Saturday, 30 January 2016

Look at me standing here on my own again

Ohh, depression is dull dull dull. I am so bored of it. Of mornings of crying in my car all the way to work (I'm sure that, even a few years ago, I could have a cry and then 10 minutes later look absolutely fine, and no one would know. Now, crying in the car means that I spend the whole day looking like I cried in the car. One particularly bad day this week when I was hiding in my office, ploughing through long overdue paperwork, one of the therapists in the team came in to ask a question and, looking at my destroyed eyes, said "oh, are you OK? are you having a moment?" and I said "oh, don't worry, it's not a moment. This is my life". We laughed a lot. I work with fantastic people.

Depression is also stupid and makes me irrational. I rarely feel angry or even irritated any more, an effect, I think, of anti depressants, and maybe just generally the suppressed emotion that is the disease. But I have been feeling flashes of anger this week about the fact that suicide is not an option for me. I have children and I have parents and they are more important than my distress (although I understand that at some point for some people even that becomes meaningless). Still, dark, stupid, irrational thoughts about just ceasing to be are frequently present.

And even so, within all this, I'm sort of OK. Sort of functioning. Sort of.....On Monday I was back doing the consultancy work and managed to lose one train ticket, which meant paying out another £85 before my day had even started. I then lost my purse which left me 4 hours from home with no money, no bank cards, and no return ticket. In that situation, I discovered, you talk to station staff, who will write you a warrant that gets you home. You have to repay it though. obviously, which is the 3rd ticket bought for that one journey.

OK, so that was crap, and I felt very alone, and very much that there was no one I could turn to for help, and very sad and cold without means to get a hot drink or something to eat throughout a very long day. But I made it (to find the decree nisi on my doorstep when I finally rolled in! Oh happy day!) and the thing is, that's not the story. On my way back through Paddington, one of the big London stations with an annual footfall of 55 million people, I went to lost property and reported my purse missing, was humoured by the woman behind the counter who obviously felt it was futile but allowed me to write my name and number on a piece of paper, and then yesterday, 5 days later, I got a call to say it had been handed in. It had been handed in, with all £20.52p intact. Can you believe that? Isn't it wonderful? Never mind that I've already cancelled all bank cards and driving license and all the other grown up, boring stuff . Someone gave a shit and walked out of their way to the hidden lost property office and handed in my small grey purse. And somebody dug out the bit of paper with my name and number on it, and made the call. And life is good and I need to get over myself.

Another thing that's happened this week is that Snake has very publicly entered another relationship, with a woman we've both known forever (Snake and L were at art college together, and she has a daughter the same age as our girl. When they were little we'd all go on adventures together). She's lovely - warm, talented, beautiful, and they are obviously deeply committed to a future together. Which is another wonder, another instance of all that pain, all that drama, all that wrenching apart of Snake and me, that wasn't the story, this, them getting together and having the joy and excitement of discovery is the story. And for me that has its sadness. Was I a 25 year long mistake? What does that mean for our incredible children? All that happiness for all those years, was that not real? But all I've wanted through this to balance the pain I've caused has been for Snake to be OK. If he's OK, I'm (sort of) OK. If we're OK, the children are OK.

But, oh, and another thing - I keep backing my car into things, and each time the same light takes the hit. I haven't done any damage to anything but my rear driver side light casing, which I must get fixed. But what's going on with me suddenly not being able to drive?

Anyway, that wasn't what I was going to say to wrap up this even more rambly than usual post (you know I can only write because I don't honestly believe anyone will be bothered to read? which is a whole strange headspace of its own). What I was going to say (apart from, I've just remembered, I'm exploring doing a PhD, And I've been asked to write some professional social care articles) what I was going to say was, when I was 17 and living in London, very alone and skinny and scared of everything but facing forward and doing it all anyway, I used to listen to this one song. And one night I saw that a band I loved - The Men They Couldn't Hang - were playing in a far off corner of a London district that I'd never been to, and because of the song I was listening to on repeat I decided to go. Because it's message is of hope and looking outward and forward. And that night I met a man who took my number (the only number I had was at the place where I was doing some government arranged work experience) and the next day he went to a phone box and rang my work, and we ended up together for a couple of years, and because of that all sorts of things changed that led to me meeting Snake and having the most amazing children and eventually to here, and yes I'm depressed and yes it's hard every day and yes, from this place, and I'm sorry and I understand how weighted this is, but some days suicide feels like the easy option, but the man that wrote this song died this week following a car accident, And, and, and I think what I'm trying to say is we're all interconnected and small things have big impacts, and when I get through this cloud, I want to remember and really feel that instead of just writing it here. And that's why I'm writing it here - so that when spring comes, even if that doesn't happen for me this year, even if I have to wait, but when it does I can come back and really FEEL the wonder of the tiny stuff that happens all the time.

Wonderful Life - Black

Sunday, 24 January 2016

The first of a new generation

In 1995, my friend Sid and her then 6 year old daughter Jas needed somewhere to live. Me and Snake and our tiny girl, and Sid and Jas shared a house for the next few years.

On Christmas Eve, Jas gave birth to her own tiny girl. Yesterday was Sid's chance to get together some old school friends to worship the baby for a while, pass her round, offer advice, express envy that Sid got to be a grandmother first. There was a lot of sitting around gazing, with spontaneous, collective ooohs and ahhhs. Like a firework display, or a tennis match, played out in this small person. Lots of laughter and memories of our own babies (apart from the teenage daughter of one of the women, everyone in the photo has a daughter of their own), 

Sid and Jas and the next generation.

The worshipping of baby A.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Sunshine on my back

It was my birthday on Monday.

In counselling this week I was encouraged to talk about why it might be that I find this time of year so difficult (as though the poor quality of the light wasn't a good enough reason). Being made to think through history, this is what I came up with.

As a small pathologically shy child, having a party made for me. Hating it.

The day after my 16th birthday, leaving home on the back of a huge argument with my father.

On every birthday for the last decade, missing my non biological twin, my friend Baz, who died aged 36 from lung cancer.

Being diagnosed with a chronic lung disease all of my own on my 40th birthday.

(I can add to that list, I suppose, the announcement of David Bowie's death, although to be honest he moved on from this world with such style, such class, such amazing stage management, that I am more in awe than in mourning. Also - trivia - Goldie was born on Bowie's birthday. His death was announced on mine. Also, my favourite thing of all the many, many things written about him - this.)

So, all that to say, my birthday isn't the easiest, and I'm very glad it's over for another year. And since my birthday the sun has come out, the temperature has dropped in a way that means breathing in the fresh air is a conscious, delicious pleasure, and things are feeling SO MUCH BETTER. Like a new year,

And, also, on my birthday this year I started my new role as associate consultant to Impressive Sam. And on my birthday this year I had a morning phone conversation with FSF while I was waiting for a train at Paddington, and he made me laugh and he made me feel cared for. And maybe next year those memories will be added to the other side of the scales, along with the times Baz and I shared our birthdays (19th, 21st, 30th) and he made it alright, and the birthday I spent in Barcelona in the sun. And the birthday when I had a 3 day old Goldie, and all I had to do in the world was keep him safe and fed and tell him he was loved.

The National - Sunshine On My Back

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Sunset and oak

One of the things that I count as a blessing in my life is the oak tree outside the window of the flat I've moved into. I've already seen it move from one season to another. It is my best clock, and my best measure of hope. 

Friday, 8 January 2016

Awesome Prince

Goldie is 15 today. He is the most gorgeous creature and I want to celebrate him to the stars.

However I have fallen into a deep sea trench where everything is distorted by depression. It's kept me at home for a couple of days, working, but hiding as well, and that's scary because for all sorts of reasons I  need to be at work right now. And I am SO TIRED of being SO TIRED and I want my life back. And I am also SO TIRED of hijacking myself, and I want my life back.

For example, I spent the day of my sons 15th birthday weeping about, among other things, the fact that I hadn't got him a present. This despite the fact that he knew and I knew that the XBox 1 he got for Christmas was also his birthday present (poor January baby with his joint presents!), and despite the fact that he knows I'm going to buy him some hideous 80's digital watch that apparently is fantastically retro and cool as soon as we can find one that's hideously retro enough. And despite him knowing and understanding that I spent money I don't have this month on tickets for him and the girl to see Kendrick Lamar, and him being DELIGHTED and grateful for this. Eventually, after hours of beating myself up as the worst mother in the world for not having a present for him to unwrap, I cut a hideous retro watch shape out of cardboard and stuck it into a card as a promise for the present to come, and that I filled with all the words of maternal love that I could fit in there. He was completely happy and I still felt like shit.

And for example, on Monday I start some consultancy work with Impressive Sam, travelling across the country to work with a man I deeply admire delivering a project I know inside out and love talking about and expanding and theorising on. And  in return I get paid about 3 times my usual salary. It is close enough to my idea of a dream job to be classified as my dream job. But every hour of every day this week I have failed to manage to buy the train ticket I need to make it happen, because it's all so much effort and it can't be real and I'm not good enough and buying train tickets on line means a sequence of more than 2 actions and I can't cope with that at the moment. Finally today I managed to get it done. Then I curled up on the sofa and cried for a while.

And for example, for the last few days I have avoided my daily contact with Flirty Smiths Fan, despite him being the person who is best able to talk me through what I'm feeling. This afternoon he called and he gently nudged me into getting up from under a blanket, washing my face, getting properly dressed, and ready to go out with Goldie and Snake for a celebratory meal. And actually made me laugh at myself for how ridiculously miserable I was being. I felt so grateful that he had saved the day, and felt deeply guilty and completely crushed that I had snuffled and wailed and wept down the line at somebody who I want to view me as fun and attractive and independent and problem free.

And right now I am feeling a mixture of amazement that I've managed to get words down, and shame that I have written a post about me instead of about my awesome boy on his 15th birthday.

Depression is so deeply boring.

And yet (and not totally despite me, some of it must be because I did OK, mustn't it?) my boy is a huge, healthy, happy 15. Happy birthday my outstanding boy.

Little Faith - The National

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

I want to believe in everything you believe

I am probably more than usually critical of my own parenting skills, having realised fairly early on that my tendency to want to hide from the world and my serious difficulties with social engagement with strangers in noisy rooms was not compatible with socialising babies. I handed over to Snake, which may be the best parenting decision I ever made (in that he was fantastic, not that I'm glad I was less involved. There's a part of me that will always regret that I wasn't with them more in those years when I was running off to work).

But one parenting tip I do have is to share with your children what they want to share with you.

This probably only becomes relevant as adolescence approaches. Small children tend to let you know what's big in their world. But at the point where they are getting older and autonomy is increasingly real, that's when it pays to adapt and broaden your tastes.

With the girl, that meant reading the Twilight books as they came out, and going to first day showings of all the films. It meant Gareth Gates and Kylie Minogue and then - suddenly - My Chemical Romance, before a long series of floppy haired singer songwriters - Aiden Grimshaw, Tom Odell, Ben Howard, Ed Sheeran. Not all of these would be my choices, but at the point that she wanted me to participate in what she cared about most at that stage in her life, I was ready to do so. And I absolutely love that as she got older the Twilight film viewings got funnier and funnier, so that by the last one we were practically crying with laughter throughout, and I love that I got to go with her to see My Chemical Romance, possibly the most inclusive and heartfelt performance I've ever seen, and as she's got older I've genuinely loved some of the music she's introduced me to.

With my boy Goldie, it's sometimes been more of a struggle. For a long while his main interests were fast cars and football. Fast cars meant the extremely offensive Jeremy Clarkson. I couldn't pretend to like or approve, but I engaged and discussed. As he's got older his focus has moved (via a long series of spy and zombie books) to music and football. Specifically, hip hop and rap, and specifically Kendrick Lamar.

(Football I can do, marginally, but enough. I am now comfortable with saying I'm a Liverpool fan, bizarre as it may seem, being as I have no other links with the city whatsoever. Do you know that film The Blind Side? the pivotal moment being where the future football star states that he loves a certain team because they're the team that his family loves. Goldie relishes saying, I support Liverpool because my family support Liverpool, ignoring that in fact it's me that supports Liverpool because my family support Liverpool. Whatever. We're family. It's all good).

And then Kendrick. Kendrick's great and all, but...I mean, I get that he's good, and a lot of what he's saying is exactly what needs to be said. Goldie has been driven to research all sorts of elements of Black Amercican history in order to understand some of the context of the songs, and I love that, that he's looking up references, learning those lessons, teaching me. And the music is powerful and clever and engaging. But still, to listen to Kendrick is to listen to a lot of crap about women, and that really really bothers me.

As with the odorous Jeremy Clarkson in Goldie's younger days, I figure my role is to point out discrepancies (he's singing about equality and then referring to women as whores? Come on.....) and engage in discussion. What's that about Goldie? What's the problem there? Do we recognise that Kendrick's real skill, his layering of the historical and political into something deeply accessible, has a huge (50% of the population) blind spot? That that's a problem?

Poor Goldie. He want's to get lost in the music he loves, and along I come with my predictable feminist "but...but...but....". But he's my boy and he's had this all his life, and you know what? for all that's he's deeply engaged with being cool, for all that we've put him through and all the modern day pressures on him to be something particular whenever he steps out into the world every morning, he is comfortable with calling himself a feminist. He acknowledges the misogyny in the music he loves and looks for reasons, looks for context, doesn't try to excuse it and doesn't adopt it. It makes him think, and, my boy, he's still up for thinking.

The two of them, my two enthusiasts, my two music lovers, my two huge humans - they're going to see Kendrick in the summer, in a London park. I bought the tickets on impulse with money I don't have, on Boxing Day, in recognition of that feeling when an artist you love is doing perhaps their only reachable gig of the year, and that's the most important thing that's happening in the near future (never mind his GCSE's, never mind her graduating this year).  I know that feeling. And, you know what, I trust him. I trust him to love the music but question some of the message. I trust him to have the arguments with his sister on the way home. To bring it back to me so that we can take it apart and make the good bits shine.

Conversation 16 - The National

Saturday, 26 December 2015

So. and Anyway.

I met Ms M for a drink this week. I haven't seen her for a good few weeks, which would have been unheard of, but after Snake's overdose there were a lot of people I didn't want to be around any more. People who I felt he needed more than me. People who it was not safe for me to talk to because I might say something that would travel a twisting route back to his ears in a form that he took to be hurtful.

Anyway, we met for a drink and for some reason we drank pints which we don't do, but it was good to see her. We've always made each other laugh, and we know about the details of each others lives, the dayness of each other. She asked me at one point about a detail in an email she'd sent to her husband about 6 months ago, and I could tell her exactly what she'd said. Stupid, useful stuff like that. 

So anyway, we talked about the madness of the summer, the way we were all spinning around for a few months. She fell in love over the summer, with a man she's still seeing, her first relationship 3 years on from the end of a long, abusive marriage. There was a lot of love around.

SO, ANYWAY, what I'm trying to say is, what I haven't said here because this blog is pretty secret but not totally secret, is, I fell in love this summer too. And I've continued not saying it here in this not totally secret space way way beyond the point that it's been fairly public knowledge. Which is about shyness and not wanting to be judged and knowing I've done stuff that I could predict would be devastating to people that are the most important in the world to me but I did it anyway. 

Anyway. So.

I talked on here a little about Flirty Smiths Fan. He was there when I went back to work after time off for sadness. and he stayed around, sending me music and extravagant compliments, generally being there as a tall friendly presence at many unfriendly meetings, letting it be known that despite my great age, and my slightly defensive air, and my awkwardness and my sadness, I was seen and I was liked.

When he left the organisation I work for, we exchanged phone numbers. Which led to a meeting one summer afternoon in an obscure park. Which led to another meeting. Which led to me breaking Snake's heart.

I think both Snake and I recognise, now, that FSF wasn't the reason for the marriage to end. That damage was done some time ago, the thread between us getting twisted and knotted by unsaid things and a lack of attention on both our parts. With thread, if you notice quickly enough then you can undo most knots and tangles, but if you ignore that there's a problem it doesn't take that long to get a point where the only answer is to cut, or tear.

So not the reason, but a catalyst, a landmine, and damage was done.

I still see FSF, sometimes, and we are in touch daily, and even though he is a long way away and largely unavailable, he says he's not going to stop until I tell him to stop. And some days I think he is contributing to my sadness and I need to tell him to stop, but most of the time he is a joy and a comfort, though a distant one.

I saw him last weekend, and I didn't want to lie to my family, I don't want to lie to them ever again, and Snake knew, so I sat with the girl and told her and she said Oh. OK. And then when I was walking along with Goldi I told Goldi - "Goldi, you know I'm away this weekend? I'm seeing somebody called FSF. He's a very good friend. Do you want to ask any questions? Do you want me to tell you more without you having to ask questions?" But Goldi was laughing - sniggering is probably more accurate - and, no, he didn't want to know any more.

So. Anyway. There it is.