Category Archives: Journal

Boaty McBoatface: Harmless fun or shameful sign of the times?

I wanted to share this article I found earlier today on Vice and really identified with, The Boaty McBoatface vote makes me ashamed to be British. I’m going through a Luddite phase myself at the moment, the constant connection to the rest of the world is infuriating to me right now, so the writer got me on side before he’d even made the point that society should be ashamed of how, in a vote to name a £200million research ship setting sail in the Antarctic in 2019, Boaty McBoatface came out on top. Second place went to Henry Worsely, after the explorer who died in January this year attempting a solo crossing of the Arctic. After learning of this I felt an overwhelming urge to contact the scientists and researchers that will be sailing on Boaty McBoatface and offer them my sincerest apologies on behalf of the world I live in. I restrained myself, but only because I decided I’d be too embarrassed to identify myself in any sense with that stupid name! I can’t bring myself to comment on this further, the article says it all much better than I could, but this has just confirmed to me that the world my children are growing up in is a ridiculous place, all too full of the stupid and the evil.

The pot

My ankle is broken. Not the bone, the ligament. I have to say, the pain of walking on it for the past few weeks wasn’t anywhere near as annoying as this pot has been since last night!

It’s not even a good pot. When I was a kid, part of me was always a little bit jealous if anybody at school was lucky enough to break a limb and came to school with a cast that we could all draw on. It looked like fun.

I’m not having fun. My cast is ugly. It’s soft on top, so no writing on it, and it’s wrapped in bandages that are already grubby looking, and it is very difficult to get around with because it is so heavy.

I’m looking for the positives. While I can’t get out and about I’ll have more time to catch up on my homework, my cleaning, my writing. I’ll be able to spend more time playing with my pet rats. I’ll have lots of time for research. So it’s not all bad.

But if I’m totally honest about, aside from the annoyance of one leg being 3 stone heavier than the other, this has scared the crap out of me. Because it feels to me like this is just the beginning. I know when my ankle first went it was due to my having hypermobility. I felt it go. My condition means that the muscle and tissue surrounding my joints is overly flexible so there’s no stability in any of my joints. They click and pop constantly. It feels like the top of my legs are very precariously balanced on the bottom half and could slip off at any minute. When I was younger it was thought I was just “double jointed” and I had quite a lot of fun with that. Being able to bend my fingers in weird ways always got a good reaction but it was being able to cross my ankles behind my head that was my party trick.

It’s not fun anymore. It’s getting more and more painful. Nobody seems to understand why it’s so painful because it isn’t meant to be, apparently lots of people have the condition with no problems at all, but I feel slightly vindicated as one of my sisters also has it and struggles a lot with her hips. I often feel like people think I’m exaggerating. So I tend to only mention to people I’m close to, when it’s really bad, but the fact is I am constantly in pain, every time I move causes pain somewhere because, of course, the human body has a lot of jointed limbs, and dealing with constant pain, pain that never goes away completely and burns you with hot pokers every time you move, is the most exhausting thing I have ever known. And I had 3 children under 4, I know exhaustion! Two years ago I was the fittest I’ve ever been. I worked out for an hour every morning, I took the dog out speed walking, I walked into town and back twice a week and the 6 miles over to mum’s twice a week. Which just makes this more devastating. My legs are worst affected, my hips have always been bad and are still definitely the most painful, closely followed by my knees and shoulders, in winter my hands are really bad, and my ankles of course, but I can also feel my wrists and elbows getting in on the act. It’s been steadily getting worse for the past year or so, and I feel like I’ve physically aged 10 years in the past 2.

But now, with this new development, my ankle joint giving way to the point that the ligament snapped, I am terrified. I’ve completely overreacted to the “housebound” thing in the last 12 hours, when usually I’d be grateful to have an excuse to be lazy, because I’m scared. I took a few steps with the crutches the hospital gave me and my left hip, which is the bad one although I suppose we now have to call that my “good” leg since the other is in a pot, couldn’t take the strain of my whole body weight. So, even assuming that the fracture clinic put me a proper pot on tomorrow that I can put weight on to try and get about, how am I then supposed to walk with the crutches when my hip can’t take it?

What if my knee goes next, the right one that’s really bad? Will I need a whole leg cast? Maybe they can just put my whole lower body in plaster to be on the safe side??

I have a year clean from drugs. I’m training and studying all the time to improve my knowledge and skills so that I keep moving forwards in my life and try to make up for the stagnancy of my 20s. I have responsibilities, job prospects, I have a whole fucking life that I want to be out living!

I have this fear that I’ll be in a wheelchair before I’m 40. I know people live good, full lives from their wheelchairs and I’m sure I could too, it’s just not something I’ve ever had to contemplate before and it’s really scary.

I’m trying not to think about it because, right now at least, it’s only a product of my imagination and not something I’ve been told I have reason to worry about. But I do. How will I play with the kids? They love to go to the park, the library, anywhere! What about when they have kids? How will I be able to get down on the floor to play with my grandbabies?

I have wondered if this is my karma, or if it’s a product of how I have lived and the stress I have put my body under over the years. Is it my genes? That seems most likely, but then nobody else in the family seems to be as badly affected as I am. Or maybe it’s just sheer bad luck. Whatever, I’m going to have to find a way through it, one way or another, because I have no intention of going back to daytime tv!

Recovery; Relearning to be sober

I just found this article on The Real Edition by Norcross about yet another “study” condemning Alcoholics Anonymous as a cult.

https://therealedition.com/sorry-that-aa-study-is-wrong/:

Now I do want to make one thing clear: AA is by no means the only way to get sober, or even the best. There is no “best” way. The best way to get sober is how you got sober. That’s for me, for you, for anyone who is giving it an honest try. Kicking booze and drugs is easily the hardest thing I’ve ever done, which includes having to re-learn how to walk at the age of 20 due to a major leg surgery.

I really enjoyed this article, and completely agree with the above statement. I could never get into AA/NA personally, I love the fellowship side of it but the rest just isn’t for me. As I’ve mentioned before, it is SMART Recovery that has saved my life. I suppose actually working the SMART tools is very similar to working the 12 steps, though. It works if you work it, and all that. And that, surely, is the point.

Whatever works for you, work it for all you’re worth, because you are definitely worth more than the alternative.

Nobody should be criticising anybody else’s chosen path to recovery. I am a firm believer that anybody in recovery should be researching all the options available to them and taking from it what is right for them, and them alone, because recovery is such a very personal journey. We all have to figure out our own way through it. Getting together with others in recovery and learning from their experiences has been hugely beneficial for me in the last few years. I hope others are able to learn from my experiences. That’s what fellowship is all about. Nobody else will ever understand like someone who is doing it themselves. But there are no hard and fast rules. So just because I don’t get on with NA, I would never discourage anybody else from attending. That isn’t my place. I have no right. Take what works for you and work it!

If it saves your life then grab it with both hands and do whatever you have to in order to keep a tight grip on it.

Embrace your hunger for creativity: Slip inside my mind for 5 – by Antony Stevenson

You should read “Slip inside my mind for 5” on Wattpad. http://w.tt/1JBtAlL

My boyfriend wrote this today and just reminded me why I love him so much. I had to share and I hope you’ll read it cos it’s funny and honest and brilliant….wpid-wp-1441204288294.jpeg

I really hope someone, even just one person, gets some motivation from this to make the positive changes that will lead them to a fulfilling life. That’s what I strive for every day, at least. I think that natural creativity inside of some people can be a precursor to the addiction issues my boyfriend talks about here, maybe it’s an added sensitivity to our surroundings or maybe we feel too deeply, but if that urge to create isn’t fulfilled then it causes a hole deep within our soul, and eventually that hole can become an open wound. Some of the most intelligent and naturally talented people I have ever met have been addicts. I really believe that if we don’t fill that hole with positive, constructive hobbies then that can lead us to try and fill it with substances or other destructive behaviours; always seeking an external remedy for an internal, spiritual deficiency.

I don’t have any evidence to back up this theory, it’s just something I feel strongly based on my own experiences over the last 10 years, but I’m not alone in coming to this conclusion. I assume that it was a similar train of thought that led my mentor, Gary Staniforth, CEO of The Hidden Homeless and SMART Recovery UK facilitator, to create The Hidden Voices magazine and fill it with inspirational stories, pictures, poems, art of every kind, of people dealing with accommodation or addiction issues, allowing those who feel that they have been forgotten by society the chance to contribute in a meaningful way to something that really matters; shedding light on often misunderstood problems and bringing into focus the humanity behind the derogatory headlines, while also giving an outlet to people who have that drive to create.

Maybe everybody should be creating in some way. Perhaps I’m wrong in thinking that it is only ‘some’ people who have this artistic drive. Perhaps society in general has become so used to buying things cheaply, living in a consumer driven world where everything seems to be disposable, that we all suffer to some degree with feeling that nothing we do can make a difference. Maybe with so much emphasis on money and earning, with so many struggling just to survive, we don’t find the time to express what is inside us, we don’t place enough value on what we can create with our own hands beginning with just an idea and bringing it to fruition driven only by a need inside of us that demands to be met.

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So maybe I am over excited about my boyfriend finally connecting with his creativity again, it certainly isn’t the deepest, most insightful piece he’s ever written, but I know that those words needed to be let out, I know the talent that comes so naturally to him needs to be used, it was given to him for a reason and if he doesn’t use it then he will never be fulfilled. I value any expression of the inner self that is created by anybody just because they needed to get it out. So yes, it means a lot to me to be able to share this with you all. It is the sign I have been desperately waiting for that I have the man I love back with me, that he isn’t going to disappear again if I take my eyes off him, that there is hope.wpid-wp-1439233920356.jpeg

Thank F*ck. I’m Finally Over You. | elephant journal

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2015/08/thank-fck-im-finally-over-you/

Just found this article by Alex Myles on Elephant Journal and I identified with it on such a visceral level that I had to share it here.
The way she articulates clinging to the pain of a break up, the grieving for what could, should, have been is so familiar to me right now, as is the fear of letting go of that anguish.
How do you let go of something that you still desperately want, someone that you yearn for every night as you go to bed alone. Knowing you can’t have something doesn’t stop you from needing it. Knowing something will destroy you can’t stop you from loving it.

I cried out your name. I screamed so loud but no sound came out.

No one heard and no one came to the rescue.

So, I danced alone with our death.

I stepped in time with a shadow. Of a love I once knew.

I didn’t know what was there at the end of our line. I was terrified to let go of the comfort that holding our memories gave.

Then it hit me harder. The loss. Not just the loss of you, the loss of us, of what we could have been. And of all the “if only” thoughts that tangle and then knot my mind.

I had to stand up and open my eyes.

I’ve carried this weight. I’ve taken you with me, all because I couldn’t let go. I wouldn’t.

I risked all for this love. I let you in. I sealed all the edges. I locked you in tight.

Now I’m letting it out. I’m letting you go.
Alex Miles

So I get it, and I hope to reach the place she has really soon, cos I often feel I am losing my mind, but in some ways, I don’t want to move on, I don’t want to get over the last seven years of my life that I gave up so much to have. I don’t want to be rid of the future I dreamed for us, the things I knew we would have, and soon, we were so close to finally getting to where we’d wanted to be for so long. I can still see that future we were supposed to have and I don’t want to give up on it. I want it. That’s how my life should look.
I’m getting there on my own, I’m still working hard and achieving everything I wanted, but on a personal level I am falling apart, because it isn’t supposed to be like this. I’m meant to be sharing it all with the person I first imagined it with.

Read Alex Myles’ article, Thank F*ck I’m Finally Over You, here, and I’ve just found her blog, Love and Other Stuff, that I can’t wait to have a proper read of as there looks to be some great poetry on there.

How I love that guitar!

I love watching the tuning of the guitar; watching the string vibrate at just the right tempo to get the line on the screen going dead centre, straight down the middle as the perfect note is strummed.
I love the segue between one song and the next; blended so seamlessly that it becomes the natural progression of the music, just the way it is supposed to be.
I love that good music is always just right; no matter what may occur in the world around me, the high notes and the low will always fall in just the right places in order to create the songs that move me.
I love to watch music being made, right in front of me.

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The best decision that I’ve ever made

In life coaching on Friday,  where i go weekly with the Hidden Homeless in Bradford, Nina asked everybody to consider writing a testimonial or something for the magazine,  Hidden Voices. A lot of the group wrote something there and then, but I couldn’t think of something that I hadn’t said before or already written in an evaluation sheet, so I said I’d have a think about it and write something later.wpid-wp-1437683979599.jpeg
I had a few ideas about what to write. I was going to write about the change in my life thanks to Gary (founder of Hidden Homeless)and Nina (amazing life coach) so I got out my notebook and made a list of the ten most obvious ways in which my life is different. Most were quite obvious, simple differences: I’ve started making a conscious effort to focus on the positives in my life, remembering to be thankful for my blessings rather than resentful of what I feel is missing from my life; I’ve developed love for who I am as a person, the me that is doing my best right now to be a person I can like, rather than focusing on the mistakes I’ve made in the past and the pain and embarrassment I’ve caused to my loved ones. Number 4 on my list was “I have gained the confidence in myself to make difficult choices.”

Today’s been quite a stressful day, and I’ve been so glad of a few tearful phone calls and IM chats with the amazing friends I’ve made in the last 6 months, my support network, which brought me to the conclusion that I have been quite a selfish friend recently because I’ve started slipping into old behaviours without realising it. I’ve been so focused on trying to drag somebody else through their dark times so that I don’t have to watch them self destruct or end up diving in after them, basically trying to control a situation that I can’t be responsible for in an effort to ensure that I didn’t throw myself into the abyss, and I didn’t realise I was doing a subtle, slow slide down into that despair filled pit without looking around and seeing where I was. I wasn’t paying attention. And I wasn’t any good to anybody because of it. I haven’t been there for friends who could’ve done with the support and I wasn’t helping the person I was holding onto so tightly.wpid-wp-1437683979620.jpeg
So I had another reminder that I have to take care of myself in order to be a good support to anybody else, and I’m glad I got it now rather than 6 months down the line.

Every week Nina gives us a small task to take home and reflect on. I maybe don’t put as much effort in as I did the first time I attended the course, just because I think more positively in general now after attending life coaching for 3 consecutive courses, and don’t often feel the need to really sit down and use my ‘homework’ quite so desperately as I once did. That frame of mind comes easier now, it’s a habit to analyse my thought rather than leading with my feelings. I couldn’t even remember what I had written down in the back of my notebook last week but today I felt like I really needed a a large dose of Nina’s ever – insightful, logical positivity!
As soon as I read my notes I knew instantly that this would work as a journal entry for my blog as it would be a good way to reflect on my emotional growth and I usually find writing therapeutic, and it would also be a good testimonial for the hidden homeless as without Gary and Nina I would never have learned the skills to separate my thoughts and my feelings and reflect objectively on my behaviour, or to stop beating myself up for the things I can’t change.

The task that I brought home after last Friday’s session was to think about a decision I have made in my life that just felt right; where I have been my true, authentic self and made a choice for my life that took courage, belief, and determination.

It was obvious to me which decision I needed to reflect on.

A few months ago, my partner and I finally got offered a new flat. It was a bit smaller than we were already in, but it was off the council estate that we have bought and used our drugs in for the past few years and away from everyone who knew us for that. I fell in love instantly with the flat. It’s set back off the road in a quiet, tree filled area, with floor length windows in the lounge and a welcoming atmosphere. I could really picture our future there, it was our fresh start and I was beyond excited. I instantly started trying to collect stuff for our new home, so we could have it cosy and really make it our own. I planned scatter cushions and decided on the mural we would have on the wall, so we could face both that and the beautiful windows. We were going to get married. wpid-wp-1437683978883.jpeg

Then, after a long and painful revaluation of my life, due to various circumstances,  I decided not to move into the flat with my partner. It broke my heart and I still have to wipe away tears remembering how painful it was to come that decision. I still feel as though the future I was working towards has been violently ripped away from me. My partner probably doesn’t feel any better and I feel guilty thinking that he might be feeling like I am, but I had to dig deep for the humility to accept that there is nothing I can do to influence the choices made by others, some things I can’t solve, no matter how much I wish to. If I could do what’s necessary for him I would shoulder that burden in a heartbeat. Nothing I can do will solve this situation right now, because it isn’t mine to solve. I have now, after lots of soul searching, many filled notebooks, and too many tubs of icecream, got the belief in myself to know I have done my absolute best and there is nothing more I can do without any cooperation. I did not give up easily. I have done everything that is within my power. I worked hard at it, but ultimately I had to try to find the serenity in accepting the things that I can’t change. I was emotionally drained, and I can’t afford to invest so much energy into a black hole, getting nowhere with my efforts. I know where that path leads for me and I am determined that I will not stray too close to it, not for anybody. Because then I’m no good for anybody.

Now I have returned to faith. I’m trying to keep that connection strong, be it to God, the universe, fate; there is something stronger than me at play in this world, and I am trying to trust that whatever happens next will somehow, eventually lead to better things. I know I made the right decision. It hurts, but nothing worth having comes to us easily, as long as I do my best with the things I am responsible for, as long as I remain aware of the way I’m living and focus my energy on the right things, everything will come together. Maybe it’ll all work out so that I get to spend the rest of my life with the man I have idolised for nearly 7 years and sacrificed so much to be with. Maybe that’s not what’s in store for us. I have no way of knowing, I just have to keep working on my life and hope he does what he has to in order to get what he wants from life.wpid-wp-1437683977899.jpeg

This isn’t what I expected, or wanted, my life to look like at this point but this is the hand I have been dealt and I am playing it to the best of my ability. I can’t afford to lose again.

My broken heart will, slowly but surely, heal and I’ll recover but active addiction will, slowly but surely, kill me and break the hearts of my children.

There really is no choice in it.

Coming to terms with my irrational guilt

When I was 18 I was raped by a friend of my boyfriend.
It is something I very rarely mention, yet think of quite often.

Many rape victims never talk about what happened to them as they feel they are at fault somehow.
Many rape victims never talk about what happened to them as they feel they are at fault somehow.

I like to think I’m doing quite well in my recovery from addiction, and actually consider my relapse last year as a part of the journey, I learned a lot from it. I try to maintain a positive mindset. I go to groups, I’ve made great friends, I work hard to confront my irrational thoughts and beliefs head on in order to understand myself and become a better version of me. I’m a constantly evolving organism, my own masterpiece in the making.

I try to understand how the events in my life have shaped the way I’ve lived in order to take control over how I live now.

I’ve tried to deal with all my open emotional wounds in order to stop myself picking at them little by little and causing deeper scars over time.
And yet, this one event, this trauma, never quite makes its way out. I never quite pluck up the courage to mention it, not to anybody, friends, family, many counsellors over the years. It’s the one taboo I just can’t bring myself to discuss. And I obviously need to. As I said, I think of it often. And it hurts.
So why can’t I deal with it?

The truth will set you free. Talking about any issue is often the first step in overcoming it.
The truth will set you free. Talking about any issue is often the first step in overcoming it.

And then, a few weeks ago, I had a sudden moment of clarity. It happened in the group life coaching I attend weekly. We do a brief check in at the beginning. A girl, I’ll call her Kate, just mentioned when it came to her turn how much the life coaching and the various support services had helped her to learn how to manage her feelings and, in turn, her life. She just dropped it in, in rather a blase way, that she had been raped. The way she said it made it clear that it was a past event that was dealt with and put to bed. Which got me started with this train of thought. Why is my rape not dealt with.? Why can’t I announce it like that? Why is it the one thing I can’t be truly honest and open about?

Because, the answer came to me, I am ashamed and I am embarrassed.

I tried to put into words my new understanding to my partner the next day. Why can I not be as brave as Kate and just declare it with no shame? His response was that I don’t want to be identifying myself as a victim. And this got me thinking even more.

Why am I worrying about how it makes me look when it’s not something I had any say in, it’s something I had no responsibility for?
I’m carrying all this shame about something that was done to me. I’m shouldering the blame for somebody else’s decision to ignore word “stop” and beating myself up for failing to change his mind.

Let's raise our children to respect and understand that no means no!
Let’s raise our children to respect and understand that no means no!

To hear Kate so matter of factly saying “I got raped and struggled to get my head together for a while,” was the catalyst for a huge awakening for me. It seems such a small, simple thing:
“It wasn’t my fault”

And yet it’s taken me 13 years to come to that conclusion. I’m not suddenly ‘over it’, how could I be after battering myself with it for so long? But I understand now why such a painful memory has been walled off and hidden for all this time when other traumatic emotional events that also caused me to feel guilty and ashamed, such as being unable to care for my children and their removal to a family member, or the death by heroin overdose of my best friend and my subsequent arrest, have been plucked out of my head, thrust into the light, discussed and dissected with several friends and professionals throughout the years, until reaching the point where I can think about it and feel the sadness without the onset of anxiety that inevitably leads to me tearing myself apart with one destructive behaviour or another.

I am beginning to truly overcome my obstacles.
I am beginning to truly overcome my obstacles.

So although it will take some time and effort on my part, I can’t help but feel positive about this small break through. Having read up on it, I now know that it is extremely common for people who have been raped to feel this way. Most of us feel that we could have, should have, done something to prevent the attack. Why didn’t I look into this years ago?! By closing myself off to any chance of support, i have been dragging out my suffering all these years. I’ve been letting him win! Well, no more.

What doesn't kill me WILL make me stronger!
What doesn’t kill me WILL make me stronger!

Now that I have been able to find the root of the disturbance that the memory of my rape causes me, I can start to come to terms with it and move forwards a little lighter in my heart. One person’s actions don’t define who I am. I know I can overcome what somebody else did to to me and I know that my journey of recovery from addiction has just been made a little easier to travel because of this knowledge.

And, of course, I would not have been in the right place, emotionally and mentally, to have come to these conclusions, to have taken the rape out of its box and had a good look at why it was still messing me up, if not for the life coaching and the Smart Recovery meetings, provided by The Hidden Homeless. It is thanks to that support in working on myself that I have come this far and feel ready to confront my remaining demons.

Today, I am grateful.

Further reading:

Forum discussion of why the victims of rape feel guilty and ashamed
An interesting article exploring and trying to find a way through these emotions
The Hidden Homeless, without whom I wouldn’t be where I am right now.

SMART Recovery UK
Hidden Homeless, Bradford
Hidden Homeless, Bradford