Same old, same old

I should have been better today. I should have got up and gone for a run. I should have washed my hair and had a bath. I should have cleaned the kitchen and done the housework. I should have had a meeting.

I’ve done none of those things. I can barely move. Even going to the loo took momentous effort. I did at least cancel my participation in the meeting in advance, and I’ve taken my meds.

How long is this going to go on for? I hate being like this, yet I can’t seem to be anything else. This is why I deserve all the shit that’s heaped upon me at the moment. I’m in serious self-destruct mode and I can’t stop it. What do I do?

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Shame

Is there a worse emotion than shame? It’s so self destructive and almost impossible to overcome. Of all the thoughts and feelings I’ve had this week, shame has been by far the most dominant. I can’t shift it. I’m a terrible mother, a useless wife, I can’t manage my home or my finances, and it shouldn’t be like this. I should be better and I’m not. And it’s not just my life I’ve ruined through my incompetence. My kids, my husband, my grandkids, all suffer because I can’t get it together. I’m just so ashamed. I wish I was better than this.

Failure.

People don’t quite seem to grasp how much of a failure I am. I don’t understand how anyone could be my friend. They say it’s because I keep fighting, keep going. But if they truly understood how useless I really am they’d soon give up on me and I wouldn’t blame them.

I’m not gonna do the whole disadvantaged background thing. Loads of people had a shit childhood/adolescence and manage just fine. Lots of people live adequately or better with mental illness so I can’t blame that either. Instead of always hoping things will get better and always getting knocked back I just have to accept that I’m useless.

I’m unemployed again. At risk of eviction again. Finances are shit again. Can’t even afford household basics or new uniforms and we’re having to use a food bank now, it’s that bad. I’m fat again. Unfit again. House is a tip again. Social services are involved again. Having to use parenting classes. That’s how shit I am. No one is this unlucky, despite all my hopes and dreams I don’t know how to be a success, I fuck everything up and everything I touch.

I’m not sure where to go from here. This is probably rock bottom, but I’ve no idea how to climb out of the hole. It’s all so fucked up and it’s all my fault.

Friday

Let me tell you about Fridays.

Friday is simultaneously the best and worst day of the week. It’s brilliant because I have no obligations. I’ve finished work for the week, I don’t have to go anywhere.

But it’s the worst because it’s the day I fall apart. After holding it together all week, on Friday I only just about manage to stay alive. Getting out of bed is impossible. I spend too much time overthinking about the things I have done or said this week. I make plans for the following week but know I won’t manage them. I remember how fortunate I actually am then feel guilty for continuing to struggle. I make fantasy plans for running away. I lie on my bed, staring at the ceiling, thinking of nothing and thinking of everything all at once.

The phone rings. I ignore it, it’s bound to be a debt collector. I get a message and I ignore it. I know it’s a friend but how can I answer them? They’ve already put up with so much from me and supported me. I can’t lean on them any more.

I turn to my usual comfort, Doctor Who on Netflix, but I’m not really watching. It’s just on to fill the empty space with familiar noise. I knit. I scroll social media. I sleep. And I just can’t seem to get it together. I try to be kind to myself but what sort of person falls apart every bloody week? Not a functional one.

So every Friday I just count down the seconds till it’s Saturday. And hope that Saturday is better.

Justice – A story

I’d like to tell you a story. It’s a true story. It’s long, sorry.

There was a woman, born in the early 1950s. She had a fairly traumatic childhood, but she survived mostly intact. She left school at 15, in the mid 60s, and got a job straight away in a local new-fangled supermarket.

In the early 70s, still a teenager, she got pregnant. Her fella didn’t stand by her, so she became a single parent. Her mother was ashamed and kicked her out. She also lost her job. But she survived, had a little girl and lived in a mother and baby home. Eventually they were rehoused by the council and her little girl started school. While her daughter was at school, she got a part-time job. It didn’t last long, but she soon found another. Over the years, she worked in various part time roles. None of them were a career, but they paid the bills (or at least some of them).

And this was the pattern of her life. She had another child, but was still single. She never had much luck with men. But still she kept working. Eventually her daughter moved out.

One day she met someone. They fell in love and got married. He stuck by her when she got cancer early in their relationship, and she survived. With her daughter married, and her son doing well in school, she went to work full time. She rose to assistant manager and was doing well for herself.

Unfortunately, her health deteriorated, but she wanted to keep working, so took a job at a lower position. She worked there for years. By this time both her children were adults, and she had many grandchildren.

She switched to part time hours when her health problems started to get more severe. A lifelong smoker, she had COPD, asthma, osteo-arthritis and anxiety and depression. But she still worked. One day she went to her doctor as her nipple was hurting. Within a month she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. It was January 2010, she was in her late 50s.

In February she had a mastectomy, and also had her lymph nodes removed. She was of course, signed off sick from work. In April, she started chemotherapy. This had a devastating effect on her.

One night in June she collapsed. She was taken into intensive care and nearly died. But she didn’t, and a while later came home.

While she was ill, her sick pay had run out, so a couple of weeks after her release from hospital, she made a claim for ESA. It was rejected. In August, they sent another form, telling her to submit it if she wanted to be reassessed. So, still very ill, she completed the (over 50 pages) form and sent it off. This time her claim was accepted, and she was granted ESA.

Only, she had made a mistake on the second claim. She didn’t know this at the time. The question she answered wrong said “Have you worked since you made the claim?” She ticked the box for no. She also ticked the box for no in the second column, for her husband.

She had told the DWP the details of her husband’s job on the first claim form, and provided his details such as his national insurance number on the second form. But she answered no in his column.

Fast forward 2.5 years. In December 2012, she was invited for an interview at the DWP offices to investigate an overpayment of ESA.

Her health at this point was very poor. She couldn’t walk more than 20 yards or so without having to rest, but she still attended. She was cautioned, and questioned very aggressively. She didn’t really understand what was going on, and couldn’t remember much about filling out the forms, but admitted when pointed out to her that she had made a mistake and agreed that she should have ticked the box for yes, when answering the work question for her husband. She explained that she thought the question was about her, as she was only claiming for herself as her husband wasn’t sick. She added that she thought they already had her husband’s work details as she’d put them on the first form.

The DWP was continuing to pay her ESA. She agreed that she had been overpaid, and came to an arrangement to pay it back, in installments, by way of deductions from her payments.

But that wasn’t the end. The DWP, in their wisdom, decided to prosecute. She was charged with dishonesty, in that she had deliberately chosen to withhold details of her husband’s work when filling out the form.

She sought legal advice. She was advised to fight it all the way. And though this took a toll on health even more, she did. Today, at crown court, a jury of 12 men and women confirmed what any sane person already knew, that she was not guilty.

I am so bloody angry at the DWP. Firstly, that they turned down her claim for ESA (contribution based) even though she’s worked in one form or another most of her life. That they send out forms of ridiculous complexity to people who are at their most vulnerable. That they made a proud and modest woman, a pensioner of 62, feel ashamed, like a common criminal, forced to justify why she needed support from the state she had supported all her life when she was most desperate.

But today she stands, an innocent woman. A survivor. Reputation intact. I love you mum.

Where I express an opinion that will mostly be unheard.

So there’s been a fair bit on the news lately about trolls and rape threats sent to women on twitter. In my opinion, it is not up to twitter, or Facebook, or any other social media provider to police what we write. It is up to us. If someone posts something that is so clearly offensive or abusive, the systems that are already in place should be used to deal with it. A ‘report abuse’ button will turn into a ‘this person disagrees with me, call the waaaahmbulance’ button. Already one twitter user, slightly pissed off that some people aren’t of the same faith as him, has tried to equate Richard Dawkins with the trolls and rape threat abusers. Now, RD can sometimes come across as a boorish dick. And sure, some people will find his views offensive. But that doesn’t make him a troll, and it certainly doesn’t make him abusive. But a button to report abuse will affect him, and pretty much anyone with an opinion. Can you imagine the wrath of the Beliebers when someone expresses a negative opinion of their beloved Justin? The abuse button would be pushed into infinity! What a waste of time and resources. In any case, why are so many people convinced it is their right to go through life without being offended? That they must never be disagreed with? Some people need to toughen up and realise they are not being abused when someone disagrees with them, or expresses an offensive opinion. What constitutes offensive changes over time…

But threats to rape are different. Of course, it’s illegal, and abusive. But they’re also at the extreme end of what women have to face every single day. And the more women speak up, speak out, the worse it gets. Women who have an opinion are dismissed, belittled, threatened, attacked and ignored. They are judged on what they look like rather than what they say. The pressure to conform to a certain ideal of femininity is enormous; woe betide a woman who is not conventionally attractive should be able to express her views in public. The fact that we still need feminists in the 21st century is outrageous!

But it’s not just men vs women, or even women vs women. It’s also rich vs poor, adult vs child, black vs white, muslim vs christian. The trick of the establishment has always been to divide and conquer, and with thousands of years of practice, they do it well. The job of the establishment is to protect itself and its future. The establishment knows that all it has to do is throw the masses a few scraps, and with the politics of distraction, it can then continue to enjoy a life totally alien and forbidden to everyone else. So we have a minimum wage, working time directives and other workers rights, anti-harrassment laws and equal marriage, but corporations can pay little tax, banks get billions in bail outs, poor tenants are financially penalised for having an extra room, and Bradley Manning will spend the rest of his life in jail because he rocked the boat.

There have always been dissenting voices, revolutionary movements and even actual change. But the more things change, the more they stay the same, and the establishment reasserts itself. A male, white, rich, heterosexual, Christian establishment. We are fooled into thinking it doesn’t exist, but the presence of a woman, or ethnic minority, or gay person in the establishment ranks is just one of the scraps I mentioned earlier, exceptions designed to keeps us compliant, thinking anyone could ‘make it’.

Far more intelligent and articulate people than me have realised this, and failed to come up with a solution. But one thing is for sure. The internet is helping to spread the word. And people are scared. So they’re trying to silence us, through abuse and censorship. The porn search block and report buttons will be the start. So keep speaking out, while you still have the chance.

On changing

Hiding was easy last year. I hid behind my depression. I hid behind being fat. I hid behind my rotten teeth that made me ugly. I was 39, heading for ugly, fat and old. Nothing I did to try to change things worked and I’d started to admit defeat. I was one of life’s failures. So much potential, all of it wasted. No education, no degree, no job, no money, fat, ugly and depressed. That was me. It could have been worse. I had a husband who loved me, kids who were happy and healthy, I wasn’t disabled and I had all my mental facilities intact. So I just started to accept that this was the hand life had dealt me and I should just put up with it.

I’m not sure what changed. I turned 40 in November, I was happy as far as I could be. My mum had her 60th birthday in February. Lots of alcohol was consumed, lots of pics were taken. Bloody digital cameras. I saw a pic of me and I looked awful. The outfit I thought looked pretty good didn’t. I wasn’t smiling properly because I didn’t want to show my teeth. I was by far the fattest in the room. It was enough to make me join weightwatchers, and things started to click. I lost weight, started anti depressants, took up exercise, started going to a dentist.

I’m sitting here now, 7 months on feeling really quite low. In fact right now, I feel pretty much how I felt last year. Why on earth? I’ve made so much progress, done so well. In 7 months I’ve lost over 50lbs in weight, and am wearing the same size clothes I wore on my wedding day 21 years ago. I haven’t had a full on anxiety attack for months. I’ve had several dental appointments, and I’m only a month away from having all my teeth fixed. I should be feeling great!

I think it’s fear. Fear of what it’s like to be normal. At the end of September, my weight will be in the normal BMI range, not overweight or obese. I will have new, pain free, normal looking teeth. I wear make up now, and my nails are always painted. I wear clothes that are smart, not just the ones that fit me. I’ve never been normal. And now I nearly am. I will look and feel and be a completely different person on my 41st birthday than on my 40th. Finally something I haven’t failed at. And that is scary. Nowhere to hide. And I don’t know quite what to make of it all.

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