitchen/bathroom – I feel I need to purchase some new taps. For myself. To stop the leaking.
It’s not about having more children. That ship didn’t just sail but did a hearty sink, years ago. No, it’s more about the impending menopause, the loss of an organ that formed a beautiful life-giving area within my body. The doctor asks; ‘where is the pain Chloe?’, ‘oh like here, where my uterus is’.. except it isn’t.. in its place a vaginal cuff sewn in to halt the descent of my intestines. Replaced by a void stuffed heartily with emotion and regrets and dissonance.
There is a sense of loss for that body part. Tossed into the incinerator. Discarded. No use to the woman anymore within which it was born. I almost feel guilt. Maybe I should have tried harder. A toxic relationship with a body part.. (I laugh.. that has actually made me laugh.).
For all the sentiment and angst, there is too a sense of relief. I was able to vomit last week without pissing myself.. that’s got to be something right? And I will never have to worry about running out of tampons and pads again, I can sit on any chair I want without peering nervously behind me as I stand up.
It’s been a tough four weeks. Lots of existential questioning. Nothing like being housebound to ensure you have a right good old soul search. The finalisation of the divorce is impending, I can no longer bear children and there is a definite sense of feeling stuck. But through this there is an emergent creativity. Writing, painting, making.. the soul is hungry and she is asking for food, so I must give it to her. I must feed her. In between creating I have been bingewatching.. For a few weeks I was convinced I needed to dress up in 1920’s fashion as a result of watching dear Tommy Shelby in Peaky Blinders. Then I watched The Handmaid’s Tale and became outraged for the all the oppressed women in the world, (it may be fiction but I hardly feel it is very different to what is going on in some countries still.). So if you happen to see some odd woman dressed in a 1920’s cocktail dress helping out at a refugee’s camp, you’ll know it’s me.
I have also discovered Nick Cave. Don’t get me wrong I have known about him ever since I travelled to Australia 20+ years ago but I didn’t like him then. However, Peaky Blinders put paid to that and I am now in love with the man. Oh and Nick from The Handmaid’s Tale.. so that’s Tommy, Nick and Nick, in case you were having trouble keeping up with my changing weekly crushes. Which leads me to the ever-failing online dating endeavours during my convalescence. It appears that I tend to match with cowards. They chat and then disappear. Unable to vocalise their waning interest, they just ‘ghost’ instead. Amusing albeit equally irritating. However, I was happy to watch a Netflix movie on the matter (Love Hard) which is about cat fishing on the internet. Well, if they have made a film about how crap online dating is, then it’s not just happening to me.. surely?
It’s a slow recovery, hampered by infection and I have been completely blind-sided by its impact on me both mentally and physically. I don’t expect I will feel too much better for some weeks but I am grateful. So grateful for the love I have been shown by family and friends. The care from the hospital staff. For the kids hoovering badly and the constant cuddles from the cats. I am grateful for the time I have had to restock. To go within. To work out what is important. Discard that which no longer serves me.
And if there is anyone out there who would like to chat to someone who has now experienced a hysterectomy, then give me a holler.. the information out there is lacking on what to expect. What to really expect.. I presume the leaflets were written by a man.. ooooh I have gone all June Osbourne again… Praise Be.
It appears that despite knowing I have to pack up a car full of camping stuff, finish a heap of washing, tidy up and go shopping, I shall instead enjoy sitting in the garden and write. Inspiration or desire to write doesn’t always come readily so when it does, I am afraid sensibility makes a sharp exit. Or maybe it’s the other way around..
The bees are like a cacophony as they buzz merrily and busily in the rambling rose. I remember transporting the rose back from Phyllis’s after she had died. Reminiscent of her beautiful garden that was an explosion of colour, scent and variety every year, the pot housed more than the rose..(she would basically just shove things in the flower beds.. I am not sure there was much premeditated organisation), I’m pretty sure a bay and a holly had also managed to sneak in. The bay is huge now but I am afraid that the holly has been reneged to the compost recently.. not only did it not produce anything pretty, like red berries, but it just dropped leaves that always seem to end up in the underside of my unsuspecting feet.
The grass is long and needs cutting. There is a pesky vine that threatens to overtake the garden every year (can’t remember it’s name) and I seem to spend hours pulling it out. Refusing to use weedkiller. The Lake (small bucket full of water) has developed a life of it’s own and there are lots of gnats larvae in it. Not quite the breeding ground I was hoping for.. (I was thinking dragonflies and frogs) but hey… the lily is growing in it even if it’s flowering. To be fair, I have to retrieve either the solar pump or the lily most weeks because the fox cubs keep dragging them out during the night so the fact that the lily is still alive is amazing.
There is a wood pigeon on one of my neighbours roofs and the competing sounds of a police siren, seagulls and the odd caw from a crow. Bramble has grass seeds stuck on her head and keeps flopping lazily on the decking beside me, letting the heat of the sun wash over her. It’s beautiful. I breathe in deeply and wish that I had a day of this ahead of me rather than having to leap into action and get on with the multitude of jobs on my list. My straps are off of my shoulders as I soak in the rays – it’s been so grey and wet of late that it feels magnificent just to enjoy the sun. It feels like all creatures, insects to mammals, almost sigh this relief; I am sure the bees buzz louder.
I notice that as I get older, I need more time between busy periods. Two hectic days in A&E, a place where your attention and emotions swap at such a pace that you seem to lose yourself until you get home. As you put on your uniform at the beginning of the shift you also don a cloak of persona. Capable, efficient, authoritative, empathetic and compassionate. At home my time management skills slip off like an unzipped negligee, I mentally and physically collapse into a period of exhaustion before I start to rebuild the bricks so that the structure stands strong once more. This doesn’t take long, a few hours but things like time management have never been my strong point, hence here I am sitting in my overgrown garden, knowing that I have a zillion things to do before the boys finish school and we start our weekend in a camping field.
My feet are tired and my knee won’t let me bend it very far. My back is it’s usual knackered self and my neck clicks constantly. I could do with some regular massages and I so wish I had a house mate to adult with and even more so to enjoy camping with whilst the boys do their own thing. But I also love this time of growth. It’s lonely at times, I’ll admit. But it’s also freedom. And if my hay fever symptoms this morning are anything to go by, I wouldn’t have time for conversation anyway.. I am either sneezing or itching my eyes!
It started during my bi-monthly Campervan search. First of all I trawl the vans I definitely can’t afford, closely by the Ford transits etc that I dreamily imagine converting until the full ridiculousness of it hits me slap in the face once more and I close the zillion pages I have been comparing down again. I then usually start searching ‘sleeping in your Nissan Qashqai 2010’.. and only a couple of hits show up and they basically tear the arse out of Qashqai’s as having shit boot space for a (pretend) SUV… Only this time.. I looked on YouTube and started to see a wonderous step by step tutorial with an actual design and plan of how you could build a bed in the back of your usual family car.
Which I didn’t do. What I have ended up with isn’t remotely like that tutorial… It’s like this instead…
But it works. Albeit in a slightly wonky, can’t sit up without banging your head, sort of way. So as I dreamt of how to buy the foam to level the lowered back seats, and merrily ordered car sleeping mattresses, I also started to wonder what exactly it was that I was hoping to get from this ‘I can do anything, I am a warrior queen of solo-tripping on the seas of the southern coast’ attitude. Because in all reality, what was this gung-ho shit all about really? Being armed with a paddle board you can barely stand on and driving around in a car you have tried to kit out as a Campervan does not a cool, surfer girl make. On one hand I am feeling courageous and powerful and ‘who needs someone else to go and have an adventure’… on the other, deep inside there is the little voice that is piping up gently and quietly with a little hint of shame… saying, ‘me.. I do..’.
I grew up very alone and thus was very lonely. Until I was in my teens I didn’t have any real, firm, school friends as we had moved around too much to have ties anywhere. I had no cousins or extended family that I saw regularly and so being on my own and being my own friend is something I have cultivated over many years. I used to be shy. Not something anyone would believe now but yes, Chloe used to be a shy introvert who was only extrovert on her own or around people she trusted. With no-one to play with and long, long hours of fending for myself whilst my mum worked, or my grandmother tutored, I had to learn to amuse myself. Hours spent climbing apple trees in my grandmother’s garden as it bloomed furiously with roses and lavender, co-existing with insects that used to hover and then dive, buzzing in the air and the spiders that had me squealing as I tried to balance on branches. I had made up friends and imaginary adventures.
Yesterday I giggled as I took wrong turns and argued with myself as to where I should park. Called myself a ‘dick’ many a time as I wobbled on the board and at one point nearly fell in whilst grasping onto a tree. At this point a man on the phone walked past me.. just as I ungraciously slid one half of me into the water.. but luckily he was so deep in conversation that he either didn’t find it funny, or my own demons were screaming so hard with laughter that I couldn’t hear him. There were the most exquisite iridescent blue dragonflies over the lilypads that my phone was too slow to capture. At one point there was swan who started to swim reeeeeallly slowly in front of me.. it kept making snide glances back at me and I, really quickly, pretended to look somewhere else at the same time.. almost breaking, nonchalantly, into a whistle.. I did not want to get into a fight with said swan whilst on a paddle board.
I visited a beautiful National Trust place called Sheffield Park which had a vast array of rhododendrons and which made mine feel a little bit fucking inadequate if I am honest.. but actually I realised that I far prefer seeing the wilderness of nature rather than the Victorianesque manicured gardens that the NT presents. Very white. Very middle-class and I actually felt a sense of unease as I walked through there. It didn’t feel like the sort of place I wanted to be in. It felt ordered and restrained and very indicative of what is wrong with our society. Another example of uncomfortable history I guess. Interestingly though, one of the rhododendrons (white) smelt like Deep Heat….
(I have cleverly disguised my own rhododendron in below. See if you can spot it.).
Once I felt I had used my membership enough (I will now probably cancel after my whole ‘one’ visit.. I have decided I would prefer to travel to some rewilding sites instead). I drove to Hales Farm Campsite, which is the most wonderful site that I have visited regularly over the past 5 years. They have bell tents and shepherds hut and very spacious settings for camping. It boasts eco toilets and showers and lots of lovely walks around. I figured that if I were going to set up on my own for the night then this would be the best place for it. Luckily enough they remembered me, (the first time I visited I stayed in the hut with my husband (a gift from a friend) and threatened to come and help them with lambing. They never did reply that following Spring.. ).
I did lots of manoeuvring as I parked up and still managed to end up on a slant that meant during the night I was slowly rolling to the other side of the car. I tootled around and cut out crude coverings for some of the windows. I cooked my dinner and spoke to a passing female camper (staying with her partner and child), explaining that ‘no, I am not waiting for someone to turn up.. yes I am camping on my own.. yes in a car’.
I necked a couple of tiny cans of Prosecco and shot into my bed with a book. By 9 I was settling down to sleep. By midnight I was wondering what animal was trying to break into the car and by 1 in the morning I thought I was going to die of carbon dioxide poisoning because I hadn’t opened any windows. I finally slept, albeit fitfully.
I made my tea followed by a cup of salt which was supposed to be coffee with sugar (note to self; remember to label the pot of salt as ‘salt’) and watched as minuscule, kamikaze flies dive-bombed the kettle as it boiled. Not clever.
And as I deconstructed Adelina, I felt this nasty little worm of anxiety start wheedling around the deep innards of my psyche. Was it tiredness? Was it because I had work at midday? Was it the Prosecco? Was it because it was cloudy? Was it because despite pushing past the boundaries of societal attitude of a woman camping alone, I felt deflated? What had I expected? No. Not that. What did I want. What did I actually want?
And that my dear friends is the million dollar question. What. Do. I. Want? And the answer. Er. Everything. Yup. I want it all. I want to be feisty and strong and independent. And also I would like to be comforted when I feel needy and I would very much like to be cooked nice food. And I want to be sexy and admired and no, not seen as a slightly too dominant one minute, too submissive the next, mentalist. And I realise that this harps back to the earlier years as a child. I knew how to play on my own in the playground. But I wanted to play with others. However, the comfort from my own company was far too delightful in comparison to the company of others I wanted to impress. I want to feel how I feel on my own but with others. And that is something I am not sure I will ever manage to harness. And that also, I fear is where my future goes a rather murky shade of grey. A bit like the view out of Casa del Sea this morning..
As I started my journey home, I realised that I feel so, so lost. I can’t move to the countryside because my 2 youngest children need stability and they like where they live. I don’t know if I want to move somewhere rural on my own. Do I want to move with someone? I don’t know. Do I think I will meet someone (ever again)? Not at the moment. Do I need to meet someone? No. Not really. But I do feel that time is rushing by. That age and time are against me. I have even had filler in my lips for gods sake.. now that IS a midlife crisis (no.4021). I have no point to this post other than, yes.. yes I can go away on my own. Yes I enjoy my own company.. but also? I do crave companionship. I
t’s a very basic, human need and I am no different (..well…) to any other human.
“I can’t get up. I just want to sleep. My eyes are too tired and they can’t open. I can’t face it today. Just need to sleep”
“You can’t sleep, you are a mum who has responsibilities and shit. You need to get a blood test anyway.”
“And waste NHS money and resources? Even you know better than to do that Chloe, you are a nurse ffs”.
I can’t. I can’t be an adult today. I can’t be a human today. I just want to continue to atrophy. My petals are drooping and they are going to fall any minute. I start to panic.
Throughout the day the dialogue continues. “It’s fine Chloe, you are not losing it. You are just having a bad day”.
“Another one? a bit of a fucking coincidence isn’t it? A month after stopping the meds and you are starting to get more anxious and more overwhelmed?”
“It’s a bad day. End of. Stop panicking”.
The gentle, encouraging voice continues to placate the tearful, angry and easily irritated one. “Can’t cope. Can’t do it. Can’t cope. Can’t do it”. The bickering of the kids reenacted by my two states of mind internally. “FOR GOD’S SAKE SHUT UP”.. I lose my shit and hope that all of the voices will stop.
As I move around the house each and every defect makes itself known:
“Good morning, I am your bedroom and I look awful. Please just glance around and appreciate the clothes on the floor that have no where else to live until you can be bothered to paint me and put up shelves.. until then.. I’ll just continue to look like this.. Have a good day now!”..
“Oh hello”, pips the bathroom, “still haven’t replaced my tiles.. and I am sure the water is actually rotting away from of the internal brickwork… woo.. that’s gonna cost ya!”.. shut up, shut up, shut up.. none of this matters, none of this matters. Your thoughts are not you.. your thoughts are not you. My heart rate has picked up. Tears prick my eyes.
The above sounds a bit mental right? A little bit manic. This is anxiety. This is poor mental health. For those that you see who can’t leave their beds or their houses… the physical and mental exhaustion has taken its toll. They have lost the fight temporarily. I go through the above on an almost daily basis and have for years. It’s just that most of the time I can quieten the negative, repetitive repertoire that threatens my peace of mind. But it only takes a few things combined to tip me over the edge and the fight is much harder.
Neural pathways/thought processes/attitude can change but really these behaviours I am illustrating are the result of years worth of trauma and my response to them. Most of the time I am able to reconfigure them, divert the well-known route to one that is unfamiliar but safer. However, that takes a lot of energy and resources and sometimes I struggle to keep it up. This is when I would love someone to help; do the shopping, take over the crappy admin that comes with adulting, sort the washing out.. and even more so.. put up shelves! Paint! Sort the bathroom out! Some days I feel I can do it all but most days I shrink and the physical and mental pain join hands together and enclose my addled mind. I think I know what has contributed.. I have been concentrating on buying things to enjoy doing and forgetting.. fuck that.. choosing not to.. meditate and do yoga. Concentrating on the external to fix the internal but now the internal is malfunctioning and I can’t quite reach the reset button.
Even close friends may struggle to recognise this in me. I can hide it quite well. Colleagues apparently have no idea unless I tell them. What’s also worth noting that is what might be normal for one person is not necessarily the same for the next. Coping mechanisms differ for each person and if at any point a little bit of judgement raises in your mind then try and remember that everyone has a unique story.
If any of this resonates, any of it makes you shout a ‘hell yeah!’, then comment below. The more society realises that the majority are going through this at some level, then maybe we will make more changes in our perception towards those who struggle mentally.
No-one and I mean NO-ONE can tell me that it is because I am lazy, I just feel sorry for myself, I am just self absorbed. My own voice can tell me that regularly enough. You can see the fight I and many others go through to put on a smile, answer the phone and to actually show up in life. And those days you see me and you think God, Chloe is a bit sprightly today.. she’s a bit bouncy… just love those moments, because until I can reach a point of a more balanced state, those are my days of mental freedom. Those are the days I don’t struggle to leave my bed. I don’t have to expend copious amounts of energy telling my mind to shut the fuck up.
Some days are just so much damn harder to bear than others. All through the night I awoke.. nightmare after nightmare.. in one of them I dreamt that my apparently dying mother tried to suffocate me with a pillow. Fuck knows what that was about. Anxiety has been riding high for a few days now.. she sharpens her claws and smirks.. “I’m comiiiiiing Chloe.. just hold on.. I’ll be there on the crest of the wave as I engulf you”… I realise that today I have been holding in the tears.. I have literally been swallowing them and then, as I tidy the much-needed-to-be-tidied food shelf in the kitchen, I give in. I collapsed to the floor and sobbed and sobbed. About what? I don’t know but I do know that the dying spider by the sink may well have been the final straw.
I read the news as I woke in the night, the murder of women recently in East London, the attempted rape of another, those who have been stabbed. I have friends who are in pain, patients who are in pain. I feel it all. Every single fucking bit.
I make the choice to back away, not to call, not to text. I am in self-preservation mode.
Some days are just harder.. they gain momentum until you realise that there is no way out.. no arm bands are going to save me here… a snorkel won’t help either.. this is going to be some super duper deep diving shit.. without the oxygen.
The food shelf, the back garden, the front garden, the bin, the recycling, the A&E bank shift, the actual job, the dating, the cooking (fuck I hate the cooking), what can I cook that they will like, that they will eat, that won’t spell ‘shit mother’ out as I plate it out. First world problems these. I feel the rising guilt.. another stick I can beat myself with. This is anxiety. This is what a lot of us fight every single day.
I have been celebrating my final titration off of antidepressants in recent months. I am now officially antidepressant free. For the first time in almost 24 years, I am managing to get by without those little green and white capsules. Am I worried that how I am feeling today is due to the cessation of medication? No. I had these days even when on Fluoxetine/Venlafaxine/Citalopram/Sertraline/you name it I have taken it.
This too shall pass. I know this. But I am writing to let people know that despite what you might think as you catch a glimpse of me dancing around my living room, or see me throw my head back and guffaw with laughter or as you laugh at my goofiness.. that there are days that are dark. The cloud of anxiety doggedly follows me about. I try and outrun her.. I even ran this morning to the beach and back.. but I wasn’t fast enough to lose her. The problem with anxiety is that it can slow you down. Making a cup of tea can take forever.
It’s ok to feel like this, I know this. I shall be nice and loving to myself and meanwhile don my Xena Warrior Princess outfit, even if it is bursting at the seams..
I discovered that Equine Gentling were asking for volunteers to help with the horses and families visiting via a Facebook post that a friend had put up. I enquired and a few weeks later, I was lucky enough to be able to go and meet Dan Corbin, the charity founder and his herd.
My love for horses had started as a young child but after about 10 had begun to wane. The last time I sat astride a horse was when I was 21 and I realised that the fear’free’ approach I had as a child was suddenly very fear’ful’ as an adult. The horse refused to move and all the people in the yard looked miniature, like ants because it suddenly felt like I was on the top of Nelson’s column. How the hell had I managed this when I was younger? The horse eventually broke into a fast trot and then a canter.. and it was at this point that I thought all of my teeth were going to fall out because I couldn’t for the life of me, appear to keep my mouth shut so I was chattering like some sort of grotesque skeleton. It was terrifying.. the stirrups seems to want to get as far away from my feet as possible and I literally just held on to the saddle with the reins in my (so tightly gripped, that they were practically cyanosed) hands. I think even the hat slid down so that I could barely see. This was not the horse riding experience I remembered. At. All. This was like an incredibly bad Thelwell experience.
In contrast, from about 6 – 10 years old, I moved about the horses with ease. I was obsessed in those early years. I drew, wrote about and dreamt about horses. I longed for a horse. So much so I decided to invent Star, my imaginary horse. He was great. Very low cost and I never fell off. He still exists, out in the paddock over there.. If you can’t see him, you clearly aren’t looking hard enough.
Horses were (along with cats), at a time when I was changing schools, moving from county to county, dealing with elements of neglect and trauma, bullying and abuse, my place of safety. I rode when I could, which was infrequent and I sat for many lonely hours, reading and imagining about the horse I would have. Creating Star was possibly the beginning of the end for horses and I. My mum unceremoniously blew his cover at a children’s party we were at. The kids there couldn’t stand me as it was, so discovering I had been lying about his existence was another piece of ammunition in their arsenal. Along with Speccy Four Eyes or whatever I was called, I was now known as a liar.
As an adult I took my daughter to have a riding lesson and as we watched, I decided that I wouldn’t take her anymore. The bits in their mouths pulled back to control their heads, the sharp, hateful kicks against their ribs to spur them on and the loud, brash bellows of the riding instructors bullying these beautiful creatures to react to their every whim. It made me feel sick. I made a point there and then that I wouldn’t sit on a horse again and that I wouldn’t take my children to riding lessons again.
Yesterday was my second visit. I have spoken to Dan about the work he does and how the horses he has there have been referred to him because they were considered dangerous or there had been elements of abuse in their lives. If you consider that a hard metal bit is put into their mouths and used to control them, one might agree that abuse has occurred to every bridle wearing, ridden horse. Families visit for therapy sessions and Dan works with children and adults who have different mental health and learning needs. The therapy is a two way process for both animals. Humans and horses.
I had offered to give the horses Reiki. As a trained practitioner in reiki for 15 years I had also completed a days training with a local equine reiki practitioner and I knew of the massive benefits for horses that had suffered trauma, neglect and abuse.
Bonnie was the closest to me. A 17 year old mare who is not brilliant around other horses but likes being with humans. I made a faux pas immediately. I went to touch her nose. Dan explained why horses don’t appreciate this. It’s to do with their field of vision and the fact that the hand disappears once it gets to a certain point and they then just feel a pressure on their nose or head, seemingly out of nowhere and which takes them by surprise. He advised to start by touching her on the shoulder. I placed both of my hands on her and she continued to stand. No bolting, kicking and I didn’t get bitten… this seemed like a good thing..
We continued to stand there, she shifted and I immediately thought that my time was up, she had had enough. But she edged closer to me. Her muscles twitching constantly under my hands. I tentatively moved up towards her neck and she drew in still more, our heads were so close that I was able to gently rest mine against hers. She stayed there. She started to itch her nose against my arm and it appeared she must be scratching it but Dan later explained that she was nuzzling into me. It was a form of affection. A few minutes passed and she shifted again and once more I presumed she was going to move away but she didn’t. Instead she moved her head around so that she was on the other side of me. My right arm passed under her neck and either side of her neck, the energy continue to flow through my hands. Her head started to relax and she began to press into my shoulder, our heads resting against each other. I could feel her head dropping as if she was falling asleep. As though in a dance we moved again and as I pulled away, I looked at her eyes. In her left eye, a tear had formed and slowly it ran down the length of her nose. I turned to Dan who was intermittently watching us from his chair and I said in what felt like rather a silly way, “she has a tear, that’s from the wind or something right?”. I can’t remember his reply verbatim, but it was something along the lines of, “no, horses can cry, she will be releasing”. As I type, my eyes fill up once more. I laid my head back against her neck and together we stood there. Tears falling down my face as I felt the most amazing healing process pass back and forth between us.
And it was at that moment that it felt like I had come home.
How come I have relationships with friends that feel safe and secure? That I don’t anguish over and that I don’t feel the need to suddenly terminate if there is an issue that comes up?
I do sometimes get the ‘right, cut that person off’ but I do tend to be able to ride it out. But with a man, if I think that at any point there is potential, or if we have started to see each other, I can’t just let it ride out and take it easy. I have to know absolutes. Or if I think that I am likely to be ‘dumped’, I orchestrate it first.. and fuck it up and still feel like I have been rejected even though I initiate it. It’s soul destroying. And why oh why do I keep selling the cheap version of myself.
So I see it like this, there is the full plan, the deluxe version, the premium option. This is for a minimum term contract. You get Chloe in full. (Stop laughing, it’s not that scary). Kind, focused, compassionate, sexy, funny, full of adventure… but long term. Then there is the weekly option. Pay as you go. This gives you all some aspects of the above but like a phone with a bad signal, she blips out. She gets anxious. She gets feisty or emotional.. this causes the line to break up and so the buyer gives up or just decides that the trial version is shit and moves to another provider.
Even if I know the buyer only wants a one-day only contract, I still pretend I can offer that. I can’t. (Infact that needs to be registered on a system somewhere as ‘false advertising’). I have to go into a repair shop for days and weeks afterwards…
With mates they would testify that I am not needy. I am not anxious about our friendships. I don’t ask for more than they can give. I feel secure. I feel loved. Infact if anything I withdraw and become a little too independent.
So, this is my ‘homework’ for the next few months. I personally think I need some sort of counselling to overcome this. I know it stems from a mix of attachment style issues. Mainly a mix of ‘dismissive avoidant’, ‘fearful avoidant’ and ‘anxious attachment’. I push away before I can be pushed and then have a meltdown. Basically.
I wish I could be viewed by prospectives as my mates view me (and I know this is true coz they tell me innit).. that I am strong, feisty, loving, loyal and independent. I guess time will tell. Or not, and I really will die and get eaten by my cats.