Not forgotten

I know I haven’t posted here in an age… It’s not that I haven’t had plenty of draft posts racing through my mind; I just haven’t had time, inspiration, motivation and computer access concurrently.

So, what’s got me ranting at the moment? TTIP (which I don’t really understand, but part of that is because no one’s talking about it and it’s been snuck in by MPs without the people they’re meant to work for having it explained and that doesn’t seem right). Jeremy Clarkson – in the sense that everyone’s talking about him when there’s bigger fish to fry. He doesn’t matter (don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that bad role model is off the air, but he really doesn’t matter). Some family stuff I may share in a year or two when the dust has settled and with the consent of those involved (or at least, those related to me and involved). The need for more instersectional feminism.

What’s keeping me occupied? Busy new job and busy new life. Stories. Knitting. Musings on death and bereavement (it’s already a year since my great-aunt died; more like 2 since my brother-in-law). More stories. My other blog. OU. Aerial. Cat. Family. Friends.

Have you been up to anything interesting?



Job Satisfaction Matters.

My job is a waste of my time.

I’ve spent most of today being very aware that if I wasn’t at work, it wouldn’t have made that much difference to the workloads of my co-workers and I would have been able to get a lot done. I’m working on learning SQL as well as beginning my OU course and I want to spend time writin and all of this would be much easier if I didn’t have to go to a job where I don’t achieve anything and get no satisfaction.

If I was in a job that provided me with a challenge or a job where I felt like I was making a difference, this would be different but all I’m doing at the moment is wasting my time.

We’re advertising for a job in the office at the moment. The CV’s that have come in and been good enough to attract interest have belonged to people who, on learning what the job actually entails and how mundane it is, decline interest. My co-workers don’t understand this: why would you not be interested? they ask. They don’t understand that these are people in the lovely position of not desperately needing a job – any job – so can pick and choose to ensure they get the job that works for them. Better in the long run for us as well as them: if they don’t want to be there, it will reverberate through the office. My colleagues, though, are happy in their positions (and there is nothing wrong with that: it’s a good thing that they have that) so can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t be.

Everytime I apply for another job they come back and say “Sorry, no. But we’ll keep your CV on file in case an admin position comes up.” But the reason I’m applying for these jobs is that I’m desperate to get out of admin! I suppose I should be pleased they’re looking that closely at my CV, but it’s frustrating and makes me feel like I’ll never escape.

Oh well. Keep trying. Keep applying. And keep trying to keep energy for after work so I can do some of the things I actually want to do.

Wish me luck!

Yay for UK, Boo to Westminster

“English Votes on English Matters.”


It’s taken me a while to work out my visceral response to this – a vehement “NO” despite my Englishness – but I think I have it.

It’s to do with privilege.

I’m pleased Scotland voted against independence. I’m very much in favour of fewer borders, not more and keenly identify as British over English. That said, I very strongly understand where the desire for independence has come from: London is far removed from Scotland and London’s problems are not Scotland’s problems (let’s lay aside for now that the problems the current Government are trying to resolved are far removed from most British people – including Londoners – are experiencing. That’s a wealth-based privilege, enhanced by class, race and gender). I think it is a good thing that Scotland is getting more power to deal with Scottish problems and I hope likewise a similar expansion of power is extended to Wales and Northern Ireland.

So why do I not feel England should have this? In many ways, we already have the power: decisions are predominantly made by English MP’s and in England. In this scenario, we are the privileged group and should be prepared to give a little power away to give voice to those with less privilege.

I’m not wording this as well as I’d like. I know less about politics than I’d like. But I hope you can see what I’m trying to say here: that “English Votes on English Matters” will lead to a greater feeling of isolation by the other nations of the UK and ultimately benefit no one.

Fear the Reaper

I keep building blog posts in my head and then not wanting to share them because they’re angsty or angry or otherwise not the face I want to show here.

I’m keeping another blog of my geeky habits (over here, if you’re interested). I want to keep the grittier side of ‘real life’ away from that, so this is where that will end up. It means I’ll mostly be posting here when there’s a problem I’m trying to work through or when I’ve done a bit of writing I’m pleased with on a subject that doesn’t suit the more up-beat environment of Ballgowns and Battleskirts.

My last post here was about surviving depression. I’ve had a few wobbles since, one significant, but mostly I’ve been ok. Lots of self-injury urges, but I think a lot of that stems from being very bored in my job at the moment. Anxiety levels are high – again, frustration at the stagnation of my job. Panic attacks at night…

After Mum died, I suffered panic attacks pretty much nightly. Ice-cold blood, beating heart, wild eyes, a second or two feeling like years. I used to scream for my Dad until the night he didn’t come and I went to find him and nearly walked in on him and my step-mum… So the screaming stopped, but the attacks continued. That knowledge of my own mortality. That one day I would be dead.

Eventually, they became less frequent. Sharing a bed with Husbit helped and after a time, they stopped.

And then his brother died last year and it all came flooding back.

It’s back down to about one in three nights. I’m lying to myself, pretending I’m the exception – I’m the PoV character, so I’m unstoppable. Immortal. Well, I have to survive, because it is through my observation the world – the universe – exists… I know it’s not true, but I have to tell myself this to keep myself coping for now. I’ve given myself this mechanism because I understand most people up to my age are supposed to believe they’re immortal. So I’m lying. And it seems to be working.

This is a long way from where I started when I went to update. But it’s been heavy on my mind for a while now and it seems I needed to get it off my chest more than I realised.

Climbing Up

This is an account of some of my experiences with depression. As such, it discusses self-injury and other things that can be disconcerting. If you are not in a place where you can handle that, please don’t read on. 

I was formally diagnosed with depression when I was 16 or 17. It was a bit of a let-down. As a diagnosis, it felt incomplete; like telling someone with asthma their problem was that they had trouble breathing. Depression felt like the symptom, not the disease. 

Over the years, I realised that depression has more than one meaning: depression is a symptom of Depression, and Depression was what I suffered. 

I don’t remember when I first started to suffer from depression. I have never been a good sleeper – even as a young child, even before my Mum died, I struggled to sleep properly. And after my Mum died when I was only 5, I started having panic attacks in the middle of the night because I knew one day I would be dead too and that terrified me. Terrifies me.

I remember the first time something happened that could have led to a diagnosis, but I was such a good girl it got hushed up so as not to tarnish my record. I was 12 and my English teacher was my little sister’s form tutor. I can’t remember her name, but she seemed a very kind person and a good teacher. We studied Pygmalion and A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream (or at least the Rude Mechanicals therein) with her.

One day, I had a perverse, destructive bug within me. Uncontrollable, like a possession. I remember a detached feeling as I scraped the wooden desk with my scissors spread-eagled to gouge parallel lines across the desk’s surface. My goodie-two-shoes, teacher’s pet friends laughed nervously at this strange behaviour. They didn’t know how to react. I didn’t.

The next lesson, the teacher made an announcement about the vandalism. It had to be this class because the desk was fine before and her form pupil whose desk it was was very upset. I approached her at the end of the lesson and admitted, shakily, guiltily, that it was me. I was internally surprised she didn’t know; I always sat in that spot, so who else could it have been? But she was surprised. It was not the sort of behaviour anyone would have expected from me. We agreed I would come back at lunchtime and sand out the gouges and it would be our little secret. Agent Echo happened to spot me in there, though, and joined us. I didn’t mind, which I think surprised the teacher, and Echo helped me restore the desk. I think it helped bond us: I don’t think anyone would have been so surprised if it was she who had done the damage.

I am grateful my punishment was lenient. I felt guilty enough about what had been done – I would say what I had done, except it didn’t feel like I was in control doing it. The punishment felt good, gently physical and redemptive: as I scrubbed away the marks, I scrubbed away the transgression. I am grateful my punishment was lenient because if it hadn’t been I think I would have been more likely to reoffend.

I was relieved nothing more would be said about it, but now I wonder whether, if it had been flagged, maybe my distress would have been noticed sooner.

I remember the first time I went upwards. I don’t remember how old I was, maybe 15. I was walking home with Hannah & Becky (who, as I recall, had been present for the desk scratching incident) when I suddenly went light-headed and giggly. I could only think I must have walked through some freak chaos-theory pocket of high alcohol content air: I felt very drunk. I don’t remember how long it lasted, but over the years I became more used to the feeling. I don’t think it was ever true hypomania – it never lasted more than maybe a couple of days and I could usually bring it under control. It was a lot more than just happiness, though.

I don’t remember the first time I hurt myself, but I do remember the first time I seriously thought about it. I’d had a paddy over something and to help me calm down Dad let me eat my dinner in the study by the open fire. I remember sitting there, toying the fork in the flames and wondering what it would feel like when the metal touched my skin. I refrained, but I think I knew one day I would give in.

I used to heat metal and flick it against my skin. I moved on to cutting. Both have left scars, but the cuts are more noticeable. I think most people who see them don’t realise what they are but some are simply too polite to say anything.

My sixth form head of year called me in to his office. He’d had reports that I was depressed, that there was a problem with me. He’d kept an eye on me and not seen anything and that made him nervous – I reminded him of another pupil he’d had in another school and he hadn’t taken the warnings seriously. He didn’t enlighten me further. I’ve often wondered about the other pupil.

He told me he would ask me two questions and I could choose not to answer. 1) Was I starving myself or making myself throw up? I shook my head, vehemently denying the charge – I was a very skinny child and young adult and the question always bothered me. 2) Was I hurting myself? I chose not to answer and he extracted a promise from me that I would take care to always keep wounds clean and if I ever needed to I would go to the hospital. I am grateful to him for taking me seriously so calmly and so non-judgementally. He put my name to the top of the school counselling list.

I’ve seen a few counsellors over the years. The one I saw at school was my favourite. My least favourite was the psychiatrist who was so insistent I’d been sexually abused that I nearly made a story up. I went back to the school counsellor after that disaster and she explained there was only one paper on self-injury and it claimed all self-injurers had been sexually abused, but in her experience very few had been.

Admitting to her that I hurt myself meant I had to tell my Dad. It’s one of only two things I would rather have kept secret.

The first anti-depressant I went on was Effexor/Venlafaxine. The only time I have tried to kill myself was when I was on Venlafaxine. It was an insincere attempt. The GP was reluctant to take me off because I was so clearly depressed but I knew it was making me worse so took all the remaining tablets (possibly it had been a mistake to tell a self-injurer that overdosing on the drug would make you very ill but not kill you) and all the painkillers I could lay my hands on. I then panicked and wrote down what I had taken just in case and had one of the few good night’s sleep I’d had prior to moving in with Husbit. I wasn’t ill until a few weeks later when all the side effects I’d gone through at the start returned.

I had a course of CBT once. When the six weeks ended, I was told that was it but then I got a questionnaire asking why I’d chosen to leave counselling. I didn’t particularly like CBT but would have stayed if they’d let me.

I am lucky to have friends with thick skins and forgiving, loving spirits. I would be very alone if I didn’t.

I remember phoning Husbit one night when he was round a friend’s. I needed him to come home to me but I wasn’t able to say and when he came home later I was crying and had plasters on my arm and he wrapped himself around me – arms, legs and soul – and rocked me and told me he needed me. There is powerful magic in being needed.

I was 27 the first time I felt like an adult.

I remember one doctor or counsellor or some such trying to tell me that my mood swings were normal – everyone had mood swings. I went quiet. I was sure my mood swings were more than that – that the depth and strength of feeling was more than what was normal. That the numbness was not normal. I didn’t have the self-confidence to argue. I began to doubt myself.

A few months ago, I realised I had not felt depressed for a while, and even then only for a couple of days. I kept a careful eye on my moods, analysed and watched. This normally is a good way to trigger a downward spiral, because I become alert to the worst. This time it didn’t.

I think I realised I wasn’t Depressed any more the day I could have that thought without worrying that not being Depressed meant I wasn’t special or important.

Now that I am not Depressed I can see how bad it was. Whatever that medical professional may I thought, I was suffering and I survived and I am damn lucky to have done so.

I wear red to funerals.

My Great Aunt Lorna died recently. She was an amazing woman – a real inspiration. It was partly her (and partly channelling Agent Echo) that gave me the strength to jump, to make the decision to change the course of my career. I’d thought I was too old, but reading her life story and speaking to her last summer I realised it’s never too late to make a change like that. I’m excited about my future again and it’s down to her.

Lorna was still so sharp last summer – frail and nearly blind but still more mentally agile than many people my age. It was a real pleasure to see her and I’m very grateful I had that opportunity – I hadn’t otherwise seen her since I was too young to remember. She fell ill a couple of weeks before she died and faded surrounded by people who loved her. After an amazing life, is there anything more you can ask for?

I feel so lucky to have had her in my life and in my family.

It was her funeral today. She was quietly Catholic and this was the first catholic funeral I have been to*.The choral music was something she had requested, and it was beautiful but I have to say the funeral itself felt more like we were standing before a judge trying to justify her route to heaven with our own faith (and many, maybe most, of the people there not being catholic or even christian this seemed an awkward task). It seems odd – if there is a loving God, as my Great Aunt believed, I don’t think they would require our begging, I think Lorna’s life would be enough to sequre her passage, but I’m not catholic so maybe I was misunderstanding the ceremony. There will be a proper memorial later in the year to truly celebrate her and her achievements, one that her friends internationally can attend, and I think that is the sort of event closer to what I am used to in a funeral.

I like to wear red to funerals. Not lots of red, just something. It started at the second funeral I went to, my Grandada’s. I wasn’t sure what to wear, not owning sufficient black, and someone – I remember it as my Dad, but I’m not sure – suggested I wore a red kilt-skirt I owned. Black may be the colour of death, I believe the logic went, but life is red and funerals should celebrate the life as well as the loss. For me, it has become also a reminder that life continues for the rest of us – that life is vital and wonderful and death is just a part of that.

Normally, death terrifies me but something about Lorna’s feels ok. She lived absolutely; lived and died with love.



*Talking to my Aunt’s husband, an ex-soldier twice my age, he and I have been to the same number of funerals. That was a weird thing to discover. Is 6 a lot when you’re less than 30?

The Cat With No Name

TCWNN is not normally particularly photogenic – she isn’t particularly agreeable to staying still and her dark colouring can make it hard to show off the beauty she has in the flesh, but she was obviously feeling patient the day I took this – there were several photos and most of them didn’t suck!