Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Paranoia and Indifference

What do you think when you come out of your house and see your garden gate open?

I'm thinking it's fairly safe to bet that you don't momentarily freeze and  creep towards it, whilst all the while in your head beats the constant refrain, 'oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck.'

That's what I do since being stalked. I'm hoping this is pure paranoia; I'm hoping that one of the multiple other explanations is the real reason my garden gate has been open at least three mornings out of the last four.

My gate is taller than me and doesn't shut since before Christmas, when Son (who comes in through the back door when I am at work) forgot to close it behind him and it swelled in the incessant rain. Since then, we've been pushing it 'to' and securing it in place with a housebrick. This means that to open it you push from the outside, go in, then put the brick back. If you are leaving the garden, you can't secure the gate, you have to leave it open.

On Saturday when I was hiding my spare key before I went out, I saw the gate was open. At first I thought nothing of it, as son had probably left it that way - then I remembered that I had been home when he got back on Friday - I had let him in through the front door. But there are other explanations - it was probably one of the kids from next door, getting a ball back or something.

Sunday, I went to retrieve my spare key, and the gate was wide open again. Now I was getting worried. It was dark when I left to go out on Saturday night - who plays ball games in the dark? But then, it had been a bit windy - maybe the wind had somehow opened it. Are you a crazy woman!!! The wind wouldn't move that house brick! It's Steve, I tell you, STEVE!!

This time I kept the gate shut with TWO housebricks, one behind the other. No wind moving that.

Monday, Son was ill, so we didn't leave the house.

Monday night we were both feeling rough so we went to be early - even I was in bed by 8.30. It was very windy, and at one point I was woken by a huge shuddering BANG! It crossed my sleepy mind that it was my gate, but then I thought, 'no, can't be, it's held with two house bricks.' I ignored the other less loud bangs for the same reason.

This morning we were leaving the house, and I was reminding Son to always put back the bricks, when he said, 'Mum.... the gate....'

It was wide open again. We went to look, and the housebricks had been pushed completely back. I really don't think any wind would have done that. I've put the bricks back, and so far today there's been no movement. There never has been before - the only time that gate opens is when someone has been through - the postman for instance. But there's been no parcels left these times.

The restraining order runs out in the middle of February. I wouldn't put it past Steve to be spying on me, or just intimidating me, but not doing anything I can pin down until after the order runs out. Why risk being sent back to prison when he can wait a few days then do whatever he wants with impugnity?

I'm going to jump out of bed now though if I hear the gravel crunching. I think I've mentioned how I have a gravel driveway and so does the man next door. And he likes to march around on his at random times in the night, so that recently I've just disregarded the sound of crunching gravel. Not any more - if someone's messing with my gate, I want to see.

So, that's the paranoia well and truly covered - where's the indifference? Well, last night Circus Boy rang. But it was about 10 o'clock, so it was pretty clear what he was after, and I was feeling yucky and had to get up at 6.30 so I couldn't be bothered to pick up. I was going to phone him back this evening (no point before then cos he doesn't get up til lunchtime and I was at work), but I find I can't be bothered, cos I'm not feeling on form and am thus not up for coping with a dose of him. I'll probably phone him on Thursday if I am feeling better.

Basically, it appears that this has become the sort of relationship where one of us phones the other when we fancy a shag. Nothing wrong in that, we are both single, but it's hardly Romeo and Juliet, is it? And it would appear that our libidos are not even in synch.  But I wonder - I bet he'd be a fab bodyguard.....

Friday, 25 January 2013

Death is Another Country

My conscious mind is only too aware that my Dad is dead. Yet my unconscious hasn't caught up. In my dreams, my father is still there: still ridiculing lads in low-slung jeans whilst his own trousers are falling down cos 'I don't like anything tight around my stomach', still going to look at really obscure things in shops to see how much of a crowd he could attract, still tatting around the house stopping it from falling apart. In my dreams, I never have those moments where I think, 'oh, here's Dad, so it must be a dream'. It always feels perfectly normal, just like the dreams I had before he died.

Yet every day I am reminded he isn't here. I come downstairs and there he is on my mantelpiece, and there is his cushion on my chair. Every day there isn't even one phone call from him. He used to call most days, and once he was home after breaking his hip he would phone AT LEAST once a day, and usually more. He somehow ended up with three zimmer frames, and they have now been donated to where I work. One still has a hospital wristband attached to it with his name on, and I can't bring myself to take it off. Yesterday I referred to it as the 'Harry Field Memorial Frame', and it's what it always will be in my mind. Then when I go over to Mum's, it is like a little shrine to him - but at the same time the house screams the lack of his physical presence - because it is almost just as he left it.

In some ways, he will never be truly gone. I still have to consciously think to remember to say, "going to Mum's" cos I always used to say "going to Dad's". When I phone her, the phone number is listed as 'Dad'. The drawer where all the bills and other important stuff is kept is still 'Dad's drawer', there's still 'Dad's chair', and his bedroom is still his.

Dad's drawer is a weekly ordeal - every week there's something I either need out of there or have to put in there. It breaks my heart to see his spidery writing on envelopes when I go looking for tax returns and stuff, all filed and labelled. Then there are the little booby traps in there - his FC Barcelona keyring that he got when we were there in the 70s, the signet ring he used to wear, medals for golf, soccer, bowling.

If I wanted, I could go into his wardrobe, where all his clothes still are. The shelves hold his aftershaves, so opening the door it even smells like him.

I can cope with all of this - from the empty seat where he should be sitting, to the Dad-Smelling Wardrobe. But there is one place I will not enter. The garage. I had to go in there before he died, and even then I couldn't stop crying, just knowing he was never going to go in there, never going to touch all his perfectly ordered stuff ever again. Everything has its own place, from his little tins of nails, nuts, bolts etc on his workbench to the tools hanging on pegs or stored on shelves. Worst of all is the smell. Some combination of slight damp, oil, paraffin, metal, all the different things he stores in there. It's the smell of my childhood - of waiting for him to oil the chain on my bike, or to clean my hands with his thinners rag, or of helping to pack away the 'bloody nuisance dahlias every damn year'. It's the smell of where we would find Dad when he was at home - messing about under the car, or working on something at the vice. It's not something I can face, and I don't know if it ever will be.

So whilst I know very well that he is dead, some part of me hasn't fully taken it on board. The only explanation I can come up with is the same reason I have for sometimes forgetting even now that my brother is dead. In my family, we are quite used to not seeing eachother - my brother lived in Minehead, my sisters live in Buckinghamshire and Germany. I was used to not seeing my brother from one Christmas to the next, so it's no wonder I sometimes forget he is dead for a second. I think there's a part of me that thinks Dad's just another family member who's moved away for a while. That one day he'll visit, or I'll go and visit him.

Maybe that part of me is right. I hope so.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Confession of a Lazy Mother

This post is inspired by this one by Ms Mummy of Two about potty training. It got me thinking about how I did it an even easier way - which then got me thinking about how I am a Lazy Mother.

I live in a small town, and most people with children of a similar age know eachother at least by sight. Some of us know eachother very well, because we all went to Toddler Group. Toddler Group was where I first encountered the whole 'baby race' thing. You know: how it's a race for the toddlers to get dry, to talk, to pass their first GCSE etc.

Potty training was the first time I realised that I am not competitive by proxy. I couldn't have given a monkey's about when Son was potty trained. So I'd sit and listen to the manky stories of wet carpets and sodden clothes; of hovering mothers, potty in hand; of constipation brought about by pure stubborness; of having to change beds in the middle of the night. And I would wonder - why? WHY?

Yet even then, I knew I must keep quiet and not reveal my secret. I had once tentatively mentioned that I wasn't really bothering with potty training, and had received such withering looks you'd have thought I'd said I wasn't bothering with feeding. But here I am finally going to stick my head over the parapet and tell the gruesome truth. I DIDN'T POTTY TRAIN.

Before you ask, no, Son is not incontinent. Can't remember the exact ages, but I know he was reliably day-dry by the time he went to playschool at three, and night-dry at about 4 and a half, maybe 5 at the latest.

All this hovering was not my scene, way too intensive, not something I wanted to spend my time on (as I said, I am a Lazy Mother). Son was one of those toddlers who follows you around and he had been going to the toilet with me since he could crawl so he knew the drill (heck, he even knew all the ins and outs of the Mooncup). So I got a toilet seat adaptor thingy and a step, and put him in pull-ups. He got the hang of pooing in the toilet pretty quickly, peeing took somewhat longer, and there were occasional accidents even approaching going to nursery - but he was in pull-ups, so he'd just tell me, I'd change them, no biggie. Once he'd been dry for three days I popped him in pants, and job done, bar one accident where he was at toddler group and left it a bit late.

Night time the same - Son was a heavy sleeper, so until he outgrew his cotton nappies, I didn't bother even trying pull-ups. Eventually his pull-ups were dry at night sometime after he started school. I used bed mats for a few months afterwards, just to be on the safe side.

No trauma, and yes, he was probably one of the last kids around here to be dry, but now he's 11, does anyone remember? Does anyone ever meet a new acquaintance and ask, 'so, tell me, how old were you when you were reliably dry at night?' (I am now thinking I am SO going to do this when I go out on Saturday). Best of all, it wasn't a big deal - for me or him.

I never have been able to get too concerned with all the baby milestones. I didn't care that Son was at the slowest end of normal for the physical stuff, but neither did I brag about how he started talking at 8 months (well, maybe the odd retaliatory brag). Cos all kids are different. I'm afraid there are probably quite few Shifnal mothers who think I was rudely unimpressed at their child geniuses when I didn't praise their achievements to the skies. But there won't be any who would say I constantly whittered on about what Son could do and when either. It was never of interest to me.

And here we are, our children are all 11 or thereabouts. They all talk, they all walk, they all count. So why are these the things parents (and yes, sadly usually mothers) constantly focus on? Why does no-one look out for the first time a child does an altruistic act? Or the first time they are diplomatic to spare someone's feelings? Or even the first time they make up a genuinely funny joke, or think outside of the box? These are all skills that will be of benefit to them in the future, things that make up their personalities, that make them the people other people want to be around.

Then again, if I meet a bloke on Saturday who was night-time dry before age 3, I'm gonna snog the face off him. ;-)

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Coronation Street

I've mentioned before about how the Kirsty/Tyrone storyline really gets me because of how it so accurately portrays a violent relationship. Tonight was no different.

In case (shock! horror!) you don't watch, Crazy Kirstie tonight fell downstairs whilst trying to hit Tyrone. She then told the Police that he pushed her, and had been abusing her. Almost immediately on twitter there was a slew of tweets saying how unrealistic it was, that Corrie had gone too far now, that this wouldn't happen.

Oh yes it would.

I experienced this the first few times I phoned the Police when Steve attacked me. The thing is, Tyrone has NEVER phoned the Police. You don't, not at first. And the way it works is that you suffer a really bad attack, but then it is over, so you don't call them then. But the next time the abuser kicks off, you are so scared that it is then that you call - when they haven't actually done anything much. So the Police would arrive, and I would be there, with no marks on me, yet hysterical and crying, whilst Steve would be there really calm and pretendy-uncomprehending. He would always kick off after drinking and when my Son was at his Dad's, so it would be a Friday or Saturday night and I would have been drinking too. He'd say we had been rowing, and then I'd drunkenly lost the plot.  The more I protested, the more crazy I looked. Those first few times, they believed him.

Then one Friday night he attacked me when I was sober. When I phoned the Police, he knew the game would be up, cos I hadn't drunk a thing - so he took my only set of housekeys and ran. I told the Police this when they arrived. Eventually they told me they had questioned him and searched his B and B room and he didn't have the keys. I could tell they didn't believe me - I found out later exactly why.

He'd told the Police that I was his EX girlfriend, and was obsessed with him, and had made the whole thing up to frame him.

You'd be surprised how commonly abusers can blame their victims. When I was attending the Freedom Programme, one of the women had been successfully prosecuted by her abuser for attacking him. They are so very plausible - if they weren't we would never have believed they loved us.

So once again, Corrie has got it right. But it doesn't stop me from being disappointed in one aspect of the story. In Corrie, Tyrone stays even when the beatings get bad because of his daughter. I would really have liked for him to stay for the real reasons people stay - out of love for the person they met (the illusion), out of the perpetual hope that the abuser will change, out of trauma bonding. That's a storyline that has yet to be done by the soaps - it's one I'd like to see. Or maybe not.

An Obsessive's Guide To Diet and Exercise Part 3

I don't know if I would ever have gone back to exercise if there didn't exist this thing called 'ageing'.

It is strange to me that whilst maturing mentally seems to have completely passed me by (and in fact I seem to be a mental equivalent of Benjamin Button, getting more childish by the year), my body somehow does show signs of time passing. It creeps up on you so slowly that you don't really notice it - or at least I didn't. Then one day your Son says, 'why are you doing that? Why don't you just walk properly' as you struggle to get your feet flat on the floor as you walk first thing in the morning, ankles crunching, calves niggling, hips aching.

But hey, it only lasted until I reached the bottom of the stairs, and no one could tell by looking at me that I was a crock in the morning. And EVERYONE has these aches and pains, don't they? It certainly wasn't enough to get me exercising.

You see, in my odd little brain, if you couldn't exercise for at least 40 minutes, at least five times a week, well, it wasn't worth doing it. So when I would periodically decide I 'really must do something' about exercising, it would last about a week, then I'd have a lot on and miss a couple of days, and then I would tell myself it was pointless continuing. I was just TOO BUSY to be fit.

Then one Monday last September I woke up and my left arm was numb. I thought I'd slept on it funny, but as I sat up I became simultaneously aware that my face was swollen and my left leg didn't feel like it belonged to me. I was instantly terrified - I'm a physio, I know what a stroke is like - but I couldn't believe that this could happen to me. I got out of bed and went downstairs - or tried. I couldn't lower myself with my left leg, so I had to get down two feet to one step-wise like an old person. At my living room door (on my left). When I first pushed it, I couldn't open it - had to deliberately push harder. My arm felt unco-ordinated, as though it didn't belong to me. I kept waiting for it all to go right, but it didn't. I had no headache, and no loss of visual field, so I was pretty sure this wasn't a migraine. I also thought I would probably have a headache if I'd had a stroke, and probably would have lost visual field. And my left is the side always affected by migraine (it goes numb, but never lower than my arm), so maybe it was? I was having no trouble finding words, which I always do when I have a migraine. But stroke patients paralysed on the left hardly ever have problems word-finding. This was all running through my mind, because surely it wasn't possible that I had had a stroke?

In the end, I decided I had to see a doctor. I phoned the GP, and the receptionist asked why I needed an appointment. I told her, and she didn't even refer me to the triage nurse - in a first-ever occurrence, she gave me an appointment for later that morning, no questions asked. This was not looking good.

I phoned my boss to say I wasn't going in to work, got Son off to school (he knew nothing of this drama) and headed off to the doctor. I was sort of expecting her to reassure me all was well and send me back to work. She agreed that I had good muscle power, but said I had to go to the hospital, and did I want an ambulance?!!!!

I said I didn't, I would call a taxi. I couldn't have coped with the drama of an ambulance as the whole waiting room looked on. ME! Avoiding drama! I must have felt ill.

Went home, called a taxi and wondered what the hell was going to happen to me. I got to the hospital A and E, and two stroke nurses were waiting for me. They assessed me and said I had to go to the stroke unit for tests, but that the stroke unit doctor would need to assess me first, so I waited in a cubicle while he came. The nurses came back after he had done all his tests and stuff and said I had to be admitted and would need a scan (can't remember now which one it was, MRI or CAT).

'But how long will I need to stay?'

'Well, at least overnight, but possibly longer.....'

'I CAN'T!!!! My Dad is dying and my mum has dementia and I have to go over to Wolverhampton to take her to visit him, and I have a son, and who will look after him, and....'

'Hey, hey, that will all be sorted out, we'll help you sort out child care, is there someone you can phone....'

'NO!! There's ONLY ME! I can't stay, I don't mind signing myself out, I have to go -'

At this point the doctor who had been standing at the nurses' station came in and said, 'it's alright, you won't have to stay.'

PHEW! He then went on to describe how he had been pretty sure it wasn't a stroke or TIA because my pupils were fine, as were all the cranial nerves. He asked if I had been under stress lately, and I said I had, with mum and dad and so on. He then talked about strange neurological things that could happen when you were under stress, and because he had mentioned migraine, I thought he was saying I had had a bad migraine. I didn't think this was true. But hey, I was able to leave, that was the main thing. My Dad died that night.

My leg recovered quickly, but my arm was problematic, particularly the shoulder, for over two weeks.

Several weeks later I was listening to a programme on Radio 4 discussing something called Functional Neurological Illness (previously known as Conversion Disorder) - physical symptoms with no apparent physical cause, which were associated with stress. I realised I hadn't had any problems with my arm since my father's funeral. I had suffered a Functional Illness - which is pretty ironic considering that during my time in mental health I had come across it several times and was well aware of the mind-body connection. Yet it never crossed my mind that this was what I had, and this could only be another example of the less conscious parts of the brain hiding stuff from the conscious part, cos once I heard that programme I was like 'of course'!

But the relevance of that here is that it got me thinking about my health. This was only reinforced when I had a vomiting episode whilst on holiday in October. It only lasted 24 hours, but it made me really question how run down I was, and how unhealthy I was now feeling - especially as I didn't feel right for about three weeks afterwards. It was this vomiting episode that led me to give up alcohol unless I was going out socialising. No more weekend glasses of wine to unwind. It would also mean I would save money, which was a bonus. Still exercise hadn't crossed my mind.

Then the Unforgiving Mirror across the hall from my bathroom struck  again. I rarely leave the bathroom door open, so when I do my reflection always takes me by surprise, usually by being a stone heavier and 15 years older than I am expecting. This time I was horrified to spot notice I had no bottom. Where it used to be was a sad little fold of flesh like an old lady in her 80s would have. A sad little fold of flesh with cellulite on the right hand side.

This succeeded where all else had failed - I was now motivated to exercise, because I WANTED MY BOTTOM BACK. I told myself that this time there wasn't going to be any obsession, I would fit it around my life, not the other way around, and I would stick to it because if I missed a few days it didn't matter, I would do some lunges at least, and I would Get My Bottom Back.

I started doing my old exercise DVDs and VHSs - I like Davina, Cindy Crawford and Elle McPherson. However, I knew if I was going to keep it up, I would need some new DVDs to fight the boredom.

This being the start of November, there were a few deals on Amazon and Ebay, so I bought a couple of Nell McAndrew DVDs (BIG mistake, boring as hell and v high impact so no good for those with a 30GG bust) and a four DVD box set by someone called Jillian Michaels. I had never heard of her, but she had rave reviews and seemed to be pretty difficult, and I knew I would get fit pretty quick from previous experience, so I bought them.

I mostly bought them for her 40 minute routine ones, one to boost metabolism and one to target problem areas. WELL! For the first time since I had restarted exercising, my legs and arms ACHED the next day after each of these. Oh, I have to be honest, I thought I was going to DIE whilst doing them. DEFINITELY a step up from Davina, these and the 30 minute abs DVD now became my favourites. Son would hear me and go, 'mummy, PLEASE turn that off! Why are you doing this to yourself?'

But I was now motivated by something completely different. By December I was leaping out of bed with no problem in the mornings. My stiff neck, my twingy back, the little aches and pains I had put down to getting older - they were GONE. What's not to like? I was exercising on average three times a week, and I felt GREAT.

Then came Christmas. Two very busy weeks. Here I may have fallen off the wagon and not exercised at all, but in the four-pack of Jillian Michaels DVDs was '30 Day Shred' Now I am well aware that this DVD is now all over Twitter, my timeline is full of it, but at that point I had never heard of it. I certainly didn't believe that 20 minutes of exercise would do anything by way of fitness. But I told myself that 20 minutes was better than nothing.

I didn't do it as directed because I get bored, I did a different level each time I did it. On the second week I only did it three times. When the Christmas period was over, I had every intention of never doing it again - after all, although it is intense, it's only 20 minutes - that wouldn't do anything. Would it?

First exercise DVD after going back to work, and I did the fat burn/metabolism boost Jillian. I managed it with no problem - it was hard, but I wasn't moaning and crying by the end like before Christmas. Next time, I did Davina - three of her High Energy Five - and it was TOO EASY. I was having to add weights and add in Jillian adaptations to make it hard enough. I was completely and utterly amazed. '30 Day Shred' had achieved results fast. So now I do it two or three days a week, and do other DVDs when I have days off and time for them. I have also bought another pack of Jillian DVDs - including Extreme Shed and Shred - OMG, this one is a KILLER. but I am going to persist (in a 'once every two weeks or so' kind of way!).

I am now motivated because I am stronger than I have ever been. I can do 10 press-ups - I was never able to do more than three, even when I was a crazed gym bunny. Can I brag? 30 Day Shred is easy now, aside from the occasional moves that I find hard, like moguls. I sometimes think my horrendous bingo wings are shrinking, and I definitely have a two and a half pack - I can see the top bit of a six pack, and the top of the next bit of a six-pack, but the rest is covered with my baby belly fatty skin! Which is sad, cos I'd like to show off that two and a half pack, but I don't want to clear any rooms :-)

Over Christmas I put on 6 pounds, mainly down to non-McKenna endorsed pigging on Xmas Cake and custard. Though the upside is I didn't eat any salad or other non-sweet delaying tactic crap beforehand - just ate what I wanted but forgot to be mindful and didn't stop until I felt nauseous. On more than one occasion. I am a work-in-progress still. I lost 4 of those pounds in the first week of going back to eating normally. Haven't weighed since, but will weigh on Thursday or so. Just to be sure I'm below 10st. I'm not oging to post 'progress' or anything here or on Twitter cos for me none of this is about weight (tho I've got to admit if I go over 10 stone it def IS about the weight!). It's about a new way of living - a more healthy way. I measure that in aches and pains, not inches :-)

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Emergency Circus Boy

So Friday came around, and so did the snow. And Snow. And SNOW. So about 11.30 I decided to admit defeat, cancel my birthday drinks and go for lunch with Heather and my Son, who was out of school at 12.30. Thus it was that by 8pm I was fairly tipsy. And alone, as son had been picked up by his dad.

So what does a girl do when she is alone and tipsy? Well, phone Circus Boy in hopes of a random shag is what. To further explain, I was a bit miffed cos I'd texted him on Tuesday to ask him along to my birthday drinks, and it had never been delivered. So it was no surprise when his phone went straight to answering message. But undeterred, I phoned his house.

Of course, Circus Boy's mother was the only one in, but we had a lovely conversation where she told me he was in Wales, and she didn't know when he would be back, and we generally discussed him and how nice it was to hear me too.

Well, there was only one thing for it - to FB message him. I sent him a message about the snow, and where was he, and to get in touch, and then rambled on about the Stone Roses for some unknown drunken reason :-O. I also sent him the long-awaited FB friend request.

Of course, come Saturday morning, I was mortified at all of this, and could think of nothing worse than him reading the message, or accepting the FR. So I did what every self-respecting woman would do and buried my head in the sand, refusing to even look at FB the whole day. Sunday, I decided I MUST act. I bravely went on FB, and opened the message - saw he hadn't read it, and deleted it. But I wasn't sure it would delete it from his end. And I needed him to not know that I had sent a friend request too (oh the horror! What if he didn't accept it?) - there was only one thing for it - I had to block him totally. It didn't matter as he was obviously ignoring me, the bastard. So I did.

Whilst I was discussing this at work today, I then remembered that the last time Circus Boy was here, he was telling me about going to stay with this bloke in Wales who was involved in some music thing he was doing, and he was wondering whether to go, not least because there was no reception or broadband there - but then that could be a good thing, kind of like a retreat. So, as someone said, 'you sent him a message he hadn't seen, and a text he hasn't picked up, and then you've blocked him and are sitting here slagging him off for not replying?' Oh.

But for the best I am sure. These run-away urges don't come from nowhere, you know! More worryingly - I am now 48 - when do I start acting like a responsible adult?

Friday, 18 January 2013

An Obsessive's Guide to Diet and Exercise Part 2

First of all a little correction - I have realised I still went to the gym the whole time I was in Brimingham, cos I found a towel from Highcroft Hospital in my ottoman, and I had it because I forgot my towel for the gym one day so I borrowed one and it obviously didn't quite ever make its way back :-O

My other little snippet of relevant information is that whilst at Highcroft I took part in lots of exercise groups run by the brilliant physio technical instructors - and that meant that when I moved to Scotland I was able to run similar exercise groups to music for people with mental health problems.

Cos that was where I went next - up to Scotland. I got a job there setting up a physio service for people with mental health problems, and it was a brilliant job, although I only had one other memeber of staff, and I had to lead all sorts of groups, for all ages and in all sorts of places from hospitals to community gyms. So on the one hand I was running exercise groups for a large proportion of my day; yet on the other hand I was living half an hour from Edinburgh, the most beautiful city in the WORLD in my opinion. Every weekend near enough we were there, eating and drinking for most of Saturday.

One day I woke up and I was 12 stone. Hideous. Now there was no way I was going to stop my socialising, so I joined the gym at the local hotel. It was WONDERFUL. Twice a week I would go to the evening aerobics class, and another couple of times a week I would go to the gym, maybe have a swim. That was at the start.

I LOVED my aerobics. The instructor was brilliant, so fit, and she was SCARY. But also quite funny. She did moves that she would gradually build up into a routine - I'd never done this sort of thing before, and I was rubbish to start off with because of being so unco-ordinated -but gradually I got better, and my co-ordination sorted itself out with the practice, and I moved from the back of the gym to the front (all the better to see myself in the mirror). I started going to the gym before the class. Then every day. Half an hour grew to an hour, then an hour and a half.

Then I stopped going out to Edinburgh at the weekend. Instead, my husband would go for a swim and I would go to the gym, then we would meet and have food in the afternoon at the gym restaurant!  Looking back, it was nuts. I got really anxious if I couldn't get to the gym in the evening for some reason (work). At the same time I was working like a demon, because I was running the Lothian mental health physios group, and was also a member of the physios in mental health special interest group (Scotland) comittee, and a member of a mental health committee advising the Scottish parliament. My life consisted of work and gym, and not much else. My friends were all at the gym. I went to gym nights out. I knew all the staff, all the 'regulars', it was my second home. If necessary, I would go to the gym before work so as not to miss out.

I was the fittest I have ever been in my life, or am  ever likely to be. I was also still fat.

Eventually I got below 11 stone - this took a good two years at least, and by this time I was working out for about two hours a day - an hour cardio and then either a class or weights - and more at the weekends. And then something odd happened.

As my warm-up, I would do a three mile run on the machine, and I would always be trying to improve my time. Yet I found that now my times were getting slower and slower, I just couldn't get my legs to work. couldn't understand it. Until I found out I was pregnant. But that didn't mean I was going to slow down....

I was still exercising, but now I had abandoned all efforts at restricting my food intake to anything like normal levels. I felt sick if I didn't eat for more than about two hours. Whereas naturally I used to enjoy salads and healthy eating, I now craved carbs and most of all CHIPS. I never used to eat chips much, but now here I was, chips with curry, chips with macaroni cheese, chips with chips, chips and more chips on the side.

I was still doing an aerobics class at 30 weeks pregnant. I wasn't doing any high impact stuff, but still. It must have been putting god knows how much strain on my body because by this time I was 14 and a half stone. I only finally gave up the gym when I was 38 weeks pregnant and I was given specific instructions form the midwife that I MUST stop because of my blood pressure. I had stopped weighing at 15 stone.

Immediately after the birth I was 13 stone. I never went to the gym again.

I found being a mother consumed all my time. I was eating rubbish because it was just a case of eating what I had time to find and make, or eating the toddler left-overs. Eventually we moved back to the Midlands because I was struggling to cope - it felt better being nearer to my parents. I went on the Slimming World diet, and I got to below 11 stone. And then odd things began to happen again.

I started gaining weight despite being on the diet. So I stopped the syns. Still gained weight. Had food poisoning and didn't eat for three days - still gained weight. Eventually, I went to the GP. My thyroid had been eaten by my own body and wasn't functioning - I had the highest TSH level he had ever seen. It had happened so slowly that it was only once my thyroxine tablets kicked in that I realised how ill I had been. The fuzzy head cleared. I no longer needed a nap every afternoon. The morning aches and pains decreased. My energy began to return. It was like getting a new lease of life.

But the weight remained the same. I had to face the sad truth that there was only one way to drop the weight - stop eating. So I did. It helped that I was distraught about my marriage breaking down at the time also. It was horrible to realise that I no longer loved the person who knew me best, who I liked probably more than anyone else in the world. I didn't know how to tell him, and once I did, I didn't know how I could live with myself, or how I could break up my child's family.

The weight dropped off. I was 10st 6lb when I met Steve. The 'love' diet got me to below 10st, and I stayed there until he cheated in the Lakes and we split up, when the Heartbreak Diet had me drop to 9st 4lb. Depending on my relationship status, that's pretty much how the following years went. When I was stressed, the weight would drop off, when I was happy it would climb. But never over 10st. That is my limit.

You will notice that there is no mention of exercise in all those years since I gave birth. That will be because I didn't do any. I can remember tweeting something about how I break beds because sex is the only exercise I get and I don't get it often so I have to make it vigorous. It was all too true!

I have, on the whole, sorted my relationship with food at last, and this is mostly down to Paul McKenna. Hearing the things he said, everything clicked into place - it was about 5 years ago, I think. His message is that you eat when you are hungry, you eat what you want, you eat mindfully, and you stop when you are full.

It doesn't sound revolutionary does it? But to me it was. I had completely lost the relationship between hunger and eating. I would eat for emotional reasons when I wasn't hungry (indeed, when I was full to bursting), and all too often hunger was something to be resisted and denied. And I'm sure we've all been in the situation when you crave chocolate, but you want to be 'good', so you have a salad. But that doesn't hit the spot so you have some veg soup. But that doesn't do it either, so in the end you eat the chocolate anyway! Equally, a lot of my eating would take place as I watched Corrie or read my book, just mindless shovelling in. Paul McKenna makes the highly relevent point that the only time people with a poor relationship with food stop thinking about it is whilst they are eating it. And as for stopping when I am full - HOW?

It has been a process over all those years since to try to get to the place where I can follow those rules. It never stops, because it is so easy to fall into the old bad habits - and for me that is the not-eating thing or the stuff-til-you-pop thing. The easiest has been the ditching the 'good food/bad food' thing. I actually find it quite jarring now when people talk about 'being good' in relation to food. It's just food.

As a consequence, I do tend to live on chocolate and cheese and crackers. But I don't care, and there really are times when I want nothing more than a green salad. So there we are - I have my set-backs (eating a whole Christmas cake unaided for example), but on the whole I think the food issue is on its way to being sorted.

The last post in this series will be about my rediscovery of exercise and the combination of health crises and vanity that has led me here.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

An Obsessive's Guide to Diet and Exercise Part 1

Give me a number between 1 and 47 and I can tell you what I weighed at that age. That's how long I've been aware of my weight - probably not unusual for a woman.

My Mum was 10 when World War II started and 16 when it finished, and rationing carried on for a long time after, so she was used to making do, and used to not having the luxury of large amounts of food. Once rationing was over, she carried on not 'wasting' food, and making up for all those years of small portions. This meant that she'd pile our plates high and insist on us eating it all. To this day, she doesn't understand that food is just as much wasted if it ends up as excess blubber as if it were thrown in the bin. To this day I struggle to leave food on my plate.

So by the time I went to school, I was already fat. Looking back, I don't look horrendous on school photos or anything, but I was probably the fattest girl in my year. I was already large enough that I felt self-conscious in PE, and I noticed I couldn't do things that other children could do - my balance was rubbish, my co-ordination was appalling, and I couldn't run fast. Sports Day was an absolute ordeal. Let's invite all the parents to see Karen come last in every race. Yes, it was character-building. But fuck's sake, I could have managed without having such a bloody big character.

My lack of co-ordination also meant I was rubbish at netball. I still can't reliably throw or catch a ball. I really shouldn't have been surprised my Son has dyspraxia - it's probably inherited from me :-(

By the time I went to Secondary school 'everyone' knew I was rubbish at sport, and that I was fat. 'Everyone' carried on knowing this even though I was pretty good at hockey, actually, and even though during school I lost weight to become like everyone else. By Sixth form I was probably thinner than two-thirds of the rest of my year. But no-one noticed. My nickname was still 'Miss Piggy' (though admittedly this was partly to do with my overly-dramatic tendencies, and my love of a good flounce) and of course, I had been able to abandon any attempt at sport.

I had lost the weight by not eating at school. In theory I took a packed lunch: in practice it was a tomato. I kid you not - my lunch really was a tomato, every day. There was no way to avoid my mother's huge teas, so I decided I'd just not eat in the day - and oh look, it worked!  HOORAY!

I went to physio school weighing just over 9 stone. And it was here that I was introduced to competitive dieting.

I should point out that I am highly competitive. I have this huge urge to be the best - at anything that my attention is drawn to. At school I had to come first in my year in every exam. I knew this wasn't really achievable, but I still aimed for it. 2nd was acceptable, but only if I was mostly first. HOW MAD AM I????

So, here I am in residences with 24 girls my age (18) or thereabouts. In my corridor, there are six of us who are all highly driven. We are all living away from home for the first time, and on a highly pressurised course. Then one of the girls starts dieting. She actually went on to develop anorexia in third year, one of three girls on our course who did (one had to leave because of it, one had a nervous breakdown after finals). But for that first year, when we all jumped onto the dieting bandwagon, I was easily the winner.

I dropped to 8 stone within a few months, on a diet of tea and such delicacies as cereal with yoghurt, egg on Ryvita, and Heinz soup with a potato. There was the occasional salad involved, and at the weekends I would have a mars bar. One a day, and no other food - I would freeze it so it would take longer to eat. I stayed at that weight for most of the rest of those three years, apart from a spell when I was dumped by my first Big Love, when, amidst all the misery, I was overjoyed to reach 7 and a half stone (I'm 5ft 5). I was a size 10 in Chelsea Girl and Miss Selfridge - the size of magazine models at the time (yup, more evidence of how sizes have increased over the years) - I was officially underweight, and this was a HUGE silver lining to the cloud of being unloveable and destined to remain a spinster forever.

At physio school, I also learned I was actually quite good at exercise. This was in the early 1980s, and the Principal of the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital School of Physiotherapy had some strange views on education. She believed that it was good for us to attend something called 'Movement Appreciation' - this was a two hour exercise class, in leotards, every Thursday - an hour of aerobics and an hour of skipping. Yes, skipping. I can synchronised skip. I was good at it - and good at the exercises.

There was also a module where we had to do circuit training for three weeks. I pushed myself hard, and beat my personal best every time. I realised that I have quite an athletic physique - at least the bottom half of me. I only have to think about exercise and my legs get muscly. My gut and arms are a whole other story, always have been.

Off to work in Wales, and I gradually crept up in weight to just over 9 stone again. But then, someone came up with the fab idea of dieting to raise money for charity. I was the lightest person taking part, but I still lost the most weight. Cos you know Monica off of Friends when they played table tennis in the Caribbean? That girl needs to work on her relaxed attitude to winning.

Back down to 8 stone, and stayed there til I moved back to Birmingham. and then my drive to compete was all taken up with working and going out and generally burning the candle at both ends. Always being conscious of my weight tho, cos I was very goth, and proper goths have to be thin. Having excess flesh really didn't fit with the 'Victorian waif dying of consumption whilst on acid' look that I was aiming for at the time.

I remember one day I went into Boots to weigh myself, and came out in tears because I was such a heifer. I was 9 stone 3. Today I literally would have to give my right leg to get there. It seems impossible, I can't imagine what I was thinking. By this time I was living a strange sort of 'binge and starve' life, where I would stop eating for ages, then lose all control and pig out on anything I could find. On the plus side, for the first time in my life, I had joined a gym.

I joined because lots of my friends did, and it was convenient - just down the road from the Accident Hospital. Gradually, everyone else stopped going, but I have no problem at all with self-motivation, so I carried on, for well over a year. I mostly went for the exercise classes, but I did use the weights too, just to fill time. At this time, I wasn't obsessive about my exercise, because I was too busy obsessing about food. The exercise was just something I did to burn calories, something I'd got into the habit of. I also got in the habit of walking home from work (to Moseley), because it was as quick as catching two buses and I loved the scenery - and it burned the calories. I remember feeling resentful of one boyfriend, because he could eat three meals a day, plus a bag of chips and a mars bar, and still be rake thin. I was also resentful because I'd have to wait for him to leave the house before I could stuff my face on a binge. Eating was something I felt ashamed of. I'd live for days on three tangle-twister ice lollies a day (think they are called twister now, still only 80 calories), then undo it all by gorging on the contents of the fridge and cupboards. Or by buying pots and pots of pasta salad and potato salad (hey, it has the word 'salad' in, it must be healthy) and eating the lot. Or by getting enough takeaway to feed two people and eating it all myself. My weight varied between 9 and 9 and a half stone.

Then I changed jobs. I didn't work near the gym, so I stopped going, and I was working in mental health, which meant I was working with people with eating disorders. This really pushed me to sort it out, because I shared a lot of their attitudes to food. I couldn't carry on basically being a bulimic who didn't vomit. Especially as I was now living with the man I would marry. So I eased off the starvation, tried to eat 'normally'.

The weight gradually crept up to around 10 stone, and stabilised there. It's the weight I was when I married at 28. It's the weight I am as I write. That makes it sound like I have been that weight all along - I haven't. The biggest fluctuations and the crazy exercise obsession was still to come - but that will be the next part....

Monday, 14 January 2013

What It's Like To Be A Punchbag

I am a completely different person to the person I was even this time last year, when to all intents and purposes me and Steve were over. Thing was, this time last year, there was still a court case hanging over me - the vandalism/breaking the restraining order case that eventually sent him to prison. He was pleading not-guilty, which meant I had to give evidence, and it was my word against his - there were no other witnesses. But he was still stalking me. I still didn't sleep well - I was hyper-alert. Every little sound would have me wide awake, heart pounding, expecting the stones at the window. He didn't come around every night, but it was often enough that I never relaxed. To this day I still jump at sudden sounds. I am not comfortable around groups of men - walk into a pub full of men and I will want to leave (yes, this makes me a very annoying girl to go on a night out with). I don't know that I will ever have a proper relationship again. I can't see it. I like being single, being in charge of my own life, my own choices and my own TV remote.

Two years ago I was a mess. In November/December 2010 Steve attacked me seriously badly four times in two weeks, culminating in an attack on a sunday night, which actually wasn't as violent as some of them, but was notable because for the first time ever my Son witnessed something.

The lead up to this was well weird, and thinking back I strongly suspect that the person involved knew me, and possibly was set up to it by Steve. One Friday, I had a text from some number that obviously wasn't for me, was for some girl called Jen, and I texted back to say I wasn't Jen, but I hoped he found her. There then followed a short exchange of text messages that did puzzle me a little because the person seemed to remain interested even though I told him  I was 20 stone and Subo's uglier-looking sister. Then I completely forgot about it.

That evening Steve was here, and the bloke texted again, just 'hope you're having a good night x'. I had no intention of replying, cos thought it was a bit odd, but Steve said, 'who was that?' so I showed him - gave him my phone. In response to which, he phoned the bloke, left a vile and threatening message, completely destroyed my phone, then punched me so hard on the side of the head that I lost consciousness. Only for a few seconds, but one minute I was standing up, the next I was slumped half on the sofa with Steve leaning over me asking me if I was ok, whilst a Tom the Cat lump started forming on the side of my head.

I really didn't feel right at all, and took the line of least resistance when he said he was staying to take care of me. The next day (Saturday) I left early to go to my Dad's to see Mandy (my little sister) and her family, who were over from Germany. I felt terrible, had to stop on the way because I felt sick, and while I was stopped I phoned Heather to see if I could go to hers on the way home.

That's what I did. I stayed there a good few hours, most of the night. But on the Sunday Steve wouldn't believe that was where I had been, he thought I'd been out with someone else (??), and this ended up with him kicking off whilst we were in the kitchen. I said to please stop, my Son was in, I didn't want him to hear (his room is above the kitchen). So Steve grabbed my hair and dragged me into the living room, then threw me down onto the sofa. He held me down by the throat and kneeled over on top of me, he was strangling me and shouting, and I was terrified I would pass out - when he was strangling me that was always what I was afraid of, because I wasn't sure he would stop if I did pass out. I remember I got both hands free and was pushing up on his chin really hard, then I got a knee free and managed to kick him off me.

I ran into the hallway and managed to dial 999 before he got the phone away from me. But he only took the handset. I had the base, so he couldn't disconnect the call. I knew there was an alert set on the number, so I yelled as loud as I could 'HELP ME! PLEASE, HELP ME!' Then he got the base out my hand. But me shouting that had brought my son downstairs, because he thought I was calling to him. It was the most horrible moment of my life, but I was also so proud that he came to try to help me. And he did, because the minute Steve saw him, he let go of me, and started putting his shoes on.

'It's alright,' I said to Son, 'don't you worry, it'll all be alright now, you go upstairs, go on, you run up there now and I'll come and see you in a minute.'

And by that time the Police were there. That's how quick they were. Steve hadn't even got his shoes on. And stupid as it sounds, I was asking them not to arrest him, I just wanted him to go, and he was going. But the Policeman in charge wasn't having any of it. His colleague took Steve into the living room while he took me into the kitchen. He said he could see the marks on my neck, and so had his colleague, and he didn't need me to press charges, he was arresting Steve for assault. They took him away, and two other policemen came around and spent hours convincing me to press charges. As it turned out, I had various photographs form the four beatings in two weeks - including the black eye that my boss had reported to the police. He was charged with all of them and pleaded guilty.

That was the start of my recovery.

The low point had been the end of November 2010. Up until then, I'd conned myself that I wasn't a victim of domestic violence, not really. I didn't act like a battered woman, I didn't look like a battered woman, I had never been to hospital or had to miss work because of it (though Steve was horrified when I chose to go to work with a black eye). Then that Sunday I got out of the bath, and unusually the bathroom door was open. It meant that I accidentally caught sight of myself in the hallway mirror - and for a split second I didn't recognise myself. In that split second I saw it, and I couldn't UNsee it. I had a black eye. My upper arms, upper legs, torso, buttocks and abdomen were covered in buises in various stages from red/purple right through brown to yellow. I had various sets of 'fingerprint' bruises, where he had grabbed my arm, my chest, my leg. I had scratches on my neck and chest where he had held me down. And I looked afraid. Because I was. I knew that when I got out of that bath I had to go into the living room where he was and try to act normal so as not to annoy him. What I didn't know at the time was that my scalp was tender and sore from the punches, head banging and hair pulling. It wasn't until a few weeks after he was arrested that I washed my hair without it hurting, and I was shocked that I had forgotten how that felt until I felt it again.

Because that's what happens. It slowly becomes normal to live your life as someone's punchbag. It becomes normal to devote your entire energy to trying to ensure that nothing upsets them. It's what is done so well on Corrie - the way Tyrone acts around Kirsty. I find that storyline so difficult, because it is so true. Oh, of course it all escalated way faster with them than with me, but the way you can feel the storm brewing; the way Tyrone tries to stop the violence from happening (even though you see in his eyes, he knows as well as I did, there's no escape, at some point you WILL cop it, it's just a matter of when); the way it still will somehow kick off when you least expect it; and the blessed relief when it is over. Even though by now they don't bother to apologise or cry or promise they won't do it again. At least the stormclouds have passed for now.

My sister asked me why I didn't just pack him in. 'I haven't got the energy' I said. 'What, so you are with him because you CAN'T BE BOTHERED?' she asked, incredulous.

'Yup, that's about the long and short of it.'

I couldn;t explain it then and I can't now. It is like you are in some sort of trance - like all your energy goes into getting through from day to day. There isn't any energy left over for properly thinking. I didn't think clearly for about a year after this time. I don't know where I had gone, but it was like this robot was going through the motions and I had gone away somewhere until it was safe to return.

One thing I never did. I never covered for him, never lied. When someone at work asked me, 'what happened to your eye?' I didn't hesitate.

'My boyfriend punched me.'

She laughed, it never occurred to her that I was telling the truth, until I assured her I was. Why would it? I'm so far from the stereotype.

And I believed this:

I'd been told so many times, by him and by his family, that it was 'six of one and half a dozen of another', that I really did believe that this was what happened when a tornado met a volcano. Except now I know I wasn't either. I was a little fluffy bunny who got swamped by the magma and caught up in the storm of his anger and his need to control.

I thought I understood the song - that we love to believe them when they say they love us and will change. But I didn't. The whole song is a lie and an excuse.

Three years ago, December 2009, we were happy.  We were having one of our periodic major reconciliations, where Steve was trying very hard to not drink too much, not do drugs. This was mostly because after being split up for three months, we had only got back together because his landlord had phoned me when he fell downstairs (out of it) and broke his arm, and he had no-one else to take him to hospital. He was still in plaster. I thought I was happy. I didn't really see my friends too much, because it was easier to not. Easier because when I did, even if I only went out for lunch, I'd be accused of all sorts. I certainly wouldn't talk to men in pubs. He phoned texted several times on my work night out, and phoned me when I was (luckily) on my way home. He'd wanted to go, but I said no.

'Why not?'

'Because I want to enjoy myself, not be your carer.'

'My arms ok in the plaster, I'll cope.'

'I wasn't talking about your arm.'

Four years ago I discovered on Christmas Eve that Steve was back on heroin. We were due to host a massive Christmas lunch for my extended family the next day. I was as outraged as he would have expected me to be, but a part of me was thinking, 'that's why we have been so happy the last two months.' I have the horrible realisation that he is a nicer person when he is on heroin. Even so, he stops it and I am glad.

New Year's Eve 2008. We'd been out for lunch, intending to stay out for New Year itself, but Steve had got too drunk to fats, and had got angry because I bumped into a friend and chatted to her. We decided to go home, and at first things were fine, but he was still drinking Special Brew, and I could feel he was just looking for a fight. I don't even know what it ended up being about. He tried to punch me, I ducked, he punched the door instead and broke his metacarpal. It was horrible - his knuckle was way down his hand and the break was angling up against his skin. So we spent New Year in A and E. As you do.

Five years ago We were still really happy. Oh yes, I'd had a couple of quite severe beatings, and enough kerfuffles to make me wary whenever we went away for a holiday or a weekend, because that was when we tended to have problems, but on the whole things were still good most of the time. He was still moatly the man I had met, the excuses still held true, I still had no idea that the monster was real, and Jekyll the disguise.

Six years ago, December 2006, I met and completely fell in love with Steve. By the end of January 2007 I was completely and utterly in love. There's a saying that tries to explain why women stay with men who abuse them - 'if an abuser punched you on the first date, you'd never see him again.' That's not how they work. They come over as your perfect partner. They seem to want to do anything and everything to please you. They seem obsessed with you - on a good way, because they are so perfect you feel the same way. When they first hurt you, it seems like an aberration, you do anything to explain it - they tell you how much they love you, what a terrible mistake it was, and you believe them because you want to believe them. It's a repeating cycle, but it cycles faster, the good times become fewer and the bad times become the norm. To steal a Freedom Programme quote, I spent five years trying to get the first six months back.

In trying to get back that person who didn't exist, I lost myself. It's taken me this long to get me back. I won't ever give myself up again.

Seven years ago, on 21st of December, my brother died. Two years later, at my nephew's christening, my older sister said, 'don't you think it's odd that your brother was an alcoholic heroin addict called Steve, and now your boyfriend is an alcoholic heroin addict called Steve?'

Yeah. Funny how you can ignore your subconscious, even when it's jumping up and down in your face, waving a flag and fronting a marching band. But no more.

The last year has been a hard one because getting rid of Steve and the death of my Dad both forced me to confront some nasty stuff. You see, I'm not a victim of domestic violence. I suffered domestic violence because of my choices - because something inside of me was screwed up enough to value that relationship above all else - to put my need to 'save' Steve above the well-being of my son, and above even my own life (for however much I told myself and everyone else that 'it wasn't that bad', 'he never put me in hospital', 'he's never broken a bone' etc, the fact remains that this was often due to luck. If I hadn't ducked when he broke his hand.... If I hadn't caught the bannister when he pushed me downstairs..... If I hadn't beat him off those times he was strangling me.....If he hadn't passed out with drugs and drink the first time he held me captive at the B and B..... There were multiple times when things could have ended differently - but I only can see that in retrospect. I am more frightened of him now than I ever was then.).

Discovering what that screwed-up something is has been the work of the last year. It's been slow and it has been painful, it has involved dredging up all sorts of family crap and dysfunction.  But you need to drag the dirt into the open, otherwise your house is never clean. I am now a house so clean that Kim and Aggie would approve.

YAY ME! :-)

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Liebster Award

I've been nominated for a Liebster Award by Eve. Hers is a brilliant blog that I've been reading for ages, you probably all know it anyway, but if not, then go there NOW! Go on! You can come back and read this later!

So the deal is:

  • Link back to the person who nominated you
  • Write 11 random facts about yourself
  • Answer 11 questions written for you
  • Make up 11 new questions and nominate 11 other bloggers
11 Random Facts About Me

  1. I haven't seen my natural hair colour since 1982
  2. I hardly ever fancy men my own age because they usually look and act like they should be my dad
  3. I don't like the smell of dog
  4. I recently broke two beds in less than a month
  5. I've written two novels. They were both crap
  6. I am obsessed with James Hepburn, fourth Earl of Bothwell
  7. My favourite perfume is Lush Silky Underwear
  8. There can never be enough glitter in my life
  9. I pretend to only go to Doctor Who Conventions because of my son, but actually I LOVE THEM!
  10. I can flare my nostrils
  11. Like many medical staff, I secretly love emergency situations 
Questions I was asked
1. If you could have a superhero power for a day, what would it be?
Those x-ray eyes that can see through clothes. Yup, I am such a child.

2. Favourite job you've ever had?
Ooooh, difficult. But I'm going to plump for the one I have now, because I am so happy doing it - physio, part time in out-patients and learning disabilities

3. What would you buy first if you won the lottery?
Easy. This house.

4. Your favourite song/album?
SO HARD. Always changes. Today I shall choose 'Sheepskin Tearaway' by Peter Doherty and 'Joy 1967-1990' by Ultra Vivid Scene

5. Favourite dessert?
Eton mess

6. What did you want to be when you grew up?
An astronaut. There's still time.

7. Your proudest achievement?
Shamefully, whilst I am very proud of giving birth to my lovely son, this is actually getting three As at 'A' Level. It was 1983, I went to a comprehensive school and NO-ONE got three As at 'A' Level, it was unheard of at our school. The teachers wouldn't let me leave the room to open my results cos they all wanted to see my face, they were so chuffed. Quite sad that the peak of my achievement was age 18!

8. Biggest pet hate?
Another toughie. I am a very laidback person, but can sometimes be quite irritable about small things. Ah, got it. Jobsworths. People who can't see the wood of what they are supposed to be achieving for the trees of  pointless regulations. People more concerned with covering their arses than with helping people. As you can imagine, in the NHS there's a lot of this. Sadly, it still happens in the private sector too, and when it does it BUGS THE HELL OUT OF ME. 

9. Ideal date?
Beach walk and pub lunch

10. Do you believe in love at first sight?
Yes. I've had it happen to me a couple of times - not instant love but definitely that 'I KNOW you are for me and I KNOW it is going to happen'. Like with Steve - when I first saw him it was like he was under a spotlight, it was an eyes over a crowded room thing. And I knew.

11. Are you the big spoon or the little spoon?
Both cos I am a restless sleeper :-)

I Nominate:

My Questions Are:
1. Who is your inspiration?
2. If you could travel in time, where would you go?
3. What is your favourite book?
4. Do you have a motto?
5. What are you most proud of?
6. Where is your favourite place?
7. When, where and with whom was your first kiss?
8. If you were due to be executed, what would you choose as your final meal?
9. Which age did you most enjoy being?
10. If you could have dinner with any one historical character, who would you choose?
11. What do you normally drink on a night out?

Friday, 11 January 2013

My Life in Stalkers 5 - More a Perv than a Stalk

When I was working at the Accident hospital, I lived with two doctors in Kings Heath. It was a lovely house, nice big terrace, with a lovely big bathroom.

Something I noticed shortly after moving in was that the 'proper' keyhole lock for the bathroom door didn't have a key, but it didn't matter, cos there was a bolt higher up. The other thing which nipped at my OCD tendencies was that at least one of the doctors shaved in the bath, and would leave the mirror on the end of the bath - which meant that every time I'd go in there I had to move the mirror back to its proper place above the sink.

Living with doctors was a bit of an eye-opener. Rob (I'll call him that, for that was him name and he well deserves this particular name-and-shame) was doing obs and gynae. As women, we assume that doctors see us as pieces of meat and aren't perving over us. This is not true. Rob would talk about working in the 'teat clinic' and doing 'TUBEs' (Totally Unnecessary Breast Examination) elsewhere. One time when he was discussing this sort of thing at a party, I said I felt very lucky that he hadn't perved on me.

'You're joking aren't you? I thought you knew?' he said

'Knew what?'

'I've been trying to see you in the bath for months, but you always move the mirror. It takes me ages every time as well, checking the angle from the keyhole.'


My Life in Stalkers 4 - The Ex-Boyfriend (Part 2)

I've realised I missed out two of the most memorable stalks Steve did.

The first of these, chronologically, I think took place in November 2011. By this time there was no chance in my mind of us ever getting back together (yes, I know we did, but not really and not for long, because in my mind I was done, I just would get persuaded against my better judgment by my own traitorous heart), so he really was placed in 'stalker' category. It got so bad that I spent a lot of my weekends away at my sisters, just to get a decent sleep. My sister and nieces were really good throughout this time. There was one time I was at theirs, we'd gone to Pizza Express, and my phone kept going. In the end, I answered it, and Steve said he was in hospital, he'd overdosed, would I come. I actually considered it - was shaking at the thought. Then my sister and nieces talked me, well, MOCKED me actually, out of it.

'I bet he's not even in hospital!'

'Yeah, he's just making it up, it's all just lies!'

'But,' I insisted, 'he was in a hospital, I could hear clanking and people.'

When I finally got back two days later, he admitted he had actually been at Telford Railway Station on the way to the pub.

But I digress. This particular time I'd had a lovely time from the Thursday to the Saturday at my sister's for her 60th birthday. I got back on the Saturday and all was fine with the house. I was in the kitchen making a cup of tea and as I looked out the window, my heart stopped. The door to the shed was wide open.

I could feel my heart pounding, but then I remembered the gardener (who was planning on re-felting the roof) had said he might need to ventilate the shed if the boards under the felt were damp. I texted him - it wasn't him. I forced myself to go down the garden and look. I was half-expecting to see a scene of devastation. But when I got there, there was just a little space cleared on the crap-ridden floor. Steve'd only been staking out the house from there, hadn't he! And he'd left the door open deliberately, so I'd know.

It was true. That night, at gone 11pm, he was banging on my back window, wanting to come in. I opened the window and said he couldn't come in, he had to accept it was over and leave me alone. He said he'd been thrown out of his B and B and had spent the previous night sleeping in my shed. Like he doesn't have scores of dodgy friends he could stay with. I said I didn't believe him, and didn't care anyway, he needed to go away. So he tried to climb in the window. I phoned 999, but hung up when he got out the window. Then he tried to climb in again! So I rang 999 and reported the whole thing, even though he had now run away. Idiot.

The other mega-stalk was one Saturday. I'd been at a friend's birthday party - one of those 'in the day' things that you have when you have kids. I got home early evening time, it was May 2012, so it was still light, yet I didn't see Steve lurking in the driveway to the side of the house. He was on top of me before I had a chance to think, throwing me to the ground, shouting and screaming in my face about what a whore I looked like (I was wearing jeans and a sparkly top, nothing OTT), where the hell did I think I'd been, who was I seeing etc. All the time pushing me onto the ground, holding me there by my neck and hitting me.

By chance a complete stranger passerby came over to see what was going on, and intervened so Steve ran away. This man offered to stay with me until I called the Police, but I said I'd be fine, he'd done enough already. I only wanted to be inside, behind my locked door.

I went inside - and here's the weird bit. I just sat there for hours. Did nothing, thought nothing, just sat on the sofa and stared blankly.Then I went to bed. I didn't report it until the Monday, when the lassie I worked with noticed I was acting oddly. She thought I had been raped, I was so weird. I hadn't been, I can't explain what it was - I can only think that it was the being beaten after NOT being beaten for so long, it had sent me into a sort of shock.

Can't believe I forgot to write about those two incidents. There's probably loads more he's done that I've forgotten, but that's probably plenty for now.

In bed this morning I was thinking about how felt being on the end of domestic violence. So I think I will next be doing a bit of  a reflection on that.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

My Life in Stalkers 4 - The Ex-Boyfriend

People from my other blogs will know all of this pretty much, so feel free to skip.

Steve was the love of my life. Really. When I met him, I was a bit wary, because he was 14 years younger than me, and we weren't very much alike, but then in other ways we sort of were. Oh, and he was living with his girlfriend. Now he SAID he was only living with her because he had nowhere else to go. But now that I know better, I'm wondering if he would ever have left her if she hadn't thrown him out when she found out about me. And I'm wondering if he tried to get her to take him back - because every story he ever told about me was a lie, so why would what he said about anyone else be true?

But back to when we met - and I had no clue that he was a psychopath/sociopath/narcissist/had antisocial personality disorder/was your common or garden complete and utter cunt (delete as appropriate - I'm not a psychiatrist). It was the 29th December 2006. By 31st December I knew I was falling in love with him. He seemed so perfect - and my friends all thought so too - really sociable, funny, entertaining, happy.

Within two weeks I was in love, and I thought he was too. I still do love that person. That person never existed.

Oh, for a while it was all perfect. Then in February 2007 things changed. His Mum died, and he began drinking and using drugs again. He'd phone at weird times of night, lost somewhere between here and Albrighton. Or he'd phone from outside a pub, incoherent, with no way to get home, so I'd go and find him and take him home. One time he was supposed to be babysitting for his sister (he was living with her by then) and he wasn't answering his phone so she phoned me. Of course, I went to the rescue. I found him passed out on the floor behind the front door. When I got in (luckily I knew where the spare key was kept), and roused him, he was vile, kept trying to punch me, but again, I thought it was all due to his mum dying. Even though he said, 'I really don't care that she's dead. I feel nothing.' Sociopaths always tell you what they are, but mostly we don't hear them until it is too late.

And as time went on, he didn't get better, he got worse. I'll save the details of the various beatings for another post or series of posts, because I find it quite triggering, so for purposes of this post, it's only necessary to say that what began as verbal abuse and maybe pushing, pulling and intimidatory door-punches gradually became hair-pulling, slapping and shaking. Usually out of jealousy - and by jealousy I mean really STUPID jealousy. The night we first split up, he attacked me because I'd talked to some people who were outside smoking when he went for a smoke. He was right next to me. They were a mixed group of men and women. He joined in the conversation. I didn't know him well enough then or I would have sensed the warning signs.

We were away for the weekend, and when we got back to the hotel, he just laid into me. Pushed me against the wall, took hold of my head and kept banging it against the wall as he yelled at me. Then he grabbed my arm and threw me to the ground, face down, but he was still pulling my arm up behind me. I was terrified, I could feel my shoulder was going to dislocate or something, because he had his body fixing my legs. Then with my other hand I was able to grab my stilletto boot. I started hitting him with the heel until he let my other arm go, then I rolled over, and anger took hold of me. I didn't stop. I kept on hitting him, as hard as I could, backing him out of the room, then I slammed it shut on him and locked it. I couldn't believe the state I was in. I didn't know where he went and I didn't care.

He came back in the early hours of the morning, and I let him back in, because I'd need to drive us home anyway. He slept a little bit, and when he woke up in the morning he had no idea why he was covered in little round bruises. But I finished it. Went to Sue's house and told her what had happened, and she said she thought it was for the best. Showed her my arm.

He kept ringing, wanting to talk to me, but I wouldn't take the calls. So he started calling Sue, I think he even went around her house, crying and saying how much he loved me. She believed him, she said she thought he really meant it, and that maybe he was worth another chance. So I gave him one. On condition he stopped drinking. Which he did, for a while.

Then slowly it was back on ordinary lager, then back on Special Brew, then back on heroin. By this time he was working away, and cheating on me. I found out, and dumped him. Yet even though he was living in the Lake District, he began a concerted effort to get me back. He'd come down here at weekends, find me in pubs, be talking to me wanting to get back together - seconds before his girlfriend phoned him.

Not for the last time, I became the 'other woman' - because I fell for the lies again. this time my friends didn't, and they all thought I was mad. He eventually dumped the girlfriend, came back to live here, we got back together properly, and all was well for another 18 months. Well - he still hit me, but it had become the norm. I no longer told friends about it, it wasn't worth it. I blogged about it. There were some hideous times, but I'll do those another day.

Then he cheated again. For me, this was really the end, and all the years that followed were just me crapply extricating myself. The whole 'Deb' thing was insane, I'll separately blog it too, because it is insane FUNNY. Ditto 'Sophie'. And through both we still got back together, time and again. And the violence was always escalating, and it was always over one of two things - he would be jealous for no reason, or I would want to finish it. A good beating would leave me mentally unable to end it.

December 2010 I finally prosecuted him (another separate story). This was when the stalking started big time. Whenever we had split in the past, he would come to the house at night and try to talk to me. He'd throw stones at my windows, bang on doors and windows, generally be a nuisance until I spoke to him. Now that I wouldn't, he escalated things. He would come into the house when I was at work using the spare key I'd given him. He would move things. He used the phone. He stole my pants.

So I changed the locks AGAIN (I am one of the few people I know who has a locksmith's number in their phone!). February 2011 I gained a two year restraining order (yes, it shits me up that it is running out soon). It made no difference, but it did mean I could phone the Police.

So at one point he decided to wear masks when spying on me. I tell you, it is terrifying to look up and see Batman staring in at you. He wouldn't try to speak to me, he would just move around my garden furniture in the night. Or leave cans of Special Brew in the middle of my drive. He'd left a pile of bricks by the side of the house - I cannot count the amount of times that pile has moved.

On the day of the Royal Wedding, I was having a little party here. My ex-husband and his family came, and left their car on my drive cos they both wanted to drink. When everyone had gone, about 7.30, I got a text saying, 'Uve gotta b kidin me knob at urs.' Then 'cal me'
I did call him, he said he was gonna kick in Ex-H's car and kick his head in too. I told him the reason the car was there, but he just said he was going to be here in 2 minutes. I stood outside the house, planning to head him off, but he came from a different direction to usual, ran at the car and started kicking it in. Completely trashed the one side of it before I dragged him off.
He pushed into the house, was alternately crying, trying to hug me and saying he loved me, then becoming violent and shouting what a cow I was, pulling down my party decorations and throwing things. Then he said, 'I'm off with Johnny to score heroin', and staggered off.
I spent the rest of the night giving a statement to the Police. 
And still the stalking didn't stop. A couple of weeks later, there was a knock on my door, not at the usual time he would call, yet it was still Steve, with two bags of clothes, crying.
'I love you, can I come back, please? And stay here?' !!!!! I said I'd count to ten before phoning the Police....
He sent flowers - no card, but I knew they were from him cos he used the florist he always goes to who does him deals.
One time I was at wheelchair clinic and he phoned me wanting me to come and pick him up. It's like he didn't learn that I didn't care any more. He'd turn up here drunk and beaten up, saying his phone had been stolen, and he'd expect me to be bothered. I stopped answering the door, and would talk to him out of my bedroom window.
Then on my birthday last year he overdosed on heroin, and was only saved by another junkie phoning an ambulance. He was clinically dead and had to be resuscitated. His Dad didn't want him at his house, so he brought him to me - nice birthday present! He stayed with me for a while too - I am such a bloody Florence Nightingale, and I sort of did feel responsible for him.
He got sent to prison for the vandalism and for breaking the restraining order. By the time it got to court, it was February last year. And you know what? We got back together while he was in prison. It lasted about an hour, cos when he came out he got immediately drunk, so I binned him. He slept with his best mate's girlfriend, and when he came here to get the rest of his stuff that I'd been storing, he stole loads of my clothes.
He gradually returned them, beginning a month or so later!
And since then I have been very No Contact. I refuse to engage with him. Especially after what I learned from D_ when Circus Boy was here. I now have no doubt that he was cheating on me throughout our relationship, I just didn't always know. He never wanted me, he only ever wanted to control me. He still does.
The weekend he came back from his next prison experience (Swansea) for shoplifting and breaking the terms of his license, he came around - he'd phoned me immediately he was released. It was a week after Dad died. I am sure he wanted to see if I was with Circus Boy. He started throwing up in the drive as we were talking, and said he was throwing up blood. He was. I called the ambulance and he was taken to hospital. 
Next day he phoned me ranting and raving how had I dared call the ambulance, now he was stuck in hospital, how was he going to get back, what was I going to do about it? Erm, how about nothing?
I was snoozing later in the day, when someone walked in through the back door. It was Steve. He sat on my sofa as though this was perfectly normal and started talking about what we were going to do for the evening! I was so shocked, at first I just sat there listening as he said how he'd walked out of the hospital, and walked here. I said shouldn't he go back as he may be seriously ill, I'd give him a lift? He refused, said he didn't care, but he was hungry.
I suggested a curry, cos an idea was forming. I pretended to phone the curry house, but said the delivery number wasn't working, so we walked down. As we waited for the curry we ordered, I said I'd nip to the offie for some booze, I wouldn't be a minute. I ran home like the wind! Locked the door, but he didn't come back. Probably took the extra curry round to one of his other hapless women.
He turned up just before New Year, and I stayed very calm because Son was in the house, and Son hates him. He was trying to find out what I was doing on New Year's Eve. But he went away no problem.
New Year's Eve he tried to call reverse-charge. I get the feeling his heart really isn't in this stalking lark any more!
I'm just waiting now to see what happens when the restraining order runs out. He knows I tell the Police when he contacts me - though I don't press charges. He could easily be sent back to prison and he knows it. If I can get to the end of February with as little contact as this, then I'll know it's over. Fingers crossed.....

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

My Life in Stalkers 3 - Psycho One-Date Man

Apologies to those who've read my old blog, as they lived through this particular stalk as it happened, in 2010.

I was about to write that this stalker started out as a normal date, but that isn't strictly true - he was a bit odd from the get-go and I totally missed the warning signs. Which is a bit worrying, as I'd been with Steve for almost four years by this time - we were on one of our 'breaks' - by which I mean I had broken up with him, and my nights were not my own because he'd be coming around, throwing stones at my window, wanting to talk to me, begging me to take him back. While he was with someone else, of course.

I was out for lunch with Sue and her daughter, and whilst I was at the bar, a girl in her early twenties came over and asked could she have my phone number for her dad :-O Hmmmm. We chatted for a short time, although at this point I said I thought it was a bit odd, as most men would wait a while before introducing a woman to their children - this was kind of the reverse situation. So eventually I went over and spoke briefly to her dad, he was my age (but I didn't let this put me off), came from Wolverhampton, was a landscape gardener, seemed ok, so I thought why not?

So two days later he phoned and we agreed to go out on the following Sunday, as I was busy until then. Have to say, I already had reservations, because he seemed to keen, and in my mind keenness reminded me of how Steve had been when we first met. Plus I didn't think I fancied this Dad bloke, but I thought I might as well give him a chance.

Sunday rolled along, and I went to meet him in the car park at a nearby pub. At first, I thought he wasn't there, but it turned out that he WAS there - in this broken-looking white van that I had assumed someone had abandoned in the corner of the car park.

Off we set in this death-trap, with him driving in a way as to fulfill every white-van-man stereotype you could care to mention. I was sitting there trying to breathe as little as possible and through my mouth. I still kind of thought I could taste dog and sweat.

We got to a pub, eventually, thank God, and I was able to breathe normally again. He bought the drinks and we were having a nice chat until he turned the conversation to my last relationship, which wasn't really something I wanted to talk about.

'Oh, he was an arse, he was abusive, there was a lot of violence, we've split up now, end of story really.'

'Oooh, that's terrible, I can't stand men like that, I'm not like that AT ALL. With me, what you see is what you get, I treat women right, I'd never lay a hand on them.....' and on it went for a good ten minutes, must have been. Which struck me as a bit odd. I mean, who goes on and on about something they aren't?

But that was nothing, because next topic of conversation was his wife, whom he was in the process of divorcing.

'God, she's such a bitch. She wants to keep the house, says it's for the best because the girls are staying with her, and I can live at my parents.' It's a good job I've hidden all the profits from my work, otherwise she'd be getting loads more, the cow. Luckily she can't think straight since the stroke...'

'She's had a STROKE?'

'Yeah, that's caused all the problems. She was fine before then, but since the stroke she's a right lazy cow, keeps losing her temper and all. I can't be expected to put up with that sort of thing, whatever anyone says. It's not them that have to live with her. Six months of that is enough for anyone to put up with. I mean, it was alright when she was in hospital, you can expect to put up with a bit of crap then, but not once they're home - I mean, there's in sickness and in health, and there's taking it to extremes, and this was a bit extreme...'

And on it went. All the time I was getting more and more sympathy for this poor woman, who is not only disabled, not only looking after his kids, but also is being deprived of her proper divorce settlement by this PIG!

Obviously, when he suggested we go somewhere for lunch, I said I had to get back for my son being dropped off. Off we drove.

Not back to Shifnal though. He was driving on back roads that I didn't know, so it took me a while to realise we were headed towards Wolverhampton.

'Where are we going?'

'Oh, there's a good place for lunch I know.'

Well fucking hell. So we had lunch, and I let him pay, which I wouldn't normally do, but I was well pissed off at not being taken back home. And STILL I didn't realise that the guy was a looney tunes. I was just waiting for it all to be over, and was convinced I wasn't going to see him again by this time. Even though he was talking about introducing me to his parents :-O

Luckily, we then headed back for home.

'So where do you live?'

'Don't worry, I'm only two minutes form the Beehive, just drop me back at the car park.'

'No, I'll drop you home, you said Orchard Road didn't you, well, we're here now, which number?'

So I pointed out my house. And he insisted on getting out to look at 'what he could do to the garden' (my garden is a tip, but I had already decided it could stay that way rather than me ever see this loser again). As I opened my front door, intending to yell a cheery 'byee' he practically forced his way in and said, 'how about a cup of tea then?' I hate the fact that my natural instinct to be polite overcame my reluctance to have him in my house. In retrospect, I should have shoved him straight back out.

So we had a cup of tea. He sat on the sofa. I sat on my window ledge, waiting for him to leave.

'Why don;t you come and sit over here?' he said. 'The neighbours can see everything with you sitting there.'


FINALLY he decided to go, but not before he had arranged to see me again. I said no to Saturday night and Sunday lunch, but decided I needed him out of the house and so I said yes to Friday night. He left, after giving me a hug I really didn't want, and I heaved the BIGGEST sigh of relief.

I didn't sleep that night, because I really didn't want to see him again. I actually felt trapped. After one date! So Monday evening I phoned him and said I was sorry, after thinking about it, I was feeling trapped and it was probably because I wasn't ready to date again, sorry again. Luckily, he wasn't very vocal, and just said, 'oh' and 'ok', and then I said 'bye' and hung up. PHEW! OVER!

But it wasn't.

An hour later he rang back. I ignored it - I mean, it's not like I felt I owed him anything: it had been one date, I'd cancelled seeing him, said I didn't want to see him again, given a plausible reason why not, what else could I say? He rang about five times before I turned my phone off. As it happened, it was a good thing, because next morning when I turned it back on, I had been getting calls from him right up to 11pm, and also lots of texts from Steve. So damn good thing I missed all of that drama.

But that wasn't the end of it, oh no. Psycho One-Date Man had left millions of messages, which obviously I deleted without listening to. But the phonecalls and messages continued. Because, of course, I was really likely to answer a call a day later. Or two days later. Or a week later. Wasn't I? NO YOU PSYCHO!!!

Well eventually he got the message - or so I thought. About three weeks later, there was a phenomenal banging on my door, quite late one Friday night. Opened it, and it was Steve.

'Who the fuck owns that white van that's always parked outside your house? TELL ME!'

'You what?'

'You know what, whose fucking crappy van is it? Every night I've come past here and that fucking van is parked outside your house, so don't pretend you don't know what the fuck I'm talking about.'

'I don't! I really don't!'

But then it clicked. I hadn't seen it, but it MUST have been Psycho One-Date Man.

'Well, it doesn't matter whether you did or not, I've just gone after the tosser and told him he can fuck right off, cos if I see him out here again I'm gonna rip his fucking head off.'

How very gallant. So much so that we eventually got back together. Cos I'm pig-shit thick like that. then one night in December, about 11pm, me and Steve were in bed when my phone went.


'Hello Karen? It's Psycho One-Date Man...' (he actually said his name, but for clarity I've stuck with Psycho One-Date Man)

'Oh for fuck's sake!' and I hung up. He's never called back, although I have his number stored in my phone to prevent such a repetition. As Psycho One-Date Man.

So learning points from him:
Trust your instincts and listen to your gut - and run when you feel the urge
Consciously be aware of and look out for warning signs
Don't be polite - not if it puts you in danger
Swear if you have to
Have more than one stalker so they fight eachother off
Just like a lit firework - Never go back to a stalker. Steve ended up beating me so badly he was prosecuted almost immediately after I went back to him after this incident.
And once again - No Contact eventually worked

So being as January is coincidentally Stalking Awareness Month in the US, I'll try to do the Steve story next. Six years of crap decanted into a few posts - but concentrating on the stalking. If the above is what someone is capable of after one date, you can imagine what a person who has been in a relationship for years is capable of...