I feel your voice
Like the plucking of a bass string
I feel your voice
Like the plucking of a bass string
Without the mental torture you put me through when you walked out and never communicated another word to me again I might have got there sooner, but I think I’ve finally put you behind me. Your cruelty helped in the end. It was hard to believe the Mark I loved could be so cruel and I blamed myself entirely, especially when you wrote to Penny and made me out to be controlling and possibly even violent. I had to learn to stop blaming myself and remember who I really am. You destroyed me and you very nearly killed me. I pray to the gods the woman you’re pretending to be someone else with now never sees your cold robotic side and you don’t do this to her. But then again, someone who can be with a tattooed stripper isn’t the Mark who was with me, so maybe you being a completely different person all over again means you’ve lost the cruelty. I miss the Mark who loved me and I love him still, but not only doesn’t he exist anymore, he never did. You invented him for me, just as you’re inventing someone else now for her so that she doesn’t leave you, someone who’s not embarrassed by public nakedness (to the extent that you squirmed at paintings in the Louvre) and vanity masquerading as ‘poor me’ insecurity. I hope you find peace of mind one day and work out who the hell you really are, and I hope you don’t break anyone else along the way.
For background: I periodically blocked and unblocked Mark on Facebook. Every time I decided to block him, I ended up relenting. It was a channel of communication and it was hard to close it. I never dared look at his page on there, though. I was far too frightened what I might see. If you hover your mouse over his name where he liked my photos or was tagged in them you could see, though, that he was using a photo I took of him when we went on holiday to Geilo in Norway as his cover photo.
30th November 2015 16.09
Please take my photo down now. As I said to you before, your chocolate diamond engagement ring was in my inside jacket pocket when I took it. It’s wrong of you to be using it at all, but if what I was told this week is true, it’s even worse. I’ve had the year from hell this year. I held my father’s hand as he breathed and coughed his last gasp, and when I realised he was dying and there was nothing we could do, I told my mother to speak to him, only to hear her beg him to keep breathing. I carried the heavy plastic jar Plymouth City Council jar with his ashes in hugged close to my chest to Culdrose air base and handed him over to the Royal Navy so they could scatter him over Mount’s Bay from a Sea King helicopter. And now, just as I was looking forward to the end of the year from hell, just as I was preparing to decorate for Christmas for the first time since 2010, for Mum’s sake, someone has told me that the only person who’s ever loved me, the precious, beautiful snow fairy who turned my ramshackle flat near Deptford Creek into a fairytale castle, is marrying another woman. Don’t have your cover photo one I took of you on a holiday where I was trying to summon up the courage and right words to propose. To have that up and it mean nothing to you that that is what I saw through my eyes, that I loved you as I looked through that camera lens, that I stood there with a diamond ring near my heart as I pressed the shutter, is colder than the snow.
The photo changed. The first time in 4 years any message I sent to him had any sign or indication that it had been read. The closest I have had to a reply in 4 years.
I sent this final message, typed into my phone at my desk at work after I got back from the kitchen and a nerve-steadying cup of tea and had stopped myself crying:
1st December 2015 16.43
Thank you. I know you said terrible things about me after you walked out, accusing me of being a stalker who wanted to hurt you. I’m sure you only said those things to help you cope with the terrible pain you were putting me through as I waited for an answer to my letter that never came. I know it isn’t like you to hurt people, so that would have been why you told yourself that. In case any part of you did believe it, please know that I never stopped loving you with all my heart and hoping you’d come home. I’ll stop hoping now. I shall always be grateful that you came into my life. I’ll always remember how I’d given up hope and then that door opened and there you were, framed in the kitchen doorframe. You always felt like a miracle. The world after you left was so colourless, so lacking in magic and sparkle. But I’ll always be grateful for the magic, the joy, the running around to catch falling leaves, and that miraculous snowy Christmas I’d hoped for all my life. Christmas 2010 was all I dreamed of thanks to you, and I remember that this year with gratitude in my heart. I’ll always be grateful that you loved me. I’m sorry I didn’t show it enough while you were here. I love you. I’m truly sorry that I was in so much pain that i hurt you. The last thing I would ever do would be to intentionally cause you more pain, because I torture myself daily already with the guilt of ever hurting you in the past. Be happy, beautiful, precious snow fairy. Thank you for loving me and making me feel more alive than I ever have. For the longest time I didn’t feel as if I was really living, but it was worth it for those years of magic with you. I’ve blocked you now on Facebook not in anger, but because I cannot bear it. Never think I felt and will feel anything other than the deepest love and gratitude. Toria x
Like most (possibly all) things in life, it’s more complicated than that.
I couldn’t imagine going out and enjoying myself in the first 18 months after Mark left. In that anti-depressant-induced fog that I floated through it would have been impossible even if I had. There were some days when I did force myself. It seemed churlish, eventually, for even a confirmed sportsaphobe such as me not to see some of the Olympics, and with the aid of a kind person on Twitter who tweeted about available tickets (everything being such an effort, help like this was vital to achieve anything) I finally saw, not the Olympics, but the Paralympics, because by the time I’d summoned the effort required the Olympics were over. And that was a surreal experience, floating through fog and trying to give a shit when I don’t even like sport anyway. I posed for photos with an Olympic (Paralympic? was there a different one?) torch, because that was what you were supposed to do. Piece of thin metal with holes in, apparently supposed to be some kind of a big deal. An incredibly lonely day, where the jollity of everyone around me made me feel like a visiting alien from another planet. I tried. I took photos of myself in the Olympic Stadium, in an effort to push myself into being in the moment. Nothing.
Experiences like that can put you off going out. Knowing that days out might well only make you feel alienated and alone is no inducement. It’s hard to explain to people that it can make you feel worse.
So there’s that. Always that to factor in. I tend to leave early so I don’t even have to try to talk to people after gigs and such. I’m assuming no-one wants to talk to me, so, when no-one does, my instinct is to just flee to spare everyone the embarrassment. Standing around like a spare part when everyone else is with someone is too difficult really. I’m so pathetically grateful if anyone does come and talk to me at gigs, but then, the flip side of that is that the sort of creepy man who sees you as the wounded gazelle at the edge of the herd can also come and talk to you. And whereas that never used to bother me it now makes me feel a mixture of anger and despair. I once left a gig purely because someone asked to buy me a drink and I wanted to yell at him to just LEAVE ME ALONE. Why is my reaction so extreme? I’m not justifying it, but knowing that it never would have happened if Mark had been there makes the mild annoyance you feel at being hit on by a creepy ugly bloke magnify hugely. Suddenly the lack of Mark is brought into sharp focus. If I had been forgetting being sad that he’s not here, suddenly it’s as if someone is yelling it at me while wearing a bright yellow ‘he left you’ T-shirt.
It just feels easier some days to stay in and watch a documentary.
Days out are strange. On the train the loss I feel as it pulls out of the platform and there’s no-one to be excited with me is so palpable I could weep. I find myself looking across and have to try and stop myself from pulling the silly faces we used to pull at each other at such moments. It’s like losing a limb. I can’t do that anymore. My coping strategy lately is, rather than deleting photos and putting things away in boxes, to instead nurture the memories. The only way for it not to hurt, I’ve found, is to welcome the memory rather than wince at it. So I keep my face sensible and adult, but inside, I remember pulling silly faces and bouncing in my seat, and I remember how happy we were, and I allow it to make me smile.
And I KNOW, God knows I know, that that isn’t what you’re meant to do. I’m meant to take everything that was Mark and burn it. But I’m surviving here. I have, at times in my life, suffered extreme physical pain that has lasted for days and weeks. At those times I walked slowly. Sitting hurt. Standing hurt. You walked a narrow tightrope between moving and not-moving, thinking about a particular direction, finding that hurt too much, trying, OK, another one, then. Occasionally prodding to check if things had improved, if so, moving forward. Can I walk faster now? Oh, maybe a little bit. Right then – move. OK – stop now. But sway slightly, because being stopped is difficult. This is so similar to that, so, so similar. And it’s one day at a time, one hour at a time on bad days. It’s what works. It’s surviving.
But did you enjoy it?
I’m honestly not sure. I ticked the boxes. I went to the place I said I’d go to. I saw what I meant to see. I walked around alone, had a cream tea for one at a table by myself. That was nice. I like cream teas. I showed myself the photos after. I’m back on Facebook now, so I had someone to show them to and could say to someone ‘look where I am!’. So there’s that. But I’m sort of in a bubble, still. Not to the extent that I was when on those awful pills – the ones that numbed me and made me so foggy I got tunnel vision and then the ones which worked as incredibly strong sleeping pills and meant I spent half the day only half awake. Just quiet and isolated. Taking photos helps, because it’s reaching out and touching things, it’s being in the moment, it’s appreciating things around you, it’s engaging with the world. Photos are vital to me, actually. Not being able to take them at all after Mark left was both a sign and symptom and then a problem in itself. Blowing the dust off cameras played a big part in my recovery and I wish I had more time to take photos properly. But even with taking photos again, even though for nearly all my life days out and gigs have been alone and I’ve been so used to being alone it hasn’t occurred to me to buy more than 1 ticket for things or ask other people, it’s still….this bubble. It’s all happening around me and I’m finding it hard to really be there.
I never knew, before Mark, how much more alive you can feel with someone there to reflect back at you. We would bounce our enthusiasm off each other. The happiness I felt if something made Mark happy was partly purely being glad that the person I loved was experiencing joy, but partly a two-way sharing, reflection – increasing the signal strength. Now I feel trapped in a transparent bubble. I want to say, “Look at the boats!” So I take a picture. Show Facebook later. Did you enjoy it?
Yes, I enjoyed it, I suppose. Just…at one remove. I wasn’t really there, you see.
That’s the problem; you put it off for a bit, and then it just gets embarrassing. (Same reason you end up not writing to people you actually really like.) Plus you have so much to write about you don’t know where to begin. Plus a weird sense of disloyalty to far more write-aboutable days if you write up the stuff that happened today, so you’ll leave it till later and start back when you left off…
Anyhow, the only way to get started is to start.
I think the main reason I stopped writing was because I also stopped going to therapy, and I wanted to write about why but I didn’t want to be horrible and negative about it…and that’s where the slipping occurred. So – I reckon the thing to do is to think, “Well, this is a locked blog. I’m not using names. Sod it.”
Why did I stop going to therapy? If there was one moment when I decided for definite that it would have to stop, then it was standing alone in the dark at the pelican crossing opposite the magic bookshop*on Creek Road, watching cars and lorries go past as I waited for the green man to appear, and wondering, in a calm, detached and rather scientific manner, how exactly one would best go about throwing oneself in front of something in order to achieve death – you know, angles, speed of moving object, that sort of thing. Not at that moment, mind, but afterwards, once I’d sort of ‘sobered up’ from feeling so wretched, I thought, “Yeah, you know what? This therapy is definitely not helping.”
It was OK at first. Important even. But I don’t in all honesty think that it was of any more benefit over and above what it was, which was basically an opportunity to sit and talk to someone once a week. Which, at the time, was desperately needed. The instinctive need to reach out and find someone, anyone, to talk to as you flail around, spiralling down into darkness, is like reaching out desperately for something to cling to slow down if not stop your fall. This is why, when more than just the rug being pulled out from under you, the whole floor of your world gives way, you find yourself circling through the directory on your mobile phone and calling people you sometimes haven’t spoken to for years, someone, anyone, even though you really do feel terrible for bothering them and know you shouldn’t. Yeah, so someone you can pay and who is supposed to listen to you can really help there, because it takes away the guilt over bothering people, and you know that you have something once a week to go to, so there’s not this endless ‘no-one to talk to’ path going on for you don’t know how long, with the consequent fear-driven need to reach out. Plus, at the beginning, my therapist was kind enough to ask me to call her to let her know how things went with the GP and getting signed off work and everything, and she was instrumental in getting me to see the GP, encouraging me to go and writing her a letter. So I do appreciate the help I received at first. It’s just that going there always did have an element to it which I think eventually became counter-productive. My first visit I was nearly overwhelmed with the sudden realisation that this was my first evening out, the first night I’d not gone home from work but gone somewhere else, since Mark left, and that it was to do this, to come here…a wave of misery just engulfed me. I had to trek to the other side of London (nervous about seeing anyone, since I’d never found therapy very useful in the past, I was seeing someone recommended by a friend, or I might have gone somewhere nearer home) and that added to this feeling, as also on my mind, every single time I went, was the thought that I wouldn’t even be there, anywhere near there, if it wasn’t for having to come to this.
So, at first it helped, but only really because it gave me someone to rattle on to for an hour once a week. She rarely said anything at all to me, and once, after many months, surprised me by saying that I never gave her chance to speak, or something like that. Maybe it’s with being brought up in a family whose conversation style is not a million miles from the House of Commons (I tend to interrupt and talk over people and I do know now that that’s rude, but since I don’t mean to be rude when I do it – I expect other people to do the same to me, and stuff to overlap – I don’t see it as ‘talking over’ but ‘talking with’. I know I must try not to.) but at the same time I did get the impression that she was pretty much just sitting there every week. I’m sure I paused a few times, hoping for some input from her side, and when I didn’t get one I felt like I ought to keep going. I know there were a lot of awkward pauses because I have a very clear memory of the pattern of her parquet floor (floors are fascinating to English people in awkward moments). I would sometimes ask her for advice, but in the end gave up doing, because she never really gave me any. That state of mind is now so far that I’ve honestly forgotten, but I remember asking how to cope with certain things, what sort of path to take so as to be able to deal with them, and wanting some sort of concrete actual advice, and her just getting me to talk about it all some more, and then the time would be up.
Anyhow, so it was sort of OK, but my dad observed that I always seemed worse on the phone the day after, or that night if I phoned then (since Mark left I phone my parents at least once a day – the only time I haven’t called them was when I was in Falmouth in August on a music course, and I called eventually on the last day) and I couldn’t argue, because it was true. It was unusual to get through a session without crying, and even if there were no tears there was the miserable, long journey home that I was only taking because Mark wasn’t there, from somewhere I would never had gone to if Mark hadn’t left, and that thought would be at the top of my mind every time I left her house. It was one of the loneliest times of my life.
What really caused me to feel that I had no choice other than to stop going was ‘group therapy’. I had been trying to pluck up the courage to stop going before (very much enjoying the summer holiday from it, for example), but the therapist had said she thought this would be a good idea for me and it seemed rude not to. I know. But I thought it only fair to try. Though, let’s face it, also just wimped out of leaving. The first session was pretty much doomed to make me feel horrendous as it was timed, with fabulous awfulness, for 5th November – Bonfire Night. On our first Bonfire Night together I had told Mark that I thought proper Bonfire NIghts should have a bonfire because, duh, hence the name, but the one on Blackheath was just fireworks, as were many these days. Also, it should be on proper 5th November and not the nearest weekend, because it was nice to keep dates special. And Mark (who really was great at stuff like this) found that the Bonfire Night in Wimbledon would be on 5th November and have not one but two massive bonfires, plus a funfair. And we went on a big wheel and watched fireworks go off all over London and it was lovely and felt as life was going as it should be, finally. At last.
Fast forward a few years and here I am in a room on the top floor of a medical centre in West London, watching fireworks explode through a Venetian blind on a skylight, not with Mark but in a roomful of strangers and all because Mark is gone. Before a word was spoken I was already in the depths of misery. I say ‘full’ of strangers, there was actually just me, the therapist, and three other people, about whom I shall type as little as possible, because morals. (I might have done at the time, so there’s a good thing about leaving this.) I shall say, though, that one seemed like his problems were mostly behind him and another didn’t seem to really have that much of a problem, not that it’s for me to judge, but when you’re in emotional agony it’s hard not to find that irksome. With distance, that was unfair of me, and I think I was taking out being upset at being there out on her (not that I ever said or did anything bad to her, just in my head resenting her). Mind you, in my defence, she walked into the room with an irritating, cocky confidence, saying how much she was looking forward to the session (what?!? you want to do this?) and I immediately pegged her as arrogant and annoying. I knew I shouldn’t, but then, on the way home, she ran out in front of traffic without waiting for the pelican crossing to turn green and when a car beeped at her she turned round and gave it the finger. So…mean of me, but accurate, in my opinion. The other person was the only one apart from me who cried, and she was mostly there because someone else who had far more serious issues was impacting on her. She was the person I felt most sympathetic towards and I found myself putting on a sort of therapist’s understanding voice and offering advice when speaking to her…and therein lay my my main problem with these sessions. I was doing what? I was listening to my own voice as I spoke thinking, “This is ridiculous. I don’t know what I’m talking about here. Can an actual therapist jump in now?” And I swear the therapist said pretty much nothing all evening. To give Confident Woman her due, she was the only one of us with the balls to actually point this out to the therapist. (I can’t remember what the answer was. Something wishy-washy.) What basically happened every week was that we all sat around analysing each other, with the very occasional, very rare, interjection from the therapist – often only if she was directly addressed. And the very worst thing about this was that I could see how it could appeal. It was like Special Nutters’ Club. Every week we’d all get together and act as if we were qualified therapists even though we knew sod all and talk about ourselves and come up with theories about each other’s issues, because we were so special and knew all about this and could help each other with our expert knowledge.
To be perfectly blunt, it was bullshit.
On one level it took the same problems I had with therapy before and made them all the more obvious because there were other people there to also observe. I wanted help and advice for how to get on with my life – especially in the early days, when I often felt very like I was drowning. This seemed to me to be the opposite of that, a never-ending, constant, week in, week out display of how special we all were. I wanted to be able to buck up and get on and go to work and cope, not have my miseries indulged and encouraged. I’ve never wanted to be in any club (not just those which would have me as a member), but I really, particularly did not want to be in Therapy Club.
So I tried not doing a direct debit and paying the therapist for the weeks I’d been with a cheque, but she insisted we were just starting to get somewhere and I should give it a bit more time. And I was (I mean, am and always will be, let’s face it) so pathetic that I didn’t have the courage to push it and dutifully continued to show up – though I still didn’t do a direct debit.
OK, I’m coming back to this now, months later ( I see this is dated 30th October 2013 – oh dear), and it’s hard to get up the impetus to finish this when, reading back through previous entries, it’s basically all there, and this would just be repeating myself. If you read them you’ll see how it all panned out and how I eventually decided I was never going back.
One thing I could add was that, just to add to the therapy making me feel worse rather than better, was my therapist’s response to me writing to her to tell her that I was never going to come back. She either phoned or texted (I truly can’t remember any longer) and I’m certain I didn’t speak to her, so it was either a voicemail message or a text, saying that she thought it was important for me to attend one last time. I replied by text, firmly but politely, that I had made my decision. Since every time previously I’d timidly raised the issue of not coming any longer and she’d just shot it straight down I knew she’d only try to persuade me…no, rather just plain insist without hearing otherwise, that I should keep going. So I was going to stick to my guns. I may have used that phrase. Something along those lines. But I was polite, I’m sure. Monday night came along, I was just leaving the office at 5 o’clock and my phone beeped with a text. It was my therapist, saying either that she hoped I’d be there at 6 or else that she was expecting me…I forget the exact words after all this time, but I remember thinking, “Did you not read what I said to you?” In any event, I stuck to my resolution and didn’t reply. I then got another text saying she was sad I hadn’t attended. Then the next week I got a text telling me that the time had been altered slightly for that week’s session (because I wouldn’t have known, not having been at the last one), as if she was just assuming that I would totally come to the next one and missing the last one had just been a blip. I ignored it and didn’t go. Then I got a letter, again telling me I ought to have one last final session. I ignored that too.
The really horrendous thing was that, ripped up with guilt about how much I’d hurt Mark, this whole episode made me feel as if I was having to treat my therapist in the same way that Mark must have felt he had to treat me in order to extricate himself from our relationship.
A distant part of my brain recognises that, some day, this might be funny. It’s really not, but I can recognise the joke being there, just not laugh at it yet. At the time it was just unbearably painful. Every time I didn’t answer the phone to her I was thinking about Mark not answering the phone to me. It was completely horrible.
Anyhow, I think I started this as ‘here is where I am now and I am a lot better’, and it’s difficult for me to finish that as a) it will become far too long and b) I’m not actually feeling that chipper right this moment, so how we end this at ‘why I stopped going to therapy’ and then write a bit more about how I’ve been doing in general later on?
*Not a shop that sells books about magic, but a second-hand book and print shop which sells many amazing things out of an old Victorian pub turned into a house formerly propped up with scaffolding because the council were trying to get the owner out so they could build yuppy flats there (long story) and which has fairly random opening hours, so sometimes it’s there and sometimes it’s not, with no outward sign of being a shop, hence obviously a MAGIC SHOP and not a normal one. Obviously.
I expect it sounds churlish, to dislike being called brave and strong. How can such a statement be anything other than a compliment, and therefore, how can disliking being told you are brave be anything other than ungrateful?
But imagine this picture for a moment. Someone has been stranded on a desert island for years with nothing but a basketball with a face on it for company. A woman stares forlornly from the window of a high tower unable to grow her hair long enough or with sufficient tensile strength. And suddenly, on the horizon, rescue! – only for said ship / knight on horseback to shout congratulations on their bravery and promptly bugger off.
It’s not just that being told you are brave is of zero practical value, though the intrinsic message in such congratulations that the person giving them is not actually going to do anything is pretty horrible. It’s also the fact that it just plain isn’t true. The person saying it isn’t only not offering to help, they are showing a complete inability to understand, and it’s that which tips you over into despair.
It’s not brave to just keep on going when you don’t have any other option. It just isn’t. You keep going because there is no other option (well, one other, but let’s not talk about that). Apart from that keeping on keeping on is simply all that you can do, and it doesn’t take bravery to do that. Telling you that you’re brave doesn’t just not help, it fails to acknowledge that all you want to do is to stop. Maybe they’re in no position to rescue you, but congratulating you for being stuck in a horrible place doesn’t just fail to get you out of it, it implies that being stuck there is good. And it’s that that makes you want to scream.
When I was still stuck in the bog awful Gasworks Comp I had to go to after my parents moved back to the Midlands we all went on a trip to London, staying a couple of nights in a hotel (London was far too far for a daytrip). Glossing over the horrific orgy of damage, destruction and general mayhem that was the inevitable result of bad teachers being put in charge of bad children, at one point we all went to Harrods and I saw a nice black hat that was going fairly cheap and I bought it. Now I got verbally attacked for this on coach afterwards, but I got verbally and very occasionally physically attacked every day of my life at that point. I could say that, that being the case, I’d thought I might as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb and just bought the hat anyway even though I knew I’d be attacked for it, but that’s only a logic I’d apply after the fact. The fact was that it didn’t matter what I said or did, my existence was mocked daily, so there wasn’t a rebellious attitude of, yeah, I might as well do what I like! Yeah, sod the lot of them! Imagine not a heroic figure waving a banner in a Soviet era poster and more the figures bowed under the capitalist yoke. It really was just a daily slog and there was nothing brave about it. Also, it was just a hat. An everyday, boring black hat. I didn’t buy it in the face of anything. I bought it because it didn’t matter what I said or did, I’d be mocked, so getting mocked for the hat never really occurred to me, it didn’t figure in my thinking at all. All I thought when I bought it was that I fancied it and it was cheap.
So when, back in the Midlands, the chemistry teacher made a point of talking to me about it I was first of all astonished and didn’t know how to react. There were all manner of things I could have said and thought of once it had sunk in, but at the time all I could think was, “Where the hell have you been the past few years? Are you blind and deaf or what?” Which you can’t really say to people, or I couldn’t ten at any rate. Teachers at that school could be divided up into three groups – useless and benign (can’t be bothered), useless and damaging (their kids went to a better school and they viewed your school as a good deed they were doing for the socially deprived, so they were only interested in teaching us not to do drugs rather than English Lit) and good and about to leave for a better school (I can only think of two for this group, mind). The chemistry teacher was in the can’t be arsed group, who taught his subject in such a half-arsed way that half the things on the GCSE were things I had never seen before in my life, though luckily, since GCSEs were also crap, I was able to still get a B by guessing the multiple choice answers. Even braver, brasher, older me, though, would have difficulty formulating a reply to praise for being a bloody hat in Harrods. How do you quickly sum up your whole existence being nothing but mockery and misery? How do you point out to someone that they appear not to have noticed this? Apparently it showed great strength of character, buying a hat, since I got the mickey taken out of me for it. But…but…that’s everything, that’s every day…I sat open-mouthed for while, needing to say something but not knowing how on earth to sum it all up in a brief phrase but also knowing, at the same time, that anything I said was useless and pointless, and his stupid praise for the stupid hat instead of chemistry work showed that. So I sullenly mumbled at the desk in front of me something about how ‘anyone can get used to anything after a while’ and he got annoyed with me, presumably because I wasn’t grateful for the praise he’d just given me. I’d like to say that I felt like shouting at him or pushing the desk over or something, but it never occurred to me. I was just weighed down by the daily grind of it all, and that someone, after many years, had singled me out to say, “Well done!” for just carrying on as I had always done, without offering to help or, more importantly, acknowledging that help was needed was just more weight.
Calling someone ‘brave’ for being in a horrible situation they can’t get out of isn’t just not helping, it’s implying that being stuck there is good. The hollow despair as those congratulations echo is one of the loneliest sounds in the world. “Hurray! You’re stuck on a desert island / in a tall tower / in a shit school / in severe depression! That’s excellent!” they seem to say, as they then gallop away to their own existence, ‘inspired’. Fuck you, I don’t want to inspire you. I just want this to stop. Don’t call me brave for having to walk four days to find water, just give me a bloody drink. It’s not brave when you haven’t got a choice. It’s just shit.
It was all he talked about at parents’ evening as well, you know. Not chemistry. Me buying a bloody hat. My dad correctly described him as an idiot afterwards, but what can you do? Your children had to go to the school nearest your house in those days, so my parents knowing that the teachers were useless and stupid didn’t make any difference either, though at least they agreed with me.
So that’s why you don’t get thanked for calling someone brave who’s in a horrible situation. I don’t want to be brave. I don’t even want to be here. And it would be so much better just if someone would at least notice.
BPD, for me (and I go into more detail in the blog) in particular manifests in my being unable to let go of things and in experiencing PTSD-type symptoms of my brain playing me action replays of stuff that is upsetting, which in my case can be even what other people would regard as really quite trivial stuff. For example, if I drop something and break it, or, as I did a few months ago, even drop something and not actually break it but just worry that it was damaged in some way. The action replays are attached to a lot of mental self-flagellation along the lines of how stupid and clumsy and stupid and forgetful and generally useless I am and they can go on for ages. If someone else has to share space with me when I’m doing this then I’ll subject them to a lot of this stuff, and people who’ve had to live with me would be able to come forward as witnesses. The only time I’ve ever seen Stitson’s Teutonic unflappability flapped was when I was going on and on and on about something I was upset about and he threw his rubber gloves in the sink and stomped out of the house. Seriously, only time ever. This is a man who nearly set his eyebrows alight cooking once and merely remarked mildly, “A little too much Cointreau, I think.” I could make St. Francis of Assisi say, “FOR FUCK’S SAKE!” and probably strangle a small furry creature in frustration.
(Once again I would like to draw the attention of members of the jury to just how much Mark had to put up with.)
Anyhow, so I did a stupid thing weekend before last. All of this week and last week have been stressful enough as it is, because I started a new job this week and I was only told last week, so all of last week was panicking about leaving everything shipshape and having to do my regular work on top of having to write handover notes and show the temp replacing me around whilst being shadowed by her all week long. The week did not start well as on the Monday morning of last week I was, as usual, running late and I could not find my hat. A pile of scarves and gloves and hats had built up over the winter next to the box that I put the recycling in and I’d lost count of the number of times I’d fished my hat out of the recycling box. And so I realised with absolute certainty that the reason I couldn’t find my hat was that it had gone out to the wheelie bin outside in the recycling sack at the weekend, with, in fact, the same degree of certainty with which I knew that the binmen had emptied it that morning, because I’d heard and seen them.
Now, it wasn’t an especially stylish hat or an expensive hat. It was a plain black beret and it cost me about £2 from the clearance room in Nottingham Debenhams yonks ago. The main reason I tended to wear it a lot was that it was easy to fold up and put away in a bag or pocket, not because I was an especial fan of the beret. I only bought it because it was practically free (I think it might have been £2 and then even more knocked off for a blue cross day sale) and it seemed rude not to, and then it lay forgotten in a drawer for years before I started wearing it. But it was a good hat, with nothing whatsoever wrong with it, and me and that hat had good memories. I wore it to Paris, after hurriedly packing and dressing to go after Mark had revealed his surprise Valentine’s weekend trip. “What coat shall I wear? Well, I have to wear the beret!” When I was disappearing under a pile of shed layers at the Bloomsbury Theatre bar and my beret fell off the top of the pile, Tim Minchin had picked it up and playfully dropped it on top of my head. Besides which, it is now bloody freezing and fearsomely windy by the river. My head is cold and my hair is in my face.
But I’m OK. I’m sad, and I wish I hadn’t lost it, and the fact I realised where it was just half an hour too late to run down and save it does make it a bit worse, but I’m not doing endless looping mental video re-runs of knocking the hat into the recycling box or constantly wishing if only I’d realised earlier, if only the binmen didn’t come on Monday morning, if only I hadn’t taken the recycling out to the bin at the weekend, if only I’d stopped keeping things there by the door. I’ve moved the pile of scarves and gloves and hats into the bottom drawer of a chest of drawers without any kicking myself over not having done that before. I notice I’ve not got it when I’m out and my head’s cold and my hair is in my face (I could wear another hat to work, but they’re either not smart enough for work or too liable to blow into the river) but it isn’t dominating my thoughts as it would have been before now. It is, I am reasoning, one of those things, and I could just as easily have left it on a bus as done this to it. I don’t have the slightest anthropomorphic pang about what I’ve undeservedly done to the poor thing, either.
In fact, in a weird way, I’m almost glad I lost it, because it’s become a bit of a milestone for me with my BPD.
My head is cold, though. 😦