Not the best of weeks

I tell myself it’s like being California. Being relaxed sunny California hit by an earthquake. There’s little or no warning. The subterranean shift is catastrophic. There is shaking and destruction for an initial few hours; then a brief pause in which I hope it is over. There are the aftershocks that come in waves, but which slowly settle to mere wobbles. Eventually the rubble is still, help has arrived, and the wearying, depressing, hopeful rebuilding can begin.

Somehow an external metaphor helps.

Last week was a really good one. One of the best in my seven years post-breakdown. All was going well: work, relationships, energy levels, happiness, writing.

Then suddenly it wasn’t. Continue reading “Not the best of weeks”

A Normal Day at Work

Today I didn’t much want to go to work. (Nothing special, I know, bear with me here.) I was tired when my alarm went off, and though I told myself the sky was a glorious blue I didn’t much fancy entering into the day. I’m an introvert, and being in an open plan office wasn’t what I most desired. I’m trying to finish a novel and working today would get in the way.

Obviously, I got up and I went to work. This stuff is just normal, like I said. But, actually,  just normal is a luxury.

The last 5 years when I’ve been fighting to continue working I’ve wondered almost daily whether I was just being lazy, whether what I was experiencing was what everyone experienced when they fancied a day off and at home, when they were a bit unsure of themselves before a big meeting, when they had better things to do. Continue reading “A Normal Day at Work”

Checking In – A Marathon Fortnight

I have said this before: I thought I’d got through the hospital phase of my recovery, and then I discovered that wasn’t true.

It happened again.

A fortnight ago I allowed myself to get tired from working too many hours, under too much pressure, with too much travel, and then I followed that up with a weekend of activities which pressed a number of my PTSD buttons.

The following Monday I felt largely unaffected, and I was exultant. I knew I’d taken a risk. I thought I’d made it through. (My therapist thought so too. We celebrated.)

Too soon. Continue reading “Checking In – A Marathon Fortnight”

Reading books by women

My literary training was on the traditional canon. Donne, Herbert and Milton from the seventeenth century. No-one much from the eighteenth. Keats, Robert Browning, Thackeray, Carroll from the nineteenth. From the twentieth century, I chose Yeats, Joyce, (T. S.) Eliot, Forster and – post war – Hemingway, William Golding and Ted Hughes.

I read Jane Austen. I read George Eliot. I read Virginia Woolf. Even at Oxford in the late nineties they were clearly on the reading lists. But I read few women of any period apart from that.

In my early twenties, a boyfriend introduced me to A. S. Byatt. I binge-read all she’d written, hating the girly characters, at one with the spiky intellectuals. Then I reverted again to men.

But recently I’ve started to read more women. Continue reading “Reading books by women”

Not logical, but still real

I am a feminist. Not always the politically loudest of feminists, but a feminist nonetheless. If you take any notice of my posts and know what I do with my life, then that is probably obvious.

I also, for reasons that are somewhat opaque to me but presumably stem from what I experienced in my childhood and what I see around me, am convinced in my gut that women are less than men, that women are weak and just not as good.

Clinton obviously was not a perfect candidate, but had I woken this morning to the news that she had won, that dark horrible sense inside me that women are ‘not as good’ would have shrunk, as it did on the day that May became PM, for all that I disagree with her policies.

Instead, I woke, saw the news, and felt the old shame expand – that women are just not as good, that I am fighting an uphill battle to achieve what men achieve, that I should give up now and accept my lesser status.

I don’t want to have that shame inside me. I don’t believe in it intellectually. I hold fast to my feminist life. But the reality is that how I feel about myself is in part shaped by my experience of the world. And this election result in a far away country of which, it appears, I know little, has made me feel like a lesser person.

It’s not logical, but it is real.


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Continue reading “Not logical, but still real”

Ghouls of Misrule

There’s something very medieval about the resurgence of Halloween and the form in which it has come. When I was growing up it involved no adults, just children dressed up in sheets who went out alternately begging for sweets and throwing eggs. (My siblings and I did not go round knocking on people’s doors; it wasn’t a middle class thing to do.) It lasted one evening only, and in Yorkshire anyway was over by 9pm because of the cold.

At university I got into the history: I was an extravagantly religious undergraduate and All Hallows’ Eve before All Saints’ Day appeared on my liturgical radar. I read Religion and the Decline of Magic and also some ghost stories; I became interested in it as a focus of neo-paganism, a minority interest, as far as I knew. Continue reading “Ghouls of Misrule”

Cheerleading movies

Cheerleading movies? They have it all. Dance routines, gymnastics, untrammelled positivity. They have cheesy storylines, bitch fights, conversations in acronyms and Californian sunshine. The stars are girls who are fit and strong, who have leadership positions they are not embarrassed to lead from. They are brave and funny and they think of boys only after the team. And they have the swishiest, dishiest ponytails.

Sure, there’s a pattern. Each film starts with a nightmare, pitches into the daytime world of ‘practice’ and friendships and sisters. Each lead is a squad captain on track for All Star triumph when she is forced to change schools or her squad gets injured en masse, or when she is placed in the most basic form of moral dilemma; be a jerk or fight for the team.

Continue reading “Cheerleading movies”

On being sporty. I’m not, if you were wondering.

We started lined up against the wall, firing squad-style. Usually I watched my feet; then I gazed into the middle distance. I pretended to be interested in what was coming past in the road. (Once there was a lorry that burst a tyre on the bend.) There was always, you see, an element of hope; a hope that maybe this time it would be different. So I waited, while pretending not to care. But it always was the same and always shame rose in its familiar flood. It didn’t even take that long.

Do kids still pick their sports teams like that? Do the captains still take turns at choosing, still make no attempt to hide their disgust at being forced to take a share of the dregs? Is that still how it works?

Continue reading “On being sporty. I’m not, if you were wondering.”

How personal is too personal?

My most recent blog on this page was my most popular yet by a factor of four. The words went far beyond my usual networks and they went there fast.

The blog worked because it was honest, because it was personal, and because I am not alone in thinking what it said.

So there was a payback to my honesty, not just in reach but in connection. But I was still left with the unease that maybe I had been too personal, maybe I had revealed more than I was comfortable having out in a public space.

So how much is too much? Continue reading “How personal is too personal?”

Slim Hope of Perfection

In the year before I broke down I was thinner than I am now. Noticeably so, as far as I am concerned. I have clothes from that period that I don’t throw away. They hold in my mind all that I remember as good. I was thin (people commented on it). I was carefree, professionally successful, and impressing people with my achievements.

I was also suicidal, but denied that even to myself. I would joke that I’d wanted to walk under a bus to avoid having to go to work. I never noticed that that being true was a problem. I flipped between personality states: the depressed, crying myself to sleep every night, and the party animal, drinking champagne out of the bottle on the dance floor long after midnight and being first into work the next day. Continue reading “Slim Hope of Perfection”