If You’re Still Here

Dear Cas,

I don’t know how else to write this, because it’s just not something I can dress up with clever words and descriptive imagery, it’s just what it is. I get through the endless seconds and minutes by thinking to myself that it won’t be forever. I’m not referring to the current tantrum being thrown before me, or the rain, or the shit day that stretches in front of me all the way to the horizon and beyond. I mean this. Being here.

The thought of just thinking about it is too much, because it quickly turns into a ferocious whirlpool of it won’t be forever, I don’t want to be here, fuck - that’s so messed up, I know - but I don’t know how else to cope, I really don’t, you need help – seriously, I know I do - but how? My ribcage tightens. My head floats and floats until all I can do is stare and remember to breathe occasionally. My body begins to shake violently as I swim through a haze of shame and anger. Anger at myself. At all this time wasted and lost and totally gone forever, and all I have left is blurred memories where everything merges into one mass of chaos.

A monochrome painting, still wet to the touch on canvas, shaking hands, smearing the brushstrokes, until the black and white dissolves to grey.

I’m writing this because, well because unless I sit here and pretend you’re a real person, alive and reading this in 25 years, I can’t imagine how I’ll ever get there, to where you are now. I cannot picture the future. It’s just not there. I can’t commit to anything. An outburst, a breakdown, an attack or a bog standard world ending moment, can happen in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, and rather inconveniently, I cannot see them coming and they knock me sideways as much as anyone else unlucky enough to witness me crumbling into something I just don’t know or understand.

The other stuff that should be grounding me, making me see, giving me that purpose, that fight, just isn’t. It isn’t working. I wish every single day that they made me want to stay, more than anything else. But they don’t.

It’s perpetually behind me, right on top of me, whenever I have a moment of OKness, it’s hovering, telling me I’m being fake, that I’m mimicking how I think I should behave. That the words that come out of my mouth and through my fingers don’t mean anything more than what drifts through my head – absolutely nothing. It tells me that what I do or don’t do today doesn’t matter either way and that it won’t be forever.

And I need something, anything to believe that I’ll eventually be where you are now, in 25 years, hopefully with enough fortitude to read this and realise how far you’ve come because nothing else is working and I’m so tired of this constant carousel of making progress only to realise that not a single thing has changed at all. The meds, the talking and the nodding along to everything that they’re all saying to me.

So ya know, if you’re still here all the way in the future, a little sign would be good. A space postcard made from stardust or whatever you lot are using in 2039 would be good. Or a pet unicorn. Just something.

Your 26 year old self,

Cas

She’s Hearing Voices

I shrink into the corner, next to the wall smothered in posters for local support groups, emergency telephone numbers, notices, “If you’re waiting longer than 15 minutes for your appointment, please let the reception staff know.” I check my phone - twenty two minutes, and place it back into my pocket without any intention of getting up or telling anyone.

My hands are shaking violently. I can sense the woman a few chairs away watching me, I stare at the floor hard, really hard and try to disappear. A man is at the reception shouting at the staff. He’s upset and threatening to do something if they refuse him to see someone. Out in the lobby area, someone else is shouting into their phone. The claustrophobic waiting area fills up with even more people, full of questions and names, clinging onto tattered letters as if their lives depend on it and I can’t breathe.

The man shouts again. Slamming his bag to the floor. Punching the Perspex partition that separates us from them.

A baby cries somewhere.

It sounds like Noah.

The woman in the lobby swears into her phone, growing louder as the door between us swings open.

People walk around in the lobby, without any idea of where to go or how they got here in the first place.

A man appears at the door. He looks around the waiting room in chaos as if it’s completely normal. He searches the faces.

“Cassandra?” he says to the room, directing it to no one.

I stand and follow him to the door. He walks and I follow through halls full of locked doors. My heart begins to hammer against my ribs and a sense of hopelessness fills me as we trudge deeper and deeper into this labyrinth of closed doors. No natural light reaches the corridors, the mock Andy Warhol prints dotted along the walls, bold colours, child-like shapes and squiggles completely out of place on the dead, grey walls.

Like a bright red ball gown at a funeral.

Footsteps.

We reach a door, he unlocks it and we walk in.

“Take a seat,” he says.

I perch at the edge of the chair closest to the door.

Fight or flight. Fight or flight. Fight or flight.

“Please, make yourself comfortable.” he laughs, sitting back in a way that I should copy him.

“I’m fine.” I say, staring at the door.

We begin the well-trodden routine of questions and one-word answers. All I can think is that I’m sat in a room I don’t know how to get to the outside from, the man I don’t know asks me personal questions, I don’t know his name. I don’t know what I’m doing here. Or what the end point is.

“Are you ever happy?”

“No.”

“Do you have highs and lows?”

“No.”

“Do you think of harming yourself?”

“Yes.”

“Have you?”

“Yes.”

“Show me.”

“No.”

It continues. For an eternity. I keep staring at the door. My hands keep shaking.

He asks if there are any significant life events from my childhood. I look at him for the first time.

“Well?”

“It should all be in my notes.” I point at the stack of papers in front of him on the desk.

“Yes, I know, but it’s better if I can hear it in your own words.” he laughs. Again.

I shake my head and then the tears start.

“OK, you don’t have to.” he looks scared. I gaze at the door again.

I tune out while he talks about what we do next. How they’re going to fix me. Where he’s referring me to. Who’s going to call me. I don’t allow myself to listen as I’ve heard it all before. I pinch my hand to stop the tears, to concentrate on something.

“What we can do is give you an anti-psychotic to take with your anti-depressants.”

“What?”

“It should give you a high, so you’re not so low. Do you want to give them a try?”

“No.”

“… OK. So we’ll continue with what you’re on for six more weeks?”

“Yes.”

“Alright. And I’ll see you again in six weeks, I’ll send you a letter confirming the appointment.”

“OK.”

He offers his hand for me to shake and I ignore it.

Eventually we’re back in the corridor, he’s leading me to the exit, away from the locked doors.

Footsteps.

He says goodbye and I duck past him, desperate to see sunlight again. I can’t breathe.

My feet carry me through the maze of doors, the stairwells, the figures standing around.

The walls caving in, they talk to me as I dash past. Echoes of voices. Shouting. Babies crying. My lungs feel ready to explode as I reach the final door to the exit. Cold air rushes over me. Greying sunlight. The voices stop midsentence as the automatic doors close behind me.

 

Social Media Pariah

  • Firstly, to be at all popular on social media, you must clone yourself. Mm hmm. Yes. You absolutely need at least two of you to make this online presence shit at all possible. One of you chained to the laptop / phone / iPad doing all the geekery and the other, complete with SLR in hand, like, doing stuff to actually talk about. Then take serene photos that you can edit and make the whole of Pinterest weep at your superior creative skillz.
  • Talk. Talk talk talk. If you can’t think of anything hilariously witty or profound to say, and your funny photos of cats with captions stockpile has been decimated – talk to other folk innit. Make little online relationships, no, not those relationships, unless you’re into all that, and take revealing selfies and take part in #tittytuesday. This is totally going all wrong here, MAKE FRIENDS, that’s all I mean. Christ.
  • Keep poo talk to a minimum. I personally enjoy a bit of a poo talk, I think working in a pub, owning a managerie of animals and most importantly, a small child, has totally desensitised me to poo. I find it amusing when my kid announces proudly that he has “DONE A NUMBER 2!” to discover that yes, he’s done a poo in the toilet - BUT OMFG LOOK, IT’S IN THE SHAPE OF AN ACTUAL NUMBER 2! GENIUS! Others might not like this, tread with poo carefully, both literally and metaphorically. At least try to refrain from Instagramming it.
  • Be self deprecating. Post photos of yourself looking like shit. But not in the highly annoying actually I look fine but I’ll say I don’t so people say I do mind fuckery bollocks. No. In a proper, IKR? I totes look like Dot Cotton after a bender at 6am. People like to be able to relate to your down-to-earthiness.

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  • Have no shame. None. Zero. And then on top of that, have no shame for your loved ones either. Did they do something utterly cringe? Put that shit on Facebook. Preferably with a photo. Or a collage of photos. Find some selfies taken by your kid on your phone? That’s going straight to Twitter. Accidently flash the postman? Go out with yesterday’s pants stuck to your jeans? What? It happens, don’t judge me. You get the idea. Confess all in a “Forgive me Father Twitter, for I have sinned, it has been one hour and thirty seven minutes and five retweets since my last confession…”
  • Hashtag the fuck out of everything. This makes you look proper profesh and as if you really know what you’re doing. Sod it - speak solely in hashtags. Make the most of those 140 characters and just use no spaces. Efficient, right?
  • Multi-task. You have to possess the ability to tweet thoughtful witticisms whilst watching that must-see episode of Bake Off / Sherlock / X Factor as it happens. You can go deeper and do the same with Question Time et al, but you must also have balls of steel for that trick.
  • And finally, never ever take any notice of stupid lists on the internet that tell you how to be a success on social media. Just be yourself. If that doesn’t work, fake that shit.

All the Small Things

The year hasn’t quite started out as “Whoot! 2014 is OUR year, I tell ya, OUR YEAR!” or “We’re gonna DO IT this year!” as I’d hoped. Not a single whiff of a Dry January, a limp resolution to get the hella on it and Get. Shit. Done or even the hollow promise to abdicate chocolate.

Nope. There’s been five days out of the past fourteen where I’ve only been able to lie in bed and stare listlessly at bare walls. Another increase in meds and urgent whispers about hospitals overheard. A run in with a Stanley knife and a gazillion garbled words written in my head about how I ruin everything.

It was all starting to look a tiny bit bleak tbh.

Until I cried it all out and remembered something my therapist said to me forever ago, a reminder to bring me back. A challenge of sorts, I ‘spose, and guess what?

I’m gonna ask you to join me.

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Sometimes it only takes something small, something tiny, to bring you up to the surface again, even if it’s just for a second. When you’re in the middle of a decidedly shit spell, a kind word said, a murmur of a memory, a scent of nostalgia can be all that’s needed to make you feel present for a fleeting moment.

Right now, I’m clinging onto the need to search out the good things by my fingernails. The small things. But it is helping. Every Tuesday from next week you’ll be able to pop over and link up your own personal little lifesaver, no matter how tiny it is or silly it seems to you, the sillier the better in my view. You don’t have to have a mental illness, you don’t have to be a parent, I wanted to start a linky-dooby-doo that included both quite comfortably.

So if you’re lost in the midst of the dark stuff, sleep deprived and bordering on mania, or you’re just having one of those days, try to find just one small thing that makes it feel not quite so bad this week and tell me about it. Interpret it whichever way you like, with a photo, a paragraph or a hunky dory haiku. And maybe in some small way, we can help each other out just a bit.

Whaddya say? See you next Tuesday?

Whoa

Do you ever get that thing, where you’re all immersed in your mundane stuff, contemplating why it’s always the teeny Mars bars and Bounty bars left at the bottom of the Celebrations tin, or suddenly, seven hours later thinking of the perfect Pointless answer. Or… Ya know… Just walking or something, and then BOOM, just thinking…

WHOA.

WHAT AM I DOING?!

WHO AM I?!

And obvs, you don’t actually scream it out loud, then you’d really panic the poor woman on the checkout in Tesco at 2am, ya know, cos you couldn’t sleep and thought it’d be a good idea to buy some humorously named pasta instead of staying in bed and reading. Oh no. You keep the mini crisis to yourself of course.

A mini existential blip, all in your head that lasts for about 3.8 seconds.

As soon as it hits you can feel the sudden adrenalin, the pulse as your nervous system kicks in, the panic starting to rise, the heartbeat quicken and in that moment, poof, it’s gone.

DUDE.

CHILL. IT’S YOU, CAS.

YOU’RE FOOD SHOPPING FFS.

Weird, isn’t it?

Similar to when someone dies. You can forget about it for a while, a few hours maybe, when suddenly you’re reliving it all over again, in desperate need to sit down for five minutes to take it all in and absorb it.

I keep getting this sudden, scary, sad WHOA feeling. I have for a few weeks now. This one’s a bit harder to shoo away though, and doesn’t seem to abate. The day is peppered with them, dotted unevenly throughout the day like tea breaks or unfathomable tantrums from a four year old.

Some of you might already know what I’m about to type, and I’m sorry for sounding like the proverbial broken record, I am, truly.

OH LOOK, CATS WEARING MONOCLES!

*points frantically*

I won’t say we got some news, it wasn’t news, it was stuff we already feared and hoped we’d never hear actually said out loud and be forced to deal with it properly. It wasn’t said maliciously or unkindly, just a comment, a worse case scenario, out in the open for us to really look at.

That his M.E is so aggressive.

His quality of life is so poor.

It’s all so sad.

He’s so young.

And that he probably won’t see 50.

And then… Then what? I know it’s not set in stone. I know it’s not a death sentence around his neck, ticking down the last 16 years of his life. I know new drugs are being made every single day and something, something might just turn this mess around somehow. I know that.

But…

Now more than ever, it’s more obvious of what he’s lost. Of what we’ve lost. Of what Noah and the other children who we’ll now probably never have, have lost.

And all that’s left is the sadness.

Until another few seconds have passed, and I’ve got to smile through it, for him, for them, and put the kettle on again, dreading the next time it’s going to hit me.

Seeds of Doubt

They say these things are sent to test us – accompanied with an inane smile with a hint of fear in their eyes. They say that. Well, if that’s the bloody case, have I won yet? Have I passed? I’ve had everything thrown at me this month, from my boiler breaking, anti-depressants sending me loopy, my oven blowing up, sickness bugs, insomnia, my nan having a stroke, colds, the TV packing up, a child with awful constipation that left him sobbing on the loo and Rob collapsing. Twice.

That’s all on top of the standard mentaldom of everyday life. With schools never ending demands of “Please send your child in with a star costume / money / plastic cups filled with sweets / cardboard boxes / a stamped address envelope (delete as applicable) etc etc. Christmas meltdowns ensuing and bajillion other things I’ve successfully managed to block out with exhaustion and a lack of caring.

It’s all been dealt with though. Somehow. I’ve found if I try really, really hard I can shit miracles.

But do you know what’s got to me the most? Above not being able to have a shower for five days? Above spending every last penny I had to pay for some mysterious part to magically resurrect my boiler? Even beyond my blind panic about my nan’s and partner’s health?

My four year old getting it into his beautiful head that he’s fat.

Yes, that’s right.

Fat.

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Watching him in horror climbing down from the dining table once he’s finished his dinner and immediately dropping to the floor to (attempt to) do push ups. Hearing the words I don’t want to have a big tummy, tumble from his mouth with a tangible edge of anxiety in his words. Him saying that he has to do lots of exercise so he doesn’t get a big tummy.

Realising with a massive thump in the pit of my stomach that my four year old has already made the connection that big equals bad. I had no doubt in this day and age it would be inevitable when he’s older, even if it wasn’t a full blown complex, then it’d more likely be just a smidge of lingering doubt about himself, no matter how many times I tell him he’s beautiful.

But not when he’s fucking four. Not when his physique is still very much like a toddler’s with a protruding tummy that will only diminish as he grows and gets older – not with a bloody push ups.

So how did this ugly little seed get planted into his gorgeous little head?

I know what your thinking.

You’re thinking, Ahhh, Cas, you have a some extra junk in the trunk, he’s got it from you, right?

And actually, no, as much as I blame myself for every single minute thing, no. I make a point not to say negative things about myself in front of him, however subtle. I’ve even ensured I never use the word “fat” with him around because I know from experience it’s one of those words that sticks. I don’t go on crazy-arsed diets, I don’t fall into the trap of pigeon holing foods as “good” and “bad”.

So where then, you ask?

Peppa motherfucking Pig, that’s where.

“I don’t want a big tummy like Daddy Pig.”

“I have to do exercises like Daddy Pig so I don’t get big, mummy.”

A children’s program. A program that’s mainly watched by pre-schoolers and toddlers.

A program where for some reason, it’s a running joke that Daddy Pig has a big tummy and is lazy, and we must all poke fun at him for this, even though he’s the same bloody size and shape as all the other daddys and male characters in the program.

What the actual fucking fuck?

I’m absolutely crushed.

My little boy, who accepts everyone without question, be it their size, age, colour, sex or what cartoon character they have on their lunch bag, has already descended on the downward spiral of not being able to accept himself. And no matter how many times I say to him that him having a big tummy is a good thing, as it means he’s been very clever and eaten all of his dinner, how many times I tell him he’s beautiful, and so special and that I love him more than anything, I’m terrified that this is a slippery slope that I just can’t cushion and the damage is already done.

The F Word

We’d like to interrupt this program for this short  MummyNeverSleeps opinionated blog post.

I wasn’t gonna get into the feminism / Blogfest / jam-gate thing, it’s a highly emotive subject that everyone has varying opinions about. And that’s totally cool. Just like politics, feminism involves, well, pretty much everything you can imagine. And just like politics and religion, feminism is a subject that everyone is an expert on, everyone is right about, and if they hear otherwise – LALALALALALALA, totally not listening, you’re wrong, you don’t know what you’re talking about.

It’s also a subject that can turn sour rapidly, can be complicated beyond any recognition, swiftly turning into a bunfight, leaving women full of disdain for one another, which doesn’t get us anywhere.

So. Yeah. I avoid it on here, rightly or wrongly.

As I said, I won’t go into the shenanigans that went down at Blogfest. No doubt you’ve read about it already a bajillion times, in varying lights, come to your own conclusions and decided who’s the baddie. And that’s totally cool too.

I’m just left wondering if any of this is at all constructive. Whether the ensuing debate on social media, the personal attacks and fallout is helping a cause that we’re all no doubt supportive of? I’m wondering whether young people, who are yet to make up their own minds, to find their footing, their place, their voice in this world will see such displays of RAWR in the name of feminism and be completely put off by it. Will they see a bunch of women tearing lumps out of each other, perpetuating stereotypes that feminists are nothing but a load of angry women and turn the other way? Is that really what we want? Really?

When Lady Gaga – stay with me here, seriously, there is a point to it - was asked if she was a feminist, she replied “I’m not a feminist – I hail men, I love men. I celebrate American male culture, and beer, and bars and muscle cars…” Again, getting caught up in the big fat stereotype that feminism is a political statement that despises men. I mean yeah, we can laugh at her statement, we can chuckle amongst ourselves and settle down in the knowledge that we’re all better feminists and people than her, but in all truth it’s hardly a surprising conclusion to reach, is it? And Beyoncé, I’m sorry to say girls don’t run the world, far from it, but thanks for making me kind of believe it for four and a half minutes.

What I’m saying is surely there needs to be a middle ground. Where the choice isn’t women ranting amongst themselves about who’s the better feminist, making the odd careless dig at the entire male race while they’re at it or women who don’t want anything to do with feminism because it’s too bold a statement, too loaded a word.

Maybe because I have a son I’m biased. I frankly don’t know. But I don’t want him growing up in a world where he feels responsible for terrible acts he has had nothing to do with, just because he happens to be a boy. The same as someone with a daughter not wanting their little girl to be at a disadvantage because she has XX instead of XY. To me, feminism means equality. Simple as that. In some areas we’re neck and neck, in others we’re being lapped again and again.

Blogfest taught me something, aside from backing up, plugins and that I really don’t like cabbage - no honestly, they’re not rude things – if feminism can’t do anything but divide, when I’m pretty sure we want the opposite, I don’t want any part in it. I’d rather live without a label that automatically puts people on their guard, forces me to explain myself and tests whether I did my homework properly or if I’m qualified enough for the role.

Can I just go with peoplism? Or femenism? Or unicornism, is that taken?

MummyBarrow