Not waving but drowning

Things aren’t easy right now. I mean, they’ve never really been ‘easy’, but lately it’s really felt like a huge struggle to keep going. I am increasingly turning inwards and shutting the world out. Life feels more about survival than living right now, and if I am completely honest, there are days where I am not all that bothered about the survival side of things.

If it wasn’t for my kids I am not sure I would be here…and that is sad because surely, by now, I did ought to feel like I have some self-worth and value. I should be able to look around me and see the love that surrounds me, the family I have created and the support network of friends who truly value me and think, ‘do you know what? I am still here. I survived some horrible things. But the past hasn’t broken me and cancer hasn’t beaten me. I need to live for now and appreciate what is here right in front of me. I am a good person. I am loved’.

But, and there’s always a ‘but’ isn’t there? When I am stuck in this dark place I really struggle to see what I have. When the little ones and the teen are present (which is pretty much all the time right now) they can’t see what’s right in front of them because they are not of the here and now. They can’t understand or trust the safety that I have built for all of us because they live in a constant state of fear and hypervigilance that is playing out on a loop from decades ago. They don’t need a wife and children they still need a mum. They feel unloved and unimportant. It is that wound that is festering and overriding my ability to feel like I matter. It is my job to fix that but I’m finding it really hard.


So when it is crappy, like now, if someone says anything like, ‘you need to live for now. You’re not a child anymore. You have control. You don’t have to be hurt and upset about what happened when you were little. You are the adult and you are not a victim. You are healthy, you beat cancer….it’s time to move on, Let it go’. I literally want to smash them in the face and tell them to f*ck right off because they have no idea. I think maybe that’s the teen and her anger coming up? Or perhaps it is my adult who is just sick to death of being told how and what to feel.

Whilst I know it is true I just do not need these messages from other people. I have had my feelings invalidated my whole life by my family, and often by myself (I hate that Inner Critic) and sometimes I just want a bit of empathy. Sometimes I need to hear that it’s ok to feel sad, let down, abandoned and that it’s not possible to be strong and together all the time. Sometimes it’s ok to need someone else to help make things better. Sometimes it’s ok to not be self-sufficient. Having needs is normal.

I don’t really know where I am going with this. My head is a mess. I’ve been steadily losing faith in the idea that things can and will improve and that I am not destined just to be battered by every storm and wave that comes in. It gets to point sometimes where I am just so damn tired of battling with myself that I just think, ‘if this is how it is going to be then I am done with it’. I just don’t have the energy to keep putting on a brave face.

I have always struggled with my mental health and when I feel like I do right now it’s sometimes hard to recollect the good times. The times when there was fun… and LAUGHTER. Oh my god! I need to laugh again soon. I am naturally quite a serious person (or maybe I became serious because I had to be a grown up from a young age?) but I am also funny…when the mood takes me. But it’s been such a long time since I laughed, I honestly feel like I barely smile these days. Is that just depression? Or not having a decent social life? Or have I simply forgotten how to have fun?

When I was at university my best friends and I were fans of  Finding Nemo, or more specifically, the character of Dory. (Nothing like a bit of Disney and cold pizza to work out a killer hangover)I mean, her life story was pretty tragic, she’d lost her family and was all alone, but she had this blind optimism and a mantra to rival any motivational guru: ‘just keep swimming, swimming, swimming’ and not only that, she could speak whale! What’s not to love, right?


I sometimes wonder if I should be trying to be more like Dory? Just keep going/swimming, try and make the best of a bad situation, and wait for something positive to happen. Maybe I am just not trying hard enough to be happy? That’s how I feel sometimes and it’s how people close to me sometimes make me feel too.

The thing is, Dory has one thing I don’t, and that’s memory loss. This is a big problem for me. My memory is crystal clear (ok, it’s all a bit of a blank before I was five years old… but then there’s a shit load of repressed memories in that blank space that are only now coming to the surface!).

I wish I could forget some of the things that have happened to me over the years. I wish I wasn’t haunted by my childhood and dysfunctional relationship with my mother. I wish I could simply block out some of the later trauma in the way that I blocked out the horrible stuff as a small child…but my brain doesn’t work like that. I have an almost photographic memory for events and conversations and so I can bring them to the front of my mind in an instant.

I might forget when I have a doctor’s appointment that I booked a few days ago, or what I’d agreed contribute to the PTA school Christmas party (yes, really, you’d be suicidal too!) but ask me about the time my mum woke me up and then instantly flew into a rage when she noticed I had put some laundry on the radiator in my bedroom to dry, and literally threw me out of the house wearing nothing but a nightdress/large t-shirt without underwear or shoes or when I was sixteen, then I can tell you word for word how that went down. I can tell you what it felt like walking half a mile to a friend’s house pulling my t-shirt down as low as I could, praying that I wouldn’t be seen, and that she’d be in.

That’s not a big thing event by any means, it’s just one of many odd things that happened, but has just come to mind as I am writing this in bed wearing similar. I can tell you how the regular, ‘I wish you’d never been born’ statements hit me deep and yet how over time I learned to stand there and take my mother’s onslaughts, unaffected, stony still. It used to drive her wild being unable to evoke a response in me. I guess that’s why I struggle so hard now to tap into my emotions, I learnt how not to show and not to feel emotion.

I remember so clearly the first time I deliberately threw up after eating and the satisfaction of how easy it was. The relief of an escape to the bathroom a few times each day to purge away some of the hurt and pain I was feeling. It doesn’t feel like 18 years ago that I was in the bath, razor blade in hand carving intricate criss-cross patterns down my forearm and watching the blood drip into the water and disperse. All these episodes are there in the archive just like it was yesterday.

What I am trying to say is that unlike Dory,  I remember how shit went down…every…tiny…detail of it. My brain has a video vault that plays periodically (sometimes when I sit in therapy) of episodes where I am terrified, neglected, uncared for as a younger child or flat out abused and victimised as a teen. I try not to think about it but sometimes it just comes up. It’s hard to escape it.

Sometimes when I am silent and blocked in session in one of my younger states my therapist asks me what I might need or needed back then – some form of holding usually…and asks me if there are any memories I can draw on to remember that feeling. I think she thinks I am being difficult when I say ‘no’ but it’s the truth. As I child I cannot recall even one occasion where my mother held me either when I was in pain or just through the sheer desire of wanting to hold me because I was her child and she loved me.

There has always been an invisible barrier between us. I’ve said before that my mum doesn’t touch me, even now. It’s not a new thing. And that’s partly why I am finding the ‘no touch’ boundary in therapy so hard. It really is just highlighting how sad I feel about not being held by mum. It really reinforces that sense I have of being untouchable and unlovable.

I keep hoping that things will change with my mum. I keep giving her opportunities to step in and step up but she doesn’t. When I text her the other day to tell her that my friend had died and how upset I was, she didn’t call me, she managed a text reply, ‘Sorry to hear about your friend. Work is really busy at the moment and I’m tired. Mum’ That was it. I was instantly hurt by the message. Why couldn’t she for once take herself out of the equation and just be there for me? Why is it always about her? I couldn’t care less if she’s tired right now….it’s not a competition, rather tired than dead eh mum?

My wife says I need to stop reaching out because I am always disappointed. I know I have talked about waiting for hope to die. But when I am sad, and my god I am devastated about my friend dying, the emotional part of me is so present and that part is young. That part hasn’t grown up yet. That part still wants mum, even if she is not the mum I want or need. It’s tough.

I know I am a grown up. I have survived. The wrinkles, grey hairs, and radiotherapy tattoos show me that I am not a child anymore. But my adult is struggling to keep afloat as I try to carry the weight of several younger parts, that can’t swim, on my back. I really want therapy to go well today. I want to be able to relax and just be how it is but I fear I’ll do one of two things: shut down and freeze through sheer overwhelm or pretend like everything is ok and put a front on. And that’s the danger, for so long I have done such a good job at waving that no one sees that I am actually, now, drowning.



8 thoughts on “Not waving but drowning

  1. Sirena November 20, 2017 / 7:36 am

    Sending so much love and care to you. 💚💛💜💙❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sirena November 20, 2017 / 7:40 am

    P.S. you ARE trying. You are trying harder than most other adults in life. You are working so hard and it’s exhausting. If it was as easy as doing what we “should” then we’d all be happy and healthy and not be suffering.
    Suffering is a sign something is wrong, needs not being met, by ourselves and by others around us. But it’s not forever, even though it feels that way. We just need to figure out what we need and how to get it. X


    • rubberbandsandchewinggum November 20, 2017 / 2:15 pm

      Thank you for this. I needed it this morning. It is so exhausting isn’t it? Any ideas on how to get what we need?! lol. I’m knackered after therapy but writing this this morning helped clarify some things to take to session. Big hug x

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Laura November 20, 2017 / 2:44 pm

    I feel so deeply for you when I read this. You don’t deserve to be in this horrible place of suffering. And I absolutely empathise with feeling so tired of it all and wondering if anything will ever change. That is such a bleak and lonely feeling. But I want to set you straight on what you said about trying hard enough. You are trying hard enough. You are fighting every day. I know that fight. I feel it too. It is utterly exhausting and it feels as though you are getting nowhere, and it’s crap to feel like you’re working so hard merely to survive. But you’re doing it. There is an alternative, and you are choosing to fight instead. That takes massive strength and determination. Sometimes just living is an act of courage. I want you to know that I recognise that. And I am sending as much love as is possible via the interwebs. As well as a great big bear hug. Laura xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • rubberbandsandchewinggum November 20, 2017 / 4:32 pm

      Thanks Laura. Love and hugs very much appreciated. You’re so right in everything you say. I wish I was a bit more compassionate towards myself but after so long feeling so desperately low sometimes you just hit a wall with it don’t you?..and the Inner Critic jumps on board to stir things a bit.

      Fortunately today’s therapy session was really good and so having talked a lot of this stuff through I feel a bit more contained and actually like my experiences are valid and responses are not over the top….and that’s a big sea change for me.

      I’m knackered now though and hoping I can hold onto the positive feelings as I go through the week. I really didn’t want to leave the therapy room today and lately all I’ve wanted to do is run so that in itself is huge.


      Liked by 1 person

      • Laura November 21, 2017 / 12:04 pm

        Glad to hear your session went well. Sounds like that’s what you needed. Take care of yourself if you’re tired, let yourself have some rest and some time to gain strength. I hope you can keep hold of those positive feelings too. x

        Liked by 1 person

  4. easetheride November 21, 2017 / 3:26 am

    My heart aches to hear that you are struggling so deeply. I know survival mode well and I am glad that you are writing about this and reaching out to this community in place of doing other things. It is awful and all-encompassing and feels like your searching for a light at the end of the tunnel that has no light. But there is light. You are the light. To yourself. To your kids. To people like us out here in the world. You are getting yourself through. Day by day. Piece by piece. Even on those hellish days.

    And here’s the thing about Dory. She did find her family. She wasn’t alone forever. She never gave up and she found her way with so little to work with. Granted, it was a Disney movie. But all that aside, Dory had her happy moment. You have so much more to work with; so much more insight and endurance that you hold onto. Happy memories, moments of feeling loved and fulfilled, can be written down and taken with you. To help you have that hope for when it’s like that again.

    Keep fighting your way out of the tunnel. Until you can see your own light, we’re all standing there with lanterns to support you through.

    Liked by 1 person

    • rubberbandsandchewinggum November 21, 2017 / 11:23 am

      Thank you so much for this! I might just have to print it out and carry it with me! 💜 I know you’re going through your own hell too so thank you for taking the time to reach out xxx


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