Goodbyes

 

 

whole

Last year I had to say goodbye to certain people in my life. It wasn’t easy, it was never enjoyable but it was certainly necessary.

I said goodbye to a family member, I still see them now and then, but I said goodbye to the relationship we once had. I said goodbye to accepting the lifelong dynamic, the ingrained behaviour, the treatment I had come to accept and expect. I said goodbye to the dramas they brought to my door, the arguments, them leaving, screaming and slamming doors. I said goodbye to having my hopes raised and dashed over and over. They had become someone I could rely on only to let me down. They had hurt me so many times that I found, to my surprise, my well of empathy filled with dry dust. For so long they had disrespected me, my opinions, my needs, my lifestyle, my wishes and my boundaries until one day it occurred to me- why am I throwing so much love, care, help, patience and understanding towards someone who never returns it? someone who never considers how their actions affect others? someone who it never occurs to, to take responsibility for their behaviour and own it, see it, apologise or make amends. I cannot share my life with the those who lack empathy or accountability. For nearly forty years I did, but no more. Life genuinely is too short for that. So for what time I have left on this planet, I will not waste my time, energy, love, care and empathy on those who aren’t responsible for themselves, aren’t awake, aren’t aware of how their words, actions and behaviours affect others.

I said goodbye to a partner, a lovely human in many respects. A human I had a few wonderful years of shared experiences and growth with. Years I am so grateful for as they changed us both for the better I believe. For a while I believed I might marry this human, but as time went on, those old marriage vows would sing in my head ‘for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death us do part’ and I knew this human wasn’t that one. They showed me that when times got hard, when money was tight, when myself and my children got sick, when we were asked to care for a family in need- in absolute crisis. He ran away, he could not take the pressure or responsibility and he stopped being by my side and holding my hand and being on the same team- he left it all to me. And I thank him for that, as he taught me my own strength and resilience. But he also taught me that he was not my human, not my partner. My whole idea of romantic love has changed since then, I am questioning everything and it feels good- that throwing out of old ideas in light of new evidence. He showed me my values, it became very clear he did not share them, but I needed this lesson. I know who I am and what I want so much more now. I wish him all of the happiness in the world and I know he does me. So it is goodbye to what we had, but I hope we can share a day now and then in each others company as we still have a huge amount of respect, love and fondness for each other and I don’t believe in permanently closing doors on good people.

At the very end of the year I had to say goodbye to a friend. Not someone who I had a lot of physical contact or time spent in their physical presence with, but someone I had many conversations with over the years. Someone who had shared my journey as I had shared theirs. Someone who I was always willing to succeed, overcome obstacles, win battles, someone I was proud to know and hoped much happiness for. Someone who even recently had said such kind and beautiful things to me at just the right moment. Someone who I felt cared for me as much as I them. But sadly that someone had begun to focus all of the passion I loved them for on a cause in such direct opposition to my own ideals. I’d always loved how outspoken and direct they were- like a dog with  bone and so brave. But when they began to focus so intently, so loudly, so publicly on ideas that fuel a storm already hurting marginalised sections of our society…I had to wonder- where has your empathy gone? It was as if being ‘right’ and winning an argument meant more than who that hurt. Everywhere I looked they were talking about it, arguing about it, making friends with others who support their view- Some who had even more extreme views and cared even less about the derogatory and hateful language they used. It was so sad to witness. Sad for me but sad for the fact that my child, my best friend are in the very group that was being maligned, distrusted, talked about, argued over, having their existence, mental health, rights to enter certain spaces, their intentions, needs, private lives and genitals?! debated about for all to see. At first I thought maybe I can retain the friendship but just not look at what they are saying about this because it’s too painful and because I did not want to lose them as a friend. I thought I will unfollow their rants, I won’t engage in these discussions and I will make it clear I am done talking about it. But that didn’t work, it was unrealistic. I can’t engage on a photograph of a cute dog, follow their life story and forget about the fact that they feel it’s OK to demean people I love. I couldn’t be friends with a racist on the understanding that they don’t mention racist crap around me, so I’m not sure why I thought I could be friends with someone and compartmentalise their Transphobia- and that was my learning. Love me- love my friends and family. Do not disrespect or hurt those that I love and expect me to stick around.

With age comes experience and many realisations. Sometimes I am shocked at the simple stuff I simply hadn’t learnt until now but I am aware of how much more I have to learn. But I see it now- I see how each of these stories has shared properties- these people did things which were in direct opposition to my values and how I wish to live my life. They pushed my boundaries and struck against my values with such force it made a painful, discordant clang that I was unable to ignore. This is not about wanting friends and partners who think

and feel the exact way I do- that would be terribly boring and unrewarding. But this is about respect, empathy, responsibility and care for fellow humans. It’s about needing my loved ones, my close ones to be accountable for their actions and be the kinds of people who lift others up instead of putting them down or seeing them as beneath them to begin with. I won’t apologise for saying goodbye to people who do not fit in my life.

Advertisements

song idea

 

g

I see I’m closing down now, I’m wrapped in shadows in my cell

when we’re really suffering, we retreat into our shell

we can’t talk while we are fighting demons in our heads

so we stay silent, till the lights flicker on again

and what turns those lights on? it is hope within the hell

 

let’s not keep denying how difficult life is

I want to reach my hand out and I need to have it held

cos if we share the journey, we have to share the pain as well

we can’t live a lie cos, we know ourselves too well

There’s no shame in feelings, you can’t pretend

razorblades behind your smile- but you say you’re doing well

 

what makes a harder is punishing ourselves

for being weak, for wanting more than being lonely and in hell

we all need to change – we cannot stay the same

if we try to resist we will destroy ourselves

Stages of heartbreak recovery

The first two days I knew I’d done the right thing, even though it was really hard to come to terms with. My reasons were fresh in my head and I had the strength that disappointment and anger brings. I angrily, painfully threw away reminders, his stuff, all the notes I’d written him, the things he’d given to me, all the gifts I’d bought or made that he’d left behind, anything remotely lovey dovey all got binned. I blocked him and deleted all his family off social media cos I knew it would be painful soon to see him and them getting on with their lives without me.

A few days later the huge tidal waves of sadness hit. I was a broken mess and couldn’t stop crying. A strong pain in my chest, my anxiety sky high. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat and felt like I was going to go insane or die. I notice the gaps where all his things used to be and every time I did I would crumple into utter despair and misery. I had a few minor panic attacks at the thought of bumping into him. I missed him so much. I started to wonder whether I had made the right choice. Was I asking too much of him? Maybe I was being unreasonable. What if I never loved anyone as much as I loved him. What if nobody ever looked at me with love in their eyes like that again. I just want to see him, to hug him, to kiss him, to have him back here by my side.

Good memories of how we met, fun times, passionate, wonderful times, laughter we shared, silliness, stuff only me and him knew about or understood start popping into my head regularly and unannounced like cruel knives. I miss everything about him now, even his annoying habits and the way he stunk up my bed. I can’t bear the thought of never hugging him again, never stroking his hair, never kissing his tummy, never squeezing his bum, never dancing together in the kitchen or taking a journey together in the car. How the hell am I supposed to do life on my own? it all felt impossibly hard and cruel and I started feeling genuinely depressed at what my future would hold. Luckily friends and acquaintances sent me kind words, thoughtful gestures, affectionate words on screens and phones. I reached out in pain and people responded in such kind ways. I felt embarrassed at how vulnerable and weak I felt and how open I had been publicly. I knew logically I would get through this somehow but there were also times that felt like a lie.

But I carried on. I took no days off from work even though I felt like a zombie and was filled with pain, self doubt and wished I could just stay home wrapped in my duvet with a box of tissues and a bottle of gin. I didn’t drink though- I knew it wouldn’t help. I had a really bad panic attack getting on a bus. I hadn’t had one that bad for so long (over ten years) that I didn’t know what was happening and genuinely thought I was losing my mind. I wanted to run off the bus and walk the five miles home, but instead I put on my headphones, put my big hood up and stared out of the window with tears pouring from my face. I messaged a friend and luckily she replied. She talked me down. She was so kind and patient and she saved me that day with her sweet, gentle words. She reminded me of my very valid reasons for breaking up and told me it was natural to be having doubts.  I got home an absolute mess and had to tell my son I couldn’t take him to an open day we’d been planning to go to. I knew I couldn’t be anywhere that public and busy right then. I felt racked with guilt for letting him down. I let a lot of things slide. I forgot to make him lunch for school a few times and I forgot to wash clothes and to put on the lights for his lizards tank. I barely knew what day it was for a while and I was still blubbing and snotting so much we quickly ran out of tissues.

After a few weeks of managing to go to work and function I felt a little proud that I had managed to keep it together when I needed to. I started to sleep a little bit more which helped. But I was still struggling to eat and the weight was falling off me. All my bras were now too big and my pants started falling down. I felt like I was disappearing and it didn’t feel good at all. A few people complimented me on my weight loss and for the first time in my life this didn’t make me feel good, it just felt insensitive- though I didn’t blame them. Life had lost all pleasure. I would see people laughing and having fun and I’d feel like an alien looking at another world. I sleepwalked my way through, numbness started setting in. I would try to do things that would usually cheer me up like drawing, playing guitar, eating a cake, listening to music but it all just felt empty and shit. I tried distracting myself with the internet and programmes but nothing held my attention. I noticed I was grumpy now and was struggling to be patient with my kids, my cat meowing constantly made me hate the little furry fuck. I then felt guilty for being such a grump and kept reminding myself to be calm and kind.

 

It really is true about finding out who your friends are when your life turns to shit. I value the friends I can be real with so much, cos acting OK is fucking exhausting when you’re not and I was using up all my trying in work so had none left over for home. I start thinking how I don’t want to feel like a victim. I realise I need to be compassionate towards myself and quick because I start having really dark thoughts about self harm and suicide. I feel guilty for having them and I feel scared cos I’ve not had thoughts like these for a long time. I am so grateful I have my kids cos every time I started to plan my suicide my logic and love would kick in and I would remember that they need me and that actually their lives would not be good without me, that it would destroy them and I couldn’t do that to them. I start searching for a counsellor I could go to see, but it’s so hard to choose. I speak to one woman on the phone but she put me right off with her patronising tone. I send another few messages to counsellors and get no replies. I have paranoid thoughts that I am such a nightmare that counsellors have told each other not to see me! I get a text off the ex talking about bills that need to be put in my name. I don’t sleep that night and I feel angry at how calm, mundane and ok he seems. I bet he’s fine and it’s just me that feels like I am dying here. I stupidly check his twitter and see he is behaving the same as usual. What a dickhead. I wish I hadn’t checked. I feel pathetic and weak. I vow not to check again but do. I am still grumpy and short tempered but manage to mostly hide it from others and just hide from people for a bit. I stop reading things online that might anger or upset me.

The nights are the worst when I’m in bed and his side of the bed is empty. I put books and clothes and my ashtray and cup on his side to fill it up and stop me rolling over there. My thoughts hurt and I see his smile and kind eyes in my head. I miss his skin, his body. I miss closeness and kisses and affection and sex….argh. I see some shortbread in the shop and my eyes fill with tears cos for a second I forgot and was going to buy it for him. I think of him when I make coffee too and I can’t use his favourite cup. It feels weird when I make someone else a cuppa in it. I still get scared getting buses or going near to where he works but I have to. I am so scared of bumping into him I decide I need to finally buy myself some glasses. I buy them and I feel happy I can see and grin all the way across town at how much I can see. Then I see him walking towards me. I panic. I nod but carry on walking. He gives me an almost smile and then looks sheepish. I realise he didn’t recognise me, he thought I was some other girl. Fuck him already smiling at other girls. Fuck him. I can’t even look at anyone else. A young and attractive man (yeah ok I did notice that) smiled at me near work and I just felt uncomfortable. I walked off quickly blushing. I start trying to have chit chat in work and I hate chit chat. But I feel so lonely that any conversation will do. I talk more to everyone. I am genuine to those who are with me and who can handle it.

I find that if I listen to Queen- a band that usually only gets an airing when drinking with friends- I can’t be sad. I laugh at how weird that is. Like Queen is my anti depressant. So I listen to ‘Don’t stop me now’ and ‘I want to break free’ while I walk in the rain and I find myself singing along, having a spring in my step and smiling a little. Never would I have thought that Queen would be my saviour. No other music really cuts it right now. Freddie Mercury was incredible. So strong and brave and ridiculously talented…I wonder if he ever cried like I do and felt so hopeless. I doubt it, but maybe he did. We’re all human after all. But cheers Mr, your words help right now. My appetite starts to come back. I am managing a small breakfast and a big dinner now. Sleep is ok, though I have dreams about him some nights- not terrible ones though, more like me processing everything in my sleep. I am doing a lot of thinking, I feel like I am making sense of things a little and I am feeling more in charge, more sane, a little less scared. I am so happy to see my kids at the end of the day. I love to hear about their days and see their beautiful faces. I hug them more than ever and tell them I love them and try to show them I am getting there- mam will be ok soon I promise, sorry I’ve been so down. Everyone is talking about and getting excited about xmas and I am just dreading it. Money has been so tight I can’t even afford to buy presents. I reach out and ask what little family I have left if they can loan me some money till my new tax credits claim comes through. They do help and they don’t want me to pay it back and I am so grateful. I buy the kids presents online. I still have nothing to look forward to personally. I envy people with big, warm, kind families who they can share xmas with. I know it will just be me and the kids and I just hope I can make it nice for them. I get bought a gift of a ceramics course next year, I can’t wait to get making things and getting my hands all dirty. Who knows, I might even meet a new friend on the course if I’m lucky. I could do with a new friend.

Some friends ask me to go out with them and I agree. I both look forward to and dread it all week. It helps me get through work. I buy myself a new dress and for the first time appreciate my weight loss. I look good. I feel in a good mood as I get ready and I’m not nearly as anxious as usual when going out. I do my make up three or four times because I am an idiot and can’t use liquid eyeliner. I have never spent so long on my make up in my life and my eyes feel sore from rubbing off and reapplying so many times. But in the end I get it OK. I go out and though I feel a little shaky and on edge, it’s really nice to see friends. I start getting into it, I enjoy the bands and bump into a few people I know and it’s really, really nice. I realise that life does go on. I have no idea what the future will hold for me but I sense there are possibilities. I realise I have to love myself how I need to be loved. I realise I do have people who care about me and me them. I feel a little less lonely knowing that and I start being able to relax and watch my favourite shows again. I start laughing with the kids again and being more present. The empty pain in my chest starts calming a little. I start thinking things like ‘I hope he falls in love again and is happy’ and ‘I think I love a little better every time’ I realise the stories I tell myself are so important- how I frame this is up to me. I stop missing him quite as much and being more in reality- he was not able to give me what I needed, his values were very different from mine. We had some bloody great times and I will always be grateful and feel blessed for the time we shared but it’s time to move on now.

I vow to put up the xmas tree and I go mad tidying the house in preparation. The kids help me decorate it that evening and me and a friend get drunk in the lovely xmassy room that night and when I laugh and tell her about how I’ve been listening to queen, she sticks Bohemian Rhapsody on and we tunelessly sing along. She cracks me up by also singing the guitar solo and playing air guitar. I start to think aww maybe xmas won’t be so bad and I message some friends inviting them up for a xmas drink. I start looking forward to the break from work and being cosy at home with the kids and eating yummy, naughty food. I bet I put all that lost weight right back on. Oops.

I still don’t want anyone else but that’s ok, there’s no rush. For now I’m going to work on being who I need to be. I’m going to treat myself well and put my love and energy into my family, my friends, my work, my music, art, reading, creating and just bloody living. I am starting to ask myself ‘what kind of life do I want?’ and I’m planning to take the kids on holiday. I booked myself a massage in the new year and laugh at what a thoughtful partner I am being to myself.

I think I will be ok eventually. Nah I know I will.

 

 

 

Daily Prompt: Reach

via Daily Prompt: Reach

I’ve lost count of the amount of times I reached out to you, explained myself to you, tore my heart open and laid it out in front of you. They say that blood is thicker than water, but Mother Ship, there are oceans between us. I splutter still from our last encounter, my lungs still waterlogged, my body still bruised and grazed from being thrown about on your craggy shores. I’ve seen so many people drown in that vast tumultuous sea you spread around yourself, their broken bodies bobbing up and back down again into the dark depths. So few seem to fully escape and none unscathed. Yet your empathy as always is lacking, you simply blame them for falling in. Not a kind word was ever spoken of the fallen, you would tear apart the memories and hold up their flaws in the light of your halo.I should have noticed that every failure to connect,  every shipwreck  of a relationship was never your fault. I should have learnt from those drowned victims, lost loves, that one day I would join them if I wasn’t careful.

 

You weren’t counting on me building my own ship though. But build it I have. First I created a sand maquette on your shore, an idea of what I needed but of course lacking strength and integrity and though I decorated it beautifully with patiently laid shells, I watched it quickly wash away after your first wave hit. The second time I gathered driftwood, flotsam and jetsam and fashioned a crude vessel. I filled it with hope, but it could not float long.  I came to the conclusion that I was not a natural ship builder, I lacked the skill, strength and materials to forge a sturdy, sea going vessel. I needed education, patience, life experience, but most of all I needed support and people who believed in me.  They first needed to help me believe I deserved a ship, secondly to believe I needed one and third to convince me I deserved to survive.

I found that once I had those things, my ship built itself. Last year I was drowning, but this year I noticed I was afloat and that I had lost a lot of my fear of the sea. Thalassophobic no more, I realised it was up to me whether I entered those waters or sailed on calmer seas. I chose the latter and today I told The Mother Ship I would neither sail nor drown with her anymore. It is true that you can’t choose your family, but thankfully the family I have created and the crew mates who have joined me have taught me that life needn’t be continuously stormy. We don’t need to hate those we leave in our wake and we can learn from our past and not remain victims of it. Things can be harmonious, pleasant and full of love and adventure. Today I dropped anchor and climbed back to my own safe shore. I note the date and realise that this new season is a new beginning for us all.

Daily Prompt: Elicit

She died today. Another one gone, given up on breathing.

She never did say goodbye, not to us at least. We waited as death did, somewhat impatiently. But a response never came. At least she heard our farewells and gained comfort  so we were told.

Then the announcement, an R.I.P next to her name. Shock. We knew it would come but not so soon. It always comes too soon, except when it doesn’t.

She died in her sleep, there was no waking her. Was she dreaming I wonder and will she remain so forever.

Death. We are all aware of it, it comes forewarned.   It is the unavoidable shadow, the inescapable silhouette. We know that one day, all of our lights will be snuffed out.

It is the unseen scuttle of a mouse stealthily hugging the skirting board. We know it is there watching and waiting, we sense its presence.  It is the third hand on a clock face, Tick Tock Tick, Tick Tock….(     ) Nothing.

We’ve had moments when fear gripped us suddenly like a strangers hand as we faced the possibility of losing someone we love. We know it’s coming for us all and yet we force that bitter thought from our minds until solemnly, it knocks on our door once more.

In search of optimism, we scour for good in the deceased and if we have any sense at all we add a little more to ourselves in their absence. There is that expression about living each day as if it were your last, but who can be arsed with that? it sounds exhausting not to mention pretty morbid. Besides some of my most unproductive days have been the most pleasurable so I’m not going to rush about attempting to live ‘life to the full’ My favourite moments are those in between ones and definitely involve napping, staring thoughtfully into space, stroking a cat, humming a song while waiting for the kettle to boil and watching droplets of water race down a window pane . I’m not sure there is a good motto for life, so I shan’t try to foist one on you.

I doubt very much we will be judged by anyone but our peers after we die and even they will tend to look at us with kinder, more forgiving eyes after we have passed. But you and I, us fuckers here, lucky enough to still be breathing, we are life and we are more powerful than we realise. We can make or break someones day today.

Daily Prompt: Elicit

Burn Out

In my profession, burn out is a term all too often bandied about. We are taught to fear it, to be on the look out for it and to practise good self care in order to prevent it. But these vague, ambiguous warnings never really describe what it will feel like when it actually happens. Nor do they make clear that actually, it might not be your work that causes it at all.

So here I am, a thirty seven year old human being. A wearer of many metaphorical hats, all of which lift me up and enrich my life, all of which also weigh me down and deplete my emotional, physical and some might even say spiritual energy.

My first and most important, is my mother hat- or lets call it Mam hat as I am a Mam, not a mum, nor mummy and most certainly not Ma or Mother. It is permanently fixed to my head, even as I attempt to sleep at night (I never know when they may need me) even when I am bleary eyed and dragging myself out of bed each day.  It sits above my sleepy brain which is already formulating lists and action plans- wake Adrian first as he needs a shower, wake Ev, make him some cereal, get his uniform ready,  sort out packed lunches, don’t forget his gym kit, where has Ev put his shoes this time? ok, once I’ve done that and fed the cats I think I can have a cuppa. Ahhhhhhh.

It is on my head even when I am in work and they are miles away in school,  when I’m wondering how their days are going, hoping nobody is bullying them or making them sad.When one of my young clients reminds me of them or something they’ve been through. It’s on my head when I have those rare nights away and even when I get  shitfaced with my mates. It was on my head when I had a weekend away with a friend and I felt so terribly guilty as my kids would have loved it there with that beautiful blue swimming pool. I promised myself that when I had more money I would take the whole family there.

My mam hat is my most rewarding hat to wear without a doubt, but also the most exhausting. My mam hat is heavy and sometimes smothering and claustrophobic. It demands constant vigilance, touch, holding, alertness, patience, care, interest (sometimes feigned interest. That’s love – pretending to care about the third conversation about what it would be like to have a duck car that quacked) The mam hat is draining but full of love, hope and dreams of the future. It’s also my silliest hat, with lots of fun and childish jokes, tickles and conversations sure to make your teenager blush tucked inside. I will wear this hat till I die and possibly afterwards too- I know nothing of afterlife fashion.

 

My next hat is my partner hat, a slightly (but not much more) grown up design, hopefully a little sexier, possibly a bit more feminine than mam hat, as I am of no particular gender when parenting particularly as I am both mam and dad to at least one of them.

My partner hat definitely still has a lot of silly in it, but when necessary it’s a bit more serious. It has pockets for mundane things like forgotten shopping lists and reminders of whose turn it is to wash up.  It has gaps to slide romantic notes in, storage for every I love you and is sometimes lifted up for tender kisses to be placed underneath. It has room for self analysis and room to grow (maaan). My partner hat is fit for cuddling and squishing and climbing on top of laps and laughing and kissing and leg wiggling while bed dancing along to the adverts.

I admit that my partner hat is sometimes a worrying hat because I simply can’t believe that I have found someone so wonderful and I get scared that I may lose him. Sometimes I retreat to some safe place inside me, sometimes I self sabotage, sometimes this hat covers a paranoid head  that has never had a trusting close relationship before so feels scared, unprepared, vulnerable and needs reassurance. But it is a learning hat atop a head that is beginning to accept this wonderful stuff that is being bestowed on it. The hat slides jauntily to the side when passion rises and is slipped down over eyes when I feel shy. It is thoughtful, well meaning and kind and is learning to accept kindness and care in return. It also has places for ideas for nice things to do together, future travel destinations and a growing and unusual space that sees scary words like marriage as a possibility for us and maybe not an archaic, outdated load of old shite after all. Maybe, pah cynicism dies hard. I hope to wear this hat forever too, I hope our threadbare hats will still suit us when we’re old and wrinkled. I hope we’ll still hold hands and find things to giggle at and that our eyes will still shine with love.

 

My next hat is my friend hat and it changes colour and shape depending on which friend I am with and what our journey together has been. I’ve never been good at making new friends, I am always rather baffled when it seems to happen accidentally. But God do I treasure them. If I’m with a  friend I feel truly relaxed with it lets me speak freely and with confidence and ease that would convince any onlooker that I am in fact a gregarious extrovert at all times. It holds a heap of love inside, as all my hats do. It’s a hat that says let’s be real with each other and not wear the mask of politeness. It demands real answers and does not want replies of ‘I’m fine’ when asked how someone is..unless of course that’s the truth, in which case we should probably celebrate with cider at once. In this hat I will offer a cuppa as we catch up. I’ll help a friend with anything I’m able to. I will try to think of funny stuff to make them laugh or cheer them up, I will adore it when they tell me funny stories and somehow we will always laugh a little, even if we are discussing dark and hopeless things. I hope it still has plenty of fun left in it and some adventures too cos it is happiest when its out at the beach, in a beer garden, playing music or singing, out in the countryside, in a pool hall, at a gig, talking shit, sitting under the stars and feeling free. I won’t always say the right thing, sometimes I might even offend people. It has been known. Ahem. But I hope that when I’m wearing this hat my friends know how much they mean to me and that I want the very best for every one of them.

 

 

My work hat is a bit more careful and tentative than the rest. I take my clients seriously but still pick fun at myself as it helps them feel at ease. In my work hat I try my hardest to be present and attentive and there with them in all that they say and feel. Sometimes I’m the first person who has listened and believed them and that is a real honour.

I love my job dearly, I’ve truly found my passion and ambition at last. It is exactly what I want to be doing with my life and I feel so grateful to have found my way into it. To spend my days attempting to help young people work their way through their problems and fears feels like the right thing to be doing with my life. I never dread the work itself, even if I do groan at the early alarm clock and rush to get there. I come out of work tired and sometimes carrying a lot of emotional baggage that my clients have left with me, but sometimes I walk out ten feet tall because someone has so obviously turned a corner and that feeling of sharing those steps with them is unspeakably wonderful and humbling.

 

I must at this point acknowledge that I have only been working in this career for the past few years and only been paid for my work for the last year. I still feel like I’m settling in, finding my feet and have gradually built up my hours and client load to three days a week. It took a bloody lot to get myself here. I was a single, unemployed mother on benefits for many, many years before this and have known struggles like …well like only someone who has been in that position would understand and relate to. It felt like I had to scramble over mountains of set backs, red tape and systemic obstacles to achieve this dream. Sometimes I still have to pinch myself that I have any job, let alone the one I dreamed of and worked so hard to get.

 

The training I received changed me immensely. You cannot spend six years hungrily filling your head with new knowledge and remain the same person at the end of it. They warned us at the start that many couples break up when one of them starts counselling training. At the time I was single so I wasn’t worried about that. What I didn’t know is that it would highlight how very messed up aspects of my childhood were. It would also highlight some very toxic habits, bad coping mechanisms and the unhealthy dynamics of my past relationships. I would sit in uni surrounded by classmates and cringe and try not to weep when they described emotional abuse, physical abuse and neglect and the effects it has on children. They would discuss the importance of attachment to the primary caregiver and what can happen when the parent is on drugs, depressed or otherwise unable to attune to the child’s needs. I came to a lot of realisations, faced a lot of remorse for past mistakes and had to do a lot of grieving, letting go and forgiving. Suddenly I had words like ‘fear of abandonment’ & ‘Anxious attachment style’ weighing heavily upon me. The sense of being broken, having low self esteem, depression and being suicidal at times all became clearer.

My training didn’t ‘cure me’ nor has having my own personal therapy. I still struggle with this living bullshit. But it continues to help a great deal in gaining healthier coping mechanisms, achieving more loving, trusting relationships and giving me permission to remove toxic people from my life. I have come a long way and it is my hope that wearing my work hat, I  am helping others who are struggling in their childhoods to have an easier time of it. My experiences have made me who I am and they feel worthwhile if they can be used as a tool to help others.

So back to burn out. I don’t believe that I currently feel burnt out due to work but it no doubt plays a part in depleting me emotionally. When I’m at home I try to put my clients out of my head but  because I care about them they still remain in my thoughts like the glow of a candle you must not forget is burning.

My friends haven’t burnt me out, but I do worry a lot about them, I do miss seeing a lot of them and I try to be there for them when they are in darkness, fear or despair and that love and concern lights a few more candles I must keep safe.

My partner doesn’t burn me out but the love, attention, energy and desire to make things work ignites another candle to be mindful of.

General responsibilities of being an adult like housework, cooking, washing, being places on time, trying not to forget things (when my brain is pretty poor at remembering) and self imposed pressure lights a church sized candle at times.

General human cognitive, ruminative exercises and existential wondering light a string of fairy lights (and you should never leave those unattended either)

My beautiful children with their different age related, personalised, messy, noisy, grumpy, naggy, hormonal, emotional, ever questioning, ever chatty, hilarious, angst ridden needs… HELL YEAH they wear the crap out of me at times- add ten more candles.

Tricky relationships with other family members- add twenty candles, a bag of guilt, a few panic attacks, a fuck-load of dread, grief and a £50 an hour counselling fee.

 

So yeah I got burnt out. It’s nobodies fault & it’s everyone’s, especially mine. But..Nothing is worth killing myself over and I need to change things so that I don’t lose the plot or dig myself into a hole I can’t get out of. Beginning with some rest and doing things that make me happy. I am putting myself first and trusting that the universe will not fall apart if I take a step back for a week. So far, so good. I’ve slowed the hell down, Breathed, drawn, read, meditated, sang, played guitar,  been on a lovely walk with my love and taken the time to appreciate him and all that he brings to my life. I might put on half a stone in a week because I’ve hardly walked and I’ve done some bloody delicious baking, if I do say so myself. Better chubby and sane than mad and skinny I say!

I will hopefully feel more myself at the end of it. I don’t want to change who I am and I don’t want to stop wearing any of these hats, but I think I might need to make a hat just for me and it must contain love like all the others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transformation

I remember when my second child was born, feeling so blessed because now I had one child of each gender. I’m not sure why that pleased me so much or why indeed I was so concerned with gender at all back then.

My first child was assigned female at birth. She was a beautiful baby and grew into a lovely, gentle, smart and witty young person. I never wanted to do the whole going mad for pink clothes or dolls thing but Gran, my then partners mother had brought up two sons, so the excitement of having her first female grandchild sent her into a shopping frenzy. She had plenty of cash to burn and soon my daughters wardrobe and toy box were stuffed disgustingly with pink and girly, girly, sparkly, princess themed SHIT. I secretly hated it but my daughter didn’t seem too bothered- new clothes were new clothes and any new toy was only exciting for the first few hours anyway (at best). I would try to sneak a few more gender neutral toys, books and clothes in there for balance. I guess having been a Tom boy myself who hated anything overly girly, I just didn’t go in for that stuff. However, I had plenty of friends that did so I saw no damage coming from this pretty pink onslaught. I recall the first ever baby grow I put on my eldest was made of blue and green striped material. I had no idea when I was packing my hospital bag, what sex my child would be, but I figured it didn’t matter so just chose one I liked the look and feels of. In fact I still have it stored in a memory box.

When my youngest was born, I had been single throughout the whole pregnancy and it was a stressful, lonely and painful time for me- both physically and mentally. I decided that this time I would find out the sex before the birth. It felt like it would make things easier, that I could better prepare if I knew. So I already had heaps of clothes, bedding, a few toys and play sets ready before his arrival. Strangely enough I had still chosen very gender neutral items, preferring the bright colours and fun patterns. It wasn’t like there was a tonne of blue and YOU MUST LIKE CARS AND FOOTBALL shoved on him the moment he arrived home.

Fast forward eight years and I sit here wondering- do I still have one child of each gender? what the hell is gender anyway and why are we so focused on treating people differently due to the type of genitals they have? I now know there are way more than two genders anyway.

Eight months ago my eldest came out to me as trans. He requested we all call him by a new name and address him by male pronouns. It didn’t come as a huge surprise to me and didn’t really trouble me at all, though it did take a bit of getting used to. As you can imagine Gran wasn’t best pleased and we have had a bit of a nightmare getting everyone on side and to be respectful. But as far as I’m concerned, as long as he is happy, healthy and being true to himself, I am behind him all the way. In fact I felt incredibly fortunate to be the first person he spoke to about it and that he knew it wouldn’t change anything between us. He is so much happier now. Before we had that chat together he had been quite down and was becoming increasingly self conscious, introverted and as it turns out- self loathing. Now he is living as his true self at home and with friends and family, he is brighter of spirit and his confidence has grown massively. He’s just a happy teenager and we are very close and get on fabulously…and I know a lot of parents who wish they could say that about their teenager, so I know how lucky I am.

Obviously he is now dressing as a boy and actually, though I loathe shopping we had a blast on our first shopping trip together. To see him so delighted made it all worthwhile. I have become a dab hand at cutting hair and he has rocked some pretty awesome hairstyles if I do say so myself.

 

My youngest child is now eight. And do you know what his favourite things are? well some are similar to his friends, such as Minecraft, Youtube (he has his own channel), gaming online or on the wii. He is also obsessed with pugs and pigs for some reason. But the thing he loves most is the colour PINK. He keeps telling me that when he is older he is going to have a pink car, a pink house and he might even have pink hair. He’ll ride a pink bike and keep pink pigs. He has been growing his hair for the past year and it’s now below his shoulders and thick and curly. It is a nightmare to brush and when he brings back head lice from school I sometimes wish he had short hair, so they would be easier to get rid of. But he loves his hair, almost as much as the pink wig he likes to parade around the house in, or my mother’s pink dressing gown he insists on wearing when he stays with her. He tells me that he thinks he would like it better if he were a girl. I must admit when he first said that I thought Fuuuuuuck…how on earth can I be raising two trans kids?! that can’t be true surely? I wondered if there was something about me that had caused this if I’m honest. But on reflection I think that what has happened is I am raising them in an atmosphere of acceptance. They know that as long as they are decent, kind human beings that anything else they decide to become, love or embrace is OK with me.

I don’t know if my youngest will continue to adore pink, but I know it doesn’t matter even slightly if he does. I don’t know if he will become more and more unhappy being perceived as male and decide to transition like my eldest is. All I know is that I love them, whoever they decide to be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transformation