Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Home

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

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Musings

September 16, 2018. In my last update I was staggered to find that August had arrived and we're now officially in mid-September. Wha' happened? [This is a reference to a splendid film called A Mighty Wind, just FYI. Bit of an obscure one, I'll admit.]

Long, long ago (okay, it was January) I wrote a post called 'Honesty is the Best Policy' in which I pondered the most socially acceptable way to answer the question "How are you?" or the more casual version "You alright?". Ever the over thinker, I picked it the idea like a crusty scab, worrying if my approach of actually telling the truth was right or not! Of course, back in January only a month on from my December meltdown, my answer to that question was NOT a positive one. In short, I was in a bad way and I told people so when they enquired deciding, as the title of the post suggested, that it was best to be honest.

So how am I now? I was asked this question just last week by my mate, Jacqui, who I haven't seen in yonks but I'll get to that in a moment.

A deeply organised friend from uni has recently invited me to his 40th birthday party in... wait for it... January. Now this may seem ludicrous but parents of small humans like myself will appreciate the need to have as much notice as possible for social gatherings. It's even more important when you are separated from your children's father as you have to choose exactly the right moment to spring "Btw, I'm going away for the weekend! Thanks, bu-bye!" on your ex.

Upon receipt of said invitation (he posted it and everything, #oldschool) I immediately contacted my mate who I knew would definitely also be invited and as a mother of a nearly two year old would most definitely be up for a shindig. She asked how I am - her message read, and I quote "Geordie Kati, how the fookin eck are you??" reminding me instantly of how much I bloody love her and reinforcing the idea that she is 100% the right wingwoman for this event. My response was "In a nutshell, I'm homeless, mental and a tiny bit fat", all technically true. Jacqui replied with "That all sounds like the making of a great TV show... you should write a script!"

And so once again I find myself musing over a writing career. I was considered quite the literary genius in High School (yes, really) but it was most definitely a big fish, small pond scenario. I dare say there were more talented writers within my school but my talent coupled with my massive gob and gift for self-promotion meant I was the best known author in Scared Heart in the late 90s. My English teachers, who were of course my favourite teachers, wanted me to do an English degree. They were absolutely correct but someone, somewhere put it on my radar that you could actually study FILM at university... or filim as I would've pronounced it back then as a much more Geordier Kati... and my mind was made up. I often wonder how different my life would be if I had indeed studied English but there is of course no way to know.

This blog is the most writing I've done in years and I do love it. It doesn't reach the masses like I dreamed it would... I have not become the latest blogging sensation making my fortune from my musings on life, parenthood and shitey mental health but it is cathartic and good for my head space and right now, that's more valuable to me than fame and notoriety. Only just, mind you.

I have all manner of ideas floating around my noggin for novels - both adult and young adult fiction - but nothing I can pin down and start working on. I don't even know the process of writing a novel! I dare say this can be learned but again, where do you start? I push ideas to one side, telling myself that for now I'm just focusing on getting mentally stronger and oh yeah, finding somewhere to fookin live but I know for a fact that there is no perfect time to do anything.

My therapy is now underway and so far, it's going well I think. The others in the group are warm and interesting. Needless to say, we are quite a mismatched crew as crappy Mental Health does not see age, colour or religion and will happily bring anyone it fancies to their knees (bastard!) but we're getting along quite well. It's certainly fascinating. As to whether or not it's 'working', I think it's far too early to tell. I don't even believe that this group will 'fix' me and to be honest, I'm not interested in being fixed. For me, it's about learning coping strategies and gaining a better understanding of my illness so it's hold over me is not quite so strong. I am a work in progress - cookie dough to use a Buffy analogy which I'm inclined to do wherever possible - and I feel I always will be. And I'm cool with that.

I still don't have a home of my own but I am happy to report that I am settled in one place until the beginning of November which, after being on the move since the end of July, is an absolute joy. I have a plan of attack which I intend to launch this coming week to move along the whole process of me being allocated somewhere to live. I can't sit around and wait for the council to sort it. I want to put pictures on the walls and buy Harry Potter cushions from Primark that will delight me and my children but infuriate my big sister. I want to make a little home for me and my small humans.

When I sit down in front of my laptop to write a blog post, I'm often unsure of where I will be by the end of it. Well, I'll still be sitting in front of the computer obviously but what will have flowed from me through my fingers and on to the screen in the past hour? That is not always quite so clear.

I think I expected to write about how I am and oddly, despite being "homeless, mental and a tiny bit fat", I think I'm okay. I think I'm better than I was. But the blog has also ended up being about my writing. Typical me with my need for validation and attention, still suffering a case of Wannabeitis that has followed me round since my teens, I tend to picture myself at book signings and literary prize givings more than I think about plot structure and target audience for my novels. No please, do roll your eyes, be my guest! I know I'm quite ridiculous at times.

Over all, yes, I am okay. I think! I completed my fourth (and fastest ever) Great North Run last Sunday and I am immensely proud of myself for this. And for the first time ever, I'm still running post-GNR. Unheard of, I tells ya! I did a recovery run on Monday, went for a five mile walk on Wednesday (admittedly I only walked that far coz I got lost) and then ran again on Friday. I'm also 99% sure I'm going to do the Great South Run next month despite the fact that I did it last year and hated every second of it... So much so, that I gave up running altogether after it. I'm glad I don't stick to all the decisions I make!

Will 2019 be the year I write my first novel? Will I be sat on the sofa with Phillip and Holly, talking about how my breakdown and my poor mental health was the catalyst for me turning my life around and being the writer I'd always dreamed of being...? Should I perhaps focus on writing for the love of words, language and storytelling rather than on it being a path to the 'This Morning' studio?! I don't need you to answer that.

It's a Sunday. A new week begins tomorrow. My Headspacing is teaching me that I can't change the past and the future hasn't happened yet so maybe I'll just focus on today. Sounds like a plan, yes?

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Pinch Punch!


[Started this last night in the caravan and finished it tonight back in Whitey Bay... just FYI.]

And all of a sudden, it’s August! I mean really it’s not that sudden… Having lived through January to July 2018, the arrival of August is inevitable but I still find myself feeling a little shocked that we are at the start of the eighth month of the year. My, my how time flies…

I’m in quite the reflective mood on this day, Wednesday 1 August. Since Monday teatime I’ve officially been “on holiday” at Wild Rose caravan park in Appleby in Cumbria. Being able to poke my head out of the van and see ridiculous, majestic hills all around me is really quite something and it’s brought me a sense of peace. Not that there’s been much peace and quiet on the holiday thus far but then when you’ve got two mams and four bairns, what can you expect but noise, fun, chaos and the occasional meltdown?

Eva, Hal and I were invited by my step sister in law (she’s married to but separated from my step brother) to join her and my two nephews, Charlie and William at her parent’s caravan. Our children don’t see a huge amount of each other owing to the fact that I don’t come up to the North East anywhere near as much as I should… Not only should but that I want to! The wonderful thing about children though is that time apart doesn’t really matter. Within half an hour of us arriving at Claire’s house in Whitley Bay on Sunday, everyone was best buddies. For the most part this has continued through the holiday with the odd, inevitable falling out.

This is my first holiday of the year and Lord knows, I bloody needed it. I love my job at Primark and my bar job at the Community Centre but I haven’t had any time off since February. Of course, I had visions of me meditating quietly at some picturesque spot on the campsite and really connecting with nature and that absolutely has not happened! But there’s been beer, ice cream, board games, gin, giggling fits and mini adventures. Every night I say I need to get to bed early and every night Claire and I sit up until midnight, putting the world to rights. I needed that for my soul as much as I need to get my mindfulness on!

Heading up to the North East last Sunday coincided with me moving out of the house I’ve been calling home since the end of March. It was wonderful while it lasted but it was only ever a temporary measure. Technically, I am now… well, homeless. I realise this sounds dramatic but I am of ‘no fixed abode’. Upon my return from my hols I will be staying with friends for a week as their guest and then my house sitting career begins. Living out of a suitcase might become tedious after a while but I’m oddly excited about my nomadic August. I’m treating it as an adventure! Here's hoping that I manage to get on the Keyways register by the autumn or I really will be screwed. Friends are kind but I can't 'sofa surf' forever... Not with two children. 

I finally got a start date for my therapy. My referral was completed in April and I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever get a space. Medication helps, there’s no denying that, but I need practical tools to cope with my condition. Now that my start date is only weeks away, suddenly I’m terrified. It’s going to be hard going, I know that. It was made clear to me when I was referred that I would have homework to do each week. It is not a sit round in a circle discussing your feelings type of group, I’m told, more of a classroom setting with practical advice and strategies to cope with a Personality Disorder.

I so badly want to get better but sometimes when I think of the work that will need to go in to it, I just feel exhausted. I do not want to stay broken, repeating the same mistakes and destructive behavioural patterns that have plagued me for so much of my life but it’s hard to muster the energy to work hard on yourself when you’re not entirely sure you deserve to be fixed. My children deserve a happier, healthier (less shouty and crazy outbursty) mumma for sure but I know I have to do this for me. Eva and Hal will reap the benefits if I find a way to focus on me.

On a more basic level, there’s so much I can be doing to help myself. I found out from reading Fearne Cotton’s Happy book that the lovely Tom Fletcher has Bipolar Disorder. I had no clue this was the case! He calls it his ‘wonky brain’. When asked what he does to manage his disorder he said he really tries hard to eat well and trains as often as possible. I’ve seen pictures on Instagram of him doing push ups with Buzz and Buddy on his back so I’d say he’s reasonably fit! I’m unlikely to ever be able to do decent push ups full stop let alone with my children on board but I can run… slowly. Back in January I was walking at least a mile a day with podcasts for company – why can’t I do that again? Well I can! And I shall… Wanna know what else I can do? Stop eating like an unsupervised toddler at a birthday party (not my joke but I do love it). My food choices of late have been mindbogglingly dreadful and my weight has increased as a result. I’m embracing the “I’m on holiday!” excuse with every fibre of my being right now but once I’m back in Ket’rin, it stops. I want a stone off and I think I might actually be ready to do it. I fucking hope so! Watch this space blog fans.

Five months left of 2018, let’s see what they’ve got in store for me, eh? The DBT group will take me right through in to early 2019. I have a new role to train for at Primark. I want to find a place to call home and make it somewhere I can be me in all my ridiculous, noisy, slightly crazy glory. This year has been bastard hard so far but oddly, despite everything I've been through and the low lows I've had to endure I refuse to see this year as a bad one. Let's be having you August! 

Saturday, 14 July 2018

An analysis of Russia 2018... from someone who knows nowt about football

A funny thing happened in England this summer... Two funny things actually. The sun shone A LOT and the England squad played really rather smashing football. 

June 14 and Russia 2018 kicks off. I'll be honest, I wasn't paying a huge amount of attention. I heard the England team being discussed and the word that was used more than any other was 'young'. No shit. I'd find out later in the tournament that of twenty three lads in the squad, seventeen of the little whippersnappers weren't bloody born in the summer of 1990 when Italy hosted the World Cup!! Foetus's in footballs kits! But I'm getting ahead of myself... 

As I don't follow Premiership football closely (or really, at all) the players were unknown to me. I heard names like Stirling, Kane, Dier, Henderson... and they meant nothing. The last time I really paid real attention to an England line up the names on the shirts were Shearer, Sheringham, Pearce, Redknapp and Owen. And of course I remember Beckham and Rooney too. This new lot, these babies, I didn't know who they played for or if indeed they were any good. 

England kick off their World Cup campaign on June 18 with a 2-1 win over Tunisia. At this point, I'm still a bit like your nan when you tell her a football result and she reacts with "That's nice, dear". 

The second game falls on a Sunday. It's a beautiful day (which is presently the norm in the UK) and my friend Jo has been told unequivocally by her husband Stuart that she is to go out, take their beautiful 18 month daughter Phoebe with her and leave him in peace to watch the match. I'm at a loose end so me, Jo and P pile in to Jo's car and head to a country park. 

We arrive and decide to have lunch. Jo's in the cafe getting food for her and P when I think to myself "I'll just check the score..." Quick check of the BBC Sport page... "HOLY SHIT JO! We're 3-0 up already!" Had the score stayed at that, well that would have been a wonderful result... But it didn't. The England/ Panama game ended with a score line of six goals to one. Now in fairness, Panama aren't exactly Brazil (although in this World Cup Brazil weren't really Brazil either...) but a 6-1 win is a 6-1 win, thanks ever so much. 

A 1-0 defeat to Belgium followed but our spirits were not dampened as we were already guaranteed a place in the last sixteen. England were definitely getting out of the group stages. Guess who didn't..? Current World Cup holders Germany. Auf Wiedersehn, Pets! 

The defeat against Belgium means we face Colombia in the next round. Pundits say this will be a trickier match. By now, I'm invested. It's Tuesday 3 July and the children are staying over with me. Hal goes to bed as usual and Eva stays up. I want to watch the match so I do her a deal. She can watch Netflix on the laptop with headphones if I can watch the first half. She agrees. At half time she says she wants to watch something with me (our current fave is Gortimer Gibbons' Life on Normal Street on Amazon!) so we watch that with the telly on mute and me keeping half an eye on the match. 

In true dramatic style, England concede a goal right at the end of added time. It's particularly infuriating that the only reason there was so much time added was because the Colombians were playing dirty, getting booked and arguing with the ref left, right and centre. So we go to extra time. I tell Eva she must go to bed - it's a school night after all - but she begs me to let her stay up. I'm convinced it's a ruse to stay up later and that she has no real interest in the game but she proves me wrong. I took a wonderful picture of her lying on the sofa, propped up on her elbows, glued to the TV. 

No goals in extra time which of course means the one thing England fans dread more than anything... A frigging penalty shoot out. Well that's it, isn't it? I'm tempted to order Eva to bed to spare her the heartache that I've suffered myself in the past but I also want a hand to squeeze while it happens so I keep her up. 

When Jordan Pickford (he's from Washington, y'know) saved Bacca's attempt Eva squealed in delight. It was a magnificent save but I knew we still needed one more penalty to win. Up steps Eric Dier... Me and my little girl are on the edge of our seats. England holds its breath. Is this it? Is this the moment when a 24 year old from Cheltenam re-writes England penalty shoot history? Or is it the moment where we inevitably crash out of another major tournament...? BANG. It's in. We're through to the next round. I pick Eva up and somehow manage to jump up and down with her in my arms. She's nine and a half years old and weighs around four stone but England just won a World Cup penalty shoot out and apparently that gives me superhuman strength! Who knew? 

Without a shadow of a doubt, I will never forget that moment. It is my personal highlight of Russia 2018. Me and my first born, whooping and laughing and hugging. Giddy with joy. 

I was behind the bar at work for England's 2-0 win over Sweden, pulling pints with an eye on the big screen. It was glorious when the final whistle blew and what we'd only dared to dream about had come true: a place in the semi-final. At the start of the tournament fans were just hoping we'd make it out of the group stages (Germany didn't, did I mention that?) and now we were semi-finalists. The last time that happened - Italia 90 - I was eight years old.

Of course, we know now that the semi-final was as far as we got, bested by Croatia. I was back at the Community Centre where I work but this time on the other side of the bar, drinking Bud bought for me by a fella from Walker. 

It's sad of course but the team brought us so much joy this summer. One of the main reasons I wanted to write about the World Cup was just to try and capture the mood of the country. Here are a few things I will remember: 

Alan Shearer singing 'All Night Long' by Lionel Ritchie in to a bread stick

Three Lions breaking records and getting back to Number 1 

The Alan Shearer and Ian Wright videos that did the rounds on social media

Twitter. Honestly, it's been glorious throughout the tournament

Waistcoat Wednesday

#GarethSouthgateWould 

Mini Roundabouts painted with the England flag

I've probably missed out loads but these are the ones that stand out. Of course there were negatives... Many shared articles and stats about a rise in domestic violence during major tournaments and there were reports of vandalism as moronic fans celebrated England's defeat over Sweden by trashing Ikea but over all, it's been a rather lovely time for our country. 

Today England will face Belgium again in the third place play-off. Big Al Shearer says it's pointless and the lads should just have been allowed to come home. I agree with him... mainly because he knows way more about football than I do! Whatever happens this afternoon, our boys can hold their heads high. They made us believe that football can and will come home one day. Roll on Euro 2020 and Qatar 2022.

"It's coming home, it's coming home, it's coming... FOOTBALL'S COMING HOME!"
 

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Just the facts, ma'am

I started a post yesterday and saved it as a draft. Reading it back today it was a world a way from how I'm feeling now so I scrapped it. I find it fascinating that my mood can shift so drastically from one day to the next... Fascinating and a little bit shit, obviously. 

Over the past week or so, I've found myself waking each day unsure of which version of Kati I'll be spending the day with. As I'm not overly keen on most of the potential variations this is not an ideal way to start the day. The fact that three to four mornings a week I also wake up on an airbed certainly doesn't help matters but we'll come to that shortly. 


So my mood has been all over the shop and I was starting to wonder if perhaps my medication needed adjusting. I don't necessarily want to be on a higher dose but after reading a brilliant article on the Blurt Foundation website this week about the stigma surrounding medication and mental health, I decided to just go with it. Appointment is booked for after work tomorrow to see my GP. Today however, I feel better. Massive overshare: my period arrived today. Yay! I mean, not yay because I feel like I've been hit by a bus and I'm roughly the size of a small shed but at least my mood has levelled out and I've got an explanation of sorts for my escalated sugar consumption just lately. 


As my head is the clearest it's been all week, I thought I'd seize the opportunity to bosh out a blog post and get a bit of perspective. The more I add to this little blog o' mine, the more it helps me to understand my own head and thought processes. 


Over the last few days I've described my life as an "utter shit show" in conversation with others. I did it earlier today when talking with my (now ex) accountant. On the one hand, I like the way it sounds and it packs a certain comedic punch but on the other hand, I actually feel like it's a fairly accurate description. 


Let's look at the facts, shall we...? 


I am 36 years old. Single. A mother of two. I am currently living in a friend's spare room. My whole world in one place. Of course I still have a heap of stuff at my ex-partner's house and thankfully he's okay with it staying there for now. When the children stay over with me (three nights a week), they get my bed and I sleep on a single air bed on the floor. When my mood is low (as it has been several times this week), I find myself lying there wondering how the actual F this is my life?! I mean, for reals. I have a degree. I'm reasonably intelligent (but admittedly somewhat lacking in basic common sense). I ran my own business for almost four years. I had a mortgage (albeit briefly) twelve years ago!! And now... Air bed on the floor. 


I must at this point state that I am insanely grateful to my lovely friend for letting me and my small humans invade her home, life and space for a few months. It's a temporary measure and I long for my own home but I will miss living here when I'm gone. Living with your ex is not ideal and she offered me a little bit of space to call my own. I won't ever forget that. 


Back to the facts though... I'm in horrendous debt and my credit score is dog shit. If I'm lucky, I might be debt-free (ish) by the time I'm 40. I haven't left the UK since 2006 and my passport expired in 2009. I won't even bother delving in to the great big bag of unrelenting crazy that is my mental health or the pain I still feel at the loss of my dad.


Shit show, right? Fact. Here's the thing... I'm okay with it. I mean, I'm not really obviously because no sane person would be but here and now, I'm kinda at peace with it all. I won't say "I don't care!" because that would be utter bullshit but I can see things to be grateful for. Sometimes I can't. Sometimes the pit is so friggin deep, I can't see light at all. Right now... I see stars. 


Here are some more facts... I am healthy. Not so much, mentally but physically I'm in reasonable nick, rampant sugar addiction aside of course. I can run and yesterday I did five miles. My children are healthy and clever and funny. I have not one but two jobs I enjoy. Nothing will compare with the honour and the joy of running my SW groups and helping people transform their lives but sometimes it's okay to have a clock in/ clock out job you can walk away from at the end of your shift. I have a roof over my head. It's not my roof but it's a very nice roof over a very nice house that I'm lucky to live in for a spell. Is it a squash and a squeeze trying to fit everything I need in to one room? Of course it is and I'm not the tidiest individual but when I look round my room I see pictures of my daddy (not to mention one of me, Eva and Tom Fletcher!) and cards my awesome friends have sent me. I have amazing friends: Fact! The Holy Trinity of Chrissy, Jenny and Tracey. My birthday twin, Sam. Beth. Caroline. Jo. Katy. Rachael. Amy. My Bosworths. EB. Lynney. Katie. Me Little Gem. And that's just off the top of my head. 


The single thing. That's a sore point, I'm not gonna lie. I know I shouldn't be hung up on it. I know I need to learn to "love myself" first (vom!) before I can let anyone else love me but honestly...? I just miss kisses. I miss coming home to someone. I miss that solid feeling of a proper hug from a bloke that loves me. Even with a reasonably chipper outlook tonight I still struggle to believe that anyone is ever going to look at me and see anything worth loving. I'm chaotic and noisy and insecure... oh yeah, and officially NUTS. Whatsapping with a male friend (who must remain nameless) I listed all the things I want in a partner... He needs to be funny and patient and kind. He must look past all of my ludicrousness and see magic! He must be willing to kiss away my tears, hold me tight and protect me when everything gets too much for me. I poured it all out. Painted a picture of all the things my man must be. The reply? "Christ, that's a really big ad to put in the paper!" I had to laugh. I'm asking a lot, I know. And what does the poor bugger get in return? Me. 


At sports day today one of the other parents told me that my writing is "brilliant". I didn't even mention my blog when we were chatting and I had no clue she'd read it. Between us we mused that I should perhaps write a novel..? YA fiction seemed the right fit. I later Googled "creative writing courses" and found one on Groupon for £19. Until my cheque clears, I've got £3 in my bank account but maybe when I'm done being dirt poor, I'll look in to it further. 


Could things be better? Fuck, yeah. Could they be worse? Abso-frigging-lutely. When faced with an incurable cancer diagnosis, an incredible woman said to her mother "It's the card I have been dealt and I’m going to get on with it. I’ll just put my lipstick on and face the world". Sounds like a pretty solid plan to me. I hope that this is one of these posts I'll look back on and feel inspired. Next time I'm at the bottom of the pit, I'll read this one back and hope that I can maybe see the stars again. 

One more thing while I'm on a positivity roll... My hair is amazing. I mean, seriously. It's the dogs ding dongs #justsayin. Shout out to my hairdresser, Beth Sando for giving me four years of great hair after 30ish years of many a dodgy do.