Tales of a full moon

Since it’s a full moon in our neck of the woods tomorrow, I figured I’d tell a bedtime story about some of the craziness I’ve seen first hand on the night of a full moon.

Years ago, I worked as a care assistant in a hospital, and I had the dubious honour of having a night shift during a full moon week. Yup, it’s what we in the family call ‘Jenny Luck.’ More on that to come in future blog posts, there’s too much under that heading to fit here! So anyway, there’s me, the only attendant on in an elderly male ward in the middle of the night, and the entire ward is going apeshit. Now maybe they all huddled together when the nurses were changing shifts and had a conference; thereby deciding that because one of them heard someone say it was a full moon, that they were going to have some fun. Hell, that’s what I’d do. However, they were bedbound for the most part, so unless they all had ESP or communicated using morse code by tapping on their bedpans, this craziness was for realsies.

Most of the night was like a bad babysitting job. You know the ones where you sit down to watch the dvd, and before the opening credits have finished you’ve changed the bedsheets twice and stopped a fight. It was never-ending. Every two seconds: “Nurse!! Nurse!!” Except they sent yours truly in to run the gauntlet of flying slippers and unreasonable demands. No point in telling the patients I wasn’t a nurse. THEY weren’t responsible for giving me a raise…

So come four in the morning, and all of us working that night were tearing our hair out. If they weren’t bed-bound, they got up for a wander. If they were lucid, they were flirting, bringing their A-Game in their best paisley-print pyjamas to the poor hassled nurses at the station. Actually, some of the not-so-lucid ones propped themselves up as if they were at their local drinking establishment, probably awestruck at all the lovely fine fillies that seemed to have descended on their pub. Giving us all the glad eye and winking like they’d won us at a county fair. Bless their polyester socks.

Five in the morning, and the most surreal moment of the night kicked off. From somewhere in the middle of the ward came an ear-splitting rattle of steel bedrails. My heart sank. It was my turn to go in and investigate. Operation Midget Frontline. Cheers. So I take a deep breath, put on my best ‘stern nurse’ voice, and march right into the ward…to be greeted by a man sitting bolt upright in the bed, wide-eyed, rattling the shite out of the sides of the bed (sometimes they’re put up to stop the less than clear-headed from getting up for a wander and forgetting that their legs don’t work – not the best way to find these things out really).

“What’s wrong, Paddy?” (In an Irish male geriatric ward, you are guaranteed at least 7 out of 10 patients’ names are a derivative of Patrick, so always try those first.)

He looked at me intensely.

“I can’t get it going..”

“Can’t get what going?” (I was curious, you never know what a full moon will yield up)

He looked at me like I was the one who was not-so-lucid, and pointed to the rails on his bed:

“This tractor.”

Bingo.

But the story doesn’t end there. Oh no. I had one of two choices. The first, tell him the truth about where he was, and deal with the upset and hysterics that would follow and distress the poor man unnecessarily, OR…..

“Paddy, look outside. It’s five o’ clock in the morning. Do you think your neighbours will appreciate you starting up your tractor this early?? On a WEEKEND?” (It was a Tuesday, but in for a penny, in for a pound.)

“I s’pose not..”

“There you go. So just go on back to sleep and I’ll call you later and we’ll sort the tractor out.”

“Grand so, Mary….zzzzZZZZZ”

I hope he got the tractor up and running at full volume the next night for the lovely nurses who let me do all the running that night. Wouldn’t want them to feel left out.

It’s been years since I played ‘Let’s Pretend’. I should do it more often.

Why don’t you just say what you ‘like’?

Now I’m the last person to give out about clogging up people’s home pages on Facebook, being guilty of it myself every single day without fail, but in my defense it’s at least from my own hand and not some website that just chucks out assorted ‘oh-so-true’ phrases. Every time I log on, at least ten people in my live feed are apparently hitting ‘like’ on these external pages on the basis that whatever phrase is being bandied about rings true…”Oh my God I SOOO think that as well lol”… *like*

Whatever happened to sitting down and writing something down yourself? More importantly, why do people do it? In all fairness, some of the statements are funny, but they’d be funnier if they came from the brain of the people who clicked on them. Do people think that by clicking ‘like’ on a sentence it’s as if they wrote it? Or is it in solidarity with the meaning behind it? Or as a friend said before, they’re probably the T-Shirt slogans of this cyber-fuelled generation.

Actually these pages could be onto something. Maybe I should throw in a few of my own…I’m quite fond of getting the odd ‘like’ here and there, but only for my own hard work. It would feel like plagiarism otherwise. Here goes:

“I will cross the street to avoid those charity muggers”

“I live in a sprawling metropolis where the fun never stops, LOL jk I’m from Kildimo”

“That moment where you’ve said something wrong and you try and catch the words back with your hands”

“When you get stuck in a dress and can’t get the zip down in the changing room and your friend has left the shop”

“That awkward moment where you’re acting like you’re busy on the phone to avoid someone and your phone ACTUALLY rings”

“Turning your friends’ phone back on ‘loud’ in a lecture then ringing them in the middle of class”

“Having a really good laugh and then snorting and sounding like an Orc”

“Trying to walk all sexy down onto the dancefloor and tripping, skidding on your arse the rest of the way down. Then not being able to stand back up as your shoe fell off and you can’t get back up on the other one because it’s too high, so your male friends have to try and help you get your shoe back on, Cinderella-style, because you’re blinded by the mortification of it all…all while getting a slow clap from the entire floor….ALL WHILE SOBER.”

That last one just came to me, pure inspiration..it never happened. Nope.

*like*

You’re as old as you think you are.

The other night, I was chatting to a friend of mine, and in the course of the conversation I realised with a shock that in less than a month I was going to be 32. My stomach dropped to my feet (which wasn’t very far cos I’m a shorty) as I said the number out loud again. 32. I think I paused dramatically and simply said “Fuck.” Then that person turned to me and asked: “But are you really going to be 32??” And my instant reply was “No way.”

It became clear to me that it wasn’t the number of years I’d spent on the planet that freaked me out – it was what the world I’d been living in expected me to have achieved with my life thus far that brought me down. So then I stopped and asked myself: Whose deadline am I following? And how is your age any reflection on your personality or your life plan?

Once I realised that I’m the only one who can set goals for my life plan, and that I reserve the right to change them if and when I please, things became a lot easier. Sure, every so often I wince a little when I see other ‘established’ thirty-somethings and the place they’re in in their lives. However, soon enough it becomes clear to me that I wouldn’t swap with them for all the tea in a Limerick woman’s kitchen. Because that life is fine for them, but it’s just not built for me.

Age isn’t a race. It’s not a barometer to gauge where you are in life versus where the world (or your parents or friends) think you should be. It’s a numerical representation of how long you’ve been alive on this lovely planet of ours. Now THAT’s worth celebrating and being grateful for.

I’m not going to be 32. I’m still going to be Jen, who happens to be reaching 32 years in existence on Earth in a few weeks. I don’t look my age, and I never plan to. I hang out with people who are interesting and dynamic and diverse in age, and I’ll sit and chat to anyone I feel a connection with. I’m a full-time student again and loving every minute of it. When I qualify and land myself an awesome teaching job, you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll still be playing on the tyre swing in Curraghchase with my equally insane friends on our time off. The only difference between that and when we were teens is that now we can drive ourselves there. Watch out world, We’re big kids with cars!!!

My mother the comedian..

A few years ago while living in Cork I was feeling a bit sorry for myself…(yes, I know, for a change, haw haw..) – lack of money, lack of love life, the usual, and sitting on the bus on the way in to work on a Sunday afternoon. I looked out and saw two winos sitting on a park bench holding hands. This only served to make me feel worse about my situation. So I texted my dear old Mom and said:

‘It’s a sad day when I look out a bus window and see that winos have a better love life than me.’

My Mom’s reply:

‘Stop looking out bus windows then.’

She’s a bit of a legend.

Me and My Shadow…

Unfairly once labelled the Poster Child for Depression..

I’d been debating for a while whether or not to write this particular blog, because there are some issues on which people can have very strong opinions one way or the other. Depression is one of those things. But I’m not here to offer statistics or scientific research and dazzle you with medical journal entries or pop-psychology pontificating. I just felt like writing a small piece about my own experience; purely personal, purely my own opinion, and you can make of it what you will.

I’ve battled with some form of depression or another for about 16 years now, but I didn’t actively seek help until I was around 23 after a particularly bad episode which resulted in me indulging in a fit of cutting my arms in a frenzy just to relieve the build-up of rage and frustration I felt at the situation. It had been a simple argument with someone, and other people looking at it would have maybe taken a walk, or simply just said “F**k off and stop bothering me” and made themselves a nice cuppa. My choosing a serrated-edge kitchen knife out of the drawer was a good indication that maybe my coping skills weren’t top-notch at that time in my life.

I wasn’t suicidal by any means, and anyone who is reading this and has been in the same situation knows that there (generally) is a huge difference between self-harm and genuinely wanting to end it all. Sometimes those who are suicidal will have been self-harming, but the reverse is not the case. Not all who self-harm want to kill themselves. Sometimes lines get blurred and tragedies happen, and I understand that. In my case I’m a stubborn gowlbag who has way too much to do and I know too many people who would willingly raise me back up for the sole purpose of kicking my supernatural ass if I ever did the unthinkable.

For me, the cutting was simply a physical and visual manifestation of the shit I was going through emotionally. I could look at my slashed-up arm and think “Finally I look like how I feel.” But I never wore the scars as badges of honour. There are people out there that do, and they bug the shit out of me. They’re in the same category as those halfwit kids who wear excerpts from Kurt Cobain’s suicide note printed on t-shirts. Yup, you’re right dude, nothing says more about your intellectual status like wearing the line “I hate myself and I want to die”. Idiots. But I digress.

Anyway, that type of incident for me was the last of its kind after someone very close to me verbally and emotionally shook the shit out of me. In what I like to call a ‘Limerick Intervention’, she force-fed me a large dose of Cop-On and threatened to cut me out of her life completely if I ever did it again. In an ironic twist thereafter, I feared for my personal safety if I ever even thought of doing such a thing again. It worked though, and I haven’t done it in 8 years. They should adopt this type of treatment in Hollywood. The results would be well worth a look.

Apart from that, depression itself is a very misunderstood and misused form of mental illness. It’s often used and bandied about as a cop-out in a lot of cases, or to excuse errant behaviour or justify laziness. It’s used by some people who are simply indulgent of a low mood swing, or by those who think it adds to their own inner or outer sense of mystique. I suppose they think sure if it’s good enough for Sylvia Plath then why not? Well, because she ended her own life face-down in an oven to end her misery, and you’re just listening to Morrissey and stirring up your own negative emotions to feel something other than bored.

For me, the whole idea of what depression is seems to be a mixed bag. Its root causes seem different for everyone. Brain chemistry is a factor, as are traumatic events, hereditary factors as well from what I understand. But like I said, I’m not a professional; I only know my own experience. I think mine was a combination of my brain chemistry, life events and the fact that my coping skills were not as well-developed as they needed to be. Funny thing is, I could always cope with the big things. Bereavement? Huge crisis? Break up? House burning down? Not a bother, let’s get down to the wire and sort these bad boys out. But fill out a stupid form or have a day where I have to do 2 or more different things in different places?? Somebody find me a burning house to deal with please..

Over the years, I’ve been on anti-depressants and also off them, done therapy and also gone it alone, hidden out in my house for months on end and also taken off every night and been anywhere BUT home. For me, the key is keeping my mind active. This blog certainly helps, even if right now you’re cursing the day I ever found the ability to type. Keeping in contact with friends is paramount. You can’t expect to sit around in your big depressed state sending out magic mind bullets in the hope that your entire Facebook friends list will come a-callin’ armed with HobNobs and Barry’s Tea. Send a text to someone close to you, tell them you feel rather shite and THEN demand they show up at your door with the HobNobs and Barry’s Tea.

I didn’t write this as a ‘Godhelpus’ kind of article, or to put myself forward as a spokesperson / martyr / pontificating do-gooder in the field of mental illness; I guess I just wanted to show that some of us live with a Shadow, but it’s not always the stereotypical image of a depressed person (hence the Eeyore pic). There’s a lot of us out there who laugh, dance, sing, go out, make lots of friends and have the time of our lives, but sometimes the world gets a little too much to deal with…