Memories of Glass

The snow globe is different now. The glass is no longer opaque, much of the time it’s merely an illusion, one that will disappear if touched. There are still days when the glass keeps me trapped, but more often now, I trap myself in the memory of glass. I tread familiar paths around the edges of the snow globe because they’re well worn. Safe. Easy. On the days when the glass is an illusion, it’s only my fear of pushing against it that keeps me stuck.

Change doesn’t come easily to me, the familiar is safe, even if it isn’t what I need. Breaking patterns of behaviour is difficult, but it’s worth it for the moments I realise I’m out of the snow globe. The moments I feel real. The snow globe will always be here, it’s the walls my mind puts up when it feels threatened. It’s a safe numb place. It’s now longer the dark landscape it once was, my library is there as a work in progress, the woodlands stretch around it and the weather is warm more often than not. Luna, the person I am inside my head is here. Now she’s not only inside my head, sometimes, when I break through the walls of the snow globe, she’s me. Most of the time the only thing between us is a remembered glass wall.

In a lot of ways my room is the physical manifestation of my snow globe. It’s the place I go when I want to hide from the world. It’s hard to focus or be creative in there. It’s the place I sleep, the place I daydream, the place I shutdown. Getting out of my room and making a connection with another human being helps me get out of my head. I need to remember that’s the key to getting out of the snow globe. I need to remember most of the time those walls aren’t real, in acting like they are, I’m giving them power.

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Dear Anxiety

 

I wasn’t sure about putting this up. It’s not a wander through the snow globe. It’s something I wrote while the glass was frosted up and I was ready to turn my back to it hide. I was tired and running away from scary things has always been my preferred method.

Dear Anxiety,

How many things do you get to take before I say no? How much of me do you get to erase, to steal, to break, before I stand up to you?

You are not stronger than I am. You do not get to silence every positive thought and every aspiration I have. You don’t get to drown me out, because I will learn to master every one of the tricks you through at me. I will find new ways of balancing. I will find a way around you. I will not drown. I will not sink and wait for someone to pull me out. I am stronger than I was. I am stronger than you will ever be. Eventually you will run out of curveballs to throw. But I won’t. I have more imagination than you do. I will not let you take any more from me. I will learn to regroup quicker. I will learn to strategize more thoroughly.

I am more than you. I am not just a body for you to inhabit. I am not your puppet. I will get up, every time you knock me down. You don’t get to flatten my thoughts, put my dreams into greyscale or silence my emotions. I don’t have to lie back and listen to your narrative of what makes life easy.

I won’t let you take any more. These thoughts are mine. This life is mine. You don’t make the rules. I do. I do and I am telling you no. I’m telling you I won’t give up. I will find a way around this. I won’t give up this placement. I will find a way to make the next placement easier. I will pass my driving test. I will get my brown belt. I will write a novel. I will stand up for myself. I will make puppets with Pearl. I will finish this degree. I will be a nurse. I will travel the world. I will live independently. You can’t stop me. I won’t let you.

Robin

A letter from 23 year old Robin

This year has gone so fast. Reading this letter was different to previous years. It was different because I didn’t feel that pang of sadness for my past self. It was also different because it felt like more of a mixed bag in terms of what has changed since then. I think I reached a point of two steps forwards, one step backwards, progress is slower, but it’s still heading in the right direction. I’m so grateful to past me for the ego boost!

Dear Robin,

You are simply magnificent. I read the letter from 22-year-old us with a mixture of amusement and sadness. Year on year I have grown. I have won more ground from the tangles of depression and anxiety. Year on year, everything changes. To my past self, no, we never reached 6st. It matters, but less than it did. Yes I still struggle with food, but for the time being it is like a tape constantly playing in the background. Shrink, be small, exercise more, eat less. It’s still there, but it’s quieter. It’s quieter because I don’t want to disappear. I want to be here. I want to be present, I want to be seen, I want to matter. I did get a first in all of the modules I completed. A year ago I was so determined to drag myself through that biochemistry degree. I am still studying. But a different subject at a different university. Over the summer, I decided to drop out. Partly it was the stress of exams, partly it was the thought of surviving another year in Birmingham. Partly it was trying to infer feelings from actions because so often I feel ambivalent towards things, or I think I do. I couldn’t focus on my work. I self-sabotaged. I wasn’t interested. From that I concluded that I was doing the wrong thing in the wrong place. After a brief spell as a laboratory technician, I decided I wanted to be a nurse. So here I am, six months on from dropping out of university, a student nurse at Oxford Brookes.

My future self, I am so near the beginning right now, but you will be at the beginning of the second year. I hope you are still there. Stick with it. I know placements might be rough. I know it might take a while to settle in. I know you will doubt yourself. I believe in us. Right now, there is nothing I would rather be doing. I feel like I have found friends already in Dorrie and Louise. There are so many potential friendships waiting to be made. I feel like I have finally found my people. I have so much hope. In plunging into the unknown, in following a whim, I am embracing the person I want to be. The person I sincerely hope you have become. I want to help people. Isn’t that what the library of compassion was all about? Wasn’t it a hint that all my stories focused on the human factor, the interplay of emotions, rather than the big, fantastical things? I am a scientist. One day, once I am qualified, I will finish my biochemistry degree. I have until 2032. No hurry. When you read this, I want you to smile, oh wise older Robin. I want you to smile and tell me you have stuck with it, that you are doing well. That you coped with the difficult times. That finally, you have given up giving up.

I have my Jado Green Belt. I missed one grading because getting used to sparring took a while. The head guard is sweaty. It was new. I felt uncertain and awkward. I am still awkward, but less uncertain. I can take a deep breath and at least try. It’s still not my favourite part of Jado, but I think once I’ve had more practice it might be. I don’t think I have ever seen Mark more proud of me than when I came out of my Green Belt grading having sparred for the first time in a grading. With a bit of luck, you’ll have just done your Brown Belt grading. Wow. It’s been hard to practice at home these last few months, but I will get back into it.

So much has happened over the last year. I have come alive. I hope that has continued, I hope you are more alive and that you’re somewhere closer to finding Luna. Binging is still an issue, less of an issue, but it’s there. I eat when I’m stressed, I stress because I’ve eaten. I am working on it, I want to be fit and healthy, it’s a step in the right direction. I hope you’ve made some progress on that path. I hope you’re vegan (or at least vegan with the exception of family meals) and that you’ve done at least one round of BBG. I am going to embark on it this week, so I hope next year finds you smiling at an achievement, not biting your lip at another let down.

I am a little late this year and writing the day after Valentines day. Other than Arlo and Ayla, my closest friends are all in relationships. I suppose it’s understandable to feel lonely. I miss the closeness Penny and I had over the summer. I hope you have managed to re-establish that and that some of your new friendships have started to mature. I hope you’ve made contact with Willow. I hope you have found friends you consider close, I hope you feel a real connection with people. It isn’t too late. It’s never too late. Mum and Nik were in their twenties. Linda and Narnie were in their 60s. If you fall in love, let it happen. If it doesn’t happen, friendship is what matters most. I want a queerplatonic partner. I’m not holding my breath, but if you have one I think it would be a keystone in how much you’ve grown.

To my past self, I love you. You were so brave and so strong. You took wrong turns and backtracked and you grew so much. I wouldn’t be here without you and I am so, so grateful.

To my future self, here’s to you. I believe in you. I trust that you exist. I want this year to be about Finding Luna. I hope that you have found them. I hope that you have got better at juggling time.

With love,
23-year-old Robin

Written Rambles

There will be updates about nursing. I have what I want to write scattered across various placement notebooks, I’m just yet to translate. Procrastination is a contrary creature, the moment I tell myself I have to do something, I find every reason under the sun to not do that thing. Perhaps instead of weekly nursing blog entries, I will try to write something weekly and not worry so much about what it is.

November has come and gone. I have survived the encroaching darkness. I do find it harder to wake myself up in winter. I find it harder to motivate myself. The glass around the snow globe thickens and my daydreams draw closer to the surface. When I was little, when thoughts had to be spoken aloud to be verbal, I used to talk myself to sleep. I would tell myself stories. My stories were never linear plots. They were scenes stitched together. Until I found a particular moment I liked and looped it. Over and over, trying to recapture the moment of joy it gave me the first time around and always finding it lacking.

When I daydream now, the words don’t have to be spoken aloud, but the stories follow the same pattern. I remember at fifteen trying to coax my mind into dreaming epic fantasies. The kind of magical worlds that filled my notebooks of plot ideas. My mind has never complied. Instead it fixates on characters. On the mundane. On the day to day. On emotions. I feel like my daydreams are constricted in a way my writing isn’t, but my spoken self is. When I write, my world expands, it’s as if putting letters to a page frees up space in my head to see further. The world in my daydream is tiny. It has to be to keep me from getting completely lost in it. It has to be small, because it is the safe space to learn to handle emotions I don’t know how to feel in the real world. The daydreams are the glass around the snow globe.

I think I found the biggest barrier to finding Luna, the biggest barrier to escaping the snow globe, when I wrote about not being purple. I define myself by what I am not. I look for the gaps and hide in them. I’m scared to let myself think for fear that I will reach a ceiling in my own understanding. Instead of embracing that fear I hide from it. I tell myself I don’t have to think. I let myself be comfortable. I wallow in not being purple instead of trying to discover what colour I am. Things have changed, and my world has expanded, but not enough. I want to finish my degree, being a qualified nurse is important to me. It is part of what I want to do with my life. But I need to make time to write. I need to write because when I write it makes space for the me in the snow globe to come out. It makes space for Luna.

Egg Donation

Today I discovered I am not allowed to be an egg donor.

I was considering it because I thought why not? I’m young, healthy and, as far as I know, fertile. I don’t need all my eggs and the thought of someone sharing 50% of my DNA coming to find me in 18 years’ time doesn’t bother me. So why not? It could help someone who was desperate for a child of their own and I am not naïve enough to think that everyone who wants a child and can’t have their own should just adopt, because it’s not that simple. I contacted Oxford fertility by email to find out if it was a possibility. I mentioned that I hadn’t had children, there’s a tiny risk of infertility following egg donation, so I wasn’t sure if that would count me out. I mentioned having Asperger syndrome.

It wasn’t the lack of children/potential infertility issue that ruled me out.

They cannot accept me as an egg donor because “there is a potential genetic link with Asperger syndrome.” Correct. Although the strength of heritability is questionable. Twin study concordance rates are all over the place. Sibling concordance rates are relatively tiny. Most autistic people have NT parents.

The lack of strong evidence that my eggs will produce autistic offspring isn’t the thing that bothers me most. What bothers me is that this is an issue. I am not against genetic screening. If I was the carrier of a disease which meant my potential offspring would have foreshortened, painful lives, I could completely understand the logic of being rejected for egg donation. But there is this double standard with autism. On the one hand, I am told it’s a difference, not a disability, that it should be ASC for ‘autism spectrum condition’ instead of ASD for ‘autism spectrum disorder’ because, I am told, I am not ‘disordered’. It’s funny, that the same institution, the NHS, which has told me this, is now telling me they can’t accept my eggs because my DNA might give my offspring a slightly higher chance of having this ‘difference’.

Which is it? A difference that should be celebrated, or a disorder so terrible that the risk of passing it on rules out an otherwise healthy person from egg donation?

Uni Bloc Week 3

This week, I confess, I was the procrastination monarch. The sun was shining. My cousin finished college and passed her driving test. There were adventures to be had, iced coffee to be drunk and frisbee to be played. The importance of assignments seemed to fade away. Despite the impending deadlines. Some sensible decisions were made and many less than sensible decisions with them. I would intend to work in the morning and play in the afternoons and evenings, but it took so long just to haul my body out of bed and longer still to put on proper clothes, that by the time I came to do some studying, it was almost time to go out again. Procrastination and the pursuit of happiness won out. Bite me. When you live in the constant shadow of depression, you have to seize any moment of happiness because there’s no guarantee that it will last.

The procrastination of course meant the assignment deadline swept up before I was prepared for it. I was getting work done, but not all of it was for the assignment and most of it was being done at ridiculous hours of the night because my body clock lost track of time. Cue immense stress and less joyful procrastination. I applied for and was granted an extension, thank goodness the university makes reasonable adjustments for those of us with oddly wired brains! I spent time trawling through research on dementia patients and how I could better communicate with them. It was fascinating, but it did bring home how utterly unprepared we are on my placement ward. There’s so much variation in staff understanding and next to no specialist support. In most cases, boredom is the biggest challenge facing our patients and there is nothing being done about it. All of this I tried to word academically and cram into my half-written assignment.

My brain has crashed somewhat. I suspect a combination of lacking routine and the stress of the assignment and not being able to get in touch with anyone in my placement area to organise my next shifts. I missed the last couple of lectures. I managed to do most of the work, but I couldn’t bring myself to get to Oxford for the sake of a couple of hours only to have to hang around twice that long to get the bus and the train back home again. Learning to drive needs to be more of a priority!

Uni Bloc Week 2

I emailed my lecturers regarding the issues of being randomly assigned to groups. Hopefully that will help somewhat. As it is, I have signed in but not participated in all of this teaching bloc’s seminars. Not the best. Especially as the material is interesting. If only I could be more productive at home I could guarantee that the work would be caught up. As it is I am battling to finish my second assignment.

Unlike the whistle-stop tour of pharmacology, the GI lecture was fascinating. I feel like I learned some new information. I am confident about the structure of the digestive system, which until now was something I only had a rudimentary understanding of. I also learned a lot about inflammatory bowel disease, it’s one of those things that I almost feel bad for finding fascinating.

The one seminar I managed to both be present for and participate in was the one on Learning Disabilities. I did a lot of pre-reading, but I still felt as though I learned a lot. At one point, someone named autism as a learning disability and my lecturer was going to let it slide, so I corrected them. Autism spectrum disorders can be associated with learning disabilities, but not every autistic person has a learning disability, because autism itself is not a learning disability it’s a pervasive developmental disorder. Although I was trembling with anxiety by the end of that little speech, I was quite proud of myself for giving it. I think it would be useful for autism to be covered on its own, since we get seminars on learning disabilities, mental health and dementia.

We had our medication management SBE day. The highlight was officially learning to give injections, although I still think I’m going to need a lot of practice if I want to avoid causing serious injury! Especially giving intramuscular injections in the thigh or buttock. The low point was being taught how to manage oxygen by a mental health nurse who doesn’t have to do it and was more clueless than we were. Well done Uni, F for organisation, as usual!

I had my first nightshift to make up a few more placement hours. Lilo was in charge and took me through the crash trolley. I feel like I have slightly more of an idea of what everything is. I might be able to pass someone the right equipment. Still so much to learn there!