Monday, 2 December 2019

Leap of Faith with #PTSD

I've just sat down to work after watching my three youngest children at their regular climbing wall sessions. Watching children learn, develop and extend themselves never ceases to amaze me. As I walked around the zones, I chatted to a young girl who was waiting to do what is called, 'The Leap of Faith' - which requires, after roping up, jumping out to an aerial swing before being lowered down. Nervously, she shared with me that she had sweaty hands and was worried that as such, she would not be able to grip the swing. She reminded me of myself, of my own sweaty hands and fears. But of my being brave too. I climb mountains, swim in deep sea, and generally take new opportunities that push me beyond my perceived capabilities - over the years, this pushing through has taken the form of chairing a charity for which I organised major events and did fieldwork; running (small) companies; engaging in public speaking; doing an MA; writing and promoting books, writing, producing and directing plays and arts events - all these things terrify me but I nevertheless do them. With each endeavour fear rises up like Snowdon, and, face like flint, legs and belly like jelly - hands slick and a quiver too - I have to start climbing all over again. I've been fighting #fear all my life. This has sometimes made me quite scary, you have to be, to face fear down, or so I thought. I put on a smiley-face now, along with the brave one, which likely makes me look like a clown. I act like one too.

As a mother, I try very hard not to communicate any residual fear to my children (Will the fear, like oil reserves ever dry up? Will I ever be the sheik of shriek?) though I am still sometimes hypervigilant with them - hovering for instance, during risky stuff, like a demented beaky bird when I should just fly off and let them fly. I am still sometimes overly reactive if one of them falls over or cries out - their cries soon drowned by my own well-crafted ones; I try not to worry about them missing out in some way, as such I have to take off my Big Chief Interferer Bonnet on a regular basis; I manage worry when they are away or out of my 'control' with 'get a grip woman' talk - courtesy of my patient and statistical husband, or indeed myself - I have faith reserves that I can summon up, but this takes effort - like pumping breast milk in a restaurant behind a scarf; whereas the fear reserves spring up so easily instead, drawn as they are from vast reserves of deep pain and trauma laid down when I was little but built upon by the (actually, two) earthquakes I have been in, the (past) abusive relationships and the near death experiences I have had. It is always a battle not to look back, not to sorrow, not to regret, not to look down, but, face like flint, to drive forwards. Having a superhero disguised as an engineer for a husband helps. As for the four children - don't tell me there is no God.

I'm not sure of the exact cause, but I've suffered from #complexPTSD since I was a child.It could have started when my mother took us from Spain where we had been living, back to Zimbabwe where she told us we would never see my father again. Soon afterwards she introduced us to a stepfather who assaulted me violently on a number of occasions - the welts that grew on the inside were far worse than those on the outside of my girl's body. Or it could have been the sexual abuse I suffered at the hands of my mother's sister's husband. A sensitive, artistic, truth-seeking child, I was not allowed to speak of these traumas, which in any case were denied. The fact that I spoke out about or reacted to what had happened in my family of origin meant that I was the object of more punishment, ostracisation and blame. Compounded by all the blame, #PTSD was my closest companion and my deepest shame. I still shake, and the small hands that used to pour sweat still get clammy on occasions. Given these events took place in an environment where I should have been cared for caused deep chasms of remembered trauma - painful events of the past were faultlines, as deeply grooved as African earth in the dry season. Trauma, pushed deeply into my body, nevertheless manifested in the present, throwing up migraines, vivid nightmares, extreme jumpiness and hypervigilance, that in my teens and twenties, developed into anxiety, depression, sleep and eating disorders and drug and alcohol dependency - having my eldest son put a full stop to penultimate thing 1 and mostly, thing 2 - though I'm best off avoiding those kinds of parties. Like long-gone fags, you always fancy one, but they're a smoking gun.

A master of disguise, and my actor father's daughter, I tried to hide all my symptoms, especially the shaking and the sweating, of which I was deeply ashamed; I took on the cloak of self-loathing that my parents and sister gave me and hid under it, disguised as many things, (you would never have guessed, oh how 'I' hid.) None of these guises of me were the bright, authentic, God-created/ive me, she only emerged years later after I began to escape. E'gads, perhaps she's not here yet lads. Get on your ponies and flee! My sister, who has been quite open about wanting to be the only daughter, delighted in provoking me and making me weep; she thought it was hysterical that I was so easy to terrify, and took great delight in scaring me in various ways; I was so satisfyingly and easily terrified to tears. I learnt quickly to try and hide any weaknesses. As I grew, I learnt coping mechanisms - humour became a tool - I fended people off by being sharp-tongued. Outside of the family I found comfort in friends and the families of friends, in unsuitable boyfriends. As a young adult I developed all the physical symptoms that come with complex PTSD, myriad physical symptoms, including an irregular heartbeat and digestive disorders. Nevertheless I was an intrepid adventurer, but let loose prematurely on the world and without any family lifeboats, I took risks, some of which nearly killed me. I learnt to be 'very strong', to never ask for help or money (from the age of fourteen I was earning my own money), not to trust people, to cope on my own, and to be wary of intimacy.

Until I took my own leap of faith and actually found a faith, not least, someone outside myself to trust, as well as my divine, ever-listening, ever-actually-hearing husband I did not begin to heal properly and to come to understand rather than ignore the confusing eruptions of PTSD. (Humorous Husband does so much hearing of me, that if I did not also make him laugh or talk politics and home-schooling and much else in-between, he might have thrown me out with the peelings.) I still manage my symptoms, but I did not seek help for PTSD specifically, nor fully understand what it was that I suffered from, until recent years when, having left my abusive family of origin a few years before I had to deal with them during a recent court case (which precipitated a phase of profound healing, beneath rock bottom - in those dark and scary fissures in my infant earth.) I only stopped 'being strong' when my mind and body finally reached their limit and began breaking down, only then did I get the specific and professional help I needed. Such is the armour that I have built up over the years that I still struggle to ask for help, even from those nearest and dearest. True healing lies, I believe, beyond the professionals, in my case, without and deeply within. Only we have the tools, 'they' can only do so much, though being able to voice things to my husband or close friends has helped enormously - and the occasional shrink though they're like gold dust, and often you have to do the gold-mining. My hands still sweat occasionally, as when I watch my own children climb a rock face or walk too close to a precipice, or even at sports days or when my daughter acts or sings or dances solo. They sweated slightly this morning - in memory or empathy with the young girl I was encouraging to jump - that girl who drew on her own reserve of faith and took the leap of faith. Her smile afterwards was sunshine to the soul.

Sunday, 24 November 2019

Whack-a-Roddy Toddy

On account of a cold, I've just made myself a hot toddy with French brandy (tres posh!) cloves, cinnamon, clementine (Oh, my darling, oh my darling!) and lemons (Bells of St Clements). The toddy is whack-a-Roddy (Emspeak for doing the trick), and I'm feeling loads better, though how I will feel when the brandy wears off is anyones guess. I hope to distract myself later with an episode of The Crown. My son is an extra in it though I've peeled my eyes and still haven't spotted him. He's tall dark and handsome if you happen to see him and is in the Welsh scenes. Speaking of which, the Welsh scenes are political with a capital 'P', nationalist #Welsh sympathies are thoroughly addressed by a watchable but nevertheless comical Prince Charles, who is as PC in it as his initials. The accents on The Crown are a right laff, but they don't distract, they add to the entertainment. Has anyone else noticed, since the Prince Andrew debacle, how normal PA sounds compared to PC, though PA is not PC at all. I don't know what to make of the recent allegations against him, but I do think he should be stepping well back. PA, should not be able to address the public at all. I wonder what PC thinks. Wide and birth spring to mind. What kind of king will PC be? Should there a be a crown at all? It does seem rather quaint and outdated. Rather like the accents on #TheCrown.

Back to me and on to my knee. I've been merrily decorating the Christmas Tree with the nippers, and this afternoon, when I got up, something went above my knee and it wasn't the rest of my leg but something alien and super painful. I've never done my pin in, but this is stonkingly painful. I can walk around like a normal human, but when I have to bend it to sit...roof hitting...I yelled for Nurofen and my daughter came scurrying. I'm going to have to have another crack at weeing standing up. The last time I did that I was about four. Have you tried threading baubles? Bloody awful, trying stuff, just when you think you have them threaded, they bounce off petulantly and roll under the tree so that you have to practically knock over the whole thing to find them. Now there's a Christmas message right there. Tree looks good though. I'd take a picture for you but my phone is stuffed on account of the chemical sunblock I doused it in when, running late and having splattered some sunblock on my fizzog (I wear it all year round so that the wrinkles are kept aground, and not on my face) scribbled some make-up on, sans glasses so what I looked like was anyone's guess, I tossed it all into my bag and went running for a London bus without properly capping the sunblock. If all this is what being 50 means, I will need more hot-whack-a-Roddy-toddies, and minions, minions of minions to scurry around for me. Yes, please put the carols on...Hark the Herald Angels Sing, plea-ease, easy my dodgy knees...I think another toddy is in order.

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Discombobulated but Bobbing Along

It’s a little over a year since I went to hospital for a hysterectomy and six months since chemotherapy ended, there was reconstructive breast surgery on account of dodgy lumps, summer last year as well. The years of preparation for the #1975Inheritance Act case I brought against my stepfather and my sister’s husband, the executors of my mother’s will, and the trial and settling of the case, are now also over - three and a half years of a part time job acting as my own solicitor to save money on costs – the costs that the other side have recently had to 100% pay, thanks to their persistent refusal to negotiate. These have been the dark materials that I would rather not have been part of the fabric of my life. But now that these matters are concluded, I have been trying to get my body (mind and spirit) back together again. It’s sunny outside, where I have just been for a walk/run combo based on an app that let’s you walk/run to build up your fitness. I staggered home, after the push me pull you (to run, pull myself along the quay), red faced but staggeringly triumphant. I am also hiking in the mountains, gleefully jumping around like the capricorny mountain goat I fancy myself to be. And (soon) swimming beyond the summer in the sea. For which I will need a wetsuit. Years from now, I fancy being one of those crazed grannies that down a shot of Vodka and then, legs bowed, run into the freezing sea, their hair on ice and their jowls billowing in the wind.

Since my diagnosis, I have been experiencing a kind of horror at being in this body of mine (more cumbersome, thank-you steroids and hysterectomy). After all, there was something of an alien spaceship growing on an ovary, that, left to it’s own vices, would have sent out ever more substations and cell-distorted aliens, to strangle the life out of me. The surgery took the tumour, but also the cradle that had nurtured my four children, and almost all that had led to them being there. I mourned these unseen parts of me that had sheltered my secret growing children, that unseen, I had nevertheless loved. Post breast surgery, parts of my torso were removed to patch up other parts. My body was then hystercectomally eviscerated. Still other parts of me were cut out – binned? Incinerated? Gone. Where? Torn asunder, I went through, the motions ordered (thankfully, of course), in a disconnected state. Doctors flashed statistics at me like a flickering black and white movie. Would I die? Would I live? For how long? I tracked along, zombie like, in a body that did not feel like it was mine. This was my body, my life-giving body, that had turned against me. And now, hysterically, the aftermath of the hysterectomy: full blown men-oh!-pause. My husband certainly pauses as he blindly approaches an occasionally slightly mental me through my brain fog and jitteriness. I am trying to stop being suspicious of my body where so many wars have been raging. I need to love its disparate parts again, and to nurture it back to life. There have been bleeding wounds, inside and out, stitched up. But what else, who else was stitched up? 

My mind has been over matter somewhere. Out there. Where? Scattered. It's been displaced, bobbing alongside, above? - my body, held together loosely, by a string. My mind has recoiled in horror from my cut out body and I need to get them reacquainted. Also cut out, during my year of illness, these past years, has been me from family of origin and from my grandmother's estate via my mother's will. I went straight from chemo in April to court in May. Tracking my illnesses like a dark shadow and periodically ambushing my mental health, these past few years, has been dealing with my sister’s abusive husband who represented the family leading up to and in court and seeing the orchestrated (by my sister’s husband) mendacious witness statements (How could they? is too tame a phrase) during the three and a half years of preparation for the #1975Inheritance Act case and the eventual (they repeatedly delayed) trial where my former sister, her husband, stepfather and brother, brazenly lied in and out of court so that they could get away with the estate and, as we tried to, and still argue: fraud. Court was jaw dropping stuff. You couldn’t make it up, though they did. My shredded emotions have been shelled by first my mother’s actions and then, her offspring, my sister, both of whom used their husbands to assault and attack me historically in case 1 and on-going (here, on this blog, weeks ago) in case 2. He has been stalking me online incessantly since 2015. I have a four year's full file of years of written attack from her husband, the last bit a death suggestion that only weeks ago appeared here on this blog. 

Though I won the 'battle against cancer' - does this war terminology help? Peace with my body and mind must now be made. I 'won' the court case too though it was not the path I would have chosen, I would have preferred for us all to sit down and discuss things, though that would have meant sharing as I argued (successfully) that we should do. It takes a while to wash your mind clean from all this ugliness. But what else was shattered? My spirit...I don't say soul...I think we are body, mind and spirit. My bewildered spirit has been a raft on a sea whose stormy waves have sometimes formed themselves into watery cliffs off which my little craft (not least my writing craft) tips and slips into the watery depths below, where all former beliefs, all I held true was buffeted again and again over all these life and death things. But it's over now. Chemo and court are done. The sea is stilled. The case is won. I prevailed. I sit on the beach now, discombobulated: like the Iron Giant, the several, severed parts of me are scattered here and there. See me cranking along: a torso, (a la the scene in The Holy Grail where the torso keeps fighting - Come On! Is that all you've got! Oh the laughs! Thank God for the laughs, the pulling myself together laughs that have always kept body and soul together. See me here, in search of my body and head. Putting myself back together again.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

#One in Four - A Poem for Mental Health Day


One in Four

The statistics are one in four
Sooner or later t'will come knock, knock, knocking at the door
(Yes, rhyming is what mental folks do!)
When they are in a bit of a stew
And not bob, bob, bobbing along

Please take the time to become acquainted
With those imbued with a drone in the head
Bone memories
Of things done or things said
(Some of them, might very nearly be dead)

What it is, and what it isn't
So many assumptions
And supposes
Before the schism splits
One in four

Sometimes you only find out the extent of it,
In the papers
Sometimes you're beguiled by the smiles
I'd never have guessed!
But one in four

Shame, conditioning, and all the rest,
Keep smiles laid
On faces dressed in Sunday best
That, behind closed doors crumple
Like innards sucked from skin

They are the clowns
Dressed up but feeling down
Their eyes fixated, hearts frustrated,
Racing along, sweaty handed,
Sometimes, community has disbanded

Pupils wide from prescriptions
Memory trains on brains, tracing, tracing
Tracking this way and that
Stained from abuse and misuse
Yes, one in four

Have a heart,
Yes, you have one
For the smiling ones,
Who struggle to keep the inside
From getting out

Help them
To banish the ghosts
That have hurt them the most
And the ones that mock and scorn
In the land of the living
The ugly red-handed that just keep on giving

Have a care
In this godless place
For members of the human race
Who don't fit in with
How you think they should 

These one in four

They are not like you?
But there is always a tipping point
Even for you
What grief lies in store
For the heartless ones?

When suffering comes
You will know the score
One in four
Is that a knock at the door?

Monday, 16 September 2019

Gym Palace

As part of my recovery package courtesy of the NHS (thanks everyone, including me). If only there was champagne in that package, and Botox inducing face masks or the like, but no, I am being given cut-rate gym sessions at the local gym (not gin, sadly) palace. I see someone called Dion who takes me through the equipment at the gym while we discuss Oasis and other bands from the 90s. He's a spring chicken but his taste in music is sprung. We discuss the lack of guitar music these days, along with my lack of muscles, these days. I reliably inform him that this time last summer I was 2 stone lighter and fit - running up that hill fit - the one most people can't get up without taking a rest. He looked sceptical. Dion then gives me a list of classes to attend. The first one is called Circuits. Sounds hectic. Just the ticket to knock off a few, pounds that is, but when the other gym gear clad grannies and granddads arrive, they look like they are about to be knocked off the planet. Clearly Dion did not believe a word that I said. I cheer up when I see a basketball net. I smugly toss the ball through the hoop, over and over again, from further and further away, just to make a point. The instructor and the coffin dodgers ignore me.

The B52s start playing and the gym instructor gets on the headphones, whilst showing everyone how to have a knees up, but not the kind I prefer, he points his knees up to the ceiling and taps them to the floor getting a bit of a wiggle-vibe on as he does so. The old folk join in but only lackadaisically, given its a bit of a social club and chat-wise, they are warming up. There are ten circuit stations, ranging from standing up and sitting down on a chair, using a rubber band to discourage bingo wings, using a gym ball to polish the wall, using some tiny weights that Jerry would laugh at, and, piece de la resistance (but not with a resistance band) walking up and down. I decide to really give it some welly in order to feel the burn so do everything at triple, nay, quadruple speed, which ain't hard to maintain given the competition. At the 'throw a ball to one another' station, I fling the ball through the hoop like a crazy person. Instead of walking up and down, I tear from one end of the gym to the other like I'm sprinting to my car in Llandudno after leaving it for 92 and not 90 minutes. 90 was also the average age of the folks in my class, but they were good for a chin wag at the water station, where they gave me plenty of tips, such as how I ought to take it easy. When I splashed my face in the ladies afterwards, it was the colour of allotment beet.

I decided to supplement my exercise programme by ducking and dodging the tourists and old folk down Conwy High Street like a pro skier on speed, coming at them at an alarming rate and keeping it up in the Spar for good measure, almost unsettling the stacked baked beans in the process, which, if I'd taken Dion's advice, ought to have been used as weights during my supermarket sweep. I haven't been back to circuits yet. I may try speed cycling next, but I had trouble getting into the stirrups at the gym, and wouldn't want to make a spectacle of myself.

Monday, 9 September 2019

Why I brought a #1975InheritanceAct Case 2

Blog before last I wrote of my recent win in a #1975Inheritance Act case. Following the blog, The Family as the judge referred to them, left a series of public comments on these pages, basically telling me I deserved cancer. (I have recently recovered from chemotherapy treatment for an ovarian tumour; I also detailed what the last 3.7 years have taken on my mental health). The comments were anonymous, but linguistically, they remain true to form - the incident that led us all to the courtroom this year, began in 2015, with a public Facebook attack that The Family left via my author profile (it caused the rift that caused the split - family and financial). The public chastisement of women is a thing for The Family and one it seems, they are not going to let up from. For the past 3 and a half years and counting, my sister’s husband has used every opportunity to vilify and attack, in writing, my husband and myself. I have a file of this written abuse from 2015 to several weeks ago. Despite being trounced in court (he was the second defendant) he has stalked my every social media page and this blog since his vendetta began. "How can you take your own family to court?" The Family also queried. I think the former explains the latter and besides, I would never take my own family to court. I have been unable to write freely here until the case went to trial, given my sister's husband would police everything I wrote for his 'witness' statements, but also the case had not gone to trial, so the principal of open justice had not been triggered. Speaking of triggers, 2 things spring to mind: I now know mine comprehensively and avoid them at all costs. 2 of the men in my family who have been shooting at me have actually been shot at and are best avoided.

The facts of the case are these: My great-grandmother left her estate to her son, my maternal uncle. A year before my mother died in 2016, my maternal uncle left his/his mother's estate to my mother and her sister, stating that in the event of their deaths, the estate should go to her survivors. It also stipulated that it not be sold for 6 years. My mother assured me verbally on numerous occasions, and in writing, that the house would be left to her 4 children of which I am one. Shortly before my mother died she made a will specifically cutting me out and leaving the entire estate to her husband. Not a penny or a brick in the estate was marital money as I have always protested, (all of it was my maternal uncle's, and, as the judge pointed out, it would not be seen by the courts as such). I had no issue with my mother's husband having my uncle’s money, despite my uncle being very clear in his will that my mother’s husband should have his MG and 5K only. I also had no issue with my mother’s husband remaining in our family property until he died. Further, I would never have cut my 3 siblings out, reprehensible as I consider them to be. But The Family, 3 of them in particular, had plans to benefit themselves only. The others may just be daft. Or, given the prevailing cult-like atmosphere in The Family: brainwashed. Yes. There were cults too. 

Following my last blog The Family also complained thus: "And now you're blogging about it?" Yes, I've been blogging about my life since 2011, apart from the enforced many months gaps I mentioned. Amongst various vocations I have had in my 36 years of work (I began work at 14), I am an award winning writer, though The Family don't know much about me. We were informed, via their witness statements that I am a drug smuggler who smuggled drugs into the country on the backs of dog collars (imagine my dogs and those of the police meeting!). I am also told that I am (presumably), a violent schizophrenic I am afraid of her becoming unwell, because she knows where I live. I kid you not kids. My sister unreliably told the court (no evidence, because it never happened) that I have threatened her at the 2 private schools that she has been head at. The only true stuff that I could pick out, was the stuff about the witches. Yes, you really can make it up as you go along, as long as you get all your witnesses to sing from the same, orchestrated hymn sheet. But The Family are right. Form-wise, the blog doesn't cut it.

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Antisemitic Spite

Two of my sons are named after Old Testament prophets. The other is named after the Italian boy of a countess that I once worked for as a teenage AuPair. This OT naming is not particularly unusual nor usually fraught with political barbs, there are mini 'prophets' a plenty, but it became so for me at a children's play centre a few years ago, when on hearing my son's name, one of the mothers said, "You're not a Zionist are you?" I replied that I didn't know, that I'd need to look into it, "Are you?" I asked. She gave me a funny look and took herself off. Given I felt I was being judged (and not by a Deborah) I took the word home, looked it up and then put it on the table to examine it. This is what I figured out: I believe in Israel's right, its necessity, to exist on their historic land. As far as I know, through the bible and other historical texts I have read, the Jews lived in Jerusalem before the Muslims, yet Jerusalem has, for the past 70 years been divided between Israel and Palestine - the call to prayer is part of the atmosphere there. Jewish and Arab Israeli's mostly live happily alongside each other according to a new poll https://972mag.com/poll-israelis-positive-view-jewish-arab-relations/140846/.

When Israel was established in 1948, there was nowhere else for the Jewish people to go. No one wanted them despite what they had endured in the Second World War. I am deeply sympathetic to their historical sufferings; I am also sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians in the settlements (Palestinians currently make up 20% of the general voting population according to this BBC article http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/8165338.stm). Israel is far from perfect, and should be held to account for specific actions or policies, it clearly has complex issues that are yet to be resolved, and to criticise Israel is not to be anti-Semitic but across social media and social situations, it seems that socially acceptable criticism of Israel provides a pretext for anti-Semitic attitudes. 

Recently, over a crowded table at a friend's 50th, someone in fashion howled with laughter on hearing my son's name, this despite her naming her children along the lines of Frank Zappa's. The assumption was that the assembled would join in but her husband just looked embarrassed. I have also noticed a disturbing rise in antisemitism on Twitter. Many of my left-leaning friends are anti-Israel despite it being the only democratic country in the Middle East. Israel is the only country in the Middle East who has a Pride celebration for instance, where those of Jewish and Arabic descent party happily together. I think there is an assumption that Arabic groups are shunted out of Israeli society and discriminated against in general, but Arabic is one of the official languages of Israel, and I am told (by people who have visited) that Arabs and Jews, live peacefully together there and minority rights are protected. Arab Israelis are active in all areas of life including in the Supreme Court and in parliament. I will not lecture on what Israeli ingenuity has given us or how many Nobel prizewinners are Jewish, but I do wonder about cultural jealousy as a possible cause for this antisemitic spite.

I have some Jewish blood through my great, great grandmother, or so I am told through my cousin David Leitch, who traced our ancestry on my grandfather's maternal side from Odessa to Denmark to Liverpool and wrote about it in his book, #FamilySecrets. As we know, this historical peripatetic movement of the Jewish people has been essential for their survival. Why so much hatred for the Jewish people still exists in our society given the Holocaust is still recent history is beyond me, but it is an insidious social disease that needs to continue to be recognised, spoken about and decried when it is seen. Anti-Semitic hate incidents reached a record high in 2018 https://cst.org.uk/news/blog/2019/02/07/antisemitic-incidents-report-2018 and Corbyn's leadership has been dogged by anti-Semitism. I am concerned that hatred of the Jewish people is becoming an acceptable leftist view and one that is assumed and presumed by the inhabitants of the moral high ground.