Longer school days? Are you shitting me?!

It’s all very well the government proposing changes to the school days and terms etc but have they actually even considered the people that this actually has an effect on? Namely the children, teachers and parents?

We already impress a very direct and institutional type of learning here in the U.K. One that only really caters for a certain type of child that can bear sitting down for long periods of time and who can embrace the type of schooling system we have here. For those of us who desperately struggle to get our children to cope with the six hours they do currently, this is simply a no go.

My child spends enough time in isolation during the school week as it is because he can’t cope with the type of learning and learning environment that currently exists. And because he doesn’t tick enough boxes is unable to receive the help that might allow him to thrive. I’d love to be able to have him schooled in a free school here (think Steiner or Montessori) but I don’t have thousands of pounds to pay for it. Or in a country where there is less emphasis on academic achievement but the child’s own talents are recognised and nurtured. We may as well just place him in a windowless room and tell him that he won’t make anything of his life because he doesn’t ‘fit’.

From an early age the majority of U.K. children are forced to attend an education that pushes from the word go. They are told what to wear and what not to wear. They are told to play nicely, to sit still, to conform. As they get older, the more they want to express themselves the more they are stilted. “Not that hairband Amy, faaaar too distracting”, “Henna?!” (On the hand), “What if everybody wants to start painting their faces with henna? Just imagine the chaos!” (Yes, these words were actually uttered from the headteacher in my daughter’s high school).

No hair dye or piercings other than ear lobes and god forbid if you even dare to wear socks in a colour other than black! Girls must have their hair up, it’s a health and safety issue and no, you may not play outside when it is snowing in case someone gets hurt.

I, for one, am sick of this type of pedantic, suppressive system and now they are waffling about extending school days and shortening holidays with no regard to what the children actually want or would benefit from? And why? Because there is a fear that not enough children will progress with the grades that are needed to fulfil a competent workforce in a few year’s time? I bet Lord Fucking Farqhar’s son or daughter won’t have these issues? Again, these measures will most probably punish the poorest families who are already struggling with childcare costs and children who are already at the mercy of a society and system that doesn’t work for them as it is.

Give the children a summer of love. Give them some joy and help those affected by job losses by giving discounted (fuck it! Maybe even free!) opportunities to visit places they can’t afford – theme parks/animal sanctuaries/swimming pools/train travel to the coast. Let the people know that they haven’t been forgotten. That those in their ivory towers do actually give a shit.

Then ask the teachers how they think they need to structure their days. How they need support in helping the children who need it most.

Humph. What was going to be a very short Facebook rant turned into a long WordPress rant… can you tell I’m in a shitty mood today?

Say Goodbye to the Chair.

If you are squeamish, don’t read on… and if you are a misogynist, don’t read on. I am going public with this erm… event… because I feel that as there is rather a large proportion of us out there that could be stuck in a similar situation, I would like to reach out and say. I know. I get it.

This morning, I drove merrily to work. It was very misty and as I crossed the Down’s I drove reasonably conservatively hoping I wouldn’t smash into a marauding sheep despite the arsehole behind me with their very shiny Mercedes badge practically inserted up my rear-end. I was in a good mood. Things were/are ok. They bump up and down a little like cargo on a ship.. sliding up one end before sliding back down to the other as they broach the waves.. but generally, all is good. I wondered at the sheep/sea smell that was in the Brightonian air as I crossed from one department to the other. And my happy go lucky state of mind continued until the moment I realised, as I sat on the lovely, almost new blue chairs in the training room, that something may happen to be amiss. I discreetly checked my crutch with my fingers and sure enough, there was wet. I peered as discreetly as I could, heart racing, and saw that I had bled through my tampon/knickers/jeans and onto the fabric chair. I quickly re-arranged my (bloody) arse so that I could work out what to do and how to do it, while the trainer continued to discuss ‘tasks’.

This was not a win-win situation. There was no passing Go and collecting £200. This was a Straight to Hell moment in my life. I looked at the male trainer and then around at the other four non-haemorrhaging women in the room. I waited until 5 minutes later when he called for break and I spoke up and said (a lot more bravely than I felt), “I am afraid I have a bit of a problem. I am er.. perimenopausal and er.. I thought it was over but it wasn’t and I have erm… bled. On the chair. There..’. I literally felt that I had to explain what stage I was in my reproductive life so that they would all realise that I wasn’t just some incompetent twat of a woman who couldn’t manage her periods. I burst into tears. The shame. The humiliation. I wished I had pissed on the chair by accident instead. At least you can wash urine out easily.

He was lovely and so were the women. They offered tissues and tampons whilst the trainer ran around finding spare sets of scrubs and debating with his manager about how I would finish the training. I sniffed pathetically and rubbed the blood away as much as I could with wipes meant for Covid. I said goodbye to the chair, knowing that it’s short life had ended too soon. There was no way that chair would be making another appearance.. blood doesn’t come out at the best of times and I don’t think that even if it did, it would ever live up to the rest of the other chairs. It’s a bit like a mafia goon who fucks up accidentally.. they don’t want to do it but the bosses will have to kill him.

After an agonising 20 minutes of losing all the millions of the pads and tampons that I actually did have on me (so that this wouldn’t happen) and then finding them again.. I left, head bowed and drove home.

My mood changed. I emailed my new boss and explained what happened. I arranged to miss the rest of the training tomorrow and shadow a colleague instead. I sat on my bed, freshly showered and felt shame. I felt anger at the shame. Anger at my body. Anger that I couldn’t just carry on with my day. Anger that I hadn’t realised I was bleeding. Anger that I am peri-menopausal. Anger that I haven’t yet had the hysterectomy that I have been waiting over a year for. Anger that the chair wasn’t plastic. Anger that I felt anger.

I spoke to my mum on the phone and my voice wobbled. The thing I am most angry about is that the fact that still, today, periods are a taboo. They are considered in the main, as dirty. I am ashamed that despite the fact I know they shouldn’t be viewed as that, I as a woman, still perpetuate that sentiment. If I saw someone else I would feel pity. Pity that they would feel that humiliation. Yet for myself, I just feel huge embarrassment. A failing.

I know with my rational head that the above isn’t true. However, my point in writing this is to drive the point home to both women and men out there, that this is the reality. We bleed. Sometimes we aren’t able to ‘manage’ our bleeding. It comes and starts when it wants to. It ebbs and it flows with abandon. For me it comes with iron deficiency, fatigue, sleeplessness and feeling cold. It comes 20 days out of 30. It comes with weariness and tears too.

What pains me is the effect it had on me today. The feeling of being less than (and costing the NHS a chair..)..

Slipping

Demons, little monkeys, scurrying to my shoulders, “slipping, slipping” they giggle in my ear. They pinch my skin, tug at my hair.

Where’s your flo Chlo? Like a slurry of sludge, I’m sticking. Trees whisper in the wind, “promises, promises, what happened to the promises?”

No longer making, creating, just sating. But it’s a good day, a bad day, a roast day, a sad day.

Slipping, slipping.

Change the gear, pick up the pace. It’s not too late, gather your arsenal, lay it all out. Straighten your britches, smooth out the creases and gently, soothe the soul.

Where I am now.

It’s been a fair while since I last wrote. This evening as I got ready for bed, the itch appeared and I realised that it was time to get my thoughts down. Update my (few) readers as to where I am on this, somewhat mental, journey I am on.

Tomorrow marks 9 months without a drink. The times I struggle is when I want to settle down and watch something in the evening. Especially after a shift at work. Or at the weekend, just to have something demarcate from the usual working weekday. I have set myself the challenge of not drinking until I have done a year. I shall explain my thought process..

I haven’t been to a meeting with the support group that I was part of for over a month. I have struggled for over 20 years to understand the ethos behind the workings of the program and as I am not able to talk in any detail because of it’s acclaimed anonymity, suffice to say there are a few, rather major principles that I can’t get past.

Whilst I was in the treatment centre, living and breathing recovery and the 12 step program – it felt like I was agreeing to things that I didn’t have the power to argue against. And this is exactly what is expected – admitting that you are powerless. Which is fairly easy when you have just devastated your life and loved ones by taking an overdose. I will never, ever forget the amazing support from the treatment centres I went to. It is through their care, understanding and expertise that I am able to sit here and type this, feeling more centred than I have ever done in my life. But.. and it’s probably a rather large ‘but’, the ever-gnawing feeling that I wouldn’t stay with the program became more and more acid-inducing and eventually I had to be honest that I couldn’t (and possibly more importantly, wouldn’t) pretend to myself or others any longer that I was willing to think/behave in a certain way that didn’t resonate with my views.

I have had nothing but love from peers and friends who are also in recovery, although I do wonder if there are wagers being put on how long it is before I am back knocking on the proverbial door, begging for mercy and help. Maybe, I will but for the time being I am sticking to what feels right for me.

I don’t believe that addiction/alcholism is a disease. The definition of disease does not fit as it does other diseases; cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinsons for example. Interestingly research has shown that alcoholism was named a disease by an American organisation, thereby helping the validation of insurance claims for treatment centres. Which, by the way, are an enormous money spinner in the USA. I would (and could) link the research to this post but if you just type in ‘is alcohol really a disease’ into Google, then you will get the same results as I did. If I still had access to my university research databases then I could probably come up with all sorts of data… but I don’t. And quite frankly, as I am trying to simply my life at the moment that is probably quite a good thing! Equally the figures for relapsers are high. Addiciton/alcoholism has a poor prognosis and that is even with treatment centres and the program.

My idea is that I will protect my mental health. If I am feeling centred and at peace, once Xmas comes, I will probably have a few glasses of wine. I also know that I hate hangovers and anxiety with a passion and if I drink too much then I will have both of those. And if I am honest, it is those two factors that keep me away from drinking. More than the horror stories; more than the looking back at past experiences where I have been an arse.

My life now revolves around the children, work and my mental health. I have so much more insight and knowledge now after months of therapy regarding the factors that have contributed to my (poor) coping mechanisms. My ‘addiction’ is craving love. Especially from those who are emotionally unavailable. Now I know that, I am concentrating solely on the most unavailable person I have tried to get that love from.

Me.

More moon wafflings..

At which point did the majority of the world forget that it is both the moon and sun that harness the tide, nurture our crops.. or hell, let’s really throw it out there… keep us alive? How far removed have we become that we no longer hold either of these big, fuck off balls of energy with the revere they deserve?

It’s not like this is a new concept to me. The corona virus lockdown hasn’t suddenly given me some sort of existential breakdown (that was alcohol), but it has given me the time to really ponder what the fuck us humans are all about.

Last night I did my first ever New Moon ritual of writing my intentions for this month and then burning them whilst I had a detox bath. It was cathartic and wet.

It didn’t quite give me the unbroken, restful nights sleep I had been hoping for and when I woke up before 5 this morning I decided to walk to the beach so I could see the sunrise. It must be one of the first times I have done this when it hasn’t been post-clubbing and I can assure you, sober sunrise watching is a lot less messy. And to be honest I’m pretty mental anyway so I still have the capacity to wonder why we don’t have obese birds flying and if we did, would they fly much slower and actually, don’t birds fly quite fast considering? Then I start imagining having a race with a bird and then laughing at how they slow down and land but reminding myself that I can’t actually fly (despite my dreams telling me otherwise) so I should just shut up with my judgementalness. This reminds me of the time I did try and fly. My eldest was only a baby and I had had a very vivid dream that I could fly and if I only flapped my arms down hard enough it would work when I was awake. Needless to say, it didn’t.

It’s time for me to head back home now. ‘Other’ people have started to appear. Yuck.

More Fairies and Dolphins Please.

Freedom

So at the end my last post I alluded to a more sincere post about how I communicate with my higher power(s). I’m feeling (a little) less silly tonight so shall endeavour to explain.

I have always believed in some sort of higher power, I flirted with Christianity for about a month when I was 8 or something and was given a little book of prayers for children. It never called to me. I liked the idea of the angels but there didn’t appear to be room for fairies. Or ghosts. And I liked them more than sitting in church on the odd occasion I was taken. My church I suppose was my grandmother’s garden. I would spend hours playing there, it was quite magical with a rose garden and apple trees I could climb. A swing that could give me splinters and a hammock with spiders. Or if I were in Wales for a holiday, staying with family, I would wake hours before everyone else and just go for a walk in the lanes and across fields, sometimes accompanied by one of their cats, Bramble. I would moo at the cows and baa at the sheep (something I still do regularly) and talk away to the horses that I came across. Collecting the odd leaf, stick or stone along the way. I loved the country and I still do. I yearn for the trees and hedgerow, for the sounds of the animals and the telling of the seasons. Maybe having been in my mother’s womb as she tended to her farm’s livestock has left the imprint or maybe, like all animals, it is just simply in my blood.

Equally I adore the sea. The rise and fall of the waves as the tide flows in and out. The promise of dolphins not too far away, the shells that adorn the beach and the reminder that we are so very, very small in relation to the rest of the Earth.

So when I think of my higher power. I think of the magic in the trees, the fairies that reside with the dragonflies over the streams, the changing of seasons reflecting where we are in the year. I think of Mother Nature. I think of life and death. Birth and rebirth. I think of the moon and the sun.

For me, science and magic are entwined. There are enough happenings in the universe that we simply cannot explain (yet) and for that I am thankful. When I am feeling lost (which can be quite often), I find solace in knowing that I am just part of a matrix of energy. And now I am finding I have the time to dedicate to re-establising a connection with my higher power, with the Mother Goddess.

This post may seem clumsy, I feel like a toddler taking her first steps. In some ways I already know the path but I can’t quite seem to find my balance yet.

Alanis Morrisette as God.

“Let’s have a girlie night Mum. I can wax your face”.

Sorry what? Wax my face? I look at the ridiculously gorgeous non-hairy-faced 16 year old who stands before me all pretty and young, and glare. Wax my face? What do you mean? Wax my face?

Is this what lockdown has resorted us to? I’ll admit if a fine fuzzy look is the worst of my problems then perhaps I am not doing too badly, but still. I harrumphed, threatened imminent death and stomped off incredulously.

To be honest, lockdown for us in a house with a garden in a town with a beach and the Sussex Downs a short drive away is luxury in comparison to those without. Lockdown in early recovery? Not so sweet. I attend Zoom meetings to connect with other recovery fellows and I speak to friends daily but the reality of not being able to physically connect or have cups of tea in their houses is difficult when having an illness that thrives on isolation.

However one’s addiction manifests itself, it really is only symptomatic of a void that has lost its plug. You know the paddling pools with the plug in the bottom? The ones we buy year after year, that only last for a month before a cat punctures it or it gets left on its side until you can’t see past the slugs that have taken residence within it? One of them. It’s like trying to refill a slug-ridden, plug-less void with *insert addiction of choice* and constantly wondering why the gnawing never stops.

I remember sitting in a flat I shared with my EO (Eldest One) who was about 1 or 2 at the time time and wondering why it was I could never feel sated. I always felt like something was missing and here I am 16 years later slowly piecing the puzzle together and a warm glow is starting to build.

These last three weeks since leaving the treatment centre have been a rollercoaster. However, the good news is that this rollercoaster would have been out of place in somewhere like Thorpe Park and more suited to a toddler’s version at Lego World or whatever it’s called. The ups and downs have been more muted and less vomit inducing which for someone who can’t even watch someone else playing racing games without wanting to hurl, is a good thing. (Of note, I have never ever, and never ever will, go on a rollercoaster).

To help with mentally riding my toddler’s rollercoaster, I have been asked by my – let’s call her my ‘human’ guide – to pray and talk to my higher power. Now I have an issue with organised religion personally but completely get that it is a wonderful thing for lots of other people. For me, I believe in the power of energy, Earth, Mother Nature and Spirit. I have my own guides in the ether whom I talk to but I don’t have a particular God. So this makes praying a bit cumbersome. It takes quite a while to go through “Dear higher power, Mother Nature, mother goddess, spirit guides, animal guides, ancestors etc” each time I want to communicate so I decided that I needed a name. I immediately though of Alanis Morrisette who plays god in Dogma and I decided to name my multitude of higher powers the one name, ‘Alanis’. I was very excited about this and proceeded to tell all those who were remotely interested that I was talking to my goddess ‘Alanis’. Even my counsellor took it on board and managed not to laugh during our sessions when referring to Alanis (he did smirk but looked very chuffed at his lack of laughter). The problem I had was that every time I did my morning and evening chats with Alanis, it felt like I was addressing the Alanis Morrisette. And then it all felt wrong. I mean she may well have heard me telepathically, who knows how spiritual she is? She might have been buttering her toast in Canada or wherever she is from and suddenly out of the blue heard me waffling on about how I need to remain sober and could she possibly sort out the leaking overflow pipe…

In case you wondered, no, she didn’t answer.

So with that I have gone back to naming each of my zillion higher powers and just mix up the order so that none of them get jealous of who gets named first.

There are benefits to talking with an entity that you believe hold a larger power than yourself. I will write this more eloquently in another post, for now I am far too glib to describe with any justice. And I need a pee.

Little Chloë

It’s her turn to be nurtured. Her time to be reassured. Her chance to have her needs met.

One thing about intensive therapy is that stones tend to be uncovered. The lichen moss stripped back to reveal an intense, constantly shifting dark hard mass of unresolved pain; insecurity and agonising self doubt. The stones can’t be shifted but they can be worked upon. They can be softened, they can be polished so that angry, distorted screams aren’t reflected back and instead a quiet acceptance can be acknowledged. I cannot turn back time. The wounds which were inflicted, etched into my brain can only be changed in time. By me.

Trying to learn to love oneself more than another seems impossible. I can manage it part of the day, in increments. Then the self hate comes flooding back and I search, desperately, for validation and love from another. Yet these links I yearn for are so tenuous that they disappear before I can get a hold on them. These links are made with others who are also damaged. Also broken. They aren’t strong enough to hold my greedy little hands that clutch and grab for a lifeline. Instead I must turn these hands towards my own self and instead of grasping, they must stroke. They must be gentle.

The well of love I have within me seems never-ending yet at the same time empty. Slowly, slowly I am trying to tease out self worth and appreciation. Collecting it and giving it in small sips to Little Chloë. She needs it. I am taking her out to the beach so that we can sit and listen to the waves tumble into the shore. We garden so that she can feel the soil in her fingers and sense the life that is ready to grow. She sits with me as I paint and draw and make rudimentary clay sculptures in the shape of the Mother Goddess. I look at her photos and I tell her that I love her. That she was enough. That she is enough. That the 43 year old woman who looks back from the mirror can finally grow up and stop tearing chunks out of her being.

Tears roll down as I type. This growing pain hurts. It rips my insides apart, I feel the desperation as I wish for arms to comfort me. There are no arms, not only would the ease be short-lived, it would be vacuous. I must use my own arms and my own heart to learn to soothe.

Mother Goddess

60 Days..

It’s 00:12 and I am officially 60 days sober. Probably the longest time without having ingested an alcoholic drink since I started drinking at the age of 13. That’s 30 years of cultivating an addiction to a substance that both cocooned me in its nectar yet created the opportunities for blackouts, sexual assaults, lying, cheating and putting myself in stupidly dangerous situations.

These 60 days represent a pivotal turning point in my life. I feel a bit like the battered daffodils across the way from my window – still just about standing despite the efforts of Ciara and Dennis. We sit in therapy and what can start out as a jovial session with one of us believing that we have achieved something or regaling a past deed, can often end in anger, shame and (in my case) tears. The counsellors picking apart our words and with an invisible highlighter reveal the manipulation and denial in our stories.

I don’t know who I am. I am not sure what my opinions are on anything anymore. The never-ending layers of an onion being stripped away day by day and the constant weariness at the intensity of the sessions leaves us exhausted. With it however, there comes a lightness and a distinct lack of pretence. I can admit to it all as it arises.

This evening, after I had a bath with my battery lit candles and finished some written work, I attempted to play darts. Bolstered by not being the only female in the house, the new girl (who happens to be particularly good at the game), tried to improve my technique which resulted in my finally getting the sodding dart in the right place, despite at least 2 minutes of not having a clue about what she was talking about.

I am tired and hoping that I can finally manage to sleep through the night and not wake up with a mind like a washing machine as I do usually.

Excuse the poorly written post, my batteries are on empty…

Leaky Vessel

Sitting in my room on my bed in between lunch and a workshop. Reflecting on a) how much I cry and b) how I might be able to pull a sudden sickie and be excused from another excruciating hour of ‘let’s pull the addicts apart and bare their souls until they howl for mercy’.

Yes I am feeling a little dramatic and if I were a cat (which alas I am not.. I have never seen an alcoholic cat before so can safely assume I wouldn’t need to be in a rehab if I were one..), I would be painstakingly licking my fur so that every strand of hair was laying in the correct direction and then would sprawl out and knead my claws into the soft blanket under which I am currently hiding. Right now, being a cat would be the ultimate solution for my weary brain that has had enough of the constant barrage of therapy.

The thing is that I am fully aware that out of this pain comes growth. It’s just it hurts so fucking much. I struggle to sleep when I go to bed and then can’t wake up in the morning. My first thoughts as I stir are muted and fuzzy but within seconds negativity bombards the mind, like shots being fired from a gun. The idea is that I pray first thing and meditate. Unfortunately the fatigue is crippling first thing and I struggle to get down to the kitchen to make a cup of tea let alone pray to my higher power. Ideally I would pray to my higher power whilst simultaneously receiving a cup of tea but I feel that asking for tea and serenity might be pushing it.

Relationships throughout my life are fast becoming an obvious issue and I witness from my mind’s sidelines how I play out my role in relationships now. In fact I almost feel like I have just been thrown back to being a young child and I am having to relearn how to be a friend, a daughter, a sister as well as a mother. And god knows what hell being in a relationship now would manifest. Almost 6 weeks in and I have realised that not one of my past relationships have been healthy. Blood red ‘Codependence’ is stamped condemningly on each one, as I file them into the ‘LOVE – archived’ cabinet drawer.

With shocking clarity as I sat on a bus coming back from the Portobello market, I realised that each time I envisioned being with a partner, I was looking for someone who had the same values with a shared sense of humour, who liked the same things, adored animals, listened to the same music.. In fact, I was looking for me. I don’t actually need anyone else to fulfil me or make me whole.. I have already found that person. It is me. I have everything I need and now I just need to love her. The tears that threaten to drown me also come from the stark realisation that there is no person alive who can save the little girl who resides within, that critical time has passed. The loneliness and fear that stemmed from instances of neglect needed to be addressed between the ages of 0 – 16. They simply cannot be fixed now by anything external. That boat has most definitely sailed. Love, material objects, new hair styles or multiple piercings and tattoos.. it is time to accept that they are nice-to-haves. The only way that this vessel can be repaired is via a self-care manual that incorporates the instructions to fixing one’s container so that it is supportive, can bear rough seas and doesn’t leak. And to do this I assume I need to do a bit of work on self-love, self-care and self-esteem.

Through drawing and painting, meditating, writing and (my latest addiction) collecting house plants, I endeavour to create a safe space whilst I am here. My essential oil diffuser puffs out therapeutic steam whilst changing colour and the salt lamp exudes a warm glow. Fuck knows what the cluster of healing crystals are actually doing by my bedside but I do seem to think that shoving a different one down my bra each day may help with something. I’ll keep you posted on that one.