Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Finding Peace in Chaos

It's almost half past two on a Tuesday afternoon. Ordinarily I would be sat at my desk in the Hub office in the middle of the million square foot Primark warehouse where I work but instead I'm sat at home in my flat, laptop on the dining table, pretending that blogging is my actual job... that's the dream, after all. Oh to be paid just to write and talk about things I'm interested in and passionate about! I'm not off work because I'm ill or because I booked a day's annual leave; I'm home because I'm currently furloughed. I walked out of the Primark Distribution Centre in Islip on Friday 10th April and I haven't set foot in there since. At the earliest, I'll be back to work on Monday 1st June but even that isn't set in stone. 

In my last post, once I was done explaining my year long absence from the blogosphere, I wrote about the pandemic sweeping the planet. I marvelled at the notion of entire countries like Italy being locked down, schools across the world being closed and the Premier League being on hold. I started that blog on Saturday 14th March while sat in a trampoline park I'd taken my son and his best mate to. I finished it off and hit 'publish' on Wednesday 18th March. The UK went in to lockdown five days later. 

This is my second attempt at blogging during this strange and, to use the current buzz word, 'unprecedented' time but I found myself spewing terrifying facts, figures and death tolls the last time I tried to write. It's not that the reality and severity of the situation evades me... I get it, it's utterly shit and incomprehensibly scary but I wanted to focus more on my own personal experience of this time. Typical Borderline, eh? Always makes it about herself! 

The thing is, I could tell you how many people in the UK have died as a result of Covid-19. I could rant about the incompetence of the Tory government and the shocking lack of leadership shown by the PM. I could regale you with horror stories about how last Friday, morons marked the 75th anniversary of VE Day by doing (allegedly socially distanced) conga lines in the streets but when I look back on this time, I actually want to remember how I felt and the changes I've made as a result of suddenly having time to spare. 

Back in the early part of 2020, my life felt like an unstoppable hamster wheel. I worked two jobs (roughly 40-50 hours a week) while sharing custody of my two children with their dad. I got a Thursday evening to myself which I almost always spent at the cinema and the rest of the week was all go! I saw no realistic way of stopping that hamster wheel from spinning. I wanted to make positive changes like improving my self-care routines... or y'know, actually establishing some self-care processes in the first place but there just never seemed to be time. It felt like I literally never stopped and on the rare occasion when I perhaps did have time to myself, I'd panic about making the most of it and then faff it all away, achieving nothing. 

For as long as I can remember, I have utterly sucked at switching off. It's just not in my programming. Many moons ago when Pete and I were still together, he'd go out every Wednesday for Boy's Night. Once the children were in bed, this was my evening at home to do my own thing. I hated those nights, not because I missed Pete and wanted him home but because I was incapable of allowing myself time to relax. I'd fidget, half doing jobs, maybe doing some Slimming World admin but never fully just chilling out. I never really felt like I was allowed to do nothing, it felt selfish and indulgent. I've come to understand quite recently that this is tied in to the diagnosis I was given in early 2018 after my breakdown at the end of the previous year.

A few months back, I came across a TV presenter and actor on Twitter called Joe Tracini. Joe is the son of the comedian Joe Pasquale and he's very open about the fact that he has a Borderline Personality Disorder. When Joe talks about his illness, he describes it as having an arsehole living in his brain, telling him to kill himself. As a fellow sufferer of BPD I too have an arsehole living in my brain. Thankfully (I guess!) my BPD doesn't tell me to kill myself... never has in fact, and it doesn't tell me to harm myself either but what it does say is that I am unworthy of love. I think one of the reasons I struggled so hard to be by myself was because I found my own company pretty much intolerable. I have great friends and family who love me dearly and they have proved time and time again over the past four and half years or so that they are there for me. I only need to look at the times myself and my children have been fed at friend's houses, or look round my flat at all the furniture that was gifted to me when I first got my own place in late 2018 and the proof is there that I matter. I know I am loved and yet, when a monster whispers in your ear all day long that you are a burden on those around you and that no one will ever truly love you, it is hard to ignore. Only now am I starting to fight back and learn ways of quietening that monster's voice.

The thing is, BPD can't be cured. It can only be managed and understood. Back in April 2018 I was waiting for a place to open up on the therapy course I needed to do and I was struggling to cope. My medication was increased to 150mg of Sertraline a day and it was supposed to be a temporary measure but I never felt ready to face life with less medication in my system. Just before the lockdown happened I saw a GP and we discussed how to get me down to 100mg daily. I did that and now I'm easing myself on to a daily dose of 50mg. Part of me can't imagine ever being free of medication but I can see progress and that's not nothing. 

In the weeks since I stopped working, I have had plenty of time to think and to make those improvements that I talked about earlier. Much has been written in the press and on social media about how we could or should be spending our lockdown. On the one hand, some articles urge us to make the most of the time we've been given to learn a new skill, perhaps a new language or embrace exercise and while there's no harm in suggesting this, it can make those who are struggling just to function in this crazy time feel like they are failing when they absolutely are not! In the opposite camp, we're being encouraged to do absolutely sod all and not feel guilty about it. Everyone is coping (or not) in different ways. 

Over the past week or so I appear to have transformed in to a 'Lockdown Weightloss Wanker' as I described myself in an Instagram post last night. I started the Couch to 5k program on the first Monday morning I didn't have to go to work and yesterday I did my first run in Week 5 of the plan. From last Monday I decided to finally get a grip on my eating habits after weeks (and let's be honest here, months and years) of emotional eating and rampant sugar addiction. Where the focus and determination to do these activities has come from, I'm not entirely sure but I am enjoying it. In truth, I feel calmer and more at peace than I have in years. I can't even remember a time when I last felt this comfortable in my own skin or in my own company. 

The funny thing is... when I look at my naked body in the mirror, I don't hate what I see. My body carried my babies, it's an amazing machine. Even though I'm almost three stone heavier than my old Slimming World target weight, my new diet and exercise regime is about wanting to fuel and strengthen my body and has very little to do with what the scales say or what size my clothes are. Do I want to lose a couple of stone? Absolutely. Do I think I am a more valuable or attractive person when I weigh less? Hell no. I just want to be fitter and healthier because eating like a toddler at a buffet table and not moving my arse isn't good for my head. 

Please let me be clear: some elements of this experience - predominantly but not limited to, the parts where I have attempted to home school my somewhat reluctant children - have been horrendous. One Saturday afternoon a few weeks back, everything went to shit. All three of us were tired, fed up and short tempered. Voices were raised, doors were slammed... I ended up crying in a cupboard, while Eva wept on the hall floor and Hal cried in the big bed. Not a high point. I can't even blame school work for that particular familial meltdown as it happened at a weekend. Sometimes we just get a bit sick of the sight of each other. I am no teacher and quite frankly, my children don't want me to be. I am their mummy (or Mamoo as they call me) and they want me to look after them and make them laugh and find things that they've lost that are almost always IN FRONT OF THEIR EFFING FACE... but they don't want me teaching them. It's a tricky one. Again, you get both arguments presented on the socials: "Children need to be educated! Full lesson timetable or they'll be total thickos who will fail at life!" versus the "Just love them, read with them and protect their mental wellbeing" brigade. I'm bobbing about somewhere in the middle, doing the best I can and that's okay.

I've come to realise in the past few weeks that I am so much stronger than I give myself credit for. I've worked my arse off for the past few years since Pete and I split to keep a roof over my head and to keep my children with me. I am so grateful to all those who have helped me out, propped me up and kept me going. My family and friends think I'm worthy of time and attention so maybe it's okay to be a little bit kinder to myself than I have been in the past. While it's such a scary and tragic reason that I've suddenly found myself in a situation where I can focus on me, I feel proud that in this time like we've never known before, I'm finally learning how to just be. The hamster wheel has finally stopped and for the first time in years, I have caught my breath. I will still have meltdowns, bad days, tears and total parenting fails but I am determined to hang on to this feeling of not actually thinking I'm a total waste of organs. Maybe one day someone might even fall in love with me! Imagine that,eh? 

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Apocalypse, anyone?

It’s been a while… and by ‘a while’ I mean an entire frigging year. I’d love to tell you that it’s been a quiet twelve months and I haven’t blogged because I haven’t had anything to say but if you know me at all or you’ve read at least two of my blog posts, you’ll know that there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell, that that’s true. Sadly, I am still a Grade A drama magnet.

One of the reasons why I stopped blogging is because early last year I set up a YouTube channel. My original intention was to post film reviews on there and to begin with, that’s exactly what I did. And then I stopped. It was my film guru buddy, James King, who encouraged me to start again. I’d done a few reviews from my car and JK said he liked those ones best. The channel changed from ‘What Kati Saw’ to ‘Kati in a Car’ and it went from just being film reviews to being anything I wanted to talk about: mental health, parenthood, money, dating. I have a grand total of 88 subscribers so I’m hardly setting the YouTube world alight, but I enjoy it. Having said that, I realised the other day that I missed writing so here I am.

It’s difficult to know where to start after taking such a significant break from blogging. I have personal stuff to talk about as you’d expect after so long but globally there’s quite a lot going on too. We’re only three months in to 2020 but so far, it’s felt rather… how can I put this…? Apocalyptic?! 

Trump continues his terrifying reign as Toddler‐in‐Chief, picking fights with the world and ignoring any and all problems facing his country and its people. The UK was battered by back to back storms in the first two months of the year and the countryside was plagued by gangs of rogue trampolines roaming the land. And now, right now, we’re in the midst of a global pandemic. Even writing that is so surreal but it’s true.

COVID‐19, a type of Coronavirus, started in China and spread with alarming speed through the country in the weeks that followed. To begin with, it was something happening ‘over there’ and I paid it little attention, but it wasn’t long before it was over here too. At the time of writing we have over 1000 known cases in the UK (with the real number estimated somewhere around 5000) and 70+ people have died as a result of the virus.

Italy (as in the entire country) is on lock-down. The Premier League is suspended. Disney is closed. Oh and the good people of the world have decided that the best way to protect themselves from Coronavirus and survive the impending apocalypse is to stockpile pasta and toilet roll. Not only that, but ordinary folks are stealing hand sanitiser dispensers from the walls of hospitals and health care facilities. I. Shit. You. Not.

My hope is that when I read this back in the future, all of this will have blown over and I’ll laugh at how bonkers the world was for a few months in early 2020. Of course, we could be living in some sort of Mad Max style wasteland by then. Good Lord… I do hope not.

My private life is far less dramatic by comparison, but I’ve certainly had some battles of my own to fight. Last November I moved from my shoe box flat in Kettering town centre to… a better designed but smaller shoe box flat on the Ise Lodge. My new gaff is managed by Stonewater and is classed as Social Housing. I first applied for a ‘council house’ in February 2018 and it took until October 2019 for me to get one. It took some hard work (painting, cleaning etc) but it’s actually pretty sweet now. Being a 30 second drive from the children’s father is very handy and it feels nice to be back on an estate that I know well. Of course, it’s far too small for a grown woman and two children of 11 and 7 years old but whaddya gonna do? I must do a year living there and prove myself to be a reliable tenant then hopefully, Stonewater will offer me something bigger. I have moments when the lack of space frustrates me or I feel like I’m failing the children but then I remember that I’m doing the best I can and that we won’t be there forever. It’s warm and cosy. We have pictures on the walls to make it feel more homely and when all three of us are wedged on the sofa watching Saturday Night Takeaway together, there’s nowhere I’d rather be.

My love life is as farcical as ever. After swearing I'd never go down the app route again after 2016's cat fishing disaster, I took the plunge last year and joined Bumble. After a few false starts (and a ghosting incident) I dated someone for a few months in the summer. It came to a natural conclusion and I think the fact that I wasn't devastated told me all I needed to know. I binned the apps again late last year and decided to take a break from looking. Within weeks of making that decision in late November, I found myself on a date with someone I'd known for more than a year. The date went swimmingly, and I felt a glimmer of hope that maybe I'd made a connection. We connected a lot over the following months [insert theatrical wink here] spending (naked, grown up) time together. I'd then try and make plans for a proper date at which point, he'd freak out and friend zone me. We did this dance all the way up to last week and now it's done for good. sigh. I think for me; the hardest part was the realisation that I'd been an almost identical situation in early 2018. I'd allowed a man, battered and bruised from his previous relationship coming to an end, to use me to rebuild his ego. Never again! ... Hopefully! I mean I thought that the last time and then I didn't even notice it happening again but I'm going to try really hard not to be a crutch for anyone. I am worth more and I need to keep reminding myself of that.  

2019 ended with me having not one but two car crashes. In total, since passing my test in May 2014 I have owned five cars including the one I have now. Three have them have been written off and one of them I only owned for a month. I feel compelled to point out that I am not a terrible driver! The death of my first ever car, Dax the Twingo, was entirely my fault and is detailed in an earlier blog post. In late September last year, a woman ran straight in to the back of me, writing off JoJo Clio. Her fault, not mine. Whiplash, ongoing personal injury claim. Insurance paid out and I found a car on Auto Trader. It was my first time buying a car without Pete's input and I could not have got it more wrong. I won't go in to the full saga but in short, I was sold a proper dodgy motor and ended up in a huge battle to get my money back. I eventually did but, in the meantime, my amazing friend Jo set up a crowdfunding thing through PayPal and Facebook and raised enough to buy me a car! Crazy, right?! The car I bought with that money was another black Clio and I named her JoJo 2.0. Fifty days after purchase, I hit black ice on my way to work and hit a tree. Bye bye JoJo 2.0. Fifty fucking days. The gap between car crashes was eighty-one days. A week or so later, I bought a Citroen C1 from a friend. Picked it up on a Sunday... the clutch went on the Wednesday. You couldn’t make this up, could you?! Clutch got fixed and so far, my 2020 has been free of car drama. Long may it remain so! 

It's taken me from Saturday morning until Wednesday to finish this post. In that time, there are been significant increase in cases of COVID-19 worldwide. The death toll in the UK is rising. Most of mainland Europe have closed their schools... as it stands here, right now, our schools remain open. Theatres and cinemas are closed. Euro 2020 will now be held in 2021. The world is weird right now. I may be back soon with another blog post or it may be another twelve months...! Who knows?! I’ll be honest, I’ve really enjoyed writing this so hopefully I’ll be able to keep it up. It declutters my mind and I feel that’s something that I may need to do more often as the year goes on.

Thanks for reading if you have. Stay safe out there. Wash your hands thoroughly. Oh, and stop buying all the fucking toilet paper!! 

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

All Change

Crumbs Chief, how the actual frig is it March already?

Once again I find myself astonished by something as simple and constant as the passage of time. March though, and mid-March at that.

It's a Tuesday evening and I'm sitting on a beanbag on my kitchen floor, laptop balanced on my knees. In the living space, Hal is in bed, just drifting off to sleep and Eva is plugged in to YouTube on the iPad. I decided against sitting in there to write this as I was worried my tappy-tapping on the keyboard would keep Hal awake. Unlikely, the boy sleeps like the dead.

To be completely honest, it's hard to know where to start as much has changed in the two and a bit months since I last shared my musings. As ever, I'll vibe it and see what happens. I'm sure I've got stuff to say but how interesting or articulate it ends up being remains to be seen.

In no particular order here are some of the headlines from Katisville...

My therapy ended at the beginning of February. Five months and three modules, done. It was a whole lot of thinking, reflecting, laughing and listening. As the end of the course approached I started to panic for two reasons...

1. I was scared to leave and if I'm honest, I didn't want to give up my Monday me-time, and

2. I didn't feel like I'd achieved anything. I didn't feel 'better'.

It was only when I went for my debrief the week after I finished and I talked through my feelings about the course with the wonderful facilitators that I realised just how much I had taken on board.

Just today, an incident at work triggered me. A colleague pulled me up on my tone and while he was entirely justified in doing so, I still found it difficult to take. My heart rate soared, I felt sick and I was on the verge of tears. I've cried in that warehouse more times than I care to remember but not today. I recognised that I'd been triggered and I dealt with it using some of the skills that I learned in therapy. I can catch myself now when I'm about to be overly dramatic, too loud or unnecessarily negative and I adjust my behaviour accordingly. Not every time, but a lot of the time and a year ago, I couldn't have done that.

In other news... my little flat has finally come together. Almost a year ago now, I packed up all the belongings I could fit in my little Clio and moved in to a friend's spare room. Over the next seven months I would live and stay in six different places. For the sake of the children, I made it in to an adventure... "Isn't it fun, house-sitting and staying somewhere different every week?" In truth, it was massively stressful. I am so grateful to the friends who had me to stay or loaned me their empty homes but in truth, I craved a home of my own. Even when I finally secured a place to live, I worried that I'd made a mistake, that the flat was too small. Admittedly, I didn't really have a choice but how could three of us manage to live in just three rooms?! I felt like I was letting the children down.

It took time but now, it works. Not only does it work, it's home. Almost every piece of furniture in this place was gifted to me: a bed from the Patricks and an extra bed from my big sister, a sofa from the Yorks, a TV from Sam, a wardrobe from Nora, a little dining table and chairs from my ex's family and a fridge from the Preedys. A family who come to the bar I work in gave me two IKEA units and a chest of drawers. They'd known me weeks at the time. The few things I did buy came from a British Heart Foundation furniture shop in town. Nothing matches but I don't care and neither do the children. It is our little refuge where we are safe, where we can be silly and loud and dance round in our pyjamas to songs played from our Echo Dot.

Last month I made the decision to treat myself to Odeon Limitless membership for the year. On the one hand I am perpetually skint and am working two jobs just to keep my head above water but on the other hand, I've never smoked and I barely drink so why can't I spend £17.99 a month on something I love? In the first month of my subscription, I saw ten films. That's roughly £120 worth of tickets or put another way, I paid £1.80 per film. I'm alright with that. I haven't spent this much time in a cinema screen in over a decade and it's reconnected me with a version of myself that I thought was gone for good. Over my five years working for the Odeon chain, I saw countless movies and quite often I went by myself. Now I'm doing that again and I love it. I've even set up a YouTube channel to post my reviews on. It's called What Kati Saw and it has 34 subscribers. Not 34, 000... just 34. But hey, it's a start and to be completely honest, I do it for me. I like talking about films and if people enjoy listening to me do that, marvellous.

While I might be a big fan of solo cinema vibing and I am most definitely more at ease in my own company than I used to be, I still get lonely. I've been single for about fifteen months now and I don't see my relationship status changing any time soon. People tell me it'll happen when I least expect it or when I stop looking for it. Maybe it will. I think I miss hugs the most. Proper solid man hugs. I miss the other stuff too of course but on the nights when the children aren't with me and I'm not working, I just miss having someone to be with and share things with. I miss someone having my back. I don't need a man but I'd definitely like one at some point. Form an orderly queue gentleman... I jest, of course. I'll take a disorderly queue!

Over all, I suppose the biggest change is the most difficult to articulate. It's me. Something has shifted ever so slightly. When I think back to the state I was in as 2017 drew to a close or just how mindbogglingly difficult almost all of 2018 was, I am aware that I have changed, that I am a different Kati to the Kati of last year. Am I cured? Absolutely not! I never will be and here's the kicker, I'm not sure I'd want to be. Having BPD is not always a bucket of chuckles but some of those traits are so inherent to my personality, I can't quite picture who I'd be without them. I'd be dull AF that's for sure and I am not willingly to be boring in exchange for a quieter mind. I will take the noise and the nonsense because as time goes on, I'm learning not to allow the more negative elements of my illness control me. As I said earlier on, my therapy has taught me techniques to keep the wilder side of me at bay.

Three months in and 2019 is already a shitload better than last year. May it continue to be so. It's rare I give myself props but I'm still standing and I'm pretty fucking proud of that. I might still be a bit crackers, I might live in a shoe box flat but I have a good job, my small humans think I'm the best and I am definitely far less twatty than I have been for years. Go me!

Monday, 31 December 2018

Two Thousand and Eighteen

2018 was the year that I...

got a label for my particular brand of crazy,

started group therapy,

spent three months being technically homeless,

was largely skint, and

got a bit fat.

2018 was also the year that I...

discovered I like working in a warehouse,

became a vaguely competent barmaid,

completed my fourth (and fastest ever) Great North Run, and

moved in to my own little flat.

In 2018 I met...

Radio royalty, Chris Moyles,

his gorgeous, funny cousin and Dubland legend, Suzanne Kane,

Radio X breakfast show producer, James Robinson,

comedian, actor and the other half of the Dubland dream team, PJ Gallagher,

and the utter hammer legends that are, Elis James and John Robins.

When I look back on this year, I will remember all of the above. I will also remember...

a perfect day spent with Jenny and her beautiful children in a sunny Whitley Bay,

drinking Estrella with Claire in the caravan awning in a not-so-sunny Appleby,

watching Eva and Hal run round Tahlas's garden in their pants having a water fight,

seeing England win a World Cup penalty shoot-out, and

having breakfast with a very old (but super young looking) friend overlooking Long Sands on my 37th birthday.

This has been the year where my uncles have taken care of me in my dad's absence, and where two people who share no blood with me have loved me like their own daughter. It's been the year where my sisters (all three of them) have looked after me in their own way and where a small army of incredible friends have held me together when I was falling apart. I could list them all but they know who they are.

So here's to 2019... Here's to more therapy, to being more mindful, to losing some weight and to being the best Mamoo I can be. Here's to Living My Best Life and not being a self-centred hammock too much of the time. Here's to holidays and gigs and adventures and to sometimes just wearing pyjamas all day. Here's to not giving myself a hard time when it all goes to shit because statistically, that WILL happen no matter how hard I try not to let it. Here's to just riding that vibe train all the way to Legendsville!

And maybe, just maybe... here's to love...?

Wednesday, 14 November 2018


Home. I've had that word and all the things associated with it rattling round my head all year long. It's just four letters but like another four letter word (I meant 'love' not the other one!) it encompasses so much. Even now, poised to get it all out on to the virtual page, I'm still not sure which angle I'm coming at it from. Maybe I'll just type and see what happens! Let's face it, that's usually how this process goes...

I suppose the main catalyst for finally writing this oft drafted blog post is the fact that I've finally moved in to a place of my own. The variety of places I've lived this year is frankly ridiculous and I feel like I need to reflect on it in order to make peace with it all. 

2018 began with me still residing at Churchill Way. Pete and I had called it quits in December but I wasn't in a position to move out. I was on a sabbatical from my role as a Slimming World consultant and as a result was earning next to nothing. In February I started working at the Primark Distribution Centre on rotating shifts and initially this worked well as it meant Pete and I had little interaction. By the end of March however, it was clear that we weren't able to continue living under the same roof. An ex is an ex for a reason (many, many reasons in the case of Pete and I) and cohabiting post break up is far from ideal. 

It was around mid-March that a friend threw me a lifeline. Her sister had her own place and was happy to rent me a room. At the end of March, I moved some (though certainly not all) of my worldly goods in to a lovely little new build in Burton Latimer and embraced life as Tahla's housemate. I spent four happy months living there and I will forever be grateful to the amazingly kind and generous Tahls for sharing her home, not only with me but for half of the week, with my children too. Sleeping on an air bed as I had to when the children were with me wasn't the funnest but we managed. I loved kitchen chats with Tahla about our love lives while we waited for the kettle to boil so we could make our umpteenth cup of tea. Is tea not life, after all?! We certainly thought so. 

All good things must come to an end however and so, at the end of July, I packed up my room and moved on. Just picture me like a cartoon character with with one of those spotted handkerchiefs on a stick, holding all my most prized possessions... The reality was a 56 plate Renault Clio, stuffed to the roof and several trips to Pete's garage to unload but the spotty hanky visual is better somehow, don't you think? 

A much-needed holiday to the North East and Cumbria followed my departure from Casa Tahls. This was most definitely one of the many times this year when I've pondered the concept of home. Being back in the North East is always simultaneously wonderful and painful for me. It is home and it is familiar but also alien. I belong there but I don't. I love any time I spend there and the day we shared with my wonderful friend Jenny and her glorious children, Lila and Dylan, in the beautiful summer sunshine is one I hope never to forget. It was and is so hard not to dwell on how joyous it would be to have days like those more often. I didn't manage to catch up with as many family members as I'd have liked and then I'd find myself 'what if-ing' about living nearer to those I love. 

Back to Northamptonshire and the reality of the fact that I was technically now homeless. Of course I wasn't sleeping rough in a doorway but I was 'of no fixed abode' which surely puts me income weird subcategory of homelessness? If you'd put a form in front of me any time from early August this year up to a few weeks ago and asked me to fill in my address I wouldn't have been able to. I can't tell you how scary that is. 

I'd applied to go on the social housing register all the way back in February when I was still living with Pete. Due to a spectacular balls up by Kettering Borough Council, I wasn't actually on the list until late August. I provided all the information and evidence I was asked for as soon as it was requested. I paid my GP to write a letter confirming that I suffer from a chronic mental illness. Every week, I'd 'bid' on houses and every week I'd be unsuccessful. 

Resourceful (and indeed, cheeky) sort that I am, I arranged house sitting gigs all through the month of August. Plenty of my friends were going away on holiday and they had pets that needed looking after. Not a bother, said I, let me stay in your gaff and I'll mind your pets for free. I treated it like an adventure for the children's sake but also for mine too. If I'd really thought about it, it was a little depressing that I didn't have a home of my own but I pushed that feeling aside. Week one I looked after a Yorkie Poo in a two bed flat and the week after, I was in a four bed house caring for a greyhound! Week three was three bedrooms, two budgies and two bunnies. I certainly can't say that my summer wasn't varied! But every time I had to pack up and move on, every time I loaded my car up I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness and failure.

As friends returned from their holidays, I once again found myself with nowhere to go. This time it was my surrogate parents who stepped in. My love for Karen and Paul could fill a whole blog post. They really are the best kind of humans and the way they treat me, loving me like one of their own, tells you all you need to know about them. I stayed for a few nights, cooking dinner in the evening to repay them for their kindness. 

A series of very fortunate events banked me a seven week house-sitting gig that lasted from mid-September until early November. Staying in one place for so long was a relief after six weeks on the move. I had time to catch my breath but the reality of my situation niggled at me the whole time. It all came to a head when I realised that I had two weeks to find somewhere to live or I really was going to be actually homeless. Countless, well-intentioned, friends suggested I turn up at the KBC offices with a bin bag and declare myself homeless forcing their hand. I discussed this with a member of the Housing Options team who confirmed that yes, if I was to make myself homeless they would have to provide "appropriate temporary accommodation" for me but they couldn't tell me beforehand where it would be. Best case scenario would be a house or flat in Kettering... Worse case? They could send me to Bedford, Leicester or even Luton. No thanks!

After using Facebook live to appeal to any local friends who might know of affordable rentals in Kettering, it was actually my big sister Clare who found the flat I'm now calling home. I hadn't even considered one bed flats or places above shops but Clare spotted one within my price range and urged me to investigate. I viewed it later that same day and the following day dropped off my forms and registration fee. A week or so later, they confirmed I'd been accepted miraculously passing the credit check.

Getting out of the long term house-sitting job in time for the owner to return was a little stressful to say the least. I couldn't get all my crap in my car in one trip plus I had to clean the house from top to bottom. It was yet another one of those "I don't actually know how I'm gonna do this!" moments that I've had all too many of in 2018 and I only got four hours sleep on my last night there but somehow it all fell in to place.

I spent my first night in the flat on Friday 2 November. I was on an airbed surrounded by bags and boxes of my stuff but I slept like a log. The following night I went to sleep tucked up in my brand new (to me) bed, donated by my fabulous friend, Tracey and banked nine hours kip. Yes please!

Special mention to one amazing woman who I couldn't have managed without that weekend. My beautiful birthday twin Sam came over on the Friday night to organise me, even getting her lovely husband Chris to bring me the air bed which he also inflated for me. What a gent! On the Saturday morning she was back to keep me on task and stayed with me right through until teatime. I really do have some utter smashers in my life.

Although I've still got bits to sort, I'm happy to report that the flat already feels like home. Certainly it's not ideal - one adult and two children (albeit it part time) in a one bed flat - but we're making the best we can of it.

Home is where my babies are and so, for the next twelves years or so, that's Ket'rin, Northants. In future, who knows? Perhaps when Hal is 18 and I'm forty-fucking-nine, I'll return to my beloved homeland. I'll be back for visits in between of course, as many as I can mange, but maybe this little magpie will fly home to roost in 2030? Who knows..? Right now, after this year's magical mystery tour of friend's homes I'm happy just to be in one place for the foreseeable future. Time to make some memories with my small humans in our teeny, tiny shoe box flat.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

The Last Goodbye

Sunday 11 October, 2015. I woke, surprisingly hangover free, in the guest bedroom of one of my oldest friends. The night before me, my host Gemma and a bunch of other smashers had gathered in The Town Wall pub in Newcastle for a mini school reunion. It wasn't supposed to be a mini one, I was hoping for a much better turn out if I'm honest but those who did show up made sure it was a belter of a night.

The trip was significant in many ways...  For starters, I drove myself home for the first time ever and while this may not seem like a big deal, it's worth noting that this was October 2015 and I'd only been driving since May 2014. It was the first time I'd seen some of my old school friends since 2000 and it was also my first night out on the Toon since 2007. Being able to wander round Newcastle city centre with Gemma during the day and then just decide to go to Santana's for dinner was wonderful. As a parent, you don't always get that kind of freedom and I loved every minute of it.

On the Sunday however it was time to break the spell and head back to Kettering and my babies. First though, I had a few more people to see. I drove from Longbenton to Whitley Bay to meet one of my closest friends, an absolute diamond of a woman named Christina. We walked to The View which overlooks Longsands Beach and shared a cheese scone that was roughly the same size as my head! I was reluctant to say goodbye to Chrissy as it's so rare that we get to spend any time together and before she moved from Kettering where we met back to the North East where we both hail from we were pretty much joined at the hip! I was due to visit my Dad and step-mam next and even though we hadn't set a time, I still had my Dad texting to chase me up. Was I still coming? Had I left yet? Was I on my way? What was my ETA?!

I headed away from the coast towards Denton Burn and my childhood home. We moved to Earls Drive in early 1989 when I was just seven years old. I'd left for university in September 2000 and apart from a short stay in the summer of 2001, I've never lived there since. Driving myself to that house was completely surreal. I parked round the side and headed in. My Dad and Marion greeted me warmly, as did Lola, the Labradoodle. I sat in my dad's battered leather armchair in the front room, catching up with Maz while my dad buzzed in and out, ever the fidget! He made me a cup of tea and some toast with butter and jam. I can't remember if the bread was homemade but the jam definitely was. I told them about my night out and my dad was disappointed that more ex Sacred Heart and St Cuthbert's pupils hadn't attended. I agreed that more could have made the effort but told him we'd had a grand old time anyway and I wasn't feeling rough which was a huge plus! He asked me how many syns my toast and jam would be as my role as a Slimming World consultant delighted and amused him in equal measure. I replied that in that moment - sat in the front room of that house, eating toast my dad had made for me with his own homemade jam - I didn't give a monkeys how many syns it was!

I had promised to visit my Nana (my dad's mam) before heading back to Kettering so I got ready to say my goodbyes to my parents. On the table in the dining area was a hat belonging to my dad. It was a trilby style with a wider brim and I popped it on my head to try it out for size. My dad was a lover of hats, wearing baseball caps before they were chavvy and sporting a beret at a jaunty angle embracing his inner Frenchman. It was one of so many quirks that separated him out from all the other Dads I knew.

The parents followed me out to see my car. The notion of me as a driver was still a bit of a novelty as I hadn't passed until I was 32. I proudly showed them my adorable silver 57 plate Twingo... and less proudly added "... and here's the dent from where I wedged it up against a concrete pillar in the Newlands Centre car park!" My dad laughed and showed me a scrape on his C4 Picasso "... and this is where I damaged my car putting it back on the drive after too much red wine on a Sunday!" Like father, like daughter.

After hugs and kisses and promises to let them know when I made it safely back to Northamptonshire, I got in and buzzed down my window. I beeped the horn and as I pulled away I heard my dad chuckle "Eeeh Marion, look! There's our Kati driving a car!"

I visited my Nana, drank yet more tea then hit the road for the long drive back to the East Midlands. Every visit home to Newcastle always leads to a bout of depression. My heart breaks a little every time I have to leave behind my hometown for my adopted home in Kettering. I moped about all week, promising myself that I would make more of an effort to visit. I'd now proved to myself that I was capable of the journey and I vowed to do it more often.

Sunday 18 October, 2015. I'm sitting at the dining table of our home on Churchill Way. I am at my laptop, catching up on my SW admin and the children are playing happily around me. We're all still in our pyjamas. Pete is awake but still in bed upstairs. As I'd been off gallivanting the weekend before, he was enjoying a lazy morning in bed while I manned our small humans. My phone rang. Clare. We'd FaceTimed the day before as we often did (and still do) on a Saturday morning but it wasn't unusual for her to call again! All those years in childhood where we were at odds have been replaced by an ability to talk at length on consecutive days, never running out of things to say. I answered, blissfully unaware that she was making the most difficult phone call of her life, uttering words that changed my world forever.

"Dad's died"

I think that's what she said. I can't be sure. In that moment I was consumed by a primal feeling, the like of which I've never experienced before or since. I wailed like a wounded beast and fell to the floor. I so wish the children hadn't been in such close proximity when I answered but how was I to know that Clare was ringing to deliver the most awful news imaginable? Our Dad... our funny, kind, mischievous, flamboyant dad... was gone.

Eva ran to fetch her own dad, calling out "Daddy, mummy's crying and she won't stop!" There was panic and fear in her voice. Pete was there in an instant, taking the phone and speaking to Clare.

Within hours I was on a train to Newcastle. I have no memory of packing a bag, getting dressed or the journey to Peterborough to put me on the train. I arrived at the Central Station and my step-brother was waiting for me. Once we'd collected Clare from Newcastle Airport, the three of us headed to Earls Drive.

A week before I'd kissed my dad goodbye and driven away... And seven days later I was back and he was gone. The hat I'd taken a shine to was still there on the table, I put it on my head again and claimed it as my own. I wore it to his funeral a few weeks later and even as I've moved around what feels like a million times this year, it's never been far from me.

Almost three years have passed and I still have days where I can't quite believe he's really gone. Only twice have I genuinely forgotten and the pain that followed in the moment after where the truth hit me like a truck all over again is astonishing. To say I miss him doesn't seem to cover it. I am acutely aware of his absence every single day because the world just feels different without him in it. There was Life with Dad and now there is Life without Dad... but there is still Life. Sometimes I am secretly glad he's not here to see what an absolute shambles my life is at the moment, but then part of me knows he'd be proud of me for surviving the lowest lows. He'd be delighted to see me striking out on my own and trying to do what's best for me and the children.

Our Clare shared a quote that I think sums up beautifully how we both strive to live... "When I am at my best, I am my father's daughter" 

Monday, 8 October 2018

An open letter to myself

Dearest Kati,

We need to talk. There are some things I need to tell you and I really hope you'll listen...

I know you've had a rough year, possibly your roughest yet and that's saying something!

Getting a diagnosis back in January after decades of being baffled by your own actions was huge. In many ways it was a relief but in other ways, it became another burden. You won't like me saying this but you are a little guilty of hiding behind it or using it as an excuse.

Okay, so you have a Personality Disorder... Don't let it define you. And while we're on the subject, not everyone needs to know. You think you're being funny when you tell people within five minutes of meeting them, that you're "legitimately bat shit crazy" but it's unnecessary. It hurts you and it makes them feel uncomfortable. STOP. I'm not having a go, really I'm not but just let people meet you and get to know you. The whole 'make the joke before they do' thing... It's not really working for you, is it?

What else...? Oh yeah. Men! You deserve a good one but you are never going to find one looking in all the wrong places. You go for men that you can't have or that will make you miserable because that's what you think you deserve. Kati, you're wrong. Someone, somewhere will love you for all that you are and they won't care about all that you're not... but first, sweet girl, you need to learn to love yourself. I know, I know! That expression has you locked in the cringe position but it's not wrong. Make peace with your past relationship decisions then let them go. Learn to enjoy your own company. Work on you. You are worth your own time.

In pursuit of love, you've survived three ridiculous crushes this year. Your poor heart has taken a bit of a kicking but that's because you keep trying to give it to men who don't want it or deserve it. Find a man Dad would've like... One Clare approves of.

Strive to put aside your frustrations on how your life has turned out. They hold you back! So you've got a degree? Good for you. Much like your mental health condition, you don't need to tell everyone you meet. You feel like people are judging you for what you do or for where you're living (or not, as the case may be) but they're almost certainly not. They have their own shit to deal with... And if they are judging you, fuck 'em. Plenty of folks think you're smashing.

Could your life and career be going better? Well, of course. Does it matter that you and your degree work in a warehouse? No, it really doesn't. Expectation versus Reality. Isn't life what happen when you're making other plans? You have not one but two jobs you enjoy. Embrace it and stop worrying about the aesthetics.

Now the next bit is really important so I need you to pay attention... Your wonderful, kind, beautiful friend Jenny sent you a postcard the other day and on the front it said "You're the best mum your kids have ever had" and that is so true. Eva and Hal don't care what you do for a living as long as they get to see you. They don't care care about what you drive or about your living situation. They don't care that you take them on holiday to Cumbria instead of Spain. They don't look at you and see a warehouse colleague or a BPD diagnosis... they see their Mamoo. And they think you're wonderful! Yes, you're short-tempered, impatient, skint and perpetually tired but you are their Mummy Person and they love you endlessly. Love them, be there for them, try really very hard not to be a shouty, angry Mamoo... but when you do inevitably lose your shit, apologise. Cuddle them tight and promise to try harder.

One more thing... Back in your days as a Slimming World consultant, you're biggest 'thing', the catchphrase you used most of all was Be Kind to Yourself. You even had a hashtag... #BKTY. When members would tear themselves apart, you'd stop them dead and say "If you wouldn't say it to your mate, don't say it to yourself!" It's time, Katherine Emily to show yourself that kindness that you always urged your members to show themselves and each other. It's time to heed your own advice.

No more moping over unsuitable men. No more telling everyone you meet that you're crackers. No more telling people that you're "technically homeless" and "slightly fat". And if 'no more' is too ambitious, maybe just aim for 'less of' that and 'more of' kindness, positivity and giving yourself a fucking break, man. You're not a bad sort really.

With love,

You x