Parallel

I spent a lot of my teenage years being insanely depressed. It was desolate. A desperation. A yearning for something but a lack of confidence to get it. Or trying to obtain it in the worst ways possible.

Dark streets and lamp-lit winter, leaves falling from trees onto shiny wet pavements. The crunch underfoot of all sorts of nature, lying limp on pathways. Outside frames my memories. Not inside the home. It was escape, really. I tried to escape, and I don’t know what from. Away from home? From heavy, pregnant expectations. Aspirations turning to dust. There was a lot of pressure and blame I think. Pressure to do well and be something because a big sacrifice was being made for me… ten years on and the sacrifice is still ongoing. Makes me wonder if it really was for me at all. Or can a judgement just be a bad one?

My sister goes camping and volunteers at a farm. She cleans out henhouses and mucks out stables. She pulls potatoes and onions, relishes in the dirt between her fingernails. Those fingernails that used to scratch me in childhood fights. Her weapon of choice, with her being so small and skinny in those days. Now she towers above me. Three years younger, and I look up at her. Notice I did not say ‘to’ her. When we were children living in the desert we yearned for the fresh green of the UK. The heavy foliage, the thick weeds. We yearned to ride horses and wade through marshes and walk through fields. Every summer when we came back to visit grandparents and family, our parents took us here there and everywhere, sfilling our bottomless cups before we had to go back to the torrid heat of Arabia and my father at work work work and my mother…. sad but trying her best.

My sister adores the farm. She says she is the happiest she has ever been in her life. She doesn’t want to leave. In the evenings she has a chat with a few straggling volunteers. Sometimes they make homemade pizza. At night she retires to a caravan by herself. The hob doesn’t work so she can’t cook anything and the bathroom is not in use, so she has to walk in the pitch black to the compostable toilets several feet away. I asked if she felt lonely or scared, and she said no way. Such vehemence in her voice. When I saw videos of where she sleeps, I could see the old familiar things that make my sister. The way her duvet is thrown back. The little things she uses everyday, and has always used. She sends me clips of her long fingers practising using a piano for the first time ever. We have an argument over Snapchat, but on WhatsApp our conversation flows freely and cheerfully. Parallel conversations, very different tones.

When I think of my sister on her farm, and me here with my two kids, I can’t help but think of me back then. I was happier away from home too. I was desperate for friends, good friends, any friends. Moving across the globe at that age made it hard to find people ‘like’ me. I was socially awkward and painfully shy. So when predators made their moves on me, I gave them the time of day. I fancied myself ‘in love’ and let them trample all over me. Heightening my depression, pushing me further into loneliness and isolation. When I did make friends… I put a predator before them. I yearned to live on a farm, to travel places, to explore and learn and have adventures.. like my sister is now. But in searching for that I fell into the wrong crowd. They laughed like hammers on a rotten fence and their teeth were brown from smoking. The put me on a drug high and laughed at my terror and confusion. They told me they loved me but used me to within an inch of my life. They hurt me and forced me to do things I still shudder about.

My parents are ‘disappointed’ in my sister, but were ‘happy’ with me. My sister who is being so wholesome and finding her joy and fulfilling her childhood dreams in the right way. They didn’t know what I was doing, they didn’t know my authentic self. My sister is vocal and stubborn. She doesn’t always respond in a way that pleases them. She has her own opinions and isn’t afraid to voice them, even if they are wrong in my parents’ eyes. Wrong in my eyes sometimes too, but then I step back and I think.. she is an adult and she is making choices, who is anybody to stop her or dictate to her or make her feel bad for it. We can make choices the other doesn’t agree with and still be a harmonious family. It doesn’t quite work that way in my family though. There is often a ‘villain’.

We are so loved, but there has to be a villain.

Wonders

I’ve said this before, but I am addicted to Instagram.

I’ve gone on instagram ‘cleanses’ before.

Once for a month. Once for a week. Once for three months.

I always end up going back, though. There’s something about it. Mindless scrolling. Satisfaction… for what? I don’t post anything and I don’t get high off ‘likes’ (because there are no ‘likes’ because I am not posting anything!). I like to see the pages I follow for ‘inspiration’.

Homeschooling ideas, activities for my kids, cleaning inspiration, workout inspiration.

The thing is, though, the people who make this content also post a lot about their personal lives, so you’re subjected to that too.

And it’s just so much of it, so monotonous, so tedious.

Yet I still scroll.

There is a science behind it, why you keep scrolling even though you don’t want to. They’ve researched it thoroughly and have programmed their apps to hit your dopamine right on target.

So anyway. I deleted instagram again for a month, ending 25th August. During that time I read three books, bought and made a start on a planner (very colourful and I thoroughly enjoyed decorating it with stickers and whatnot), went out a lot with my babies, hosted family over for three weeks…

Not to say I wouldn’t have done those things if I had instagram on my phone readily available to me.. I WOULD have still hosted and gone out and read things…

I don’t really know how to describe it to you.

There is a word in arabic and it’s ‘ikti’aab’. It literally means depression. But in your bones. Deep exhaustion.

Not tired.

It’s like the monochrome videos everybody makes now. They’re all doing something with their fists, some kind of weird dance, and words pop up on the screen as they fist pump and wriggle around like worms on camera. It’s the same thing, just done by different people. Eagerly eyeing the like button. Faces filtered beyond recognition.

It felt weird opening instagram again after this hiatus.

It felt like peering into a world of narcissistic aliens, and they all harp on about not being narcissistic and being ‘real’ but their ‘real’ footage is scripted, because they look so perfect and are angling their cameras just so… just so their boobs are looking their best… just so their hair is at the perfect angle… just so their faces are tilted just right….

Being raw and vulnerable …

All the comments… ‘you’re so brave! you’re so strong! you’re so raw! omg!’

And I look out of that fakery into my reality and realise with a painful thump that this curated world I am peering into is an illusion.

I still feel shitty about myself though. My parenting. My ability to school my kids. What I feed them. What they wear. How our house looks.

And so. One of these days. I am deleting social media for good.

Sad

The clocks went back on Sunday morning at 2am. I feel so down about it to be honest with you.

Usually I welcome this change excitedly. I think about warm coats and hats and scarves and soft streetlamps, cosy bedrooms and dim lighting and warm mugs of sweet deliciousness. Candles. Baths. Hugs. Soup. Mother’s curries. My sister’s apple crumble. My husband’s cold cheeks, his warm hands in which my always cold ones nestle neatly.

This year it feels rather desolate if I am honest. It feels hazy and cloudy and tired and achey. It feels lonely, so lonely. A deep aching loneliness. Family so far away. Life so uncertain. Death knocking at the door. I see him and he is so close this year and I don’t know why.

Anyway I googled ‘why do I feel sad when the clocks go back‘ and it’s a very common ailment that people in the Northern hemisphere suffer from. It’s called SAD (seasonal affective disorder). I don’t think I have SAD but the dark season has made me feel sad this year. I think it’s worse too because I can’t see anybody really, and that is really hurting my heart.

So I decided not to wallow in self pity and do something about it. I have decided to light some candles every evening and tidy up properly once the sun has set, so we have a cosy space to relax in. I have decided to have a hot drink with my son before he goes to bed, just me and him (and maybe his dad if he has finished working on time), have a natter about our day and what books he would like to read before bed. I have decided to keep lamps on in the evening, to wind down. I have decided to take a brisk walk in the morning and a short one in the afternoon while it’s still light out. Get some of that Vitamin D aka happy hormone. Exercise and vitamin D apparently does wonders for the mood. We shall see how these changes help. If they do at all.

Have I missed anything out?

What do you do when you’re feeling low? Has anything you’ve tried helped you get out of a funk?

On Less Cheer

I decided to put a post up last minute today because I just realised that while I don’t really care that it is the last day of the year or decade, it might be a nice subtle nod to time to do one last post, and make it 43 posts in total in 2019.

In 2019 I went through some very tough things that most people go through, but obviously since I am experiencing them for the first time, they still meant something to me and still shaped my personality.

I didn’t very much enjoy this year, and that is sad, because I ought to have. I had a baby and he really is the love of my life, and by rights this ought to have been the best year of my life. But it wasn’t. I struggled a lot with my mental state, and felt depressed very often. I had to relearn so many things, and reach for strength in places deep within me that I didn’t know existed.

I experienced severe frustration, betrayal, selfishness, both on my part and on the part of others, and learnt so so much. I fell in love so hard, with the chubbiest cherub ever, but still, it was one of the hardest years of my life and I am glad this year is an odd number and am glad to leave it.

There.

I hope 2019 was good for all of you, and I hope 2020 is even better.

Gladioli

Sometimes things look down, and then they look up again, and then minutes later they droop forlornly.

Much like old tulips left in a vase too long, the water around their stalks dried up and brown.

I planted some gladioli in my garden last year, and I did not take care of the plants during my pregnancy because I was just too ill and overwhelmed. Yet some gladioli still persevered despite the neglect. Two gladioli to be precise. I don’t know what colour they will be but they make me feel happy and also fill me with regret.

Happiness because some plants thrived, and I will have a little splash of colour in my garden.

Regret because I wish I’d planted more things this year.

However I know that babies are more important and there will soon be more chances to plant pretty things, perhaps even with little grubby chubby hands helping me!

So things look up, you see.

They do. The world carries on carrying on.

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This is gladioli. Not my gladioli. 

Mother

The background music to my shower is that of a crying baby, and yet when I turn the faucet off, and stand dripping in the sudden ensuing silence, I hear no baby crying.

I tiptoe out and drip on the carpet, peering into the bedroom.. baby sound asleep on my bed, ne’er a stir.

Back to the shower it is. Rubbing shampoo through my sparse postpartum hair, trying my utmost to ignore the anguished imaginary cries of my baby.

I towel myself dry and watch that peaceful little face, large soft peachy cheeks, eyelashes gentle on the roundness below, small deep breaths under the covers, a contented little sigh.

My eyeballs are burning. I am beyond needing a nap. My body screams for a good weightlifting session at the gym. I flutter about the house on my toes, doing only chores that are silent. Brooming, mopping, dusting. No hoover. No dishes. Never boil a kettle. And set the washing machine to start when nap time is over.

If I am too tired to do that, I sit on the sofa and eat ice cream. Noodles. Doritos. And I watch reruns of Gilmore Girls. Not focusing on the story, really, just mindlessly staring into an abyss.

Daily things are done as and when I can manage them. I want to kiss my boy inside and out, but don’t know how to. I live for the little gurgling laughs and the huge shy smile and that soft little double chin. I knew I would love him but never realised how much it would hurt and what sort of worry it would cause.

I miss my mother. My mother in law doesn’t like it when I visit her. She gives me the silent treatment and yet acts normal when my husband is around. She complains to my husband that I am disrespectful and always act like I am itching to leave. She doesn’t let me leave. And when I try to she asks ‘why’. Even though I spent the entire weekend at her house, and only a few snatched hours with my mother. I am not allowed to stay the night with my mother else she gets very upset and her husband shouts at my husband and calls him names and stresses him out until he fights me to the death so I give in and stay in their horrid, horrid depressing house. My father in law wouldn’t have cared if his wife hadn’t pushed him to. He told my husband that she comes first before anything and he must never upset her.

I am shocked. I didn’t think she had it in her.

What about me and my sanity and my mental wellbeing?

I miss my mother so sorely and yet when I am with her I am stressed because I know I will be ‘in trouble’ when I go back to my husband.

This time is meant to be special, and I am making it so, I really am. I am treasuring my child so very much. I just wish family was easy also. I feel trapped, because I don’t actually have a choice. I feel anxious all the time and on the verge of tears.

My husband makes it very hard for me to see my family as he prioritises his mother, and causes trouble when she causes trouble. So I have to pick my battles, and that means much less time with my parents.

I miss them so much.

Having a baby makes you need and value your mother in a way you never did before.

When I am a mother in law, I honestly will ensure that I am not so selfish and insensitive to my daughter in law. People need their mothers, while they have them.

I NEED my mother.

Write in Good Times and Bad

Some people do their best writing while they are depressed. And others write beautifully when they are happy, their emotions lending wings to their minds and their fingers. It’s all down to emotion at the end of the day, and how one perceives feelings, and reacts to them.

I’ve learned that people react so differently to the same emotions and situations, which is why you can never win at situations no matter how hard you try. If you can’t get through to someone, you can’t get through to them.

In my previous life I have managed to write the best during my times of depression, but now that I am 25 and feeling a way I have never felt before in my life, I find that words somehow escape me.

I don’t know why this is. I thought that if I let my emotions out in stories they would somehow live a life on paper that they couldn’t live inside my mind. But it doesn’t work. On paper they seem mundane and mismatched. They teeter and totter on the edge of a cliff and fall off. They are the missing planks in a swaying wooden bridge, and you just fall right on through when you try to follow the track.

They just do not do the truth any justice, and it leaves me feeling frustrated and sad.

So I have come to the conclusion that my best writing happens when I am marginally sad, but not overwhelmingly so. When I see hope shining like a beacon at the end of a time period. Now time appears to stretch endlessly before me and hope is dragging her heels behind. Why, Hope, WHY? Well, she replies, I really don’t think that time has anything for me at the end of her path. I feel like time is shaving pieces off me as each of her seconds drip off her chain, like desolate, worthless diamonds.

Did you know that diamond rings are worthless if you want to resell them? Jewellers will only charge you for the price of the band, whatever metal it was made from. A fascinating piece of knowledge I got from my husband’s friend’s wife, who is a jeweller. I’d always wanted a diamond ring but now I am glad I don’t have one. But I digress.

You see my sadness cannot be fixed with time, or so the naive youth in me bemoans. It knows it will have to go through a harrowingly narrow tunnel before anything changes. Or it could get solemnly worse and I will just end up old and regretful and the vicious cycle continues.

So there. I am an in-between writer. I can’t write well when I am happy and I can’t write well when I am desolate, but there is a good in-between niche that hits the spot just fine.

Apparently L M Montgomery wrote her later Anne novels when she was in depression. Perhaps that is why the Anne voice we know and love recedes massively in her later novels.

Some people can write when they are both happy and depressed. Others can channel their particular emotions while writing and produce work that is representative of it, challenging themselves marvellously and being just ridiculously talented at making terrific use of their mental state, whatever it may be, to produce written work.

What kind of writer are you? Do you write best when you are happy, or sad? Or both? Or do your emotions not feature in your creativity at all?

Also, secret question, are all men afraid of conflict? Is it an inherent trait of a man? Is that why they don’t communicate with their wives/partners?

11.06.2019

Well I flopped hard at writing a post every day in May. We went to stay with family for a week and a half and I just got so depressed there to be honest. There is a particular member of my in laws who is excessively controlling and I just felt so anxious and upset in her presence the entire time. I had a stomach ache every day and every single thing I did was wrong.

When I visited my own mother I was told off when I got back to my in laws’. I am appalled and disgusted and am feeling hatred and disappointment and entrapment and at this point I don’t care who knows.

Which is a shame really because family is supposed to be fun and supportive.

Makes me hate visiting that side of the family to be honest.

So I gave up writing every day in May and there. That is all to say to be honest. I think said person is affecting my mental health now. Some mothers are just obsessive about their sons and some sons listen to their mothers and put their wives through hell and expect their wives to be ok with it because one must never upset a mother.

Well I am a mother now too and this is MY son and not hers and I am sick of being a doormat.

There.

I hope you had a good weekend.

Pranks

I am challenging myself to write a post every single day in May, to kickstart my writing again. I will be following some prompt words that I ‘stole’ from somebody on instagram. Here is my eighth post.

Sometimes you think someone is playing a prank on you. Someone very close to you.

But then reality creeps in. Rears its ugly, ugly head. And five years of relative bliss flood down a slimy drainpipe.

Because no. It is not a prank.

It is very real.

People surprise you everyday. Don’t trust anybody but yourself.

Roadkill

Nothing motivates me. Not the knobbly edge of a cucumber, not the smooth roundness of a fresh tomato, not the creamy ripeness of a fresh avocado. I just chop all the ingredients up and throw them in and…

I don’t even wash my dishes afterwards.

Yes, they are piled up in the sink at home, as I speak. The washing has been in the machine, washed, since Saturday morning. I know it. I see it daily. But I don’t spin it for another wash, nor do I hang it out.

I am, quite simply, drained of energy.

I still get up quite early to go to the gym. I attend every spin class, but avoid eye contact. I push and push and push until the sweat runs rivers down my back and my muscles shriek in anguish. My fat jiggles with every push and my sports bra struggles to maintain a stationary chest. I need to get tighter sports bras else I will become saggy.

I lift weights after the classes. I can lift about 89 kilos in my glutes now, and 20 with my chest. For squats I can only do about 35, but I can see myself becoming more shapely and smooth. Lines and curves where they were always meant to be. Is it bad to enjoy the look of your own body?

Lately I have been noticing a lot of roadkill.

Yesterday it was a badger, lying warped on the verge of a tidy little country lane. The black stripe running through the middle of its little head was muddy and bloody.

Today it was a partridge, the bright green and brown of its coat brilliant in the shine of the morning sun. Last week a rat, on the pavement. Before that a crow, dead and limp and lifeless. A squirrel, a chick (where did you come from, little yellow soft baby?), a shrew (inhibit gardens, not roads, sweet misunderstood creature).

Today also it was a pigeon, lying smack bang on the corner of the space I park in daily at work. As I swung my legs out of the car (literally, I swing them out, and swing around the car to grab my bag from the passenger seat – lots of swinging) I thought to myself, ‘what if I killed it yesterday?’

In moments, the pigeon was forgotten.

What is roadkill, anyway, in the grand scheme of things? What is a dead cat in the face of a murdered Russian asylum seeker? What is a bloody and muddy badger in the face of the death and decay of minds and bodies that thought and did and said.

Don’t animals think, too? Won’t they be mourned by other animals? Ought we not to be kind to them?

You see, I say all these things, in a way that appeals to your pathos, but I feel no emotion. I don’t care for roadkill.

I feel a pang of sadness, but then it is quickly forgotten. It makes me think of rotting bodies and graves and sleep and heaviness and the physical vessel holding life – heartbeats in a chest that could stop and with them all sense of hope and happiness and dependency…

On Friday the friend of a close friend was on her way home from the park with her husband and child, when she collapsed and fainted. Moments later she died. She was fit as a fiddle, completely healthy, happy, laughing, smiling, planning, doing.

Today was her daughter’s first birthday.

I don’t know this girl. But her death has shaken me to my core.

See, she wasn’t a pigeon or a badger or a cat or a shrew. She was a mother and a wife and a daughter and a … a person. Thirty minutes before her death she sent a video of herself and her daughter on a swing, laughing and happy, to a group chat consisting of her closest friends.

Thirty minutes.

And thirty minutes before the death of the badger, did it leave its sett, say goodbye to its wife, and plunge through the undergrowth in heedless joy?

We are all meant to die. Human or animal. Some deaths mean more than others. But at the heart of it, it is the same thing. A heart stops beating, life lifts away from a body.

That is what I take from this.

I want to be loved. Not romantically, not just by my mother. I want to be loved by my Creator. I want my death to be a ‘return’, not a departure. Do you know what I mean? I want goodness and kindness and comfort and peace to fill the space I will inevitably leave behind.

We are not roadkill.

Touch some hearts, maybe?

Be kind? Smile? Help people? Make a good impact on the world?

Be ‘loved’?

What do you think?