I am not a fan of adrenaline. The idea of anything from a roller coaster to swings in the park makes me feel sick. (Always assuming I can fit my hips into a swing in the first place!) I think since having labyrinthitis (which wasn’t labyrinthitis), dizziness will forever be connected with illness, not joy.
I’ve taken on some paid work. Of course a huge yay for this. Being able to pay my mobile phone bill is a Very Good Thing. Maybe I’m out of practice, but the whole ‘talking/communicating with people’ has become another thrilling ride. Which is to say, an unpleasant adrenaline rush.
I can have all the conversations, and usually I’m fine. I will do my work, and I excel in what I do. But because mental health, sometimes I come away shivery, over-stimulated, sloshing with adrenaline.
In between the published works –
the novel that did OK
a story in that collection put together by MA students,
a poem here, a poem there
the joy of a short-listing
the folder of ‘no longer on submission’ scribblings
there is the ‘other’ stuff.
I couldn’t fit it all into the bookshelf:
hours spent tinkering with broken friends, instead of broken sentences;
days spent with Netflix, instead of cutting, instead of copy-pasting;
weeks spent holding the cat, instead of the pen
piggy-bank empty and smashed. All spent.
Tears leaking from the hot water tank
shredded text messages used for mouse nests
reams of progress stacked, dormant
still in their polythene. Sterile blank pages.
Where is all the work I could have done
if other people had been
kind? accepting? loyal?
had trusted my life had to be lived this way?
Someone suggests an update to some legislation. It’s kind of controversial, from some angles, so they do a consultation. Over 70% of people respond and say ‘yep, sounds good.’
They decide not to update the legislation.
And if it was just this, I would be fine. I mean, it’s paperwork. It’s disappointing, it’s not surprising.
But it’s not only this. It’s the 18 month wait for your kid to be seen by someone who knows less about gender than you do. It’s the four emails a week to school because people are deliberately misgendering your child and then claiming they are entitled to their opinion that there are only two genders. It’s the memories of the times you couldn’t walk down the streets of your own village. It’s watching your child become more and more withdrawn. It’s news like this.
Would it work to introduce my trauma as a character in this blog?
Well, I don’t have to do it twice…
Let’s call them Mx T. You know I’m going to give them they/them pronouns and title, right?
Mx T moved house with us in July. I was worried they wouldn’t fit in anywhere, but the removals firm sent an extra lorry and winched Mx T on.
We tried to leave them in the driveway, but…
I kept moving them from room to room and because they are so heavy I was exhausted. Those first days, I kept having to go to bed. Mr HB was a hero: he sorted the kids out and did everything that required a screwdriver or a practical brain, while I lay in bed as it pitched and rolled. Balanced above Mx T, stuffed underneath.
It’s weird, I only spent just over a year in full-time academia, and yet September is still my ‘new beginnings’ month.
January is just lentils and baked beans and NO FUN until pay day, am I right?
This year is even more special because since the beginning of the summer we’ve moved house, and both kids are at new schools.
And I’d love to tell you I’m turning over a new leaf – that all the rest of the ‘stuff’ is in the past – that I’m going to stay well and, um, whine less.
But everyone knows you can’t run away from yourself.
What I now like to refer to as ‘my trauma’ has come with me, and is enjoying the new house just as much as I am. We are working together, and hoping to feel better soon.
As the parent of a non-binary child, I find myself often – too often – in the position of ‘calling out’ certain behaviour online.
I used to enjoy grammar policing until someone accused me, correctly, of snobbery. I spend a lot of time trying to remember how to respond when Mr HB says, ‘Stella, that’s racist.’ (Top tip: defensiveness is not how we learn. Top tip 2: we are all racist, whether we care to admit to it or not.)
I don’t relish calling out a person for pronoun use, or transphobia, or just a not-thinking of making an online comment that is damaging/othering/offensive to the community that parent the LGBTQ community. Maybe it looks like I enjoy it.
I can assure you: I write the comment.
I worry about it.
I brace myself.
But not saying anything at all? Not an option.
A cactus can be a type of person.
Soft on the outside, spikes on the outside.
I didn’t used to be a cactus. But, y’know, life happened.
I used to push it all inside, instead of allowing my feelings. It was like filling myself up with poison, breaking from the inside out.
So if you tell me I’m not being kind or patient, I might not listen.
And I’m sorry about that.
I had an incident with one of my plants the other day and I know it stings.
I suppose, if I’m arguing with you, it’s evidence that I care enough about you to try, as a wise friend of mine clarified recently.
Because if I think you don’t care enough to recognise my spikes act as protection,
I will walk away,
in case you poison my soft parts.
Given I’m one of the ?lucky few parents that stays home, I’ve always considered myself a ‘quantity’ parent. My thinking is: I am available at all times, so I only need to make myself semi-available. I’m also ‘allowed’ to tell them to go away with monotonous regularity.
But we are in this new weird world now and I’m even more aware of the mental wellbeing of my kids than usual. Have you seen that thing on Facebook about protecting them from trauma, not homeschooling them to within an inch of their lives?
So, I’m trying. Yes, I’ve ignored a child because I’m writing this, but I’m writing this in the same room as another child, so they can have company. I left a Zoom party yesterday because one of them was having a meltdown. Perhaps I can quality parent, too.
I spent a bit of time thinking about what to write today. And I still don’t know what to say.
But it seemed important to say something.
It’s a bit weird for me, because although I don’t usually stop seeing everyone or have my kids at home full-time, in many ways I’ve lived a tinylife for a while now. My thoughts are with those who live with less privilege than I do.
Also, I find the world much easier to understand when no one is expected to show up, be unstressed, suffer in silence, or operate in ‘normal’ human ways. So I’m feeling remarkably well in my mental health. My anxiety isn’t based in reality.
I hope you are all OK out there. If anyone wants to get in touch, my Twitter DMs are open, or you can comment below.
Because we are moving house soon, I want to take this opportunity to write a love letter to my GP.
No, not that kind of love letter.
I am still very much married to Mr HB, thank you.
My GP is amazing. We have navigated some tricky times together – always together, he doesn’t tell me what to do – with my family’s care. He knew *zero* about trans kids but is 100% supportive.
I suffer from migraines (or bad headaches, if yours are worse than mine) , and recently I over-medicated with the one medicine that used to work. We found an alternative.
And he is always there to help with my very poor mental health, my all new asthma, my dodgy hip, the list goes on and on…
The guy is a hero. Just wanted to go on record with that.