Personal archive

Health, relationships and more besides. Read about my battles with PMDD, my mental health, surviving both childhood sexual abuse and a 12 years of emotional abuse as well personal projects and challenges, and anything vaguely Jem-related.

I’m 30 and nothing’s different

Well howdy. It somehow got to January 20th without me noticing. Funny how this time-passing-by thing works.

I turned 30 in style, partying the night away with some of my favourite people. I even took two dresses to my party because I am that awesome. Came away with a car boot-full of presents too, which made me cry on more than one occasion. Apparently I get soppier as I get older.

Turning 30 has not given me a greater wisdom, sudden grown-up super powers or anything of that sort (which I’d kinda hoped for). Indeed, I still spent most of last Thursday in bed pretending I wasn’t an adult with Responsibilities until I remembered I had to take Bramble (MEGABUN) to the vet for his post-neuter check-up. That reminds me, I really need to finish my Pets section.

The neutering went well, which will probably mean he ends up with a girlfriend-bunny at some point. Preparing for “I told you so”s in 3, 2, 1…

This year is already starting to look like a busy one, with vague wedding stuff being planned. Much to the disappointment of certain people Gaz and I are planning a “run away and do it in secret” style wedding. No fuss, minimal expense, just us and the legally required amount of witnesses who may or may not be dragged in off the street beforehand. I’m not sure I could deal with anything else, it’s not my cup of tea.

On a similarly personal note, I’ve an appointment for the end of the month to speak to my doctor about sterilisation. My hormones have been in overdrive lately which is making me super broody, but the reality is another child would be a massive physical, emotional and financial load which I just wouldn’t be able to deal with. Feeds weird to think I’ll never carry, birth and feed a tiny baby ever again but taking the pill is a pain in the arse (despite some minor benefits for my probable PMDD), and with Gaz’s total lack of desire for kids of his own, it just makes sense. I have two beautiful, smart as hell, pain in the arse kids and that’s more than enough.

Now that’s out of the way…

So now the introspective waffle is out of the way, let’s talk about the small matter of me turning 30 in a few days.

Not because of the turning 30 part, there’s nowt I can do about that (and I’m looking forward to being FABULOUS at thirty … or something) but the part where I set myself a list of things to do before I was 30 and have utterly failed to complete the list.

It’s not like I didn’t try. I did some pretty radical (for me) things in 2015, things that I never thought I’d cross off the list but managed anyway. I also have some list items “in progress”: Gaz and I are booked on a hot air balloon flight early this year, I did *cough2cough* random acts of kindness, I registered to give blood but had to cancel my appointment because of a bad flu-like illness, and I have sort of worked with other developers on a couple of things.

But… there are definitely items on that list that were doomed from the start. Read 100 books? I’m lucky if I read 10 books in a year these days. Earn £5000 in passive income? Take off a zero, pal. And how do you even define a pay rise when your employment situation does a complete 180. I might earn four grand in one month and sod all in the next.

I still want to learn to swim. I want to volunteer because I think it’ll be good for me to get out of my little bubble. But mostly I just want to continue taking risks and doing cool stuff, and I don’t think I need a list for that.

Be a little patient

We’re on day 3 of the new year and I’m yet to write any of my typical end of year posts for 2015: what I did for christmas, my review of the previous year, my goals for the next.

It’s not that there’s nothing to say. I mean, 2015 saw me complete the remortgage on the house, return to self-employment and move the man I love in with me. If that wasn’t awesome enough, for some bizarre reason that man asked me to marry him and I said yes. And — on a slightly less life-changing level — I lost weight, had my first foreign holiday (and went topless on the beach), got lost in Oxford, got myself a giant bunny and saw my dad for the first time in a couple of years. Amongst other things.

A busy year all in, and plenty to write about, but instead I’m sat here feeling restless and agitated. Instead of focusing on all the massive AWESOME cool stuff that I did / achieved / went through in 2015 I remember the times I skipped a mornings work to lay in bed because my head was telling my silly things or spent 3 hours on twitter because it’s the closest I’d get to adult company and the isolation was setting in. I think of the income I didn’t get because I was too busy doing favours – saying yes when I should have said no. Or just generally procrastinating.

I think about the times I shouted at my kids because they were doing ordinary kid stuff because outside pressure and the PMS and life was making it difficult to relax. I think about the wine and takeaway curries I consumed when I should have been working out and eating homemade food. I think of the failed budgets, the overspending, the constantly fluctuating savings. Most of all I spend a lot of time wondering when I’ll feel normal again.

But what is normal? When you’ve spent the vast majority of your life in situations where you’ve had to build walls and exercise control over the minutiae because it’s the only thing you’re allowed control over; when your relationships are based on defending your emotional health rather than cultivating it; when you’ve spent so long living with oppression that freedom scares the fuck out of you… none of what you “know” is normal. There’s no going back to normal, because there was no normal to begin with.

So… I guess what I’m trying to say is that 2016 is going to be about defining a new normal. Allowing myself to continue building on what I’ve done, finding out who I am and being gentle on myself when I fail. Mark Manson said, in his piece Shut Up and Be Patient (which basically feels like it was written for me at exactly the time I needed it):

There are a thousand tons of emotional and psychological cargo being hauled across the vast oceans of your unconscious. Be a little patient, fucker.

& I think I can do that. :)

If I know what love is, it is because of you

If you follow me on social media at all (you all follow me on social media, right?) you’ll know that Gaz asked me to marry him last week. I was lying in bed on Sunday morning, having not long woken up, and Gaz just randomly stated “we should get married”. I wasn’t sure I’d heard him right, and he was on his phone, so thought maybe he’d said someone else was getting married. I responded, bewildered, “what? why?”

I clearly know how to respond to a marriage proposal with class and the appropriate level of excitedness.

After some discussion during which we established that he wasn’t just pulling my leg, that he really was asking me to marry him, etc etc, I obviously said yes. Who wouldn’t want to marry a man that is hilariously funny, super intelligent, kind, patient, calm and most importantly of all, puts up with me?

So I am engaged. And it is a truly bizarre feeling. Firstly, because this means that someone genuinely loves me enough to want to spend the rest of their life with ME. Secondly, because I have never particularly planned to get married, I have no idea what I’m doing. Thirdly, because suddenly everyone wants to be involved in my relationship which, while lovely, is also oddly intrusive and weird. For someone who is generally a chronic oversharer, my desire to not share THIS (hence not announcing it for nearly a week) feels out of character even to myself.

I guess it doesn’t help that I don’t really ‘do’ weddings, generally. There are several wedding traditions that rub me the wrong way. I’m not interested in being walked down the aisle (especially so in a church setting, because I can think of nothing more hypocritical) or wearing a giant puffy meringue dress. I don’t want to spend a fortune on flowers and favours and frills and all that pomp and ceremony. (No offence to anyone who likes that stuff, this isn’t a judgement.)

On the flip side, being married to Gaz seems 100% right. There is nobody else who gets me like he does, who makes me laugh like he does, and whom I trust so wholly and completely. And I want people to know that, and to see/understand the depth of my feelings for him. I’m just not sure how to share that without letting people in.

(“If I know what love is, it is because of you.” — Hermann Hesse)

Retro gaming (aka reliving lost youth)

This month I’ve been giving thought to buying an old Nintendo console. I think it’s a combination of things tempting me in that direction: being so busy with work I need some downtime away from my laptop (before I throw it out of the window), a regression in my mood meaning I need a way of escape that doesn’t involve going out and getting drunk, and just generally being a massive Nintendo nerd.

As a kid we had virtually every console that Nintendo released, from the NES to the Wii (OK, I bought that one as an adult, but it totes counts) including the handhelds: various Gameboys, Nintendo DS etc. I definitely think this early access to console gaming shaped an interest in technology and “geek” that eventually went on to form the what matured into a career in IT. In fact, one of my first websites was a Majora’s Mask fansite. Gaming is good for kids, yo!

Anyway, so here I am a few months off hitting 30 and I can think of nothing more awesome than sitting in my pants playing Super Mario Bros 3 on the NES, Super Mario World and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past on the SNES, or Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 64 til the early hours of the morning. Wiggling my thumbs to ward off cramp from hours of button mashing and control stick manipulation.

I’m sure that this old school gaming utopia I’ve painted in my head is unrealistic. I definitely remember having to blow in and wiggle the old console game cartridges a few times before the things would load, and if someone knocked the console mid-game you were probably screwed, but that’s not the end of the world right? I shall bask in imagined retro gaming glory for a wee bit longer…

Recording memories

One of the things I started doing after I left Karl was keeping random things to record my new way of life – I wanted to have something to look at as a visual reminder of how far I’ve come.

In an envelope stashed safely in my kitchen I have receipts, spent train tickets, race numbers, the baggage label from my flight to Barcelona etc. Tidbits of paper and other miscellaneous scraps which mean the world to me but probably look like rubbish to anyone else (good job nobody does any tidying at my house.)

I bought a scrapbook which arrived today: a canvas on which I can arrange and annotate. I’ve browsed scrapbooking pinterest boards to inspire me make me feel inadequate. I have glue and the kid’s craft stuff to raid for decoration and embellishment.

Everything I need is right there… so why am I scared of sticking this stuff down?

3 things I wish I could tell 13 year old me

As I rapidly approach my 30th birthday I seem to spend more and more time thinking about things that have already happened. I don’t like to live in the past, and I’m not one for dwelling on regrets, but I think it’s important to recognise where we’ve come from and the things we’ve done, so that we can learn from our experiences. That said, life would be so much easier if our future self could get in touch and guide us with the benefit of experience. So what would I have told my 13 year old self if I could?

Never settle for making do
If you have any doubt, any nagging feeling that you’re making the wrong choices, if what you’re doing isn’t making (or going to make) you happy long term, sort it out.

You shouldn’t settle for bad relationships, bad jobs, bad clients or bad habits. Changing things is scary, yes. But fear should be a motivator – a catalyst for change – not a reason to accept the status quo.

You have a right to a voice
Speak up about everything that bothers you. From the mundane to the massive. The quicker you use your words, the faster you can make things happen – be that for you or for those who can’t speak for themselves for whatever reason.

Despite how it feels right now, things will get better
Hold on for the happiness, because you WILL discover it. Eventually.

I considered cam-girling to pay my mortgage

I’ve just been moaning on twitter about hitting a bit of a ‘blogging wall’ after 3 weeks of doing pretty well on my Septemblog challenge. In doing so, it occurred to me how lucky I am that — minor ‘every day’ life niggles aside — the only thing I can think of to moan about today is not having a topic to write about.

This time last year I was still trying to come to terms with the realities of lone parenting: mentally, physically and most overwhelmingly financially. Scraping together every spare penny to deal with having to pay all the bills myself, and a bunch of other crap that all seemed to hit at the same time, not least a tax fine/bill of over £950 because of a cock-up I’d made on a previous year’s tax return.

I was broken, financially and (nearly) mentally, and desperately trying to save every penny for massive impending solicitor and IFA bills to finalise the transfer of equity and re-mortgage my house. Bad times.

Anyway. At times — where I was not sure how to make my full time salary stretch any further, and I’d already worked my evenings away doing dev on the side — I would brainstorm ideas that would be low (mental) effort for high return and time and time again found myself pondering the realities of using the world’s (supposedly) oldest profession as a second sideline: I even googled story after story of past and present cam-girls and amateur porn stars to figure out the ins and outs of the industry.

I’m not particularly shy and I have zero issues with nudity. I am, shall we say “intimitely familiar with myself”, and not bothered who knows it. Most of all, thanks to years of other people helping themselves to my body, it isn’t that huge a step to give it away. Seemed therefore a logical jump to turn that into something that could earn me money with little outlay for tech or setup. I could potentially earn hundreds of pounds which would keep the little ones fed and a roof over our heads for a little bit longer.

But I didn’t do it. And while I have since joked about it with Gaz and indeed on twitter, I don’t think I could. If nothing else but because old wounds are healing, and I’m not sure having money in my back pocket is worth opening them up again.

I have too many dresses

I nipped up Telford Town Centre today, because two invoices coming in on the same day made me feel rich meant I could get my haircut. I’m actually growing it out, but the back looked awful because it was about 5 different lengths thanks to a variety of asymmetrical cuts over the last 18 months.

Anyway, while I was up there I went into New Look for the first time in my life. I don’t normally feel fashionable enough to shop in there. I’m still not fashionable enough, but they had a nice yellow blouse that caught my attention. This was a slippery slope. Before I knew it I’d picked up the blouse, a warm top for the coming months (genuinely needed) and two more dresses.

Two dresses? No big deal you say.

O RLY?

dresses

Would you believe there are 41 dresses in that lot. FORTY ONE. Crammed into that tiny space. That doesn’t include the two that have fallen off hangers, the fact that there’s likely to be a couple in the wash, or the jumper that is long enough to be worn as a dress.

Or the two I bought today.

left-or-right

Is 45(ish) too many dresses?

Realising I’m an extrovert

I’ve spent a huge portion of my life telling the world (and myself) that I don’t like people. It’s nothing personal: people are lovely I’m sure. I just find them hard work. I always assumed I was a bit of an introvert, preferring my own company; chatting on social media is plenty of interaction where I can more easily create boundaries and step away with ease.

But this weekend I realised I’m wrong. That I am the very definition of an extrovert. That is, I am energised by social interaction, and isolation leaves me anxious, withdrawn and at its very worst, depressed.

You’d think I’d have been clued in when I went self-employed originally and found myself chatting up the postman and inviting in religious callers for a cup of tea, until the isolation (amongst other things) pushed me back into full time employment.

You’d think I’d have been clued in when, before Gaz moved in, I would regularly ask Gaz to come over for an extra night because the thought of spending those hours alone in the time between my kids going to bed and them waking up in the morning drove me to despair (and crying into my wine).

You’d think I’d have been clued in when, after going back to self-employment in July, after a short period of “yay I can do whatever I like” the reality of sitting alone day in, day out — particularly during the summer when I didn’t even have the kids to break the monotony — hit me hard, giving me one of my longest ‘low’ periods yet.

Nope, I was oblivious. I knew working alone was getting to me, but I didn’t realise to what extent. However, as a bit of an ‘experiment’ I asked Gaz if he’d take me out on Saturday. We went to a local pub that usually has live music over the weekend, and I drank and danced and talked to people and connected and told people how fab they looked and — aside from one wanker who wouldn’t leave me the fuck alone — generally felt energised and happy and awesome. I’m still feeling ‘high’ today!

Maybe I really was an introvert, and I have changed as I’ve grown. Or maybe that’s what I told myself so that I could more easily deal with every past attempt at socialising being questioned, controlled, critiqued. It’s easier to pretend you don’t like people than to admit your relationship is failing, after all.

OK, so this weekend was just one occasion. I can’t guarantee that getting out and being with people is the answer to my problems. It sure as hell has given me the motivation to attempt to do something about them, though. I need to stop talking about “getting out of the house” and actually do it. Game on…

The Problem with Empathy

Today’s post was going to be a review of the pizza place that Gaz and I went to on Friday night, but rather last minute I thought I’d swap it out for something a bit more personal; something that has been bothering me all week.

I’ve talked a little before about some of the side effects of having been in an emotionally abusive relationship, including excess empathy:

As a result of spending a huge part of my life waiting for incidents and accidents I’ve developed a weird sort of hypervigilance. I have empathy up to the eyeballs which allows me to very quickly identify with other people’s range of moods and feel spectacular depths of happiness [..] and, conversely, sadness.

Apparently this is quite normal in those who’ve been through abuse:

It is the act of putting oneself second above others, worrying about the needs and wants of others, and being completely reactionary toward others. What that means is that the person in question becomes hypersensitive to the emotions and emotional states of their abusers, in order to adjust their own behaviors, emotions, and responses accordingly. It is a survival mechanism born out of a moment of great need.

Empathic Perspectives: The Abused Empath

The problem is, while I have started to recognise this in myself and how it applies to relationships, and have been working on toning it down using Gaz’s more reasonable emotional response to situations as a benchmark, I still have issues with “3rd party” situations: things that occur that are outside of my personal “sphere”, and oftentimes completely out of my control.

The heavy social and traditional news media focus on the refugee crisis this week has been hugely difficult for anyone with an ounce of empathy, unsurprisingly. I have found it mentally crippling. I spent a huge portion of the week browsing social media with images disabled in my browser so that I wouldn’t have to see THAT photo again. Because to do so would wipe me out for a couple of hours, alternating between hopeless crying and feelings of utter uselessness and despair.

I have had to switch myself back and forth between retweeting and sharing stories / campaigns to raise awareness (and money) and complete emotional shutdown in a desperate attempt to maintain some level of control and be able to function as an adult (i.e. to work, communicate rationally, etc)

I understand why people are sharing those photos: I get it. I can’t quite decide if I think it’s entirely necessary, but I get it.

The problem with empathy is that in my head (against my better judgement and logical thinking) the world’s problems become my problems. And I realise that sounds ridiculously narcissistic, but trust me, it’s not something I actually want to feel. I don’t mean for this post to sound so “me me me”. I’m not telling you this now because I want pity. I don’t want pity. I definitely don’t need pity. This crisis is clearly not about me.

I’m telling you this because I want people to understand that someone who doesn’t participate in extended campaigning, or doesn’t share those pictures, or doesn’t stick hashtags on pictures of their own kids looking forlorn to exploit people’s emotions (thanks for that) so that they (the viewer) stick another fiver on the pile is not necessarily avoiding it because they don’t care, or lack compassion, or don’t want to help this horrible situation. No, it might actually be quite the opposite.

If you have the means to do so, please consider donating your time, your money, or necessary goods to aid the refugee crisis. The Independent has a good list of ways to help. Don’t tell me what you’ve done though, I don’t need to know just to believe you’re a good person (and neither should anyone else.)

If I inherited a million pounds

I don’t play the lottery (aka “tax on the poor”), scratchcards, or indeed gamble at all. It’s not that I have any ethical/moral concerns about gambling but rather I just seem to have awful luck. I’ve never won anything in my life, and regularly bemoan the frequent catastrophes that I seem to have to put up with (yes, I’m a drama queen). This means that my only hope of ever having a million pounds is inheriting it through some long lost rich relative. It’s unlikely, but I never give up hope.

So. If I inherited £1,000,000, what would I spend it on?

Firstly, on £1,000,000 I calculated I would have to pay £270,000 inheritance tax. I’m a law abiding, tax paying citizen, so without having spent a penny I would actually only have £730,000 to buy whatever my heart desires. That should be enough to buy:

A decent size house

It was only yesterday I was telling you all about my ideal house: big kitchen, play room, home office, etc etc. I don’t really want to move too far away from where I am now, and a cursory glance at Rightmove suggests I wouldn’t have to. A decent size 5 bedroom property, within a half mile radius of where I am now, that would meet many of my dream house needs currently retails around £450,000:

broseley-house
jackfield-house

Stamp duty on a £450,000 property costs £12,500. Solicitors fees etc would probably cost another £5k, plus moving costs and the rest, let’s assume that the total cost of purchasing one of these houses would be £470,000 which brings me down to £260,000 left to spend.

A new car

The next important purchase would be a new car. I currently have a Honda Jazz. I hate it. It’s an old lady car. It’s slow (although everything feels slow after I’ve driven Gaz‘s Celica), it’s not responsive when I need it to be and I have issues with it randomly jumping between low and high revs which can catch me out causing the car to stall.

I miss my old car, which was a Skoda, and have been lusting after a yellow Fabia for a loooong time. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like Skoda do a new model yellow Fabia (or not one you can configure through their site) so I’d be looking at a slightly older model, like this 2012 Skoda Fabia MONTE CARLO TSI 1.2 5dr:

yellow-skoda-fabia

…which would set me back £7,495, bringing my inheritance pot down to £252,505.

Fixing up an ‘old’ car

Gaz’s Celica, to be precise:

celica-gt-four

I fell in love with this bloody car not long after Gaz and I met and that love only strengthens every time I drive it. I know that the poor thing has a few issues at the moment though: some minor rust above one of the back wheel arches, the exhaust keeps getting clipped by a concrete ‘lip’ on my driveway, apparently the suspension might be playing up and I’m sure there’s other things Gaz would like to do with it. I’d happily gift him £5,000 to sort it out.

Property investment

Having moved to my big dream house, my current property would of course be empty. I would pay off the mortgage on the house and get the decorators in to give it a fresh look from top to bottom (to deal with my half-arsed attempts at decorating, and the bodges left by the previous owner). With the current mortgage at around £96,000 and around £15,000 needed for early repayment fees and decorating that leaves me with £136,505 to play with.

University / job starter fund for the kids

I really wasn’t sure if I should put this one in here.

On one hand, I kinda feel like I started my adult life with nothing of value, no monetary support and no real job experience to speak of and I worked hard (and sometimes for free) to get where I needed to be so that today I can sit in relative comfort — albeit we have tight months (and months and months), an overdraft I regularly dip into and outstanding credit card debt — but I can raise my children fairly flexibly. I want my children to have to work hard too, so that they learn the value of the money in their pocket and know how privileged they are (comparatively speaking, we’re not middle class or ‘owt!)

On the other hand, if I were genuinely wealthy enough to be able to put money aside for my kids I know I wouldn’t be able to NOT do so. I want them to have a chance at higher education if that’s what they want to do. I want them to be able to enter the world unsaddled by massive debts or without having to worry too much about how they’re going to be able to scrape together their first months rent and a deposit when they set out in the big wide world on their own. I think I’d put aside £15,000 each for my kids, which means my total left to spend is £106,505.

And finally…

I think it would be quite easy to spend £106,505 on a bunch of frivolous crap. Dresses, good food, gifts for friends etc. However, it would make more sense for me to put it into some sort of high interest account and pay myself an amount from it monthly to cover my highest bills, which would allow me more flexibility (and security) in my self-employment endeavours. Nobody said I had to spend it all at once!