I have been found out. Yep, no longer able to hide behind functioning alcoholic… now just alcoholic. Intervention has been staged and I rattle inside my house as my mess is mopped up behind me. The MO’s birthday ruined by the dry retching he can hear and the tears that steadily fall. The kids still here but being looked after by a ‘sound’ adult. A GP review has confirmed I need help and I await to self refer on Monday to a local organisation. I can’t face an AA meeting tonight. Maybe tomorrow. I tried to discharge the brakes as I landed but they wouldn’t budge. The final blackout too much for my fragile mind to contend with. Like sailors on the dockside, watching their boat submerge “she’s going under chaps! She’s going under!”, my brain cells giving way. I can’t speak these words. Only write them. I can’t stop the tremors or quieten the heart but somewhere, in between those clouds, a glint of light catches my eye. This is my rock bottom. I have found it at last.
Today has been the first time that I have ever had the slightest inkling of what it is to experience Christmas when you don’t want it. When you aren’t ready for it and when it doesn’t fit.
There is a strange atmosphere in the house. Just me and the boys trying to be festive. The EO has been granted the freedom of staying somewhere light and airy until I collect her tomorrow (Xmas day). The feeling of guilt precipitates the urge for annihilation but is controlled by the frontal cortex. Most of the time. I wonder what mess I would be in if I was on my own this evening. To what lengths would I attempt to block out the screams?
I count the previous years when Xmas managed to fit. Sometimes a bit baggy or maybe on the toight side.. but fitting nonetheless. This year, it’s like it hasn’t even been sewn together.. the sides flap in the emptiness.
Now in London, it’s Boxing Day. I have spent some glorious time with my very funny younger brothers.. reducing me and the EO to squealing “Stop it! We have weak pelvic floors!”. Even watching Hereditary failed to scare, the constant narration in the room wondering why the 16 year old son looked like he was an adopted 30 year old instead. The most amazing food cooked by my stepdad.. I managed to forget my Shit Vegetarian status once more.
I drink, knowing it will be noted but not stopped. My stepfather quietly lets the reins drop – he never uses them – we both know that will need to change sooner rather than later. For my children’s sake, for the sake of my degree, for the sake of my sanity.
The anxiety still bubbling away like a pan on simmer. As the boys and I leave late to go to their friend’s annual Xmas day party, I feel the panic and wonder if I will have to leave. Instead I was greeted with such enthusiasm from their school hood friends, some of whom referred to me as the Illusive Sister. Getting back after 6am probably sums up how much fun it was. Discussing so many topics from North Pole marine conservation to how not to fall for inappropriate people with another girl, 10 years junior.. who is entering the similar whirlwind that I am untangling my battered emotions from . And now? Still crying. Happy that I could forget just for a short time, how raw and vulnerable I am but now the hangover adds to the agony. But I might just get to a meeting tonight. Sobriety, I hope will be less illusive than me.
And tomorrow as I drive home, maybe the longing to drive into a wall will be less demanding.
Its been a funny old day. A lot of ruminating to be done, which to be honest is pretty difficult as you are running around on a poorly staffed ward full of patients that are anxious, in pain and some with a little bit of dementia thrown in. At one point we ran out of commodes and that is never likely to be a good situation to be in, surely?
I haven’t had all that much time to think about the fact that it is our 8 year wedding anniversary today and I appear to have lost my husband by the wayside. I didn’t expect to be a single mother again either but with the addition of two more children. Our LO was adamant he wasn’t staying with me last night. After two nights at his father’s he was determined to stay every night with him. But eat at mine. (Possibly not such a good idea, as his father is a trained chef and I clearly, am not). He clung on to his dad who tried and failed to extricate himself. The horror reflected in our eyes at the screams and tears. Eventually I managed to stop him from following out of the front door but instead he tried to launch himself out of the front room window. I held him as he pushed and pulled away from me. Eventually he flung his little tear stained arms around me and buried his head into my neck, sobbing. the MO went out into the garden unable to cope and the EO fled upstairs, enveloped in her own PMT misery and anger at life. Tears silently fell down my cheeks as I told the LO that I knew, I understood and I was sorry.
Being sober has been my main weapon – I feel like a somewhat fatter and less fit Xena – belly bulging under my breast plates – wielding a shield purposefully. Being sober has been a godsend. An unknown strength has manifested inside and whilst I wobble from time to time, as some of the reality ekes out like a poison, I seem to have focus. My heart aches and I feel winded – how can I be without my best friend; my soul mate? – yet I somehow put one foot in front of the other.. and keep walking.
The time has come where I admit my brain has recently developed an updated malfunction error code. It can’t get past the start up mode. Instead of number and letters, I have compulsive and obsessive thoughts flashing by like some sort of sodding space storm. As a self-medicator I knew that not drinking would threw up some delightful debris but feeling compelled to do five things simultaneously constantly, whilst snapping at everyone in my family or bursting into tears combined with the inability to stop picking at every inch of my face or scalp, was not something I had bargained on. Yep, it feels that bad.
Fortunately (unfortunately?), it doesn’t look that bad to the outsider.. I can chat, laugh and function. However the cracks are starting to show. I have had to leave social events early or avoided doing things with friends because I can’t stop the chatter in my mind. I feel that unless I am constantly engaged in something, then I need to be on my own. I am unable to focus when watching TV shows so now it is only films or really good documentaries that I can sit still enough to enjoy. The good thing is that reading a book is my lifeline, even if I do have a bad habit of skimming the page before being able to read it properly. And I constantly forget who new characters are.
As I look back historically I have realised that this behaviour has always been there but it has been masked by alcohol. When people visit, I find it difficult to sit down and relax – unless I am pissed. When camping, I struggle to sit down because I can always find something to tidy and I remember when I went to Thailand in my early 20s, nearly having a melt-down because everyone was relaxing in hammocks – I couldn’t cope with the lack of stimulation. I thought that ditching nightly glasses of wine would mean I would be able to concentrate more, have less low moments and the Shitty Guilt Fairy would fuck off. Apparently, she is still knocking about.. only she doesn’t harp on about wine any more… just about my general level of shitness.
I think back to being a teenager and telling my mum that everything was going too fast.. my thoughts and my actions.. they were on a motor.. I used to have to turn the tap on to quieten it all down. Slowly I can piece it together.. the hours of crying when I was in my teens? I was bored. I couldn’t self-soothe, until I opened another can of cider.
I have mentioned before that I have been accused of a penchant for drama and more recently how I never stop.. that there is always a new project to undertake, be it diy/a new hobby/getting an animal.. I see the similarity between my MO and I. I see the despair when he is thwarted and how it is mirrored in my own behaviour.
The last four months, the irritability has worsened. The concentration levels are plummeting and I can’t find my off switch. My highs and lows feel even more pronounced; worry and guilt have taken top spot. So I have accepted I need more help, not just for me but to benefit my relationships too and also to ensure I don’t fall off the nursing degree wagon.
I have been to the GP, she will write a letter of confirming my ‘long term condition’ (ironic that we are doing that particular module at the moment 😉 ) to my uni so that I can buy more time for my essays and I can get a learning support plan in place.
Writing this isn’t easy. It’s not a cry for help (already done that at the doctors 🙂 ) – I am not heading towards an abyss but I am slipping and one of the most important things when you have somewhat sketchy mental health, is to recognise it. This post also has a purpose; to highlight that even those who appear to be doing ok, or maybe are just a bit eccentric, or neurotic.. they sometimes have an illness. A real bonafide illness. Mine was (unbeknownst to me) labelled by medics as a borderline personality disorder, (now known as an emotionally unstable personality disorder…how rude) – back in 2003 – combined with anxiety and a history of depression – these can cross over with attention deficit hyperactive disorders too.. which could explain a lot of things. Little did I know when looking at behavioural symptoms our MO was having, that on the adult ADHD screening sheet, I would resonate with the vast majority of them.
It’s difficult for my lovely family and wonderful friends and I love them so, so much for sticking with my highs and lows. My unpredictability. My new obsessions. I used to hate what I perceived to be judging comments but now I have begun to realise that unless you are in my brain (and thank the bejeezus you ain’t), you wouldn’t understand. So now I try and recognise their opinions for what they are; they come from a place of love and most probably, a place of innate frustration! As a parent of a child who is exhibiting these very same characteristics (if I have to listen to him harp on about fucking Joella one more time, I will explode); I now understand how draining it can be trying to support someone like him. And like me.
In the main I try and hide the majority of my ‘quirks’.. when I am really struggling I build my wall and camp down behind it until they subside, so that no-one sees how bad I am getting. For my husband and children though, they aren’t so lucky.. they are generally also stuck behind the wall with me.
I’m feeling lacklustre. There are plenty of valid reasons why this might be but equally there are just as many that should be reminding me of how privileged I am..
However, I feel like an inflatable pool toy – one that is deflating slowly despite all the joy around it, splashing away.
I think I know the cause of it.. if I picture it like a missile that has crashed into the pool toy.. but like a really tiny, tiny missile.. and then.. the shrapnel is the other causes?.. Right! Here I have it! So this is what happened……
There was once a shiny (bit drab), happy (reasonably cheerful at times) pool toy bobbing around amidst the screams and ‘yahoos’ of the pool people.. and quite often the toy would get submerged but would always eventually bob back up to the surface. Then one day a (tiny) missile struck and pierced the pool toy and very slowly it began to deflate.. the missile was caused Abstinence and could be a bugger. The Abstinence had hurt the pool toy and made resurfacing a little bit harder for it. The Abstinence was helped by pieces of shrapnel that were called AnotherHeavyPeriod, BulliedDaughter, TooMuchToDoGenerally, NursingDegree and MentalShit. So despite the current heatwave affecting the pool’s locality and the fact that really life in the pool was by many standards, pretty fecking awesome.. the inflatable pool toy started to sag and take on water. The End.
So basically the crux of all of this is that it is a wonderfully warm and sunny day and I would normally be doing everything that I am currently doing but would be doing it with a glass of beer/cider/G&T/fizz in my hand. This is unchartered territory, this not drinking in the sun malarkey.
For those that aren’t UK based, the Brits don’t see the sun very often. Not proper blue sky sun with heat. So what we like to do is use alcohol to celebrate it. In beer gardens, or with bbqs on the beach, or sitting in our gardens attempting to do stuff that slowly gets forgotten (the more we drink). It is unfortunately just part of our culture and like a fish trying to swim up stream, I am abstaining, albeit ungracefully.
By moderating alcohol, I haven’t yet got to the point of feeling completely 100% happy as a non-drinker. People who I have spoken to who are completely alcohol free say that eventually the restlessness lessens and the more comfortable you are with your sobriety, whatever the situation. I feel like I don’t know how to be if I spend time with drinking friends. I am frightened of losing my spark and being bored and boring if I go out with my husband. I feel like pressure is put on my relationships as I continue to look in at myself, like a kaleidoscope the image morphs again and again. The scariest part, not knowing where the journey is taking me and who will still be with me as I tentatively pick my way on stepping stones through the coursing stream.
The pieces of shrapnel have definitely taken their toll these last few days but I guess accepting things for what they are, taking some deep breaths and not giving in, will prepare me for (some sort of) success!
I did it! I bloody well did it! I have eaten tofu and lived. I didn’t actually know that it was possible to almost (note the ‘almost’) like the damn, weird, curdy bean.. beany curd… stuff…
The featured photo is indeed featuring an entirely plant based lunch. AND I am drinking soya milk in tea now.. like all the time. We’ll conveniently forget the cheese pizza we had last weekend because I just can’t do pizza without cheese and right now I am not ready to forgo the lot. So, I’m proud to present myself as an almost-teetotal-nearly-vegan. I reckon it’s got a ring to it.
I have definitely skipped a lot today… mentally and physically. I am very pleased with my efforts to embarrass the MO at the docs as he needed his trillionth skin issue sorted out (he must have weak skin). We sat for far too long in the same spot and that’s when I began to fidget.. we both realised that we weren’t going to be leaving before I had done some damage, although maybe telling the doctor that once he had to sit on a cushion because the boil on his bum was sooo sore, was a little too far. To be honest, he usually proudly carries said cushion around with him but maybe it was all a bit too early in the morning.. and yes, constantly holding his fringe back so that the GP could actually see his face, was probably irritating but I like to think I made my point. And maybe reading the sight test card thing, with my head upside down, wasn’t necessary but I was getting bored.
After that I skippity skipped – ok, drove – to the gym where I tried to suck my belly in whilst using the bike machine and nearly passed out as a result. Lots of young, fit and nubile people walked past and I tried not to dribblglare, meanwhile repeatedly forgetting that bouncing one’s head to the drum ‘n bass playing in my earphones was probably very un-cool. It is however, imperative.
I then returned via Tesco to home, where I am now sitting at the dining table which needs tidying (as does everywhere), writing this and not sitting in the garden office planning my next assignment.
The very, despite invisible, point to this post is to say, that one can come out of the other side of the doldrums.. even when nothing essentially has changed. Maybe it’s the sun. Maybe it’s self-love (not masturbation, just to clarify).. maybe its listening to my instinct.. who knows but today is a good day.
The tension mounts but the pressure drops and the sky darkens. Gusts blow post-winter debris along the ground and birds stop singing. I know that from somewhere deep within I am going to blow. Where’s my blue sky?? Where’s my fucking blue sky?! I am stuck in dark clouds, they are everywhere. Under my feet, above my head, they are suffocating. As the heart rate quickens, the tears prick the eyes and I feel caged within my own mind. I can’t penetrate the bubble that everyone else is in, the laughter so loud, so shrill. I can’t laugh. I don’t know how to laugh. What happened? How did this suddenly arise? At what point? Which comment? Which thought? And like a train bound to crash, I know I can’t get off. I grab at a passing reason. No, not that one.. that one doesn’t fit.. that’s not why.. what about that one? No, although it might be plausible than the other. Is it hormonal? Is it overwhelm? Am I tired? I feel anxiety and anger, I feel resentment, I feel fear..and at the same time I feel numb.
At this point I would reach for a drink. Drink through it… ‘just keep drinking, just keep drinking’; not sure Dory would approve. The paranoia continues to mount like some determined mountaineer. ‘Take a break’, I whisper, ‘take a fucking break’.. ‘Oh no young Chloe, no breaks for me.. we’re on a roll!!.. We are going to reach the peak!’. I don’t have the energy for the peak. Not enough sustenance inside of me, I didn’t pack enough protein bars. I panic, I run home and I hide.
These moments punctuate my life in fits and starts. Hard for anyone to understand, including me. I know from past experience though that this is my ‘me’ talking. This is gut instinct yelling at me that something is wrong. That I am not listening. I think I know but I don’t want to hear it. It used to be come-downs from alcohol, or not getting enough sleep, or pride, or ego. So how do I know what it is this time? Which me do I trust?
The more I strip back, the more I face, the more raw and vulnerable I feel. The problem with not self medicating like I used to, is that now I have to face all the Chloe’s in one. And that is no mean feat. I want to line them all up and remove the ones I don’t like. Slowly, I hope to merge the others I do like into just one. Like bits of mismatched play doh… all the same substance but different colours… moulding them together. Making a version of me that I love and am happy with so that in time, others can be happy with me too.