Adulthood: How Did I Get Here?

FECK OFF ADULTHOOD, I’M TOO YOUNG FOR THIS SHIT

Same as it ever was…

I dunno about you lot, but even though I’ve been a legal adult since I was 18, I didn’t feel anywhere remotely NEAR the concept of adulthood until about 12 years later. And even then, I had everything completely arseways. Not much has changed in that regard, bless my cotton / lycra blend mismatched socks.

These days, as I stare down the rusty barrel of my late thirties, I can’t help but feel like there’s been some kind of terrible, irreversible mistake. I’m too young to be my age! I still eat cake for dinner sometimes, for feck sake.

I have my own apartment and I’m lucky enough to be able to live on my own, which is fantastic. Not least because I don’t have anyone in my immediate vicinity with whom to compare levels of maturity. I’d probably be a hell of a lot more put-together if I had a housemate, lest they find out how bad I am at Adulting and try to get the authorities involved. As it stands, when I think about how I live in an apartment by myself, it’s less Carrie Bradshaw in Sex And The City and more Kevin McAllister in Home Alone.

I worry that my failure to be good at regular, everyday Adulting will impact on future relationships – particular if, by some sort of cosmic miracle, I end pairing off with a mature responsible male who’s WAY better at being a grown-up than me. Highly unlikely, but if God ever fancied making my life into a sitcom, then this would be the way to do it. The only way I cope with being the actual age I am is to wear my adulthood as a disguise, to be removed once the need for doing grown-up stuff subsides.

So, yeah. To me, Adulting feels like an outer persona I adopt, like some sort of very immature, developmentally arrested not-so-superhero. Instead of rescuing damsels in distress, my adult alter-ego pops up to rescue me from homelessness and starvation by paying my rent and doing my Big Shop online. It also saves me from my fucked-up brain chemistry by obtaining my prescription and filling it faster than a speeding bullet – most of the time. I also have an inner arch-nemesis who attacks me on that front, but that’s another blog post for another day. I’m not gonna lie guys, it’s pretty busy in the Brain of J-Ro.

I’m so bad at doing the essential run-of-the-mill grown-up stuff, that when I have to dip my toes into that dark serious world, it feels like a fucking novelty. Going to the Post Office to post a letter or some sort of important paperwork on time gives me the kind of rush usually reserved for someone on a bag of yokes at a 3-day rave. Paying my rent on time makes me positively ecstatic. Who needs great sex when you can cast your eyes around a spotless kitchen that smells of synthetic lemon-scented antibacterial wipes? NOT ME. Walking into my bedroom at the end of a long day pretending to be responsible and capable in the world, only to find that while getting into character, Adult Jen had made the bed and fluffed my pillows, nearly made me faint with joy.

There is a lot of comfort in knowing that many of my friends are the exact same. There’s certain people in my life who have a WAY better adult outer persona than Yours Truly; some of them even have mortgages, kids and full-time jobs. To be fair, I’m only barely disguising my complete and utter ineptitude at dealing with grown-up stuff; my hobo soul and pie-in-the-sky dreams of being a published author mean there’s a limit as to how much I’m actually fooling anyone. But when I get together with these friends, it’s game over for Real Life. Remember that terrifying scene in the movie of The Witches when they all remove their disguises once the doors are locked to reveal their true horrendous selves? It’s kind of like that, but instead of peeling off faces, the geeky sci-fi t-shirts emerge, the makeup gets theatrical, the in-jokes from years back are recited, the workday alarms are turned off. It’s like we’re The Goonies, but now we have the financial means and the legal age to get away with all the mad shit we really wanted to do when we were younger. My friends are the best.

Just wanted to put this in because THIS MOVIE IS AWESOME

However, this doesn’t stop the sneaky feeling that one day the other shoe will drop, and the Adulting Police will find me. Some fuddy-duddy funsucker will dial the Confidential Anti-Craic Hotline, drop my name, then my days will be numbered. I’ll be in the middle of eating cold pizza for breakfast on a Thursday morning while nursing a bastard gin hangover, and they’ll come crashing through the door, armed with brochures for sensible savings plans and some beige tapered-leg slacks with an elasticated waistband. They will use the best of technology to remove all traces of irony from all the Adulting Things I’ve been doing so I do them pure seriously. Through re-education, they will turn me into someone who is Genuinely Concerned about things like sticking to my weekly unit allowance for alcohol, and if I’m getting enough Folic Acid in my diet.

That day may come, readers. But I’m not going down without a fight. There’s too much gin, too much future regret over sent messages, and too much tattoo ink left in the world for me to surrender just yet. So onward we march, all us adult-looking fuckers who can now afford time-wise and money-wise to really appreciate what it’s like to be still full of the joys of the world and everything good in it.

Youth is wasted on the young? Fuckaway out of it. You haven’t met MY people….

 

 

 

Winning Little Battles

This morning I got an email reminder about something I owed a payment on, and it was was all “GRRR ARGH WHERE’S MY MONEY BITCH OR WE’LL SEND THE BAILIFFS ROUND” in its tone. Okay, it wasn’t at all like that in real life, but in my anxiety-prone brain that’s exactly what I heard and saw. I threw my phone under my duvet and got up to make tea, ignoring the horrible tension in my stomach and noise in my head.

I'm in there somewhere.

   I’m in there somewhere.

This is normally where the story would end, me being an ostrich of the highest order when it comes to being able to tackle regular adult trials and tribulations. I’d ignore everything and dread turning my phone on each day, wondering when I’d get a note under the door to let the bailiffs in, and other such catastrophic consequences, the thoughts of which would make me nauseous and say goodbye to any peaceful nights of slumber for the foreseeable future.

However, this wasn’t 2013 J-Ro. Heck, it wasn’t even 2014 J-Ro. This was ‘Straight Outta 2015 and Right Into 2016’ J-Ro; a woman who reads an email like that and thinks “I’d better sort that ASAP”. Well, about an hour after that thought I got it sorted. I’m not perfect.

Would you believe that all I had to do was call and update my card details? Would you believe that I knew that in advance of making the call? Furthermore, would you believe that despite having the card details and the finances at hand to get back up to date (my previous card had been hacked so I had to get a new one which put the brakes on my entire internet life), I STILL felt almost completely paralysed at the thought of sorting it out? If your answer to all these questions was a resounding YES, then congratulations – you’re almost fully versed in the machinations of a brain riddled with Generalised Anxiety Disorder. Either you know it personally, or know someone it affects. Some craic, innit?

goldfish

Anyway, I digress. I took a deep breath, picked up the phone, and spent a whopping two minutes with a very pleasant young man called Daniel who laughed at my ramblings as he updated my card details and basically sorted what was actually a COMPLETELY TINY INNOCUOUS VERY FIXABLE ISSUE. By the time the kettle was boiled for my self-congratulatory cup of tea, I had completed a basic adult task that would make no more difference to a regular grown-up’s day than wiping one’s arse in the loo. And I was SO PROUD of myself. For the first time in years, adulthood and I were on friendly terms.

Only I would really understand how far I’d come since what I call The Bad Time. Back then, I was completely broken. The phone ringing would have triggered a massive anxiety episode, letters arriving in the post would make me feel sick. Any appointments I had to attend sent me into spirals of terror and insomnia. To put it mildly, I was fucked.

fucked

Nowadays I’ve (mostly) settled into the driving seat of my brain, and those days are hopefully behind me. I’ve done countless regular adult-y things since then obviously; I know this because (a) I’m not homeless and (b) I smell fairly okay on a daily basis – I think. But today, I used this opportunity to take stock at how far I’ve come the last few years in terms of recovering from The Bad Time. The details of what / how / when / where / who was involved my recovery are for another time, but this post is about acknowledging victory over the little battles in life, so that by doing so, you can avoid an all-out psychological war with yourself. Again.

It’s nice to evaluate where you are in the world every once in a while. Apparently today is World Compliment Day as well, so fuck it – I may as well pat my own back as well as all the backs of all the poor souls who call me their friend and did whatever bit they could to, quite literally, keep me above ground when I could barely drag myself out of bed or up off the floor. Y’all know who you are. I’ll be coming to a hug near you very soon.

So if you’re up against the little battles, keep going. One at a time. And cheer the fuck out of yourself as you conquer each one. Don’t be looking at the status of others; if all you can handle right now is opening a bill without becoming short of breath, then that’s all you can do. Ask a friend to hang out with you while you do it. Seriously. Make a party out of it. Involve Tayto sammitches and tea if it’ll help. Whatever shit you need to do to slowly plug back into the world, DO THAT SHIT. You’ll be glad you did. In time, you’ll be writing a post just like this, with memes and all.

Fingers crossed, I’ll still be doing it too. See you there.

J-Ro

<3

Ask J-Ro: It’s Okay To Not Feel Okay – Get Talking!

Hey Jen, I have been really down lately, I have battled depression for a couple of years, but lately I have been lying awake beside my amazing husband thinking he would be better without me. I can’t work up the courage to get help. Some days I feel normal and tell myself I’m fine. Others are bad….

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First of all, thank you for contacting me. It must have been so difficult to write those words down. Suicidal thoughts can be louder than any other thoughts running around your brain, so to sit and put them down in concrete form takes a supreme amount of energy. Well done for reaching out!

Second of all, don’t despair. You will be okay. You’re still here, so you have options. If you think people would be better off without you, I can tell you now quite categorically that you’re wrong. Apart from your immediate family and loved ones who will be devastated and forever changed by such an event in ways you won’t be able to imagine, you have no idea how many other people you have influenced indirectly or connected with who will be affected by you deciding to end your life. So promise yourself that you’ll stick around, and in time you will be very glad you did.

It’s also vitally important to recognise that depression is an illness, and suicidal thoughts are a symptom of that illness, so thoughts are not coming from a place of logic. They’re coming from a brain that is battling with its chemistry & wiring levels, so when you get these feelings of despair and depression, don’t take them into your heart. Tell yourself it’s your brain chemistry, and it will pass. I’ve been there more times than I can count, so trust me on this one. It will pass. It may pop up again, but it will go again. The trick is to be self-aware. And that starts with talking to a professional.

Get the ball rolling with a visit to your GP, but also check out Aware (click here) for some fantastic support ideas. MOST IMPORTANTLY: Talk to your husband, and I can assure you, you will be glad you did, and so will he. You don’t have to do this alone. You would want to help him if the situation was reversed. What’s also fantastic is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, it helps you to train your mind and learn how to cope when you do have bouts of depression. There’s more info on that if you click the link here.

Pieta House (available here) are fantastic as well. Reaching out and saying that you’re not feeling good and you’re having those thoughts is a big step to take, so you should be very proud of yourself. Don’t be afraid to keep taking those steps. You’re going to be okay. You ARE okay. You can always keep coming back here as well with any questions or support you need! Best of luck!

<3

Ask J-Ro: New Love Vs Old Insecurities

I separated from my wife a year ago. there’s a girl that likes me and I like her. She has a kid. She fears 2 things, firstly that I’ll return to the ex and second that I’ll reject her because of her son. How can I reassure her that this isn’t the case for either. When I’m with her my world lights up.

I think the first and most important thing is keep talking with each other, but in a productive way. You don’t want to end up in an endless cycle of constant reassurance, because that does nobody any good, and gets in the way of the fun part of beginning a new and exciting relationship. It sounds like she’s playing it very cautiously, possibly from having been hurt before, so I think you’ll have to take it slow, and be patient. You know how you feel, so let her know your feelings and be open about how much you care for her.

Actions also speak louder than words, remember. So show her what she means to you. I’m not talking about grand pricey gestures or anything material like that (although nobody’s gonna stop you if you want to!). Listen to her, be loyal, trustworthy and reliable, be someone she can depend on and who will be around when she needs. If you really see something long-term with her, it’ll be important to make her son feel valued and important to you; but let her call the shots on that one. Once again, it’s all down to patience. When there’s a child involved it can move things along a lot faster in a budding relationship, and force both parties to lay their cards on the table early on to avoid hurt feelings. Build on what you guys have first, and when she’s feeling secure and sure that this is a long-term thing, she may start bringing her son into the equation.

Lastly, mind yourself in it too. There must be balance, so as long as you feel valued and wanted in the relationship too and not spending all your energy on trying to reassure someone, in time it could be something really special for both of you. If down the line there are still some insecurities surfacing, there really is no substitute for a spot of couple’s counselling. It’s a fantastic way of developing tools of communication and discussion in a safe environment. Therapy is not necessarily a sign of cracks appearing, it’s a sign that you’re prepared to do some nurturing of a relationship that really means something to you. That can only be a good thing!

Good Luck!

Me And My Shadow – Five Years On

I tend to do lots of thinking. Well, what else is there to do when you live in your head all the time? If you’re sitting in a pool all day you may as well swim a lap or two every now and again. Most of the thoughts are fine and banal. Some are friendly, some are out of my control, some have sent me shooting out of sleep like a cannon in absolute terror, taking me five solid minutes to remember where I am, and another five to believe my mind was telling me the truth. Thankfully the latter isn’t as common as it used to be. I wouldn’t wish that kind of thing on my worst enemy. If you can’t trust your own brain, then hope is a very faraway thing.

But anyway, I digress. It’s been a fucking rollercoaster of fresh hell and insane adventures in mental health the last twenty-five months, not to mind the last five years. To put it mildly, this last half-decade makes Girl, Interrupted look like High School Musical. I spoke about my own experience with depression before in Me And My Shadow (click here to read) almost five years ago (yikes), and I’ve felt for a while that it was worth a revisit, if only for myself.

The reason for posting it publicly is to show that there is never an easy wrapped-up Hollywood ending to these things. I’d like to tell you that I found inner peace, loved the shit out of myself and had amazing life-fulfilling relationships that made me glad to be alive, and came off all meds, and lived blissfully ever after, happy as a laughing baby on YouTube. I’d like to tell you that, but I’d be lying SO FUCKING HARD.

I got worse. A whole lot worse. In every way. I still did the everyday stuff like finishing college and all that, but my soul did everything under massive protest. Most nights I stayed in, relieved to be at home where I could collapse into my dark, sad, yet comfortingly familiar little corner of my world. The thoughts of having to get it together mentally & physically to go out into the night and deal with crowds and bright lights and shoving stupid people stepping on my toes and elbowing me in the head (being short in the club is a fucking curse) was just too much to cope with.

I spent most of my alone time listening to sad music and faffing about online. I could be the life and soul of the Facebook party from the comfort of a Onesie while wearing a hair turban with sections of my face smothered in Sudocrem. It’s a good front for those of us who are mentally terrorised by the outside world. It has its drawbacks too, in that if you’re good enough with words and you REALLY don’t want anyone to see how bad you are, nobody will be any wiser. Remember: your fingers don’t get sad; you can still type happy words while crying your eyes out.

So on went this life of mine, with the usual ups and downs while I more or less navigated my way through various crises and hurdles that are microscopic looking back, but at the time seemed like I was at the foot of Everest. That was all fine, and doable, and that too did pass..but then in 2013 my mom died, and my heart and brain broke one after the other, never to be fully healed again.

It’s a strange old thing, grief. I spent the first year without Mam simply on auto-pilot on the outside, working in schools, trying to get some sort of new life together and find a place to live in town and being ‘grand’, all the while holding on to the soothing effects of various meds for dear life for fear I would collapse into a pile of tiny shards of glass if I didn’t have them. There were times I couldn’t allow myself to even take a deep breath in the classroom, in case I would break into sobs because the pain in my chest was too much. But life marched on yet again, and I eventually found some semblance of stability, which is precisely the point at which my brain joined in the fun of completely fucking me over for another twelve months.

I won’t dwell on the many adventures that me and my mind went on together, lest this piece become some sort of self-indulgent Depression Porn, which is not the purpose of this piece (you can wait for The Book for that!). Suffice it to say that when your own brain is your enemy, the world is a very frightening, lonely place. I repeated a lot of bad habits I thought I had left behind years ago. I was back self-harming, both physically and in being careless and not looking after myself, and various other bits and bobs that didn’t help. All this led to an intervention of sorts by some very caring friends who I hadn’t managed to fool, and they scooped me up and got me first into A&E, then into a day psychiatric unit. The rest is a better, albeit staggered, slightly more stable mental history.

I’ve left volumes out, because I will be writing about it in more detail in another long-term project; but also because the nitty-gritty isn’t pertinent to the piece. I guess by looking back at the original piece from 2010 compared to now, I’m showing the world that things aren’t always linear. Particularly when it comes to mental health issues. There’s no such thing as an “I lived happily ever after!” finely tuned ending when it comes to the battle for your sanity. But you know what? That’s totally okay. It is what it is. That ‘One Day At A Time’ stuff works for depression and anxiety as well as addictions. They’re all pits that can pull you back in with the slightest little knock-back. I went eight years without cutting myself, then fell off the wagon during a particularly dangerous black time last year. Afterwards, I was so angry at having broken the promise I made all those years ago, but all I could do was reset the numbers and start again. One day at a time? One minute at a time if you have to. Fuck it, whatever it takes to keep you on this earth a bit longer to give yourself a chance.

It’s when things stop going okay after you think you’ve gotten it all under control that can cause a lot of despair in people. They feel like they’ve failed. But look, shit happens. Whether maintaining good mental health, or recovering from mental health issues, these things are a constantly evolving (and devolving) process. People love loose ends to be tied up all clearly explained and resolved in 30 minutes with commercial breaks, but that’s just fiction. The only thing that marches on consistently, not giving a fuck about where you’re at in life, is time. So let that do the straight-line thing, cos nothing else in life or the state of your mental health is going to behave that way.

So take comfort. If you’re falling down just when you think you’re doing okay, you’re actually still doing okay. It’s just a bump. I swear on all the Gods that people believe in, and on all the laws of nature. You know how I know? Because I’m still here, and so are you, reading this and getting a headache, for which I apologise. Time has passed since you felt a hell of a lot worse, so you’ve got an advantage straight away. That’s how I judge my progress with this Shadow of mine. If I compared how I am now to how I was when I wrote the original post, there’s actually very little progress made. But fill in the space between with all that happened in my life (none of which is unique to me, we all grieve), then I realise how lucky I am that I’m still above ground. So onwards I march. I really hope you do too. But don’t do it alone. I had a treasure-trove of people around me, and that’s the only reason I’m able to sit and type this in any coherent form. Pretend you’re a friend asking you for help – would you be annoyed and tell them to feck off? Speaking from experience, it is incredibly profound and liberating to actually say the words “I’m not okay.” The dynamic that they set off can be, quite literally, life-saving. Get it done.

Oh, and one more thing: FUCK HOLLYWOOD HAPPY ENDINGS.