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?
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..)..
It’s been a fair while since I last wrote. This evening as I got ready for bed, the itch appeared and I realised that it was time to get my thoughts down. Update my (few) readers as to where I am on this, somewhat mental, journey I am on.
Tomorrow marks 9 months without a drink. The times I struggle is when I want to settle down and watch something in the evening. Especially after a shift at work. Or at the weekend, just to have something demarcate from the usual working weekday. I have set myself the challenge of not drinking until I have done a year. I shall explain my thought process..
I haven’t been to a meeting with the support group that I was part of for over a month. I have struggled for over 20 years to understand the ethos behind the workings of the program and as I am not able to talk in any detail because of it’s acclaimed anonymity, suffice to say there are a few, rather major principles that I can’t get past.
Whilst I was in the treatment centre, living and breathing recovery and the 12 step program – it felt like I was agreeing to things that I didn’t have the power to argue against. And this is exactly what is expected – admitting that you are powerless. Which is fairly easy when you have just devastated your life and loved ones by taking an overdose. I will never, ever forget the amazing support from the treatment centres I went to. It is through their care, understanding and expertise that I am able to sit here and type this, feeling more centred than I have ever done in my life. But.. and it’s probably a rather large ‘but’, the ever-gnawing feeling that I wouldn’t stay with the program became more and more acid-inducing and eventually I had to be honest that I couldn’t (and possibly more importantly, wouldn’t) pretend to myself or others any longer that I was willing to think/behave in a certain way that didn’t resonate with my views.
I have had nothing but love from peers and friends who are also in recovery, although I do wonder if there are wagers being put on how long it is before I am back knocking on the proverbial door, begging for mercy and help. Maybe, I will but for the time being I am sticking to what feels right for me.
I don’t believe that addiction/alcholism is a disease. The definition of disease does not fit as it does other diseases; cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinsons for example. Interestingly research has shown that alcoholism was named a disease by an American organisation, thereby helping the validation of insurance claims for treatment centres. Which, by the way, are an enormous money spinner in the USA. I would (and could) link the research to this post but if you just type in ‘is alcohol really a disease’ into Google, then you will get the same results as I did. If I still had access to my university research databases then I could probably come up with all sorts of data… but I don’t. And quite frankly, as I am trying to simply my life at the moment that is probably quite a good thing! Equally the figures for relapsers are high. Addiciton/alcoholism has a poor prognosis and that is even with treatment centres and the program.
My idea is that I will protect my mental health. If I am feeling centred and at peace, once Xmas comes, I will probably have a few glasses of wine. I also know that I hate hangovers and anxiety with a passion and if I drink too much then I will have both of those. And if I am honest, it is those two factors that keep me away from drinking. More than the horror stories; more than the looking back at past experiences where I have been an arse.
My life now revolves around the children, work and my mental health. I have so much more insight and knowledge now after months of therapy regarding the factors that have contributed to my (poor) coping mechanisms. My ‘addiction’ is craving love. Especially from those who are emotionally unavailable. Now I know that, I am concentrating solely on the most unavailable person I have tried to get that love from.
At which point did the majority of the world forget that it is both the moon and sun that harness the tide, nurture our crops.. or hell, let’s really throw it out there… keep us alive? How far removed have we become that we no longer hold either of these big, fuck off balls of energy with the revere they deserve?
It’s not like this is a new concept to me. The corona virus lockdown hasn’t suddenly given me some sort of existential breakdown (that was alcohol), but it has given me the time to really ponder what the fuck us humans are all about.
Last night I did my first ever New Moon ritual of writing my intentions for this month and then burning them whilst I had a detox bath. It was cathartic and wet.
It didn’t quite give me the unbroken, restful nights sleep I had been hoping for and when I woke up before 5 this morning I decided to walk to the beach so I could see the sunrise. It must be one of the first times I have done this when it hasn’t been post-clubbing and I can assure you, sober sunrise watching is a lot less messy. And to be honest I’m pretty mental anyway so I still have the capacity to wonder why we don’t have obese birds flying and if we did, would they fly much slower and actually, don’t birds fly quite fast considering? Then I start imagining having a race with a bird and then laughing at how they slow down and land but reminding myself that I can’t actually fly (despite my dreams telling me otherwise) so I should just shut up with my judgementalness. This reminds me of the time I did try and fly. My eldest was only a baby and I had had a very vivid dream that I could fly and if I only flapped my arms down hard enough it would work when I was awake. Needless to say, it didn’t.
It’s time for me to head back home now. ‘Other’ people have started to appear. Yuck.
So at the end my last post I alluded to a more sincere post about how I communicate with my higher power(s). I’m feeling (a little) less silly tonight so shall endeavour to explain.
I have always believed in some sort of higher power, I flirted with Christianity for about a month when I was 8 or something and was given a little book of prayers for children. It never called to me. I liked the idea of the angels but there didn’t appear to be room for fairies. Or ghosts. And I liked them more than sitting in church on the odd occasion I was taken. My church I suppose was my grandmother’s garden. I would spend hours playing there, it was quite magical with a rose garden and apple trees I could climb. A swing that could give me splinters and a hammock with spiders. Or if I were in Wales for a holiday, staying with family, I would wake hours before everyone else and just go for a walk in the lanes and across fields, sometimes accompanied by one of their cats, Bramble. I would moo at the cows and baa at the sheep (something I still do regularly) and talk away to the horses that I came across. Collecting the odd leaf, stick or stone along the way. I loved the country and I still do. I yearn for the trees and hedgerow, for the sounds of the animals and the telling of the seasons. Maybe having been in my mother’s womb as she tended to her farm’s livestock has left the imprint or maybe, like all animals, it is just simply in my blood.
Equally I adore the sea. The rise and fall of the waves as the tide flows in and out. The promise of dolphins not too far away, the shells that adorn the beach and the reminder that we are so very, very small in relation to the rest of the Earth.
So when I think of my higher power. I think of the magic in the trees, the fairies that reside with the dragonflies over the streams, the changing of seasons reflecting where we are in the year. I think of Mother Nature. I think of life and death. Birth and rebirth. I think of the moon and the sun.
For me, science and magic are entwined. There are enough happenings in the universe that we simply cannot explain (yet) and for that I am thankful. When I am feeling lost (which can be quite often), I find solace in knowing that I am just part of a matrix of energy. And now I am finding I have the time to dedicate to re-establising a connection with my higher power, with the Mother Goddess.
This post may seem clumsy, I feel like a toddler taking her first steps. In some ways I already know the path but I can’t quite seem to find my balance yet.