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?