One Year Later

This exact time last year, I was unconscious on the operating table.

This time last year I had spent the first month of my child’s school life trying not to cry on the walk to school or whilst sitting on the classroom floor during ‘reading mornings’.

This time last year I winced every time I picked up my toddler

This time last year I was hoping to wake up from surgery with the possibility of more and less: more mobility, more energy, less pain and less painful exhaustion, less grumpiness with my children, less fear at getting through each day.

This time last year I was nervous about the 8 – 10 weeks of not being allowed to sit, stand, lift, twist or bend.

Is it possible to be hopeful and unconscious at the same time?

This exact time last year, I was unconscious on the operating table.

Fast forward one year. It’s been quite a year. I can walk without wincing. I can play without crying. I can find reserves of energy I did not have. The pain is still there, a lot of the time, but it is less, and it doesn’t hinder me in the same way. My 5 year old does not remember me using crutches. My 2 year old does not remember my limitations. These things are magic to me.

The fact that I still need to take my medication for several years, and the fact that I need to do over an hour’s physio every night to keep mobile, the fact that there are activities I have wiped from my brain as possible things to do feel difficult, but not impossible. I do not feel limited in the same way as I did before the surgery and before the pain management programme.

The ups and downs have been physical and emotional. Here’s to the next year. This year I feel hopeful without needing to be unconscious first.

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Are You There Child? It’s Me, Mummy

Does my 5 year old listen to me? Is she paying attention? Am I talking to myself? 

It gets very frustrating talking to her sometimes. She’s dancing around instead of listening. She starts talking to me about something completely different while I’m in the middle of saying something, to her. She walks away. She starts changing her clothes. She starts talking to someone else. She starts playing. She asks me a question while I am still answering her last question.  

Sometimes I am explaining something really, very, incredibly important and she just interrupts me.  Sometimes I roll my eyes. Sometimes I have to take a deep breath. Sometimes I tell her she’s being very rude. Sometimes I shout at her. Being ignored feels rubbish regardless of how old you are. 

And then a while later, sometimes weeks later, we’ll be talking and she refers to what I have said. Sometimes she raises an example I gave to help her understand what we’re saying. Sometimes she asks a question out of the blue almost quoting what I have said. 

How does she do that? When did she listen? When did she absorb and take it in? I didn’t notice. I shouted at her for not listening. 

It has made me think about learned behaviour. The signifiers we learn to give other people around us. The nodding, the acknowledgements, the questions. It is fascinating to me that a child doesn’t consider giving those signifiers, because to them it is obvious they are listening. And yet if I don’t give her those signifiers, she gets stressed with me. Does she learn to give those signifiers because I tell her to (she realises she gets shouted at less if she gives them), because she observes me giving them, or because she starts to notice her own feelings and responses and learns from them? 

I think I shall still continue to be amazed when she quotes me verbatim 2 months after she hasn’t listened to me. 

Not All Men.

Well it’s been quite the week for victim-blaming hasn’t it? Another week of people loudly proclaiming that sex offenders and abusers are not actually at fault for what they do, oh no. It’s the person who’s been attacked, abused or violated of course. 

Victim-blaming is a big thing when women are attacked. It always has been. Court cases (if it even gets that far) filled with questions about whether the victim was drinking, wearing make-up, wearing a short skirt, is a virgin etc. This isn’t news. The fact that women who are completely covered up, or that men get attacked too doesn’t seem to change this narrative. Logic doesn’t apply here, it’s all about ensuring women understand the do’s and don’t’s of “acceptable” behaviour. 

This week, the victim-blaming got louder for a moment, when half of twitter couldn’t stop screaming about Jennifer Lawrence. That she shouldn’t take photographs of herself that she isn’t prepared for the whole world to see. That it was a publicity stunt. That it would help her on the casting couch. That she is sexy, so she should ‘own it’. That it was worth it. Because apparently when you are famous, you are no longer allowed to have boundaries, be private or give consent. Because apparently when you are ‘hot’ then your distress is secondary to other people’s voyeurism. 

And then there were the responses to the people who wrote about this. When people pointed out this was abuse, or that you wouldn’t blame someone for online banking and yet we do for storing photos online, when people said ‘stop’, or painted the picture in the wider context of misogyny or the patriarchy and of men trying to silence women.

‘Not. All. Men’ came the immediate reply.

‘Not. All. Men’ yelped the men who considered themselves to be decent citizens.

‘Fuck you. Not all men’ shouted some adding extra abuse in a heartbeat. 

 

Not all men, we are repeatedly told, while being sold nail varnish that can stop us being raped. 

Not all men, we are told, while being sold hairy leggings to stop us being raped. 

Not all men, we are told while being given rape alarms for when we need to walk somewhere alone in the dark. 

Not all men, we are told, while being advised not to wear short skirts. Or get drunk. Or kiss anyone without wanting to sleep with them. 

Not all men, we are told, while being told that our mere presence in a bar, on the street, on a train, in a car park, could trigger any one of the bad men to lose control. And it will be our fault.

Not all men, we are told, while being told that the mere vision of us on our own private cameras could cause one of the bad men to go to extreme lengths to get those photos and can’t help but share them. And it will be our fault. 

And it may be a surprise to realise that in spite of this, we actually know that it’s not all men. We are aware that we can walk down the street without every male we walk past abusing us. That we can take a chance and try and meet a man on a date and see if we like each other. That we can go to work and have male colleagues with whom we might have a good conversation. but I don’t know a woman who hasn’t at some point been verbally or physically abused by a man. I don’t go out with my friends without us texting each other at the end of the night to let each other know we’re home safe. The majority of my friends will wince if told to ‘cheer up love’ by a random man in case he turns nasty. And here’s the thing – we don’t know if you are the nice guy, or the man who can’t control himself. We don’t know if you’re the guy to stay near in case something happens, or you’re the guy who will make something happen. 

So if your first reaction to learning how widespread verbal and physical abuse of women is, is ‘not all men!’, instead of ‘holy crap I had no idea!’ then you either need to challenge your response, or rethink your status as a nice guy, because screaming, or even calmly stating ‘not all men’ isn’t helping to change the reality that women get attacked, and then get blamed for it.