Dancing with myself

Credit where credit’s due: Billy Idol

It’s lonely in this little echo-chamber of mine, but it’s the best I’ve got. It’s ok. I know people I actually know read here just before they contact me to “see what to expect”.

Some bloggers read me because I discussed issues dear to them, but given the unpredictable changeability and variety of my thought patterns I can’t stay on one subject for ever, and rightly, they have enough to do on their own part, so they move on. Plus, my life is so filled with stuff all of the time that dedicating time to reading other people’s blogs was a pleasant but all consuming activity, unfortunately, so quite rightly, why would you still read me if I don’t read you? It all makes sense and it’s fine.

This all sprung from this article: I actually took the time to read it all the way till the end. It was retweeted by people whom I respect and yet, I feel, this type of article and mentality is what brought Trump (and Brexit) about, not what this article claims did.

Read it here

This was my comment:

I respect the amount of time and effort it took to write this article. I am appalled by the triumph of Brexit, anti-immigration ranting, and Trump.

I, however, was nowhere near surprised and I am already tired of the amount of explaining that is going on, to explain why they were successful.

Nevertheless, your article was shared by people I respect so I read it all down to the last line.

I feel that the reason behind their success is not what you state, I feel the reason for their success is WHAT you state, and how you state it.
Listen to those who voted, instead of analysing, interpreting, rationalising. It is precisely this intellectualisation that has made these people angry.

I hate the result of their anger, but I understand their anger. I was trying to communicate the anger I could feel rising around me years before this mess all came about.

Too many people laughed it off, ridiculed it. Now, the angry ones won. “In your face” they say. As a child’s tantrum that DOES get explained away, which expands into smashing a very expensive pane of glass. “NOW do you get it?!” —  they say. You don’t, but it doesn’t matter: the power is in their hands now.

“ the left should not be paralyzed with horror by the deplorables, but rather view them of as a symptom of a larger problem, one which only the left can truly solve.”

Can it? I disagree wholeheartedly. The Left brought this about. The left should admit defeat, and roll up its sleeves and actually stop dividing the world in left and right, the deplorable and the enlightened, and actually merge with the angry and truly, humbly, speak to them at their level. Like they’re people who deserve a voice, and to be heard, not just dismissed as silly little children.

 

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Letter from a Labour-friendly Italian national/UK resident

Sent to leader@labour.org.uk

Dear Mr Corbyn,

To see you are Labour MP for beloved Islington makes this even more poignant for me.

I’m sure you’re busy, and most probably won’t read this, but I really need to say these things to you, so if you got this far, please hear me out.

My love of London began in 1984, when from Edinburgh where I was staying for a couple of months there with an Italian foreign language school we went for a two-day visit. I was 13, and Carnaby Street still meant something.

During those two days I skipped the planned itineraries and with a friend went and explored London. We found ourselves near the St James Park, and entered a pub where we saw the most beautiful men, and only men, The Almighty God had put on this planet (we were teenagers, easily impressed).

It turned out, it was a gay bar. Men held each other by the hand and went downstairs together. After a minute of extreme disappointment because those men were not available to us, my friend and I were exalted. Men could be gay in the open like this? What a place of magic this was!

We then went to Piccadilly Circus, and entered a jewellery store, where a very elegant uniformed girl with punk pink hair and nose rings greeted us and treated us like ladies. We were head over hills in love with London.

I returned to London many times after that, mostly skipping on my transfer flights from Milan, where I lived, to Washington, where I would visit my father. Sometimes I would take the train.

On one occasion, instead of those three days we’d planned for my transfer from Washington to Milan, I ended up staying for various months. I found work for the hostel I was staying at, in Notting Hill, getting Italians off the station and convincing them to stay with us. I got involved with a crazed Dutchman and with two (the sweetest) alcoholic Irishmen, had a tattoo done by a fat squatter who offered me tea very politely in the dirtiest cups, and made friends with two Pakistanis who introduced me to a guy they later warned me away from, but it was too late and I moved in with him, in his council flat at the 20something floor, a dump, worse than the squat.

It turns out he had just been released from prison for the suspected attempted murder of his ex wife. He was 20! I must have been about 16. He stopped talking to me the minute I moved in so after a few days I stole his jar of pennies as I had not a penny left on me and bought a ticket to Heathrow, to use that open transfer ticket back to Italy.

You’d think that experience would put me off London. It really didn’t.

I had grown up in New Zealand, Venezuela, Peru, The Philippines and now I was in Italy I was attending the Sir James Henderson school in Milan, an English school: I was exposed there to the crème de la crème of English rich people, also non-English rich people, also an East Ender who’d come to seek lost loves and I made friends with. Good and bad, I loved them all, they were familiar to me.

After that, I began attending a posh Italian university, and despite my grades being very good, I slammed the door in their face with their pretentiousness and narrow-mindedness and shot back to London, actually selecting the University of North London (ex Poly, now defunct) for their Humanities programme.

I loved it. It was noisy, falling apart (I attended the Kentish Town site, now a Pizza Express), but it had a great pub in the basement where many Philosophy classes were held for those lucky bastards, there was a strong gay community, a lot of crazy and delightful Irishmen (some not so crazy, one of them was a genius who told me about the Internet before the world knew about it). Then the Kentish Town site closed down despite our protest occupation (SO much fun! but alas! it didn’t work) and we had to relocate to the Holloway Road site, near Islington (this is where the circle closes), and I was miserable there, I hated the building, people were unfriendly, lots of architecture and engineering students I couldn’t relate to, my lovely Humanities people all scattered, the student accommodation was abysmal and depressing and I ended up having my first suicide attempt. A California-surfer type from Essex rescued me, though it was too late for my hair, which I had completely shaved off.

My first partner was a Liverpudlian who came to Uni with me, and we ended up separating bitterly, though we had two amazing boys who are now both at University in this country and are entitled to a dual citizenship. My eldest was born in The Whittington Hospital, in North London.

My experience of England has never been rosy, as you can see. And yet, there was something that always drew me back to this country, which drew me back now, when, for the latest time, I left Berlusconian Italy in disgust and made a home for us here, back in 2006. My daughter with my Italian husband was born in Leeds. In Yorkshire we loved the people, and we saw the ugliness of some people. I adored the countryside, and my husband had to struggle to cope with the darkness, the damp, the grey and the rain. But we made dear friends, and we loved it.

We moved to Cambridge, and there, I started to perceive the growing discontent. Despite being a very Liberal voting town, and a strong Labour presence too to our great pleasure, and despite people telling us “The Tories could never win in Cambridge“, the Tories won, thanks to all those who believed in the Liberals and saw their party backing the Tories instead of Labour. And I saw the discontent growing, the racism, the hold UKIP was starting to have, not just on the harsh and ignorant racists they openly appealed to, but on the common people, the working people, though secretly and hush hush.

People were growing from a majority of wonderful internationalised fair British people I loved to a majority of scared people, keeping to themselves, fearing the foreigner, despising even us, who used to be treated as friends: the Portuguese, the Greeks, the Spanish, the Italians. They called us PIGS, but never to our face. English and foreign friends I spoke to didn’t believe me when I told them what was happening.

Then the Referendum came, because Cameron was a coward and took a stupid gamble for the promise of being in power, and it all rolled down hill from there.

It turned out I was right. A majority of British people were secretly harbouring resentment towards the refugees, the foreigners who came and took advantage of their country, and they voted out. Terrorism, just as I feared when they brought the Twin Towers down, had finally won. It had gotten exactly what they wanted, and why stop there? They would consolidate their work, dividing Europe further, making people fearful of diversity instead of embracing it proudly, as they used to.

I don’t think you can appreciate what a shock it was to me. There I was, ready to finally put some money aside to apply for Citizenship, so I could be proud to call myself British, so I could vote my Labour Party not just in local elections but at National Level, and then this.

When I started to read about you I regained hope. I thought here is a man who is solid, who has strong beliefs, a strong voice. Yes I knew you were a Euroskpetic, but surely you would see that any government is imperfect, and it NEEDS criticism, but that doesn’t mean you choose to do without one altogether!

Surely you’d see how the workers you wish to defend have a better chance being able to work all over Europe, than being stuck here in this country? Surely you’d see and SAY how all of us foreigners, here in this country working, paying taxes for you, ready to help your disabled, your poor, are an asset, not a drain on the economy?

I thought you would have the courage to stand up to this madness that has taken over much of Europe and America, and say how diversity is good, multiculturalism is good, we have more young, more strong people to help those who are helpless.

The NHS is struggling to hire nurses, and are recruiting from Europe, but why would a European nurse want to come here now, where they are looked at as benefit suckers, and not made to feel at home? Who will look after those very elderly who voted to leave Europe, crippling all the chances for your younger generation?

I was so disappointed. At one point it sounded like you, yourself, had said that us European workers were “undercutting” British workers. You then tried to rectify but the damage was done, or rather, the objective reached: your party wanted to appeal to those very voters who believed that, and you enabled them to think that you were on their side. We “undercut” the British workers.

Diversity and multiculturalism, tolerance and integration are achieved by having foreigners work in MORE places, not less. It is achieved celebrating our diversity, not using it as an insult. You want to eat a varied diet, not just potatoes, don’t you? So many English, Scottish and Irish people would agree with you!

You let me down, and you let all of us, and there are many, who came here NOT because they wanted to cheat your system, or take advantage of you, or undercut your British workers, down. We came here because you represented how the world should try to be more like.

All your talks are about the British people now (but somehow not those still reeling from this decision, still hoping it can be reversed), and all those like us, who were merely happy British residents, and who would one day have been proud to become British citizens, even though they didn’t need to thanks to European treaties, have been conveniently swept aside, and forgotten.

All those children, and young people, who could have worked and lived with no problems anywhere in Europe they chose, all have been swept aside, and forgotten, and called remoaners. All for the sake of remaining in power, all for the sake of appealing to the populists, the isolationists, the fearful.

I am now in a position where I have to put all my plans aside. The love for this beautiful house we are renting in Derbyshire, a strong LEAVE voting region. My daughter’s whole life, as she never lived anywhere else but in England. I have to plan to move away from my boys who are at University and are likely to start working. I have to think about leaving the friends who grieve the passing of the European dream, and some that don’t, and I just don’t understand how they don’t. I have to think of leaving this stupid weather I love so much, and all the stupid imperfections that used to make England nevertheless appealing to me. I have to think of moving back to a country that never really felt like home, despite its warmth, beauty and so much better food.

I had such high hopes of you. I know some of my friends paid to register to vote for you, also expecting more, also hoping you’d put up a fight. Instead it seems they got yet another leader who no longer has the courage to stand up and say “This is madness, stop it already”.

Anyway, I know this is pointless, especially coming from me, not even registered to vote Labour, not even a British citizen.

I just needed to tell you, as the epitome of pretty much everything I used to love about this country, that I am very saddened by the course of these events, and until Article 50 is called or whatever, I still have a lingering bit of hope.

Sincerely,
My name and surname

Schizo

[skit-soh] Informal.
noun, plural schizos.
1. a schizophrenic or schizoid person.
adjective
2. schizophrenic or schizoid.
3. crazy; wildly eccentric; lunatic.

Expand (or not)
Also, schitzo, schitz, schiz (for defs 1, 2)

schizo-
combining form
1.
indicating a cleavage, split, or division: schizocarp, schizophrenia
Word Origin
from Greek skhizein to split

 

When I was much younger, but old enough to see myself in relation to other people rather than mostly animals as was my life up to the age of 12 and something, I sometimes defined myself and how I felt that way. Then I learnt about schizophrenia and what a devastating mental disorder it is, both from a wonderful book called “Tell me I’m here” by Anne Deveson and from the brother of a very dear friend of mine (an incredible, beautiful person), so I stopped using that term, as I felt (as I believe it is) it was taking away form those who suffered form real schizophrenia. I am, incidentally, so happy to read this:

For the first time, scientists have pinned down a molecular process in the brain that helps to trigger schizophrenia. The researchers involved in the landmark study, which was published Wednesday in the journal Nature, say the discovery of this new genetic pathway probably reveals what goes wrong neurologically in a young person diagnosed with the devastating disorder.

I used that word because I felt a schism, a split between the people I was, so deep and disturbing that I didn’t know how else to define it. The more I talked to people and got to know them, and the more I saw their sense of identity, nice or not, steady or not, the more I saw the distinct lack of one of my own, and the more I felt I ought to have one! I desired, more than anything else, to know how I felt, how I truly felt about stuff, about anything: people, situations, my circumstances. Telling one person how I felt and what i wanted and then telling another the next day or a few hours later something completely different and feeling both extremely sincerely at both times, was confusing, and a bloody pain in the arse, and it has been my whole life.

Yesterday a lovely person, who is an ex-lover’s steady girlfriend, told me she met my sister for Christmas. This ex-lover is somewhat a relative of mine. my brother in law’s cousin, so they often do go over there for Christmas. Which, was, incidentally, where I met him, many years after I’d met him the first time: at my sister’s wedding, where I attended, 17, with my then boyfriend, an ex-heroin addict who escorted her with his (our!) milk-and-mint coloured chopper. At the time when I met him he was also 17, so in my eyes he was a child, I promptly dismissed him from my attention. He was beautiful, even then, but I was into baaaad boys and rough looking guys, he was not my type.

When I met him again, that Christmas a long time ago, I already had two small children and was separated from the nth baaad boy, because he turned out to be a little “too” bad. I told my sister in law, his cousin: “Boy, your cousin is like good wine, he sure ages well!”. Let’s face it, he was sensitive to women liking him, within a few weeks of emailing he was dumping his girlfriend of ten years and staying with me. A couple of months after that, the beast in me reared its head through a telephone, from Dublin, and though I didn’t know it at that time exactly, it was over (he was one of those guys who hopes you just “go away” rather than face you when he tells you you’re no longer wanted).

The rest is sad history, combined with a glorious moment in which my friend saved my life. A life that felt like everything good that had ever been and would ever be given to me would inevitably corrode and become shit, through no fault of anybody else but my own.

Of course that’s not true, some people ARE at fault when  we go as far as wishing ourselves over and done.

They are the people who abused us, over and over again, taking the form of many different people. If there is just one abuser in our life, they hop in and out of other bodies where you would least expect them to be, and scorn us with their ability to catch you by surprise, and devastate you, over and over again. One such body was this man’s mother. Oh he defended me, he says, he got very mad at her for the things she said about me. She said them to my sister too, and though I love her to the very smallest bits of her, I don’t actually know how much she defended me, when she was, as she often was, a guest at her house.

This man and his steady new girlfriend are adorable people, so none of this is their fault, but the fact that they were at my sister’s house for Christmas meant that, as often happens, his mother and father would be there too. When his lovely woman said to me “Your sister is lovely, here’s looking forward to some time spent together”, I ignored that last bit, because what I really wanted to ask her was: “Over my dead body, Christmas with them. Did his mother call YOU a whore too?”.

I am so glad I didn’t, it was just a thought that came up, and I was glad I didn’t write before I thought as I often did.

As always I thought I would be ok, but I wasn’t. I had to stop myself from crying on my way back from dropping off my daughter to school. In the fields, with my dog running up to me and checking me out, seeing me different, me reassuring him so he’d go off, then again check on me. I stopped all the thoughts, I stopped the train, the fast train to sinking into depression and anguish. I got through the day, I distracted myself, worked hard, didn’t allow thoughts to materialise for too long.

I woke up at dawn, my husband’s snoring after I let my dog out kept me awake. And now this moment of clarity: how irrational is my rage? When one of my best friends was remarkably offensive and rude to other friends of mine, I have yet to see him again, he went too far, I feel like I should, because I do love him, but I also feel it’s enabling the offensive remarks he made in the presence of people who did not deserve it. How does my sister justify not defending me when others, and there have been a few, have laid dirt on me she knew was deeply unfair to me? Regarding this,  a beautiful friend of mine shared this article yesterday, a wonderful read it is. An extract:

It is not unusual for us to feel that life is too much for us. And it is not unusual to feel that we really should be up to it; that there may be too much to cope with — too many demands — but that we should have the wherewithal to deal with it. Faced with the stresses and strains of everyday life it is easy now for people to feel that they are failing; and what they are failing at, one way or another, is managing the ordinary excesses that we are all beset by: too much frustration, too much bad feeling, too little love, too little success, and so on. One of the things people most frequently say in psychoanalysis is, ‘Perhaps I am overreacting, but . . .’; and one of the commonest complaints today is about feeling too much or feeling too little. I want to suggest that we are simply too much for ourselves, but that this too-muchness is telling us something important… My proposition is that it is impossible to overreact. That when we call our reactions overreactions what we mean is just that they are stronger than we would like them to be. In other words, we sometimes call ourselves and other people excessive as a way of invalidating or tempering the truths we tell ourselves or that other people tell us. It is impossible to overreact.

I know I will feel less “schizo” as time goes by, as I have been feeling less and less as I mature and stop turning a different face to whomever I meet. I guess that’s partly why I avoid meeting people as much as possible: if I don’t see you, I don’t wonder whether I’ll be real , or real in another way, or a different real still. But one of the feelings I hold onto to keep me “sane” is that I am entitled. Entitled to some rage, some anger, some feeling of injustice being done. It has been called “feeling sorry for yourself” by so many people that the first person I get angry with is me. But there you go.

Aaanyway, this wasn’t meant to be a sad post, I am happy! Because I came through the sucking in currents that drag me to the vortex and got out of it, and now feel revitalised and strong. I still have two twitter accounts, two blogs (thankfully, we’re down to just two) I still haven’t completely brought together all the MEs into one single whole, but I’m getting there. Starting that new thing I know will help, if I stick to it (I probably wrote about it in the other blog). The new, whole me, I think, believes that you should stick up for your friends and loved ones. Many people have troubles that might lead them to be a git, but there is only so far you ought to go in justifying their being a git to others because of their own troubles. A git’s a git, and I’m being nice not to use a dear friend’s favourite and more appropriate word.

I will defend another person’s right to their dignity to my dying breath, I don’t see why I shouldn’t expect others to do the same for me. So there.

 

Questions, questions

In my last post, I lied. I said my life was all about waiting. It isn’t exactly true. My “sane” life is about waiting. If I wait, you know I am calmer, fitter, more productive (sorry, had to do that sideways quote).

I have not been diagnosed as bipolar, though admittedly I was left very unsure about how you can diagnose a person after one meeting with a psychiatric nurse. Nevertheless. Though I felt conflicted, I felt Mr Guy was giving me a chance. To continue to have moments, periods even, when I can feel entitled, to whatever.

Because with a diagnosis comes this constant idea that no matter what you do, no matter how you respond to people, you are always in the wrong. I noticed people stop feeling they had every good reason to be nervous, depressed, angry, furious, ragey, sad. They start attributing everything to their disorder, and therefore, they lose a sense of entitlement. Perhaps of dignity? I say dignity because one of the qualities that has always saved my ass is pride. Some call it self-righteousness, some call it being hormonal, some call it you’re fucking crazy. Or perhaps I should speak in the past as I barely see anyone now. But back to the point. Pride is what has saved me every time. In a constant see-saw throughout my life between feeling unloveable, horrible, nasty, evil, a nothingness, what have you and feeling cool, alive, happy, a teacher, an advisor, the one holding the secret for happiness, should that knowledge been taken from me “No, honey, you are just being manic: your mind is playing tricks with you. That feeling of pride? Stifle it before it dumps you back down in the gutter when it stops”, had I been diagnosed bipolar where would I go, what would I do? I would feel constantly stumped. I would constantly question my every move, my every thought (which of course I do, I am pretty aware of my mess-ups, but not as much. I can still forget).

So, it’s true that without a diagnosis I couldn’t get the help I felt I needed. It is also true that without a diagnosis, I know I have to deal with anxiety and depression, but I can feel entitled to a lot of stuff. I can use my diagnosis of “nope, you’re perfectly ok, everything you feel makes sense” against those who tell me “you’re fucking crazy” (or think it, or have thought it) and say “heh, actually, I’m being perfectly sensible, see? It says here”.

So back to the initial paragraph: I incorrectly said my life is all about waiting, when my life has been mostly about achieving most of the good stuff I have achieved by not waiting. Everything I have ever done on impulse has, in the long run, brought me the best results, the best memories, the best things in my life. All my children. My travels. The people I have learnt from. The places I remember as the most interesting. All of them came through a lack of planning, caution, and waiting.

I had an idea to sell some beautiful things I found. I need to wait, really, because I have no money of my own to invest. My friend offered a little big help. I attempted to buy the things I wanted to sell but the seller, very wisely and father-like, says “I am glad you like them but I would recommend you sell these instead, they sell better”. They sell better?

In a long-winded response and reaction to my pal’s beautiful post (go read here if you haven’t already, and I noticed there were more posts I hadn’t seen yet), I am allergic to selling. Selling myself, selling what I do, selling anything, really. That is why I will always be poor and a failure at everything. I want to say to the guy “who said anything about wanting to sell? Yes I want to sell your necklaces, but because they are beautiful and I think everyone should have access to them.. not because they would sell well!”.

It creates an allergic reaction in the sense that all I want to do is jump back and away, suddenly. Now I am conflicted: should I attempt to keep steady, take my friend’s loan, and go ahead and buy the pieces Mr Maker of Beautiful Things suggested, with the idea to create a business slowly and finally get to sell the ones I really want? Or should I go ahead and politely tell him thank you for imparting your twenty years of experience with the best possible intentions, but I want to stick with the beautiful ones, and take however long it takes to sell them? I have to wait. Wait for my friend’s very hard earned cash, and wait for the guy to come back from a trade fair. As I wait, my brain settles, the flame of passion and enthusiasm starts to die, and I just settle back down into mediocrity, where  it’s safe, and will probably think the sensible: “Just leave it for now, get a part-time job, then rethink it and buy them with your own money. Nex year perhaps”. Some would say “good, you are not feeding your mania”. But until I am diagnosed as bipolar, or a manic-depressive as it used to be, one might also say “believe in yourself, don’t let others tell you what to do!”.

I wonder, people who might read me who are diagnosed bipolar, does anybody ever tell you to believe in yourself anymore?

It’s all a matter of perception isn’t it? Where lies the line between the feelings you are entitled to and in fact you should seek out to be a happy and fulfilled human being and the very same feelings that need to be controlled and kept in check so that you are relatively healthy, sane, and remain alive?

Rambling questions as always. Too many thoughts. Let’s get back to work for now, and see what waiting does to my brilliant plan.

A story of friendship

I am waiting for the builder, there are a lots of things to fix in this house we moved into last May, and hopefully he will fix some. I will be distracted in my novel editing and I am feeling a little sick, so it’s a good opportunity for an update.

My birthday has come and gone. My anxiety levels were stretched to the point where they are so stretched I can barely feel anxious anymore, just numb. My dog’s football-sized growth removal (we still don’t know whether it was cancerous), has left him looking and acting five years younger, back to his beautiful, alert and vivacious old self. Even his coat has become blacker and glossier.

I had initially planned a day out to have tea and buy roses at Chatsworth, but of course the vet expense (worth every penny) has put us out of cash.

Instead, we had a wonderful evening, consisting merely of good husband-cooked food, three of my dearest friends and a welcome addition, copious wine and a bottle of Baileys (a present, I can’t normally afford Baileys, because when I drink Baileys I drink LOTS of Baileys, so…).

Of course my two friends and I discussed the new addition (a new boyfriend) and the way I talk with these people always appeases me, fills me up, energises me.

I was feeling crap the whole day, massive headache, feeling dizzy, wishing I could postpone everything (of course impossible, as friend and addition were coming all the way from Cambridge). But at 6 pm the headache left me, they arrived, and I had a lovely evening. I was actively keeping the thought from my head that it was my friend D.’s indifference to my birthday, last year, that sparked off the whole downward spiral that eventually ended in our agreeing to not keep in touch anymore. This was the second birthday he wouldn’t be there. He used to make a fuss of me on my birthday, he is of a generous nature so perhaps he’d had done that with anybody if in the right situation, as long as someone had reminded him it was someone’s birthday. My other friends made a fuss of me too, but he had a different way. He was the one that pushed me to go to live drawing classes just because I needed to get out and do something and actually loved drawing even though I am so hopelessly hopeless at it. He, on the other hand, is a talented illustrator and concept artist, like my husband.

I was interrupted by a timely call from the counselling service. She said that the counsellor dealing with interpersonal therapy is not in but she had a look through her criteria and she normally deals with people in deep depression. Shame because person-based counselling is what I did the course for and I loved it. So, she says, you can choose between counselling and CBT. To make it easier for me, she said: “Basically, do you feel you need to talk through your past and come to terms with it, or learn to deal with your emotions and anxiety?”. I said the emotions, because it is stupid how easily I will break down in tears, so that I cannot watch the news. I cannot watch a cartoon my daughter is watching where there is someone doing something brave without starting to cry. An advert can make me cry, and that’s not even charity adverts.

As I walked to the counsellor’s office last week, I nearly got hit by a bus: I didn’t look both ways before I crossed, I just looked the wrong way. Fortunately the bus driver saw me from a distance and honked me the hell out of the street. Interestingly, my heart did jump a little of course, but I felt more like “of course, that would happen” rather than “OH MY GOD I ALMOST GOT HIT BY A BUS LIKE IN AN AMERICAN MOVIE”. I thought I’d tell the counsellor but didn’t.

Regarding her, and my conversation with her, she did a couple of interesting things. I have mentioned how much I annoy myself for breaking down into tears of drama at these sessions that are merely supposed to be screening visits.

I also mentioned how almost immediately after telling her how much I resented being defined as “Italian” when there is more Anglosaxon and Latin American culture in me than Italian, if any of them at all. I had explained about my upbringing and about how if you don’t have those cultural “rules” as part of your life when you’re little you kind of just don’t have them, you get your own values and rules and morality. And then she went and made a joke about how my strong emotions, which have caused me to lose people who were desperately important to me, were clearly because I was Italian, ha ha ha.

But there was something else she did, and I haven’t told anybody yet, partly because it upset me so much, partly because I always worry that people will say “oh not D. again, just let it go!!!”.

She had asked me for an example of a situation that deeply upset me and of course there are so many I decided to stick with the nearest. I explained how some people, few, make it to centre stage in my heart: they become very dear to me. She and I agreed that not having had a “proper” family, and not having had the experience of an example of it even outside my own until I was twelve, I had no real idea of family ties. We agreed that arriving in Italy and realising that people had cousins and aunts and mums near them and looking after them, realising I had had none of that, I rebelled and wanted that beyond anything else. I wanted what seemed to be my right: people close to me who loved me. I never thought there was anything wrong or dysfunctional with my family until I saw what was missing. We discussed the effect of that on my sexual history. And then we agreed that my friends were my family. The bond I create with them is as good as, if not above that of a family tie, because we chose each other. Often, I admit, it was me choosing them: most people in this society are unaware that friends can be as close as that. And when they realise what my friendship offers, they drink it in, naturally! And so do I. It’s a friendship that can withstand long periods of separation, because you feel close regardless. And even long periods of distancing, if correctly handled.

When, however, the distancing is done with your soul as well it devastates me.

The counsellor picked up on that word, “devastates”, and other words. She noted how strong they were. I looked at her in puzzlement: those words describe perfectly how I feel, they are apt and accurate, not excessive. Devastation, emptiness, salt on fertile land: that is how it feels for me when someone so dear to me becomes indifferent. I am very much a loner most of the time, I don’t need constant reassurance, constant presence: I start demanding it when I feel, even from a distance, that you’ve removed yourself from me, from my circle: how would you feel if (assuming you didn’t have a dysfunctional family too) your favourite sibling told you you are not his/her sibling anymore? It is incomprehensible, isn’t it? You may not like them all the time, you may not choose to hang out with them all the time, but you are never not going to stop being siblings.

I digress.

I explained how my relationship with these friends is, briefly. She got it: she said you get up close and personal. Yes, I do. I struggled and was careful when doing it with British people in particular, they get nervous when up close and personal happens, but when they get there, they like it. It’s real. My friend D., keen as he was on his personal space and reluctant as he was to become my friend at first, one of my favourite, he liked it. I have to remind myself of that, in order not to let my mind slip into “ah it was you, just you, he never wanted that closeness”. In words he would clearly state he didn’t at first, but he couldn’t grasp that what he wanted out of our relationship, what he sought, what he wanted to give, were all the result of being up close and personal and couldn’t be achieved otherwise.

The counsellor then interjected, and said how “Well, of course she’d want to keep him to herself and keep you away. I mean I’m the only one I want my husband to get up close and personal with!”.

She shocked me, I looked at her, I felt like I was going to explain, and she giggled and said “Oh my I don’t know where that came from, that’s not me talking” and then resumed the note taking.

I wasn’t sure what to say. I had to shake my head and move on.

D. had become self-satisfied, limited in interests, repetitive, predictable, just like her and her friends… someone so removed from his past self that his old friends and I could hardly recognise him. I know he also left his darkness behind, that darkness I understood and cherished but he hated, understandably, and now he is truly happy. I know all this and I should just be happy for him.

I just miss my old friend.

As I walked out I was shaken by the counsellor’s act. Like I posted before, it took me a while to get into my car, other thoughts accompanied the shock of that one. How often, growing up in retrograde Italy, was I confronted with women’s jealousy? There is one thing though, one small detail everyone seems to miss out on: I was there first. I established a friendship in which I had invested heavily, that has no requirement of sexual interaction so why should we change something as important as that to appease your own insecurity?

How many wasted years of discussions surrounding this subject have I had?

I needed for the counsellor to say: I am sorry you lost your friend, I can see how that would indeed devastate you. Instead I was left with the bitter after taste of feeling that even she felt that well, of course, you can have your friendships as long as the new partner doesn’t come in. After that you have to step back out and become a superficial acquaintance. What?

What if I’d been a man. Or a lesbian. Would that have appeased the woman, assuming it really was the reason she so passively-aggressively removed me from my friend’s life?

My husband needed his friend too. But being a man and being different from me he wouldn’t make a fuss of it. He told him once, D. chose not to do anything about it, I chose to stop dragging him towards being a better friend for my husband and his other friends who loved him dearly, he chose to let himself get lost in this new world of his and leave all his friends behind.

They all feel sad, and sorry. They all miss him, I know it. Each in their own way, we have all been deprived of D. But because they are not me, they don’t make a fuss about it. I did, for a long time, then I gave up. And as soon as I gave up, I offered no more resistance and he was assimilated. Happily so.

So that is the story of the jokingly named (the welcome addition told me yesterday) “Disowned D.”. It is a story that few people tell but that happens a lot, a story my husband brought back to mind yesterday, hearing something about Paul McCartney and asking me about how and why they split up, was it just the Yoko factor or was there more. And I explained how the Yoko factor was no “just”. It meant intrusion into an established routine that in their case (The Beatles’, in case it weren’t obvious), was needed to create the twentieth century’s most popular music. She intruded on a friendship so balanced and beautiful (John and Paul’s) and broke that balance. Hatred towards her in unjustified: it was never her. It was John who insisted in having her in the recording sessions. John who insisted in the other members checking out her work and allowing themselves to be “inspired” by her yowlings. It was John who needed that morbid attachment with her, constantly going back to her for a pat on the head or a kiss or what have you. It was all John, who destroyed their thing. And although John and Yoko’s relationship was by no means idyllic all the time, there were times when it was. For John, that was more important and soul defining than any work he had previously done with his mates.

I understand Paul’s refusal to just let go, despite the self-dedicated song he wrote, “Let it Be”. Paul had Linda, they had plenty of other stuff to do and to think about and to be happy about. Then Linda died too. Then George. A long tragic story, and I am sure that he would often think back to when he was friends with John, and how he was the special one for him, the one who’d left this great big gaping hole. And although it was all John’s doing (or non-doing), Yoko was the catalyst, and that is that. She could have worked it out by herself and imposed on John to take time out from her to be there for the friends who used to mean so much for him. John was weak, the story ends. The bitterness doesn’t.

I was left with a simmering but righteous anger: we should never give up on our friendships: they are eternal, whereas relationships based on a sexual exchange are really not necessarily so. Even though the counsellor claimed to have made up her little outburst, it left me not raging, but angry. No, actually, you don’t have to be that person. I trust my husband not to cheat on me, but I would be super happy for him to have a closer relationship with someone else. Whether that someone else is a heterosexual male (society’s preference) or a gay man or a gay woman or a heterosexual woman is really not the point. Of course people fuck up sometimes and trip up but the connection with another soul, a connection that is deeper than just hanging out and doing things together, is the most precious thing we possess and we should always, always seek it out and cherish it when it happens, be it a momentary one or a lifetime’s, and I will always mourn it when I lose it, and I don’t care to change that about myself and I never will.

Edit: Oddly enough, the moment I posted I felt more relieved, more ready to let go. Perhaps the trick to letting go is not to diminish it and belittle it, but to give yourself the time YOU need, reassert the importance of what is passing, and only then you can really let it go. Go and be happy, my friend.

Beauty, gender and sexuality

This morning was a glorious morning. The fog, here and there, the orange sun, sheep sat in the fields, cockerels singing good morning, even the motorway to my husband’s work was a great journey, little hillocks appearing here and there out of the sea of fog, fog clearing up, trees donning the festive colours. October is one beautiful month indeed.

As we turned to corner to go into my husband’s office area, there was someone standing at the bus stop. Two long black braids, standing almost defiantly, just there, at the bus stop. My husband couldn’t help a “boy? girl?” I was baffled I must admit so I just said “lovely”. I will say she, because that’s the vibe I got, but she could have easily been a he. I felt she was both, very very clearly. But what she definitely was, and I said it out loud, was “lovely”.

She wasn’t just boy/girl. Her powerful black thick hair suggested the kind of hair black people have. Her features, though extremely gentle (sort of Halle Berry-type), were in quite a large round face. Her skin was very white, but she definitely had black features, somehow. Her body was glorious. She was just wearing jeans (discreet flares) over her long legs and a short jacket, you’d think seventies’ disco clubbing the night before? But no, I got the feeling it was all too discreet for disco and it was her daytime attire (I hope so anyway, had I her body even at my age I would most certainly want to dress like that). I had a feeling she was only just going to school, or work, perhaps? She stood tall but her legs and hands were crossed. In defiance but also fearful. I can imagine, there must still be idiots who would shout stuff at you on the street.

In truth, it wasn’t obvious to me what to call her: him, her. She was one of those people who could really do with an in-between pronoun (what’s taking so long, why don’t we have one already?). She reminded me in a flash of that beautiful, intense character in Imajica, one of my favourite (dark) fantasy books, by Clive Barker, which I intended to re-read soon. I loved her/him, and I loved that the author clearly loved her/him too, and I very recently found out that Clive Barker’s favourite of his own books is precisely Imajica.

Anyhow. I hope before I go I will live in a world where sexuality and gender are better known and just part of the every day normal and it is not, and never will it ever again be, an issue. All that person was, standing at the bus stop, in all her contradictions, was lovely. I hope she/he has a brilliant and reassuring day in Sheffield today.

Self-awareness in depression and anxiety.

Let’s see if I can get all those neatly laid out thoughts I  had this morning back into shape to express them.

My understanding of my depression and social anxiety is increasing day by day. In leaps and bounds, as they like to say here :). Yesterday I saw a lovely cartoon about anxiety and depression and it rang false with me, but I couldn’t put my finger on why. Then I got it.

The cartoon conveys very well the difficulty of living with depression and anxiety (and, by extension, other mental health issues), but it is very limiting, in that I believe that understanding those guys better is the key to beating them, and they CAN be beaten, or at least kept under check, at least when the triggers are relatively minor. The trick is, as always, self-awareness. They are not two independent balloons that wreak havoc without our knowledge and consent, they are very much a part of us, brought on by us, and so can be dealt with by us.

There are bigger things we can do very little about and so I am looking forward to starting on some sort of counselling therapy. No, I stand corrected: there are many things it is really really really difficult for us to do something about, but I am not giving up my conviction that everything is possible, as long as we become our best friend. Anyhow, this is not about that.

I am talking about the “little things”. Those things anxiety and depression sufferers are all very familiar with, the things that can take you and shake you and plummet you to the ground and beat you senseless and the people around you say “aw come on, aren’t you overreacting just a little bit?”. Those things.

I am getting better at recognising the little sneaky bastards. So, this morning I walked my dog briefly with a spring in my step, because the pain from the past three days in my legs is finally lifting (it may indeed have been caused by too many intensive and prolonged videogame sessions). I was a little perturbed about my husband’s request to post a packet with two boxes of electric cigarette fluid for a dear friend who lives in Italy. I was a little agitated when he asked me to do it (and had been semi-subsconsciously forgetting to do it for days), and after my walk I remembered it was because last time I did it the grumpy postoffice lady in Cambridge was not very pleasant about telling me it couldn’t be sent like that, it needed to be in separate packets. Plus something in the back of my mind was telling me: restrictions have increased, they won’t let me send it, you’ll see! So I told him. My sensible husband says please could you find out? My husband is a sweetie and works in an office and he doesn’t do postoffice friendly hours so of course after my walk with my dog and feeling all confident and relaxed again I said “But of course! Don’t worry!!“. I tried to quickly find out before we left the house but the internet being so slow I just gave up. Before leaving the house I took my trusty B12 and deliberately skipped the Propranolol… nah, i don’t need it, surely it’s no big deal to just ask, and there is nothing else to make me anxious today.

Got to school, noticed people staring at my tits. This is because yesterday a grumpy (end of the day) shop manager became perceivably nicer after I took off my jumper and she couldn’t hep looking at my tits. Anyway so I’m sure it was made up and nobody was staring at my tits this morning at school, but that’s how it felt like. So I put my jumper back on.

Then I went to the postoffice (a post inside a little grocery shop). She was still counting money and postoffice wasn’t strictly speaking open yet, I said not to worry I’ll go up in my town, she said no don’t worry we can start sending. That lady is so nice. This town is so nice. So I told her what was in it and of course confusion ensued. As far as she could tell if the things have a skull on them they can’t be sent, period. Is it a skull like this one or like this one?.  As I had told her we’d never sent it before (a lie!) I couldn’t say that we had. Plus I wasn’t actually sure that it had a skull on it, or whether it had a triangle or a square around it. She saw I was uncertain and bless her heart she kept checking on her book. Then she offered to phone the helpline. A queue was materialising behind me and we all know what British people are like with queues, we detest holding up a queue. I say “we” even though I was born in Italy because I feel very British about this. Anyway, in the end she calls the helpline, and it is so: any type of skull? No send. Less than 5% nicotine, can send, with warning. Under 2% can send, no warning. Above 5%, can’t send. I thank her very much pick up all my packets apologise profusely to the looong queue out of the shop and leave.

That’s when it starts. Heart beating like a blooming disco beat. Ba bum! Ba bum! Brain tries to reason with me: It’s fine, you asked, it’s her job to check, she was nice, none of the people in the queue grumbled, it was FINE. Brain tries to mess with me: But he’s already told him he sent it. Well he lied, his problem, he shouldn’t have. Why didn’t he check beforehand anyway? Why did he ask, he KNOWS… and then I stopped myself, and realised: hang on. It was no big deal. He would have done it and he would have done it calmly and he would have come home and looked better at the contents an ta-dah, take it from there. But you are at home and he’s miles away at work! It.is.no.big.deal. I text him, why did you blah blah and now blah blah and now it will take me hours to calm myself! And then I thought it is true. It will take me hours. God I’m stoopid. And then: You’re not stupid, and you know why it will take you hours? Because it will take your heart hours to calm down. You had better go take your Propranolol. Also:

  1. breathing will only get me so far, and believe me I know a lot about breathing techniques. I am breathing nonetheless.
  2. telling myself I am “being silly” and “overreacting” will do nothing, in fact, if I do manage to get calm by doing that, it will set depression off. And THAT is a bugger to get out of.
  3. just the fact that all that physical response has been set in motion, right or not, justified or not, is the thing to deal with. So there is no point in saying it was silly to begin with, it has happened, so now I have to deal with it because something else will set in which is worse if I don’t. So, what do I do as I head towards the hill I have to walk up to get home.
  • First, I remind myself of the confidence I was feeling yesterday. I do NOT tell myself eh there you go all that confidence now is going to plummet under my shoes blah blah. No. I say to myself, that’s where I will get back to. It’s ok if I have to deal with this right now, but I will get back to that.
  • I then become aware of the depression that comes AFTER the anxiety. Not like in the comic, where they are together. In my experience, anxiety usually kicks in first, and it’s coming down from that stupid adrenaline high that plummets me down. So, I won’t let it. I become aware of the slowing down of my heart pounding (still happening, very slowly, bugger it). I don’t care how slow it is, I know the pill I just took will help me, and I just let it slow, take my time, no rush. What I used to do was berate myself for being such a nincomoop, a useless emotional idiotic wreck. That’s not helpful. That leads to depression. Depression is a prolonged tedium that I despise. So, I let it cool down. I post, because I know getting it all out here helps me tremendously.
    So instead of working on my planned translation enquiries, I will work on this today. Not a problem. I am so lucky I am at home to deal with this. Dealing with this if you’re going to work is a whole different story. Possible, but waaaay more difficult. Easier, to start with, as you have multiple distractions. But that’s how depression easily sneaks in. Anyway not the point right now.
  • I make a plan: I post, while heartbeat slows. I then look into postoffice issue. Then if not calm yet I will play some Witcher. Or I will play anyway to relax completely and NOT ALLOW any thoughts, the harpies of depression, to enter my head. After that nice numbing down I will look into some translation stuff.

So, that’s it. I got a plan so I walk up the hill more confidently and there are the cows, as usual. They come closer every time (My daughter tries to pet them every afternoon coming home). This time, they all come really close really quickly and then just stare at me:

WP_000141WP_000139

I am very happy. They bring back memories of my interminable walks in the Peruvian countryside, where I would come across lots of cows, and cows are cool. I put my hand forward, reminding myself I wasn’t scared of them then. They stay put as long as I look at them, then follow me with gusto when I turn around and walk. There is a game you play in Itay as a child, that works like that. They’re funny. I say goodbye and get out. It is a lovely day and it’s ok for me to spend it ensuring anxiety doesn’t spark off bad stuff.

I believe it is very important to become aware of what happens to us specifically, rather than generalise in any way. It is incredibly helpful to pinpoint the common traits, read about other people who share similar symptoms and coping techniques and what have you. But I must never forget that I have my own experience of myself and nothing beats that. Counsellors and psychiatrists can only do so much, I think. They can help us see the process from the outside and that certainly helps, but if I don’t do this as I walk up the hill today, helped by the cows who are there just for me, and for nobody else, nobody will do it for me.

For the good of the veterans

I had someone come around on behalf of our landlady to evaluate the house.
We walked around and I noticed he wanted me to stick by him rather than let him get on with his thing.
I told him how in Italy all the wood and sturdiness of the house would add to its value (it turned out I was wrong, but whatever) and he said, nah, not in England. After a while he asked, so where are you from? I had come to dread that question because England has changed, it is no longer the happy open place it used to be, intolerance towards foreigners has grown to include Europeans (not that it was fair before, but before I could defend Non-Europeans, now I need English people to defend me!).
Here, however, everyone has been very nice about us being Italians so I said “We’re from Italy“. He asked me which part, as he had gotten married – by chance (?) – in the beautiful Lake Garda area.
We moved to another room, he looked around, then he said: “So, ever think of going back?
A while ago this question would have been no problem and asked innocently. Recently, however, some English people (a lot, actually) think that us Europeans suck the benefits off them (we don’t qualify for them) and somehow manage to live here being fed for free, not buying any food, not paying any taxes, buying clothes only from Italy and not spending a penny that helps the economy in this place, so I have started to dread that question too (yes anxiety sucks), but being a truthful person I said “No. Italians have become a majority of people I don’t like, the politics have been crap for years, I have no interest in going back, and anyway I grew up in New Zealand so I guess the mentality here is closer to my own than the Italian one.”
So we spent a little bit where he told me about his sister living in New Zealand for two years.
Then he suddenly switched to the problem in this country is we let every dick and tom get in, we are so open and welcoming…. My horror as I realised he was going to tell me he was pissed off at the refugees coming through from the European borders. I say horror because you see, as I am emotionally faulty, I tend to automatically want to please whoever is speaking to me and I will automatically nod along with whatever trash is coming out of your mouth… even when I disagree with it. Unless it touches something deep in my core.

He did. I think what did it was when he said Yeah I mean we can’t even help those people who have served our country, our veterans, we should help our people first and I did that thing, that thing that pisses everybody off but I couldn’t hold back.
I interrupted him.

Oh yes, you are right. I mean there are indeed a few things where England is still so far behind other European countries. One for example is your class system, whereby if you are a chav kid you are a chav and nobody cares about you. I mean I always thought about England as being so much more progressive, but it seems this is only true if you are middle class. I mean

He tried to get a word in, but I didn’t let him.

in Italy this wouldn’t happen. A child is a child is a child and an abused child would have the whole society defending them and intervene like tigers, but here, as long as you live in the wrong postcode, you will be left alone, because you know “who cares, they’re chavs!”. That to me really goes to show that unfortunately England still has a looooong way to go and yes, you’re right, if you can’t look after your own, how can you hope to help the unfortunate from outside. Whereas of course, countries like Austria and Germany are so way ahead, evidently, they can get organised. But here, clearly, there is this class thing, and as long as that’s in place, there is no hope.

He was quiet for a second or two then he started to explain how “these people” know how to play the system, and have more children just so they can have a larger council house.
Many are truly like that, true, but then change the bloody system, work on it, you do not abandon children to hell just because some of their parents deliberately cheat the system.

By that reasoning, I should abandon and leave to their own devices the children of rich spoilt parents who neglect their children and leave them to be abused by nannies, or, worse, their parents, because I have NO respect for this people, and I have seen the environments rich kids grow up in and believe me, abuse and neglect are never far, quite the opposite: were I to generalise, having lived in very rich environments for long enough, I’d say the children of rich people are more likely to become psycho murderers simply through the amount of drugs, abuse and neglect they are subjected to. You don’t know about it so much because they are protected, it won’t even transpire into the news. And when it does transpire? Ah but you know what? Rich people help the economy! Is that it? Is that why these sort of people can get away with what amounts to murder of the soul, as my dear fellow blogger says?

Who profits from child abuse?

But I was proud of myself: I hadn’t lost my patience. I had been able to say my piece without getting emotional and breaking into tears and without starting an argument. For the first time in a long time, I managed to not only say what my opinion is, right or wrong it doesn’t matter, you have a right to disagree with me, but hey! He COULD’VE disagreed with me, because I stated an opinion that was different from his. And, contrarily to when I can hold back no longer when in company of friends and wish to say my opinion rather have them assume I agree, I didn’t get emotional.

The reason why this is a big deal for me is that, as I have said before, when this process is over, and I know a little better who I am and what ails me and how/if I can control it, I’d like to actually do something useful.

My core belief? All the horrors of the world, asides from natural catastrophes and natural animal predating, derive from people being able to exclude their conscience, of people who don’t even have one, and being able to do things without care for other fellow human beings. If we could eradicate THAT, if we could create in everybody a conscience, and if, then, we could be KIND as a result, to all people including regular adults but for starters to children, because they are the ones who will be the next adults, gradually our society would change and shift HUGELY, and we would move to a different level of evolution. I am SURE of this, as of pretty much nothing else. I wrote about it confusedly a while back, too.

That is why when I am faced with someone who has no kindness, I look at them as they might look at a Neandertal: you poor, undeveloped, retrograde human being.

The people in the blog post I linked earlier: not the abusing father, the vile creature who must have had his own past traumas or what have you, the people who let him go. The people who said he would fare badly in prison. The people who said… I can’t even say it anymore, it makes me so angry, so sick inside. The people who let him go. Why are they still in office? Why are they even allowed to say such things and then allowed to work again in the defence of other human beings? I couldn’t care less if he doesn’t fare well in prison! Was his tiny daughter faring well while she was being abused by him?

The children are EVERYTHING. We can start by protecting them, by making them holy, and seeing them as precious, untouchable. I happen to believe human life in general is so, but I understand it is harder to apply this principle to adults, especially troublesome, “evil” ones. But the children, it doesn’t matter whose child they are, it doesn’t matter where they came from, they are invaluable, precious, and a hurt or dead child is a crime against nature of the most heinous kind. And when you don’t care about the children in the postcode after yours, or a country outside of yours, you’re a part of that too. Indifference kills.

I removed an image for fear it might be too disturbing for those of us who do not need to be shocked into realising how very human this tragedy is. If you want to understand the controversy here is the link to the original Guardian article. Please be aware that some of you may find the images very distressing.

Indifference and identity

I may or may not suffer/have suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder. I may or may not suffer from Bipolar Disorder. I sometimes suffer from Depression, and have had one suicide attempt, and one suicide plan, in my life. That plan remains a source of comfort, a “back door exit”, in the back of my mind even at my happiest. I suffer from Social Anxiety, which I have learnt to identify as the greatest trigger behind the above possible conditions, and as such, by playing around with it and adapting my life to making it happen as little as possible, I have been leading a fairly calm life, compared to my old standards.
Why do I feel the need for this summary?
Because I need to state that for most of my qualities, thoughts and core beliefs, I have no idea what they really are. I will feel very strongly about something one day, and then very strongly about its opposite the next day, or even half an hour later, depending on who I’ve been reading or who I’ve been talking to.
In most subjects, I tend to agree with whoever makes their case better. That is one aspect that is quite unnerving for me, about me.
I am not stupid, I was never stupid.
When I was between 7 and 10 and I was left alone in a big flat by myself for most of the time, I read everything my parents had in the house. A few stood out: I read the whole of the Bible when I was 8 but not much older, as well as this wonderful book, El Gaucho Martín Fierro. It was a leather-bound copy, with the Gaucho on the cover sitting on his horse. An incredible book.
I understood these books. I remember having a rare occasion when I had my two friends over and trying very hard to make them like it: I read it out loud to them, and explained the poetry. I remember the way they looked at each other and asked me to just watch TV and I insisted “No, wait, just give it a chance, you’ll see how wonderful this is!” and they looked at each other again and just left, of common accord.. even though they didn’t know each other before.

I felt heartbroken. Not only had I failed in sharing something I felt was so beautiful with my two best friends (my only friends, asides from a little girl with Down syndrome who lived downstairs, but she wouldn’t have understood that book). But now, because I tried to share that and was perhaps a little too intense about it, I was left alone. I should have just put the book down and watched TV with them instead.
Instead, I was alone, and at the time, as I was little, and I had no parents or siblings or anybody who would talk to me and explain: “You know, these things you like, they’re great! But most kids don’t like them, so just enjoy doing other things with your friends”, I would sit and commiserate myself for a bit, then carry on playing alone. The few occasions I did seem them again, individually, I would just let myself play silly games with them, and it was so much fun and it was wonderful. I always felt a little sorry, however, that there was nobody to share my beautiful discoveries with.
Growing up all over the world, I was always ignorant of habits and customs and a lot of stuff that a lot of people take for granted. What is polite conversation, what isn’t. What it’s ok to say out loud, what isn’t.
I had cause to once more remember our driver, G. (his name escapes me, for the first time. I am really losing my memory :(). We were sat on the little hill in my garden, in Arequipa, Peru. We sat together in silence and watched the silent and steady munching of grass of my brown Llama, Bibo. I was 10, and he was just an adult to me. Looking back now, he was a young man. He was my favourite type of Peruvian, those who still have Indio features, like the Incas, rather than those who have Euro-Spanish features.
He just sat there, and I next to him, and I felt these waves of sadness engulf us. We were both silent. It was not unpleasant at all. It felt gentle, somehow warm, comforting, but it was very, very deep sadness. Grief. I may not remember his name right now but I still remember that feeling as though I could recreate it now. So I asked him, after a while: “G, why are you always dressed in black?”.
He responded without taking his eyes off Bibo, without attempting to dismiss it all with a smile and a shrug, without pretence.
“My wife died, a few years ago. I still miss her”.
“Oh”
That was all. Life went on as normal. We sat some more in silence and sadness then it was time to get up and get stuff done. I saw him smile and be efficient and just be himself. But he always wore black, till the day I left that country. He was unashamed to show his grief, unashamed to say why it was there. You might think it was because I was a child, but he wore black, you see. His statement was clear, even to the adults. He was Real.

I started this post explaining that there are many things I don’t know where I stand about. But there are some things where I do.
The one religion I have, the one steady presence in my life, is compassion. Those who suffer will always have precedence in my life to those who don’t. I felt I agreed with Jesus quite a bit on that one. And don’t get me wrong, I am made up when someone is happy! It makes me happy that people are happy, when they’re happy! But I don’t believe in the pursuit of happiness to the detriment of others. And even if you do no evil, you are still detrimental to others when you choose not to care. When you choose to not feel compassion.
Recently, very recently, I have learnt that I need to turn that same compassion to myself. That I have a right to it too. I am still learning, the process is hard because I grew up with such a desperate need for affection, that if you weren’t actively abusing me I would be grateful for just accepting me in your presence and making me feel loved (although often, that was not the case). And if you did abuse me, it would take me years to identify it, and in many cases, even to accept it. It’s a work in progress. But I am starting to see that if you feel it’s ok to make me suffer just because I am inconveniently real for you, if you feel it’s ok for people to suffer just because they’re inconveniently human, dirty, unable to masquerade their issues or feelings for your benefit, then you’re not ok. In my book, you’re not ok.
I do not advocate everyone stopping whatever they’re doing and all becoming charity or social carers or fighters for the rights of others (though some do! They are heroes), take homeless people home with them, and so on. Of course every person has a right to get on in their own lives, they can’t all be human rights lawyers and fair legislators (hurray for them, more heroes!).
But the indifference. The indifference is what seems normal in these western societies I have come to experience, and I believe that indifference is the one quality I am becoming increasingly intolerant to. You can be as successful, well off and happy as you want. THAT I won’t begrudge you. But being indifferent, and non-compassionate of others, I think I have found the one thing about me that never budges, never changes. If you are indifferent to the plight of others, then I will judge you, and find you failing.
That is the one right I claim for myself.

Edit: Gerardo! His name was Gerardo 😀

Working with mental health issues

This morning we got out of the house at 7 am to go see the doctor for my husband. It was a reassuring visit for him so that was all good.
On the way back I saw the first few people going into work. It was a glorious sunny morning, and I am a morning person. The morning is when I feel I could do ANYTHING.
I told my husband how I find myself looking at people going to work, and I get the knot in the throat.
When I see them I think oh I would love to be going to work!
He said, laughing: “It’ll pass!”
I said, seriously: “Yes, it passes because all I have to do is think ahead a little, and think of all the difficulties I know I would start having at any job, and I know I won’t be able to sustain it anymore”.
He added, to be reassuring and stop any sad thoughts from crystallising: “It’s only ’cause it’s a nice sunny morning. Wait till winter comes, and it’s all dark and wet… You’ll be glad to be at home!”
I said: “Well, no, actually. I remember I always loved going to work in the morning. Even when it meant driving on the motorway and I had my radio on. I like going to work in the morning. But now I know I can’t. On one hand that new realisation lets me breathe: I can stop getting into fits of hyperactivity, sending out CVs, feeling all confident and hyped and then see it all crumble. On the other hand, it makes me feel really sad, to realise I most likely won’t ever be able to get “back into work””.
We left it at that.

When I started this whole process of working towards a diagnosis, it never even occurred to me to think about claiming disability. Since accumulating information, I know that a lot of people do. It is now becoming clear to me how difficult it is to work regularly for people with mental health issues!

I am reminded of the reason why I quit my last job. At first, a few of my favourite colleagues were leaving. But some remained, and I loved them to bits. I had gone to work AS therapy: I had been working as a translator and found the solitude at home and the stress extremely damaging and alienating. It was a good decision: I loved my humble work at Specsavers, loved my ebullient and beautiful boss, loved my colleagues, loved my varied and mostly elderly customers. I found out towards the end that we were paid less than minimum wage, but it didn’t matter to me: I was happy to work there.
My boss was understanding of the physical pain caused to me by standing (a must in a shop) and allowed me to do another type of work, where I could sit. She tailored my new schedule around my work exhaustion and the fact that I wanted to be home for my children. She was great and helpful.
Hypermobility (basically your joints are way to bendy to support your bones and muscles) meant that recovering from a very nasty ankle sprain made me start suffering standing or even sitting comfortably, which combined with my boss leaving and the afore mentioned colleagues quitting or relocating, I kept wondering whether I should stay or not.
What gave me the final push out was the unfair way I felt many colleagues were being treated. What had kept me there was the hope that I could do something to help my colleagues and improve things, but I soon realised I was up against more than I could afford to fight.

While I was working there, however, I noticed the scorn in other people when my colleague’s anxiety caused him to call in sick. The frustration. They felt they could not get away with being home sick because they felt “nervous”. They didn’t understand how paralysing it was for my otherwise exceedingly talented and capable colleague.
On the other hand, I understood that when he called in sick, all others had to work double. I understood the frustration in a team of being let down. So if you have such difficulties, I feel I understand that as someone hiring you’d rather have someone unproblematic, than someone who is going to be home a lot, or someone who might potentially explode in a drama.
In my case, it was amazing how much one single person’s attitude, one boss, could make the difference. Of three directors, one was the go-to woman for me, one was the go-to man for my colleague, and the other was nobody’s go-to person: nobody trusted him.
So, in the end, what do we need in order to be able to work?
I think all of us, myself, my colleagues with different mental health problems and others with physical health problems they were ignoring and making worse because they couldn’t afford to miss work, all of us, we need workplaces to be truly humane.
The knowledge that it’s ok to be home if feeling unwell will make you stay home less, not more. I truly believe this.
Not being terrorised into missing work, even when you’re not paid if you don’t show up!
Ensuring you always have a little extra staff, so that if one misses the day it’s not the end of the world. Certainly not told off or reprimanded for it!

In my case, these probably wouldn’t be enough, but they would sure have made all my working experiences far, far easier and less traumatic. I am sure they would make a deep difference for people who suffer from depression and anxiety, and even those who suffer from bad back or migraines (all conditions made worse by the stress of going to work even though they are really not feeling up to it).

Being able to take more days off, or rather, being free to take days off full stop: one should have the right to do so, perhaps some paid in full and some not, some not paid at all, and all subject to previous discussion in case an especially busy time is ahead, or a particularly important project: but people should be allowed more flexibility and freedom to manage their lives, even if it means taking a week off just to have an impromptu holiday, rather than have such strict holiday and days off policies.
This, I feel, would benefit a wider range of people, and would convince more people to dare go back into work.

Just a random thought.

As I stand now, I am happy I now have an appointment to look forward to with the Derbyshire Pathfinder team, who will then decide what to do with me, psychitrically speaking, and I am in no spirit now to think about anything else, though I do try.

I do, however, still think I’d like to slowly veer my activities towards helping in crashing the stigma around mental health, and make a difference, somehow. i have always wanted to make a difference for those who sufer and struggle in this society. Of course that was before I finally admitted
I was indeed one of them, rather than the strong and confident paladin I always thought I was.
I can be that paladin again, I feel sure of this, I just need to learn to bukld some good armous first.