Category Archives: Relationships

Great Expectations

I hope I make a pretty good friend and neighbour.  Because I’ve gone through so much, and can easily put myself in other people’s shoes, I’ll offer a helping hand to someone in need if it’s at all humanly possible.  I have often felt entirely alone in my struggles right from childhood and would have given my left arm for someone to help me.   I know intimately what it feels like to have no-one to turn to and to think that no-one cares, consequently I’ll drop everything and go to someone in need.  Even people I don’t like or who have shown me a complete lack of empathy in the past (I do draw the line at people who have hurt me in the past though – they can go swivel).  On the whole, though, I treat others the way I’d like to be treated.

Because I expect so much of myself, however, I have high expectations of other people.  And it’s caused me no end of disappointment.  The majority of folk, in my experience, are shit at stepping up to the plate and their self-interest comes first, second and third.

My neighbours are, on the whole, lovely people and I get on well with them.  When my Mum was in hospital the other week they said “we’re here if you need us, just ask”.  So I took them at their word and asked if they’d look after my dog one day while I visited her.  “Of course we will, just bring him round” they replied, which was such a relief because at the time my Mum was desperately ill and knowing Bertie was being well looked after was a huge weight off my mind.  A week later my Mum was still in Hospital so I asked my neighbours if they’d have Bert again, just for the afternoon so that I could visit her.  “I’m really sorry Jak, but it’s a nice day so we’re going for a drive up the lakes” came the reply.  They are pensioners, who could go for a drive up the lakes any day of the sodding week, month or year.  They could even have taken Bertie with them – he loves to be in the car and they could have stopped off for a nice walk with him.  But no.  My Mum was seriously ill in hospital, I was having the worst few weeks of my entire year, but their need for a jaunt came first.

I’ve lost count of the times in my life that people have offered help then backtracked.   I remember having a relapse a couple of years ago and was really struggling to take Bertie out for his afternoon walk.  Another neighbour rang and said “don’t worry about Bert, I’ll take him out for his afternoon walks this week” which was fabulous.   Only she wanted to go at 5pm, when she knew fine well that Bertie goes for his walk at 2.30pm.  This is so that he’s home, sorted out and fed by 4pm which is when I go to bed for my afternoon rest, every day being carefully managed around my energy limits and doubly so during a relapse.  5pm is my very worst part of the day, not to mention the fact that Bert would be totally desperate for a poop by then and it would be well past his dinner time.  If that were me, and I were offering to do a really sick friend a favour I’d just say “what do you need?” then do it.  I wouldn’t look at my schedule and wonder how I could fit their crisis in without it affecting my day in any way.   Help, it seems, is conditional on your dire need not interfering with someone else’s leisure time.

Every now and again, though, someone surprises me and while my Mum was in hospital one person was really there for me.  The lady I pay to walk Bertie in a morning said that she would have him any time, and she meant it.  Despite having 3 jobs and 2 kids she had him for four whole days for me and didn’t bat an eyelid.  I’m quite tearful at how much she helped me out, even though I’m sure it made her already hectic life harder.

It’s been said to me, many times, that I need to lower my expectations of other people but I’ve no intention of being a shit friend and neighbour just so that other people can feel less guilty about their own selfish behaviour.  I don’t need to lower my standards, other people need to raise theirs.

 

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Friendships

Today I read another wonderful post by Lindsay over at Musings of a Dysautonomiac, a fellow blogger who has POTS and MCAS.   I ‘met’ Linds through my blog and am now privileged to class her as a friend, not in any kind of traditional way because we live in different countries and are online at opposite ends of the day, but in my heart.  I look forward to her posts and Facebook messages, rally for her and struggle with her – all without saying a word because I don’t have the energy but I hope she knows that I see her and care about her life.

It’s a good job I make new friends every now and again because I’ve lost all my pre-illness mates.  Every single one of them.  Sometimes I’ve let the relationship go and sometimes they have but the end result is the same, and no matter who the instigator is saying goodbye to a relationship you once held dear is painful.

Like Lindsay, I traditionally got along with men better than women.  Having said that, I always had one or two very close girl friends but they were often people who were in some way broken or needy and, being a caring person, I often seemed to fall into the parental role in my friendships which of course turned to crap when I got ill because I could barely take care of myself let alone anyone else.   I’m also not a girlie girl and just find the banter and straight-talking attitude of blokes easier to handle than the complex subtleties of women which I often find bewildering.  But then I got sick and realized that, on the whole, men don’t do illness.  They make rubbish carers and simply don’t know how to react around sick people, especially a sick person who used to be feisty and independent and who is now…………well, still feisty but more needy 😉

After all these years I’m not even sure it’s possible for me to have good friendships with healthy people.  They just don’t get it.  Have no clue what my life is like or the struggles I face every day.  And I’ve found I lose patience with their whining over inconsequential shite and am frustrated by how little they value their lives – their healthy, active, vibrant, full of possibilities, lives.  And don’t get me started on how much they moan when they have a cold!

Occasionally, though, healthy people surprise me and there are two or three people at my Camera Club who do make an effort to ask the question “how can I make it easier for you to do x, y or z” and to include me in activities, for which I am hugely grateful.  It’s a lot of pressure though.  Here they are making special efforts to arrange outings and activities which I can take part in, but then I feel like I absolutely must take part because of all the trouble they’ve gone to.  So what happens if, on the day, I wake with a migraine and can’t move, or have anaphylaxis and end up in bed puking?  I let everyone down and although they try not be annoyed I know they are because, after all, they’ve gone to all that trouble just for me and the least I can do is show up.

Having close friendships with other sick people, however, is also challenging.  Neither of you has any energy and trying to find a day to meet up when you’re both well enough can be a struggle.  It’s vitally important you don’t just have illness in common too, otherwise all you do when you get together is talk about being sick which would be monumentally depressing.  I met my now best mate at an M.E. conference about 15 years ago and neither of us are particularly girlie girls.  We’re both creative and practical, like nature, gardening, being outdoors and have renovated houses, so have stuff besides our shared disease in common though I’ll never understand her passion for mines 😉  I honestly think I’d lose my mind if I didn’t have her in my life – no pressure then K!

Friendships when you’re chronically ill are tricky.  I’d love more friends but realistically know I don’t have the energy, especially if the friend is well and expects to meet up regularly or do physical activities.   Friendships with other sick people are easier in some ways yet harder in others – when you both lack energy there is a tendency to not communicate for months on end which, while understandable, is lonely.  And while online friendships are great there’s no substitute for meeting up in real life and actually being with another person.

If you’re lucky enough to find someone you click with, who shares your sense of humour, your interests and who gets you and your disease it’s priceless.  I’ve told my best mate that, should she ever threaten to break up with me, I am chaining her up in my shed so’s she can’t escape 😀  To all my online friends, whose caring, sharing, humour and empathy keep me going every day of my life “THANK YOU!” for being there and for being you.  You make an otherwise unbearable life less lonely.

Little Acts Of Kindness

I sometimes despair of the world.  There is so much greed.  Young people are obsessed with how they look and not who they are.  Older adults are obsessed with what they have, what car they drive and where they go on holiday so that they can brag to their friends.  We’re often too busy in our overly-full-of-stuff lives to bother much with our neighbours or vulnerable family members.  Gone are the days where we all used to not have much of anything but looked out for each other nonetheless.

Despite huge need at times, I haven’t exactly been on my nearest and dearest’s radar (parents aside).  It’s probably my own fault.  I am fiercely independent and don’t want to be treated as a victim, because I don’t feel like a victim.  I don’t want pity or charity, though loving kindness is always welcomed.  I appear to have it all together and it takes a keen eye to see through the act I put on every day.

When I joined my Camera Club I struggled.  It was mostly full of retired professional men who had formerly been Vets or Solicitors and who seemed to have money to burn, or middle aged women who were married to rich men and had holiday homes in Barbados and Spain.  They were buying the latest cameras, lenses and equipment and I, stony broke, was making do with a nine year old 3rd hand camera off Ebay.

My weird and creative pictures often weren’t much liked by the old male judges who preferred photos of steam trains or lighthouses, and at one stage I threatened to quit because I felt like I couldn’t keep up with the rich members and the judges hated my stuff in any event.  I emailed the competition secretary and told him of my decision but instead of just accepting it he helped me.  We ‘talked’ for hours via email, with him encouraging me at every step of the way, building my confidence and listening patiently to my grievances.  The outcome was that the way the competitions were run was changed for the whole club, and a big effort was made to invite female and younger people to judge our images which made for a more level playing field for everyone.

I’d not even spoken to the competition secretary, John, before then.  He was 70, very shy and I hadn’t taken much notice of him to be honest.  But as I got to know him I realized here was a man kind to the bottom of his soul, who lived with honesty and integrity, who saw both sides of the argument, who was quiet and unassuming yet had the strength to stand up for what he believed in if the need arose.  We got on like a house on fire and have regularly emailed each other ever since, though we still don’t speak much at Club as John’s shyness gets in the way.

This week there was an offer online for some software.  I can’t afford it, but with $200 off the recommended price I couldn’t resist buying it anyway!  But then I discovered that it won’t work with my editing software, Photoshop Elements 11, because it’s too old.  John had found the same thing, so he upgraded his Photoshop to Elements 13 and offered to let me put a copy of his new Elements 13 on my machine.  Knowing that you can only do this a limited number of times and that John had more than one laptop, I emailed my thanks but told him to put the software on his own machines and maybe I’d ask Santa for the upgrade for Christmas this year.

This morning, I logged on to my emails to find a message from John which read: “Jak.  Thanks for making the correct moral decision.  I have now ordered you Elements 13 from Amazon which will be delivered to your home next week.  Please accept with my best wishes.”  I feel tearful even now just thinking of his kindness.  Not only that but my lack of greed in not taking one of his licences, even though I really wanted and needed it, had been acknowledged and appreciated.  I can’t possibly accept his offer and have already emailed to say I will reimburse him, but I suspect he won’t accept.

As I said earlier, I haven’t been helped much in my life but now and again someone comes along who sees past my pride and bravado and recognises that I struggle.  As a kid it was a couple of teachers, who realized that being a very bright kid from a dysfunctional working class family was difficult and who gave me extra help to achieve my potential.  As an adult, it’s been a couple of people who have realized that living alone with debilitating illness and a lack of money is challenging and have helped me in subtle, and not so subtle, ways.   They will never know the difference their belief in me and their acts of kindness have made to my life and to my faith in human nature.

Nearly all the people who have helped me have been men, middle aged or older.   I don’t know why that should be, but they just seem able to see past the strong, independent, capable face I show to the world and recognize that maybe my life is harder than I let on.  Maybe they just see that, despite my own hardships (or probably because of them) I try to be a kind and thoughtful person and they want to be kind back.  I don’t really understand the reasons why women haven’t helped me, even as a kid, while men have but I am truly grateful.

We all need help sometimes, even when we pretend we don’t, and our small acts of kindness can be returned to us tenfold in unexpected ways and from unexpected people.

Save the one who’s quiet

In a previous job many moons ago I was the designated fire officer.  As such I was trained to pull a body from a smoke filled building and to give first aid.   On my course I was told that when you come across the scene of an accident you ignore the people who are shouting because they are clearly still alive and find the people who are quiet because they are the ones most likely to be seriously hurt, unconscious or to have stopped breathing.

During my time in the ‘chronic illness world’, particularly online, I have met two groups of people: those who constantly ask for help, advice, love and support and those that don’t.  And it’s those who ask for support that often need it the least.  The friend I fell out with a couple of years ago had parents who had been together for 50 years, a loving, caring, supportive husband of over 20 years, private health care, a beautiful home overlooking the sea, lots of online friends………..yet virtually every post was asking for love, prayers and positive thoughts because she was having yet another crisis or hard time.  On the other side of the coin I have a friend who has been single her whole life, is horrendously ill, can barely leave her bed let alone the house, can’t have pets or friends to visit as she is too poorly to cope with them, must be soul-destroyingly lonely, frustrated and unfulfilled……..yet never complains.  She comes across as cheerful, positive, caring, kind and thoughtful but I worry about her far more than I worried about my other friend.  Yet it was the other friend who got all the support on Facebook, cards and flowers sent through the post, thoughtful gifts on her birthday and Christmas and my very sick, isolated friend is just left to get on with it.

When you meet me, I come across as bubbly, energetic, enthusiastic and hopefully kind and helpful.  I have a strong work ethic and will tackle jobs which actually make me sick or cause me huge pain because I refuse to give in to my diseases.  I will do things to help others, even if it means I end up in bed or braces (which they don’t see because I don’t tell them – I don’t want them to feel bad that helping them has made me worse).  I have been accused of exaggerating my illnesses because I can ‘do stuff’ or because I don’t dwell on the consequences of ‘doing stuff’ so no-one knows how ‘doing stuff’ affects me.  I sometimes wonder if I’d’ve received more help, understanding and support if I’d been more verbal about my limitations.  If I’d constantly gone online saying how lonely I was, or how isolated.  If I’d shown the world how depressed I’ve been at times over the last twenty years.  How I mourn not having a husband to share my life with.  How I’d love to go on holiday to somewhere sunny.  How I worry about finances and how I struggle to afford joint supports, orthotics, supplements and special clothing.  How I’ve sat in a heap on the kitchen floor crying due to the exhaustion and pain of cooking my dinner.  And the 1001 other issues I’ve faced.   But it’s not in my nature to whine.  I’m not comfortable asking for help and on the odd occasion I have asked for help it’s been less than unconditional so I haven’t asked again.  I’ve been around people who are negative and constantly ask for reassurance, help, guidance, advice, love, prayers and support and it’s bloody exhausting…….I don’t want to be a huge black hole of need, sucking the life out of others just so I can feel better.

But it is often those who don’t ask for help who need it most.  It’s not the person shouting “I’m going to top myself” who actually commits suicide, it’s those that pretend everything is fine and paint a smile on who ultimately take their own lives, then everyone is shocked because “they always seemed fine”.

So I make a concerted effort to ask my friends who seem like they have it together if they’re OK and I don’t take the first “yes, I’m fine” answer as the truth.  I dig a bit, and often when I dig a bit they admit that maybe things aren’t so fine after all.  It’s hard to ignore the friends who shout because, well, they’re SHOUTING and it’s easy to not contact the quiet ones for 6 months because they’re just getting on with it but it’s the people who don’t ask for help that often need it the most.

“Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.”

Stevie Smith

 

 

Gaslighting

The term ‘gaslighting‘ has become popular in recent times and, to a degree, I associate with it.  My childhood was weird by anyone’s standards, yet to the outside world my life was tickety boo.  My friends all told me they wished my Mum were theirs because “she’s lovely” and everyone and his dog liked my Dad who was a “grand fella”, but they didn’t have to live with my Mum’s mental health issues, addictions and poor parenting skills or my Dad’s volatile moods, complete lack of parenting or (now suspected) autistic tendencies.  For example, we had a dishwasher fitted in our kitchen and needed a hole putting through to outside for the waste pipe.  My Dad started stabbing at the wall with a kitchen fork and thought he could make a 3″ diameter hole through solid sandstone with it – it’s not exactly rational behaviour.  In response, my Mum chucked a mental and threw an entire shepherd’s pie, in its glass ovenproof dish, at his head which, if it had hit him, could have killed him.  I went up to my bedroom and read a book to escape the insanity – it was just an average week to me.

Although my childhood didn’t fit the strict definition of ‘gaslighting’ I still identify with the warping of reality and the constant pretence by my parents that everything was fine, when it was anything but.  As a child you don’t know this though – you just know that you’re miserable and confused and worried but don’t know why.  You’re unaware you’re living in a dysfunctional household or that your parents can’t cope or have mental health issues.  I knew they both loved me to bits, but their behaviour made me very, very unhappy so then the definition of being loved got warped too.  As a child this is all totally confusing and you simply can’t get your head round it.

I married a man who truly gaslighted.  He would argue with me that black was white and red was no colour at all.  He made me doubt my sanity, my perception and reality.  He would flirt outrageously with other women, then tell me I was being paranoid when I got upset about it.  He isolated me from my friends and family, constantly told me I looked like crap or talked shite, belittled me in front of his friends who all thought he was hilarious, spread rumours that I was mentally unstable (which after 4 years with him I actually was!).  This guy made me question everything about myself, but in such a subtle and manipulative way that I had no idea it was happening.

I had a very interesting conversation with my best mate recently about the fact several of my close friendships have died a death in recent years and it made me realize that the way these women have chosen to fall out with me also feels gaslight-y.  For example, my dearest friend of over 2 decades had become distant.  I could only ring her at certain times, she didn’t confide in me the way she used to and she had a family member she’d become extremely close to who had obviously taken my place.  After not hearing from her for over 3 weeks I wrote a blog post, the gist of which was that I feared for my mental health after my mum dies as we speak every day, my best friend wasn’t making time for me and I’d love to make some new friends to fill the void my Mum will leave when she dies (she wasn’t a raging alcoholic then and we had always been super close).  I didn’t feel I said anything bad and didn’t think my friend would read it as she was too busy to even text me let alone read my blog, but she did read it and went ballistic.  Within 24 hours her husband and son had unfriended me on Facebook and our 20 year friendship was over.  I was made out to be an awful person by her whole family, when she was the one being a shit friend and all I’d done was be honest about the situation and say that I felt isolated and lonely.  I mention my other closest friend in the post, who also read the article, and was not in the least bit offended by it.  In fact we had an honest discussion about our situations and both agreed that although we love our friendship we’d both like more friends as we live some distance from each other and can’t get to see each other as much as we’d like.

The neighbour who was nasty to me recently which I wrote about at the time hasn’t spoken to me since.  So she tells me I look old and miserable not once but 3 times despite knowing I was upset by her comments, then takes the hump and is now no longer speaking to me.  WTF?!

Of course, my biological Dad was the master manipulator.  He wasn’t very involved in my life but sent me to Coventry, along with the rest of my paternal family, when I asked someone else to give me away at my wedding (which I wrote about here).  So he’s a shit Dad but I am the one who is treated like a Leper when I’m honest and tell him he’s been a shit Dad.

In these people’s minds, they are in the right and I am in the wrong.  They can’t admit to themselves that they’ve actually not been the best parent/friend/husband so I am made to feel at fault because it’s easier to blame me than to face up to their own behaviour.  As the gaslighting article reminds me, it’s impossible to reason with them or to get them to take responsibility for their behaviour.  They truly believe you are the one being unreasonable or nasty, not them.

The gaslighting article describes how the author herself survived her childhood, and in reading it I realize that that’s how I survived too:

  • By being defiant and not accepting my parents’ behaviour was normal or healthy – I knew it wasn’t.  “Being defiant does not make you difficult. It makes you resilient.”
  • Accepting that acknowledgement is not on the cards.  I knew my Dad would never in a million years admit he’d been a rubbish parent or that he’d made a mistake in blaming me for our lack of relationship.
  • Letting go of the wish for things to be different.  I didn’t try to change my Dad’s or my Friend’s minds when they stopped speaking to me – I just wished them the best and let it go.  I held on to the knowledge that I’d done nothing wrong other than to react to the pain these people had caused me and that was healthy and normal behaviour.  It was up to them to apologise and take responsibility and that was never going to happen.
  • Detaching from the gaslighting.  In other words, holding on to what you know is reality even when the person is trying to persuade you that black is white.  It’s really hard to do as a gaslighter makes you question your own judgement but I know in my heart I’ve done nothing wrong other than react to a situation caused by someone else and if the other people involved can’t accept that or wants to blame me for their mistakes that’s their choice and there is nothing I can do about it.

I’m a very black and white person – I’ve needed to be to survive a life which has involved altered perceptions of reality.  I needed to hold on to my versions of right and wrong behaviour and to not deviate from them, because if I had deviated I would have lost my grip.  I’m also totally intolerant of bullshit.  I don’t give people the benefit of the doubt because in my world if you like (let alone love) someone you aren’t cruel, nasty or horrible to them – end of story.  The people in your life should always lift you up not put you down.  My best mate is a very honest person and I know she always tells me the truth, but she does it in a way which isn’t hurtful or critical.  I can’t be doing with people who are nicey nice all the time – they’re just blowing smoke up your arse and telling you what you want to hear, which is another way of altering reality.  But when people are honest they have to be honest in ways which protect the other person’s feelings – blurting out “yes, your arse does look big in that” is hurtful.

None of us are perfect.  I know I’ve said and done things which have inadvertently been hurtful, but I’m the first person to apologise when that happens and to acknowledge that I’ve made a mistake.  When my closest friend was upset by the blog post I wrote I emailed her to apologise, even though she was the one being a rubbish friend and it was her behaviour which had in part led to the post.  Needless to say she’s never apologised for upsetting me.  It’s important to take ownership of our behaviour and acknowledge the impact our words and actions have on others.  Even when I had my famous melt-down on Christmas Day, which I felt was in no way my fault, the first thing I did when I got back to my parents’ house was apologise to both of them.  Yes I was justified in blowing up, but I went too far and said things I shouldn’t (even though they were actually true!).

Now I’m older and, hopefully, wiser the thing I value most in any of my relationships is kindness.  When you’re kind to people you can’t go far wrong and when people are being un-kind it’s easy to recognize.  However, I am not kind to the point of being a doormat.  During the conversation with my best mate recently she said “for someone who hates confrontation you still seem to have more than your fair share” and I realize the reason for that is that some people mistake my kindness for weakness, then when I confront them with the fact that their behaviour towards me is shabby they can’t handle the fact I am standing up for myself.  Yes I try and see all sides of the argument and the other person’s point of view but I don’t make excuses for hurtful behaviour and I expect the people in my life to take ownership of their role in any discord.  If they can’t do that I’m not afraid to call them on it or to ultimately walk away.  Hand on heart I can honestly say that I have not missed the people who have fallen out with me for any second of any day – in fact, it was a relief to stop pretending that the relationship was fine when it clearly wasn’t.  It was a relief to stop questioning myself and wondering if I was doing something to make the other person treat me poorly – I wasn’t.

Watch what you say

We have a popular magazine-type TV programme here in the UK and this week a lady was on whose 14 year old daughter had committed suicide because of online and text bullying – you can watch the interview online here.  Both interviewers were in tears as they have children and could empathise hugely with the woman’s pain and loss.

I was bullied from the age of 7 until I was 18.  The worst years were between 12 and 14 where my school life was made a daily misery.  My home life was a train wreck and my school days were filled with fear, humiliation and physical harm.  No-one wanted to be friends with me in case the bullies picked on them too, so I spent my days in isolation.  Then everyone wondered why, by the time I was 17, I was clinically depressed.  I thought about killing myself on numerous occasions and did take a small overdose once.  Most nights I just wished I would die in my sleep so that I wouldn’t have to face the next day.  I dread to think what would have happened to me if I’d been a teenager now, with the advent of texting and social media – I know for an absolute fact I wouldn’t have been able to handle the bullying extending to my home life and going on 24/7.

When you’re bullied the perpetrators pick on everything you say and you end up mute.  You daren’t open your mouth because they will tear apart whatever comes out.   Consequently I lost my voice for a very, very long time.

As a victim of bullying it was a big decision for me to start a blog.  To open up my private life, my thoughts and inner most feelings to the world.  Blogs are open to comments from any Tom, Dick or Mary and the anonymity of the internet means that people seem to feel they have carte blanche to say whatever they like, however they like.   People like to tell you they disagree with you, you are wrong, they are right.  I’ve been told my blog is a joke (which means my life is a joke), I can’t be as ill as I claim, I know nothing and I need to shut the fuck up.  They forget they are speaking to a human being, with feelings.  We have no idea when we bash off a comment what the impact on the recipient will be.

I am harsh with people who leave negative comments on my blog.  You want to be a mean girl, I can be mean too.  I don’t like doing it but no longer will I let people belittle me or not allow me my voice.  I don’t fucking care whether you agree with me or not – I am entitled to my opinion on my own blog.  You want to share a different opinion write your own goddamn blog.

The hoo ha when we left the European Union, and which continues on with monotonous fervor, did my absolute nut in.  The Remainers would not allow anyone with a different opinion to theirs a voice.  I got absolutely pissed off every time I shared my opinion on Facebook that two or three friends instantly challenged it.  They were polite enough but the constant arguing of their own point of view was exhausting and relentless.   It got to the stage where I just stopped talking about politics online because I couldn’t handle the stress.   My voice had, once again, been silenced and it made me absolutely furious.

We have to be very careful about what we say online and in texts and how we say it.  We have no idea the fragility of the person we are interacting with.  I appear a very strong, confident person but a decade of bullying inevitably leaves its mark.  Not only that but my biological Dad criticized everything I did, ditto my ex-Husband.  I was told everything that came out of my mouth was shite so once again I stopped talking.

However I am a grown up now and I refuse to be silenced.  I have a voice, I have a viewpoint and I am entitled to both on my own blog and on my own Facebook page.

I give other people the same courtesy.  My readers and FB friends can write whatever they like on their blogs or FB walls – I just won’t comment on it if I disagree.  They are entitled to their voice in their own space, they’re just not entitled to silence or criticize my voice in my space.

Bullying and entitlement to say whatever you like whenever you like to whoever you like has gotten completely out of hand.  When vile contestants like Kim Woodburn are runner-up in Big Brother it proves that nasty, aggressive, out of control behaviour is somehow now celebrated and nice, kind, normal people are seen as boring.  It has to change.

UK citizens in the Remain camp were all gobsmacked when the majority of people chose to leave the EU but the reason was very simple – the Brexiteers hadn’t had their voice listened to for a very, very long time.  Remainers disagreed with their views so either dismissed them or argued over them.  They were convinced that their argument was right and if they said it long enough and loud enough they’d ‘convert’ everyone else to it but as Dr Phil is fond of saying “how did that work for you?”  The same can be said of the election of Trump in the States.  I have recently lost yet more friends because I was fed up to the back teeth of them forcing their political views on me and trying to silence my voice which makes me deeply sad, but I’d rather have a voice and no friends than no voice and friends who won’t allow me to speak.

Moving On

By the time we reach our 50th year we all have emotional baggage.  I have so much it would fill several airport trollies and need a small army of porters to tow it behind me, which would be both expensive and exhausting.  So at various times in my life I’ve made a choice to leave my suitcases behind.  I now travel along my life’s path with a large hold-all filled only with my most vital and treasured possessions.  It turns out all that baggage I thought I needed, and which made me me, was unnecessary.

As regular readers know, I did not have the best childhood in the world.  My parents lacked education, emotional intelligence and made some very poor decisions.  In my twenties I was really angry about that and the way their choices and behaviour had affected me.  But here’s what I learned: they did not know any better.  They had been taught poor coping mechanisms and interpersonal skills by their parents and were simply living what they’d learned.  By the time I was 30 I had to make a choice to forgive them or move away from them.  I chose forgiveness of my Mum and Step-Dad because I love them and they love me, and chose to let go of my biological Dad.

I have no idea why some people hold on to the pain of poor parental relationships.  Why anyone would spend their whole lives blaming their parents for how their own lives have turned out.  Yes our childhoods are determined by our parents, but our adult lives are not.  We can choose to let go, forgive (or not) and to move on.  We can talk through our issues with a trained therapist.  We can learn better ways of showing anger and hurt.  We can read books on how to improve our communication and interpersonal skills.  We can learn to do things differently to the generations who have come before us.  By the time we’re 50 we surely have to take responsibility for our own lives and not keep blaming someone else for how we’ve turned out.

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” – Maya Angelou

I fell out with two of my closest friends in recent years and both were holding on to past pain, which I found frustrating.  One had had an eating disorder since her early teens.  She was adopted and had let this dominate her entire adult life.  She never sought help and when her body started packing up from years of malnutrition to be honest I found it hard to have much sympathy.  Her food issues set a bad example for her three children and I couldn’t understand why she hadn’t even tried to sort her shit out.  She herself adopted a child and it’s plain for everyone to see that she never really bonded with him.  She’s a good parent in that he’s looked after very well, but she keeps her emotional distance and is repeating the distant relationship she had with her adoptive Mum.  The other friend also had a strained relationship with her Mum, poor body image, couldn’t come to terms with her chronic illness and the effect this had had on her life, and basically wallowed in the whole thing.  Her constant ‘poor me’ attitude was really grating especially as, compared to me, she’d had a pretty good life!  Why would you not seek counselling and at least make a stab at sorting your issues out?  Why do some people get to their 40s and keep walking on the same old treadmill of pain and misery, focusing on everything they’ve lost and not on all the things they still have?  I can’t image waking up every day and hating myself or my body – how on earth would I face the days?

It seems to me that people who are still wallowing in past pain by the time they’re middle aged are getting something out of it.  You wouldn’t do it otherwise.  We are animals and we don’t embark on behaviour that isn’t rewarding, even if the reward is negative.  I pointed this out in an email I sent to the second friend mentioned above which she made public on Facebook and I was branded an evil witch and sent to Coventry by half my so-called ‘friends’, but I stand by every single word.  We all have baggage.  We all have relationships which have damaged us in some way.  I’ve had my entire adult life taken away through chronic illness as have many of you, yet I am happy.  I have my emotional shit together.  I do not blame my Dad for being crap, or my Mum for her lack of coping skills.  I realized I’d made a mistake in chosing my abusive Husband so I left the creep – I didn’t stay in the marriage torturing myself like my parents have done for the better part of 40 years.  I do not blame my body for letting me down – bless it, it’s doing the best it can to keep me alive despite everything.  I do not have the life I’d planned, but I do have a life and I have no intention of living it in misery.

Happiness is a choice.  No matter what’s gone on before we can wake each day and choose to not let our past define our future.  We can forgive ourselves, and others, for our mistakes and for not being perfect.  I am not one of these happy clappy people who embraces my disability – who the fuck would embrace a broken body?!  But I accept my broken-ness and try to live the best life I can despite it.  If I focused on everything my illnesses have taken from me (career, partner, kids, money, holidays, hobbies) I’d probably top myself, so I don’t focus on it!  It’s not rocket science.

happiness