A new direction

I have often bemoaned the fact that although people seem to enjoy my writing, nobody enjoys it enough to pay me for it. To be honest though, except for a few small writing projects on Upwork, I don’t think that I have ever had the confidence to ask anyone to pay me for writing. Okay, there is the small matter of actually writing for my day job, but it’s not the same. Why you ask? Because I don’t get to choose what I write about and even then I don’t get to write often enough – it is really only a small part of my day job. Besides, no-one can tell me that writing annual reports is fun and expect me to believe them!

As much as I enjoy writing this blog, at times even I get bored with my winging and whining over life and how incredibly hard it is. There are limited ways to say: “I am fucked.” and I am sure you must get bored reading about how fucked I am most of the time.

So, with all that said, I have been looking at ways to allow myself to spend more time writing, about things that I want to write about while maybe, perhaps getting paid a little bit for it. I have launched a Patreon profile where I will be writing about writing. (I promise it won’t be nearly as boring as it sounds!)

The aim is to force myself to complete my first book-length project and hopefully get some meaningful feedback along the way.

So, if you have enjoyed reading at least some of my blog posts, please head on over to Patreon and become a supporter. The first five people that join will receive a copy of the completed book, no matter which level of support you choose!

For the rest of you stingy bastards that just like to read about the never-ending misery that is my life, don’t worry, I will continue to entertain you here on this blog.

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Who are you judge Johnny and Amber?

I didn’t really want to voice an opinion about this matter. And even now, I am hesitant to publish this post. But there are just things that I feel I need to say, especially since I have a little bit of personal insight.

First of all, I think it is a disgrace that two people’s private lives are being broadcast for public entertainment. Second, and more importantly, I really think people need to stop Amber-bashing. I like Johnny as much as the next person, but let’s be fair here – we like the idea of a created persona that he has put out to the public. There are very few people who can say that they know who he is in private.

I am ashamed and astounded to see my friends (whom I know can’t know the man personally) share posts on social media making Amber out to be a liar. These very same people (because I know them to be nice enough people) would hate the idea of cyber-bullying, but this is exactly what they are doing and I am appalled!

I am not a mental health professional, but I have enough personal experience to say the following: Number one: If Johnny Depp really had as traumatic an upbringing he tells us, then he more likely than not has a lot of unresolved trauma of his own that he has not dealt with – as evidenced by his drug and alcohol abuse.

Number two: If Amber Heard exaggerated the physical abuse, it is more than likely because the mental and psychological abuse is so hard to not even prove, but even to describe! Sometimes this abuse is so subtle, so little, that you yourself don’t even realise it’s happening until one day when you erupt – only to be made out as the “bad guy” or “the crazy one”.

Number three – and this is an important one people! When two emotionally dysregulated people come together in a relationship that triggers them, and neither one is able to manage their emotions properly, this is a proper recipe for domestic violence and abuse. And then there isn’t just one person that is the “good guy” and one person that is the “bad guy”. Things escalate fast and very quickly become ugly and messy and everyone is to blame.

This is not to say that there are not relationships where there is a clear victim and a clear abuser. I just don’t think this is one of those cases. And I really think people shouldn’t be so quick to make judgements!

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Trying to make sense

As usual, I write not to say anything, but more to make sense of everything. For the past week, my thoughts are like a game of Tetris. As soon as I have them all lined up and fitting together, the line disappears and all the blocks are a jumble again.

For the last two weeks, I have been an emotional wreck. Even more than usual! Two weeks ago, I decided to have my boyfriend admitted for psychiatric evaluation. It will sound cliché, but it is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do in my life. Especially because it wasn’t the first time and I knew how traumatic it had been for him before. Even harder than that, was the decision to break up with him when he was discharged. And asking him to pack up whatever life he had built here and go. I didn’t know where. He didn’t know where. All I did know was that I could no longer live with the way things were.

As it turns out, he was diagnosed with Delusional Disorder. Which was why he would continually accuse me of conspiring against him and lying to him. Which is also why he seemed to think I put him in hospital out of some sort of spite or malicious intent. Nothing could be further from the truth. I just didn’t see any other way of helping him anymore. (And still there is that little voice in the back of my head that asks: did I give up too soon? What if this time things would have been different? Since I’ve been doing it for three years and nothing really ever changed, rationally, I doubt it. But still. My heart wonders)

Things had been bad for a long time. But things had also been so good when they were good! I just don’t think I quite met the height requirements for this emotional roller coaster! People had been watching from the sidelines and many offered advice. So here are two short lists of advice that I found useful, and not so useful.

Useful

  • I understand why you are feeling sad and guilty (with no “but” following). It is absolutely how you should feel in this impossible situation.
  • Of course you can help him. What you have to decide is whether you can be the person who helps him and still cope with all the other aspects of what life asks of you.
  • I don’t know if you are making the right decision. But it doesn’t have to be a forever-decision. You can always re-evaluate it tomorrow. Make the right decision for right now and trust that tomorrow will take care of itself.

Less useful

  • You have to think of yourself first. (For whatever reason, maybe it’s just me, this did not resonate with me at all. How can I prioritise my own needs that are clearly not as great as those of somebody else?)
  • You are not his mother and he is not your responsibility. He is a grown man and should take responsibility for himself. (Only I know his brain doesn’t allow him to do that)
  • It is not your problem that he has nowhere to go and no-one to turn to. (It kinda feels like it is, though)

He has made me the enemy in his story. For the week that he was in hospital, all I could think of was how he must feel, and how it affected him. But from what little he told me when he got home, I can only deduce that he spent no time whatsoever thinking about how I felt through the whole ordeal, or even why we ended up at this point. He was unreasonable-with. For three years I had tried to reason with him like a normal thinking person, but it was simply not possible. That’s on me – thinking that everyone (or anyone even) think and reason and feel the same way I do.

It doesn’t make my heart less shattered. It doesn’t make me any any less gutted at how things turned out. I cry over everything that was. I mourn for everything that could have been; maybe even should have been…

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For those suffering in silence

I try not to live my life on social media. Apart from my current mood, you probably won’t find much about me. However, having said that, I did promise myself when I started this blog that I would keep it absolutely real and raw here. I guess that is why I haven’t written much in the last few years. So here is to getting back to “real”.

In the last five years, I have been to hell and back. Twice. I thought getting divorced would be the most painful thing I would go through in my early forties. But it seems there are worse things that can befall one.

I am no stranger to mental illness. I have suffered with depression for as long as I can remember – even though it had been undiagnosed for much of that time. Anxiety is another fun one. You don’t talk to people about these things unless you feel they will truly understand, and even then, sometimes they don’t.

Over the last three years, I have been introduced to other aspects of mental illness. Much scarier aspects of mental illness that I didn’t think I would have to deal with in my life. Things you think happen to “other people”. I have lived with someone who suffers from severe ADHD and PTSD (finally diagnosed at age 43) paranoid delusions (as yet undiagnosed by a professional) and psychosis (as yet undiagnosed by a professional). He also happens to be a user of recreational drugs. Now, therein lies the problem. People have so much sympathy and empathy for someone who is ill. But as soon as drugs are involved, that sympathy seems to evaporate – even from the very professionals that are expected to treat the patient, or client or whatever they like to call them. It doesn’t even matter to them that the mental illness may in fact be the cause and not the result of the mental illness! Of course, I am not a psychiatrist so I can’t say for sure that this is the case.

In the last three years, fighting this battle, I have lost friends, I have avoided friends, I have made enemies and I have made friends in places that I would never have thought to look. Help and support didn’t come from the people I expected – it didn’t come from the people whom I would have counted among my friends. There are two or three who knew the full extent of my battle, but for the most part I avoided them because I could no longer deal with the judgement of “you are choosing this because you choose not to kick him out” or “you need to take care of yourself now” or the best one: ” he is not your responsibility / problem”. It’s very easy to tell someone that, but it’s not easy when help is simply not available. And let me tell you, in this beautiful country of South Africa, unless you have a lot of money and private healthcare, there is no help. The only thing at which the South African Department of Social Services or the Department of Health, even the Police for that matter, are any good at, is passing the buck!

I won’t go into the details in this post. It is all still too raw and too sore. Let’s just say that if you haven’t had the heart-breaking, gut-wrenching misfortune of having to have someone you love admitted to psychiatric care against their will, then keep your opinion (no matter how well intended) to yourself. If you are not willing to offer someone actual, physical help, then swallow your empty words. Keep them to yourself. They are worthless.

Having said that, I do want to thank the people who have truly shown up in my life. The people who let me cry and rage and offered a shoulder or an ear instead of useless sympathy. The people who have allowed me to be raw and broken and sad without trying to fix it. The people who have offered me a safe haven for when things got too bad. The people who have not judged but have stepped up with real, actual help when I asked. Thank you.

All I really wanted to say today was: if you are fighting a silent battle, help very rarely comes from the people you reckon to be among your friends. It almost always comes from someone that you never would have thought to ask for help. Keep asking. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. No-one can fight this battle for you, but there are probably more people out there willing to help you than you might think. True strength doesn’t lie in fighting this battle on your own, but rather in recognising that you may need to stop and ask for help.

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Lessons in gratitude and humility

It has been a rough couple of months – financially. I am sure everyone everywhere is feeling the pinch of the last two years’ lockdowns, so I don’t think I am alone. But sometimes I feel alone all the same. The clever people say that “pathological independence” is a trauma response. I don’t know exactly what trauma I would be responding to, but I definitely fall into that category. Sometimes I am so wrapped up in my problems (that I can’t solve on my own) that I forget that I could perhaps ask for help.

We’ve been having car troubles. Last month I had to replace a car battery on my car. Then we decided to do an oil service on both cars, only to realise that it was near impossible to get filters (oil and petrol) for my car or any other service parts for that matter! Last week, the other car had to have not only its shocks replaced, but also the chassis welded back in place. To top things off, the car that got the new battery, needed new tyres. The tyres were so worn that the wires were already climbing out, so it was actually dangerous to drive! It was really quite a shock as the outside of the tyres didn’t have any wear and most of it was on the inside which is why we didn’t spot it in time.

I won’t lie. It was shit. Most of my life is rather tightly planned and there is very little margin for errors, especially when it comes to my finances. Thanks to the shocks-and-chassis-drama, any extra money we had was already used up and we were in fact quite a bit short as it was. But my car tyres had to be replaced – there was no two ways about it. The whole situation had me so panicky that it took me three whole days to remember that I had an overdraft facility I could make use of. I had used it before and thanks to banking apps and online banking, the process is usually very painless and very quick. Why I didn’t put in the application straight away I couldn’t say. But because it had always been so quick in the past, I just thought I would do it this morning while I waited for the tyres to be replaced.

Yesterday, my sister sent me a grocery shop. I don’t know that made her do it, but she couldn’t have had any idea how welcome (and needed) it was! It should keep us fed until pay day.

I took the car in this morning and when they told me it would be almost three hours, I decided to wander round the shops – despite the fact that I couldn’t actually buy anything. But when I tried to get the overdraft finalised, there was a glitch in the system and after spending an hour ( and all my airtime!) on the phone with the bank, they sais: “Well done. The application is approved and we will get back to you on Tuesday (after the Easter weekend) to finalise it”. That was not what I needed to hear. It didn’t help that the people tyre place were already getting impatient as they were trying to close their shop. But I still had no money with which to pay them!

I had to put my pride away and realise that maybe I couldn’t do this by myself after all. So in desperation I called my brother and had to borrow some money from him. He gave me a rather large sum of money without any hesitation.

So, at the end of a very stressful week, everything actually turned out okay. The car has new tyres and we won’t starve…I wish I had had a little more faith in people and asked for help earlier. I could have saved myself a lot of anxiety! Thanks siblings. I hope I can repay you for your kindness one day…

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Easier said than done

So this came across my Facebook timeline this morning. A lot of people liked, loved and shared it. And just like many other things that get spewed on social media, it seems like a nice enough idea. Until you try to break down what it actually means.

It seems simple enough. You walk “alongside” them. Without judging. Or trying to fix them. So far, so good. As long as it doesn’t affect you, right?

Until you get to that bit about “trying to impact the outcome”. If the outcome didn’t matter to you, it would mean that the person in question, the one being “held space for” is not of any significance in your life in the first place. Because let me tell you, when that person is close to you, in any way or form, the outcome fucking matters to you!

If that person is your family, the outcome matters to you. It affects your life too. If they are on a destructive path, it affects you. “Yes, but”…NO. No take-backs now! You said you won’t try to impact the outcome.

If that person is your partner, the outcome damn-well matters to you. It affects not only you, but also your children and everyone you hold dear. How do you offer unconditional support to someone so weak within themselves that they can only ever take. “Yes but”…But what? There are limits? Is that what you want to say? Uh huh. Where are those limits? Where does your “holding space” end? Where do you draw the line?

So how do you “hold space” for people who are close to you? What do you do once it starts to affect you? Draw the line? Walk away?

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How close is too close to see the truth?

A few weeks ago, Sir Mark Todd, international equestrian athlete, two-times Olympic gold medalist, caused an online uproar when he was caught on film hitting a horse repeatedly when it refused to go into a water jump. It has caused a furor of note among equestrians the world over.

He apologised straight away and stepped down as patron of World Horse Welfare. His racing training licence was suspended pending further investigation.

Now, scores of people in the equine industry have stood up and openly supported him while as many, if not more, have condemned the act.

One video I watched in response to all this, made by another trainer in Canada, called him “a serial abuser” and the fact that he so easily grabbed a branch and hit the horse with it repeatedly would make me think this may well be his default mechanism for getting a horse to do what he wants.

People I know and respect have openly proclaimed their support of him. I myself thought that after the horse did the jump one way and then the other, it should have been praised and the training session ended on a good note. The girl whose horse it was, said she had had no idea how he got the horse into the water until she had watched the video afterwards.

Although I do not condone it and as I said, I thought they could have and should have left it on a good note, I am a little on the fence about this one.

Another video emerged very shortly after this one, showing a girl hitting and kicking her horse, for no apparent reason. It really didn’t look like she was trying to get the horse to do anything at all – she was merely venting some frustration and the horse had no idea what it was supposed to do. Now, that, to me, is outright abuse. Just like the school teacher who seemingly for no reason lashed out at her pony after a hunt in the UK.

It’s very, very easy to condemn people when you don’t know them and when you see them as just that two-minute video clip. An abuser. But what if that was someone near and dear to you? Would you still be so quick to judge?

I’ll bet you won’t.

I myself attended an event recently with a work colleague. At one point, she came back to where we were stationed and told me about how appalled she had been at the sight of someone treating their horse in a way that she thought abusive. I happened to know the person that she was talking about. And the horse. My mind immediately started coming up with excuses and reasons the behaviour might have seemed abusive to my colleague, but may in fact not have been abuse.

I know that this particular horse could get panicky to the point that if you don’t get through to him, he is likely to cause injury to himself, his handler as well as all the other horses around him.

I don’t know if this was the case. I wasn’t there and I didn’t witness the incident in question so I have no context at all for what my colleague saw. And since she is not “horsey” as such, I did wonder if she completely understood the situation.

But I was immediately prepared to look for reasons as to why this person may have acted this way. And since I had seen many of the people I know and respect stand up in support of Mark Todd, (whom they know much better than I do) it made me wonder…

How close do you have to be to someone to be blind to their mistakes? How far removed do you have to be to see things objectively?

Where is the point where you are close enough to understand the circumstances and the context, but far enough to not let personal feelings get in the way?

Posted in Animal welfare, Horses | 5 Comments

Inadvertently chatting up rich and powerful people

To my two loyal readers, I apologise for the extended absence. I see I skipped an entire year! I promise to try harder to get round to writing this year, and one day soon, there will be a book about the missing year because, shew, let me tell you it was some year!

But I will start with a funny story. At one of my first jobs, I had tea and scones with the Deputy Minister of Agriculture of Zambia. I’m not sure why I went to meet with the man, because there were at least two much more senior members of our staff who could have gone. But that one wasn’t of my own making.

Then just a couple of years later I was attending a UN meeting. We were listening to the talks, but I started chatting and laughing with the lady seated next to me. They called up the next speaker – the Minister of the Netherlands. Lo and behold, my new friend gets up to go and give her speech.

But these are not the funny stories, so here goes:

On the last day of 2021, we decided to revisit Hangklip Hotel. We spent the beginning of 2020 there and thought we would tackle the mountain again. We ended up packing up and coming home before sunrise as the wind was trying to take our tent, with us still in it, and sweep us into the sea. So we never made it up the mountain. We did however, take a long walk along the beach that first afternoon and here is where is gets fun.

As we are walking along there are a number of houses right on the beach and we comment on how nice it must be to stay in one of these. There is one especially nice house that is right on the edge of a perfect little beach.

We stroll along the little beach and turn around to go back. When we pass the house the second time, there are people sitting outside. I suggest that we go and talk to them and find out if some of the houses might be for rent for a weekend.

The ladies at the table are friendly, but clearly taken aback by us coming up to them. We chat and ask about the house and they say: “No, it’s a family home and they don’t rent it out”. When we say we are staying at the Hangklip Hotel, they visibly cringe and we are quick to say that we are not actually sleeping in the dingy little rooms they pass of as a “hotel”, we are just camping on the grounds.

As we turn to leave, a boat drives onto the beach up to the house. Yes, you read that correctly! This rubber duck has wheels that wind in when it’s in the water and out when it wants to go on land. It’s called “Sea legs”. Pretty nifty! We walk back talking more about what a great place that house would be live and write a book.

Fast forward two months.

So, The Boyfriend has started working at a kayak shop. He comes home yesterday and tells me about a conversation he has had with a client. They started talking about his boat and how they were having issues with the trailer and getting the boat in and out of the water. To which he immediately responded with the story of the boat with the Sea Legs. Here comes the joke.

The client says yes, he knows that boat. It belongs to “The Ruperts”. Oh, and that house, on the edge of the beach, yes that’s theirs too. Whoopsie! All of a sudden the complete incredulity and the slightly bemused answers they gave us now make complete sense!

So sorry Rupert family for crashing your party and not even knowing who you were! I’d still like to rent your beach house for a few months to write at least one of these books floating about in my head….

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Stuck in the mud

This cat is NOT stuck…the picture just looked cute

I realise I haven’t written in a long time. Thing is though, it doesn’t feel like I have that much to say anymore. It doesn’t feel like I have anything worthwhile to share with the world right now.

It is a combination of a few things and I suspect the problem might be wider spread than just me. For more than a year now we have been told to isolate. We have been working from home. A few weeks ago I had a serious urge to see a friend, but I had to resist it because I was feeling unwell. I wasn’t seriously ill, I had a bit of a stuffy face and my nose was running – but these days, you can never be too careful and I would feel awful if I made someone else very sick.

I went back to work in the beginning of the year and although I thought I would hate it, after the initial adjustment, I must admit that I actually really enjoyed seeing people other than my immediate family. That has changed and I am once again working from home and it seems that will be the case for the foreseeable future.

These days you are even denied the casual interactions with strangers when you go shopping – you can never truly tell whether people are smiling or swearing at you behind their masks!

Not being the world’s most extroverted person I never thought this lockdown would affect me the way it did. But it feels like my whole life has been put on hold. Everything is paused…

This is not unique to me. I think many people feel this way. With my own perpetual existential crisis it seems like I too can’t move forward. It is like the whole of existence is stuck on that short pause before an exhale. We are all holding our breaths, waiting.

Even on the rare occasions that I do get to socialise with people, or when my parents or my sister phones, I have nothing really to say to them. My world has shrunk – it is just as small as when my kids were very young and I didn’t have any other adults to speak to and no work environment. This reduces any conversation down to asking about health and then moaning about whatever crazy thing is going on in our beautiful, broken country.

I’m stuck. Everyone is stuck. The whole world feels stuck!

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And then the world just continued…

Here we are. Three months into 2021 and almost exactly one year after South Africa went into lockdown. It has been “interesting times” indeed and it has changed us – well it has definitely changed me – in ways we could never have foreseen.

Being locked in your house with your partner certainly tests the relationship and add working from home while trying to teach children, it has truly been a testing time.

I don’t know if anyone came out of this unscathed, but it has certainly forced me to plunge right back into that existential crisis of which I have been skimming the surface for a couple of years now.

I have suffered with long-term depression. And I know very few people who don’t take some sort of anti-depressant to help them cope with the pressures life puts on them. To me, that just seems all wrong. If society and our “norm” is breaking people’s spirits and forcing them to get by with the help of pharmaceuticals, surely there is something wrong with life, and society and what we see as normal?

A couple of months ago, everything just caught up with me. I had a complete breakdown and had a screaming bitch fight with a public figure. It’s frowned upon in general, but particularly when you are supposed to be the PRO of your company. It was not one of my best moments.

I decided I needed some help and went about finding yet another psychologist. I think I may have found a good one this time around. But she suggested I be admitted to hospital. I do not like hospitals, but I realised that something needed to be done so I agreed to go for five days.

Everyone was really nice and took really good care of me. It was bloody awful! All they managed to do with their genuine concern and caring was to make me feel even more pathetic! I went to the life skills as prescribed and I tried to go to the art classes, but bunked out of that after one session. I could relax more by reading my book than twirling string around a bottle like some nursery school child. It wasn’t a complete waste of time and I did learn some things, but I can’t say that I would go back…

It still leaves me with the unanswered question of what is actually wrong and what needs to change? Straight out of the clinic, the boyfriend and I went camping. While setting up our very simple camp, he joked saying we had just driven hundreds of kilometers and paid someone to live like homeless people! Nevertheless, those three days in the bush was much more healing than the five days in hospital! Something is wrong with the way we live. Something needs to change.

But until I can figure out how to make that change, I will limp along in survival mode, doing the best I can with what I have…

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