Thankful, 22nd November 2018


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I had a fight with my husband, last night. I was nagging him off and on all day (Thanksgiving is hard for me–I live 4,000 miles from my folks, and haven’t shared a traditional Thanksgiving Day meal with anyone in about 15 years) and he finally snapped, and said some ugly things to me.

Nothing I said was remotely close to what he said. I felt like I’d been sucker-punched, and I just didn’t expect that, from him. We’ve been married a little over a year, and to the best of my recollection, this is the first time he’s ever said something so out-of-line, to me. (It’s certainly not something he does regularly–he is not generally a deliberately hurtful person.)

I am thankful that my husband saying something unkind to me, felt like being punched; I am thankful that I was so surprised, shocked even, that it took my breath away. I am thankful to be with someone who usually endures my moodiness and mercurial nature with such inexplicable grace and supportiveness, that I literally cannot believe it at first, when he says something genuinely mean.

I am thankful that my husband, who had work at 6 a.m. this morning, refused to go to sleep when I left the bedroom around midnight (I was far too agitated to go to bed myself) before we at least tried to talk it through. “Never let the sun go down on your anger,” and all that jazz… it worked. When we went to sleep, neither of us was angry with the other, anymore.

I am thankful that my marriage is made up of 2 people who, despite being personally very sensitive (some might say overly so) are also capable of putting aside those feelings, to extend empathy and understanding to each other. I am thankful that every time we have an argument, we make up, and usually learn something about how to improve our marriage or household or both, during the making-up discussion.

In lighter news, I am thankful for coffee, since I’ve had about an hour’s sleep, and the kids are at the dentist’s office later today… seriously. I have so much to be thankful for, and I am. I hope you have at least as much to be thankful for as me, and I hope you’re in the right place to be able to feel and experience how lucky/fortunate/blessed you are.

A Death in the Family


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She wasn’t a blood relative, nor even a relative-by-marriage; she was the younger sister of the best friend I made when we were 8 years old. She cannot have been more than 31 or 32, and her little girl is surely younger than both of my children. Her 4 siblings are heartbroken; her mother, in a grief that defies words like “devastated” and “destroyed.” I don’t know what to say to them, and I know there’s no way I can help.

I haven’t taken it in properly–I haven’t seen her in years, I live thousands of miles away from our hometown, and she still lived there, within touching distance of our families and old friends–how do I lose someone, really, when I’ve already lost most of the love and friendship and intimacy of all my childhood and adolescent relationships, by moving to this foreign land?

It’s disloyal to say it, but I thought she was the most beautiful of them all, of the 4 siblings who were mostly teenagers when their youngest sister arrived. My best friend was undeniably beautiful, clever, athletic and artistic and a damn nice person besides, terrifying popular and utterly without meanness or spite, always ready to shield me from the horror of socialising, and equally insistent that I had to be invited if she was… my childhood best friend was and is one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever seen, inside and out.

But–her little sister, the one closest to her in age (and as they grew up, the one closest to her in the ways that count, I think)–was a different flavour of beautiful, one that I, attractive in a common way, found fascinating. Pale and fine-featured, with huge clear eyes and a shy, faintly scared expression, she made me wonder what there was to her that I couldn’t quite see. Even when we were children she seemed to have something of the saying that still waters run deep, about her.

I don’t know how it happened. It was an unexpected, unplanned death, and her family is left reeling, and–as always happens, when someone back home is hurt or in need–I am far too far away to do anything of use. I sent messages to her mother and older sister. I’ll send sympathy cards, which will arrive days or weeks after her funeral.

Her funeral. God. How do you plan a funeral for a woman who died suddenly, in her early 30s, leaving behind her parents, her partner, 4 siblings, and a child who’s probably still in primary school… I can’t, I just can’t. I’ll try to write more tomorrow, or in a few days. But God, this is so sad.

November, 2018, 1


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After my last few entries, I present to you… my efforts to chill dafuq out:

(My next entry may well be a review of Robert Wright’s book on Buddhism, and you won’t understand what he means by “Buddhism” unless you have a basic idea of secular Buddhism, so… here you go.)

PS: No, I wouldn’t describe myself as a secular Buddhist; I’m not any kind of Buddhist; but understanding more about mindfulness meditation (and actually making the effort to practice it, which is where I usually let myself down…) has me closer to being back on-track than any other thing I’ve done, since my summertime depressive dip.

Memories, October 2018, 1

Why did she tell him things about me, that I had long since told him? Did she think I would hide anything from him? The fact that she and her fuck buddy are natural liars (in things of consequence, as well as things of no import) and have a deep-seated terror of being truly known by anyone else–or being known by themselves, maybe–doesn’t mean the rest of us are like that.

Any time I messaged my alleged friend (her fuck buddy) within a few hours, she had responded by sending half-truths and whole truths and outright fantasies to my love, trying to get him to dislike or distrust me. He asked me a dozen times or more (I like the romance of the phrase, “a dozen times or more,” but in reality, he probably asked 40 or more times, in about two months) if he could please just block her, and let’s be done with her obvious, weak-minded efforts at shit-stirring; he found it unutterably dull, more than anything else, but he also saw that it upset me to see how much she had lied in pretending to be my friend, and how desperate she was to hurt me, despite my still trying to wish her well.

The more my “friend” took her side, and made excuses for her behaviour–all the while playing on her well-documented instability, and trying to have us both in his life, without either committing to her properly or agreeing that we had a right to protect ourselves from her, i.e. by blocking her texts and other messages–the more it became clear, we couldn’t remain friends. Eventually, he was only contacting me to complain about my Vaguebooking (yes, often about this situation–but minus names, and if he felt guilty when he read some of the particulars, he should’ve tried to make amends, not harass me for offloading about my own hurts) and so I blocked him, and her, and several of the other people who had harassed me on Facebook, the previous year. (By harassment, I mean criminal offences–cyber bullying, threats of bodily harm, slander/libel, etc–which I was too forgiving, and too loyal to my “friend”, to go to the police about.)

I’m happier, now. I try not to think of them at all, or if I must, to remember their good points… that, I concede, is a struggle. What is the “good point” of two people who (with the benefit of hindsight plus the counsel of your loved ones) you now believe only ever lied to you and used you?

The main comfort I have, is that two such consummate liars deserve each other. They proved, repeatedly, that they were most adept at lying to themselves… so whether they’re happy or not, perhaps they’ll convince themselves they are, and stay together. I can’t think of many fates worse than that–so even if they enjoy living in a web of mutual falsehood, I can’t actually comprehend that, and deep down, I think they must be suffering in a way they’ve earned. And were they happy in truth, I’d still be done with them, and grateful for it.

But. Little things still niggle at me, from time to time, and yes, I’ll admit, still make me angry… the thought that she, a two-faced bitch who was lying the entire time she knew me, thought she could tell my (now) husband *anything* about me, that he didn’t know? Who the fuck does she think she is?

No. Who the fuck does she think I am, to keep secrets from the man I love and will spend the rest of my life with… does she think I’m her?

Recent Memories, September 2018, 1


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She called herself, “Spin”–one of her alter egos, one of the media through which she accesses the verbal communication the rest of the world seems to take for granted–and she spent an hour with me, playing on my phone and laughing at our shared jokes. I can tickle her again, it seems (and I *promised* her there would always be tickles, 6 and 7 and 8 and more years ago, and I KNOW SHE REMEMBERS, so I’m glad there are tickles now, just like I promised) and she laughs again, not every day, but at least she’s not crying every day anymore, and this may not last forever (what does?) but it’s good right now.

He plays Uno with us, almost every day. We’re about equally good at applying the rules, he and I, and perpetually appeal to the other adults for further instruction (I should be an adult, but I understand why I sometimes don’t seem like one–I catch on so slowly, at team games, at rules with variations, at anything with social give-and-take, so of course my own children are sometimes tempted to see me as one of them, just a strange older child who sometimes tells them what they can and cannot do, and makes their food, and sends them to their rooms to calm down when they get agitated). I digress.

We spend so much time laughing, the 2 of us more than anyone else in the room, and I help him, I suppose I “make” him cheat, to be quite frank: “If you do x, y will happen to me/Jake/Douglas…” and I chortle in my joy (yes, that’s from “Jabberwocky,” and yes, I had to look that one up, and no, it’s not a perfect quote even though I did look it up) and I don’t even care if he knows he’s my pick to win every game we play, even at (especially at?) my own expense, because what *is* a mother, if not the person you can count on to always be on your side, to tell you right from wrong and then turn around and declare that, ultimately, she would still love you and your sibling(s) best no matter what evil you committed?

And besides: he really *doesn’t* understand the rules, yet. When he’s a little older, we’ll stop reminding him to say, “Uno!” every time he’s down to one card. Or we won’t, and he will hardly be the only autistic teen/adult in the world, who gets some special dispensation so he can join in with everyone else, now will he? And if you don’t like it: FIGHT ME, BRO. It is right and just and good, for the more vulnerable to be given more help. I doubt my stance on that will ever change.

Stop digressing! Okay, I will.

She watches us, sometimes. She’s not yet confident enough to play, but I wonder if she would try if it were just the 3 of us? I’ll ask, in time; but only once I remember the rules better myself… that’s not a bad idea, generally speaking. How could it be bad? It’s a chance for me to properly be the adult, in the only situation where I’m convinced I can really be fair: arbitrating between the 2 of them, each the only entity I love in the same way, and with the same ferocity, that I love the other.

Ancient Memories, September 2018, 1


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We met in York, in person, that first time. I was still young enough that I didn’t wear make-up regularly (I barely knew the rudiments of applying it, at age 20) and I made sure not to wear any, before meeting him. That was one of the last times I remember wanting a man to see me, really see *just* me, before… well. Before meeting my husband, to be honest.

I still love York, and York Minster, and some coffee shop I’ll never remember the name of (was it in a library, or a bookshop?) for his sake. But I was married to my first husband then, and I stayed married to him for years, after that; and more to the point, marriage aside, I treated him so very badly, in the end. Some days, I can hardly think of him, without cringing–that’s a hard-to-admit fact, considering we’re still friends, and chat online a few times some weeks, and at least a few times most months–but it’s true. I hope his knowing that, won’t damage his affection for me.

But I won’t talk about that, today. It’s my prerogative to tell my own past as I wish, and it’s not as if he’d object, is it? He messages me, not most days, but many days, and I’m married to someone else now, I’ve had 2 kids since I broke his heart, and he’s engaged to a lovely woman, with a child of his own, and I can recall the bits *before* I ghosted him (near enough) if I want to.

I was still young enough that I was wearing a perfume (body spray?) I’d bought from a drugstore, that I liked better than the Dior fragrance I got one Christmas when I was about 14. It was sweeter, and I didn’t mind the hint of alcohol underneath the sweetness… when I think back, that seems like a metaphor for something–some childish refusal to look beyond the surface of anything, including things far more important than which $10 scent I wore–but what do you expect? I was young, young in years, wise in some ways (my friends’ mothers would tell you I was always abnormally wise, well beyond my years–“a sage at age 9,” one called me, earlier this year) but in the realms of human interaction, especially where physical attraction was concerned, I was woefully, embarrassingly, tragically naïve.

We kissed and held hands. I was married to someone else, but we kissed on street corners and held hands, and walked all over the city, for 9 hours or so. On the train home, I wrote 3 poems about him, and 1 about me, from his point-of-view, and I shared them all with him, and I couldn’t wait to see him again.

I remember I was still American enough then, to think that he sounded posh. (He does not have a remotely posh accent–it’s just a South-eastern English accent–but what did I know, then, about British accents or anything else?) I was fascinated by the way his mouth formed the words, the glottal stops and slight lisping over “r” sounds and the near-disappearance of “th” (which was usually replaced by something like a cross between “f” and “v”). Does he know that he almost never sounds a “th,” or is it something you don’t hear, growing up where he did? I’ve never been *quite* rude enough to ask him: a rarity for me, to deny myself an intrusive question (especially one about words/accents) but then, I suppose I figured I’d hurt him enough, and gratuitous rudeness at him was never to be tolerated, even from myself.

I said I wouldn’t go on and on about my guilt, didn’t I? Stop it.

His eyes were so shockingly blue I’m not sure how to describe the colour, and his mouth was such a deep, rose pink, it almost looked as if he’d worn lipstick. Navy blue and rose pink are my mother’s favourite colours, and the appeal is easy to see, when they show up next to each other on a human face. I’ve always been more attracted by colour than by shape… I’m pleased to say he photographs well, and even now (when I have faded and wrinkled and gone more silver than I care to admit) the startling blue and unparalleled pink are still very much trademarks of his general countenance, and his hair still looks mostly dark sable, as it did almost a decade and a half ago. But then, he’s led a good life, considerate, compassionate, and I? I’ve spent too much of my life either running from my mistakes, or trying to atone for them. Neither is conducive to retaining a smooth brow, hair pigmentation, or healthy colour in the lips and cheeks.

Fucking hell. I knew this would happen, if I tried to write about him. Back. On. Task.

He did a dozen little things, that still make me love him, so many years later. When a cynical voice whispers in my ear that he’s keeping tabs on me to see if I suffer as I deserve to, I remember the things he said to me, when I was 20; you’re too clever to work for a bank for the rest of your life, you should apply to a university, you should read more, write more, take more care of yourself, be kinder, kinder, kinder to yourself; and he still says the last two now. (He can’t tell me to go to uni, anymore–I finally did, and he was there to help me with my dissertation, an unsung hero who never got a thank-you on my acknowledgements page, because he didn’t want to be named.)

He’s still the yardstick (pardon me, but I *am* American) by which I measure other men; I don’t always listen to my own better judgment, but if I did, I’d have spent a lot less time hurting myself with poor choices, in the past 15 years. The guy who poked me in the face for smiling (not even laughing–smiling) about him? Never, never, never, if I had held him to the appropriate standard. Our relationship would have died an instant death that very day, IF it had even made it that far (he’d pitched verbal tantrums long before that day, hurled wild accusations, been deliberately hurtful, etc). All things… the guy I’m writing about now, I can’t think of a pseudonym for him… would never have done. (I know this, because I hurt him far worse than I hurt Face-Poking Eye-Blacker, and he never retaliated in any way; just told me I’d hurt him, and forgave me, and it was awful in its way, but it was the kind of awful a person actually deserves, unlike abuse, which is never the appropriate punishment for a partner or friend.)

My current husband reminds me a little of every person I’ve ever loved, and it’s that gentleness, that sweetness of spirit, that he shares with Guy Who Has No Pseudonym. My husband is not infallibly sweet and gentle–we’re in each other’s pockets A LOT, we’re raising 2 kids, my mental health is not as robust as we’d all prefer–but he never hurts me deliberately, and he forgives me if I hurt him. You would think that wouldn’t be so terribly rare, yet it is. He offers real forgiveness, not saying nothing at the time and using his pain as ammunition weeks, months, years down the line…. no, my husband–like Guy Who Has No Pseudonym–tells me in the moment if I’ve hurt him, and waits to see what I’ll do, and I am humbled into gentleness myself, by his sweetness and willingness to forgive me (the humbling happens much faster than it used to, now, as I’m ever so much more than 20–yes, that’s a line from Peter Pan–and I hope I will improve more, as I continue aging).

It’s a funny happenstance, when someone from your past is both a fond memory, and a cautionary tale; I don’t think it happens often. Most of the cautionary tales I know centre around people or behaviours I should avoid, red flags in relationships, tricks that people use to lull you into a false sense of security and then laugh at you, etc… it’s refreshing to have the converse happen: this is how not to treat a person who treats you well, this is what real kindness looks like, this is both a type of person AND a chance you don’t want to squander.

I would like to think that this time, I’ll actually hold onto the lessons I’ve learned, and by extension, the person I’m with now. Like I said, he’s the first man (the first person, possibly) since No Pseudonym who’s actually looked at me, seen through my bullshit, and found the person underneath the façade… at almost 35, I should be better than I was at 20, at holding on to someone who–despite my myriad flaws–loves me exactly as I am.

Recent Memories, September 2018, 1


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His hazel eyes gazing up at me, crinkled at the corners, so like mine except for the colour, fringed with thick black lashes that belie the pale, wheaty brown, almost blonde, of his jaw-length hair. “Mommy!” he shrieks delightedly, with enough excitement for a boy half his age, “You PRANKED me!” A simple prank, just waiting until he wasn’t looking and tossing a pillow at him, and well worth the risk of upsetting him; he is literally vibrating with joy, his laughter and excited fidgeting causing him to visibly quiver in front of me.

Her still, watchful stare, huge irises a pale ice blue that used to look as if the colour were bleeding into her sclera–she leans into me, and I realise, after a breathless second, that she is leaning against me for a hug. I cuddle her back, I tell her she’s a sweet girl. “Who does Mommy love?” I ask–it’s been a long time since I felt the mood was right, to ask her that question–I’ve timed it well, she smiles a little, and points at herself, using the thumb of her right hand (is she the only person I know, who regularly points with her non-dominant hand?).

They rely so much on non-verbal cues, and I rely so much on explicit, spelled-out, unchanging instructions. How ironic, that one form my autistic spectrum issues should take, is an obsession with words… and she’s non-verbal (not literally, but in the sense it’s usually used, nowadays) and he chatters on about anything and everything, and it’s funny and engaging and he delights me at least as much as I delight him, but there is very little verbal instruction given, between the pair of them.

Every day is a balancing act, and I feel like I lose my balance so often… but actually, I’m better at walking this tightrope than anyone else I’ve ever seen, with the kids.

My own mother would be excellent, of course. She walked a similar tightrope with me, when I used inflection-less, seemingly sarcastic words without any eye contact at all, and she somehow understood that I wasn’t being snide or sarcastic; I was just saying the words, as if reading them from a page in a book, but not acting them at all.

I’m better at the acting part, now. Sometimes I get the inflections right; how very amusing, in a cosmic joke sort of way, that Gabriel especially and even Naomi, more often than you’d believe–the really autistic members of the household, versus me with my probably Asperger’s or HFA, we’ll know soon enough–that the “more” autistic members of our little family, often give me a better idea of how the words ought to sound.

They’re good mimics, like I was/am. Echolalic, though in Nae’s case, not as much as I was (am…). Scripted language, Gabey uses as much scripted language as I ever did, maybe more, but I think his acting is better than mine was. It helps. It all helps. And when they get it wrong, and I see myself in their mistakes, it’s easier to see how to fix it.

Again, this is one of the most constant sources of amusement in my life: by being so unusual themselves, they have made me almost normal… at least on the outside.

Memories, September 2018, 1


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He poked me in the face, that first day. D___ had chuckled at something he had said, and I caught D___’s eye and smiled a little, trying to walk a balance between them, and he poked me–4 or 5 times, just under each eye, not quite hard enough to bruise–and I “slapped” his face (not hard enough to leave any mark, never mind a bruise) and told him that if he ever did it again, we were over.

There was the time we were having a good-natured, playful argument, and he picked up a pizza and “playfully” rubbed it into my face. I stood up, walked silently to the shower, and didn’t speak for several minutes. It was in jest, and he hadn’t struck me; it didn’t count, did it?

The times (plural) he followed me from room to room, shouting at me, and when I refused to engage, he loomed over me, using his extra 9 inches of height and exponentially stronger voice to full advantage. One time, he even admitted he was trying to goad me into hitting him.

The same in the car, the raving at me for anything and everything, too many times. Shouting at me for not being a better navigator, until I was sobbing in helpless fury, while he was driving us somewhere. Handing me his phone despite my protests that I can’t read maps–he never offered to show me how, because he’s rubbish at reading them as well, but his vanity won’t let him admit it–and then snatching it back, shouting, “Don’t touch anything!” when I tried to zoom in, to read the street signs.

The car again, ignoring first my pleas to let me out, and later, my warning that if he didn’t either let me out or stop screaming at me, I’d hit him. Eventually I did–the same way I did it the first time, when he poked me, not leaving any signs I had touched him–and he blacked my eye. It was swollen nearly shut for a week, and purple and green for 2 weeks on top of that.

I won’t talk about the time we “had sex” that I mostly don’t remember, when I’d had 100 mg of Sertraline, 300 mg of tramadol hydrochloride plus paracetamol and ibuprofen in the 12 hours before going out, and 4 glasses of red wine in 4 hours, but he was perfectly sober… I remember coming to underneath him, which is so unlike me–why wasn’t I on top, especially drunk, disinhibited?–but I do remember flirting with him in the other room, even brushing my foot across his (fully clothed) crotch, and asking someone else if I should have sex with him… I must have consented, even propositioned him, after an entire summer of explaining over and over again that I wanted to be friends and turning down his advances, AND already having fought off the unwelcome advances of another friend, who told me he needed a friend to talk to, led me around the corner from the doormen of the club, and forced his teeth and tongue into my mouth while he held me, struggling, against a brick wall.

I’m sure that if I’d wanted to say no–after repeatedly begging these 2 “good friends” of mine (and longer-term, better friends of each other) to just BE MY FRIEND over the course of several months–I would have done.

I think he thinks I miss him, and that’s why I had to stop talking to him. I think there’s some part of him that thinks I’m not over him… that might be true enough, but not in the way he thinks.

The only thing I’m not over, is how I could have allowed myself to be used, so many times, and still believed all the bullshit he spouted at me. Was I born that naïve, or did I learn it, somehow? All the signs were there, and he wasn’t the first man to work up to blacking my eye, over a period of months/years… I do not know what I will do, if that ever happens to me again.

Sometimes, statistics are true. Some conditions (ASD, in my case) make you so much more vulnerable than you realise, at the time.

A Link to “Supporting Claimants: a practical guide by Jay Watts”


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This is important to me, and it’s excellent advice for health-and-social-care workers in the UK. It is also (am I giving a trigger warning?) harrowing reading, if you have a little imagination and read it thoughtfully.

I periodically fill these forms in for my own beautiful, beloved children–40-odd pages, covered in questions which instruct me, in various ways: “Tell us, as explicitly as possible, how broken and helpless and developmentally stunted your children are. Give us as many grim details as you can, think of everything you and your children just endure bravely, all the things you just accept and try not to dwell on, in your everyday lives… Now describe that all in excruciating, minute detail, and remember to be honest about the emotional strain caused to both you, and your children.”

The respite is never more than a year or two, before they’re asking me to claim again, answer questions by phone, clarify something. I suffer from anxiety and depression anyway; spending hours fixated on the reality of all the struggles my children face… well. It usually takes me a week or more to complete the forms, and at the end of it, I feel as if the government would prefer me to kill myself and my children too, rather than give us money to live on. That’s not hyperbole or the disordered thinking of a depressed mental state: in a rational frame of mind, regularly taking my antidepressants, after a good night’s sleep and some tea and toast, I genuinely believe most high-ranking officials in this government would prefer our deaths–even by murder/suicide–to our continued survival, as long as the blame didn’t fall on them.

I remember the last telephone conversation I had with the DWP. I was asked if my autistic, non-verbal, self-harming, incontinent overnight (both bowel and bladder) 11-year-old could just change her own nappy, and why did I have to be awake in the middle of the night to help her?

When I described her efforts to clean herself, the things she understands (she needs to be clean, she doesn’t want to smell) and the things she doesn’t understand no matter how many times I show her, walk her through it, remind her (how to clean herself properly, how to make sure the poop is disposed of hygienically) when I spoke of how she sometimes grows frustrated and hits herself during self-care tasks, and how the last time I let her clean herself for a few days, to help her learn, to try to give her a little privacy and independence, she got thrush (a yeast infection, we’d call it back home) from repeatedly, clumsily, uncomprehendingly cleaning poop into her vagina, I broke down sobbing.

I cannot imagine how much worse it would be, were I claiming for myself; like most mothers, I’m willing to suffer intrusive questions and beg for mercy and cajole and plead for my children, in a way that I wouldn’t be able to find the energy for, if it were just to help me. I am unsurprised that, in the face of the increasing harassment of disabled people in this country, suicide rates in the disabled population are rising (and have been, since this party took over the government). Anyway. I digress, or at the very least, I’m growing long-winded.

Perhaps I should have just shared the following link without any introduction; I could write another 750 words on this, and still have more to say, so what was even the point of sharing this much; but it seemed important to tell you, and especially my new readers, why I care so much.

The article I’m linking you to isn’t about some hypothetical, pitiable, but ultimately distant human beings I’ll never have to look at. It’s my own sweet babies, their futures, what would happen to them if something happened to me, it’s about the system that would swallow them up and maybe, maybe look after them–and maybe leave them to their own devices, scared and unsafe and unable to properly clean themselves, each of them a constant fire risk, a risk to themselves when their ungovernable, autistic meltdown rages send them into a fury of self-harm, of dashing their heads against walls, of my little boy trying to hurl himself down the stairs, because (as an actual example) there was an unskippable ad (commercial) that interrupted his favourite YouTube channel.

It is so hard to keep them safe, clean, fed, even when I am with them 24 hours a day. It is natural that I live in a state of recurrent terror of what would happen to them, if I were no longer here; how could they navigate the welfare system, themselves?

Mental Health Update, September 2018, 1


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Should’ve written before now.

The thing about looking in the mirror after a bath or shower, is that I can see the smears of black and grey below my eyes, where my mascara and/or eyeliner has melted; the worse thing, is that I’m pretty sure I actually look better with smudged, clownish, day-old make-up gathering in the tiny creases there, than with no make-up at all.

Do I look so old, at 34, that even the half-destroyed remnants of yesterday’s cosmetics look better than my clean, freshly washed face? Where did all these lines–mostly fine, but some not–even *come* from?

When did my high cheekbones and readily-flushed face start to look fat and maybe as if I have a drinking problem, rather than sculpted and youthful? Have I looked like this all along? In fact:

Was I *ever* pretty? I gave up on being beautiful a long time ago–or I thought I had–but now, I doubt that I was ever even genuinely pretty, the way everyone is, before a certain age.

I think these silly, useless, vain thoughts, and I add more wrinkles (I can feel the skin creasing) between my brows, and I laugh, just a little, at myself. I will be 35 soon, and my ex-husband is 39 sooner, and my children are 10 and 12, and my parents are well into (if not past?) middle-age, and one of the four is dead already. My natural grandparents, save one, all died years ago.

This is life, I think to myself. “The slow, inexorable march… to the grave,” as someone cheerily wrote before me (no, wretched brain, I see you evidently will *not* deign to recall where you heard it, nor from whom). No matter. That is what all this is–only a passage from birth to death, and why should I care if my crows’ feet are worse than my mother’s were, at my age?

(Not fair, not fair, she’s smoked 2-4 packs of cigarettes every day of her life since before I was born, I’ve never smoked beyond taking a drag off a friend’s cigarette now and again in my teens and early 20s to confound people who KNOW how anti-smoking I am, why should my skin be mottled with acne scars and rosacea and surgical cuts from boils that had to be excised in a doctor’s office, why should I have lip lines at all, why should a single glass of wine–taken no more than 5 or 6 occasions per year, and most years, less often than that–flush my face beetroot, and stain my teeth, which used to be so lovely and white and are now just pale beige, despite my still brushing them 2-3 times each day… )

Shush, now, I tell myself, trying for the firm, yet somehow still gentle, endlessly soothing tone you would use with a small, slightly hysterical but generally good-natured child, that you love with all your heart. Shhh. It will be alright. You are far from home and you are older every day, but you love, have loved, will continue to love, and you are loved in return. Can you doubt it? 

And even I cannot.

Shhh, there now. It will be alright.