Building Bridges

Last night I decided to do Lazy Studying which basically involves lying on one’s back reading relevant literature to one’s dissertation and then watching TED talks followed by YouTube videos on the topic of choice.

My dissertation, as mentioned previously, is on domestic abuse and its identification within A&E departments in the UK. The next video uploading last night was on narcissism and how to recognise it. Hmmm.. I thought, interesting…. (in light of my last – and final – dalliance with ‘romance’, outside of my marriage). As I watched and listened to further more accounts of narcissistic behaviour, which involves manipulating, controlling, demeaning, coercing etc.. I realised that this was something that I had encountered more times in relationships than I had realised.

First instance was as a 13/14 year old going out with an 18 year year old who stole motorbikes, did drugs, lived in the most horrendous squat-like residence (even though it was actually owned by his father) and loved to taunt me about his past girlfriends being far better in the sack than I. He also set his dad’s dog on me once. Admittedly it was only a Jack Russell but it had teeth and was aggressive. I sat cowering on top of a set of drawers crying, while he and our ‘friends’ fell about laughing. He also had an affair with my supposed mate from school and left love letters to and from her that I would find. He even got me to pick up a letter from the post office and then proceeded to read it out to me – from the ex apparently – although I now have my suspicions that in fact a lot of these instances were fantasy and game playing to undermine my already shattered sense of self. After six months I woke up to the fact that he was a dickhead and stopped seeing him. (Note: I was a wilful teenager and whilst my mother did attempt to stop me seeing him – it didn’t work). Then proceeded years of intermittent stalking, silent calls and even fairly recently, a friend request on FB.

The next narcissist gave me quite a strong hint on the first night we went out – he told me my hair smelt disgusting as we stood on the escalator on the tube. To be fair I hadn’t washed it that day but still. Rude. He would regularly get drunk and tell me that he didn’t need to meet or see my friends as he had enough and didn’t like mine anyway. He was 39 and I was 23.. there were regular put downs and the final straw came when he stayed at my flat while I was at work and inadvertently folded my two cats into the sofa bed. They lived, the relationship didn’t.

The third lovely fella is someone I have had to remain in contact with for a long time due to the child we produced together. But along the same lines as above.. I left him after a year and a half. There were many instances of control and manipulation but my main memories are of being told to dress and behave more like a lady and to straighten my hair so it didn’t have ‘fizz’ and that it was ok if he mistakenly stayed out (repeatedly) until 6am after going out for a pack of cigarettes 12 hours earlier..

gray bridge and trees
Photo by Martin Damboldt on Pexels.com

but if I planned a night away at a friends then I was deserting him.

The final guy I have spoken about previously.

Interestingly, I don’t generally believe that I am pushover. I am pretty feisty and independent and certainly with the last 3 men, they were presented with that version of me on the first meeting. So I wonder if the challenge of being able to reign those characteristics in, is what appeals? Equally do I need to admit responsibility in thinking that I can somehow change their personalities too? Each of them were troubled and had experienced difficult upbringings, so did I too think it was a challenge? Did I want to temper them down? Or instead is it some perverse longing to  feel secure and in the absence of a father, fathered? There are many theories out there I am sure but this reflective process has left me very much grateful that I can see my own manipulative traits and desire to control through my own perceived omnipotence.

Mr P and I are building bridges, hopefully out of slightly more sturdier materials. As a result of this painful intermission, we appear to be able to look at each other in a new light; with more acceptance, understanding and hopefully, tolerance.

 

Bird Bath

So by far the nicest thing that has happened to me today occurred an hour or so ago. I, (very excitedly) decided that I was going to, not only have a bath but I was going to have a bath bomb in it and some 0% pink fizz to drink (Friexenet 0.0% – really lovely), with M&Ms in the light of a candle and then… wait for it…. I watched Bird Box in the bath! 

Now for some, maybe this isn’t quite the rollercoaster ride you expect to either experience or hear from me… but if I am brutally honest.. it was so fucking nice that I can’t wait to do it again. In fact, if I wasn’t so bloody clean, I would go and do it again. I even used a Xmas gift of a body scrub from the EO. There was a bit of writhing in the water as I realised that it’s difficult to hide during scary bits when you are in the bath.. well at least not without deluging the whole sodding bathroom.. I forget that as a (slightly overweight) adult.. one quick move in the bath is like creating one’s own miniature fecking tsunami but aside from that.. not one M&M was dropped and the laptop didn’t explode from steam exposure.

I bounded out like an eager and overexcited puppy… declaring to the EO that I had such ‘ A LOVELY bath’ and then told her how many of her Xmas gifts I had used, so that she thought I was extra-amazing. She lounged on her bed, her phone practically stuck to her cheek in case it dared to leave her sight and I decided due to one’s amazingness that she ought to give me a back scratch so that she could earn having my presence in her room. Bramble (small witch kitten) lying on the wicker chair in the corner, opened an eye and looked at me with a really horrid expression. Like pure evil, she glared (with the one eye) as if to say ‘pathetic human, I don’t have to do any amateur dramatics to get massages and back scratches.. I simply exist’. I foresee another accidental kick off the bed tonight.

Other than that, today has been a good day. I paid an exorbitant amount to have the car cleaned badly, spent more than I would on alcohol on alcohol-free-pretend-alcohol so that I could pretend I was still drinking alcohol; did some boring HouseShit and caught up with one of my besties. I even printed ‘things’ for my leadership exam.. and put them in piles and then moved them about.. and did an impression of studying.

Who knows what excitement tomorrow could bring? (Well, I do actually, a 5 year old’s birthday party.. There is NO stopping me!)

 

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 Inflatable Pool Toy

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.

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!

 

 

 

Where am I?

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.

Long, dull evenings..

I drank on Monday evening. I kid myself that I ‘like’ the taste of red wine. Yeah.. I do but as I drank it I realised that it is so obviously not just simply the taste. I like the taste of orange juice but I don’t drink glass after glass after glass. So, if it’s the zoning out I am after, those glorious evening hours of ‘fuck it’ land whilst I would watch tripe on tele and finally feel the muscles in my neck relax.. then I can honestly say, I am struggling to replicate that with anything else.

Up until about 3 or 4, I feel great… la de daa great… I’m killing this shit, great… then I start to panic ever so slightly.. ‘oooh noooooo.. I have hours before bedtime… what will I doooooo? How will I sustain this gleeful skipping? I have mundane crap to do.. and how will I turn off? How well I tune out?’.

A bath is great… for maximum half hour but then you have to exit said bath and find something else to do! Languishing in tepid water does get a little dull after the billionth night. So maybe reading a book? Yesssss.. but even that can get tiresome when it’s night after night. And sometimes I don’t want to be productive.  I just want to relax. I might not want to crochet, or draw, or plan, or sort.. I just want to switch off. I want my mind to get a bit fuzzy and to not care so much about everything. Meditating for hours may well achieve this but try doing that with kids coming downstairs every half hour complaining they are hungry.. it’s not possible.

So please, someone out there… have you got any magic solutions? Will this restlessness ever ease?

Clipped Wings

It’s just before 3am and LO has woken me up complaining he needs a cuddle from his dad. I pack him back off to bed unhappily (he has form) and then, wide awake now, I turn to check my phone. It’s in the boy’s room, by the MO’s bed. I had given it to him last night to listen to a mindfulness meditation in another attempt to try and calm his ever-increasingly bad behaviour down. As I look at the phone, I see an email from his teacher that arrived later in the night, after he had fallen asleep. We correspond regularly to try and keep on top of the issues that he has at school and at home. What I read, feels like the worst one yet; he spent another morning out of his yr 5 class and was with yr 3 instead. She is worried about how this is affecting him academically; I agree but equally I understand that this ‘low level’ behaviour has a ripple effect on other children’s learning and let’s face it, it’s downright wearing.

At home, we deal with the manipulation, the anger, the tantrums. Equally, there is humour, compassion and affection. I watch him flit from emotion to emotion like a butterfly, unable to land for long before being tempted elsewhere. Like a motor he is propelled by his thoughts and his ego, what can he do to impress next and if that fails, who can he mentally destroy? He somehow sets us all up, himself included; maybe a request to do something he knows he can’t do so that when he is declined, he over-reacts, a ready-made vent for his anger and emotions to pour out of; unrepressed steam from an engine. It’s like having a car that constantly overheats, you live in fear of being stuck in traffic on a hot day; eyes straining to see if there are tiny tell-tale wisps of steam creeping up from the radiator over the bonnet. A bottle of water lying in the passenger footwell, just waiting to refill the arid void but knowing that it’s always a bit too late. Everything is a bit too late.

I worry about his future. I worry about our future. How is he going to get through the teenage years? Will he get his school qualifications if he can’t even sit still during a class or is constantly moving to a different one? Will he get expelled? Will he make college? Will he hurt someone? Will he go to jail? What, to some, may seem extreme fears, for a mother who has watched, like a car crash, their child struggle with regulating their behaviour since they were two and a half, these fears seem real. He slips through the system like a piece of mercury. He hasn’t hurt himself or anyone else so CAMHS won’t touch him and he doesn’t ‘qualify’ for NHS help because he isn’t severe enough. Even friends and other parents of his school friends don’t completely understand what it is like to live with him because he is so highly functioning; so utterly charming and clever. Only those closest to us can see the cracks that show when he is denied. When his speech gets so bad that his voice becomes shrill as he forces his words to get out. I feel like inside this locked cocoon is this child desperate to break free of his shackles but unable to find the key. His wings are clipped.

We have strategies (which fail) and we have plans (which we hope won’t fail). I hope to get him on an intensive stammer course in London this Summer and I am waiting for another CAMHS referral to be refused but will push on regardless and we have other appointments in the pipeline, some NHS, some private.

In the meantime we shall continue to tell him we love him and we shall continue to ground him when he is mean. And until he can break out of his cocoon, I’ll continue trying to make his butterfly house the best it can be so that when he is ready, it is has all the nourishment he needs.