Cardboard tea and sleep that is slow in coming

Monday, 26th January –
Woke feeling positive, energised, slightly better: my tongue improved and my skin (the eczema – although still there, still bad) different, thanks to a new and totally organic cream.

Showered, dressed, cleaned. Went out. Walked for half an hour, feeling moderately positive, despite the rain.

Had a hypnosis session and left more relaxed, stronger too, comforted by the connection to someone real and the gift of their insight. Felt more heard and understood than I had in a while.

Walked again, losing myself in a network of streets – all the same, all vaguely attractive. I have a habit of doing that: walking, getting lost. Where I used to be like a map, able to navigate anywhere: new places, old places… of equal challenge, no different: now I am like a first generation Sat Nav, my details out-of-date. England has changed me, damaged me, taking things that were useful and important away. A shell, hollow and cracked, I remain close enough to a person in appearance to fool those who care to look but nowhere near solid or real enough where it counts. A work in progress, I come together plank by plank.

Focussing on the present, I try to embrace who I am right now, but it’s hard to love something so volatile. I watch other people, especially the young, and envy them their vitality. They are who I used to be in the ‘when’ that went before; the ‘what’ that was the ‘is’ in another lifetime. But even with nothing to show, with the pile of damaged and useless that remains, I have faith. Today is a good day and on good days I believe: in the point, in the reason, in the eventually ending somewhere. There is a logic to all of this, a line running through the narrative. In time, it will become clear. Like others who are suffering, I will endure with patience and strength. I continue my journey and walk until I am found.

I get to my afternoon without further incident, glad to have somewhere to go. Quieter than before, it’s peaceful, and despite a lack of confidence in my ability to communicate, I manage to interact. But I struggle to give to those who wish to have, retreating from arms that are horizontally outstretched. This is not a dishing out and mopping up day. I require all of my energy.

Evening comes quickly, impatient to arrive, and I meet it without resentment. A switching off, it signals an end to ‘me’ and a beginning of something different, a ‘me, a she and a him’.

I sleep well, the little one against my neck, her needing me grounding me in the present; wake rested but wish to remain flat.

Tuesday, 27th January –
A morning of tasks: Reiki, packing, cleaning and washing up – all good, all easy; one practice for the next step, the where I’m trying get to, the rest old friends, processes I can rely on to hold me. I don’t get why people hate housework: beneath the surface, there is comfort and peace, gentle therapy. But I am aware that I was also looping, stuck inside: the day and its demands, its lack of events, bugging me. There was also an anxious dog, pacing and whining. In fact, it was her discomfort that acted to dislodge me, and it was from here that I dropped.

Walking helped solidify my morning, as did a place to be, but I lacked tolerance, patience and strength. A queue at the bank, and I gave in to a growl: frustration at having to wait for 20 minutes, sparking a vocal outburst, albeit brief.

My class, meditation, helped put me back together again and even though I completely failed to reach the desired space, the quiet and the light, the golden radiance, I enjoyed the knowledge and the companionship.

After, I continued to walk, restless and unable to remedy, resorting to negative behaviours to placate the anxious parts; angry at myself for allowing damaging habits to intervene. Why, when I am trying to find and walk a better path, can I not commit? What is sit that pulls me backwards? Finally, good sense wins out and I find a place to work and write. Once planted, I don’t move, keeping my seat for 3 hours: moderately still, adequately occupied.

The end of the day and the streets scare me, full of aggression and rush. I flee into quieter spaces, worn and wrung out. I am ready for the conclusion: home, dinner, my partner and my dog, my book and its window into a place that is ‘else’. My neck and shoulders ache, have done so all day: something tight unable to escape. My foot hurts too, threatening to break as I walk. And my eczema sits furious on my face: a cluster of raised parts, itchy, upset and red. I feel unattractive and old. I walk with my head bowed, paranoia and fear resting heavily, pressing down, invading every cell.

I focus on what I have done, what I have achieved, and this at least stops my morale from dropping, venturing into dangerous parts.

Wednesday, 28th January –
Positive, because Wednesday is my favourite day, the day when I host my group. And, also, afterwards, I am having tea with a friend. Full days are good days, energising where others take; they comfort my inner child, encouraging the authentic me to come out. So, in spite of the rain and the wind, the early near-drowning, the arriving soaking wet, I am positive and alright.

My group goes well, even though this week it’s just the two of us. We talk. We knit. And as always, it’s curious.

Then tea and a great chat: honest and long, two-sided, me trying hard to help. This fills me up: I feel useful and strong(ish). And after, even though tired, anxious, aching in all of the usual places, nervous about moving in the morning and this being my last evening in a bumpy place that has, despite lacking a lot – furniture, light, peace and quiet – become home, I have a good evening, creatively inspired and relaxed.

I sleep well too, deeply and without the usual up and down antics that compel me to wake several times in order to pad barefoot to the bathroom and back. Putting myself first, pushing my guilt aside, I make my dog go to bed as well, relieving my arms from her body and its constant weight, a pressure which antagonises my rib, shoulders and neck. I dream, but what of I can’t remember: most likely anxieties about the morning and the turmoil it will bring; the end of my current, fragile status.

Thursday, 29th January –
My face aches, stings, is red: pieces of dried skin flaking, escaping, taking leave and slipping away. It has changed from angry to expressive to sick, and the journey continues: me wondering what, when, it will end. I’m unsure about what to do, whether to continue with the withdrawal, whether to trust in the advice given by a teenager over that of a GP. But I’ve been using steroids for so long and they are bad, I holistic things. And, besides… they didn’t really work. Which is why it’s back in full force with me trying to fight it.

Tuning in, sitting in silence within the relative comfort of a busy cafe, I attempt to communicate, asking the spots, the flecks, the weeping bits, what they are saying to me. They tell me that they are sad and disappointed, and also that they are mad and frustrated too: they have been sitting still for too long, waiting on a hundred ‘nothing’s’ to manifest.

And what of my tongue? That positively screams. On top of the ulcers, the sores, the cracks and the dents: I managed to actually bite it, impressing upon it two holes; their message clear: “shut up, silence, get back in your cage”. My speaking up, my raising previously modest expectations, my making demands, does not wash. Too much has happened for anything other than disaster to be declared.

But I carry on, determined, in spite of the obstacles in my path. Our journey is supposed to be hard; our road rocky and concealed: if not, there would be little point in our being here. In order for our lives to be valued, of worth: we must confront and conquer our individual demons, our bit to cleanse to the earth.

My dysfunction clings. Things cry out in the night. There are beasts at my door and animals in my house, bent on nefarious activity.

I slaughter the animals, one by one, feeding them to the beasts. I invite the beasts into my bed, ‘consciously’ killing them, making sure they are first surrounded by love, calm and unaware. Slowly the air thin and I begin to breathe. At first, only in short, sharp, breaths: laboured and painful, air wrapped in knives. But later – gradually, slowly – more deeply and with less conflict.

Meanwhile, my shoulders cut my neck and my back bends. My ribs refuse to heal. And as for my feet: they continue to disintegrate. But ‘it is what it is’ and it will either end or it will go on and either way – stop or play, cease or exist, persist: I will remain attached, like a limpet on a rock.

Picking up the keys: anxious, scared; I try not to overly anticipate. I have been bitten before. I have honoured false prophets, swallowed bitter lies. I have tasted offal and bile. There has been more bad stuff, more to dislike, than there has been to love. I love my dog and I love my partner, but I do not love my life: it has not been kind or fair; and neither has it, despite my continued commitment to it, been fun.

Outside the door: a struggle to get in, man pitted against lock. Then in: eyes wide, mouth open, in shock. Nothing has changed, or not enough. As I look around in disbelief, the tears arrive and my anger turns to pain. Fear wraps me in a blanket: I cannot live here. It is worse: worse than the nightly noise, the lack of privacy, the blinds that are always down and the mess outside, the tramps and the drunks… And I want to stay, where it is warm and safe, where it is known, where is is at least shiny and clean. The kitchen stares at me like a broken smile, ugly and garish, half done. I feel like I’m in an office or a student flat. The radiators remember a time gone by and have missing bits. The fireplace is cheap, naff. And the floor is so dated, so damaged, so old, there is no resurrecting it. All that can be done is to cover it with rugs, however many it takes to eliminate the underneath mess, its surface telling stories I don’t want to read, containing the imprint of lives with too much to tell.

Friday, 30th January –
Up early with reluctant feet. Into the bath and then out. Flat on my back on a bed. Pushed and pressed, pieces that have moved away manipulated back. Exit feeling fragile: things that hurt, hurting in different ways. Back to my parents, where I hibernate, waiting to feel well again.

Mind heavy, full of fear; scared to leave: unsure of whether I am capable of surviving it, the dreaded unknown of a new place and of managing to change my heart so that I might be able to settle there. Comforted by parental companionship and being one-step-removed, but aware that it is temporary, an escape.

Wait…

Tick… Time passes.

Eventually, an email: tied to an earlier promise; effort attached, closing the void. Call. Speak. Thank. Pack and prepare. And even though I feel weak, broken, unfit: I take my leave and get on the train.

Crowds. Noise. Discomfort. Clinging to cardboard tea and sleep that is slow in coming.

Then reunite; hug, kiss, walk: anxious and cold.

Find a seat, a bottle of wine, needles attached to a ball and something intricate emerging. Relax, unwind, smile, if only for a while. Delay going back, digging heels in.

Then a door, a key, and wood opening; me standing still: eyes shut, patiently waiting. Scene set, I step: lights low, music playing, radiators churning… Cosy. Impressed by the ‘for now’. So much energy and love, it’s enough to paper the cracks.

Make do. Cook. Sit and eat. Imagine it’s just for a week. Then read in bed until eyes tired enough to shut, mind sufficiently distracted to grant peace. Cling to body of dog, leg of man, deep inside duvet heat.

Saturday, 31st January –
Slept well, even though plagued by nightmares: people invading the apartment in muddy shoes, a bath full of pins, and my parents and various other less familiar relatives descending to gloat. But woke aching all over as a result of the Cranial I had, delicate enough to break. My face was also red, raw: eczema torment. I am trying to be patient and kind, to love myself despite feeling ugly: it’s hard, mirrors offend. But I refrain from judging symptoms I can’t help; my face does not mean to harm me: something beneath it does. It’s a root I need to extract.

Managed, eventually, to get up and set about sorting through boxes in order to hang and tidy away: figuring, if I’m going to stay, if I’m forced to be here for a while, I may as well try to fit; resisting will only further antagonise.

Braved the shower, survived, and even managed to laugh about things like using a brass light covering as a mirror to dry my hair and a dog bowl as a cup.

Went out in the rain, didn’t collapse, stayed practical and present. Sat down to work and caught up, easing the burden that has amassed.

Sitting in the present, feet fighting to stand, pushing everything else – the future, the past – away. Then, next, are dangerous, too many emotions attached.

Dreading Monday, being alone, but okay for now.

Sunday, 1st February –
It has turned bitter outside and the wind has teeth, invading the weave of jumpers and coats. My bones ache and I can no longer feel my limbs: arms and legs brittle sticks that snap. Side-stepping tourists and distracted commuters, guarding my body as best I can. The effort exhausts and I long to stop, pulling my outward inwards where it’s safe. Only there is no respite, not inside or outside, because of the things that glow white.

Last night discomfort joined me in bed; sleep was slow. But waking was significantly better: raw and itchy, flaky and soft.

The day drags and I fail to find peace in pursuits that normally deliver and even though I dread tomorrow and once more being left alone, I long for an end so that I might escape. The flat that on Thursday upset me enough to run away, now doesn’t feel so bad, familiarity blurring the edges, because, if nothing else, it has become my own. And can I afford to move again when moving demands so much, draining the almost empty, turning the upright wrongside down?

Telling myself: this too will pass.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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