27. Normal is Good

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On social media, everyone is seemingly very, very happy. All of them (apparently) enjoying a blissful existence of beautiful, laughing children on sun drenched beaches with parents exclaiming how they are having a ‘Proud Mummy moment’ (urghh!) as their daughter number one, two or three (or perhaps all) have been accepted to Oxford University, meanwhile their gorgeous hubby has just swept them away on an eye-wateringly expensive safari trip as pictures of distant lions are thrust into our inbox. Similarly in the press, flawless models and celebrities pose outside the popular London nightlife haunts, with glowing perfect skin, no cellulite (God forbid), spots or a muffin-top to be seen. Everything looks so darn perfect and so darn predictable.

However, we also know, that this a totally air-brushed version of what the truth is. And yet, when it’s constantly thrust down our throats, we do start to believe it.

It’s human nature and it goes without saying that it makes us look at our lives slightly negatively. Jealously creeps in, slipping and sliding its way into our minds until the green-eyed monster makes us just a teensy bit dissatisfied and disappointed with our own lives. Our ordinary trips to the supermarket, our jobs, our daily mind-numbingly dull and endless chores of housework and whinging children frankly all seem just a little bit … meh!

Is it however to be expected and the norm to be wandering around in a state of euphoria? Of course not.  I don’t see the average person going around the supermarket or at work with a constant grin on their faces. In London they would be avoided like the plague. Up here in Glasgow they would probably be sectioned.

How many times do we say, “Everyone else is happy, why can’t I be happy? Why can’t my life be like that? I would be happy if my life was like that? Depression and anxiety suck!”

And yet, these people, these apparent friends of ours are simply wanting us to believe that their life is a constant holiday in the Caribbean.

However ….. What is the truth? The truth is that the husband has been having an affair, they both have a drink problem and child number three has just been expelled for selling weed. The safari holiday was a last ditch attempt to save the marriage, escape the mistress (who has now turned into a bunny-boiler) and in actual fact, those were the only two lions that they saw after seven hours confined in a 4-by-4 with three bellyaching kids, no WiFi and two of the three missed it anyway.

So now we know the truth. Now we can choose to either accept what is being thrust daily in our faces and believe it, or take it all with a little pinch of salt, give a smile, move away and instead, start concentrating on our own lives.

So now, instead of wishing for a perpetual smile and asking myself every day if I am happy, I shall ask myself, “Am I ok?”.  If the answer is yes, then that is good.  That is normal, and normal is good.

I will ride out the inevitable storms in the knowledge, that they will end.

I will relish and delight in those fleeting moments of total joy and happiness.

And for the rest, for the average day-to-day life of simply living, I will enjoy the feeling of peace and of normality. Because normal, is good.

Kx

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26. Having a Hobby, or ‘A Thing’

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I’ve never much liked the word hobby. It’s always tended to conjure up images of groups of 80 year olds sitting in a draughty church hall doing crochet, undoubtedly wearing large polyester floral skirts with elasticated waists and discussing the merits of their husbands vegetable patch ……

I’ve had single girlfriends who have secretly joined Salsa evening classes, until a few weeks later they can’t talk about it enough. Worse still, they have tried to coerce me into joining them. Err, no thanks! Raving about the liberating joys of learning something new and meeting different people. Why on earth would I want to do that?

Why would I want to risk making a complete fool of myself, standing on the edge of a roomful of Fred Astaires and Ginger Rogers, whilst nobody picked me to have as their partner. Oh nooo! Besides, I had friends. Why would I need any more? My own little random group of friends, strangely however from the same middle class background with the same dress sense, likes, dislikes and thoughts as me. Was this a coincidence or had I subconsciously chosen friends because as they were like me, therefore they were deemed safe and I could therefore trust them?

However, that was in the old days, the bad days. Those were in the negative days. To be honest I was not only just a teensy bit narrow-minded but also somewhat uneducated. I knew nothing! Not that I know an awful lot now, but perhaps I am slightly more open to ideas. And of course, this was before I discovered my ‘thing’ (autocorrect just put in ‘thong’ rather than ‘thing’ which has made me smile, childish I know … I’m sure I discovered thongs a long time ago!). I don’t have a hobby, I have a ‘thing’.

And tennis is my thing.

It’s my focus … for several hours a week, I think completely and utterly on one thing. I do something completely alien to me which is to concentrate! I’m pretty sure Roger Federer isn’t serving for the match whilst stressing over what to buy his wife for her birthday or whether Trevor the plumber is going to turn up that day. During those hours I have no negative or anxious thoughts, and that is becoming so regular that it’s becoming a habit. A good habit. Betty the Demon Depressive doesn’t get a word in. She is silent. I am not feeding the beast, so she is wilting. Simples.

It’s my sport …. it’s exercise which means endorphins, dopamine, serotonin start leaping into action, boosting my mood. They are real and they work. The exercise has helped my skin; it makes me drink more water which helps every organ in my body. I can wallop a ball with such force that all my frustrations fragment and disappear. Despite being a skinny bird, age is cruel thing and where bingo wings, muffin tops and love handles once were, muscles are appearing. This makes me more confident and the Colonel’s glasses steam up more … both of which are positives in my book. (The latter perhaps needing to be kept under control from time to time).

And finally, it’s a part of my routine and structure …. It’s one of my daily tasks. It gives me a sense of purpose and control with my life, mind and body. I need routine and structure more than most people. Without it, there’s always the fear that I really might end up doing nothing all day and hiding away in my little home, wrapping my bingo wings around me with nothing to talk about.

And finally, it’s my social interaction with the world. I have new friends. Friends who are different from me. Friends of different ages, backgrounds and cultures. I have no one to hide behind, no children, husband or alcohol. I have learned from them that being yourself is good. We talk nonsense mostly, laughing about nothingness. We laugh, we tease, we tell each other our woes and our joys. We put the world to rights. They don’t judge me and I don’t judge them. They are quite simply, fabulous.

So, if anyone out there is even just starting to think about having a new ‘thing’, then my advice (without being preachy … what right have I?) then don’t overthink it, just do it!

Don your very best floral, elasticated skirt, head down to the church hall and start doing it …. Crochet, tennis, salsa, Ethiopian basket weaving – whatever floats your boat. But you’ll end up with considerably more than just a new hobby. You’ll have a whole new part to your life. A very, very good part.

Kx

24. Always Wear Your Knickers …

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How not to go about getting a dress altered …

It’s pouring with rain. This is Glasgow. Of course it’s pouring with rain. The dress I need to be altered however, is safe and protected within a bag, complete with coat hanger, and stuffed under my coat. As a consequence I look more pregnant than when I was pregnant, with the coat hanger however lending a slightly more lumpy look to my phantom pregnancy.

I arrive at the menders in a muck sweat and feeling somewhat wretched having got lost yet again, but am shuffled nonetheless by a Polish Scot whom I don’t really understand at all, into a tiny changing room in order to apparently take off all my clothes and get into said dress. I take this literally and simply hope there are not going to be any Marilyn Monroe moments with air swooshing up under my dress …. but this is neither a film, nor America I remind myself.

Well she seemed to know what she was doing and within five minutes and having been pinned within an inch of my life, it’s time to return behind the curtain to take off the dress.

Problem…. I am stuck…. Completely stuck. Oh dear God!

Humiliation doesn’t really cover it.

With one arm pinned to my side, the other in the air and an eye peering out of the arm hole, I squeak to the seamstresses from behind the modesty of the curtain for help to be freed … This is then thrust aside and a large unit of a woman squeezes into the tiny space beside me. Now we are both stuck.

My head is thrust into her cleavage and she bellows with great authority, as if I am deaf as well as stupid, “Hold on, now SHIMMY LASSIE, SHIMMY!” Now don’t get me wrong, I love a clear instruction, so ooooh how I shimmied! As however, so did she, with my face still between her breasts, pummelling me, whilst pins pricked, stabbed and scraped.

Moments later I reappeared from swathes of fabric and the depths of a large pair of breasts, somewhat dizzy, red-faced, thankfully free, however completely starkers with a total stranger … Turns out, she didn’t work in the menders at all.

Today, I have no signs of depression or anxiety whatsoever! Life in Glasgow continues. 😳😳

Kx

15. Snow Glorious Snow!

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Glasgow this morning is covered in a thick blanket of fluffy, white snow. I feel transported back to my childhood and have an overwhelming urge to bounce out of bed and wake up The Colonel to show him the fox’s footprints in the garden.

Instead, as the bedroom, sitting room and kitchen radiators are not working and Carillion Amey who look after the house can’t get out until a week tomorrow to fix them, I stay in bed, warm and cosy but with a jolly cold nose peeking out from over the bedclothes.

So, I turn on the iPad, in the process getting a pretty cold arm too and look at the news, the weather and the latest on American politics. I see that Donald Trump is in excellent health and could possibly live to be 200, and the rest of the news is all pretty bleak with pictures of jackknifed lorries and people stuck in their cars overnight. The weather doesn’t look to be improving all day either.

A few weeks ago, I would be fascinated by disasters. I’d read every story on an avalanche, mudslide or earthquake. I’d read about children kept hostage for years by mad men and women. Frankly anything bad or evil. The good stuff, the happy stories seemed to bypass me. Although in my defence, there often seems to be in the news more horror stories written, than stories of joy.

It would take over my day, my week, my entire thought process. I’d feel hopeless, helpless sympathy for the poor souls who had lost parents, sisters, brothers, children and their homes. Whilst I suppose it shows an element of sympathetic humanity, which is good, my obsession was fairly extreme and therefore not so good. Particularly when you bear in mind that almost every single day, there is a disaster somewhere in the world.

Today for the first time, yes, I read the news. I pondered over it. I felt for the struggles of others and yet, I didn’t dwell on it. I have my own little struggles to deal with, however meagre they may seem to others. I have my routine which is getting stronger every day and helping me enormously.

But I feel guilt. Guilty that I’m not thinking every moment about others. Does that make me a bad person? I don’t know. Isn’t there something in the bible about taking the branch out of your own eye before taking the splinter out of someone else’s? I don’t really remember from my scripture lessons, but either way, I’m not sure that is easing my guilt either.

So I ponder on this as I lie in bed having put away my iPad and snuggle back to the warmth of The Colonel. My freezing arm wraps around him and my nose happily thaws itself on his warm, soft back.

Oh dear, it appears to have woken him up. Shame! Is it still too early to show him the fox’s footprints in the snow?

Kx

1. The Beginning

I think I should be clear from the outset, that despite the rather odd title “How I Killed Betty”, this is no crime story.  This is not a thriller, something akin to an Agatha Christie novel set in 1930’s England with beautiful women and dashing young men drinking champagne for breakfast whilst a festering body lies behind the rhododendron bushes ….. My apologies if you’re looking for a ‘who dunnit’ with Miss Scarlet in the library with the candlestick. I am not Miss Marple or indeed Poirot because ‘Betty’ is not in fact a person.

Betty is a part of a person; indeed, a part of me. She is the devil that sits on my shoulder, the voice in my head, the co-joined twin that you can never be rid of. She is the person who controls me, my thoughts, my entire mind and as a consequence of this, my actions.

Several months ago Betty slowly began a painfully long and slow death. A death which was something akin to a horror movie where the baddie again and again rears up with the knife ready to inflict more damage despite 46 bullet wounds pouring blood from their victims torso with various limbs hanging off. Yes, a long, slow and definitely painful death.

Betty is Churchill’s ‘black dog’ and hundreds of thousands of men and women’s depression and anxiety from all over the world which hinders their every day enjoyment of living, or indeed, the ability of just being able to live.

Betty was my personal demon who had to be killed and shrivel up like the Wicked Witch of The East in The Wizard of Oz who is flattened by the house and all that is left is a pair of red, glittery Jimmy Choo style shoes.  Frankly it was either that, or I would have ended up in a small fermented cocoon-like sub-existence under my bed with my laptop googling ‘how best to kill yourself with minimum pain’. Needs must.

In this blog, I’m including parts of my diary from the early days and tips and suggestions and, well quite frankly every single thing that helped me become transported from the utter depths of despair and self-loathing onto the wonderful road of sunshine, warmth and sheer happiness.  Yippedy doo dah! Enjoy!

☀️ Kx ☀️

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