In the dark of the moon.

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.

Say Goodbye to the Chair.

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..)..

60 Days..

It’s 00:12 and I am officially 60 days sober. Probably the longest time without having ingested an alcoholic drink since I started drinking at the age of 13. That’s 30 years of cultivating an addiction to a substance that both cocooned me in its nectar yet created the opportunities for blackouts, sexual assaults, lying, cheating and putting myself in stupidly dangerous situations.

These 60 days represent a pivotal turning point in my life. I feel a bit like the battered daffodils across the way from my window – still just about standing despite the efforts of Ciara and Dennis. We sit in therapy and what can start out as a jovial session with one of us believing that we have achieved something or regaling a past deed, can often end in anger, shame and (in my case) tears. The counsellors picking apart our words and with an invisible highlighter reveal the manipulation and denial in our stories.

I don’t know who I am. I am not sure what my opinions are on anything anymore. The never-ending layers of an onion being stripped away day by day and the constant weariness at the intensity of the sessions leaves us exhausted. With it however, there comes a lightness and a distinct lack of pretence. I can admit to it all as it arises.

This evening, after I had a bath with my battery lit candles and finished some written work, I attempted to play darts. Bolstered by not being the only female in the house, the new girl (who happens to be particularly good at the game), tried to improve my technique which resulted in my finally getting the sodding dart in the right place, despite at least 2 minutes of not having a clue about what she was talking about.

I am tired and hoping that I can finally manage to sleep through the night and not wake up with a mind like a washing machine as I do usually.

Excuse the poorly written post, my batteries are on empty…

Leaky Vessel

Sitting in my room on my bed in between lunch and a workshop. Reflecting on a) how much I cry and b) how I might be able to pull a sudden sickie and be excused from another excruciating hour of ‘let’s pull the addicts apart and bare their souls until they howl for mercy’.

Yes I am feeling a little dramatic and if I were a cat (which alas I am not.. I have never seen an alcoholic cat before so can safely assume I wouldn’t need to be in a rehab if I were one..), I would be painstakingly licking my fur so that every strand of hair was laying in the correct direction and then would sprawl out and knead my claws into the soft blanket under which I am currently hiding. Right now, being a cat would be the ultimate solution for my weary brain that has had enough of the constant barrage of therapy.

The thing is that I am fully aware that out of this pain comes growth. It’s just it hurts so fucking much. I struggle to sleep when I go to bed and then can’t wake up in the morning. My first thoughts as I stir are muted and fuzzy but within seconds negativity bombards the mind, like shots being fired from a gun. The idea is that I pray first thing and meditate. Unfortunately the fatigue is crippling first thing and I struggle to get down to the kitchen to make a cup of tea let alone pray to my higher power. Ideally I would pray to my higher power whilst simultaneously receiving a cup of tea but I feel that asking for tea and serenity might be pushing it.

Relationships throughout my life are fast becoming an obvious issue and I witness from my mind’s sidelines how I play out my role in relationships now. In fact I almost feel like I have just been thrown back to being a young child and I am having to relearn how to be a friend, a daughter, a sister as well as a mother. And god knows what hell being in a relationship now would manifest. Almost 6 weeks in and I have realised that not one of my past relationships have been healthy. Blood red ‘Codependence’ is stamped condemningly on each one, as I file them into the ‘LOVE – archived’ cabinet drawer.

With shocking clarity as I sat on a bus coming back from the Portobello market, I realised that each time I envisioned being with a partner, I was looking for someone who had the same values with a shared sense of humour, who liked the same things, adored animals, listened to the same music.. In fact, I was looking for me. I don’t actually need anyone else to fulfil me or make me whole.. I have already found that person. It is me. I have everything I need and now I just need to love her. The tears that threaten to drown me also come from the stark realisation that there is no person alive who can save the little girl who resides within, that critical time has passed. The loneliness and fear that stemmed from instances of neglect needed to be addressed between the ages of 0 – 16. They simply cannot be fixed now by anything external. That boat has most definitely sailed. Love, material objects, new hair styles or multiple piercings and tattoos.. it is time to accept that they are nice-to-haves. The only way that this vessel can be repaired is via a self-care manual that incorporates the instructions to fixing one’s container so that it is supportive, can bear rough seas and doesn’t leak. And to do this I assume I need to do a bit of work on self-love, self-care and self-esteem.

Through drawing and painting, meditating, writing and (my latest addiction) collecting house plants, I endeavour to create a safe space whilst I am here. My essential oil diffuser puffs out therapeutic steam whilst changing colour and the salt lamp exudes a warm glow. Fuck knows what the cluster of healing crystals are actually doing by my bedside but I do seem to think that shoving a different one down my bra each day may help with something. I’ll keep you posted on that one.

The Ebb and Flow of Petals and Thorns

It has been quite some time since I last posted. About a year. In some ways life has changed dramatically, in essence, however, it has remained the same. Fault lines that run through my soul, emitting warning tones that increase with frequency and intensity. Now at least I am in a position to address them despite the change in circumstances.

I look out of the window and see council flats. I’m sitting in the TV room in a treatment centre in South East England. The place is both alien and familiar.

Almost 7 weeks ago I took an overdose and thereby, inadvertently threw myself off of the train that I had unwittingly boarded years ago. The train that was speeding through events and problems on a loop, going back over and over again on itself with me at the helm, unable to apply the breaks or take a different route. The only way that seemed possible to disembark was to derail the train. And that is what I did.

And the landing was hard. I woke up on the hospital trolley and felt immediate humiliation and shame at my failed attempt. The guilt at the pain I had caused rose like the water in an empty sinking vessel and indeed, that is how I felt. Empty. Devoid of anything substantial other than the knowledge that I had fucked even this up.

Within a couple of days I was in a private local rehab centre trying to come to terms with the damage I had caused to those close to me; to my position as a newly qualified nurse; to my life as I knew it. The admission that I was a functioning alcoholic who had wrapped herself in denial rather than admit defeat and hold her hands up to the unmanageability of her life. It stung. A million wasps stings attacking mind and heart; my core was squirming and withering whilst I tried to think my way out of the shit storm I had created.

Now, a month and a half later, the pain is still there. As my various masks get stripped off via the counsellors, like a steady swell, the tears rise up and then fall away. There are small steps forward followed almost immediately by a trip and stumble backwards. My love for another alcoholic and addict still burning despite the the hoses of water trained on it from so many different sources; family, friends, therapists, peers and myself. Knowing that my self worth must overcome the agony of rejection and loss which follows the declarations of love, the lying and manipulation. Knowing that despite the rosy future I had imagined, the reality as it stands was likely to be more thorns than petals.

Photo by Jack Hawley on Pexels.com

The laughter in here though, is infectious. The residents move in and out depending on their treatment time and whether or not they relapse. We currently are ten men and two women. The amounts of times I have squealed and had to immediately cross my legs whilst hopping about in fits of laughter are unquantifiable. The different personalities in the house emerge as time allows and there is a general feel of camaraderie. Although this can be upset by the arrival of someone new or the departure of a well-liked housemate… or the failing of a house member at their ‘therapeutic duty’ *… Actually, poorly thought out meals (i.e. anything meatless it appears) are a proper recipe for disaster and spark a flurry of outings to the local fried chicken shop.

All in all though, I feel that I am in a good place despite the unease at knowing what I have to face combined with the aching and longing to be with my children. Another 7 weeks to go and I am in no doubt that I need to grasp the ethos of recovery with both hands and absorb everything if I am to have a fighting chance at both sobriety and being the best mother I can be.

*Therapeutic duty – basically a cleaning or shopping chore.

Fragility

Like an icicle melded to a branch, as the heat rises the tell-tale shadow of a hairline crack snakes its way through. It drips.

I drive to work, empty. Even the sound of the radio would be too coarse, too damaging to my heart. It contracts, not just as a means to an end but with pain. He can’t help himself. He is young. He ssss-stammers his anger out, he literally writhes with his emotional angst because no-one can understand his grief. He is incensed that he is questioned, that he has been denied. His small, lithe body squirming as he screams vitriol. My heart hammering, blood pounding in my ears as I try and control the torrent that courses through my veins. I cajole, I threaten, I comfort, I cry. Nothing changes the pattern. It is on repeat. It drips.

Letters and emails, phone-calls and a million conversations. Should have dones, would have dones, a zillion recriminations. Nothing changes.

I stroke his head as he sobs himself to sleep. I place my hands on his head and back, willing energy to pass through. I need to heal him. For him. For me. For everyone. It drips.

I arrive at work. I brace myself for the day ahead. It must have got colder because the icicle has stopped melting. The threatening minuscule divide has ceased to explore further. But I remember, nothing changes.