On Monday, I was interviewed for an internal post. As you all know, the roles in my team were made redundant earlier this month as part of an organisational re-structure. And as part of that exercise, all of us had to go through the ignominy of re-applying for our posts. Many of my colleagues took the redundancy package instead.

My package is comparatively small, so I opted for re-deployment, and on Monday, found myself sitting before a panel of three, two of whom know me well enough, and I gave an adrenaline-soaked performance that left me shivering and high by the end. Continue reading


“Mummy doesn’t like me”



She didn’t say sorry. She never says sorry. She hurt my feelings. Mummy doesn’t like me. 

Poor Rosie. She is standing by the oil heater again, muttering a tearful monologue. I’m dead. I’m a spirit now. You don’t have a child any more… Are you sad? Are you sad that I’m dead?

When I say I am sad, she says: You’re not. You don’t want a child. You don’t like me. When I say I love her, she says I don’t. I’m dead, she repeats. When I protest that she isn’t really dead, because the dead don’t usually speak, she simply says: I’m dead.

The catalyst for this behaviour can be anything really. This morning, there are a series of meltdowns that begin with underpants – pouffy underpants, I should add –  in which she rages that the underpants are bothering her, followed by an extended   lament over her vest (You have to pull it down. You’re talking. SO YOU HAVE TO PULL IT DOWN AGAIN.) She wants me to tuck in her vest but she is sitting down. I mime to her  to stand up (since I’m not allowed to speak to her while she dresses), but she decides this is a game and wastes several minutes going limp as I try to hold her up in a standing position.

Eventually, we get her school uniform on, vest and all, but we don’t get out the door until I have pulled down her vest and shirt another six times to straighten it out under her pinafore. The blood is finally shooting up to my temples now and it is taking a lot of heavy breathing (I try not to breathe too loudly for fear that this, too, may constitute talking) to keep me from exploding.

But when we get out the door and she demands that I pull her shirt down again, I lose it and shout: You are going on the late register AGAIN!!!

Of course this unleashes a barrage of tears and some very public tantrumming on Rosie’s part. My neighbours are staring and I am mortified, but they have seen me in nuclear mode with Rosie, too, so I now figure they have me down as some social services nightmare. I am dismayed.

I spend the rest of the day asking myself why I always revert to type and shout, when I know this will do nothing to help Rosie. And when I get her back home, she starts again – shouting and screaming at me without warning, demanding that I help her remove her sweatshirt NOW. RIGHT NOW!

I don’t shout at her. I just tell her she is behaving badly, that I am trying to get her dinner ready and that I will be with her in a minute. When she throws herself on the kitchen floor, I ignore her. She calms down after a little while and by the time we finish dinner, we are back to being friends.

Until the morning comes and the lines are drawn again.


Managing my anger

Today, I had my first psychology session at our local NHS drug and alcohol service. Sara, Ben’s previous key worker, had managed to do a few constructive things before she left. I’d asked her several times whether it would be possible for me to get some support from the service, and after checking with management, my request was accepted. It took about four months of waiting, but I got it in the end.

My psychologist, Elisa, is young, probably half my age. I feel vaguely ridiculous blurting out my problems to this demi-child. She has a rose ring and black lace-up army boots. She reminds me of me when I was that age (minus the nose ring). She looks like she should be pulling pints in a grunge bar, rather than sitting across from me, listening to me complain about having to clean up Ben’s vomit.

After five minutes of inchoate rambling, I finally tell her what I’ve rehearsed for so long – that my objectives in accessing this treatment are:

  1. having a safe place to unload my stress
  2. diffusing my perpetual state of rage
  3. accepting that alcoholism is a disease and not a choice (my rational mind knows this, but my heart won’t accept it).

I tell her that just before my session, Ben rang me to say that I should be open ‘about us’. He meant that I should accept partial blame for his condition – that if I didn’t recognise this, then there was no point. I tell her that I do accept partial blame – that I recognise how damaging it can be to live with someone who is hyper-critical (that’s me – hyper-critical – of myself and everyone and everything around me).

But I also say that he was drinking before he met me. That he has always been alcohol dependent, and that it is unfair to lay the blame entirely on me. I tell her a lot of other things I didn’t expect to tell her – a tale of neglect and intense loneliness (mine). And darting below all this, like a ravenous shark, my anger.

It is always there, ready to burst and consume us all. Sometimes, I think my temper will set me alight. I imagine immolating myself on the pyre of my own rage. This is the image I carry around with me every day. The thing that makes me tremble when I’m trying to get everything organised and ready in the morning. The thing that drives me up that hill again and again when I’m running (sprint up, jog down backwards, again and again and again). The thing that sends my pressure along with my volume to the top of the scale.

It is a long hour. Just 35 minutes into the session, I think I’ve already exceeded my time. By the end, I’m exhausted, but a little lighter. I make another promise to myself, to Rosie, even to Ben, that I will find a way to check my anger, find a way to  manage and channel it, regardless of its causes.


Every day I make a mental note to ring Ben from work. I do it to:

  1. check up on him
  2. make sure he speaks to someone other than himself during the course of the day.

I do it in the belief that time spent speaking to me is time spent not drinking. But every time I ring him, I ask him whether he has been drinking. And when he says he hasn’t, I accuse him of lying.

I know this isn’t the way to do things. I’ve spoken to the folks at Al-Anon who say that I need to let go and simply trust that things will improve. From time to time, I manage to do this, but all too often, I don’t.

Ben spent the entire Easter weekend on the couch, shaking like someone with advanced Parkinsons, throwing up water and anything else he tried to consume. Yesterday, I woke to find the bathtub caked in vomit. If it isn’t vomit, it’s faeces. If it isn’t faeces, it’s blood. And each time I’ve had to clean it up, wherever I’ve found it.

I went mad. I didn’t care that he was lying on the couch sweating. I didn’t care that Rosie was crying because she thought I was angry at her. I just kept shouting, filling the flat up with my vitriol.

I don’t know how many times I’ve had to apologise to her, explaining that it isn’t her, that I just get angry sometimes because I have too much to do all the time. I wonder how many times I will do this and when she will stop believing me, even though I’m telling the truth.

Today, I picked Rosie up from her child minder after work. We wandered through the park. She climbed the trees in front of our building. When we got inside, the kitchen was exactly as I’d left it: dishes in the sink, no attempt at dinner, flat still a mess. Ben was crashed out on the couch, exuding that noxious beer odour. And then Rosie refused to wash her hands with soap.

I sent her to the corner. She refused. I shouted. And even as I was doing it, I knew that I was angry at him, that I was punishing her because I couldn’t punish him. It’s all so obvious – a grotesque cliché – and I can’t seem to extricate myself from its boring predictability.

How to control the rage? Count? I can’t even breathe at these times. All I want to do is lie down in the road and let the cars run the rage right out of me. I don’t, for Rosie’s sake. But for her sake (and mine – even Ben’s) I need to find a way to check my anger.

Maybe this is one way of exorcising it.