Monday, 29 December 2008

Ringing in the new, or some such other festive bollocks

It's been over six months since I've written here.

A lot can happen in six months. And looking back on it, it did, even though it didn't seem like it at the time. So I thought to get the ball rolling again, and because I really don't have much to say that isn't self-indulgent whinging, I'd fill in one of those 'end of year survey' thingies. Y'know, since it's the end of the year, and all. Another one.

What did you do in 2008 that you'd never done before?
I played in a swing band. I did. I actually did it. I don't know what drove me to - just pure frustration, I think, at not doing what I believe I was put on this earth to do. But do it I did; I picked up my clarinet one night, jumped in the car, walked into a roomful of strangers and played. Within a week I was gigging. And it was marvellous. Exhilarating. Breathtaking. Immensely wonderful. I use the past tense because I've not been in a while due to a rather ill-timed resurgence of the agoraphobia - rehearsals are all the way across the other side of London and sometimes it's just too much. I am fully planning to go back in the new year, if physiology allows.

Did you keep your New Years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I did, although I started very late, but not a single cigarette has passed my lips since the 11th of April. A random date, I know. I will make some more next year, namely: do more exercise, eat better, write more, and to do something new at least once a month.

What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?
Sleep. Good health. Fun. Goals. Laughter.

What date(s) from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
I've floated through this year without paying attention to anything, really. Half the time I didn't even notice what day it was, let alone the date. So my pick will be recent: On the 28th November, I met my comedy hero, the immensely talented and deliciously lovely Bill Bailey, after the first of the er, four, shows I've attended on his run at the Geilgud in London's West End. We talked briefly about the Westcountry, he signed my programme 'Exeter! Hurrah!' and very graciously posed for a photo, in which I, typically, look like a twat. Isn't that always the way? On the plus side though, I did manage not to faint.

What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I played a gig at the 100 Club in London's Oxford Street with the jazz orchestra. It was, hands down, the most amazing thing I've ever done in my life. There was a period of about ten minutes when the DJ introduced us, the baton went up and the lights flooded us from above during which I honestly thought I was going to die, for my body has not quite yet worked out the difference between good adrenaline and bad adrenaline, but once I got through that - and I did - the experience was mindblowing. A 50ish strong jazz orchestra crammed onto that tiny little stage, trumpets behind me blaring in my ears, the lights shining on me, the audience dancing... Friends came to support me and I could sense their pride. Could I remember the actual date, it would have formed the answer to question 4.

What was your biggest failure?
Well, I finally got fired in October. I knew it was coming, and frankly, at the time, I didn't give a monkey's. I'm still not sure whether I do give a monkey's or not. Honestly, it was a relief. But, this is supposed to be one of life's great failures, is it not?

What was the best thing you bought?
A 1970s Buescher Aristocrat alto sax - it's amazing. And a car, which, while an interminable pile of shit, has, for 250 quid, enabled me to get out and about and do lots of band stuff, so that's second best.

Whose behavior merited celebration?
Boris Johnson. Not for his politics, but for falling up the steps on the way to his inaugural speech as Mayor. Best laugh I had all year. John McCain, for his amazingly gracious speech in defeat, so humble that although not a supporter (of either of them, actually, since I'm in the UK) it bought a lump to my throat. My friends, who've pulled me out of really quite a rubbish place over the last few months.

Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
My own, mostly.

Where did most of your money go?
Rent, vet bills, musical instruments, nicotine gum.

What song will always remind you of 2008?
Judie Tzuke - 'Like The Sun':

What do you wish you'd done more of?
Working towards my goals. Not that I'm entirely sure what they are, of course. I've slacked off a horrendous amount this year. With good reason, but still - it's not great.

What do you wish you'd done less of?
Eating crap food. Hiding in my flat. Wasting time on untenable situations. Pissing the day away on the internet.

What was the most embarrassing thing that happened to you in 2008?
My car was crushed by the council because I forgot to tax it, and I didn't notice it had gone for three whole days. Primarily because I hadn't been out of the flat...

Did you fall in love in 2008?
Quite the opposite, in fact: I fell spectacularly, and very reluctantly, out of it. Never again. Remember how I posted last year about not loving? This was why. I knew there was a reason I didn't, and shouldn't have. This was the reason. It hurt more than I ever thought possible. Still does.

What was your favorite TV program?
Britain From Above, in particular the first episode; its highlighting of the rampant consumerism we are now practicing in this country shocked me to the core.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?

What kept you sane?
Friends. Music. Livejournal. Slash (fiction, not horror. Wonderful escapism, and the members of slash comms are some of the nicest, most genuine people I've ever met). Painkillers. Comedy. Harmless but slightly obsessional celebrity crushes.

What did you want and get?
To play in a swing band. A new saxophone. A spot in a sax ensemble. Got them all.

What did you want and not get?
A career in music of some description, but that's purely because I've done the sum total of piss all to make it happen.

What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
It was a birthday weekend, and I spent it in Surrey with two of my best friends; we got quite drunk, they got me some ridiculously silly presents, made me a spag bol and a cake with a cigarette lighter stuck in it because we had no candles, and I was 36. I still have no idea how that happened.

What three things would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Better health
More motivation
Someone to share it with in the flesh, rather than over an internet connection.

Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Bill Bailey. Westcountry boy made good, frighteningly intelligent, eyes you could lose yourself in, makes me laugh till my sides ache, ridiculously musically talented - what's not to love?

What political issue stirred you the most?
You know, I'm sure everyone's going to say 'the credit crunch'. I'm not, because, possibly due to my almost Good Life-like existence in which credit does not exist, I largely believe it's of peoples' own making.

What is a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008?
Question everything, never accept less than you deserve, and that music and comedy make everything better.

What quote can be used to sum up your year?
There are two:

1) "The duck lies shredded in a pancake; soaking in the hoisin of your lies" - Bill Bailey
2) "The fact is, sometimes it's hard to walk in a single woman's shoes. That's why we need really special ones now and then - to make the walk a little more fun." - Carrie Bradshaw

Saturday, 21 June 2008


This started out life as one of those silly LiveJournal memes. Y'know the sort of thing: "If you're on my friends list, answer the following questions: 1. How old are you? 2. Where do you live? 3. Where do you work? 4. Who's in your family? 5. What's going on in your life right now?" Etc, etc, repeat ad nauseum. Rather than repeating a list, it turned into a rather interesting writing exercise, and since I haven't written anything since, er, February, I thought I may as well chuck it up here. Enjoy - or not.

Two points of note:
1. I am ridiculously unhappy with the ending and will probably spend all day tweaking it and
2. UW, one of these paragraphs has made me realise I owe you some tea.


Caroline has always thought she has the look about her of someone a few years older than the thirty-six of them that she has so far tucked under her belt, primarily caused by smoking tabs since the age of ten, eating vast amounts of refined sugar on a daily basis and an inexplicable allergy to hair colourant so strong that the owner of her local salon once hurriedly gathered all her staff in a circle and used her as a live, impromptu case-study on the importance of patch tests. Most mornings, you can catch her peering vacantly over the rim of a mug that sports just a splash enough of milk, the teabag left in and the logo "", trying to decide whether she feels fifty years old or fifteen, and her conclusion will depend upon one of two things: how badly she slept the night before, or how convinced she is that she never reached the end of that stage of arrested development that is so necessary for growing up.

Although she hasn't the faintest idea why, she nestles herself equidistantly between three London suburbs; were it not for the W12 postcode staring at her from the top of the unopened pile of bills behind the door, she would never be quite sure in which she actually resides. She tells people Hammersmith only because it's better than Shepherds Bush and because calling it Chiswick would be just one small stretch too far; at any rate, her breeding, if not her accent, would immediately scream 'fish out of water' were she to try that one. She knows that the tumbledown Victorian basement flat that she calls home - or 'home' - is slightly too rough around the edges to justify the rent; it's disjointed and nothing matches, but every time she adds another uncoordinated oddity to the fray she smiles to herself because while it makes sense to nobody else, in there, that's just the way it's supposed to be.

At the end of a 15 minute bike-ride every morning, during which she will call at least one white-van-man an insufferable cunt from behind the relative, anonymous safety of a pair of five-quid shades and a cycle helmet that she knows makes her look like a tit, but prefers to the prospect of having her head mashed under a bendy bus on the Uxbridge Road, Caroline stumbles half-cocked and generally half-asleep through her days as a content-producing drone for whichever of the corporation's websites will pay her enough money to do so at any particular point in time. She emails people who sit right next to her and avoids the phone like a dose of the clap, knowing full well that this creates issues on a daily basis with her boss - a man who delights in the finer points of micromanagement but whose occasional propensity to be a nice bloke is the only reason she hasn't downed tools and walked out this week.

She's never quite able to put her finger on what it is that keeps her going in day after day, but suspects it may be something to do with the chocolate chip muffins from the fifth floor canteen, which isn't quite as good as the ground floor one in the building across the courtyard but is infinitely better than the one at the faceless government department that used to keep her head floating above the water line before she came here; casting her mind back, she's not even sure she can remember which one it was. During the course of any particular day, she entertains herself by wittering pointlessly on LiveJournal, updating her Facebook status in the most passive-agressive way she knows how, laughing at uppity people on an etiquette forum as they earnestly debate the gravity of the social faux-pas committed by a woman not wearing a petticoat in public, and making as little tea for everyone else as she can get away with while still being considered a team-player.

Well, almost. Mostly, the iPod takes care of that one.


As she currently harbours the kind of love-life that is probably best buried and unspoken of and seems to be fast approaching that thing that's not supposed to happen until one's mid-to-late-forties - oh god, forty - Caroline will almost certainly not be having children - a fact that causes her to alternate between heaving huge sighs of relief and torturing herself with the notion that she has failed at the fundamental point of human being. She regularly shrugs off the nagging thought that the strays she seems to collect are some sort of compensation; there are three who live with her and deposit fluff and leaves and unspecified bits of cat all over her clean ivory bedding, and then there's Dave, who does not quite live with her and who she only counts as half a cat, because four would just be too many.

Could she be bothered to plug it in, Caroline could set her clock by Dave; if he's meowing outside the bedroom window, it must be midnight. Dave sneaks cat food from her kitchen when he thinks she's not looking and willfully craps in the passageway outside the back of her flat as if to make a point, but she doesn't mind because while he's doing that, he's warm and dry and full, and not becoming a tasty snack to a ruthless urban fox.

Tonight, Dave has made a liar out of her by meowing outside the window at 9.23.

Caroline hates liars.


Sometimes, she wonders how much can be explained away by the fact that the now 78-year-old Patrick took one look at her in the delivery room and apparently tied a knot in it. She knows she is far too much like him for her own good: intolerant, slightly anxious and a little paranoid, but with the kind of wry sense of humour that gets them both out of trouble and the ability to weave a story from the most innocuous of thoughts. Unlike Caroline, Patrick has an interesting past in motor racing and the ghosts of the 1960s and Monaco and Fangio always ensure he has a tale to tell at the drop of a hat, whereas Caroline's words just seem to float aimlessly around in her head with no outlet, never really going anywhere or making anything of themselves except as three-line promos on a website that disappear within a week and that nobody really reads. She resembles 75-year-old Elizabeth in looks only; together, they often have trouble holding a simple conversation about anything more complicated than the weather or what's on the telly that evening for want of a single square inch of common ground, although how much of this is down to Elizabeth's possibly emerging dementia of an as yet unconfirmed type is still open to debate.

Caroline hates television with a passion equally as strong as the opposing type she reserves for music, but will talk about it until the cows come home if it makes Patrick think that Elizabeth is still conversing. She hopes that in some familial, yin-and-yang kind of way, the longevity of their 52-year marriage will cancel out the fact that she's never quite got around to it.


With every day older that she becomes, her closest friends seem to live a little deeper inside the laptop than they did the one before, waking up with her when, rubbing the grit from her eyes, she lifts the lid just after the sun comes up, and sleeping when she snaps it shut for the night. She's never quite sure whether this is a good thing or not in a social development kind of way, but wouldn't be without them for all the tea in china. Oh, there are some in the real world, though; one with whom she lived for 11 years and who she only stopped trying to kill when there were several streets, followed by several towns, between them, and then another, who she adores but refuses point blank to sleep with, and with whom she can talk semi-drunken bollocks until the sun comes up; she sees enough of neither.

This week, Caroline is spending her Friday evening wracking her brains, desperately trying to think of three-to-five big things that are going on in her life right now. The one that until yesterday morning she would have put at the top of the pile has just imploded into oblivion, so she settles for being far too excited about 8pm on Sunday night than someone of her age can reasonably get away with in polite social circles.

At that point, Caroline forgets that she hates television, because she misses him so much already that she almost can not breathe.

Caroline has no idea what she will do tomorrow, and decides, as always, that she will cross that bridge when she comes to it.

Friday, 14 December 2007

I think, if I'm perfectly honest, that the time has come to accept that I might need some help with this.

There are only so many "Sorry, I've got a really nasty bug" or "Sorry, another migraine" excuses I can trot out before I'm rumbled and they realise that the reason I haven't been to work for three days is because I could not get out of bed.

I don't know which bit of what is affecting me the most and what to ask for help with, but right now I'm staring down a very long, very double-barreled black depression and it's not a fun place to be.

I don't know if it's chemical or reactive. I just know that staring blankly at the inside of my curtains all day every day is not normal and I am beginning to despise this place.

Will drugs help that?


I hate drugs anyway.

I've never met an antidepressant that I've got on with, or rather, that my body has got on with; they are all far too agitating. Citalopram sent me flying into a manic episode and straight into hospital, resulting with six months on Valium to reverse the damage. Effexor had much the same effect, even at the lowest dose. The neurologist that attempted to treat my migraines wanted to try me on Amitriptyline, an older, non-SSRI AD. The list of side effects is horrendous, and I suspect it would have much the same effect as the others. Am I prepared to deal with that to try and climb out of this pit? I don't know. Is it the lesser of two evils? Again, I don't know.

I don't know what to do.

I feel as if don't have a friend in the world. Well, I do, but not here. Maybe it's true what they say about London, and maybe this is just a clear cut case of the loneliness of the city, eating me slowly from the inside out.

If I didn't have my cats to think about - oh god, I *am* crazy cat lady, aren't I? - I would, right now, tonight, pack a single bag, with enough clothes to get me where I'm going, my laptop and my phone, and just get on a train. Leave all my stuff here - I don't care about stuff anyway. Let the next person to live in this place have it. It'd make a nice home for someone - just not for me any more.

Worked for Stephen Fry... didn't it?

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Make Soup, Not War

I never know quite what to do with myself on a Saturday.

The rest of the week, I find, can be pigeonholed quite neatly. On Monday to Friday, I am inevitably doing one of three things: working, trying to force myself out the door to work, or laying around wrestling with my conscience for not being able to do either. This, in itself, takes up a considerable amount of brainpower and energy, and keeps me occupied for the better part of the day - perhaps ironically, moreso than actually working itself would.

On Sundays, I am usually thinking about whatever it is I'm supposed to be doing on Monday.

But Saturdays are a bit of an enigma, where the world as I know it stops turning for a little while, and that lovely feeling of relief on waking at not having to do any of that is quite quickly replaced with a vague sense of feeling utterly lost.

When planning my move back to London earlier in the year, and knowing that the majority of my time outside work would be spent alone, I envisaged my future Saturdays as being spent in the pursuit of all things arty and cultural. Perhaps browsing lazily around an antiquated bookshop in Charing Cross Road, stopping in a French-inspired coffee shop afterwards to flick absent-mindedly through the musty yellowed pages and watch the world go by outside through a small cloud of steam rising from the cup. Visiting galleries, even though I neither understand nor appreciate art, or attending one of the hundreds of musical events at the Barbican. Lounging around on the South Bank, people-watching, wondering where this person is going or where that person has been. Wandering aimlessly around Portabello Road market, procuring a bag full of nick-naks for my Victorian-themed flat, all of which would of course bring me pleasure, but would be ultimately quite useless.

Obviously, it hasn't quite worked out like that.

This morning, it being a Saturday, I peeked around the curtains for a brief look at the world outside, hoping perhaps that doing so would, for a change, plant a seed of inspiration in my mind as to how to spend the day. As my still sleep-filled eyes unblurred and adjusted to the light, I was delighted to notice that it was raining hard. I love hard rain. As well as reminding me of home as a child, circa 1982 - that wonderful sense of warmth and comfort and belonging after arriving home soaked from the walk from the school bus to be met with a big fluffy towel, a glass of squash and a Marmite sandwich - hard rain gives me an instant sense of relief; I can watch it hammer against the windows, run gracefully down the metallic exterior of parked cars, settle in puddles on the pavement and bounce from the umbrellas of passers-by, safe in the knowledge that it's giving me a legitimate excuse to hole myself up for the day - because who in their right mind wants to go outside in that?

So, today, instead of tackling demons, I tackled vegetables.

I made soup.

I chopped and boiled and seasoned and tasted and smacked my lips in delight and marvelled at the delicious smells coming from my woefully under-used kitchen as this random, spur-of-the-moment creation bubbled away on the stove for two hours. I nearly set fire to my flat in a slight accident involving the naked flame of the gas hob and an errant sticky label which was, apparently, still attached to my shiny new crock-pot... but we'll gloss over that. I blended and poured and divided the fruits of my labour up into individual little containers, surprised at the sense of satisfaction and achievement garnered from such a simple activity.

Had I been wearing an apron at the time, I would have been the epitome of domestic goodness, and with the soundtrack of old standards and big-band jazz happily playing in the background, I felt like the archetypal 1950s housewife.

I may even have sung at one point.

After the blending part of the process, I realised that in my enthusiasm, I'd made enough soup to feed a small army and yet had nothing to store it in. I pulled on my trainers and, without thinking about what I was doing, made the two-minute trip to the local homewares store for the cheaper, multi-buy equivalent of Tupperware.

Arriving home, as I turned the key in the door - I can't put my finger on the reasons why - it felt for the first time in months as if I was walking into home - somewhere that things happen rather than a place where people hide and acheive nothing.

All this from soup.

How strange.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Tell me, Chicken - have you met Egg?

According to an article in the Guardian this week, patients in mental crisis are not getting the NHS help and treatment that the Government has promised.

Here's why I think this falls under the category of "No shit, Sherlock!"

During the summer, I was referred to the local mental health team for CBT. I managed the initial appointment, and blogged about it here, and in fact, the original purpose of this blog was to chronicle the course of my treatment. This, as you may have noticed, quickly fell by the wayside. Why? Well, further appointments had to be cancelled, because I was so sick I simply could not get there.

While in the grip of an agoraphobic period - for these things, as I've explained before, tend to wax and wane - no amount of cajoling, encouragement or even a stick of dynamite up the arse is going to get me out of my flat. This is not laziness, or pettiness, or stubbornness, or a reluctance to help oneself (which is how medical professionals tend to see it as they take out their big rubber stamp to label you as 'resisting treatment'), rather a deep rooted conviction that the outside world is a dangerous place, that setting foot outside one's front door, or in my case, my bedroom, will result in certain death. I can not tell you why it seems so dangerous, because by the time I get to the point where I can not leave my room, the deep rot of clinical depression has set in into the degree that I can not form a sentence. But it seems to be that some kind of survival instinct kicks in and keeps me confined to my safe area, hidden behind some kind of invisible force field, within which it is impossible to sometimes do the smallest of things - take a shower, stand in the kitchen for any period of time to prepare food, visit the corner shop less than 100 steps away to buy that food to prepare - let alone to take a trip across London to explain to someone that I can't do these things.

All things considered, I should be one of the lucky ones. I live in London and my local mental health centre is two miles away, at the other end of two bus rides. Yet still, with that degree of illness, I couldn't manage this; someone living in, for example, rural Devon, where the nearest mental health centre may be 25 miles away in the next town or city, has no chance.

I wonder how many people are in this position. Why should agoraphobia be the poor relation of the mental health family?

Is it, perhaps, because people with agoraphobia are still unwittingly stigmatised as the Miss Haversham figure with filthy net curtains and an almost impossible amount of cobwebs in their houses - the strange, reclusive figure to be mocked, ridiculed, filed under 'eccentric' rather than 'genuinely ill', and left alone to die?

But back to the article, and the problem at hand, which, I feel, lies in the definition of 'home treatment', where home treatment does not actually mean home treatment, rather a government buzz-word to refer to any treatment in the community that does not fall under the category of 'admissions to hospital'.

What the NHS has then, when considering the treatment of agoraphobia, is a chicken and egg, Catch 22 situation. The patient can't get the help she needs because she's too sick to get the help she needs.

How can that be right?

Has anyone in the NHS even thought of this? Why isn't there some kind of home therapy service? People in crisis are being forgotten, their healthcare needs are not being met, and therefore, it is desperately needed. I've never heard of this kind of thing. Have you? Should we be lobbying our MPs and suggesting it?

Friday, 30 November 2007

On death, taxes and impressionable young children

Have you ever noticed how sometimes, you will hold a belief so dear to your heart until you write it down, and upon reading it back, the very words on the page that form the core of that conviction suddenly become something to be ridiculed?

That is my hope with this post.

Because it is all based on fear, sometimes I try and work out where the fear is coming from, and what, exactly, it is that I am afraid of when I know that nobody has ever been documented to have died from this.

CBT devotees the world over will tell you that at the basis of any anxiety attack is a fear, and to alleviate that fear you must, through a process of both elimination and demarcation, fence off that fear, challenge that fear, and question the evidence that leads you to believe that this fear is something that is likely to happen.

I wonder what they'd make of this, then.


When I was old enough for my mother to go back to work, she took a job cleaning the communal areas of a large block of flats for elderly people. Technically, the place was accommodation for what were termed in those politically incorrect days of the 1980s, 'the elderly and disabled', although the only disabled people I remember seeing were disabled due to anno-domini rather than genetics or accident. There were no young disabled people there. Only old ones, who died with alarming regularity.

I was seven years old.

One of my earliest memories - for some telling reason, I have no memories before this age - is of my mother, leaning over the bannisters in the long, winding corridor of Level 5, her vacuum cleaner and bucket of cleaning supplies by her side, weeping, and imparting to me the pertinent piece of information that her favourite resident was dead. Twenty eight years later I obviously don't remember the manner of her passing, only that it crucified my mother.

A year later the warden left, and my mother, having already had some experience with the residents, both dead and alive, was given the job. And so, at the age of eight, I was packed up from our comfortable existence in a typical 3-bedroomed semi on a street where I played with other children and rode my bike like a daredevil until I scraped all the skin off my knees and shot berries from peashooters at the rival 'gang' from the other end of the road, and moved to this place - because the job came with on site accommodation.

And there began my very strange existence of growing up in what was, at the time, referred to somewhat proudly as 'sheltered accommodation'.

My mother gave her heart and soul to this job, this place, and these people, sometimes to the detriment of myself and my father. She talked of nothing else for the 20 years she was employed there.

Part of her job description was to call on each resident every day to ensure their well-being. With sixty-five flats to cover, this was not a task for the faint hearted, and took most of the morning. I, being too young to leave alone in the flat for any extended period, was often taken with her. This was the part of the our new life that I enjoyed; I was adopted by tens of kindly old ladies as a surrogate grandchild and consequently, the pile of presents under our christmas tree was, without fail, mountainous.

The other, not so enjoyable part was the 24-hour cover that she supplied. This entailed a call system, the business end of which was in our flat. Several nights a week, the alarm would go off, revealing a panic-stricken old person in their flat on the other end, perhaps having fallen (simple), or perhaps in the grips of a heart attack, or a stroke (not so simple), or perhaps a terrified spouse having discovered their partner of fifty years or more unresponsive - cries for help invading our flat like a muffled fog, a disembodied voice waking me from sleep in the room next door. Many of my nights were spent hiding in corridors, pretending not to watch as the scenes unfolded before my eight, nine, ten year old eyes; my mother waiting for ambulances and worried relatives and comforting as much as she could where she was not permitted by law to give medical aid.

They say that the young child learns from those around her, and I was too young to understand the difference between the simple call from a lonely elderly person, fearful of nothing and needing reassurance, and the not-so-simple medical emergency. What I learned, therefore, was that anything going on in one's body, whether it be medical or emotional or a blend of the two, is a cue to cry for help to avoid death, and when the person providing that help is one's own mother... well, I'm sure to this very impressionable eight-year-old with a somewhat active imagination, it was a powerful suggestion, and one that's very probably stayed with me. To this day, the sight of an ambulance outside somebody's house strikes the fear of a God I'm not sure I believe in into me, and yet it's the very thing I rely on for support and comfort. A twisted paradox, really.

I did not have the luxury of a quote unquote normal childhood, where children are allowed to be children, shielded from hurt and fear and life and death. My childhood was spent in this place, an old people's home, where people got sick and died like leaves falling from a tree and my mother had to deal with the raking up. People dropped dead in their flats. People dropped dead in the corridors, and on one memorable occasion in the middle of the night, someone dropped dead outside the front door. Because it was all part of my mother's work, and 'to be kept apart' from family, even though it invaded our life every day, it was never explained to me. I had no grandparents and I never went through the process of a person's death of my own accord; rather, soaked up like a sponge this strange phenomenon that I saw happen at the periphery of my life, every time it happened.

I lived there until I was 19. My parents, now in their late seventies, still live there; my mother is now retired, and the shoe is now on the other foot. They are residents. I go home maybe once a year. I hate it. I can't bear it.


I really do not know where I am going with this story, only that I needed to tell it. It does explain an awful lot about my need for reassurance, the reason I fly off to hospital with the slightest of complaints - the one that I'm sure that this time, is going to cause me to drop dead. It does explain why every sensation in my body is something to be feared, and why I struggle so much to carry out day-to-day activities when I feel under the weather. Unless I feel 100% healthy, I can not bring myself to leave the flat for fear of aggravating it, feeling ill, needing help, and the fear of becoming suddenly seriously ill or incapacitated is one that drives my existence. It really isn't rocket science to deduce where this problem has come from. How to deal with it though? That's a headscratcher, that I do not have the answers for. But really, do any of us?