[Content Note: Frank and graphic discussion of self harm]
Funny how some things never quite leave you.
Its an old addiction but I’ve got it under control… more or less
Its maybe 20 years since I first hurt myself to ease the pain on the inside and the earliest self-imposed scar is over 15 years old
I’d love to tell you that it had been years since I last deliberately hurt myself.
I mean, yes, its been a while since I last actually picked up the razor – maybe even years – but I couldn’t tell you exactly how long that was, maybe its less, a lot less. And perhaps it is at best a couple of months since i punched a wall just to feel the pain and no more since i dragged a kitchen knife over my skin just to feel the sting but its not regular.
Sometimes it really is 6 months or more between the slips. Sometimes I even think its gone away.
At best, if I never hurt myself again I will always have these scars – the scars I may one day describe to my child as the marks of a struggle I fought with myself. Or perhaps as a symptom of an illness they know I fight every day.
But what i want is to open the skin and feel the pain. The sharp tear and long ache. The hot sticky mess and the sweet sweet release.
I dream about it, I think about it on the bus. I visualise it in the quiet moments and lust after it in the anguished aeons of despair and I even revel in its soft embrace in moments of happiness.
If you have never felt the pull of addiction I don’t think you can really know how it consumes you – and though this is no heroin it perhaps gives me an inkling of that want and need
It doesn’t rule or ruin my life. I am not a slave to my addiction, choosing it over more important things, battering myself and other people for an ever greater hit.
Most people will never notice my cravings.
But every now and then I give in. Still.
Still I want.
Still it feels like a need.
Still on the topic of gender – Small has female external sex characteristics and as such we have, until Small is old enough to make the decision for themselves, chosen to identify her as female-gendered as well (since the majority of people match gender and sex) so why if She is normally she.. does my brain occsionally absent-mindedly refer to her as He.
On a different parenting note – currently Small sleeps in a moses basket beside me and feeds 2 or 3 times a night; despite sensible precautions and anxiety management inevitably the 1st time I wake after feeding her I panic about where she is, often wondering if I dropped or squashed her but also paranoid she is somewhere else entirely, before remembering putting her down and being able to hear her breathing.
Seriously, someone make small talk with me for more than 5 minutes about something that is not Baby…
Back in a time before Baby, I had a lot of opinions about parenting.
One of the things I developed a fairly strong opinion on in the run up to starting a family was gender-neutral parenting. What modern ‘liberal’ free-thinking middle-class woman hasn’t thought about how to give children positive messages about the fluidity of gender and enable them to make informed choices in their life which are unconstrained by social conceptions of gender even if they are eventually conforming? I am keen to make sure traits and preferences are not gender-coded; that all clothing and job choices are seen as valid options. I want blue and pink to just be colours, fairies & dinosaurs to be fun. But what if we overdo it, I worry that our little family is not equipped to demonstrate and articulate expressions of traditional femininity – girly isn’t really our thing…
Then I look at the reality that snuck up on us.
A lot of the clothes we have for baby are second-hand or are gifts from relatives. Financially, it is daft for us to even contemplate not taking the help we have been offered. So pink it is.
Plus it turns out not only do some people just love buying girly stuff, only those with female shaped (and coded) babies been happy to donate clothing and actually it is surprisingly hard to buy things other than in very gendered blue or pink (ie no blue flowers or pink robots or green well anything)
But as I watch relatives and complete strangers flail around desparately trying to gender our child if they cannot see blue or pink cues I realise that this is not a battle that can even be fought just with accessories – perhaps it is more important that Small realises that even when they have to dress to conform for safety or other reasons that doesn’t restrict the way they fee lor their intrinsic worth.
One of my most difficult dilemmas is parent naming.
Small has 2 mummies and a daddy. But should the mummies have different names to her? How should we introduce ourselves? How should I enforce making relatives give Mummy W appropriate recognition? What if neither of the mummies have ever been entirely comfortable with the idea of motherhood? What if Daddy is wrapped up in a very traditonal 2 parent model?
And this is the key area of difficulty what are the boundaries and responsibilities of 3 parents? And how can we make that work for a small human who has her own needs?
It is nearly mother’s day here in the UK and I am terrified and miserable.
It would be fair to say that Mother’s day wasn’t a big deal in my family when I was a child so the notion of celebrating it still seems a little odd.
But this will be my first as a mother and I feel unprepared, undeserving and lonely. I feel like a fraud and I don’t know what to do.
I haven’t felt this much dread since and emotional conflict since the first year after my own mother died. The conversations amongst my peers about their preparations that became hushed as I passed coupled with the way that visual cues seemed to compound my sense of uncertainty and loss left me with a knot in my stomach and a feeling of being set apart from the world. Now, althoug it has remained a ‘celebration’ I tend to avoid, the intensity of emotion is back in a way it hasn’t been for so so many years.
Partly I listen to the other girls in my NCT group (my only child-rearing peers) talk about the joys of sharing motherhood with their own mothers and their excitement of having a first mothers day of their own and I feel completely left out.
But more I can barely see myself as a mother.
Technically it seems so ludicrous – how can someone who has carried a child inside of them for months then squeezed it out one of the most sensitive parts of their body and then has nourished and comforted it at all hours of night and day not feel like that child’s mother?
I dont feel like I conform to the expectations of what being a mother is supposed to be and so I’m not a real mother. I don’t feel like my life and priorities suddenly shifted profoundly and I don’t feel like I got new insights or made new connections with others.
When I talked it through with my therapist – yes I’ve been doing weekly CBT (ish) sessions since my little one was about 2 weeks old – we decided that one of my key issues is that I feel that I am going to be judged by everyone else because it seems like there is a stack of rules which I didn’t get, especially for motherhood. And that is probably true. Seeing it that way is comforting but it doesn’t make the ache go away.
I’m a new mum.
One of the things that happen to us as we as individuals become defined by having a small child in the UK (aka become parents) is time is reconfigured according to its relationship with the child and especially the merry-go-round of Drs. appointments and visits by the community team. This includes check-ups, immunisations, clinics, weigh-ins and home visits…
Now don’t get me wrong I am grateful for the care and attention offered by the NHS in making sure Small has the best possble start in life but I have some issues with the system partly because of the assumptions it makes and the privileges it affords me.
Unlike many caregivers, I have the luxury of income and a stable roof over my head. More than anything else this prevents me from being categorised as an ‘at risk’ parent.
So our family set-up is unconventional (3 parent queer polyamorous relationship in 2 houses); so my mental health is ‘wobbly’ (as is that of my partners)… in other circumstances I might be deemed unfit but middle-class respectability shields us from that and thus from visits from a social worker and from the threat of Small being taken away.
I get that many people are likely to need extra support to feed and clothe their kids which is supposedly a cocern of this process. Furthermore I am grateful that I have had extra care lavished on my mental health (both in terms of speed of access and number of sessions) because of being a mother but I also see that the system places undue pressure on people.
I am acutely aware that health visitors visits are one of the ways that the state checks whether or not children are being cared for and considers whether they should be removed from their parents.
For example, my beloved wife grew up in a less economically stable home and the fear of not providing appropriate items haunts her – the threat that your child might be taken away because you dont have the new clothes or enough toys is terrifying and real when you are struggling in an area known for its deprivation and yet I grew up with no new clothes but without judgement from social services because my parents owned the house we lived in…
In a similar vein my therapist and I talked about how one might objectively judge being a ‘good enough’ mother and there on the list as used by social workers is ‘adequate gender-appropriate clothing’ …what is gender-appropriate for a month old baby or even a year old child? If someone in more economically deprived circumstances dresses there 2 children in the same clothing despite their different genitalia it might be assumed that they just can’t afford to differentiate between them or even bullying them and therefore to be watched whereas it is more likely that as a middle-class parent if I were to dress my child in neutral or “gender-deviant” clothing it would be assumed that I am merely being ‘non-conventional’ and even “politically correct” and it would be ignored.
Isn’t it amazing how when you do it with the semblance of money and respectability you automatically seem better? I feel very privileged.
So its been over a year since I last posted – I feel guilty, I do, but I do have an excuse or two.
- (chronologically rather than importance-wise) B & I became 2 out of 4 joint leaseholders of a pub; spent a month refurbishing said pub, opened it and set about making it a profitable business before; falling out with our business partners and thus needing to become more responsible for the project whilst having less time to do so because:
- I got pregnant and had a baby
yup. Here it is in (slightly less) brief:
Jan: Planned for pub & got keys
Feb: Spent 15hrs/day refurbing pub; opened pub
Mar: Ran pub; found out I was pregnant
Apr: Ran pub, prepped for beer fest; felt rubbish
May: Ran pub, saw proto-baby for the 1st time, climbed a mountain with my Dad
Jun: Hols with W, Ran Pub, visited in-laws
Jul: Ran pub, 2nd Scan, publically acknowleged pregnancy
Aug: Ran pub; failed miserably to organise maternity cover but did lots of paperwork
Sept: Ran pub beer fest, hol with B, failed to reconcile difference with business partners
Oct: Ran pub, desparately rearranged staffing, agreed change in role of business partners
Nov: Took maternity leave, went home, had baby
Dec: fed baby, changed baby’s nappy, tried to sleep
Small was born almost exactly 9 months after we opened the pub (probably not a coincidence) and in the meantime I navigated the ups and downs of running a small business whilst also trying to find my footing in the new way our relationships with the each other and the world would work.
W, B & I did not smoothly negotiate the new patterns in my working life, new timetables and new fiscal entanglements; we also did not resolve issues surrounding our desires and responsibilities to the precious life we have been gifted with
W’s parents have not been wholly supportive and she had a breakdown in her mental health in the last months of my pregnancy. Similarly, the failure of our business partners to put the time and energy we expected from them into the pub, coupled with differences of perspective led to conflict and a lot of stress.
And despite the hertache I now have 2 impossible dreams growing in front of me…..
Now not to fail them
Like most people with ongoing depression issues I struggle with the holidays and find this whole time of year overwhelming.
Unlike several members of my intimate circle (friends and family) I like spending the christmas hols with my parents and siblings -our political differences are not so dramatic as to cause real hurt and we are quite good avoiding ‘issues’ where that seems to be required. Though they often don’t understand my choices we seem to have reached a happy détente and I feel no need to rock the boat so to speak.
Similarly, I am too far removed from office politics to give a shit about who I should kiss when or how I should frame our holiday schedules to make them make sense to monogamous folk.
And yet even having decided to not worry about whether people know about my intimate relationships or not, and whether or not that changes how I have to live my life – I am still stressed.
I am stressed not just because being open is not sufficient protection for the people I care about and they still have to deal with the judgements of others both on the basis of their decisions and mine – and yes some of our more poly sceptical friends our coming round to at least the “well I don’t approve but I can’t see anything obviously wrong with YOUR lives” view but its not quite making up for the “I’m not saying you can’t but you do know you are fucking up x’s life don’t you” camps… There are people I have known for years I just don’t know how to say to – “I get you care but back the fuck off because we are making this work by making our own rules and your constant whining/worrying is making it harder”… yes this makes it hard at this time of year when everyone is all about fucking hetero, mono family values but because actually its not as hard as just being expected to talk to people.
All the fucking parties. Organise this, make sure you have x,y,z together for when you see so-and-so…. leaving the house is a fucking struggle in spring when no one notices and you only have to get to the shops/see Mrs A./ go to your Dr.’s appt once a month or less but in december when everyone has a party and you need to do the shopping and getting a dr’s appt is a miracle, suddenly a week is a stack of unreasonable goals piled on almost impossible imaginary ideals.
And oh gods above they are all so cheery – if I believed what I heard at parties I’d know for sure that their relationships always got better and their jobs got more interesting
But that’s not what I feel as I curl up and battle back the tears before each time I venture outside, each time I wonder how to stop the shaking and hyperventilating to start a new conversation and everytime I want to apologise as someone starts to congratulate me on our new venture.
The desire to tear my skin apart is worse than it has been for nearly a year, my shoulder is hurting a lot again and I feel like a failure before we have even begun. Yay for self-fucking-confidence and all that shit.
One of the best things about working in the industry is that going for a weekend boozing counts as market research.
That is why last weekend B & I were able to justify spending 2 days in York and 1.5 in Bristol (Fri-Mon). We didn’t manage a week away just the two of us this year for various reasons but taking some time off in November is really good for him given just how stressful December tends to get and we really needed to curl up together a bit. Unfortunately it also turns out to be quite expensive to take a city break at this time of year.
Nonetheless we grabbed a train up to York on Friday morning and arrived at the York Tap in time for ‘lunch’. The plan was to hit a few pubs in the afternoon, check-in to the B&B, then head back out for dinner before doing some tourist things on the Saturday (with a few more pubs) and heading to Bristol first thing on Sunday to find a few more pubs that afternoon/evening, amble round on Monday morning and get back in time for me to have dinner and a cosy evening in with W.
In total we went to 13 different pubs and I estimate that between the two of us we drank 42 different beers… so though we were mainly drinking thirds and halves and didn’t ever really get drunk I definitely felt I earned this week’s dry day!
There follows a more detailed summary/review if you are interested:
So I finally managed it … something I wrote about Classics was published by someone other than me.