just hang on

fingernails are used to dig

in the soft and fleshy ridge,

the final place to get a grip

before the long descent.

letting go is tempting me,

to land in soft and springy grass,

a place where I can fall asleep

and follow rabbits in my dreams.

I hate the phrase ‘trigger warning’ but I think that I need to put a little warning here as I want to write about the horrible thought processes that I used to slip into when I was drinking (and I still do fall into these patterns, even now).

I remember when I was coming to the end of my drinking career, I could feel that my liver was starting to hurt and I was really worried that I was going to die. But I couldn’t stop so I just prayed each day that I could live until my son got married.

After that point, I didn’t care. As long as I got to see Noah paired off with somebody lovely, I was quite happy to then go and drink myself to death.

Although I don’t ever want to drink myself to death anymore, I can sometimes run the risk of falling into the same pattern of thinking. It’s when I get stressed or upset of tired, I find I can spiral.

The last few months have been really hard with my mum kicking dad out and then turning on Noah and I. I feel like I’m bereaved as she has cut off all contact with me. And so, I have found myself occasionally thinking that I’ll just hold on until Noah turns eighteen and then I can take my own life.

I promise that I won’t do it, but it just goes to show how a few knocks can put us in a really vulnerable place. I know that there are a lot of people who are going to feel stressed over the coming months and I want you to stay strong if you feel yourself wobbling. I’m not telling you I struggle for sympathy, but to show you that we all like that from time to time.

Stay safe and talk to somebody if you’re not feeling good.

Much Love

Rachel xx

It’s for scientific purposes, I promise

I’m still finding my feet,

A teen in a grown woman’s body.

I find myself watching reality TV

In an attempt to learn what to do.

*

Some people turn up their noses

But I actually need those things.

A road map to help me through

A world that I once drowned out.

I have found since I stopped drinking that I’ve begun to watch a tonne of reality shows. I find that I’m absolutely fascinated by them and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. I almost felt a bit embarrassed about the fact that I adored Love Island.

However, I think I now know what it is that keeps me hooked. I think that it’s because I’ve been drinking heavily for my entire adult life and now that I’m only three years out of it, I’m still trying to learn all of the things that everyone else learnt during their twenties.

Romantic relationships are completely beyond me because I’m emotionally about fifteen years old. So Love Island is a treasure trove of ‘information’ for me. I get to see all these people fall in love and break up all in fast forward.

You may all be laughing at me and being all judgey, but I promise, I’m only watching it for scientific purposes.

Much Love

Rachel xx

progress not perfection

Slow and steady

That’s what my parents said to me.

But I didn’t listen and hurtled on,

And let me tell you, the crash was spectacular.

*

Now I crawl along at a glacial speed

And sometimes *shock* *horror*

I might stop to take a break

Or stumble backwards for a week or two.

*

But that is fine, really it’s fine.

Because after years of toil and trouble,

Thinking I’m fighting a losing battle,

I take a break on the side of my mountain,

Hands on hips and head held high,

And I see that I’ve travelled so bloody far.

There’s more to climb but that’s neither here nor there.

The thrill comes from the knowing I’ve moved

Further than I thought I ever would,

Achieving more than I ever could.

One of my favourite little mantras that I hear in recovery is ‘Progress Not Perfection’. I love it because it’s positive in so many ways.

Firstly, it encourages me to slow down. When I was drinking I always wanted to do everything at a million miles an hour. I wanted that promotion NOW, I wanted that boy to love me NOW. It went on and on and on.

Now, I still feel myself getting carried away but I know to slow down, take my time and enjoy the journey. It doesn’t matter if I’m not at the top of the company that I work for. If I can just turn up every day and do a good job, then that is progress.

It also stops me beating myself up over mistakes I make. I recently got signed off work again with anxiety. I immediately started to beat myself up over it, telling myself that I was still a loser who couldn’t even handle a job in a petrol station.

However, this time around I got back to work after a week and I haven’t made a total hash of everything. Sure, I got signed off, but I have a lot on my plate. The thing that matters is that my behaviour is changing, slowly but surely.

I was told that I should always look back once every so often. Really stop and look at where you are and where you were and it’s normally really surprising (in a nice way)!

Make sure you all give yourselves a break and stop aiming for perfection. Just try to be better; that’s more than enough to ask of anyone.

Much Love

Rachel xx

i’d like a large box of happiness, please

Can I have the largest size? I said,

Pointing to the boxes on the shelves.

I was often glad that I could buy my happiness

In the form of tablets,

Purchased from the chemist.

But the woman raised her eyebrows,

As though anyone asking for a large

Deserved her judgement heaped on thick.

Read the information leaflet carefully,

She said, handing over a box.

Only eight to be taken,

In any twenty four hour period.

An overdose on happiness is quite a dangerous thing.

And no more than three days,

She added rather sternly.

Otherwise you could become dependent.

I nodded as I paid, pocketing the pills.

The woman knew me well,

She knew I was addicted

And yet she still allowed the sale.

The shame I felt was great, reddening my face.

To struggle to get through a day

Without a bump of chemical

Was almost more than I could bear.

But still I bought and still I swallowed

In the hope that one day I

Would live a life where joy

Was something that I didn’t need to buy.

If you have ever suffered with any form of addiction I think you will be able to identify with the shame that is felt when you have to go into the shop and buy that thing that you are dependent on. I remember going to a different shop each time I had to buy, in the hope that the shop assistants wouldn’t recognise me. My worst fear was that they would eventually start to refuse selling to me.

The shame becomes so great that you are sure they are looking at you in disgust. You are sure that any health warnings they are giving you are a dig rather than just being something they have to say as part of their job. You become paranoid.

It is horrible, but as I was writing this, I realised that everybody has these addictions that make us feel better even though we wish they didn’t. For some it might be something as simple as a love of expensive makeup. It may feel harmless, but wouldn’t it be nice to live a life where happiness came from within and didn’t need to be bought?

If you are struggling with addiction, please do reach out for help. It can be deadly and there is so much support out there. And if you are just struggling to find some happiness in life, don’t think that buying something is going to fix it. You need to start loving yourself because no amount of makeup or clothes or cars or furniture will fill the hole that is causing you so much pain.

Take care of yourselves.

Much Love,

Rachel xx

the angel on the bus

He was dressed all in white

Which was quite a curious thing.

She prayed that he wouldn’t sit down

On the seat next to her on the bus.

He did stop beside her and she shuffled along,

Hoping that at least he’d stay quiet.

It’s going to be OK, he said after a mile or two.

She looked at him properly for the very first time,

The sun filtered through windows to blind her with light.

I haven’t a clue what you mean, she muttered,

But way deep down in the pit of her stomach

She knew that he knew.

There was something extraordinary

About the man dressed in white.

He smiled and he stroked at her face

And everything melted away.

He was gone by the time they reached the next stop,

But he saved her that day.

She had been travelling to the place where she planned to jump,

Feeling empty and dark, a weight on the world.

It only took one person to shine in a light.

Whether he was real or an angel on the bus,

It really didn’t matter,

He quietened the chatter inside of her head,

For just long enough

To pull her away from the edge.

I feel like everyone needs an angel at some point in their life. And I like to believe that sometimes we get one sent down. There has been a lot of talk about suicide in the UK over this weekend and the need to reach out and talk when things are difficult. But this is a bloody scary thing to do when you already feel crappy, and sometimes it needs to be the other way round.

The brilliant book The Stranger on the Bridge by Jonny Benjamin is a perfect example of this. When somebody is right there on the edge, it can be a stranger who makes all the difference. I know that everyone hates the person who comes and sits next to them on the bus and starts having a conversation when all you want to do is read, but we are a social species and surely the world would be a better place if we all connected a little bit more.

I really do believe in angels, whether they be normal people put in a certain place at just the right time, or some sort of messenger sent straight from God Himself, I really think they are out there. Perhaps we should all aim to be a little bit more like the angel on the bridge. You never know what awful set of events you might stop from happening.

Much Love

Rachel xx

the day the princess had a breakdown

Once upon a time there was a baby born

And before she could walk

There was a spell that was cast;

A curse of sorts.

For although she could feel with impeccable ease,

Her boundaries were stolen

And so her freedom was ceased.

She couldn’t say ‘no’ to a single soul

And soon she was lost,

In a swirling black vortex, in a bottomless hole.

She hoped that one day she’d be given a rope

To help her begin to claw her way out.

But for now she feels hopeless

With no dashing young prince

Galloping through forests

To save her from death.

The curse of no boundaries isn’t fixed by such notions.

A kiss or a pill or a magical potion

Won’t help her to grow a skin that is thick.

The rope that you throw her

Will find its way round her beautiful neck,

Because this dear damsel is really just sick.

I’ve pushed it too far and now I am suffering. I know that I’ have trouble saying no because I think that people will hate me if I do. I think it comes from my days as a child where I was told by my mother that if I didn’t live up to expectations then she would stop talking to me. When I was a teenager she once stopped talking to me for a month. I had blocked a lot of these memories out but during therapy I was told that this is neglect and is most definitely behind some of my weird behaviours as an adult.

This week I said yes to overtime when I knew that it was too much and now I have crumbled and let everyone down. It’s a familiar cycle that I want to break and I feel a bit pathetic in not being able to do so. I have turned off my phone so that the world can’t reach me and all I want to do is hide in my flat.

I empathise with you if you are struggling to say no. Don’t be an idiot like me because now I’m in a bit of hot water. Look after yourself and set boundaries that will protect you from going through this. It’s something that I’m going to have to work on, but at least I have an awareness now. I just have to grow a pair and do the painful bit of the process.

Love and light,

Rachel xx

sometimes i’m desperate for a vodka

I’m rattling like an empty pill bottle,

Just one tablet shaken up and down.

It clanks around inside this cage of bones,

No soft and squidgy organs there

To dampen down the noise.

I’m a drunk and what I really need is something chemical

In order to feel good.

I’m pacing round and round a room,

That’s brightly lit and bare.

Fingernails will scrape at walls to keep me sane,

To keep me sober, like a ‘normal’ person.

I wish, I wish I was a normal person

So that I could end this awful noise

That never seems to leave.

meet my alter ego, betty

The door reverberated in its frame,

As Prosecco bubbles dribbled down

Like a washed up, washed out sky full of stars.

My anger had been so immense,

To throw, to slam, to punch all came naturally.

The thing that scares me most is that

The anger was so undeserved.

I couldn’t even tell you what he did.

But somewhere deep inside my brain

A switch was flicked and Betty came alive.

She’s the alter ego that I always try to hide,

(Not always as successfully as one would hope, may I add).

I’m told that Betty didn’t see our childhood quite the way I did,

She clung to fights and threats of suicide,

Like a person clawing at the edges of their burning building,

Unwilling to let possessions perish in the flames.

These threats are not the things that kids should see or hear (or so the therapist says).

She rears her head every time those words appear,

She doesn’t care a jot about intent,

And she never bothers with the context.

She stomps around in a hissy fit

Until they all apologise for what they’ve done to her.

It’s Betty against the world

And God help anyone who stands in her way.

I’m learning to soothe her, though.

I used to buy her loads of shit

In the hope that that would make the tantrums go away.

But love and patience were really want she wants.

She’ll never go away for good,

Popping out at random times,

But now I have control.

It’s fine to throw a glass or plate every now and then,

We’re human and anger’s always on the stove,

Always ready to bubble over and cause a scene.

But don’t you ever let that Betty girl

Take you peace away.

I’ve been feeling some unwanted anger recently. It’s been about several different things and none of it is really any of my business so I shouldn’t allow myself to get angry about it.

But I’m human and so it’s in my nature to get angry about stuff that doesn’t concern me. Through therapy and reading a lot of books, I’ve come to realise that a lot of these unwanted and negative emotions are hard to control because they are wired into us from a young age and they are working at a subconscious level.

I know that my Betty is a part of me that suffered some trauma as a little person and every time something stokes that fire she will appear. Since giving up drinking I haven’t been able to ease the pain that she brings with her but I have been able to control my behaviour so that I don’t lash out. I hope that with more time and patience I will be able to lessen the pain too.

If you are struggling with anger issues then I feel your pain. It’s one of the most uncomfortable feelings and it’s right up there with jealousy and grief. Just remember that every time you feel that twinge in your heart that you recognise as anger, it’s not because you are really angry. That twinge is a sign that you are hurting and you have just learnt that lashing out can make it feel a bit more comfortable. I pray that you find a healthy outlet and that you can begin to unpick your past and see why your Betty gets let out when you don’t want her there.

Much Love,

Rachel xx

gardening for lovers

She pressed her palm to the window

And watched him potter in the garden.

Something moved inside her chest;

A jolt of pain, she thought.

What she did know was that it was caused by him.

She watched intently as he potted plants and cut the grass.

It looked like quite the idyllic Sunday afternoon,

With golden rays of shimmery light

Bathing every plant and every tree in warmth.

It should be framed inside a watercolour painting,

For everyone to see and to enjoy.

But underneath that technicolor surface,

The tranquil peace is far from being still.

A pebble has been thrown with force

And now the chaos ripples out with devastating ease.

She turns away in pain and love, a complicated mix,

And tells herself that nothing’s ever perfect.

Marriage never can be smooth, once the doors are closed.

It’s messy and it’s nothing but a tricky balancing act.

She’s sure he’s seething as he slices through the lawn,

She’ll give them time to both cool off,

And when the stillness is restored,

They can try this all again.

I was watching a programme today and one of the characters asked “Are all families like this?” and the other nodded sadly. I think that realisation can be both a heavy one to bear and quite liberating at the same time.

It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that nothing is ever going to be perfect. When we are kids we have this fantasies about marrying the love of our lives and living happily ever after in our beautiful houses and never arguing or losing a job or getting divorced.

And then we become an adult and realise that none of that is true. I drank a lot to suppress this because I still wanted to live in my fantasy world. Getting sober has meant that I have had to face these disappointments head on and it’s been hard.

I guess that what I wanted to say in this poem is that relationships and whole lives can look perfect on the outside, but normally there are little disturbances always rumbling away underneath, away from sight.

But don’t give up just because something has gone wrong. You can have an argument or a mishap at work and come back from it. This was something that I didn’t understand when I was drinking. I thought that I just had to throw the towel in as soon as something went wrong.

I hope that if you are going through a tough time with something, that you find the strength to fight through it and save the situation. Never make yourself miserable, but remember that some things are worth saving and pain does fade.

Much Love,

Rachel xx

a power cut in my brain

My light went out a while ago.

Some say they fade so gradually,

But I could name the day.

For me it was a lot like when

There is the popping of a fuse.

The switch flicked down

And darkness bathed my inner world.

But this thing, it can be fixed,

Just a simple call for help

And light can be restored at once.

Power flowing through my veins,

My brain on fire with pharma joy.

The lights will flicker once again

But next time it won’t trip me up,

A flicker’s all that it will be.

Depression can feel like your brain has had it’s own little power cut. It feels like all the lights have gone out and there’s no way of fixing it. Some people say that depression creeps up on them, but for me, it’s sudden and shocking. It’s just like the fuse popping and plunging a home into darkness.

Fortunately, we live in a world where it’s OK to talk about mental health issues and there are really good medications available to help. This help is kind of similar to calling on the electrician. It just takes someone who knows what they are doing and everything can go back to normal. I don’t know about you, but I find this thought really comforting.

If you are struggling under your own dark cloud then do reach out for help. Talking about things helps immensely and there is no shame in relying on medication to help you through the difficult times. There is light at the end of the tunnel and I know that you can make it through.

Much Love

Rachel x x