Emotional Exhaustion

I’m fucked.  Totally mentally and physically exhausted.  I feel like curling up into a ball, getting under my doona and crying my heart out.  I was wondering what the hell was wrong with me but I guess it’s been a pretty emotional couple of weeks.

Last week and beautiful young soul in our community took his own life and I can’t stop thinking about it.   Today I finished up my 8 week relapse and support program at St Vincent’s and I’m going to miss the incredible people there, not to mention having a purpose beyond my home and children for 2 days per week.  Tuesday the segment of Insight I was on was aired and the feedback I have had has been incredible but the whole thing has been pretty emotional — not something I really put much thought into before I did it.  Just like other people my age, I’m also watching my parents struggling with illness and general age-related shit.  Being an only child, I’m starting to feel quite alone in that aspect of my life.  I’m stressed about finances, my Exhole isn’t doing so well with his own mental health, which not only worries me with regards to his personal safety but also that if anything did happen to him and he wasn’t able to contribute financially to the kids, we’d be fucked and have to move out of this house.  I know that sounds callous but it’s the truth and I can’t help but think of what might happen if the shit hits the fan again.

So I guess that’s enough of a list of reasons to make me feel emotionally drained, exhausted and teary.  Despite the plethora of incredible feedback after Tuesday’s program, the old ‘Fat Girl Story’ is still playing in my mind.  If only I were beautiful, if only I were skinny, if only were good enough, if only you were worthy, if only… It’s so fucking exhausting when you spend hours each day telling yourself what a piece of shit you are.  Granted, not all days are like this and I am well aware that the old chestnut called ‘self-care’ has been lacking but that doesn’t make it any easier to sit with.  Ahhhh, ‘sit with’ — a beautiful term I have learned over the past 8 weeks.  Sitting with feelings that are shitty and allowing them space within my body.  Something I never used to do, something I used to drown with litres of wine, something that I now have to face, like a normal person.  Actually, I’m not sure how many people are actually comfortable sitting with discomfort, if our nation’s drinking habits are anything to go by but that’s another blog post entirely.

So, I’ve gone into mummy survival mode.  The kids had toasties for dinner, as did I and I cannot wait to crawl into bed.  I’m already planning going back to bed after school and kinder drop off tomorrow and I feel like I could sleep for a decade and still want more.  I can feel waterfalls of tears coming my way and as soon as the kids are in bed, I’m going to let them flow.  I’m sad.  I’m hurting.  I’m tired.  I’m stressed.  I’m glad I can identify how and why I’m feeling like this instead of running to the bottle shop and sending myself back into blurred tornado that was my life for so very long.

Hurry up kids, go to bed.  I need to check out.  x

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Excerpts #2

‘”Why do you seem to hate yourself so much?” he asked, seemingly annoyed at her constant misery and self loathing.  “You’re sexy, you know” he insisted as he unzipped his pants and declined a phone call from his wife.  She lay next to him, naked, staring at the candle flickering beside the bed, lit for his visit.  ‘The only difference between me and a fucking hooker is that I don’t get paid’, she observed.  He leaned over and stroked her body and for a moment, she was worth something…’

New Sneakers

Warning: Suicide themes

 

At midnight last night, I found myself Googling ‘how to talk to children about suicide’.  Never, in my overzealous worries about my children, did I ever think I’d be doing that Google search.  Apparently my search isn’t uncommon, because results were plentiful.  Be honest and open.  Use words like ‘death’ and ‘dead’.  Be available.  Listen.  Answer questions with facts.  Offer comfort.  Stick to routines.  Reduce change and FUUUUUUUCK!  STOP!!!  My son is nine.  NINE.  9!  Not even double digits and, as I watch him sleep, I realise that after I speak to him when he wakes, his life will never ever be the same again.  Explaining to your child that someone they care about has committed suicide, rips them immediately out of the innocence of childhood and drops them smack bang, in the middle of reality, where people from all walks of life, are living in such a hideous, insufferable pain, that in 2015, over 750,000 people (worldwide) ended their own lives.

Death is a part of life and although incredibly distressing and painful, there is something unreachable, unfathomable, about someone taking their own life because their world was just too painful to bear any longer.  The questions, the guilt, the disbelief, the helplessness — flow through the community around them at every level.  Friends, colleagues, school mates, teachers — and the family — the family whose world just completely imploded on them, in a wave of epic sadness and devastation.  Suicide brings with it questions to which there will never be answers, guilt that can erode a human soul and a grief that destroy lives.  People immediately want to know why but it matters not, because at the end of the day, if drugs were involved, if that person had long term mental health issues, if they were isolated from their peers — nothing changes the fact that they are no long here and their pain was so completely unbearable that they chose not to go on.

So this morning, my boy ran into my room and jumped into bed with me.  His face filled with smiles, his arms wrapping around me, happy to be home from a week away at his father’s.  I lay next to him for a while as he showed me some new games on his iPad and talked to me about the cat.  We pondered how long is sister would sleep for and he explained how tired she had been during the week.  We decided to cancel the dental appointment we had for the morning and he thought that a day at home would be fun.  As the lump formed in my throat, I realised that this moment had been given to me, a moment where it was only he and I, with no interruption.  A moment we rarely get.  I put my arm around him and said softly, ‘hey, I need to tell you something.  I found out something really sad last night, about your friend’…  He stared into the doona as I did my best to deliver the information in the appropriate manner (whatever the fuck that is).  I watched his eyes glaze over as his brain went into a spin and I wanted to scream my hatred at the world.  ‘Why, how?’, were the only questions he asked.  Then just as if I’d told him we had to go to the shops, he said ‘oh, okay then’ and returned to our previous conversation.  I guess I was shocked at the lack of response but my brief Google search had warned me of the different ways children react to these things.  ‘Be guided by your child’, I said over and over in my brain.  I hugged him tight and told him I loved him more than anything and that I hoped he would always come to me if he was hurting, no matter what.  ‘I will Mum’, he replied.

Last night before I got into bed, I found a couple of photos of Billy and his friend.  He was Billy’s ‘buddy’ when he started primary school.  So he was 5 or so years older.  15 years old, an age that doesn’t seem so far off for my own son any longer.  The photos showed the boys on the last day of school, as Billy walked his friend down the middle of the gym, during their graduation ceremony.  I looked at them together, both ridiculously tall, and both wearing super cool sneakers.  My mind was drawn to the sneakers.  The memories of buying Billy’s sneakers and the joy he got from wearing them for the first time.  The excitement of trying them on, choosing the ones he liked, revelling in the fact that his foot was far bigger than a kid his age and the looks on the faces of the shop assistants when they realised he was 3 or so years younger than his height would suggest.  Then I looked at the other boy’s sneakers.  I imagined the excitement he’d shared with his mum or dad, the joy he’d had when choosing them and wearing them to school for the first time.  The looks on the faces of the shop assistants when they realised he was only in grade 6 and not year 8 or 9, as his height suggested.  My mind raced from feeling my son growing in my belly, to holding him in my arms as a baby.  Helping him balance as he learned to walk, watching him swimming in his first school uniform, which was at least a size too big.  Saving his teeth for the tooth fairy as they slowly but surely fell out, letting him pick his own funky hair cuts and clothes and trying not to be overly worried as he took off down the street on his bike with his little friends.

And now I’m sitting here, thinking about how this boy will never buy another pair of fucking sneakers with his mum.  In one harrowing moment, he is gone.  In one harrowing moment, the lives of so many have been forever altered.  I cannot even begin to imagine the incomprehensible pain his parents are in right now.  My mind won’t even allow me to try.

If you, or someone you know needs help, reach out for help.  Within Australia:  

 Lifeline 13 11 14Beyond Blue

 

Excerpts #1

**TRIGGER WARNING — Eating Disorders**

“She pondered what it would be like to be one of ‘the beautiful people’, as she forced her fingers down her throat, purging the evening’s misery and shame. Oh to walk freely, without the piercing, judgement riddled eyes burning ferociously into her flabby flesh. To hold her head high in the aisle of a crowded store as people passed, instead of sucking in her bulging gut and apologising for her hideousness. Staring through her tears into the disgusting pile of emotions, she wondered what ‘the beautiful people’ were doing…”

 

Where Were You?

I’m not entirely sure why I’m sitting here, ruminating about this and getting so upset but I am, so I’m writing.

In Sydney last week, something really struck me.  Every single one of the women I met, who had various alcohol issues, had stories of partners who had, at one point or another, made comment on their drinking habits or tried to stop them.  One beautiful woman had her husband sitting in the audience, watching on, as proud as proud could be.  In her comments on the program and then again in private, it was evident of the love they shared and the absolute commitment her husband had shown when she was in active addiction and then in recovery.  Another lady spoke of how her husband would suggest she’d had enough to drink and the story was pretty much the same across the board.  All of these stories got me thinking about my own situation.

When I met my Exhole, I was the life of the party and he would happily join me.  The girl who could out-drink anyone — men or women — and was always a laugh a minute.  He’d come down from Melbourne to stay with me on the coast every weekend.  He’d bring flowers and grog and we’d get shit-faced for the entirety of his stay.  If I ran out of grog, he’d get me more.  If I had no money, he’d pay for it.  If I fell over drunk, he’d pick me up.  When I behaved badly, he fobbed it off.  When I was unable to recollect the night before, he’d happily fill me in so I didn’t look stupid in front of our friends.  What a fucking legend, right?  A guy who would do whatever I want, whenever I want and doesn’t care if I mouth off all fall down drunk.  A guy who doesn’t care that I’m far from thin, broke and completely out of control.  What more could I ask for?

As the years went by and I neared the end of my drinking, I would often make promises to myself about how or when I would drink.  The greatest challenge for me was to stay sober on a Friday night.  If I could achieve that, I could achieve anything (so I thought)! Every day on his way home from work, my Exhole would call and ask if I needed anything.  Wine or groceries but mainly wine.  Frequently, especially on a Friday, he’d call and I’d say ‘no, I’m not going to drink tonight’.  ‘Are you sure?’ he would reply.  ‘Yes, I’m going to try not to drink’ I would say.  ‘I’m happy to get you wine, I don’t mind‘, he would again reply.  If I managed to stay strong and not give in to his offer, I’d more often than not get to about 8.30pm and say ‘I wish I’d got wine’.  On more than one occasion, he’d jump out of his chair and exclaim ‘don’t worry, bought you some, it’s in the car’.  At the time, I thought this was loving, thoughtful and kind but a couple of years with a clear head and I realise it wasn’t at all, it was enabling.

I recall hungover days where I’d call friends and shamefully explain the events of the night before.  Nights where I’d fallen and torn ligaments, the night I had tripped over backwards and subsequently broken my ankle, the night I’d consumed well over a cask of wine and couldn’t remember a thing.  In my mind, my confessions were a cry for help.  I mean, if someone came to me and relayed the same stories, I would be asking if they were okay.  But I was met with giggles and flippant responses of ‘oh Kate, you’re hilarious’ or ‘we all do silly things when we drink’.  But how many silly things do you need to do before someone steps in and tries to help you?  How many times do you need to reach out for help before someone realises your behaviour is out of control?  How many times do you have to relay horrific stories before someone stops laughing at your antics and points out that this sort of behaviour isn’t ‘normal’?  I don’t want this coming across as hateful, because I have so many beautiful friends around me, all of whom I love dearly, and perhaps they just didn’t realise the enormity of the situation.  However, my Exhole was living with it.  He saw the falls, he witnessed the behaviours, he drove me to the emergency room, he knew EXACTLY what was going on, yet he didn’t say a word.

Despite him ceasing to drink around me when I decided to stop (for which I am grateful), on my hundredth day sober, he turned to me and said, ‘you’ve changed.  You used to be so much fun.  You used to drink and know how to have a good time.  Now you’re just boring’.  After I recovered from the shock of what I had just heard, I questioned him briefly.  ‘I’m not able to get up for our kids in the mornings.  I’m driving to school, probably still over the limit from the night before.  I’m wetting the bed most nights.  I can’t function any more.  If I don’t stop, I’m going to die.  I’m scared.  Aren’t you worried about this?’  His response was, ‘I really don’t see a problem’.  That was the day I asked him to leave.

So after listening to the stories of the other women in Sydney last week, I’m feeling sad, disappointed and angry.  Where was he when I needed help?  Where were the people who cared, reaching out to have that uncomfortable conversation with me?  Why were people laughing at these ever increasing behaviours and fobbing them off as funny, or silly.  I know my Mum (and probably Dad) were extremely worried about my drinking and my health but I’m not sure they knew exactly how bad it was.  I hid a lot from them, for many years, not wanting them to worry.  I wish I had reached out and been honest with them earlier.  As it turned out, only one woman, who I hadn’t known for all that long, actually sat me down and asked, ‘are you an alcoholic?’  I openly said ‘yes, yes I am‘.  So I’m sitting here today, wondering why it isn’t like in the movies where people stage interventions, pin down their loved ones and insist they go into rehab immediately.  Why wasn’t my Exhole worried that I was killing myself?  In fact, I just sent him a text and asked him that exact question.  His reply was ‘Kate, I could never help you with your drinking, you are the type of person if I told you to stop drinking you would drink twice as much, it happened when you realised you had to…’  Why didn’t he even try?

I know my sadness and anger are superfluous but to quote the saying I detest the most, ‘it is what it is’.  I guess, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter that nobody reached out to me and the important thing is, I came to rock bottom, completely and utterly broken and desperate, all by myself.  I reached out for help, all by myself and although my recovery is mine alone, I have support around me to keep me going.  My family, friends and colleagues all know my story and support my recovery as much as they possibly can and for that, I am eternally grateful.  Dwelling on what could have been is pointless and getting it out of my head by writing it here, certainly lifts the weight a little.

If you are struggling with alcohol or drug issues, please contact your GP or reach out to the wonderful people at Alcoholic’s Anonymous Australia or Narcotics Anonymous Australia and please remember, you are not alone.

The Longest Shower

Yesterday I flew up to Sydney to appear on the SBS program, Insight.  The segment was titled ‘Wine O’Clock’ — about women who drink.  Specifically, it was around women in their forties and older whose drinking (in our society) appears to be on the rise.  It was an interesting experience, listening to women with varying drinking habits, from a few drinks a night to full blown alcoholics — such as myself.  At one point, the host, Jenny, asked one of the ladies if they thought about alcohol, during the day, before they started drinking.  I was instantly reminded of the relief I felt as my recovery moved past the early stages and became less painful, when I realised my head was filled less and less with the conversations I used to have with myself about alcohol.

Mornings were usually the same.  Wake up with my head throbbing, unable to open my eyes, desperately trying to recollect the night before.  What had I done?  Who had I called?  Had there been an argument?  Had I broken anything (including myself)?  Had I slept in the same bed as my partner or was he in the spare room?  Questions came flooding into my mind as the anxiety built in my churning gut, before I could even contemplate facing daylight.  Once my eyes were open, I waited for my head to catch up and then into the shower.  That’s where the conversations started.  Every morning, while the water poured over my head, I would berate myself for yet again, fucking up.  Even if the evening before had been non-eventful, I had still fucked up.  I’d had a drink, or perhaps even 18.  I’d been so drunk that I’d passed out and was now struggling to remember kissing my sleeping children goodnight or getting myself into my pyjamas, if I’d even bothered.

Pounding head and the sharpness of the water falling over me, while I argued and promised and cried, criticising myself for not being stronger.  ‘You’re fucking disgusting.  You’re a shitty mother.  Your children deserve way better than you.  You’re ugly.  You’re fat.  You’d be better off dead.’  That was the usual gist of the morning conversations in my shower.  Eyes closed, tears pouring down my face, the sound of the water running, preventing anyone from hearing my pain.  It felt like hours that I’d stand there, tearing myself to shreds, knowing that inevitably, I’d have to turn off that water and step into the reality of the day.  Promises were made under the purity of fresh water, only to be broken over and over again.  Each day bringing with it a new set of arguments, a new mass of scorching self-accusations and an even deeper, darker desperation.  I’d do my daily routine, usually feeling hideous both physically and mentally and as the day went on, the next conversation would start.  ‘I’m not going to drink tonight.  Look at what happened last night.  Remember how fucking awful you felt this morning?  You can do this’.   As the hours went by, and the night before grew less and less vivid, the conversations again changed.  ‘Okay, so maybe tonight I’ll just have one bottle (as if that was okay!).  I’ll definitely not drink more than 2 bottles and I’ll go to bed before 10pm.  If I start drinking about 5, I should have finished by then and it’ll be too late to go to the bottle shop for more.  If I’m in bed by 10pm, I shouldn’t feel sick in the morning.  That way I won’t be driving to school hungover… Yes, I’ll just do that’.  

Insanity.  Complete and utter fucking insanity.  By the end of my drinking, this was my daily routine.  Starting the day filled with regret, shame and contempt for this person I had become, followed by hours of negotiating with my inner demon, rationalising the reasons for repeating the same thing, night after night after night.  In the rooms of AA, they talk about the insanity of alcoholism and addiction.  This is it.  How could any sane person, living free from addiction, possibly think this was normal and repeat it daily, FOR YEARS?

The entirety of my days were filled with these conversations.  Not an hour would go by where I wasn’t either living in regret, censuring myself or revelling in the task of buying and consuming the poison that was slowly but surely, destroying my life.  Looking back now, with just under 1000 days sober (yes, I count them), I realise just how freeing sobriety is, if in no other way but this.  The hours in my day are now mine, to do with as I please, to expend on thoughts, feelings and actions which bring with them positivity, inspiration and a movement in the direction of a life that is authentic and clear.  My time in hell is over — but I am ever mindful that the darkness is only one fuck up away.  Being surrounded by people whose stories are not unlike my own only reinforces that.  One day at a time, always.

If you are struggling with alcohol or drug issues, please contact your GP or reach out to the wonderful people at Alcoholic’s Anonymous Australia or Narcotics Anonymous Australia and please remember, you are not alone.

 

Saying Goodbye

Goodbyes are hard and I’m feeling sad — again.  Two days in a row now, not my best week.

My Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) worker went on placement as part of his further studies back in May and at that point, we kind of ‘broke up’.  I had been sober nearly two and a half years and really, unless I was at risk of lapsing, his time was going to be better spent with others who needed him more.  In saying that, although my file was officially ‘closed’, the option to come back in and see him at any time after his placement finished, was always there.  This week, he returned and we decided that a ‘maintenance and follow up’ appointment would be appropriate — even though we probably only wanted to catch up for a coffee.  What I didn’t realise was that this would most likely be the last time we’d sit together at the community health centre, because he’s moving on.

I started working with J in November of 2014, when I was still drinking heavily.  When he first contacted me for an intake interview, I remember thinking I wouldn’t like him much.  He sounded flippant and rushed and I couldn’t possibly imagine having any sort of connection with him but that changed the day I walked into his office.  From day one, I felt free with him, able to talk, to share, to be honest, without fear of judgement.  During that first appointment, he drew me a diagram of a little boat holding two people, going back and forth between two shores. He said that he and I were in that boat together and that our journey would continue back and forth across the water until one day, I was ready to get out of the boat and continue my journey without him.  I was always working towards moving on alone but never really imagined my world without him.  

Maybe this sounds dramatic to some.  I mean, it’s not like either of us are dying but to me, he is and always will be, one of the most important and impactful people in my life, no matter what the future holds.  He gave me hope, courage, strength and a safe place to talk about my darkest thoughts.  He stood by my side during the breakdown of my relationship and guided me through hideous amounts of stress and uncertainty when my life would have otherwise fallen apart.  He listened to my parenting woes and supported me as a mother and as a woman in recovery.  He shared with me some of his own amazing life experiences and inspirations and fuelled the fire within me to choose the path I have taken into the world of social work.  He lifted me up when others knocked me down and never once doubted my ability to get sober, get my life back on track and be the best person and mother I could possibly be.

I know that people change and move on and I know that his time has come to do just that.  The path he is taking is beyond courageous — choosing to work with people at the end of their days — and to be honest, if it were my time to close my eyes forever, I could think of nobody else I would rather have by my side, guiding me to the end of the journey that is life.  There are no words to describe how thankful I am for the impact he has had on my life, which is beyond frustrating.  But how could I possibly thank someone who literally saved my fucking life?  My post feels tenuous in comparison to the emotions flooding through me today and perhaps I’ll need to come back and add more to it when I feel able.  But for now, I’m going to sit with the sadness and revel in the world around me, which would be vastly different if it weren’t for this remarkable, kind man.