“We’re all in our private traps, clamped in them, and none of us can ever get out”

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Wednesday Night, I got back after a hectic five days travelling all over the country. I had an assessment centre on Monday in the North of England, and another on Wednesday in the South. Yeah.

I went home on Friday night, to see my mother and my cat and to break the travel north up a bit. My father is away on business, again, and I get the feeling that my mother gets lonely without him around, and finds it tiring looking after the house and herself whilst working long shifts. I can understand that. I get like that too, living alone. Some nights I come home and wish there was a meal waiting for me, that the dishes had been done, that the trash had been taken out. I don’t usually have anyone to pick up for me when I’m busy though, not like my mother has my father. So I went home and spent the weekend babying my mother a little – keeping the house neat for her, making sure she had nice food to come home too, listening to her. I had a good time – my mother was working so I had the house to myself a lot. Just me and my cat in a nice quiet, heated house- what could be better? On Sunday I hooked my phone up to our HD TV and watched korean dramas whilst ironing. I felt like a total ajumma but korean dramas, a mindless chore, the sun streaming through the windows and my cat sleeping on the mat nearby. It was wonderful. I needed that.

On Monday my mother woke me up early so I could catch the train to my first assessment centre. As the train pulled away she waved and blew kisses which was embarrassing, but also kind of cute and made me smile. The day turned out to be very long and tiring. On the way back I picked up katsu curry from yo sushi, because I did not want to cook but I wanted to keep my personal promise to myself that I wouldn’t let my mother do anything until I left. Then my mom picked me up from the station and we got home, planning to go straight to bed, food and all. My mom had to catch a call from her friend so I sat down to eat by myself – although the cat has started to climb up on the table to sleep at night, and that evening she took it to the next level – climbing up and sniffing at my plate, at my spoon as I lifted it to eat. I started to laugh, I couldn’t help it. I knew I shouldn’t encourage her but she was so blatant and cheeky, and so cute for it. I ended up reaching out with a chopstick, flicking it side to side and my cat started playing. I realised she was entering crazy time and abandoned supper to play with her, laughing and teasing her. I needed that too. My cat makes me so happy. My cat grew tired and gave up and my mom got off the phone so we took to bed. I curled up with my favourite stuffed toy next to my mom and we watched crappy TV and talked. We were both exhausted after our long days. This is how it’s going to be every day when you get a job, my mom told me, and I whined at that because I was so tired I could barely move – the whole day keeping up a mask, trying to be someone else (I read somewhere that if you are shy you should pretend to be someone confident you know when at job interviews. I pretend to my sister. It’s exhausting – we are nothing alike – but I definitely feel more approachable and less awkward when I do this) and I cannot even imagine having to do that every day.

I had Tuesday morning to myself where I planned to get up and do prep for the next interview, but I slept in and then rushed about to pack and get ready. My mom took me to the station again, with a quick trip to McDonalds before hand. Perhaps not the best idea as I had a long, stressful journey to look forward to, not that I had quite thought out how much it would be so.

There had been a landslide in the south of England, you see, which is causing massive disruptions to transport around it. For me, I then had to go via London to get down to the city I needed to be. The journey to London was quick but went slowly if you know what I mean – it was so dull. I tried to work but it made me feel travel sick. Well, that and the McD’s beforehand probably. I got to London and immediately I felt panicky. Where did I go? There were so many people too. I eventually found the subway, and then I had to ask for directions and then I got down into the labyrinths of London’s subway system proper and felt totally overwhelmed and out of place – a country bumpkin in my bulky northern winter clothes and walking boots and big bag. I got told off on the elevator by a pissed off Londoner for standing on the wrong side of it. On the subway now, I nearly fell over and my bag did and I felt embarrassed as hell. I was hot and felt dirty. I knew I looked like a tourist. Out of place. I made it to Paddington where my day picked up a little as there was a South African stall right there. This meant I could spend the next train ride – it must have been a diesel train as it had manual doors and windows which could be left right down! – standing by the huge open window in the vestibule, breathing in deeply the cold air after the filth and muggy heat of London’s underground, munching happily on biltong before downing a cold Fanta – with all the sweeteners left in, compared to the rubbish UK version. Eventually I made it to the city I needed to be, found my bus ok and even succeeded in making my way to my hotel without fuss. The hotel was amazing – look at that bed- but I had left all my charging leads at home which meant I couldn’t quite chill out and work on my thesis and job prep as I anticipated- I had even set up tethering on my phone to do so- but my phone was too flat and my laptop although mostly charged does not hold charge like it used to when it was new. Dinner was from lidl – cold pasta salad, strawberries and chocolate. A little dodgy, but cheap. It was all OK, but a little boring. I went to bed early as the next morning I had to get up early to make the breakfast buffet – bacon on croissants for breakfast remains one of the best things about hotels – and get myself checked out to be ready for pickup at 8am. Breakfast was so weird – there were all these business men in their suits and it hit me that there I was, in my shirt and pants, just like them. I was on business just like them. It was very, very weird. I felt like an imposter. Anyway, then I had to get to the company for another long, tiring day. This one was worse, as I wanted this job really badly…

After that I had to make me way home again. I wanted to avoid London so decided to risk the replacement bus going on my original route. Bad idea. My phone was flat. I had to get a train (OK), a bus (packed to the max and chugging along in heavy traffic), a train (cramped), another train(OK) and another bus(blessedly empty) and a short walk(which felt longer than it probably was) before finally getting home. A two hour journey turned into five hours. With a flat phone and a flat laptop so little to do but listen to music and stew in how miserable and bored I was. I was so tired when I got home. I slept through the next morning and could barely concentrate in my lecture in the afternoon. The next day I missed work and barely made my driving lesson, and only just got myself to do some work on my coursework.

The thing is, neither of my assessment centres went well. And it’s really knocked my confidence. I struggle to talk about it here – I don’t know what would be too much information, crossing boundaries. But basically I just don’t feel like I measure up. I don’t feel ready and I think they (companies) look at me and don’t think I’m ready either. I feel technically incompetent. It’s embarrassing having to admit to how badly my project is going right now. Its embarrassing how much I stumble when asked about basic engineering principles- my mind just goes blank and I end up saying something stupid, or nothing at all. I’m not good at the social part of assessment centres – lunch and breaks where you are expected to mingle, and I’m never sure if we are also being assessed then too. Either way, I do not know how to mingle. Pretending to be my sister can only get me so far, after all. On Thursday I changed put of my work clothes in a cramped bathroom stall at the train station even though I nearly missed me train to do so – because I just could not stand wearing my work clothes a second longer. I don’t feel like they suit me – as if I’m a child dressing up in an adults clothes. I don’t know how to carry on with uni when it feels so pointless now, when it feels like all my hard work is amounting to nothing. I have always believed that if I worked hard enough things would work out, but here is a thing – job seeking – where it doesn’t matter how hard you work. Sometimes, you just aren’t good enough. You just don’t measure up. Or “fit the requirements” to put it formally. And isn’t that terrible? I am beginning to wonder if I will be able to get an engineering job. But if not engineering, then what? Just what is going to happen to me after graduation? I don’t know, I don’t know. And I hate that. It is stressing me out, paralysing me with fear. What am I supposed to be working towards? What use is it working for a 2:1 when you can’t even get a job with it? All these questions go round and round my head. I know I need to move on, somehow. So I’ve set the deadline as Monday morning – come Monday I will work, regardless of how I’m feeling. I can mope now, but I still have things I need to do. Responsibilities. If nothing else, I owe it to myself to keep going and stay true to my own beliefs, even if right now the world is trying to tell me things don’t actually work like that. I tell myself that and try to believe it.

I have more lectures and labs next week. Another awkward meeting with my supervisor where we both wish we were somewhere else entirely. More driving lessons. Another assessment centre to go cross country to. I’m so tired. I’ve got to keep moving forward though.

Monday morning.

I’ll have gotten over it by then.

(NB: the pictures are lying slightly as the top one is from the North and the bottom one is my hotel in the South. Oh well. )

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I’m currently playing around with photo editing apps. I really want to get around to publishing my Snowden and some Japan or even Thailand posts…by now they won’t be as text heavy or descriptive as I like my travel logs to be but they will still be something. I have some nice enough photos, but its fun to play around to make them better. I’m not a good photographer and I know no amount of filtering will make me into one, and yet I can’t help but enjoy playing around and thinking they do improve with it.

I’ve finished my exams and with that the autumn semester comes to a close and the spring semester rapidly approaches. I had one exam and a coursework due last week. I didn’t really get stuck into the coursework until about a week before the deadline so I was pretty stressed out. Oh I had tried to get the coursework done sooner but it was so hard, every time I sat down to go through it I would only end up getting more confused. I kept thinking that I just needed to revise some more and then it would click, but soon I found that even having gone through the notes, the example sheets, the past exams, I still had no clue. Stressed out and full of despair (yes, things had gotten that dramatic) I turned to my father for help, and he kindly sat with me for four hours each night practically every night that week so that Sunday, right before the deadline I had it done. My report wasn’t the best and I foolishly thought I could fluff it out on Monday morning before handing it in. Of course, I actually overslept and ended up rushing to uni and handing it in 10 minutes before the deadline without much polishing up. Then the exam was Tuesday and I was feeling more confident about that. The past exam papers had been fairly straight forward. Alas the paper I got was weird and I couldn’t do it, I just couldn’t. I felt angry and disappointed. I had worked so hard and for what? A terrible exam and a hasty coursework makes me nervous for this subject.

Of course, no time to rest. I had two exams this week and these were my weaker subjects. Seeing so my strong subject had gone to bits I was terrified. I ended up phoning my mom last Friday, Saturday and even Sunday because I needed so badly for someone to tell me it would be OK, that I could only do my best, that I just needed to try. You see, I’ve been struggling this semester. I’ve been slipping back into my old mentality of I’m just going to fail so why even try? This was especially true for these subjects. They were required business modules. And I wish I hadn’t been required to do them. I didn’t understand. The terminology was one thing, the main thing. And the exams were essay based and I hadn’t written essays in exams for a long time. Thankfully I found a book my dad had bought my sister a long time ago, and that had somehow fallen into my hands. How to pass exams every time. Most of it was patronising but the section on essays was invaluable. That and my fathers advice. Make key points. Use diagrams, tables and charts to help you remember. I tried my best to revise like that, even though it was so dull and frustrating I really struggled with it and I was always left with the feeling if hopelessness, that no matter what I did it wasn’t going in, it wasn’t enough.

So I had my exam on Tuesday which was half essays and half maths questions. It was a good paper but I stupidly forgot some key formulas. On Wednesday I had a pure essay exam- one and a half hours to write three essays. I put my calculator out in the exam anyway, just because it felt too weird to study without it close by. I followed the books advice and spent ten minutes whizzing through the questions jotting down a quick plan- all the key points I could remember before settling down and getting stuck into the questions. It was OK. The exam paper was good. I didn’t write enough for one question but I’d like to think the others were OK. Neither was as horrendous as I had been expecting, but neither were they good. I just hope I passed.

Its OK now. It feels great for them to be over. Today I lay in bed until well into the afternoon, warm and comfortable, enjoying not having the pressure to do anything or go anywhere. I wrapped myself in a bubble, not thinking of everything I still need to do for next semester and just letting myself relax.

I’m surprisingly calm. These pills must really be working because I have felt low, negative, worried (see:all those hours spent on the phone to my mom) but I’ve only had a proper panic attack one and a half times, and never in the exams. Unfortunately the flip side of the pills is that they affect my concentration and sleep, so in that way I’ve been tired and unfocused, but feeling calm helps me to stay relatively clear headed in the exams. To be able to tackle them without anxiety distracting me. Its good. I hope it shows on my marks. It would be too cruel that I felt like I coped on these exams in a way I never have before, just to….do badly. I won’t say fail.

Tomorrow its back to work. Got driving, and gotta get stuck into my thesis and job stuff too. I feel rather dazed, detached. I feel like I’m going to return to work tomorrow as if I’ve come back from another planet.

On Tuesday its back to lectures too. Everything continues to happen quickly. I am coping though. Just.

“It just goes to show you can’t leave anything behind. You bring it all with you, whether you want to or not.”

So now I’m going to carry on from this post and I’m going to try and keep this positive, because I had my whine in the last post.

So rewind: two weeks back. It doesn’t seem long ago. My sister dropped me off and perched in front of the TV at home, whilst my mom and I went out shopping together. We actually had a lot of fun together- chatting and browsing idly whilst forgetting what we had actually come for. My mom spoiled me a little. It had been years since my mom and I had gone shopping – before I became depressed I think we may have gone out quite often together. As I walked along that high street I was amazed at by how much it changed, but also by how much the same it was. I felt like I was younger again, and I remembered. I remembered me and my mother going out together, and how we got along. It’s crazy how much being a teenager changes you and the relationships between yourself and others, and my depression didn’t help. Anyway we went grocery shopping next, and then we came home. I cooked supper. My sister got ready to leave. My sister left. My mother and I ate sitting side by side on the couch watching some reality program. My mother really enjoyed the meal I made here, and I felt happy. I cleaned the kitchen nicely for her as she finished her program, then we put a film on, some romantic comedy that was very enjoyable at the time but not particularly memorable. That night I slept in my mothers bed, in the void left behind by my dad. We watched another film first, another romantic comedy, then went to sleep. I had a fantastic sleep. I did not wake up once, I did not have weird dreams. In the morning I woke up feeling comfortable, relaxed and refreshed. I could have just stayed there. My mother and father’s bed really is the best. Its the same frame they’ve always had, so it feels like the same bed that I used to go to when I was little, still in South Africa, and afraid of the dark. When I was younger and I got sick, I would stay home, curled up in my parents bed, always on my fathers side. It’s a place of comfort and healing for me, no room for bad thoughts. I slept so damn well.

That Sunday I went to the food festival with my mother and sister. My mother was in a bad mood and my sister was in a bad mood and the festival wasn’t as good as the one I went to with my sister for my birthday this year, but it was still quite good. I ate a lot of bratwurst mostly. As the sign at the stall said “money can’t buy you love, but it can buy you an 8 inch sausage.” That made me laugh. There was a South African stall too- run by a guy from Joburg. We had the usual chat about why they’d moved, how bad the situation in South Africa is and how much better it is here, how much the weather sucks here, although he did not mind too much. We bought miniature milk tarts and butter milk rusks. Very random to stumble across it, but nice. It’s always nice to bump into fellow South Africans, although also sad. So many people are leaving. So many people you meet have so many bad things to say about SA, and they are hardly wrong. Its not like it comes from a place of hate- its comes from a place of disappointment. And that’s what is so sad. That these people, that my family even, love South Africa so much but cannot see a viable future there for themselves or their children. So they pack up, leave, start again somewhere else.

We got home and I hung out with my sister watching bad reality TV then went to bed. The next morning I did some chores for my mother, then went to the train station to return to my uni home. Since then its just been the same old routine of uni and work and driving lessons. Coursework deadlines are creeping up, as are exams and I’m feeling under pressure. I’m still struggling. I’m supposed to be positive in this entry though so I’ll stop there.

I developed a cold last week, was coughing and weak for a time but seem to be better now, which is great.

Finally a random collection of positive things from the past couple of weeks:

This was the really great article on disordered eating mentioned in the last post.

➔ Driving went really well this week and last week, despite having a week off. A little shaky on clutch control, but my driving instructor is still letting me loose on fairly busy roads. Progress!

➔ My best friend emailed me today and we are going to meet up soon! Just when I had given up ever hearing from her again. I’m so excited, but I’m trying to refrain myself from writing back right away so I don’t show it. I don’t want to look desperate.

➔ I am really enjoying work. It does make me a bit anxious, but the work is very manageable, almost relaxing at times, and my co-workers are really nice. We have interesting chats, at least it is for me. It does feel good to take a few hours away from university every week to help out in the shop, and to have a chance to interact with other people. Even if it makes me anxious, it also feels good and helpful. Stops me from becoming too self absorbed, you know?

➔ There’s a couple of cats down a road near me who always greet me when I walk past, and I likewise. I petted them on the way home one evening last week, and looked up to see a little girl watching me out her living room window in confusion. I guess I must look crazy. I don’t care. It always cheers me up to see them.

➔ I’ve managed to talk to my father a couple of times this week. This has really helped stress wise. My dad has a way of making me feel motivated about university, and making me feel like I’m capable. I really appreciate that I have the sort of father that doesn’t mind taking the time to explain things to me. I probably would never have become an engineer if not for my father always taking the chance to explain things to me since I was a little girl– regardless of that fact I am a girl. I’ve grown up listening to my father informing me on how the world works and encouraging me to be curious – how a car works as we drive to get groceries, how all kinds of technologies new and old work as we walk around a museum, how the electronics of items work as he takes them apart to fix etc. I’m not sure I’d be able to carry on with my degree without it.

➔ I went to see the doctor and he told me it was great to see me looking so well. He said I looked happy and healthy. He seemed genuinely pleased with my process. It made me feel good. Yes, I am still struggling, but if I look back at where I was… I have improved in many ways. I’m glad I went to the doctors. And I think the antidepressants are going to be a good thing in the long run. There’s a lot more I can be doing myself, after all. See: willpower and discipline.

➔ I have completed three job applications and started two more. I spoke to the careers advisor again to get more advice and motivation. Gotta keep going!

➔ I have done some studying these past two weeks, actually. Even if it doesn’t feel like I’m making much progress, I have made some effort at some points. (positivity fail? Oh well.)

➔ I have started, just occasionally, doing yoga and I think I really like it.

➔ I have been reading some fabulous books lately. The Tenderness of Wolves was excellent,so rich in historical detail and with incredible characterisation, although it was utterly heart breaking. I cried once I finished it because I was so overtaken by how it had effected me and how much loss I felt at it being over and like that. There was so much longing in the book – not just for love – and so much of it unrequited and with no realistic resolution/going nowhere. I wanted to write about it here but words failed me. Even what I’ve written now feels inadequate. I’m reading The Falling Woman currently which is incredible in the way it presents religion, ancient history and mental illness and questions our perceptions of what is real and normal without being preachy. In between, I have been flicking through the new scientist last word books which are very entertaining.

➔ I found a local organic supermarket which is expensive, but sells amazing items – like brown short grain rice, spelt flour, puy lentils and every kind of alternate product you could wish for.

➔ I started using cloth sanitary pads and have been quite impressed. Am pondering writing a post on them – I’ve already written posts on not using shampoo and on mental illness so maybe I’ve already crossed all tmi boundaries, or is this one a further one? Hard to know what is too much (information). I’ve been blogging too long.

There, a nice (?) solid list of 13 things*. That wasn’t too hard, actually.

*Bloggers always go for multiples of five. Well, I’m using a prime number OK? I like awkward numbers. Whatever.

“Perhaps I am somewhere patient, somehow kind, perhaps in the nook of a cousin universe I’ve never defiled or betrayed anyone.”

Its been a while since I posted about my eating difficulties. Its not something that is easy to post about – it feels absurd and ridiculous still that I have something like this, and it doesn’t feel serious enough to really be worthy of attention. But I read an article today about eating difficulties and it made me thoughtful. Well, it made me sad.

{1700 words on why I am probably not getting better or: my excuses}

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I went home last weekend. Well, I went home on the Thursday before last weekend. I should have blogged sooner but the anti-depressants, or whatever, are still sucking all the energy out of me and its difficult to do just about anything. I’m so tired and so lazy.

Anyway, home.

I went home on Thursday afternoon. My mother picked me up from the station, and we went back home and cooked supper together, and talked. It was surprising how gentle and unheated the conversation was, how nice it was. So often my mother and I have nothing to say, or we can only pick at each other. But we talked easily this time, and we had a pleasant meal together, then we went upstairs to get ready for an evening out – my mother, my sister and I all together to go and see a ballet. A girls night out. The first time in a long, long time that my mother had got to spend with both her daughters. My mother was excited, which made me happy. I was the one who had arranged this, who had listened to me my mother asking to spend more time together and done something about it. I am trying so, so hard to develop a better relationship with my mother- being more patient, being more interested, contacting her more often, even if its just a random text to show her the progress on my cross stitch, or to recommend a book she may like. I’m 22 and it feels stupid that I’m still clinging to the hurt my mother gave to me when I was a teenager. I hurt her too, after all. And now time has passed and its time to let go. It helps of course that I’m not living with my mother – a certain distance between us is helpful, but its important not to let the distance get too great. I am trying to be mature. I can learn to trust and depend on my mother a little bit more.

Anyway, my mother told me how my father had given her a list of things not to say, which made me laugh. I could imagine my father fretting about the evening – knowing how rocky the relationship between us three is, wondering if it were even possible for us to spend several hours together without killing each other.

I had thought about inviting my dad too, almost felt bad about not, but I wanted it to be a girls night. I wanted to give my mother time with her daughters alone. Its important to remember that just as I like getting my parents say, without my sister, they like to get their kids to themselves sometimes. My dad certainly gets my sister and I to himself a lot – we are daddy’s girls all the way. But my mother deserved an evening with her girls. So I did not allow myself to feel too bad.

My sister arrived to come pick us up and she was in a terrible mood which made me nervous. Well, the evening went very well. We went to see Inala, a Zulu ballet with Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and the music and dancing was fantastic, even if the overall message was confusing and unclear. It was very experimental. A great experience though. And we had a good night out. Except for my mother and sister fighting on the way home we got through the evening unscathed and maybe even managed to enjoy each others company. I could tell my mother was happy, and that made me happy. My sister remained in a foul mood which was disappointing, although it being a work night it was probably understandable.

The next day I went hiking with my father, which I really need to get round to writing about. It was very intense but very rewarding. I love going walking with my father.

I was tired and stiff by Saturday, but I had to wake up early as I was going shopping with my sister and for whatever reason my sister, who used to be late for everything, is now pushing for early, on-time starts (she gave my mother and I hell the Thursday night for being 5 minutes late, as if we have not spent years waiting around for her.) After my sisters foul mood on Thursday I was nervous about meeting with her. I admit I was also nervous because I made some personal confessions to her a few weeks back, and I wasn’t sure if it was going to be awkward between us now she knew. It turned out I was worrying for nothing. We had so much fun together, and a very successful shopping trip to boot. We talked practically non-stop and blew through both our budgets, and had a delicious dinner of American diner food. (Is there anything better? I had a hot dog with bacon and BBQ sauce and mayonnaise. And sweet potato fries with the same condiments. So fattening, so good.)

I love being around my sister, and yeah, I loved spending money on myself. I have to spend money though – I’ve long outgrown my old wardrobe and I needed to let myself let go of it. The other week, I took some photos of my old jeans and put them on Ebay – just like that. No hesitation. I cannot go on any longer thinking I’ll fit back into them. I’m bigger now, but healthier and the only way I’ll get smaller is by giving in to my disordered eating. I won’t do that. So I’m getting rid of my old pants and I went out and bought new pants in a significantly larger size – my sister there to reassure me that I looked fine, that I was not fat. I’m glad my sister was there.

My new jeans do look fantastic on me though. I’m not satisfied with my figure, but I’m getting there. I can recognise that having curves isn’t necessary a bad thing, even if its not what I want to be. I shouldn’t get so hung up on what the label says anyway – its how I feel, and how the clothes look on me. My new jeans fit, perfectly. They are larger than what I want but I look good in them. I feel good in them. I also bought some fitted sweaters – too long I’ve been hiding my figure in baggy tops, ashamed. I will try to show off my figure a bit more – and maybe eventually be proud of it.

Come Sunday, I was ready for a day at home and that is mostly what happened. I went to buy groceries with my dad, then my sister came around, and my mom came home from work, and we had a proper Sunday roast all together. There was some bickering, but it still felt great to be around my family. To have all of us be together. It felt a bit like an occasion – we only ever have a roast dinner on Christmas – and so it felt special. Then I had a quiet day with my family, and on Monday I came back, in time for lectures to start on Tuesday.

It’s been a miserable week. After such a great weekend it was more than disappointing to find I’m still not feeling great, the great weekend was a distraction not a cure, and being back at university is not helping. There’s so many people around, and already so much to take in information wise. I’m still behind on my theses. I need to get my act together. It’s October already! But I’ve felt tired and weepy and overwhelmed all week. This week I’ll try again. I was in a good place just before I went home – had set up good habits, begun to take control, and I took several steps back this week. But I can get there again.