Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Flitty Brain Days

I sat down in front of my laptop over an hour ago with the intention of tapping out a blog post. The urge to write has been upon me for a few weeks now but I kept allowing things to get in the way. I can ignore the feeling for so long but it lingers, like a faint itch from an old nettle sting until I finally make the time to sit down and scratch it, as it were.

In the past few weeks I've been drafting a post in my head about still living the lockdown life and about how well suited I feel I'll be to retirement when it comes about thirty years from now. On other days, I've pondered my new found acceptance of my curvier shape and I thought about writing a post explaining how this feels. Whatever the specific topic, I knew I had something I needed to say and put out in to the world.

This morning after dropping the children off at school (they're back two days a week now until the end of the school year), I headed home with the intention of sitting down to play at being a blogger. I had my breakfast, my second cuppa of the day and I was all set to go.

Ninety minutes later... I've made two false starts at a post, made notes on the characters for my novel,
Googled 'creative writing courses' and looked up YouTube videos on 'How to write fiction'. The videos I found where all roughly 15 minutes long and I decided I couldn't be arsed to sit through them. I've also opened a new Word document to start writing the aforementioned debut novel and have looked on Amazon for books on writing.

In short, I have procrastinated like an absolute boss and achieved next to nothing. Wandering in to the kitchen just now for a drink of water, I found my washing machine had finished its cycle. In truth, I didn't remember putting it on until I saw it, patiently waiting to be emptied. I'll need to get that on the line but Alexa says there's a 51% chance of rain so now I find myself in a quandary.


Sometimes my brain is just a bit twatty. It's like it's channel hopping or scrolling mindlessly through Facebook, focusing on nothing. The word I want to use to describe it is 'flitty'. Use it in a sentence, Kati... "Today I need to lower my expectations about what I can achieve because my brain is being a bit flitty" and by that I mean it won't settle on one thing and seems to be endlessly flitting from one thing to the next.

It's amazing really to be able to see how far I've come in the two and a half years since my diagnosis. In an ideal world, I wouldn't get 'flitty brain days' but the next best thing if I can't banish them forever is to be able to acknowledge that I'm having one and accept that I may not be particularly productive today. As I'm still furloughed from work this doesn't really present too much of a problem. If my brain (and to a lesser extent, my body) are telling me that they're not up for much today then I shall respect that as to try and go against it would only lead to stress and misery... No thanks!

I really have become more attuned to what it is I need during this time off that I've been given. I want to say that there's a quiet that's come over me but as I write this I can hear what's either a lawnmower or a hedge trimmer going full throttle just outside my flat. I may not have external peace right in this moment but internally I am more centred and peaceful than I have been in a long time.

Of course when we return to real/ normal life (whatever that may look like post-coronavirus) I won't necessarily be able to give myself the day off to just watch films because my stupid brain won't let me do much else. I'm already thinking of strategies on how I can handle flitty brain days when I am at work. The most obvious is to make a list of the essential tasks I must complete that day and allow all else to fall away. In all honesty, that's not a bad idea for work in general. My approach to my working day can be somewhat scattershot and I know I'd benefit from more structure and focus. On the days when I really can't get my brain to play ball, and Lord knows I will definitely have those days in future, then I'll make sure I have simple tasks like filing and general tidying to keep me occupied and calm.

While I endeavour not to let my mental health problems interfere with work and how I do my job, it's no a secret that I don't always feel tip top in the noggin department. If I need to go and do deep breathing for ten minutes or just need a day on menial stuff so I can feel up to tackling the bigger jobs, then I'll approach my bosses and ask for that. Honesty and transparency at all times, I say. I don't want to play the crazy card too often but some  days I genuinely need to.

The other thing I did earlier when I was dancing around writing but not actually getting any done, was fish out a gift I was given for my birthday in 2018. It's a book called '642 things to write about' and it is, as the name suggests, a book filled with prompts to get you thinking and of course, writing. To date, I have not written a single word in it but I intend to change that. Surely I can find the time to complete a few exercises each week? It certainly won't hinder my quest to finally writing my first novel. I do wonder if I'm actually disciplined and indeed talented enough to write a whole book but when I look at the progress I've made personally in the last few years and the highs and lows that I've survived, anything seems possible. Maybe I'll be an author yet!

This is not the blog post that I expected to write this morning but here we are. I've learned that trying to force my writing, my children, my emotions and so on in one particular direction will almost always lead to them going the opposite way. I wanted to write something today and I have. That's an achievement so I'll give myself a cheeky high five once I hit the publish button. For the record, I won't actually high five myself... I mean, I'm weird but I'm not quite that weird.

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!!