Tuesday, 7 February 2017

What a time to be alive.

You know when you're on a plane. And you're frightened of flying? Because you're in a fucking metal tube 35,000 ft up in the sky with no idea who's driving the thing? No idea whether the pilot is even there. He might not be. There may just be an empty cockpit as you hurtle towards your doom. No one knows do they.

You're just herded on, barked orders at (which you're pretty sure will do next to fuck all should the metal tube fall out of the sky) and then that's it. You're at the mercy of the pilot and crew. You have to cross your fingers and hope that none of them are drunk, mad, ill, absent, suicidal, murderous... All possibilities. Actually pretty real possibilities.

And then there are the flight crew. Just unphased by all this. As the sweat starts to prickle in your back and your finger start to twitch as the count down to take off ramps up. You can get off at any time right up until a certain point. Then you can't. No matter what. You're on that plane and you're flying wherever.

It's usually at that point when I stare around wildly (but quietly - I'm a very quiet panicker) wondering how in hell people are ordering cups of coffee and sitting there chatting. Some are even laughing. As if they have no care in the world. Amazing. It gives me a feeling close to awe, and also that I am a bit mental. Because I seem to be the ONLY ONE freaking out at this totally unnatural scenario over which I have no control.

Smiling masks of denial over ever present terror.

I used to feel like this only when I flew.

Now I feel it every day.

What a time to be alive.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Lost in Facebook

I remember vaguely when Facebook was fun. Way back in 2006 when we all edged our way away from our hilarious and ironic My Space profiles into the brave new world. It was all so simple then. We found our exes and stalked them. We added people we hadn't spoken to in years. We started ironically sharing statuses about our lunch.

Clearly, we were above this nonsense, but we were doing it anyway. We were banned at work before then being told it was the future of communication so we were unbanned at work. I should explain that work was a communications agency. It started to become important as a channel. An actual channel. For reals.

Twitter spurred on the Arab Spring. No one really know what the fuck they were doing but they did it anyway. It started to get mentioned on panel shows. What is this TWITTER SHIT. What is this nonsense. Who cares what you have to say on Twitter. Who cares what anyone has to say on Twitter.

And then we shuffled sheep-like onto Twitter anyway. Finally, we said. Finally there's somewhere where everyone can have a voice. Where everyone can SAY WHAT THEY THINK. Loudly. And repeatedly. Where people can discuss issues. It's the future of communication, they said. It's the future of dating. Work. Networking. Publishing. Content. Blogs. Vine. Videos. Vloggers.

And then money. People started making money. Youtube channels and Twitter and Insta and Facebook all mixing into one confusing amalgamated whole screaming voice of rage and anger and neurosis and fear and LOOK AT ME.

And less than ten years later we're living in a real life dystopian future with a leader of the 'free world' chosen, elected and victorious thanks to his Twitter rants. Those statuses that you get warned about when you have a proper job. Doesn't apply if you're president apparently. The president can fracture and destroy democracy in 140 characters on a daily basis.

Social media isn't social anymore. Social media has arguably created a political crisis in the West. Social media has propagated fake news, given fascists and bigots a safe platform in which to vent, fed the gullible with ideas and allowed everyone to cultivate their timeline to just their preferences. Barely anyone I knew, at least openly, wanted to leave the EU. NO ONE I know supports Trump. And every time I stick my head above the parapet of my safe timeline, I'm shocked. All over again.

So every morning now when I wake up, the first thing I do is look at Facebook. Because it's not a social network now. It's a news network. It's an Armageddon newsfeed delivered in handy bite sized headlines interspersed with pictures of dogs and owls. It's a confusing place of fear and terror and such anger.

Every day I say I won't and every day I get into an argument with a Leaver, or a Trump supporter. Or a racist. Or someone who is laughing at people's distress. And I can't contain the rage. And I hate these people, I HATE them with the force of a thousand suns. Facebook has made me hate.

I stopped looking at Twitter when I dropped out of the video game industry last year. I don't like it. It doesn't interest me. It never hooked me like Facebook did. It didn't have the faux cosy parameters. It seemed like it was for people who liked networking and endless endless look at me jokes. And I hate networking. What kind of bullshit phrase is that anyway.

But now Facebook has sucked everything into its gaping maw of control, I don't need to look at Twitter to see people's Tweets. I see Trump's every day. So I wake up and I look. And I see that the orange dictator of doom, controlled by the spittingly vile Bannon and his Nazi policies, has done something heinous. Every single morning. So I feel sick instantly. And all day I feel sick. Images from Threads overlay everything I do and everything I see. By the way, if you are one of the lucky ones who hasn't seen Threads, I most definitely wouldn't recommend it in today's political climate. Not if you want to sleep again.

I have an anxiety disorder as it is. I have monumental battles again surges of adrenaline and anxiety on a normal day. On a day when it feels very strongly that we're inexplicably falling down a rabbit hole leading to the atrocities of the 1930s, it's threatening to spin out of control.

Watching this ever unfurling hate fest is breaking me down. It's making my natural nihilism worse. It's making me feel like there's no point in anything. We've gone the wrong way, through a looking glass we don't know how to control.

And let's face it, we are not cut out for an apocalypse. We can't handle it when WiFi goes down.

Should I stop looking at it? Will it make it easier if I don't see the train coming for me while I'm helpless on the tracks? Is that a better way to deal with it? Am I just being a hysterical libtard? I've been called all sorts recently, from a murderer (for being pro-choice), to a retard to, well, a hysterical libtard.

I hope that's what I am. I really do. Because if not, and my fear is real, then we're all fucked.

And can I extricate myself from the sticky embrace of the overwhelmingly rotten and negative that Facebook now is? Doubtful. Still, at least it gives me placards like this.

Friday, 4 November 2016

A hard lesson to learn

Today is the birthday of Ian Malcolm Henderson.

He existed. He was here. Just as much as I am. Just as much as you are.

He once had his own hopes and dreams and fears. His own internal universe. A whole universe that I can never know.

And then he died.

Ian Malcolm Henderson should be 72 today. Instead, he's forever 56. I see his face and I see it as he was then. On bad days I picture it in his coffin. Him yet not him. Almost looking like he was asleep but the colour. The colour was wrong.

Either way, I can't picture him as 72.

I've aged 15 years and he hasn't changed a day.

And I can't let it go. I've struggled hugely with his death. I've felt sorry for me. Sorry for my mum. Sorry for him. Sorry for the shell of a family we were left with afterwards. And the hurt. The pain of grief is like nothing else. Truly. Like nothing else.

It's been here with me every single day of every single week of every single year since he died.

I apparently have failed to operate within the parameters of the 'classic stages of grief'. Therapists have told me a lot about the cycle of grief. The stages of grief. That I'm stuck. That I need to let go. That I need to reach the next stage.

Well, 15 years on, I think I've had to find my own way. I carry the sadness with me, but that also means I carry my dad within me. And that is the price of grief. You don't get to leave it behind, or move away from it. You have to absorb it and learn to accept the way it has changed you.

Next year, should we avoid political Armageddon and assuming that the world hasn't been obliterated in a Trump-induced nightmare, I will be marrying the best person I know. I'm delighted about this. Delighted to have found someone that makes me understand why people want to get married. It's an awesome thing. But I have a sadness that drags at the back of me as I choose a dress, and shoes and all the rest of the things that I had no idea you had to give a crap about when you get married.

My dad won't be there. I'll walk down the aisle alone. Much worse than that, he will never meet the man I marry. He'll never see that finally I got my shit together and chose someone worth it. Got past my addiction to feckless losers and found a man with integrity, kindness and intelligence.

I miss his voice. I miss his advice. I miss his approval and I miss him making me howl with laughter. I miss so much.

For someone who has no problem splicing words together to make whatever I need, I struggle over and over to find the right ones to describe quite how this feels. To suffer a loss that marks you for life is part of what it is to be human. The ability to adjust and grow through it is the hardest lesson I've ever had to learn.

One day I'll get there.

Happy birthday to my wonderful dad.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

The worst breakup ever

I tried not to write this. I really did. Who needs one more angry voice howling into the post-Brexit universe?

But I’m just so sad.

I’ve never been particularly ‘proud’ to be British or English. I don’t really understand that. We’re born randomly. We could have been born anywhere at any time. But we weren’t. We were born here, in a country of freedom that people couldn’t even imagine a few decades ago. We were born into a time of relative prosperity. Note the word RELATIVE.

Being poor in 2016 is shit. It’s not as shit as being poor in 1816. Or 1916.

When I was nine and we got our first dog I instinctively wanted a mixed breed. It’s better I reasoned. It has lots of bits of lots of other dogs in it. It makes it individual but with the traits of lots of other dogs. How can that not be a metric tonne better than a ‘pure’ bred dog that walks into walls because it’s from such a small gene pool it’s dumb as a rock?

I’ve always been vaguely glad I’m a quarter Scottish. I wouldn’t want to be all English. I wouldn’t want to be ALL anything.

So, what I guess I’m saying is that I’ve never really understood the nationalistic fervour that has cropped up at various points throughout my life. The odd football competition. When the Queen does something amazing like, er, gets a year older. Stuff like that. I’ve never felt part of it. I don’t understand how by an accident of birth people feel superior to others. I just don’t get it. I’ve always found it vaguely menacing.

I’ve never felt particularly proud, no. But I’ve also never felt ashamed. Until now.

Studying history taught me that people who really really wanted other people to get out of their country generally weren’t very nice people. But it’s OK. It’s history. Back then. Not now. It wouldn’t happen now. It couldn’t happen now.

When I was much younger and learning about the rise of the Third Reich, I remember when it dawned on me that the German people wanted Hitler. He didn’t win the Presidential election of 1932 but it was enough for him to be appointed Chancellor because lots and lots of people kept voting for his party, paving the way for the atrocities to come.

They chose it. They CHOSE it. How? And then I realised they were ordinary people. Ordinary people who felt desperate enough or believed in authority enough or just wanted a change from the struggles post WW1. They were sick of struggling for cash. They were sick of politicians. They were sick of the measures in place after the Great War. So they took a chance. They gambled and just look how much they lost.

But it’s OK. It wouldn’t happen again. It’s 2016, not 1933. We’ve learned so much.

But we haven’t have we? We HAVEN’T. Brexit has allowed the nationalistic racist minority a valid, sanctioned, VOTED FOR voice. Brexit has made it OK to start FB groups about ‘sending immigrants home’. It’s made it OK to tell a Polish kid he’ll ‘have to get out now’.

I get that not all Brexit voters are racist. Of course I do. I’m not an idiot. I know that out of the 17 million people who voted out, the nasty racist element is a minority. But voting for Brexit gave this nasty racist element so much more of a voice than ever before.

I understand that somehow people thought that the question: “Do you want to leave the EU?” meant “Are you really pissed off about not being able to get a seat at the doctors? Are you scared for your financial future? Do you think that outsiders are taking your resources away from you? Do you feel that you’re losing out to help people who don’t deserve it? Are you struggling to get by? Do you not have much money? Do you wish things were different? Do you hate the government? Do you think Cameron is a pie face moron who should go?”

I GET THAT. I UNDERSTAND that people are feeling marginalised. Disenchanted with government. Fed up with false promises. Well guess what? Leaving the EU has less than fuck all to do with ANY of that. Brexiters answered questions that weren’t even asked.

And still others fell for what was quite obvious utter bullshit peddled by a fucking moron who isn’t even an MP. And yet others saw a chance to vent their spleen. Their aggressive, small minded spleen on anyone who isn’t them.

When I voted Remain, I knew our country was already fucked. I knew that our government were corrupt lying assholes who have been systematically destroying anything I was proud of. The NHS, for example. I knew all that. I also knew that voting for anything Cameron wanted made me feel a bit sick.

But I answered the question.

Did I want to leave the EU? Did I want to leave something that was bigger and stronger and had more voices and therefore more chance of hope than our pitiful government? Did I want to leave something that upholds environmental measures that I don’t know our government will choose should we leave? Did I want to leave something that allows free movement of people from country to country? Did I want to leave something that has kept peace in Europe for a longer period of time than ever before?

In my lifetime I have watched wars safely removed from me. Iraq. Afghanistan. Europe was safe. We were, at least, together in Europe. Whatever happens with the Middle East, Europe is one. There is safety in numbers and safety in legally binding ‘red tape’ that stops countries going to war with each other.

Did I want to leave that? For a future that was clearly built on total bullshit? For financial insecurity the like of which we’ve never seen? For a future where the Far Right in Russia and France would be delighted with this choice? For a future ratified by fucking DONALD TRUMP?


When you’re heartbroken there’s always the small flicker inside you. Even if it’s deep inside you. You’ll meet someone else. There’s a chance you’ll find someone else and fall in love again. Plenty more fish in the sea, right?

Not this time.

I am so sad for the country that I grew up in. I am so sad for those who believed they were doing the right thing. I am just so sad.

I hope very much that history won’t look back at this vote, at this time, at this decision and ask: “Why didn’t they stop it? How could they just watch this happen?”

I really hope I’m being over emotional and dramatic and am misunderstanding what could happen now. I hope I’m wrong. And I hope that I can wake up one day soon and feel less emotional and more pragmatic. I hope that writing this will help me do this. I hope all of our futures are not as bleak as they seem right now.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Bad Poem.

Opening my mouth
I start to speak
But no words come out
They ask why
And I say, I
Miss you
I miss you
I miss you
I miss you
They ask why
And I say, I
Love you
I love you
I love you
It feels
The way it feels sometimes
I will never again speak.

I will never ever say your name
Not to your face
I will never say “Dad, look at this,”
“Dad, I’m getting married.”
“Dad, I’m loved. I’m here. I’m happy.”
So many times I said: “See you later.”
I could’ve looked you in the eye
And said
“Dad, whatever and whenever we have together
Know this.
I love you and I always will.”

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Fifteen years.

Fifteen years ago this very night I went to bed for the very last time as a person with an unbroken heart. 

I didn't know I was born, I tell you. All those years wasted mithering about nonsense, when I should have been fully enjoying not being grief-stricken. 

I would give anything to go back to then. To have my dad back. I'd like to just talk to him. Just for five minutes. But, on a more selfish level, I'd like to be able to just breathe properly. To sleep properly. To not be carrying around this sludgy mass of grief everywhere I go. 

I can't actually remember what it was like to not see the world through the gauze of grief. 

This is all I know now. It's my life now. And it has been since 16 March 2001 at 5am. 

The positives in this are that I didn't think I would survive without my dad. I genuinely didn't think I could live without him. And yet, here I am. Definitely existing. Lately, even living a bit. So I guess yay me, for realising that there is nothing that will actually break me completely. That's good. I guess. 

Other than that, I see nothing good or noble in grief. 

I saw a ridiculous meme somewhere or other talking about grief 'warming you in its rays'. 

And I thought to myself, 'grief rays'. What the ever-living buggery is that about. 

Anyone who tries to extract something positive from grief is an idiot. Grief is black and it's sticky. It's painful and it's exhausting. It doesn't make you a better person for suffering. It doesn't make you a worse person. It doesn't mean anything at all. It just is. 

When someone you love dies, then you can never do anything major in your life again, without a stab of pain. 

I am somewhere I never thought I'd be. I've met someone who I adore. And who adores me. We've bought a home. We're getting married. We're adopting another dog (YES WE ARE). 

Every bit of this I do without my dad. 

I want him to see my new house. I want him to come round for dinner. I want him to walk me down the aisle. I want him to see that I did get my shit together eventually. I want him to know how much he was loved. 

But grief is more about the person suffering it. I want to hear that he still loves me. That I have become someone he would, at least, be vaguely proud of. 

Even after 15 years it takes very little for me to be right back there, early morning on 16 March 2001 taking the call from my mum. 

"Your dad's dead."

I fancy now I could hear my heart shattering into a million tiny pieces. Right then and there. 

Shortly afterwards, I remember saying to my Cruse Bereavement Counsellor that I couldn't imagine getting to the 10 year anniversary. It was inconceivable to me then that I would be able to survive 10 years without him. 

And here I am at 15. 

So I guess I was wrong again. 

I've read a lot of books about grieving. I've read a lot of quotes about grieving. I have no pithy, comforting bon mot to share. 

Grief is unlike any other emotion or feeling. It is a realm all of its own and if you've been there you know it. If you haven't, you should fear it. Because it's very likely to be worse than you can imagine.

Best I can do is heartily recommend being open, honest and fulsome with your love for your loved ones. Whether they're your dad, your mum, your mate, your sister or your pet canary. Because it just takes one day for it to all change and you don't get to say it again. 


Thursday, 10 March 2016

Depression and me

I wrote this in June 2013. 

It's got better than this.

Three months ago I stopped taking SSRIs. For the first time in 23 years I am not taking anti-depressants. 

But it's still a truth snapping at my heels  

And it probably always will be. 

“You just need to think positively, like I do.”/“You always dwell on the negative. You’re just making it worse for yourself.”/“Pretend you’re happy and then people will want to be around you again.”/“There’s nothing wrong with your life. Just snap out of it.”

Yeah, it’s true. You’re right. You who live in a world where depression is something to be sneered at or pitied. You who lives in a world free of this. There is nothing wrong with my life. I shouldn’t wake up feeling like I’m caught in a vice. I shouldn’t stumble through each day a second away from tears, with a knot of tension in my stomach that never eases, afraid of everything and everyone.

I am alive, not destitute, not in severe pain every day, I can move my limbs, I am cognisant, I am smart. I’m a middle class, white, privileged English woman. What the hell do I have to be depressed about?

But on a semi-regular basis my world fades to black. And it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what you say to me. It doesn’t matter that you think I’m pathetic, or self-pitying or hysterical or overly dramatic or selfish or self-pitying or wanting attention or boring or needy or any of those things I’ve been called and told over the years. My world remains black, whatever you think of me.  

I’m good at hiding it, for the most part. Some people only see me as short tempered and moody and all the rest of that hilarious stuff. What they don’t know is that I spend days at a time choking back tears, that my amusingly low tolerance for teasing and banter makes me cry till I choke when I’m in private, that the simplest noise, like someone talking loudly or the phone ringing, can make me jump out of my skin because I am so tense, that I wake up in the morning with my heart racing and my limbs aching from clenching muscles, even in my sleep, that I wake up and cry, that I cry myself to sleep, that I can only see, hear, think and feel black and dark and despair and blank terror at the pointlessness of existence. That during the bad times I feel rudderless, so that I am floating, untethered through uncertainty and fear and every face I see is blank and every person I meet wants to hurt me and every path I choose is blocked.

My depression traps me, it smothers me, it makes it hard to breathe, it makes it hard to think, it makes it hard for me to look at my own face in the mirror, to talk to my own mother, to set foot outside my door. I want to crawl away from the world. And not stop. Just keep going until I die or the world ends. Whichever comes first.

Depression is insidious, it is without logic, it is without charm and it is without romance. It twists everything you see, you feel and you do. Depression has robbed me of relationships, friends, jobs and opportunities. As the years go by, the web of despair may flex and change - sometimes it’s way in the horizon and I can breathe and live, and sometimes it is clinging to my very skin, a damp, stultifying gauze between me and the world - but it never leaves me. And it most likely never will.