Episode 2.1 – Let’s Start Over

It’s been a while. A long while. Everything is different yet some things, the shitty things, linger on.

Very recently, I attended a social event. I don’t attend many. We’ve moved house. Actually, we’ve moved county: from the bright lights and extortionate rents of a tiny South Dublin flat to a sprawling, converted cottage surrounded by fields. Whereas before, we woke up to horn beeping taxis and drunk revellers singing out of tune at three in the morning, now we hear only the howls of the hunt hounds in the distance and the odd cow mooing her displeasure when our newest puppy escapes into her pasture to roll around in cow shite. This is the kind of house that’s hard to leave. Every nook and cranny holds a new treasure; a new spot of soothing sunlight or a snippet of history carved into the walls. So, venturing out to a social event is a rare occurrence.

You can imagine then my, disgruntlement (aside: recurring linguistic discussion topic in our house: can one be “gruntled’?) when I arrived at said social event to find none of other than The Guy Who Did The Thing When I was 16 sitting there, having the bants.

That was a couple of weeks ago. And I’m still not right.

I haven’t quite had a total meltdown…yet. I’ve been close to walking away: walking out of the house with a Beyoncé like flip of the wrist, declaring “I’m done’. I haven’t. I’m here in the kitchen writing this which is something, even if I started it six days ago and couldn’t pluck the words out of my scalded pre-frontal cortex.

I think I spotted him as soon as I walked in. “Spotted” seems the wrong word as it suggests a quick movement; a glance. This didn’t feel quick. It felt like a slow, sticky mist descending upon me and glueing my jaw shut. I don’t know what I talked about. I knew there were faces in front of me expectant of words: not just words, but fully formed sentences to emerge, glistening with charm and wit, to come from my mouth. I managed to spill out something barely comprehensible to my lovely, strong, kind, nerdy, handsome fiancé: I can’t do this. He’s here, the guy. Here. He didn’t blink. He was calm.  He held my hand as I talked. He was steady. I was manic; liquid; ethereal. He says I did well. He says I didn’t embarrass myself. He says The Guy Who Did The Thing is a dick: drunk; loud; obnoxious; horrible to his significant other and generally dismissed by polite company.

The Ben and Jerry’s is out.

I held it together. He left. There was an unrelated situation that needed to be dealt with and I happened to be in a position to help deal with it. I coped. I even helped someone else. Then I came home and cried in the kitchen. I needed him cleaned off me. Scrubbed. He was all over me. Tentacles sucking normality out of my pores but yet, and this weirdly hurts the most, not looking at me; not acknowledging me; not seeing me.

The Ben and Jerry’s is gone.

That was several weeks ago and I’m still withdrawn; snappy; knotted in stress; unable to sleep at night yet lethargic and uninterested during the day. Teaching is my only solace and even during that, it  is difficult to maintain focus. I’m trying to be sociable and not let him win – after all, I won that night when he had to leave early – but I desperately want to be alone; silent; available for self care (whatever the fuck that is); to win for myself.

 

My eyes are closing. I have more to say; to write. I just don’t have the words yet.

Maybe I won’t leave it another year till I write again.

Dot 💚

 

 

 

 

Episode 142 – Why does this feel so personal?

Thoughts and Feelings on the 2016 US Election Results from Two Irish Women- The Day After Trump Won

Dotty,35

I don’t know where to start other than I feel sick and that’s not because of the two glasses of red wine I’ve had at this unusually early hour for me. I, my daughter and many of the women I now are physically traumatised. It sounds ridiculous. I feel like I’m some sort of sensationalist wannabe by even admitting to my distress and grief, but the feeling is there and I can’t ignore it. Like the mourners who keened for Princess Diana in 1997, the mourners I scorned for their outpouring of what I assumed to be fake, attention seeking  emotion, I know get how something so public can feel so personal .

Why does it feel so bad? Why does it feel like we’ve been humiliated; rejected and punched in the stomach? It wasn’t me who lost an election, I haven’t been rejected by the American electoral system, twice. I don’t even know the woman who was. I’m not even American. I’m Irish and we’ve already had two women Presidents despite our abysmal record on women’s rights.

I have so many questions and very few answers, I guess everyone is in the same boat. I’ve just been  added to a WhatsApp “support” group for women (and men) who are finding themselves in a sort of existential limbo today. I have countless articles open and ready to read in an effort to substantiate my own visceral reactions through the cold, hards words of others. My own words, I’m aware, are rambling and raw.

Is it just because she’s a woman that it feels so crap? Is it because it’s the same woman, uniquely and unequivocally qualified to be the Commander-in-Chief that we are so despondent? What more can a woman do in order to avoid being ousted by a silver spooned, bullying, misogynistic 80s leftover for a job she has basically trained for her whole life? Must we be perfect to the point of complete absence of sin or human error and full to the angelic crown of purity like the Virgin Mary in order to finally split the glass ceiling? Maybe that’s what a halo is for, as it certainly doesn’t seem like a stiletto, let alone a low heeled tan court shoe, will impact on the barrier between woman and greatness.  Is it because our hopes were high and we were persuaded into blind faith by polls and the left leaning media that it’s the shock factor that we’re dealing with right now? Or was she the wrong woman for the job? Did we need someone more exciting for Americans to throw their enthusiasm behind? Was she just too tainted by her husband’s escapades; her founding role in a new potential political dynasty or by her past failures and mistakes? If she had been anybody else’s wife would this have happened? Then again would she even have got this far if not for the exposure that marrying William Jefferson Blythe Clinton would bring her. Did she need him to make it even this far? Hillary Rodham won the popular vote so I know that she wasn’t as hated by Americans as many liked to claim she was. What exactly was the problem? Why couldn’t she bring those last few states home?

I still don’t know why I feel so shit about all this exactly but I’m guessing it has something to do our family and friends in America; being a woman who has experienced assault and harassment; being a liberal; being a mother to a 16 year old girl; being a feminist; being a human who tries not to be a massive boil on the arse of humanity. I’m guessing all sorts of people from all demographic backgrounds are feeling dismayed, discouraged and distressed (basically, you’re feeling all the disses) and for now, that’s all I can clearly, and not very at that, get out in words rather than angry screams or exhausted sighs.

Scandi, 16

Dear America,
Congratulations, you’ve done it. You have elected Donald Trump for your President. (To all Clinton supporters, thank you very much for trying to oppose him). You’ll be happy now that you have this man who ‘understands America’. This ‘outsider’ has become an insider, this ‘truth speaker’. You must be delighted he ‘Trumped that Bitch’ as your delightful shirts say. I honestly hope you’re happy.
On your happy day I would like to ask you some questions, don’t worry, you don’t need to reply. Just think on it.
Hillary Clinton has run for president twice, why do you think that she has never succeeded? First in the race for the democratic nomination in 2008, then in 2016, against your main man Donald J. Trump. Now, don’t use her emails as an excuse, they didn’t even exist in 2008. Is is because to you, a woman should never have that much power? Is it because, a woman as president is a ludicrous thought? If your answer is yes to either of these questions, please try to think of your reasoning.
Do you agree that all Mexican people are rapists? Did you know that 57% of rapists are white? Would you want Donald Trump around your daughter, around your sister, around you? Do you think it’s ok to ‘grab a woman by the pussy’? Do you think that a rich, famous man can do anything he wants just because he is famous? Would you ‘grab a woman by the pussy’? If you are going to say that this is locker room talk, then what fucking locker rooms do you go to? A prison locker room for rapists?
Do you disagree that women who were raped, or victims of incest, should be denied abortions? Do you think it’s ok to gun down or bomb a Planned Parenthood centre because ‘They are murdering babies’. Did you know that 33% of women who have been raped contemplate suicide, and 13% follow through. Did you know the number of children conceived from rape ranges from 7,750—12,500 in the US every year?
You say Clinton should be in prison for sending her emails on a private server, for rumours of embezzlement in the Clinton foundation. Do you not think that a man, who said that he can just kiss a woman because he’s famous, that he ‘moved on’ a married woman ‘like a bitch’ and that he just grabs women ‘by the pussy’ is completely innocent, is a great man against Mexican rapists. Did you know that Trump has court cases pending against him for fraud? Did you know he had a rape case against him of a 13 year old girl? That just disappeared? Do you know that 11 women have accused him of sexual assault? Please tell me, how you think this is ok?
On the topic of ‘those darned immigrants’, tell me, you constantly say that latino immigrant are ‘taking your jobs’ but would you do they jobs that they are willing to do so they can send money home to their families? Would you build Taco Bells, would you collect garbage? Would you risk your life to cross a border to a country you thought would hold a better future for you and your family, to escape the crime, the danger, the poverty? They come to a country to escape and they are escaping into a country that holds them as criminals, wasters, not worthy. Tell me, where did this picture you have painted of immigrants from Central America come from, is it the simple fact that their skin is darker than yours?
Do you think it’s ok for police to shot a young black man, because he looked suspicious? Do you think that black communities should be monitored and patrolled by police just because the population is black? I’m sorry, I forgot it’s 1952. Do you not think that Black Lives Matter? You’re going to say all lives matter, yes, they do. But that’s not the point, black people are still persecuted in America purely for the colour of their skin. Do you realise how ridiculous that is? Have you heard the story of Robert Davis from New Orleans who was arrested and brutally beaten on suspicion of public intoxication? Would that have happened to a white man, or would he just have been told to go home and get a cup of coffee? What about Amadou Diallo, the Guinea immigrant who was shot and killed by police in New York as they “Thought he had a gun, looked suspicious, and may have been assisting in a crime.” The officers shot 41 times into his Bronx apartment. When he came out they shot him as he put his hand in his pocket and they thought he had a gun. It was his wallet. Did you know those officers were acquitted of second degree murder and other charges a year later?
Were you aware that Vice President Mike Pence still believes in conversion therapy?
Are you aware of the effect this will have on the LGBTQ+ community? What is wrong with not being straight? It’s against the bible? Did you know the bible is also against mixed fabrics and kid gloves? Check the label on your shirt if I were you, I can almost guarantee you’re sinning. As President Bartlett said in the West Wing, they bible also says it’s ok to sell your daughter, tell me, how much would I be worth?

America, Irish people have loved you for a long time. We held you in great esteem, we helped to build your country. Did you know that the architect who designed Donald Trumps future residence, The White House, was Irish. Did you know that your country used to have signs in windows of businesses saying “No Blacks or Irish need apply?”. We were not worthy of your time. Now, you’re suddenly all related to Paddy O Donnell from Tipperary? America, we think you’ve gotten a bit too big for your boots. If Paddy O’ Donnell saw how you were acting, he wouldn’t be proud.
You may think I have no right to an opinion of your country, but think of me as a concerned sister. I have spend most summers of my life in your country and God, did I love it. But the older I get, the more cracks I see in your facade, the facade of the American dream.

Think on it,
Sincerely,
A 16 year old, white, straight, Irish girl.

 

Interlude – Do you know how big a deal this is?

It’s Election Day 2016 in the United States of America and I’m sitting in a stuffy room in the Republic of Ireland. It might be worth remembering at this point that Ireland is a Republic in large part to the financial support of a prosperous Irish-American community who, after fleeing starvation; deprivation and stifling religious and social constraints, became the American Dream (albeit faced with the anti-Catholic – and anti-anything-but-WASP – prejudice which still pervades the great American experiment today). We have followed in the rebellious footsteps of the American Revolution against the Empire, as well as in Netflix and chill binges, but I sure as hell hope we don’t follow them in Trump’s “movement”.

I’m listening to a guy deliver a training programme on how to start your own business. There are six of us today – attendance fluctuates each week. There are fifteen of us on the list. One guy makes silicone models of vehicles to be played with in conjunction with a post-apocalyptic table top game for which he also sells his game plans; stack cards and creates some sort of online platform. It all sounds impressively millennial to my borderline Gen X gaming experience of which the sum total is Pacman on my uncle’s boxy old wooden TV in the 80s and a couple of rounds of Sonic the Hedgehog which I quickly abandoned for The Cranberries and a book of poetry. A fellow educator in her 40s  just asked GameBoy if the post-apocalyptic vehicular gaming experience is a new trend or a gaming breakthrough that will continue to grow in popularity.

“It will if Hillary Clinton gets elected…”, chimed in an unnervingly cerebral, quietly argumentative man.

I didn’t look up but my eyes did close slowly and somewhat dramatically as a small sigh betrayed my desire to punch him in his bespectacled face.

This is the second time in three weeks, in this very room, that we’ve had an anti-Clinton comment. During a workshop on taxation in late October, the US Election, inevitably, came up. (I wonder does America realise that we are all watching? and I mean ALL as in every other nation on the planet just can’t get our collective global head around the fact that you, the nation that gave us Jed Bartlet, Matt Santos and Leslie Knope could possibly consider Donald Jackass (that’s what the J is for, right?) Trump for its highest office.) A woman taking part mentioned Trump’s taxes, another woman said she hoped Clinton would win.

TaxMan: “She”s a witch! She belongs in jail. I can’t stand her. She’s evil.”

Oh, I didn’t realise I’d been transported back to Salem in 1692.

Firstly, how very fucking professional of you. Secondly, you’re delivering a tax course telling us business start-up hopefuls to pay our taxes while effectively declaring your support for a man who should never ever be considered a business role model, or even an example of, you know, a human. At the time of that particular instance of what I can only assume is ill-informed, deep rooted fuckery, I hadn’t yet mastered the keep-your-head-down trick of saving my energy from being sucked into the guts of misogynists and narrow minded, privileged shite hawks. He mentioned that he protested against water charges. Yes, I made up my mind about him right then. How’s that for prejudice?

We are attempting to stay up tonight to follow the results on CNN while fuelled by hot dogs, mac and cheese and chocolate chip cookies.

I have a million words in my head and my heart about this Election but right now I want to go and watch Hillary Clinton become Madam President Elect with my sixteen year old daughter who might have baked cookies tonight but now she will know that she too can “fulfil her profession” safe in the knowledge that that damn glass ceiling splintered the scalps of misogyny on the night of November 8th 2016.

More to be done? Hell yeah. But this is a really big fucking deal.

Dot 💚

 

Interlude – Update 

Over 5 months since I wrote. I was on a flight to the States. I was headed into a summer of family, friends, sunshine and good food.

Now it’s November in Dublin. 

Everything has changed in those 5 months and 2 weeks. My life is unrecognisable. In a good way I think. 

I’ve started writing again – I’d grown scared of it, again. 

So this is a quick, oh hello there, to reintroduce Dotty, who, despite infinitely more stable circumstances, still exists. Albeit in a much more robust and defiant shell. 

I have a feeling I’ll be writing about the Trump. My thoughts and intellectual energy seem to be spent on the extended SNL skit that is this American Election. Except this isn’t funny… because it’s real. 

Anyway, Dotty returns. 

💚

Episode 141 – Jet Planing

I’m leaving on a jet plane…

I played this song for … this morning before we got up as a tease to remind him that I was headed for Texas for 5 ½ weeks today and he was going to work. The Jewel/Bjork version from Sweet Home Alabama is my favourite – probably very uncoolly, but I loved that movie, possibly the only chick flick I’ve ever actually enjoyed; rewatched; bought on DVD and been able to quote off-by-heart. I like that, in the song, the female voice is singing that she’s the one who messed up; she’s the one who didn’t know if she was ready to settle down; she had to leave and she did not know how long she needed to be away for but she would come back, and when she did, she would be beside him, forever. It’s reassuring to hear a woman’s voice admitting that she needed to do her own thing, that she needs to be in control of her own destination, and her own destiny. I guess breaking up with … was a bit like that for me, I just didn’t know. I needed to be sure and I needed to be on my own for a while to decide. Now I have decided, I’d like not to leave him for so long again. Unless it’s a book tour.

 

As an aside, I’m just finishing up listening to this book on Audible and it has been inspiring: I do not use that word lightly.

 

Also, I am on a plane to Chicago en route to Dallas/Fort Worth to see the family. It seems like only yesterday our darling Amercian Dad booked our flights because it was taking me too long to save up the fare. He and my American Mom are total legends – just read back through my blog posts to get an idea of how awesome they are to Scandi and me. Imagine how it feels to have parents on two continents… #spoiled

 

We’ve just had lunch; Scandi has just finished watching Juno. She cried. She’d never seen it before. I cried the first time I saw it too.

 

Juno is a good name.

 

It’s a funny thing to find your life in a upward spiral when your mental health has been dragging it down for so many years. Suddenly you find yourself onboard an Airbus 330 to the States and you haven’t had a panic attack while going through immigration. Sure, I was stressed last week when I had some students entered in exams for the Speech and Drama I’d been teaching them all year, but I got through it. The knot in my stomach went away and they enjoyed it. I achieved something with those children and I learned a huge amount about to move ahead with my arts project in the future. And I didn’t get a migraine out of it. Or have a meltdown.

 

Which leads me on to the subject of work. I’m still on unpaid sick leave from my permanent job as a secondary school teacher. Did I write about this? Quite possibly. My employer has been a bit shitty of late, in my eyes anyway, and in the opinions of those who love me. I get it – they need clarification but when it comes to mental health and recovery, it’s not quite as simple as “you’re either ready to resume your post on a full time basis or you’re not”. This is not what I had been led to belive in previous meetings but during the second to last meeting with the HR Department, this was pretty much the ultimatum.

“You look great, you seem to me to be doing well”.

Oh, right, thanks. I must be ok if I look good.

“I look fine because I’m desperately trying to keep fit; eat well and sleep in order to keep myself on the straight and narrow. If you’d seen me last Sunday, unable to get out bed; overwhelmed by the faithful old burning paralysis you wouldn’t be saying that.”

“We all have bad days and sick days”, was the response I got.

 

When I arrived for my next scheduled meeting,it hadn’t been written in the diary so there was nobody there to meet with me.

A medical was arranged for me by email with their independent GP practice. It was for 8.30am on the same Monday that I was due to be at the Rape Crisis Centre at 9.30am. The Rape Crisis Centre is a charity, recently the victim of funding cuts and severly limited on time and resources. It’s not an appointment I can change and if I miss it, it’s not good for me. I need to make that appointment every time.

“I can go to the doctor’s appointment till 9 but then I need to leave to be at the RCC by 9.30am. Is that ok?”

“Could you not push the RCC appointment out as this medical is required?”

[In my head] I don’t think you get how important this is to my recovery. Would you ask a cancer patient to move their chemo session out? Please can you go reschedule that hip replacement so that you can make OUR appointment?

 

I was enraged, embarrassed. I dind’t like having to tell a complete stranger that I needed ongoing counselling at the Rape Crisis Centre. Why did I have to explain myself?

 

Reluctantly, and after a few days (I think she works part time and nobody else seems to pick up her emails), I was told to go to an appointment the following morning.

“I need more than 18 hours’ notice”, I told her, “I can’t do tomorrow.”

I provided times that I could, or it would have to wait until I got home from America. I was not dodging the appointment, I have nothing to hide about my state of mind or the fact that there is no way I could be put back into a classroom five days a week at this point and expected not to end up in a psychiatric unit or worse, a morgue. Following this, the HR Manager sent an email “requesting me to rethink my availabilty” as my attendance was compulsory. I was never not going to go, I just need to arrange a time that suited everyone. So, eventually, an appointment was made for this morning at 6.45am. I got up and threw half decent clothes on. The boyfiend dropped me there. I went in and the doctor couldn’t spell my name, or pronounce it. I don’t blame her, nobody can. She looked for me on the system. I wasn’t there. She went off to look again to see if I was in the book for during the week. I wasn’t. I wasn’t in their system at all. No appointment had been made. I emailed work straight away to let them know. The administrator who had asked me to change my RCC apoointment is not in the office until tomorrow: auto reply. The HR manager replied a few hours later. She was sorry and had I confirmed with X the adminstrator? Eh, yes. I had. So now what happens? Do they dismiss me because I can’t attend until the end of June or do I do a conference call? Or do I tell them where to stick their appointment? (Obviously, I won’t, I’m contracted to attend. But I’m not coming home early from America to do so.)

 

There is a lot of he said/she said in the above, which is tedious, but the overall aim in delivering the detail to you is to question if this is commom behaviour or attitude among companies and organistions in the treatment of employees on sick leave, for physical reasons but also, more relevantly to me, for mental illness.

 

Or am I a super sensitive nit picker?

 

A year ago, even 6 months ago, this would all have sent me into a tizzy of hot flashes and cold sweats; enormous guilt and a flood of apologies. But this time, I stood my ground. Even if it was the wrong battle to fight, I’’m glad I said what I felt needed to be pointed out. I want to get back into productive employment: I don’t think anyone could reasonably accuse me of laziness. But I will not be coerced, goaded or bullied back into it at the risk of my mental health. I’ve done that once before, and I ended up right back at square one.

 

I would love to hear your stories of employers and mental health. I’m sure there are horror stories out but I’m hopeful that there are some progressive and compassionate bosses too.

 

We are now three hours into a seven and a half hour flight and I think it’s nap time.

 

Ruth Bader Ginsberg and I bid you a good night (or good day, depending on which time zone you’re reading this from).

Dot 💚

PS The necklace is a present from American mom & dad.  
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Episode 140 – Backlight

Really, I should be getting up in an hour or so to take part in Pieta’s Darkness Into Light,seeing as I fequently credit them with saving me from myself and my own darkness. But, instead, I am only now (2am) getting to bed and with my recent pattern of long sleeping hours; excruciatingly realistic nightmares that steal plotlines from Tom Cruise and Liam Neeson movies and sweatsoaking  through my sheets, there’s no point in pretending I’d get up and do it.

I donate a small amount to the DRCC every month but I really need to add Pieta back into my contributions. Somebody remond me to do that.

I feel guilty that I’m not doing the walk. Are there any other clinically depressed people who can’t get up at that hour of the morning to do it?

I am right at the beginning of my period. If you don’t like reading about women’s periods then X out right now. And also, loosen up.

I’ve been pre-menstrual all week and I swear my PMS symptoms are getting worse with this copper IUD inserted or else because I’m getting older. Am I perimenopausal or something? The Boyfriend (I still can’t settle on a pseudonym for him) made a comment about my PMS and period cramps the other day and I gave him a slating because he should know more about women’s bodies, being A. a health professional and B. a well-educated modern man. Truth be told, I had to Google some of what was in the discussion. Turns out I don’t know as much about women’s menstraul lives as I like to think. What I do know is that, I have been a super swing of emotion this week. And very, very tired.

Last Friday was a bad day.

Saturday was ok.

Sunday was good.

Sunday night I drank too much red wine.

NOTE TO SELF: YOU CANNOT HANDLE YOUR DRINK. YOU WILL GET A MIGRAINE.

Monday: Migraine

Tuesday: Bad day + Migraine.

Wednesday: Aftermath of a migraine + good day.

Thursday: Good day

Friday: Very bad day until 4pm. Epic fits of sneezing/start of a headcold. Becoming more productive as the day progressed and my actual period starts.

So, when the bleeding finally began, my mood started to improve. Anyone else find their mental being breathing a sigh of hormonal relief when the build up to the Period is at an end and the blood finally starts to flow?

After 10 months of owning a MacBook, I have figured out what F5 and F6 do – I can now type in the dark .

Whether or not I have been hormonally sensitised to just about everything that could possibly piss me off/make me cry this week or if this is another prolonged dip into psychological instabilty, I’m not sure. I suspect that I am in a lull and particularly susceptible to been thrown off course. I feel I need to “reset” every few days to try to get myself back on track. There have definitely been more bad days recently than there had been in a while. It’s exhausting.

What’s more exhausting is being a self-absorbed whingebag.

The last week has brought many reminders of how lucky I actually am and therefore how unbelievably horrific a person I must be to keep going on about HOW I FEEL. A series of incidents have kicked certain things back into focus:

I thought a friend’s daughter had cancer; turns out it’s the friend’s mother who is sick.

I was annoyed that I was stuck in traffic and late to teach then I realised that a woman in her 80s had been struck by a car and killed.

The young uncle of one of Scandi’s friends died after a long illness.

The current Humans of New York series reminded me how utterly precious it is to have a healthy child.

I put my foot in my gargantuan sized mouth, when feeling particularly socially awakward and self-pitying, with a newly made friend and I feel like a total tit for not thinking before I speak and possibly upsetting him.

ASIDE: One of the dogs just farted and I think I might throw up.

I absolutely have to get my shit together. We have 2 weeks left before we go to the States and I have to get myself in check. I want to get control back.

I want to be grateful and helpful and caring and organised and have all my bills paid and be a better mother and a more engaged citizen and less of a social dummy and more productive and actually do something worthwhile.

I AM A BROKEN RECORD.

It’s like I can see what’s on the other side of the glass door: me being the best version of myself, but the glass is reinforced military grade shit and I’m pushing it when it clearly says ‘PULL”.

Also, Donald Trump. I don’t know what to say there.

And our own government of medieval climate change deniers. Is it just me or does the new cabinet look even more male ?

Then, of course, this.

I’m also growing tired of faces and voices we see and hear all the time banging on about mental health and saying the same things repeatedly. The same advice is being troghed out over and over but, as with my own depression/anxiety/selfloathing/BPD/PTSD/not giving a fuck about life/giving too many fucks about life, we seem to be caught in an endless cycle of celebrites opening up about their struggles with depression (don’t get me wrong: of course this is a postive step) but it’s all so vague and generic now that our individual stories are being coerced into this national narrative of “I was sad and lost, I cried a lot and didn’t know what was wrong with me because I had no reason to be depressed but then I got fit and quit drinking and now I’m thin and glamorous and my career is phenomenal and I’m hosting 14 shows on RTÉ and writing columns for 6 national newspapers and I met this amazing man/woman/tree and our kids are so beautiful and my renovated Georgian house is perfect and I eat only kale grown by vegan monks and everything is great”. I am sick of it.

Yes, we are talking about our mental health now. Great. Better that we talk about it than not like we did for decades: everyone going secretly mad; hating each other; drinking themselves into oblivion; killing themselves left, right and centre; festering into a ball of Catholic guilt; suffering with their “nerves” and ending up in a place like this. But we’ve heard the same thing for the last two years. Now everyone is depressed. Or has been. And, in reality, that’s probably true – we’ve all been there, at some point. Depression and “darkness” (there are so many buzzwords) are nearly… cool. It’s on trend, socially speaking. But yet, there isn’t much pushing the boundaries, as we should expect with most trends.

Not that I want to criticise anyone for being honest and admitting that their mental life has not been a tub of their favourite Ben & Jerry’s with all the calories extracted. I’d just love if the media would quit holding up “success” stories for us all to judge ourselves by because this just makes me feel infinitely more of a failure in my ongoing war with my mind.

Show me the people who are just clinging on, like me, like you.

Show me someone who physically couldn’t get out of the bed to get a glass of water yesterday but who manged to brush their teeth today.

Show me someone who made a neat little cut on their arm last night just to temporarily feel the release of hot blood and stinging pain to distract from the mental burning.

Show me someone who has the end all panned but is holding on for a few more days, “just in case”.

Show me someone who rips clothes out of wardrobes and smashes glasses because it will resemble the mess in their head.

Show me someone who still thinks they’re useless, not someone who discovered how to love themselves by eating quinoa and treating themselves to a facial.

Show me someone who is not getting paid to give a talk about their journey through depression.

Show me someone who thinks that it will never end and nothing will ever be better again.

Show me someone with no idea what the hell is going on.

I’m now going to try to sleep and hopefully not dream about a stampede of rhino wolves threatening a large crowd at an impromtu Newton Faulkner/Hozier gig on the pitch at the school where I used to teach. Or that I shot someone who was going to attack me; forgot I’d killed him; left his body for 2 months and then when I went back to “deal” with his body, accidentally shot someone else.

It’s now 4 am. So I could have just stayed up and gone to Darkness into Light after all. but I’m not one of the “success” stories who can do heroic shit like that. Yet.

Dot 💚

 

 

 

 

Episode 139 – Which one is the Cow?

I am back together with Boyfriend.

Oh my god, I make myself dizzy with the seemingly endless cycle of 360s. Nobody can keep up with me and my life decisions. I can’t keep up with me.

Basically this is how we got back together:

I bought a new sofa and armchair on a whim from a charity shop. It was displayed outside in the sunshine and it looked great. When I asked how much it was, the volunteer told me €80, for both. I couldn’t pass it. It was arranged that it would be delivered the following Monday. That was a Friday. I was walking home from town where I had attended this so maybe I was feeling vulnerable or possibly buoyed by the experience as it was disconcerting and reassuring all at once, or perhaps I was both. Anyway, the sofa was bought and the old one was to be taken away for donation. Oh Jesus, I realised, god only knows what’s under there. Bits of biscuits; an old tv given to me by Berger that no longer works (it’s possible I and my temper may have had something to do with the damage done to it) -boyfriends have a habit of giving me TVs, the current one also gifted me a TV, a very nice one, but that’s not why I got back with him; pieces of rubber balls chewed and licked by the dogs; an old shoe, long abandoned by its pair. I started to stress. I’d do it all on Sunday. The day after was Saturday and I had a thing on – a social do for choir: a walking tour of Handel’s Dublin culminating in singing the Hallelujah chorus in Fishable Street and drinks in a nearby pub. Then of course, it was April 23rd on the Saturday and I was booked for a date with the BBC and the RSC for Shakespeare’s 400th Anniversary tribute. So Sunday was D-Day for the old sofa. Discovery Day – let’s discover what shite is under there.

Sunday arrived. It became clear to me that clearing out under the old sofa was not enough. ALL the furniture would have to be moved around. And not just in the living room. The WHOLE house would have to be upended and reconfigured. Including the corner cupboard with all the pots and pans. Because you know how the tidiness of  your kitchen cupboards affects the delivery of a new piece of furniture in your living room. The cleaning and reorganising spiralled. I found myself getting hot and sweaty (and not in a sexy way): the PricklyBurn was back. The anxiety made me dizzy as I repeated silently that everything had to be done today and I HAD to get it all done, no matter what. Next thing I found myself screaming and crying scalding tears into the wardrobe where we keep our pyjamas and gym gear (again, I felt EVERYWHERE had to be cleaned out).

I guess you’re thinking now that I have digressed from the explanation of how I got back with my boyfriend. Well no, I haven’t. Because at that moment, I realised that I didn’t have to do everything by myself. That it was ok to ask for help, something I am loathe to do. I called him. The call was not out of the blue as we had still been texting a bit, discussing when we would exchange things left in each other’s houses (but he wasn’t getting the TV back) and have a “closure” talk. I was in tears. I didn’t have to say much, he just knew I needed help. He came in that evening and as soon as I saw him, I melted. By that time, I had got my shit together a bit so I wasn’t quite the blubbering mess I’d been on the phone.

“So you got back with him just cos you had a meltdown over moving some furniture?” I asked myself that question too. But no, I got back with him because I fucking love him. Shit. I fucking love him. That scares the crap out of me. He’s spent 4 out of the last 6 nights at my place and I’m ok with it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still freaking out about being in a relationship but perhaps 10% less than I was before we broke up. So another 9 break ups and I should be fine.

I had a bad day yesterday, my day off from teaching. I couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t wake up. You know that feeling when you’re desperately trying to open your eyes but the exhaustion just won’t let you? Boyfriend and I stayed up late on Thursday night, I drank wine, he drank wine, I talked. For the first time, I spilled out lots of the shit in my head and I cried. Talking is not good for me. I felt guilty and ashamed the next day about opening up the dark tangles inside me. My sessions at the Rape Crisis Centre take it out of me too. I wasn’t hungover from the wine. I was hungover from the talking.

Today has been better. I got out of bed. Woo hoo. Boyfriend and his Little Boy came to visit. Little Boy is cute. He likes me. I took him to buy a book and he had a nap in my bed. Then we went to Airfield. It was very pleasant. But…

I am a nag. And I’m bossy. And I think I know best for everyone. I hear myself telling Boyfriend that he should go get a haircut; that he needs to check his posture (he’s a physio – he does not need my advice on this) or that the drinks he gives HIS son are full of sugar. It’s HIS son! I hear myself telling myself to shut the fuck up and stop being a naggy cow but I can’t help myself. And this worries me because I don’t like myself when I do this and if I’m trying to change him then what does that say about me?

Do I worry too much?

I haven’t been at the gym in a week because my back was acting up. It felt like it was about to snap. Then I moved furniture. Yep, I always know best for everyone else but I do stupid shit myself. It’s sore again yesterday and today, not in a nerve/muscular way but in a crampy way. Probably all that self-righteous baggage I’m carrying around.

Tonight, Boyfriend, Scandi and I are going to see Marvel’s Civil War so it’s a nice balance that Boyfriend and I took his kid to a farm and we’re taking my kid to a movie. Little Boy is gone back to his mam, and there’s a whole other bucket of worry. I know what it’s like to be a step mother and I know what it’s like for my kid’s dad to have a new missus. Oh my god, Modern fucking Family has nothing on us.

Anyway, there’s a quick update. I wanted to get this written before Scandi arrives home from shopping in town and Boyfriend comes back from dropping off Little Boy.

Happy Bank Holiday weekend to those in Ireland. I hate Bank Holidays.

Dotty 💚

Episode 138 – Old Notes

There are multiple reasons why I keep my nails short – I have two dogs; I do most of the housework; I take notions and start painting and moving furniture at regular intervals; I like not having to type words 15 times on my phone before giving up on autocorrect’s understanding of clickety clackety tips. I took a notion the other night that I’d like long elegant nails like the Marchioness, so I grabbed a pack of fake nails and while I feel ultra glamorous, they are the most impractical things to stick on your hands apart from mittens which are only user friendly if you are under 6 months old and do not yet know that your hands are attached to your body.

Six hours later…

I had a feeling a particularly bad night was due as my sleeping has been all over the place the last few nights and the SaltScrub night sweats have been exacerbated by nightmares in which I’m abandoned by a boyfriend during some sort of war/flood crisis. 

Because I’m a girl, please save me.

I need to reset. I seem to need to reset every few days. Jesus, I’m tired of resetting. I’m tired of heaving myself back on track. 

Now I’m lying here fretting about everything from my weight to trying to save money while paying all the bills to trying to convince myself that I’m not damaged goods to panicking (again) at the realisation that I’ve screwed up my entire existence. 
I fucking hate living in my shameful excuse for a brain. 

How can I be so self-pitying when I’m here in my cosy bed; healthy child; food in the fridge; electricity; clean water and the bills almost paid for the month? 

God, self-pity is disgusting. Almost as disgusting as my red gritty eyes and the layer of fat I haul around. 

I’ve tried doing sums on my phone’s calculator; I’ve tried making mental lists; I’ve tried breathing and remembering how lucky I am and what I have to be grateful for. 

One of the dogs just fell off the bed. I shouldn’t laugh. 

I was helping Scandi with a History assignment earlier on the 1916 Rising. Of course, she chose to write about one of the women involved – Margaret Skinnider. I dug out my shoeboxes of record card notes and references from my ill-fated PhD. A year’s work come to nothing: two dusty shoe boxes on the top shelf of a wardrobe. Such symbolism. 

Tonight, in the dark, I am nothing but a wasted shell chewed and spat back by the self-loathing sea but tomorrow, the tide will wash in bringing another wave of hours, resetting the sand slate to the next chance. 

In the meantime, I’ll lie here ad continue my duel with the dark amid snoring dogs and time ticking alarm clock. 

Dotty 💚 

Episode 137 – The Poet of the Family

It’s now 2.30am and I’m about to drink the smoothie in the photo in an attempt to offset any biological repercussions that may arise in the morning from the 1/3 bottle of red wine that I drank. And because I’ll use any excuse to blast my NutriBullet.

I am not a drinker.

Earlier…

I’m having a glass of wine: a small glass of red. I bought a bottle earlier in Tesco while picking up the coconut milk and masala paste that Lidl never seem to stock. It was on sale – the wine, not the paste: €9. I used to dislike red wine intensely, I drank only white or the lethal liquid of bubbles they call Prosecco or Cava. Champagne was reserved strictly for special occasions, such as my wedding during which I started nine different bottles of the stuff, left each half drunk on a different guests’ table as I circulated in my white silk gúna after the meal and then shook my empty glass at my new husband as a signal to swiftly supply me with another £50 bottle of fizz. It really is no wonder I was the most drunk person at my own wedding. Well, me and my maid of honour – Posh, my evergreen bestie – who both undressed me that night in a drunken sobbing mess and shared my hangover the next day.

I do not drink champagne anymore.

How did I even get on to that? Oh yes, I have a glass of red wine before me, which is unlike me but then there has, recently, evolved a collection of actions and thoughts most unlike my own version of myself.

I had a meeting with the HR department of my work today – remember I’m a teacher? Although you’d be forgiven for forgetting that I have an actual profession given that I haven’t worked formally in a year and a half.

This meeting was really the culmination of an odd week that began with a positive visit to the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre. I actually made it to the RCC on time, for once, having run there, and I was mentally ready to be open and honest. This was the first time I really felt progress. Maybe because I’d dumped my boyfriend 3 days before (yes, I am that cold and callous), I was riding the crest of an empowerment wave and I felt that, yes, I did deserve my place on their therapy books and yes, I do have the voice to vocalise my trauma, my fears and my hopes.

Tuesday brought my Psychiatric appointment which, again, I ran to. I like running to my mental patient appointments, it makes me feel slightly less mental while simultaneously making me look truly barking mad: wind blown red curls; a sweaty, pink, freckly face; gross sweat salty running gear and a compulsion towards the water machine while avoiding the waiting room – they think it’s cos I’m odd, really it’s just cos I stink.

Is it weird to run to these appointments? Or a good coping mechanism?

Who thinks I should have another half glass of wine? Me too. Good call reader, great minds…

On Monday night, I had the pleasure of being invited to a super trendy underground poetry/spoken word event at Outhouse which was very cool, and completely intimidating. The talent on display, both in terms of writing and performing, was young and wise; witty, and poignant; raw and polished. I came away feeling both inspired, even compelled, to write and also to throw everything I’d ever written in the bin.

Following some family research last week with my darling cousin, the Marchioness, guided expertly and remotely from the UK by her husband – we shall call him Her Majesty’s Sleuth – there is a story that needs to be told. It seems assumed with in the family that I should be the one to write it. My own level of confidence in my ability to do so manages to at once automatically discount any other family member from being able to do it just as I would like it done while screaming internally, ‘Jesus, don’t leave it to me to do! It’ll be a disaster and it might never get finished! Get the Marchioness to do it! She does everything perfectly!” (She does, seriously).

Tuesday brought an Adult Public Speaking class – is it odd that I have had such issues around confidence, finding my voice and generally being around people yet I can coach Public Speaking? I am a one woman walking cabaret of contradictions.

On Wednesday, I was teaching French and Speech and Drama classes down at home as usual. It’s a long day and I LOVE it. It flies by. And on Thursday, I had one single class down there and then choir back in Dublin. I love choir. It’s like being part of a team without having to do the sports bit. I like doing sporty stuff on my own. I don’t want to have to communicate with my team mates. The great thing about being in a choir is that you’re part of a team but you don’t have to talk to the other members because you’re too busy singing.

And then today, I had to meet my HR manager. I didn’t dread it or feel sick or flake out on it as I have done in anticipation of previous meetings with her but I was late and my lateness is never out of rudeness – it’s panic and avoidance. But it was an odd meeting all the same, and I’m left with big questions and monumental decisions to make. Basically, I need to figure out if I’m going back to my permanent, pensionable job to be a sensible fully functioning citizen; working mother and all round feminist badass OR am I going to steam ahead with all these pipe dreams about my own Speech and Drama school; writing; not being tied down; rejecting conformity; freelance teaching; creating my own curriculum and using the methodologies that suit me and my students best; travelling – basically living in my own little bubble of idealism. Of course, idealism doesn’t pay the bills. And is it ever really possible to do what you want to do and get paid for it unless you’re either incredibly smart, privileged or self-assured? And what kind of mother resigns from a permanent, pensionable job (ugh, that phrase) just as her daughter is reaching the most critical and expensive era of her education? Not to mention the dowry I’ll have to get together to find her husband – don’t want her thinking she is going to have to put any of that schooling to practical use.

I’ve run out of chocolate – this does not bode well.

It would appear there is a tremendous amount of soul and logic searching to be done over the next few days – I meet with the HR manager again next week. When I have not got 1/3 of a bottle of Casillero del Diablo inside me I’ll go into more detail about the job situation.

Mental health in employment and prolonged absence from work due to non-physical diseases; disorders and syndromes seem to me to be an area in urgent need of comprehensive policy and legislation overhaul because, really, my organisation, as much as the HR manager has been sweet, doesn’t really know what to do with me. And when people charged with managing me say “But you look fine”, it usually means they don’t grasp that just because I can drive to a meeting at head office; that I can teach one day a week on my own terms and that I’m not slicing my thighs in secret anymore, doesn’t necessarily mean that I could handle a full week in a hectic; high pressured; emotionally charged; underfunded school administered by a state board completely out of touch with the reality of the mental health crisis in Ireland exacerbated by a (currently non-) government in pompous denial. It can’t be all or nothing with reintegrating an employee back into the workplace after a psychiatric or psychological crisis, just as surely it is not after a prolonged physical illness.

Whether or not the attitude today was one of impatience or scepticism with my case, I’m not sure. I need to work out if there was a “You look fine, you sound fine” implication today or if my paranoia and guilt about not being able to work like EVERY other normal person raised my defences; leaving me feeling accused; culpable; lazy and ashamed of my mental fragility.

I wish I was like the masses who walk; drive; cycle and bus past my tiny rented flat every day on their way to work. I wish I could be safe and content in a regular job; in a regular house with a regular husband. I would love to live a ‘regular’ life: content and untroubled by anything out of the ordinary. Or does any of that even fucking exist? Really, we must all be as desperate and rudderless as each other.

Anyway, I know that, before I had the wine, there was a point to all this and some sort of narrative structure. Hemingway advised to write drunk and edit sober – I have both written and edited (well, proofed) while tipsy and sleepy (I have ZERO tolerance for alcohol) so I have probably written a dose of absolute shite with some sort of theme buried under all the typos.

I will correct it tomorrow and for now, at 2.53am, I shall bid you good night.

The spinach – avocado – mango – banana – Greek yoghurt – honey – oats – almond and coconut milk Nutrismoothie was very good. Do vitamins cancel out red wine?

Dotty 💚

 

Episode 136 – Now I’m the Berger

I broke up with my boyfriend last night, over the phone… which was pretty shitty of me. But the necessity of doing it just sort of fell out of me and it had to be done then and there. He is great: he’s handsome; he’s very sweet and patient; clever and a good dad to his son. He worked hard to do a second degree while in full time employment. I felt a wave of positive and lovely things when we were together but something, and I’m not totally sure what, just didn’t sit right with me.

I have a feeling some of my family and friends will think I’ve deliberately sabotaged this relationship because, well, that’s what I do. Wreck it myself before it all goes tits up. Get the pain out of the way sooner rather than later. They’ll think I’m crazy to let such a good man go. And maybe I am. But for the first time, in a long time, I feel I’ve done what’s right for me, at this point in my life.

The crux of the matter is that, in my current state of piecing myself and my life back together, I need to be on my own. I’m just not ready. I always thought that was such absolute bullshit when guys (let’s face it, it’s usually men who pull out the “I’m just not ready for commitment” card) and I feel massively sorry that I failed at this relationship that had the potential to be so secure. But no matter how I try to rationalise it, my insides  contract at the thought of being accountable to someone else; of someone else depending on me; of domesticity; of sharing duties and emotions; worrying about someone else’s kid; hoping not to piss off someone else’s ex. In the words of Sex and the City’s Berger : I can’t do this, I’m sorry – don’t hate me.

How ironic that my best friend christened my ex with the derogatory nickname of Berger and now, I’m the dick.

I don’t know why I am this way, or do I? Of course I do. I’m 35 and I have a child who is 16 years old and I’m nearly done with the intense parenting phase. We are best buddies and we have a tonne of adventures we’d both like to embark upon, both together and separately. I’ve had some shitty relationships in the past. I’m just getting on top of a BPD diagnosis and dealing with the Rape Crisis Centre for a long ago event(s) that fucked me up beyond reason. I’m doing ok, I’m doing more than ok. I’m fit and healthy. I sleep most nights now. I don’t need to nap for 2 hours every day. I don’t starve myself because I’m so disgusted by my body and I don’t have any urge to cut it or kill it. I’m working hard on building my little educational empire and, any day now, I’ll start writing the great idea for my book. I might even enter a poetry competition if I can find the iron nerve. I’ll be in the States for 5 weeks and then tour guiding my American family around our little green island for 3 weeks. My darling big sister (she’s LITERALLY my cousin, but that doesn’t describe our “special bond”) and her daughter have just visited and we’ll be going over to them in London in late summer. I’m in a choir and I’m meeting up with a drama group this week to see about joining up. My life is jam packed and it feels good. Apart from everything else, I’m not sure I have time for relationship. But more so, I don’t want to have to compromise on anything that I want. I’ve always compromised. I’ve always put the guy first and been quick not to make plans or to cancel my plans to suit the boyfriend/husband of the hour. I resent having to do that, not that this boyfriend wanted me to but the very nature of a relationship is that you share – I don’t want to share right now.

Selfish? Hell yeah. But even though I feel guilty and bitchy and cruel, and even though my feelings for him were genuine and I wish I could have made it work, I know that I’ve put myself first. And I’m proud of me for that.

Don’t hate me,

Dotty. 💚