I wrote this a few months ago, and sat on it for a while rather than post it anywhere, to make sure I didn’t put anything out into the world that I couldn’t stand by.  It’s been four months, and a lot has changed in my life since I got all this down, but even after rereading it with a new perspective it still retains the power and intent it was written with.  To me, at least.  And what is a personal blog if not an exercise in bizarre forms of narcissism?

Three years ago I moved house, back to a town I used to live in and hadn’t foreseen myself returning to.  I was 24 years old, and going to start an undergraduate degree.

 

I felt old.  24 isn’t old, but it feels like it when you’re put in a room where the majority of people are white, middle class 18 year olds fresh out of sixth form.  I’m not particularly good at making friends at the best of times, perpetual foot-in-mouth syndrome and general social awkwardness makes meeting new people a rather painful experience.  This was not the best of times, I found myself unable to relate to these people in any way.  I felt like an alien.  It didn’t bother me all that much and I did eventually find a handful of people in my various classes that made me feel like a human, but it was still a very isolating experience.

 

My first day started badly.  The buses to campus were running late, and it was almost entirely because every single fresher stopped to ask the bus drivers “does this bus go to the university”.  Yes.  The big bus that says “university” across the front of it does, in fact, go to the university.  I was around ten minutes late for my very first first class, and upon arrival the lecturer threw a condescending and rude comment in my direction as I tried to find a seat, and in the same breath carried on talking about whatever she was teaching.  I had no right of reply and it angered me.  A woman I’d never met was rude to me, and I couldn’t defend or explain myself without disrupting the class further.  I fumed in silence as she repeated this act with every other subsequent latecomer.

 

Later that year, we were all repeatedly nagged into voting for this same lecturer to receive a teaching award.  She was an excellent teacher, and I eventually found out, a lovely person, but I refused to give her my vote due to this initial random act of hostility.

 

Not long into my first year of university, something went quite wrong with my reproductive organs.  It took several months and a lot of invasive and painful testing to fully diagnose, during which I maintained my basic ability to function by being completely off my face on codeine at all times.  The pain was so dreadful I was taking 100mg just so I could get out of bed, and then knocking more back every two hours until I passed out.  I learned precisely nothing while this was going on.  If I was in class, it was because I’d taken enough painkillers that day to feel like my head was floating two feet above my shoulders.

 

I ended up needing surgery.  I went into hospital the day before my exams were supposed to start, got knocked out, cut open and set on fire.  I was home the same day, but it took me weeks to recover.  I was supposed to be revising (read: learning it all for the first time) and all I could manage to do was eat more codeine and sleep for 20 hours a day.

 

This was my first major loss.  I was told that due to the condition I had, it was very unlikely that I’d be able to have biological children (also, the condition was permanent and while there are ways to control it, it’s something I will have to live with).  I wasn’t planning on having children.  I don’t particularly like children.  But there’s a difference between choosing not to do something and being told you can’t.  I laugh and joke about it and say it’s fine and it doesn’t bother me, and most of the time, it doesn’t.  Once in a while, though, I think about it and it makes me incredibly sad.

 

So that happened.  I sat my exams late, and predictably, didn’t do particularly well.  Between revising, being stressed because I wasn’t revising, undefined amounts of self-hatred, intense pain and the assorted medications I had to take, I was a wreck.

 

My second year started slightly better, though I felt at a major disadvantage due to not really learning anything the previous year.  I came to uni through a nontraditional route, as my compulsory education more or less ended when I was 14 and had to leave home.  The access diploma that I did to gain entry was quite informative, but frankly did not provide a solid enough background in the subjects to be of much use beyond unlocking the door for me.  I struggled through and things were actually going quite well for a time.

 

Then I lost my mind.  The stress of uni is enough to send people off the deep end all by itself, but I was coping with it.  Then I acquired what I can only really describe as a stalker, but she is so much more and yet so much less than that that the word seems completely inadequate.  She’s always been in my life to varying degrees, a violent, abusive and dangerous woman that I used to keep at arm’s length and gently push away whenever she tried to get closer.  She got too close and wasn’t going away, and then found out where I lived.  This gave her the power to insert things into my home, amongst other antics designed to make my life hell, and I found myself wholly unable to cope with the situation.  This became the trigger that set off some pretty impressive mental health issues, the fallout of which I am still trying to clear up a year later.

 

I think under the circumstances the neglect of my studies during this period is fairly understandable.  I ended up being able to rescue my dissertation at the last minute, for which my supervisors can have all the credit and all my love and respect.  Exams were something that happened, but I honestly don’t remember them all that well.  Those few months went past me in a blur of tears, anger, frustration and prozac.

 

By the time third year came around I had my issues mostly under control.  I was healthy(ish), happy(ish), and generally feeling pretty positive about the whole thing.  I looked in the mirror and saw a woman I barely recognised – the last two years took their toll on my body.  Spending months at a time shut in my house unable to move for physical or mental reasons meant I’d put on weight.  I carried myself differently.  I didn’t really like these changes, but I felt good about getting back in control of my life.  I’d started some pretty hardcore exercise regime, and was thinking about taking up running when the weather got a little better.

 

Then, in January, I fell over on my way to the opticians.  Slipped on some litter in the rain.  Oh well, sometimes you fall over and it’s fine, carry on.  Except it wasn’t fine.  I didn’t know it at the time, but I’d caused deep trauma in several bones that make up my knee joint.  Then I walked around on it for three weeks, carried on exercising, running around, carrying heavy things, and managed to make it a hundred times worse.

 

I ended up in A&E, on crutches, in complete agony, yelling in pain at the doctors trying to diagnose me.  I couldn’t walk on it.  I couldn’t leave my house, I had to drag myself up and down the stairs just to use the bathroom.  My old friend codeine was back on the scene, and it made the pain go away, but if the pain wasn’t there I inevitably managed to make it worse because I couldn’t feel the warning signs.  Go to my classes?  You’ve got to be joking.

 

And that’s how I lost my mobility.  I couldn’t drag myself to classes on my bad leg.  I couldn’t keep up with my subjects very well, even with the materials available online.  I couldn’t sleep, because wherever you lie, your knee is touching something.  At time of writing I’ve just finished my final exams, and they came and went in a cascade of poor-to-averageness.  I don’t know what else I could have done, really.  The knee doctor said it’d be four to six months to recover.  It’s been five and it’s almost as painful now as it was when I went to hospital, so I can only assume it’s four to six months if you can manage to completely avoid using or touching the affected joint, which is really damn hard when it’s something you need to use every day.

 

I’m 27 years old.  I walk with a stick.  I’m going to graduate with an average degree, at best, and if I go to my graduation ceremony I will accept my degree with a limp after taking as many simultaneous painkillers as I can just so I can try and make the walk unaided.

 

These last three years I’ve suffered some intense personal losses, and had control of my life ripped from my hands and given to people that don’t care about me.  I’ve been living in a purely reactionary state, bouncing from one crisis to the next without any time to make my own decisions.  I’m emotionally exhausted, and I look around now to try and work out how to start putting everything back together and I don’t really know where to begin.  I have left so much undone.

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And no words to say it.

Broken women are on my mind a lot of late.  I look back and find my past full of them, broken women that have shaped my life for better or worse – I won’t know yet which it’ll end up being.

More than any other time in my life I find myself surrounded by wonderful people – a haphazard family that seeped into my life from nowhere.  I find myself drawn to all sorts of people from all walks of life, but most of all those like myself.  Children of broken women.  An angry sisterhood of solidarity that has trouble keeping eye contact with itself.

It’s infuriating to be so hyper-aware of your own shortcomings.  I see myself wallowing in narcissistic self-pity and all that happens is I get annoyed with myself, which makes me even more unbearable, which makes me more annoyed.  It’s the spiral of pathetic self-hatred and I appear to be stuck on it.

I seem to remember a time when I was articulate – if this was ever the case it appears to have long since passed.  I speak in endless words and circles and squiggles and yet somehow I can’t actually say what I mean anymore.  It’s like there’s an invisible person smacking me in the mouth every time I try to express myself honestly, so I have to talk around it for long enough that hopefully people can vaguely get what I mean.

I think at one point it didn’t feel quite so difficult to just do things.  It feels less and less like I’m “running out of spoons” and more and more like somebody has come and replaced all my spoons with toenail clippings and blades of grass – what the fuck am I supposed to do with these?  They are a completely inappropriate tool for the problem.

I’ve been trying to express my general daily woes in limerick form.  I’m doing pretty well at that actually, or at least I think I am.  I’m sure I’m not the first person that’s ever turned limericks into a form of expression for intense personal unhappiness, but I think more people should do it.  It’s hard to concentrate on being sad when you’re trying to make rhymes out of the pain that’s trying to take over your life.  I’ve also started making them up for other people, which usually gets a laugh.  Problems seem so much easier to deal with when they’re reduced to a five-line rhyming verse.  Maybe I’ve just invented a new form of therapy, who knows.

I’m existing in two different states at the moment.  I either feel all fragmented and disconnected, like I’m looking at myself through broken glass, or I feel completely whole – but somehow that there’s less of me than there used to be.  Also naked, which lends a layer of panic to the whole thing.  I guess it’s like I’ve looked in the mirror for the first time and my reflection is somebody three foot shorter than me that’s mislaid their entire personality somewhere.

But hey, I did my laundry today, so I guess I’m not completely dysfunctional.

I’ve never thought of myself as a guide, but people keep asking me for directions.

I show them the way as best I can. Sometimes I know exactly where it is they’re going and how to get there from where we are, and sometimes all I can give is my best guess, possibly with further advice to seek a second or third opinion. I’m not overly fond of giving directions, and I rarely volunteer myself for it, but if people ask me I will try. And they do ask, with a frequency that baffles me, given my fairly well-known preference on the matter.

Whatever I say, inevitably they set off on search of their destination, usually in vaguely the direction I suggested. Presumably, they eventually arrive there. Usually, without me.

I sometimes wish someone would come and show me the way. Just for once.

It feels like you’re always right here with me, except when you’re not.

I turn to ask you a question or share a thought, and you’re not there, and the loss hits me in a place I rarely use.  Then it creeps out and around until it clouds my mind and my thoughts, and taints all that I say and all that I feel.  It fades, eventually, and clarity seeps back in slowly, quietly, and I don’t notice it push the darkness away.

Words often fail me with things like this, so I try not to try.  A constant desire to verbalise thwarts me.  If I can say it, I can deconstruct it, pull it apart, separate the components and study them before I destroy them.  But the power of expression is lost to me.

It’s Sunday night, and we’re walking home.

We stop and stare into the distance.  No words pass between us as we stand there, momentarily captivated by the perfect scene we stumbled into.  I lose all sense of the passing of time.  For a while we are two single entities absorbing the night.  Then I feel your arm around my shoulders, and we become an amorphous shape in the darkness.  Still there are no words as more time disappears, until we turn to each other at the same moment, and we both know it’s time to keep walking.

Today, I tidied both my bedroom and my study. I have a way to go before things are properly organised, but I am no longer shin deep in piles of laundry, wires and cat hair.

I own more things right now than I have ever owned in my entire life. I’m not so big on possessions, I tend to just buy stuff I need. Luxury goods and toys hold minimal interest to me. Yet I look around my bedroom tonight and despite positively overflowing with possessions by my standards, my room seems empty. It is a functional and comfortable sleeping space that I enjoy using, but reclaiming the floor from it’s temporary use as a wardrobe has really brought home how bleak it is. The blank magnolia walls aren’t helping, but art is expensive, posters are mostly awful and I can’t paint them.

For the very first time in my life, I really feel like owning more stuff would be a positive thing.

There was the day I saw him, and looked over him with a searching, critical eye, and thought to myself “I wouldn’t mind waking up next to that every morning”

There was the day I began to fall in love, the day I walked away, back to the life I hated, convinced I’d never see him again. Four long hours spent mourning what could have been, staring blankly out of the window into the rain.

There was the day after that, and the day after, and the week after. He stayed in touch, expressed an interest in doing it again sometime, planted a little bit of hope within me.

There was the day… There was my birthday. He asks if it’s ok for him to go ahead and chase some other girl that’s been making eyes at him. I tell him I don’t give a shit about what he does, nor do I understand what it has to do with me. He carries on talking. I cut him short. Do whatever the hell you want with whoever the hell you want, but do you have to tell me about it on my birthday? Really? I hang up in disgust.

There was the day I met his family, who didn’t know quite what to make of me, nor I them. I go to his room in the middle of the night and tell him I don’t know what I’m doing there. He explains it to me, and my mind is put at rest.

There was the day I told him I loved him, with something sent in the post. He sends me a message conveying his confusion. I spell it out in plainer language. He gets it this time, and is pleased.

There was the day I moved, uprooted my life from one end of the country to the other on a whim, a dream and a hope. Threw a few necessities in a bag and just left, leaving everything else behind, to have a stab at building something new.

Then there were hard days, but happy days. Searching for a job, searching for a home, living in the tiniest room imaginable, surviving on sandwiches and the thrill of new love. Long nights in the pub filled with laughter, long evenings spent watching films with new friends.

There was the day I found our home. Just barely big enough for the two of us. I loved it from the moment I walked in the door. I don’t think he ever particularly liked it, but made a good show of it nonetheless.

There were more and more happy days. Not perfect, but near enough to be indistinguishable. Days of summer sun and picnics, long walks to nowhere on cold autumn nights. Watching the sun set, and then rise again over our strange little adopted home. Waiting for buses in the dead of winter, huddled together beneath the shelter, hiding from the rain that never seemed to stop. Visits to each of our families, Christmases spent surrounded by warmth and love. Holding hands and kissing in the street.

There must have been a day he stopped wanting to hold my hand in the street, but I don’t remember it. All I remember is still wanting to.

There was the day we began to talk about getting married, buying a house somewhere, starting a family. He seemed even more in love with the idea than I was, and I loved the idea. Then for a long time afterwards the subject kept cropping back up – what to wear, who to invite, what kind of cake, where we should get a house. He loved talking about it, making plans and having ideas. When I finally asked if we should go ahead and do it, there was a long answer that meant no. But it was ok, I was happy to be patient, even if I thought it was silly to wait.

There was a hard year for him, for both of us really, but we made it through relatively unscathed. We had plans for a grand adventure that we both looked forward to, that kept us going for most of it, and then we had each other, and that was enough.

There was the day I let him talk me into moving in with his parents temporarily, despite my severe misgivings. I took no satisfaction in being right.

There was the day we moved to London, which we both had mixed feelings about. I loved our flat, and most of the time I loved our life there, but when I got down about it I got very, very down about it. He worked himself to exhaustion. We decided the London life wasn’t for us, and moved back in with his family when our time there was up.

There was the day I finally snapped and insisted we move out, just over a month before we were due to leave on our big adventure. He went along with it to keep me happy, and it worked. A month of living with our best friends, back in our adopted home, our days were filled with fun and laughter again, it was the perfect note to leave on.

There was the day we went to the airport, we kept glancing at each other and grinning as we waited to board our plane. We were travelling to the great unknown and I couldn’t think of anybody else I’d rather have been going with.

There was the day after, we arrived in a city on the other side of the world with nothing but a couple of bags and some vague directions to where we were staying that night. We were tired but filled with nervous energy, found the place, took our bags off and promptly passed out.

There was the early hours of the next morning, waking up, realising we were ravenously hungry, and managing to find a McDonalds still open at 4:30am. We laughed over our Egg McMuffins.

There were days beyond that, good days and bad, days of adventure and days of hardship. Bus journeys and train journeys and ferry journeys and plane journeys and cab journeys, and many miles walked in scorching heat with all our worldly possessions strapped to our backs. Fun and laughter, tears and anger, frustration and satisfaction. A hundred different beds in a hundred different rooms.

There were my darkest days, almost bang in the middle of it all, when my health took a turn for the worse in several different ways, which would have been bad enough at home, but in another country entirely was overwhelming. He took it all badly too, we got through it together in muted silence and solidarity for the most part, except when we left each other to fend for ourselves some days. We made it out again and continued on, and the light came back into our life again.

There was the day he finally proposed. It was my birthday, again. My immediate response was “are you shitting me?”. It was very nearly “about fucking time”, but I wanted to make sure it wasn’t a joke first. I threw caution completely to one side and said yes. It’s what I’d been dreaming of for so long, and now it was finally happening I almost hesitated. Was there something wrong with me, or does even the most eager bride-to-be stumble when she’s actually put on the spot like that? It passed, and I was overwhelmed with happiness.  We both were

There was the day before we were due to come home. I am writhing in agony in bed at a hostel in New York City – I have food poisoning. I charge out of the room to the bathroom at the end of the hall at 3am, don’t quite get there in time, and surf my own vomit the rest of the way, landing in a heap, hugging the toilet bowl for dear life. He helps me clean it up, and when morning comes around goes off to find me something I keep insisting is the only thing I want to eat in the entire world. Watermelon. He finds some and brings it back for me, and sits with me, cuddling me gently, watching rubbish TV for a while to cheer me up. I am happy, despite feeling dreadful.

There is the day, some days after we’ve moved into our new house in our new city. We have no furniture, no belongings at all really, we’re sleeping on cushions on the floor till our bed shows up. I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my life, he’s more miserable than I’ve ever seen him. I don’t understand why. I find I don’t understand much about him any more. I ask, and I don’t understand his reply either. I shrug, and hope it works itself out once we’ve settled in.

There wasn’t a day I realised I didn’t love him anymore, but there was the day I realised I still cared enough to lie about it, and that gave me hope. It was a feeling, something I could work with, build on, carry on with.

There was the day I realised I didn’t care enough to lie about it anymore. We are standing in our kitchen. I am getting something out of the fridge. We are arguing, he’s nagging me about something, I don’t even remember what. I’ve had what I can safely describe as the worst month of my life. I cut him off mid sentence. I’m furious and upset, but mostly I’m standing there in sheer disbelief. I say “I tried to kill myself two days ago, could you please just give me a fucking break”. A blank stare is my response, eventually a confused “what?”. “Remember? Two days ago? I went to the hospital and stuff? You were here when I got home, we had a whole conversation about it?”. The blank stare continues, and then he leaves the room. My heart breaks, and I sit on the floor for a while, trying to find the pieces again. No luck.

Tomorrow morning I will go to work. When I get home, he’ll be gone, and there will be empty spaces where his things used to be, much as there’s an empty place in my heart that he used to occupy. I miss him. I’ve been missing him for at least six months already.

I’ve been trying to focus on the practical things, stay positive, stay busy. I think it’s worked far too well. All anybody sees of me is my happy bouncing around seeing all my friends, my delight at getting more cupboard space and being able to eat interesting food again if I want, and gleefully saying how I’m able to sprawl over the whole bed again. In the grand scheme of things, yes, I’m happy, in all but two ways everything is going right for me at the moment.

I’m spending so much time seeing my friends because I still don’t trust myself 100% to be alone. I’ve been spending so much time away from my home because – much as we’ve been getting on surprisingly well – I didn’t want to make things any more difficult for him by hanging around him all the time, especially as on some level we still want to hang out with each other, but when we do, it’s fun, but I think it hurts us both. And the randomly being delighted at various aspects of him moving out? Every time the thought saddens me, I try and think of something positive to come of it instead that I can focus on.

Tonight is the first and only time I’m going to let this get me down. I figured I’d allow myself one. It didn’t seem unreasonable.