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.
She picks up the shards and arranges them on the table. The edges are jagged and cut her fingers. Tears and tiny droplets of blood pool together, almost repelling each other like oil, mimicking the thoughts that flood her mind. The angel and demon, as they tussle. Insults are hurled but neutralised with love; love is cascaded but torn apart by pain.
She tries to rearrange the puzzle so that the mirror is pieced back together, yet she can’t quite get it to work. The lines aren’t straight and can’t be melded. Her reflection is therefore crude and disjointed. Anger and frustration build as she realises the mirror can’t be fixed. It needs to be given up. Cast aside. Let go of. She will have to let go of the old. As she pushes the blood, the salt, the wetness, the smeared pieces of glass into the bin, she screams. A guttural, feral sound. In answer to her warrior that resides within, the wind outside picks up. Birds bury their heads under their wings and foxes skulk into the shadows.
Time passes. The sky is dark outside. Rain falls. Exhausted and spent, she raises her head from her arms and catches sight of her face in the reflection of the window. Tears have dried. Her lips full and swollen, her eyes tired. But her face is no longer sectioned off into anger and recrimination. It is one. It is as smooth as the glass of the window. It’s ok now. And as the new moon rises, so her seeds have intention have been sown. No more fury. No more anger, no more self sabotage. As the moon rises, so will she.
It’s all very well the government proposing changes to the school days and terms etc but have they actually even considered the people that this actually has an effect on? Namely the children, teachers and parents?
We already impress a very direct and institutional type of learning here in the U.K. One that only really caters for a certain type of child that can bear sitting down for long periods of time and who can embrace the type of schooling system we have here. For those of us who desperately struggle to get our children to cope with the six hours they do currently, this is simply a no go.
My child spends enough time in isolation during the school week as it is because he can’t cope with the type of learning and learning environment that currently exists. And because he doesn’t tick enough boxes is unable to receive the help that might allow him to thrive. I’d love to be able to have him schooled in a free school here (think Steiner or Montessori) but I don’t have thousands of pounds to pay for it. Or in a country where there is less emphasis on academic achievement but the child’s own talents are recognised and nurtured. We may as well just place him in a windowless room and tell him that he won’t make anything of his life because he doesn’t ‘fit’.
From an early age the majority of U.K. children are forced to attend an education that pushes from the word go. They are told what to wear and what not to wear. They are told to play nicely, to sit still, to conform. As they get older, the more they want to express themselves the more they are stilted. “Not that hairband Amy, faaaar too distracting”, “Henna?!” (On the hand), “What if everybody wants to start painting their faces with henna? Just imagine the chaos!” (Yes, these words were actually uttered from the headteacher in my daughter’s high school).
No hair dye or piercings other than ear lobes and god forbid if you even dare to wear socks in a colour other than black! Girls must have their hair up, it’s a health and safety issue and no, you may not play outside when it is snowing in case someone gets hurt.
I, for one, am sick of this type of pedantic, suppressive system and now they are waffling about extending school days and shortening holidays with no regard to what the children actually want or would benefit from? And why? Because there is a fear that not enough children will progress with the grades that are needed to fulfil a competent workforce in a few year’s time? I bet Lord Fucking Farqhar’s son or daughter won’t have these issues? Again, these measures will most probably punish the poorest families who are already struggling with childcare costs and children who are already at the mercy of a society and system that doesn’t work for them as it is.
Give the children a summer of love. Give them some joy and help those affected by job losses by giving discounted (fuck it! Maybe even free!) opportunities to visit places they can’t afford – theme parks/animal sanctuaries/swimming pools/train travel to the coast. Let the people know that they haven’t been forgotten. That those in their ivory towers do actually give a shit.
Then ask the teachers how they think they need to structure their days. How they need support in helping the children who need it most.
Humph. What was going to be a very short Facebook rant turned into a long WordPress rant… can you tell I’m in a shitty mood today?
Nothing like a nagging, compulsion to write at 1am.
I am trying to process my ineptitude surrounding matters of the heart. Relationships. I liken myself to a newborn lamb, barely able to stand, very wobbly and prone to bleating at the first sign of trouble. Hopefully less gloopy.
I can’t quite get to grips with having a healthy relationship. I am not surprised considering the mixture of a somewhat dysfunctional upbringing and the mixed messages that are drip fed into the sub-conscious of every woman in today’s society.
Media, advertising, even the bloody government push this constant idea that it is better to be part of a duo. Where would we be without a significant other? You even get fucking tax allowances if you are married and they hilariously charge you to get divorced. In fact you have to ‘apply’ to part from your betrothed. As someone who is currently going through this hideous process it brings up all matter of questions, mainly, how did it go so wrong?
On one hand women still have the old fashioned expectation of being the soft ones, the carers, the cleaners, the feeders… (I sorely lack at that last one.. cooking has never been a strong point) and yet within a lot of us is a desire to be self sufficient. Independent. Feisty. Strong. Some can manage this. They can incorporate everything within their personality and relationship and still be a likeable person. I can’t. I am more of a “fuck off I can do this by myself, can you help me?” type of gal.
I think the crux of the matter is that for me, and I presume countless others, we are brought up to believe by society that we need to find ‘the one’. Our soulmate. You are generally expected to procreate and then stay in a happy bubble until one of you drops off this mortal coil. However, I am perplexed as to why this idealistic (and is it even idealistic?) notion even exists. There is a recently a stronger voice for us women (and men) now which propels us towards the belief that all we really need is to love ourselves and only then can we find ‘true’ love with another. The concept that we are to be happy alone before we can really be happy with another. This isn’t a new concept by any means but it is one which is now presenting itself quite regularly via social media memes and is peddled in self help books and among support groups.
And it is here that I am presented with a huge, stumbling block. I am trying to do this. It makes sense. Don’t rely on another to make you happy. Go within. Love thyself.. all that jazz. The issue that this then seems to present to me is I don’t know how to combine that with getting close to another. I am very much all or nothing. For those that I have been with, this can present as a terrifying mix of nonchalance and Fatal Attraction. The ones that succumb to my charms probably have equally as many issues with their own self esteem and relationships, otherwise they would run a mile. Those that start walking backwards the moment they spot this are wise enough to know that I am anything but simple to be with. Minus the lover, I revert to being almost human again and I merrily skip along (think 3 month old lamb stage) without stumbling too often and you might even spot a little skip into the air. Bring in a new lover and cue the bleating.
I have actually got better in that I now at least recognise this. And I know where it stems from and the how’s and why’s.. but it doesn’t seem to make the actual transition from Normal(ish) Chloe to Lunatic Chloe any easier to bear. I don’t appear to know what normal behaviour is in a relationship. And is that purely an issue that I have or is it one that has been exacerbated and promoted by society? We are shown via film, TV, books etc that true love is all giddiness and butterflies. However when I look back, butterflies have always been teamed with anxiety. Anxiety that the one I have started to like, won’t call or like me back enough. The ‘can’t stop thinking about you’ feeling that we get in those early days, is that always healthy? We very willingly, cup our heart with both hands and hand it over to the other person and say, ‘there, you can have that’… and then wonder why, when they drop it or accidentally sit/shit on it that we fall apart and our confidence in love is crushed. So how do we find this elusive happy medium? Is it possible to have giddiness and a healthy relationship?
I am stumped. I can see myself being single forever because I can’t imagine having the self sufficiency I feel when I am alone and being able to feel that confident independence within a relationship. And so, with that, I am just going to the rescue centre to get another ten cats……(who are you calling mad cat lady?….🙄)
p.s. apologies for a probably crap piece of writing.. a compulsion to write and being too tired to think straight = the above 😉
If you are squeamish, don’t read on… and if you are a misogynist, don’t read on. I am going public with this erm… event… because I feel that as there is rather a large proportion of us out there that could be stuck in a similar situation, I would like to reach out and say. I know. I get it.
This morning, I drove merrily to work. It was very misty and as I crossed the Down’s I drove reasonably conservatively hoping I wouldn’t smash into a marauding sheep despite the arsehole behind me with their very shiny Mercedes badge practically inserted up my rear-end. I was in a good mood. Things were/are ok. They bump up and down a little like cargo on a ship.. sliding up one end before sliding back down to the other as they broach the waves.. but generally, all is good. I wondered at the sheep/sea smell that was in the Brightonian air as I crossed from one department to the other. And my happy go lucky state of mind continued until the moment I realised, as I sat on the lovely, almost new blue chairs in the training room, that something may happen to be amiss. I discreetly checked my crutch with my fingers and sure enough, there was wet. I peered as discreetly as I could, heart racing, and saw that I had bled through my tampon/knickers/jeans and onto the fabric chair. I quickly re-arranged my (bloody) arse so that I could work out what to do and how to do it, while the trainer continued to discuss ‘tasks’.
This was not a win-win situation. There was no passing Go and collecting £200. This was a Straight to Hell moment in my life. I looked at the male trainer and then around at the other four non-haemorrhaging women in the room. I waited until 5 minutes later when he called for break and I spoke up and said (a lot more bravely than I felt), “I am afraid I have a bit of a problem. I am er.. perimenopausal and er.. I thought it was over but it wasn’t and I have erm… bled. On the chair. There..’. I literally felt that I had to explain what stage I was in my reproductive life so that they would all realise that I wasn’t just some incompetent twat of a woman who couldn’t manage her periods. I burst into tears. The shame. The humiliation. I wished I had pissed on the chair by accident instead. At least you can wash urine out easily.
He was lovely and so were the women. They offered tissues and tampons whilst the trainer ran around finding spare sets of scrubs and debating with his manager about how I would finish the training. I sniffed pathetically and rubbed the blood away as much as I could with wipes meant for Covid. I said goodbye to the chair, knowing that it’s short life had ended too soon. There was no way that chair would be making another appearance.. blood doesn’t come out at the best of times and I don’t think that even if it did, it would ever live up to the rest of the other chairs. It’s a bit like a mafia goon who fucks up accidentally.. they don’t want to do it but the bosses will have to kill him.
After an agonising 20 minutes of losing all the millions of the pads and tampons that I actually did have on me (so that this wouldn’t happen) and then finding them again.. I left, head bowed and drove home.
My mood changed. I emailed my new boss and explained what happened. I arranged to miss the rest of the training tomorrow and shadow a colleague instead. I sat on my bed, freshly showered and felt shame. I felt anger at the shame. Anger at my body. Anger that I couldn’t just carry on with my day. Anger that I hadn’t realised I was bleeding. Anger that I am peri-menopausal. Anger that I haven’t yet had the hysterectomy that I have been waiting over a year for. Anger that the chair wasn’t plastic. Anger that I felt anger.
I spoke to my mum on the phone and my voice wobbled. The thing I am most angry about is that the fact that still, today, periods are a taboo. They are considered in the main, as dirty. I am ashamed that despite the fact I know they shouldn’t be viewed as that, I as a woman, still perpetuate that sentiment. If I saw someone else I would feel pity. Pity that they would feel that humiliation. Yet for myself, I just feel huge embarrassment. A failing.
I know with my rational head that the above isn’t true. However, my point in writing this is to drive the point home to both women and men out there, that this is the reality. We bleed. Sometimes we aren’t able to ‘manage’ our bleeding. It comes and starts when it wants to. It ebbs and it flows with abandon. For me it comes with iron deficiency, fatigue, sleeplessness and feeling cold. It comes 20 days out of 30. It comes with weariness and tears too.
What pains me is the effect it had on me today. The feeling of being less than (and costing the NHS a chair..)..
Hello 2021, you have 12 months that are yours. You own them. January to December. All yours. And there are A LOT of people expecting these 12 months to outshine the previous 12 that your counterpart 2020 appeared to completely fuck up. And let’s be honest, so far, it isn’t looking too good is it?
Trump has been getting all trumpity, C19 is mutating like a virus on speed, sandwiches are being turned away at EU borders and my cat got locked in the garden cabin resulting in a half done unicorn puzzle being shat and pissed on. One might say 2021… that you are going to seriously need to sort your shit out if we want to have anything left of the human population. As it stands, homelessness is rising exponentially, the NHS is now in need of its own oxygen mask and the Tories are killing off poorer children at lightening speed by not allowing them to eat anything other than mouldy bananas. In fact, let’s just say that the least you could do in the next 11.5 months is to incarcerate Trump and put Boris out to sea on a slowly deflating dinghy. With a webcam.
Despite this, things in my own life are pretty positive. I have a new job starting next month and I have a new boyfriend. Like a proper one. One who is funny. And creative. And kind. And doesn’t inject heroin.
Other than that, what else is there to say? The kids and I are all good. The youngest is watching inappropriate American sitcoms, the middle one has started growing a beardy moustachy sort of thing and the eldest and I bond over pinning the bearded moustachy one down and squeezing his adolescent black heads. He screams dramatically and we roar with laughter. It’s great.
Let’s be honest though folks, it is probably time we stopped trying to apportion blame to a year and instead look a little deeper inwards as to why the world is apparently going to shit. We can’t assassinate any world leaders but we can take account for our own actions that potentially directly or indirectly contribute to mass farming, jungle felling, world poverty and climate warming amongst genocide, gang warfare and child exploitation (I’ll stop there because there are too many to list). I am by no means a vegan eco warrior who fights for humanitarian causes but even I know that turning off lights, shopping in a charity shop vs Primark, avoiding palm oil or not buying battery farmed eggs are lesser evils. (Oh… and not voting in the Conservatives).
And with that… I’m going to see how long I can sit in the dark for.
In less than a week (6 days to be precise), it will mark a year since I caused a whole lot of pain. In an attempt to escape my own agony I simply added to it by causing a lot of hurt to those close to me. One thing that was said to me soon after I left hospital, was that by trying to escape my own pain, I was just passing it to my children to deal with. That comment struck home and has stayed with me since. Hindsight is a wonderful thing eh?
Leaving the house early in morning, as my breath billows out in puffs of steam before me, I trudge to the car and like a slap in the face, the ghosts of Xmas past flood into my brain. They are shit ghosts, they taunt. A song on Spotify; the cold on my face; the drive to work in the dark; walking into the toilets at work; hearing the beeps of the machines in Resus; memories of the cold, trolley mattress under my head as I came around and the concerned words of the doctor I knew asking me what happened, why did I do it?
So little has changed since then and yet so much. There is a solidity. I am still a mother to 3; a nurse; having financial issues; insecurities etc but I now have a foundation that stops me from running. I don’t need to fuel my own ego by trying to save a person who doesn’t recognise who I am, let alone really love or want me. I don’t berate myself for the mistakes I have made and make. Slowly, those little messages I have been sending out for 44 years have started to change. They no longer spell so much neediness, anger, pain. I have, finally, managed to grow a little plant of esteem from within.. it uncoils and unfurls from my base and its tendrils are finding their way to every part of my being. The roots grounding me into the earth and into the universe.
The journey doesn’t stop here. Daily I am reminded of just how much a dickhead I can still be. Ego and fear are such a large part of my psyche but I am learning to accept them and in that, they are slowly taming down like flames of a fire dying.
This is our Christmas. Presents are stacked under the beautiful tree that we chose last week. A most ridiculous enterprise involving all sorts of inappropriate puns. The kids have told me how festive and christmassy it feels here. I have been planning with Mia what to cook on Xmas day and I have been given the day off by my manager due to last year. I have the most, fucking wonderful, second chance to have a proper Xmas with my beautiful, funny children. I feel guilt daily at how close I was to ruining their lives in order to save myself from pain but I don’t, I can’t regret it. Because without having reached such a dark place, I couldn’t have arrived here. Now.
My three children have been inordinately brave. I fear for the damage that has been caused but I can only hope that through the events of Xmas 2019, I have put a stop to the ongoing years of destruction that could have been caused and instead, I can grow with them.