Adventures in the female reproductive cycle. 

This is going to sound, potentially, very stupid and young of me, but having been on fairly heavy-duty contraception since the age of fifteen and finding that the NHS’ new brand of it did NOT work for me (#bringbackimplanon), I am only just coming to terms with my cycle. Sort-of.
I still don’t get periods. That was one of the things I looked for when I was browsing through new contraceptives – I know there are people who think that being in touch with femininity means embracing Mother Nature’s gift, but honestly I’ll take clean sheets and nice knickers above some kind of witchy holistic version of womanhood any day. This means that for years I have been defining my womanhood in other ways – in the way that I look, dress, paint my face, as well as my association with feminism and feminist literature and subcultures that are built around women (like pinup) and consider my period an inconvenience rather than any kind of marker of adulthood, femininity or shared burden.
What my new contraception HAS thrown up is a hormonal cycle that is evident in my skin, eating habits and mood. It wasn’t obvious I was moody or depressed because my body was premenstrual but my uterus wasn’t, nor was it obvious that my skin was bad for any specific reason. It is only in the third or so month of this cycle I have realised that my skin has gone fine-fine-radiant-craterface on a week-by-week basis for three months now, and that the craterface period is accompanied by sugar cravings. Frankly, I had thought it was the other way round: my demand for cake had resulted in the pockmarks my face deserved, and once I managed to rein it in (or – not want it as badly) my face went back to normal. But, as we know, correlation is not causation, and by this stage I think it is more likely that my hormones are playing havoc with my face and I will be able to predict these semi frequent breakouts but not do an awful lot about them. A shame, really, as lovely skin was the other effect I sought in a long-acting reversible contraceptive.
The grouchiness is fascinating. This is the famed wandering uterus that women have been oppressed for for aeons! Finally, I too can become too irrational to do my job, incapable of debate online and indecisive about everything! I look forward to seeing the burden my sisters have carried this many years!

I have been a bit more crabby.

I know that not all women experience biology in the same way, and I know I have been a /little/ more than a bit crabby (sarcasm probably helps me in my job, though), but I did not experience it being a big deal. I haven’t cried, haven’t panicked, haven’t expressed a deathwish towards anyone I wouldn’t have done so anyway whilst hormonal. I remain capable of rational thought and capable of holding a position of responsibility.
All in all, if I could reverse my biology in the medium term I would, and I completely understand the decision of people who don’t want children to remove themselves from female reproductive biology permanently. I do want children (in the long term), but until then I want to go about living my life and not bleeding on things or being accused of hysteria when really, it’s a bit of an inconvenience.

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Thunder only happens when it’s raining (Freudian Shit)

I have been having very strange dreams recently. Bad dreams, but I don’t know if you can call them nightmares. Usually my nightmares are completely debilitating, strange, and focused on images or aesthetic, and I wake up sweating and in need of reassurance. These dreams are taking aspects of my life that can never meet and mashing them together to create an unnerving experience, and confusing me between the real and the unreal. I am waking up disoriented. Last night, I dreamt that my headteacher wanted to see me after school, but my boyfriend came to pick me up for date night and insisted I could see him after – we ended up wandering through my school to a colleague’s office. In addition, something happened to another member of staff which confused me greatly when I saw her and she was jolly this morning, and I had to search my mind to remember that it happened in a dream.

I hardly ever remember my dreams properly, except for nightmares (because of the way they wake me up), so this is all very new to me and very unnerving. My disorientation has been lasting too far into the morning – thank god I work with children and have a mask I wear in front of them anyway! It’s the children who tend to shake me out of it – by having to pretend to be my hunky dory perky self I slowly become her, and the dreams become last night’s problem. Although one of my students did say I look tired today… and it has been making me sluggish, and distracted.

When I was a teenager we became obsessed with online dream dictionaries, and each morning my friends and I would search for some symbol which had been there in last night’s dream. Mine were always deeply specific – not just a snake, but a snake in a glass case with an apple in its mouth, or some other thing which wasn’t there – and darker than my friends’. No joining ginger pirates on adventures for me! As such, I’m a little sceptical of Freudian dream analysis. I can well believe that dreams are the guardians of our subconscious, and that they are the key to understanding our worries. But I don’t believe these symbols can be the same for everyone – how can my experiences lead me to have a cake symbolise the same things as it would to a German scientist 100 years ago? How can teeth be the same thing to me as to my friend? And what does it mean when my dreams are no longer symbolic, but linear? The pseudo-Freud that all of this simplistic dream analysis falls apart, surely. But since I can’t afford to see a proper analyst on the regular, one who knows I’m obsessed with having white, straight teeth and have a crippling spider phobia, shit Freud will have to do.

To-Do

  • Finish introduction to Eagleton’s ‘Ideology of Aesthetics’.
  • Pick crap up off bedroom floor.
  • Write a poem.

For those people who were worried about the throbbing vein in my eye.

I do not have diabetes! I am not dying! I have not developed psychosomatic eye problems! I have early signs of optic nerve inflammation, a 90% chance of that not developing, and a stronger glasses prescription in the bad eye. She also recommended I get computer lenses –  admittedly whilst telling me all about the medical community debate about whether they actually work or not – because of the strain I’m putting my eyes under and because I don’t need them for distances.

I’m actually quite glad about this – it proves that I a) did the right thing by choosing the optician rather than my GP. They did several tests on their fancy machines and she instantly knew the symptoms and the recommendations for if my symptoms worsen (actually saying go straight to the eye hospital if so, which is concerning). They’re having me back in a week for one more test. It also proves that b) I am not imagining things, my mind is not creating bigger problems than the ones that already exist (this is a BIG load off my mind – I do not need to be seeing spiders where there are none again) and I can trust myself to take my actual symptoms of my actual problems to professionals, who can actually help me work them out. In actuality.

I’m not thrilled that I have to get new glasses – not only is it expensive (even for cheap ones), it’s a shame to get new frames as I currently have two pairs of cute, vintage-y tortoiseshell ones that everybody seems to like. I was quoted £110 to have these ones re-lensed by Optical Express, which seems frankly excessive, but may have it done by an online-only company (as if they can’t do it cheaper from a warehouse not in London and mail them back).

I’d also like to say a big thank-you to my Englishness, as the eye test was free (thanks Martin Lewis Money Saving Expert Dot Com) and I doubt I would have gone had it been necessary to shell out for it. God knows how anybody in America is diagnosed with anything, and my sympathies as it only gets worse for young people and ordinary working people and anyone who isn’t a very rich white man or Ben Carson.

Basically, hooray for no diabetes! Although, I am currently drinking my first Starbucks in about a century, and if they get their way I will definitely be diabetic soon. #sugarcoma

(My new look? Vote for your fave.)

To-Do:

  • Proof-read and primp Modernism essay
  • Persuade everyone I know to listen to You Must Remember This
  • Buy the Lush face mask that will get rid of my gross zit face (according to the lady on the Nars counter)

Anxiety is beginning to make me feel sick.

I will not have this, not right now.

I’m not going to accept having to ‘eat over’ the pit in my stomach that tells me I’m not hungry, feel sick, don’t need water.

I’m not going to accept my body’s craving junk food.

I’m not going to accept the overwhelming urge to go straight home to sleep after work.

I’m not going to accept that I don’t care about my job, because I do. I’m not going to accept that I care about all of the irrelevant things, because I don’t.

I’m not going to accept the urge to shout at people, because I don’t actually want that.

I’m not going to accept the urge to not speak to anybody, because I will be energised by their encouragement.

I’m not going to accept that I can’t take the pressures of life, because I can. I’ve done this all before.

I’m not going to accept that this is me.

To Do:

  • Finish essay 1
  • Watch The Love Witch
  • Eat food

Contemporary poets, horoscopes and therapy.

This is just a brief thanks to Melissa Broder (@sosadtoday, writer of poems, psychologically unwell person) for making my horoscope echo what my therapist said to me. I don’t believe in horoscopes, and I don’t think we should encourage them, but ya know. Thanks for this.

SCORPIO
(October 23 to November 21)
What’s the oldest tape you play in your head? You will know it’s a tape if it’s something you hear constantly about what you are doing wrong, the ways in which you will not succeed, and how you are unfit for one thing or another. Other cute tapes include the way things should or shouldn’t be done in the world and “right” ways to live. I’m not telling you to eject the tape. But listen closely so you at least know what it is.

Have I actually developed neuralgia, though?

Underneath my left eye I have developed a twitching pain spasm. My eyes are not bloodshot or particularly watery, I haven’t got a bruise or done anything to it, it goes away for hours at a time and because of all these things it is deeply worrying to me.

I don’t usually google my symptoms, but I had to this time because I was genuinely unsure whether to go to the doctor or not. Can you legitimately turn up at a doctor’s office and say “I have a pain, sometimes, that seems to have no effect on my life and appears to be caused by nothing? By the way, I am a diagnosed sufferer of anxiety and depression, so it all might be in my head.” Apparently I probably have diabetes, multiple sclerosis or shingles – which is surprising, since the internet usually tells you that you have cancer. I was all ready to ignore cancer and read the other stuff, but it turns out you don’t have shooting face pains for no reason, and that they’re right about it usually being the left side.

I am sort of refusing to accept that it is anything. I believe it to be psychosomatic until it hits me, when I am convinced I have some kind of grotesque infection that will result in me losing an eye. Sometimes I think there is a tapeworm living in my eye and eating it from the back, but even when I think this I know it is ridiculous. I don’t want to go to the doctor about it – what will I do if it’s nothing and I have to just live with it? What will I do if it’s something and I have to deal with it? I have decided an appropriate compromise is to go to the optician’s. I don’t need new glasses so they’d better not tell me that my prescription has changed, but at least I can be sure they will take an x-ray of my eye before they tell me to go away.

Anyway, here is a beautiful play about health and love and possibility and the futility of human life. I saw it in London with Louise Brealey and Joe Armstrong, and it is truly wonderful.

Meet Josie Benitez.

Last night was my last session of therapy, for the time. Hallelujah, I am cured! Freed from my demon mind!

Yeah, as if it works like that. It’s just that NHS psychotherapy services (which I am INCREDIBLY GRATEFUL for, don’t get me wrong) are seriously underfunded and understaffed, and I was only allocated six sessions of talking therapy because that’s all there is. If I want to continue I will either have to pay, or visit my GP to try and cadge six more free sessions (which will be my LAST allocation of free sessions). And I think I do want – need – to continue.

Yesterday was a really difficult session. Normally* I walk into therapy trepidatious and out again with a lightness in my step, but yesterday I got the bus home whilst seriously turning over the implications of the session in my mind. I’ll spare you the details (this is a blog, not the fucking Eat, Pray, Love manuscript), but it was a big revelation which connected several of the themes I have talked about: my anxiety is because I don’t think I’m good enough. Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? But it’s so, so complicated: bourne from the dichotomies in my personality and what society expects of me is a deep-rooted and complex anxiety that I need to be better, which I justify by being obsessively ‘rational’. It’s a really difficult thing for me to admit, to articulate; it’s going to be even more difficult to get over being so hard on myself.

The biggest thing to come out of this whole course of counselling is the suggestion** my therapist made that I ought to name the niggle in the back of my head, the voice that tells me any aspect of myself is insufficient, so: meet Josie Benitez.

It was surprisingly easy to think of the name. When I was much, much younger, and I had just begun to seriously write songs and poems** I signed them with a flourish of a signature that was not my name: Josie Benitez. I liked it in italic, beginning with a large J and ending with a long-tailed Z. Josie Benitez wrote the lyrics to two albums and illustrated them with stylistic stickman drawings. Josie Benitez was a wannabe, wanting to be famous, older, prettier, edgier, appealing in some undefined way. She wrote about drug abuse and had a MySpace page where she claimed to be from Vegas and put up a capella songs (she was friends with Katrina and The Waves, Jefferson Starship and Alt-J and coded her own profile. I miss MySpace). I chose her as the name for my demon inner voice because she is part of me. Josie wants the same things I do, but bigger, and more populist. Back in those days she had my handwriting, but neater; she had my singing voice, but better, because she practised (in the bathroom, in case my parents came home). I picked the name then because it sounded glamorous and exotic and like somebody I wasn’t. I picked the name now so that every time ‘her’ voice comes into my mind, I can tell myself that I am enough. I am.

Do therapists have to make you cry before they feel successful? Do they have to make you so shocked at your own thoughts and feelings that you break down? Is that a stage of Jungian analysis? If it is, I’m nearly there. In my last session I didn’t cry, but I was so agitated that I couldn’t keep my hands still or meet my therapist’s eye until the end.
To-do:

  • Move Hive.com items from basket to wishlist. You cannot spend £600 on books and Mighty Boosh DVDs.
  • Go swimming on Friday night, in what was the therapy timeslot
  • Clean makeup brushes!!

*historically? since it’s over now

** it wasn’t a suggestion, it was basically a command, but friendlier

***I wrote my first song at six years old, and consistently wrote short stories and the beginnings of play and film scripts all through my childhood. At the time I’m talking about, I’m probably about fourteen.