The Sickness And Tiredness of Modern Life

Toddler F screamed at me four times overnight, for no reason I could discern, each time abruptly waking me from what felt like a bottomless pit of sleep that I can never get enough of. It is school holidays and the boys fight all day. They seem to be growing further and further apart, tormenting and teasing each other constantly in a way that distresses me so much. My oldest son is not happy. He is obsessed with weapons and fighting and war and everything bad in the world. He is clever, but starting to struggle at school because his handwriting is so poor. His teacher insists he isn’t trying, but I know his is. The problem is he can’t do it. He can be ungrateful, stubborn, and meaner than any adult I know. It breaks my heart because he is clearly so miserable, and angry and unhappy and I do not know what to do to fix it.

My brother has fought a 9 year battle with psychosis and is doing very badly again. His problems have never coincided with my mother’s problems, but for the first time both of them are now under daily visits from the mental health crisis team and only a step away from readmission, in different cities. I have toured the psychiatric wards in this country and they are all the same depressing hell-holes of wasted lives and lost opportunities.

My brother developed a heroin addiction as a teenager, and although he has been clean for years as far as I know, he ended up in A&E over the weekend after injecting and then calling 999 because he was feeling so unwell and frightened (bearing in mind his as-yet undiagnosed heart condition this was probably sensible on his part – although he has missed two doctors appointments in a row just because he couldn’t remember the right day). He is convinced someone is trying to kill him and can’t sleep. My mum answers the phone in a quiet, depressed voice and she never eats or sleeps.

I don’t sleep much either these days, and life hasn’t been a walk in the park for me, but for some reason (personally I attribute it to stubbornness), I don’t hallucinate, receive telepathic messages or think that I am being persecuted. And as much as I love them a part of me is annoyed at them for not being stronger. For not putting up with all the shit, like me, and just getting the fuck on with things.

Half of my childhood family is on its knees, heading towards a hole in the ground and I am powerless to save them or help them or stop them. I am going to lose my Mum and my brother – in many ways they are already lost to me – it breaks my heart. I blame my parents for my brother’s condition. I blame my grandparents for my mother. My grandmother’s parents were strict as hell, hailing from the East End of London, so I guess I can blame them for her issues. They once chased her boyfriend (later her husband), down the street with a knife. They married in secret and the legacy of our fucked up family continued.

I am afraid for my kids. I hope I am not passing on the mistakes of so many generations, but I am irritable, intolerant and critical sometimes. I suffer endless guilt for not being the happy smiling mother you see in cake commercials, baking with her kids and laughing with indulgent delight at the mess.

F is at nursery, so I took the boys to the cinema this morning and then we went for lunch. Lunch options in your average eating establishment are meat, sugar, gluten, and cheese. None of these things make me feel good or give me energy. My kids stuff down processed junk and love it, and I join in because it’s what everybody else in the UK eats. I feel sick afterwards, and ponder that it will just add to the weight I can’t shift and my dull, aggravated skin. I think about Michael Douglas in Falling Down and I wonder if anyone else feels like I do at the state of the world and the things that we all blindly do.

I scroll through social media and see hundreds of adverts and sponsored posts all vying for my attention, all wanting my money, all selling me happiness and success and contentment. Friends post luxurious holiday photos and lovely pictures of family walks. All of it makes me feel bad, as if what I do, and what I provide is not enough.

At home the endless bickering turns into physical violence, so I put the television on because sometimes it’s the only way to break the vicious circle of anger and antagonistic behaviour between my kids. And I cry silent tears in my room because this life seems to be so wrong. It isn’t making us healthy or happy. It doesn’t feed our souls or nourish our bodies. I fantasise about taking the kids away to Africa, or Vietnam, and living in a small village and helping other people, making a difference. I want to make something right in the world when everything feels so wrong, so excessive, so gluttonous, so obsessed with shit celebrities.

But I can’t really do that. So I dream of chucking out the TV, ditching social media, finding other families who are less connected to the grid. Insisting we stay out of food halls, and feed ourselves real food. But I am afraid. I am afraid of my kids hating me for being the Mum that gave them a weird childhood and making them the odd ones out at school. I carry the weight of responsibility of their future so heavily. How do my parents deal with the fact that their son, their baby boy, has grown into a psychotic ex-herion addict? They must feel to blame in some way – how can they live with it? It would kill me.

And I am afraid of other families that have rejected modern life. Ironically maybe, I am scared they are weird, even though it’s what I think about all the time.

What is the answer? I really don’t know. I’ve always had this deep, niggling feeling that the way we live our lives is not right, even from when I was a child. I don’t know the right way though. I can’t see the path. I don’t know where to go other than in the footsteps of the crowd.

So I follow. And I do what all other families do and what all other women do and what all other mums do. But inside I am sad. But I am also afraid that different is not going to make me happy either. Maybe I am just scared of living, because I see how easy it is to lose everything you love.

Stress Really Does Make Your Hair Fall Out

I am losing a ton of hair. If you’re a mum you might have been through that stage post-partum where suddenly you are losing hair by what feels like the handful. Have you had that?

I had it several weeks after each pregnancy – it was particularly pronounced after the boys.

For the last couple of weeks my hair loss has been as bad, if not more excessive than post-pregnancy. There is hair everywhere. On the floor, blocking the shower, in the sink, tons of it in my comb and brush. It comes out in my hands if I run my hands through my hair. The kids keep finding it on their hands and toys.

I looked it up and apparently some of your hair goes into a premature rest phase during times of physical, hormonal or emotional stress. Then, around 2 months later, it all starts to fall out.

Steve moved out at the beginning of January, so I guess this is part of the aftermath of our separation.

It’s not severe enough to cause bald patches and I have a lot of very long hair, so I’m not too worried (yet), but it’s definitely noticeable.

Funny how your body is listening and reacting quietly inside to everything that happens to you. It’s so easy to dismiss thoughts and feelings as not affecting our health, but they clearly do!

11 February 2018

I decided today that I would set my blog to private going forward.

But then I realised that self-hosted blogs don’t have the private option built-in, so my option is to use a plugin to make it private. That requires a bit of time to make sure I choose the right one.

In the meantime, I’m not going away, I just want to keep things more personal – please feel free to request access once it changes!

7 February 2018

Mixed night last night. I thought L was asleep, but after I turned lights out he came in at around 21:00 just as I was dropping off. Then again at 21:15, so I let him get in with me to fall asleep. I then carried my very heavy and lanky eight year old back to his own bed at 21:30. So much for my super early night.

F cried in the early hours as her nose was blocked. I was tired when I woke up, but my mood today has been so much improved – I no longer feel like I have a horrible blackness hanging over me.

Even C crying all the way home from school because he didn’t want risotto for dinner couldn’t phase me. I just gave him a big kiss and said I was sorry he didn’t like what I was planning.

In between playing feed the teddies and hand puppets with F today I sorted through the last of the cupboard stuff. Oh it’s so lovely now it’s done:

The rest of the house is a mess, but I’ll work my way around to that.

On my computer yesterday I found a backup of my first ever blog from 2005, on a very early version of WordPress. I had a read through some of the entries and my whole writing style was so different. I had a ton of energy and I seemed so much lighter. Isn’t it amazing how our attitude and outlook can morph over time? When did I become so serious, so maudlin, so worn-down and worn-out? I am going to see if I can import them – in fact I’m thinking of importing everything – 13 years of ad hoc writing about life.

Hoping for a good night tonight, as always. I really think that if I can get the sleep sorted, everything else will be so much easier.

3 February 2018

I actually think F slept through the night last night. I cannot remember waking up for her! I think I did get up to go to the bathroom at one point, but otherwise I slept until 6:15am without interruption from anyone. Amazing.

I was still tired enough today to sleep for over an hour when the husband came over to see the kids. It really does take time to recover from the detrimental affects of lost sleep. My mood however, has much improved and today I’ve felt brighter than I have in a long time.

I’ve been thinking a lot about life and why I find the days such a struggle. I have always been really good at subjects with correct answers. It’s why I am a programmer, I suppose. When you get things exactly right, everything works as it should. I am creative enough that I enjoy writing and drawing and music, but I get the deepest satisfaction from order, alignment and getting things right.

Life, of course, is not like that. Life is a messy construction of emotions, events, people and all their feelings and beliefs. Right and wrong are extremes and in the middle is a whole grey ocean of okay. I slip and slide around in the great grey expanse of ‘okay’ wondering what the hell I am doing most of the time. What should I be feeding the kids? What should I be reading? Which exercise should I do? How should I structure my day? Is TV in the mornings okay? When it is acceptable to call in sick? How tired do I have to be before I have an early night? At what point do I tell my toddler no, rather than accommodating what she wants? How much should I spend? Or save? Are credit cards okay? Should I live in a bigger house or a smaller house? Should I be forgiving of everyone? How do I avoid manipulative people? How can I tell if someone is genuine? Is gas any better than electricity?

I struggle because life has no manual and it is endlessly complex. I crave the right answers, the correct path, but I have no freaking idea what that is even supposed to look like. Also, there is always contradiction: I know MacDonalds is no good for you, but the one down the road always has a massive queue at the drive through and the company makes billions selling cheap burgers all around the globe. What’s right here? I really struggle with the recommendation of moderation. There is no real definition of moderation that enables you to do the right thing. One person’s moderation is another person’s extreme.

At the end of the day, maybe we can only do what is right for us, each of us, individually. But what if we’re wrong?

My analytical, organised, answer-seeking brain finds life overwhelming. I research and research things until I can’t take in any more information and then when I think I have found the right answer I look around and almost everyone I know is doing the opposite.

I seem to spend my time battling what I think I should be doing with wondering why no one else is doing it.

Sigh.

I kind of wish I had a book that said “Do this; do that; in this situation try this first and then do that if it doesn’t work.”

People say I should just “relax and enjoy life,” but if it was so easy to do that, we’d all be doing it without ruining our health, bank balance and relationships. I want to enjoy life and still be healthy into my old age. I want to enjoy life and not run up thousands of pounds in debt. I want to enjoy life and not be a slave to a job that will consume the best years and leave me with the consolation prize of retirement.

Maybe this is why Buddhism attracts me – it has a path without being overly spiritual or imposing.

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