365 Days later; Happy as a mountain goat.
It was Christmas Eve 2018 about 6pm and I had already drunk a full bottle of port and a full bottle of wine. The only thing I had eaten all day was left over takeaway and I only left the house to walk Flash.
My anxiety was creeping into both my thoughts and my body. I had the chest cramps, the butterflies in my tummy and a tension in my shoulders that was causing me to clench my teeth so much my gob hurt as well.
It was overwhelming, I had already called the Samaritans twice that day. I was struggling to cope with simple tasks, my flat was a mess. I hadn’t done washing for days and I had cried so much that I had no tears left.
I spent that Christmas Eve doing what I always did, I wrote about a future Christmas. The better version of me, the version that did not have booze as an anchor of every situation. The future me that was happy, confident and kind. I held on to this fantasy as best I could, because I didn’t want to be in the room who I was. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.
Christmas Day 2018
I woke up on Christmas morning feeling utterly terrible. But I almost relished in how bad I felt, because feeling like crap was a punishment. Self-harm. Basically.
When I took Flash out, I found it tough seeing families enjoying their morning walk. Kids out on their shiny new bikes, laughing and playing. It reminded me of the year my sisters and I got bikes for Christmas. I must have been about 10 years old.
All I kept wondering was why did we get bikes? My dad has always had an agenda, literally everything he has ever done for us or anyone else has always been to serve his own means. Us getting bikes that year was nothing to do with us. I had a feeling that my mum would have probably spent at least two years suggesting it, which would have fallen on deaf ears because my dad never valued her or her opinions.
That thought immediately sent me on a tangent. My first serious relationship. He was exactly like my dad. My ex did not value me or my opinion. He would ask for my opinion, and then tell me I’m wrong. His sister would then give the exact same opinion as mine, within hours of me and my ex would immediately accept and agree with her. Further devaluing me.
Seeing other kids out playing with new bikes on Christmas dad suddenly connected a very obvious dot. I literally learnt how relationships work from a narcissist and his victim.
That floored me, and I cried, I tried to call the Samaritan’s but my hands we’re shaking to much and by the time I had forced myself to calm down enough to be able to push in the number, I had passed that overwhelming sense of crisis.
Then I suddenly realised why we got the bikes. In forcing myself to calm down it had pushed out the memory of my 10th Christmas. The year before my uncle (dad’s brother) had bought his kids bikes for Christmas. Our bikes had been of a slightly higher spec. I knew that because I remember dad telling me how many gears more it had than my cousin Sasha’s bike. And my cousin Robert’s was a mere BMX, much cheaper to get. He was teaching his 10-year-old daughter to hold value in having better things than others, by gloating to me about how he had one-upped his brother.
My fury was palpable.
My dad had, ruined me. That’s how I felt. If I had had a normal upbringing, where I was made to feel loved, wanted and valued then I wouldn’t be shuffling 14 stones of sadness around the block 30 something years later wondering where in the hell did, I go wrong?
If I had had a supportive father figure and not a poisonous one, I might not be single and wallowing in another failed relationship. I might be with someone. Maybe married, maybe children.
If I didn’t have that childhood trauma, then I might not have spent all this time just trying to cope with life in survival mode. Maybe I wouldn’t be drinking all the time, maybe I would know what happiness was.
I wanted to scream, but all that came out was a whimper and then more crying.
I shuffled to my sisters flat, via the off license to purchase wine. I spent the entire walk psyching myself up and trying to turn my grimace into a smile. I didn’t want my frame of mind to negatively impact my sister’s Christmas, especially since she had graciously invited me to spend it with her and her boyfriend and hadn’t asked me to provide anything towards it, not even when I offered.
I got through the day, by constantly daydreaming of a future Christmas that was better where I wasn’t crippled by loneliness, I wasn’t falling apart, and I wasn’t hungover. I walked home, via a different off license and bought more wine. When I got into the flat, I cried for two hours. Just dry sobbing in the end. I was going to phone the Samaritans again, but I honestly didn’t know what else I could say.
I thought about my ex (my most recent ex, not the horrible one).
I thought about how we would never spend a Christmas day together, and how I had dreamed of him inviting me to go with him, to spend Christmas with his family. Arguably quite a normal thing to do, but evidently not in our relationship. I imagined us having a Christmas in a flat we lived in together and doing very normal relationship-y things.
I ignored the reality of our relationship and instead focused on my fantasies of a future me, in a parallel universe where my ex did not keep me at arms-length making me feel like I was on the outside looking in. He hadn’t meant to do this, but ultimately it was happening again, I was being under-valued and I didn’t do a damn thing to stop it.
I cried for the loss of a relationship we never even had, whilst we we’re together there was always hope that things could change.
That hope was shattered, he would move on quicker than me, I knew this because it’s his MO and I would be left behind. Picking up the shattered pieces of my broken heart.
When I finally finished crying, I hit the bottle hard.
This was the start of my final bender.
3 days later, I woke up on my sofa shivering, aching and sobbing. I tried to block out the pain by forcing myself to fantasise about the future me.
But something was different.
All I could think about, and for the first time ever was ‘but it hasn’t happened yet’.
I’ve been going around in this circle for the best part of 3 decades and I’m still this version of me. What if I’m stuck with her for good? What if I hit 40 and I’m still fantasising about a future me whilst hugging flash and drinking wine, feeling lonelier than ever? And then it hit me
‘the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.’
The thought that immediately followed was ‘I will NOT be a victim of my past any longer. I am done. It’s time to fight for the woman I want to be.’
That was a year ago today.
I am the same but completely different and to be perfectly honest, absolutely no one had any idea of just how deep down the Rabbit hole I was.
But that was 365 days ago, and in that time, I have achieved a few bits and bobs;
6,156,560 is the number of steps I have taken
391 is the number of miles I have run
3 is the number of 30-day challenges I have completed
92 is the number of days I was on the sugar detox
80 is the number of pounds I have lost
4 is the number of months I have been Vegan
6 is the number of dress sizes I have dropped
8 is the number of months I have been sober
38 is how old I will be when I start University
42 is how old I will be when I graduate University
0 is the number of mental ill-health episodes
36 is how old I was when I changed my world
100 is the percentage of my certainty, that I am NOW the best version of me.
And I still haven’t completed the original goal I set out to achieve, running the Brighton Marathon. We are 113 days out.
Christmas Eve 2019
I went for a 14-mile run, on marathon pace despite running against the wind with a stitch and up 4 hills.
I spent the rest of the day walking like John Wayne and eating peanut butter and banana.
Christmas Day 2019
In the morning I woke up achy, but bright as a button. Took Flash out, enjoyed a lovely cup of coffee, and then strolled round to my sisters. I passed so many children on shiny new bikes and scooters and was once again reminded of that Christmas we got our bikes.
But I was no longer angry, it no longer mattered that we only got them so my dad to one-up his brother. Instead I remembered us being out cycling round our neighbourhood until dinner time that day. The feeling of freedom, the pride I took in my little pink mountain bike. I remembered we would cycle along the sea wall, all the way to the other end of the island, to where my Nan lived. I was then reminded of the countless Saturdays I would cycle there by myself and sleep over with my auntie. It’s not that weird, she is only 12 months older than me. I remembered the time my grandparents cycled past my primary school on a tandem. How all the kids we’re pointing and laughing, and I pretended I didn’t know them. I remember riding that tandem with my grandad, well I say riding, I was pretending to help but he did all the work.
These memories filled my brain until I got to my sisters, a big bottle of dandelion and burdock was put into her fridge to chill and we chatted with Christmas songs playing in the background whilst Jenna waged war with Alexa (she thinks Alexa is gaslighting her). We tried so many different vegan cheeses, we had dinner and I had a few glasses of alcohol free frexinet. We played a board game, and I walked home. So, no different to the year before or the year before that. The difference was me.
This was my first ever sober Christmas and I couldn’t be happier.
I haven’t fantasized about a future me, not once in the last 365 days. Largely because it’s no longer a fantasy. I fought for that version and I won.
I am happier
I am confident
I am kinder.
The moment I reached a positive frame of mind, I applied to volunteer for the charity I had phoned up myself so often.
I’m not sure I have the eloquence to describe just how that makes me feel. Every time I try to put it into words I cry with tears of joy. The elation is just so overwhelmingly wonderful.
I’m as happy as the feeling you get when you see pictures of otters holding hands when they sleep, and I feel as strong as a mountain goat.