Stalled

There are times when I want to do a thing and I know I should do it but I don’t seem to be doing it.

Days pass and I continue not to do it.

I miss out on opportunities. I piss people off. Sometimes it costs me money. I know I should do the thing. I want to do the thing but I continue not doing the thing.

It makes no sense. I get angry at myself. Sometimes other people get angry at me. They demand an explanation. They expect some kind of excuse or justification. There is none. I wanted to do the thing. I was capable of doing the thing. I intended to do the thing but somehow I did not do the thing.

I forgot to do the thing. I just didn’t get round to it. I didn’t really want to do it. I was scared of doing it. I thought it wasn’t really important. None of these are true. I was acutely aware of the thing. I had every intention of doing it but somehow it did not get done.

Over the years I have developed some coping mechanisms. Whenever possible I do the thing immediately. I know that if I put it off I just won’t do it. I try to avoid volunteering to do stuff because I know that there’s a chance that I won’t do it and not volunteering is a lot less painful than volunteering and not following through. If I can’t avoid it and it can’t be done right away I try to delegate it to someone who is actually good at getting things done.

There was a time when this problem applied to everything. Over the years I’ve found ways to actually get some things done but it’s patchy. At the moment I have 3 overdue library books, a conversation I need to have with someone that I’ve been putting off for a week and a list of literary agents that I haven’t contacted. On the other hand I have meals planned for the next 3 days, 9 novels in various stages of completeness and I’ve been posting 3 times a week on this blog for 12 weeks in a row.

It still doesn’t feel like progress. No matter how many things I get round to doing it’s never enough. There are still those things that don’t get done or get done too late and every single one irks. I feel like an idiot. A weak and foolish idiot that can’t follow through on anything. Except, of course, for displacement activity. I can displace like a boss.

My problem with body positivity

I don’t have a problem with the Body Positivity movement as long as it’s your body we’re talking about. You look fabulous, by the way.

I just can’t be positive about my body because there’s nothing positive about it. My problem is not that I’m fat. Fat is not a problem. My problem is that my body is a worthless piece of toxic trash that has been torturing me almost from birth.

I hate my body. Everything I’ve achieved I have achieved in spite of it. All it does is slow me down. I can’t rely on it. It turns the food I eat into dysfunctional fat cells that lock the energy away. I can’t access that energy and the cells just build up on my legs looking fucking hideous, hurting and stopping my joints from working.

I’m trapped in this fucking cage. It doesn’t work. I can’t fix it. It’s made my life a living hell. There’s nothing I could ever have done to fix it. I’ve been struggling my whole life, blaming myself, thinking that I was a failure and the whole time it’s been beyond my control. I was doomed from the start.

If there was any justice in the world I’d be offered a do-over of some kind. But there isn’t so I’m just stuck here until this body stops working completely. I feel like my entire life has been wasted. Not just because this body sucks but because I’ve wasted so much time blaming myself for something that was outside my control and trying to fix something that was never going to work.

No more. Fuck this body. I’m done putting up with its bullshit.

Well I say that… but even as I type this it’s making a spirited attempt to get me to stop. My back is cramping up. The pain is all I can think about. My body is demanding that I stop typing and go back to bed or something. Realistically there isn’t much I can do about it.

Polishing the dark side.

I’m terrified of dying. I don’t just fear the pain associated with death I fear the very idea of it. If I had some genuine religious faith then perhaps I would fear it less but I can’t bring myself to believe that there’s an after-life waiting for me. Other people? Yes. Me? No.

Maybe it’s a good thing. My fear of death is probably the only thing that kept me going through my teen years. That fear kept me from serious thoughts of suicide until I was well into adulthood. By the times things had got bad enough that I hated the thought of living more than the thought of dying I couldn’t do anything about it because by then I had responsibilities.

These days I often wish I was dead but I’m not going to act on that wish because it would hurt too many people too much. For years I felt lonely and unloved and I was sure that no-one cared if I lived or died. I didn’t know when I was well off.

I’m fond of saying that you should always look on the bright side and if you can’t find it you should polish the dark side. The bright side of my fear of death was that it kept me alive in difficult times. If I polish the dark side of how bloody awful my life is right now then at least it’s cured my fear of death. Death comes to us all and when it comes for me it’s going to be a relief.

Perspective shift

Last year I was diagnosed with lymphoedema. At the time it just seemed like yet another thing wrong with me. I almost asked the Doctor why he bothered telling me since it’s just another thing that I can’t fix. I did some research and found that it was either genetic or caused by being fat and while I was suspicious that it might be genetic it seemed more likely that it was caused by being fat. So not only did I have a new thing wrong with me that I couldn’t fix but it was probably my fault.

Today I found out that my research was wrong. My lymphoedema would appear to be caused by Lipoedema. It makes sense of a lot of things. It explains the leg pains I’ve had for years, the way my legs were huge but my feet didn’t have any fat on them, and especially the time I lost more than 8 stone (119 lbs or 54 kg to be exact) and saw little change in my legs – my body was 8 dress sizes smaller than my legs.

Now I was only able to lose 8 stone because I did get really fat. But not until after I tried anorexia for a while. I had fat legs when I was anorexic too. I don’t mean imaginary fat legs. I mean the last day I was actively anorexic I was 13 years old and I was wearing a t-shirt sized for a 11-year-old girl and size 10 women’s trousers which only just fitted over my knees and thighs but fell off without a belt.

When I stopped restricting my food intake my disordered eating snapped back in the other direction and I took up binge eating. Which didn’t help my legs or my already fragile self esteem. Every time I tried to change my eating habits I found that I couldn’t keep it up. The anorexia had left me unable to see any positive change in the mirror and the lipoedema meant that I wasn’t getting much positive feedback from my clothes.

I used to describe my teenaged self as fat and depressed. But maybe I was just an average girl with undiagnosed lipoedema and ADHD. I spent my childhood and teen years feeling stupid and worthless and deformed and it’s cast a long shadow over the rest of my life. What would I have been like if we’d known what was wrong?

The thought of it makes me feel queasy. I can’t think properly because of the unfamiliar sound of some part of my mind repeating “It wasn’t your fault. None of it was your fault.” It feels weird. I tend to assume that everything is my fault.

Not a real person.

One of the things I struggle with a lot is the feeling of not being a real person. I think some of it is imposter syndrome and some of it is a throwback to the bullying I grew up with. When everyone tells you that you’re ugly and stupid and worthless you tend to start believing them. If you’re smart enough to know that it’s not true you still can’t help suspecting that you’re not a real person because who would treat a real person like that? Real people have rights. Miss-treating real people has consequences.

But lets not forget that for a lot of people I am not a real person. I am a poor, disabled, depressed, fat, middle-aged woman. You’d be surprised how many people will lose interest in my humanity the moment one of those trigger words is mentioned.

There are a few men for whom no woman is a real person. They might not express it this way but it’s clear that to them personhood is a uniquely male quality. That’s why they think that rape is not a thing. Because they think that only male desires count. If you think of women as objects then of course you don’t care about consent.

There are a larger group of men for whom women are people but with an asterix. They say woman* or female* but that asterix leads to some mental footnote that defines a woman according to some personalised criteria. If you listen to them long enough you find out that woman means a cisgendered, hetrosexual (or bisexual but only for male entertainment), able-bodied woman, between the ages of 17 and 35, with a BMI in the underweight or normal weight range with an attractive face (and if she’s a woman of colour she’d better have a really attractive face) and “good” breasts. The rest of woman-kind doesn’t count as female because we have failed in some aspect of our femininity. Remember that to them the primary purpose of a woman is to be decorative. It doesn’t matter who we are or what we do only how we look.

There’s a lot of people for whom poor people aren’t really people. That’s why they don’t care about minimum wages or benefits or social housing. The assumption is that poverty is some kind of moral or intellectual failing rather than a necessary side effect of capitalism.

Some people make similar assumptions about both physical and mental health. There’s an almost superstitious belief that ill-health and injury must be a punishment for something. There’s also a surprising number of people who are happy to declare that depression, anxiety, ADD, ADHD, OCD and autism are “all in the mind”. Which of course they literally are. They are illnesses of the brain. They cause changes in brain activity, neurochemistry, and sometimes in the physical structures of the brain. No amount of willpower is going to remake the chemistry, activity or gross anatomy of your brain. You can’t just get over it.

I don’t understand why it’s so hard to agree that people are people.

Regardless of skin colour, nationality, religion or lack thereof, political affiliation, age, sexuality, gender identity, nationality, wealth, health, ability or IQ there is only one Homo Sapiens species. We all belong to it and we are all people. Even me. Even when I don’t feel worthy of it. Even when people in power are trampling all over those rights that I have but for some reason can’t use.

A head full of cotton wool

One of the most frustrating things about my combination of mental and physical disorders is that sometimes my brain just can’t. I know I’m not thinking clearly and I hate it. I don’t know exactly what causes it. I don’t know how to avoid it. I don’t know how to make it better when it happens.

It’s like someone packed my brain in cotton wool or bubble wrap. Some people with Fibromyalgia call it fibro fog but to me it feels denser than fog. I also don’t like assuming that it’s caused by the Fibromyalgia. I suspect that it’s more likely to be caused by depression or anxiety or information overload from pain or perhaps some horrible combination. Of course it could just be Executive Function Disorder in disguise.

I have a bad case of it at the moment. It’s affecting everything but it gets worse whenever I think about querying. I know that there are steps that people do. I assume that step one involves working out which agents to query but I can’t remember how I did that before and I can’t work out how to do it now. The more I try to drag my mind back to that task the harder it becomes to get it to do anything at all.

I’m hungry as I write this and soon it will be a meal time but I have no idea what to do about it. There’s a meeting that I should be going to tonight but there’s no chance of me going anywhere. There are definitely chores that need doing but I can’t remember what they are or how to do them.

I’m not entirely convinced that this post makes sense. I’m going to schedule this several days into the future in the hope that before it goes out I’ll be together enough to edit it. Of course I could forget all about it. So if you’re reading this and it’s full of typos and homophones and sentence fragments then I’m probably still too foggy to have checked it over.

Is it time to give up?

You’d think that dealing with rejection would get easier but it just keeps getting worse.  Every time it hurts more. I don’t know how many more I’ve got in me.

This week I heard back from a New York agent who doesn’t want my book and found out that I haven’t won the Dundee International Book Prize. I had no real expectation that a US agent would be interested in my very British book. I only queried her because she liked a pitch tweet I made as part of a pitch event. I didn’t expect to win the prize because they’re really looking for literary fiction.

Theses rejections shouldn’t hurt. Right now I should be preparing a pitch for a pitch event by a London based agency and a query for an indie publisher that also liked one of my pitch tweets.

But what’s the point?  Whatever mad spirit of optimism persuaded me to finish the thing and send it to people has foundered on the rocks of reality. Nobody wants it. It’s the wrong sort of thing.

It’s a familiar feeling. Which is probably why it hurts so much. Because I’m the wrong sort of thing and I always have been. Every time I get an “I don’t love your book enough to represent it” reply I’m reminded of every time I’ve seen that look of disappointment on someone’s face because I continue to be me.

I think that I was into my 30s before my parents stopped expecting me to somehow, magically, turn into a daughter they could be proud of. One of my brothers learned to be good at disguising that look and the other one stopped talking to me. I don’t see my parents-in-law very often but I often hear that note of disappointment in their voices on the phone. On bad days I see that look in the mirror.

When I was a kid that look confused me. I couldn’t understand why my parents and teachers kept expecting me to be anything other than I am. I realised later that what I am is a colossal fuck up and they were still hoping that I would grow out of it. More fool them.

Now I have to ask myself how many more rejections I’ve got in me. How many more times can I hear “no” before I flip out completely? Do I just need stop trying for a while? Will I be able to go back to pretending that I can deal with rejection like a normal adult if I just have a rest? Or is it time to throw in the towel? As time goes on the book is only going to get less relevant. Maybe I should just sit on it and if I live long enough I can publish it as a historical novel?