The Curves of Learning

Today has been a wake up call. Not a huge massive resounding gong or anything.. more of a creeper.. but with a lot of thorns. Last night I relapsed which gave the Shitty Guilt Fairy massive pleasure and she did a complete rendition of the Riverdance on my head this morning.. it went on for hours. I learned some home truths from various corners of East and West Sussex and am still slowly waking up to the realisation that I am not who I thought I was and it’s time to toughen up.

It is a new day (like literally only 4 seconds old) and it’s time to re-saddle the horse and haul my hefty arse back on. Additionally, I have realised that my wagon isn’t faulty it’s just I keep vaulting over the side in a desperate bid for self destruction. Normally I’d be happy with any form of sporting prowess but it appears that Wagon Falling isn’t a bonafide sport and therefore the idea is to remain on board.

Finally, my higher self and I are about to have a bit of a conversation about loving oneself, not allowing oneself to be treated like a twat and how life sober really is a better option.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Learning

2018 was undoubtedly one of the toughest years I  have experienced as Adult Chloe. But aside from learning in depth about loss and fear, there is something that has come from it and which prepares me for 2019. A definite sense of self is forecast. As I itch and scratch and wish I could have a glass of wine, I remember the feelings last January as I became more adept at forgoing alcohol and as a result found my sober skip. This next year will hopefully see me qualify as a nurse and subsequently start a new career. The LO and MO will change schools and there will be a lot of transition to manage. Somewhere in the midst of this, I know that I need to nourish the broken Chloe, feed her some nutrients and watch as new shoots grow. In the last couple of months, there was a darkness that grew from the depths, like wispy smoky tendrils snaking around my ankles, steadily climbing and wrapping round my body, tight like an angry cloak. Impulsivity, anger, resentment, bitterness and an inability to ground left me drunken and craving for debauchery. Hedonism. And it’s strange, as the higher self looks on, almost in amusement, as she watches the unfurling of chaos. I picture her, leaning back against a wall, right leg bent and anchored, with her arms crossed. A wry smile worn on her face as she chews on a piece of wild grass held in her hand. Watching, waiting. She knew what would happen. We both did. It was the only way I would reset. Even the toxicity of the past few weeks has been a learning curve. I never knew I was susceptible to abuse. How the powers that be must have guffawed at that one. I am doing domestic violence for my dissertation and I stated to a few people in the last few months that I have never suffered from this type of abuse. And still I haven’t regarding the physical aspect of it but little did I know that via some random law of attraction, I literally opened the door to another form; emotional and mental abuse. I am lucky that I recognised this for what it was but there are some less fortunate. I am also fortunate that I have a good support system around me who also warned me early on that this behaviour was unwarranted and therefore manipulative. But it is strange how a sense of love can alter one’s perceptions. The pushing and pulling, like a dance, building up into a crescendo and as the wave crashes down, you realise that your body and mind are no longer joined, you have lost your sense. Lost your self.

Today, I felt a new strength. No longer did I want to play that game. Each time I felt a pang, I reminded myself of what I would say to a loved one, a friend. I am not perfect. I know this but equally I am not to be put down; lied to; manipulated or treated with contempt. A month was long enough. Long enough to remind me that no-one is exempt from this type of abuse, but equally it doesn’t take much to react. That there is, within each of us, a vulnerability that can give rise to bad behaviour. Reactive and angry. Thankfully, I have woken up, bruised from a bad dream but with the hope that out of this experience, new growth is born.

 

Spin 1400

abstract blur bubble clean

As you listen, as their tales unfold, you slip into a revery. Neural pathways in your mind sorting out what is relevant to you. Picking at my nail varnish, crossing and uncrossing my legs, shifting in my seat. Busy little synapses, ‘scrap that’, ‘nope, no recognition there’, ‘fuck sake that’s not me’.. until there’s a whir.. a little shake up, ‘Got one!! Got one! Store that shit!’.. excitedly the recognition is put into a little box, ready to be used later. There were a few tonight. The metaphor of the mind like a washing machine, except mine is stuck on spin.. 1400 rpm. As I walk home, it’s slowed but there is a definite residue slipping out of the soap drawer. I realise that these past few months, I haven’t cleaned my mind. Mould and gunk building up, slowing the release of the water to clean the insides of the machine. But still I poured more detergent, more fabric conditioner inside, in the desperate hope that those clothes would still smell nice and good and everything that they should. Until the machine broke. I feel like an excited washing machine purchaser who has just been to a conference about buying new washing machines and fixing the ones that can be fixed. I have a little skippity skip home clutching my new manual that has been so kindly bought for me and I, for the first time in months, can see a future that is not only bright but fucking luminous.

It is tinted with a sadness, so deep it aches. My insides churn at the thought of their pain. My pain. I have left someone behind, their machine is still broken and as we spoke tonight about remembering those with broken machines, tears slid down my cheeks. Apparently you can’t fix other peoples machines, they have to do it themselves. I don’t like that. In my Utopia I would be the Ultimate Repair Woman.. fixing machines with abandon.

But instead here I am, alone with Tarka And Qara, 2 of the Greatest Cats Known to Catkind, sitting in silence, recording my feelings about going to the first ever washing machine fixing conference where I acknowledged that I, Chloe, had a broken washing machine. Strength is building and whilst I know that there is a long road ahead, I am hopeful and grateful to be walking it.

Photo by Hilary Halliwell on Pexels.com

3 days later..

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.

The Wrong Size of Xmas.

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.

 

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.

Making Friends with the Black Dog

Then too you cannot spend an hour alone;

No company’s more hateful than your own

You dodge and give yourself the slip; you seek

In bed or in your cups from care to sneak:

In vain: the black dog follows you, and hangs

Close on your flying skirts with hungry fangs

“Satire VII” Horace (65 – 8 BC)

Anxiety is very ‘en trend’it would appear. Even the likes of celebrities are afflicted according to a BBC Celebrities with Anxiety report. I am slightly baffled as to why this should come as a surprise. I don’t appear on television, perform on stage or have my life scrutinised on an hourly basis and I am still riddled with the damn thing. I do, however, consider it a necessary evil to highlight how anxiety and depression are taking our societies hostage and for this I am grateful to the media for reporting it. It appears that there is less of a need for a cloak and dagger approach, as the stigma is slowly receding and the public realise that mental health issues aren’t solely for the nutters of the world. I couldn’t tell you the exact number of professionals I know personally, who are either being treated currently for some form of anxiety or depression or have been at some point in their lives but it is a lot. Professionalism, social or financial status aren’t the deciding factors in whether or not you suffer with a mental health issue. There are no boundaries to protect you from ending up on Prozac. From the rich and famous to the destitute and homeless, the effects of the black dog are rife.

The Black Dog

The term ‘black dog’ was first coined by Horace, a Roman satirist and poet and Winston Churchill is known for talking about the black dog visiting. A marvellous book  I Had a Black Dog – by Matthew Johnstone, manages in a serious of beautifully detailed illustrations, to encapsulate fully the effects that depression has on you. A further book by the same author  Living with a Black Dog  was written for people living with those affected by depression and is equally as poignant as the first. If you would like to know why we refer to depression as the black dog there is a detailed historical essay written by Linda Michael and which can be found here.

It matters not what we call it but I won’t deny that since reading those lovely illustrated books about this clumsy dog whose tails rests in your usually divine glass of red and ruins it, or who sits on your head while you try and have a conversation, I have felt a more affectionate relationship with my depression. When I am really crap I take my black dog for a walk so that it can get tired and go the fuck to bed when we get home. When I feel like nothing can change and my apathy is reaching dizzying heights, I explain to my dog that no matter how crappy we are feeling, it will pass and we can look forward to life again very soon. I’ll admit, giving my depression a canine persona doesn’t always work and anxiety is especially a fucker to calm.

Living with Anxiety

I live with some form of anxiety on a daily basis now. It never used to be that way, or at least, I don’t think it was. Although as a good friend of mine who also happens to be a forensic psychiatrist explained to me recently, it wasn’t psychotic episodes I had been having 12 years ago, more like OCD. So there you go.. we don’t always self diagnose correctly. I fight intrusive thoughts regularly and fend off the feelings of nausea as they take a stranglehold of my insides. I become breathless and my hearing becomes altered and eyes lack focus. Especially in supermarkets. As I type, my heart rate has quickened and I note I am holding my breath “let it go” I speak to myself.. “let it go.. no emergency here… just typing…it’s all cool…”.

I was at my own leaving do for work this week and unbeknown to me I was feeling anxious that day. I felt fine up until entering the pub. Then I become self-conscious. I started looking at my phone constantly. I forgot how to laugh properly.. I sounded like a sodding hyena. I didn’t want to stand in front of everyone and throw the ball into the skittles. With my quite questionable sporting skills it was a miracle I didn’t behead anyone.  I gulped back a couple of drinks in the hope that they would quieten the voice of discontent. It worked finally but it reminded me of how quickly a situation can change your mental status.

Where now?

For me, now just as important as ever, I need to learn how to manage my anxiety even better. I am starting my nursing degree at Brighton University this year and I know from experience that being on a busy ward is worse than a supermarket. So I have taken a step (pun alert) towards managing my anxiety. I have recommenced running and am due to do my second Parkrun tomorrow. I went out for a run this morning too and have ordered a swanky waist belt so that I can fit all me accessories in it. I have started to look at how to organise my house better so that I don’t get lost in the mindclutter that resides inside. I don’t ever expect to be free from anxiety or depression. It’s part of me. It’s who I am. However, I can have a say in how often or how badly it affects me. I have lived with it since the age of 10 and at least now when I cry, I don’t have to do it alone…Hell no, I got my dawg with me!!

black-dog

If you would like to find out more about the Black Dog Campaign which is run by SANE – a charity to help and support sufferers of mental health illnesses – then please contact them by clicking on this link: http://www.sane.org.uk/home. They also have a helpline for you to call them between 6pm and 11pm everyday – 0300 304 7000 – don’t hold back, be kind to yourself. You deserve it.