Lost and found


So it’s true, then.

Time really does accelerate as you enter the latter decades of your life. Standing here, on the other side of grief and trauma, I’m sucked deeper and faster into the mundane: a relentless flush down a very slick s-bend.  Continue reading


Sometimes I feel like sticking my foot in front of a car, just to feel the crush of its tyres against my bones

Old Shoe by George Hodan (c) George Hodan

I stand at the intersection, waiting for the light to change. A car comes towards me. I hesitate. For a split-second I want to step forward. I imagine myself doing this: putting my foot out as if to trip the oncoming car.  Continue reading

Digging shelters

A few days ago I had my last session with my therapist. She’s moving to another clinic, and I’m not the same person I was just over a year ago, so my need for therapy has come to a natural end. Back then, I was suffering from a form of post-traumatic stress disorder. I was anxious, depressed, distraught, desperate. That gave way to anger and more anger, followed by months of flashbacks and panic attacks. Continue reading


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

A cat’s claws sink into my heart

My heart is a songbird in the paws of a cat. Pawed, batted and pawed again until the neck snaps and the song dies.

Today, while helping Rosie in the shower, I hear the front door open. I dash to the landing and peer down, expecting to see Ben slumped against the wall or staring up wide-eyed from the bottom of the staircase.

I haven’t seen Ben for some six or seven weeks, but the slap of the latch against the door jamb slits open my chest, leaving my heart vulnerable to a malicious and predatory cat. Left, right and up, my heart is pinched between its claws for an interminable 30 seconds.

I look down the stairwell. There is no one there. (Paws relax, my heart is my own again.) The door had been blown open after I’d inadvertently left it unlocked.

This is not the first time this has happened. You will recall, several days back, how I went into a panic just because I couldn’t get through to Ben at the rehab centre. And last night, I thought he’d left the centre and come home (false alarm again; it was the neighbours).

Ben is free to go out on his own from the day after tomorrow, I think. Realistically, that must mean weekends. I don’t know because no one there will tell me anything. The only advice I have been given so far is to attend a family group at 9.40 on a Saturday morning. Given Rosie has a music class at just that time, and given it takes us 2 hours to get to the centre, the family group is not really viable for us. Centre staff have not bothered to offer an alternative.

I have reiterated to Ben that I don’t want him to visit us at home. I can’t face him coming up those stairs again. I can’t actually face having him in this flat. At least, not yet.

Rosie is struck by her own worries. ‘When will daddy come back?’ she continually asks me, before saying, ‘But he might start drinking “coffee” again.’ She is just as anxious about him returning as I am.

Any illusion I might have been spinning for myself about resuming a relationship with Ben is just that. As soon as the familiar signs of his possible return announce themselves unexpectedly, I recoil. I panic.

The answer to this whole mess seems so obvious. But obvious though it may be, it is also a tricky answer, an answer fraught with difficulty.

I have one week before I see him again. Ironically, the day we are meeting just happens to be our wedding anniversary. He has not remarked on it and neither will I. I have never been good at remembering our anniversary. I think this one is our sixth.

Anyway, next Saturday, we meet for the first time in about two months. It is bound to be awkward. I imagine I’ll be holding my breath, holding on to Rosie, ready to side-step that sharp-nailed cat.

An irrational fear of being doorstepped by my husband

Earlier tonight, I ring Ben at the rehab centre in South London. Rosie is getting ready for bed and I assume Ben might want to say goodnight to her.

He usually does. He’s been ringing us twice or three times a day since we arrived. He rings and hangs up – a cue for me to ring him back since he doesn’t have a phone card to make outgoing calls. Today, he hasn’t rung because I’ve been at work.

So, I ring and ask for him, as usual. Then the lady who answers the phone  says she can’t find him. “He may have gone out with one of the peers to a meeting,” she says. That would be an AA meeting.

A couple of things about this exchange alarm me.

  1. That she can’t find him.
  2. That she doesn’t actually know where he is.

How, I wonder, does all this work? He’s been in rehab for two weeks. I know he’s not locked in, but they are pretty strict there. I presume that they have some kind of system in place to keep track of clients. So, how is it possible that staff don’t know where he is?

About an hour later, I watch a bus go by in the darkness. Passengers appear suspended in strips of yellow light. A dragonfly whirs in my stomach, forces its way up my throat. Any minute, Ben will stumble off the bus and onto my doorstep. Any minute, he will be back in this flat, on the futon, in my head.

He’s already in my head.

Three buses have stopped outside our home. Each time, I revert to the same reflexive twitch of the blinds, the same wild-eyed search for his familiar figure sloping down the drive.

But he doesn’t come.

I hope he is still at the rehab centre. I hope he is safely in bed, reading, or doing mundane chores. I hope he is talking and not drinking somewhere.

My fear isn’t entirely irrational. Last night, we had a long talk on the phone. He told me that he would be permitted out on his own for short visits after a month, and said he would visit at the weekends. “I don’t like the sound of that,” I blurted, before I could temper my words. Later, I told him the thought of him coming back here so soon filled me with dread. I said it would be too hard. He offered to meet at the centre instead.

Eventually, I suggested he speak to his key worker about the possibility that he may not be able to come back here at all after he comes out. I was trying to break it to him gently, but he asked me whether I had any other thoughts “bubbling up”, so I came out and said it. I told him I thought we should separate and that I felt I needed him to be clean for at least a year before I could consider us getting back together again.

He didn’t disagree. In fact, he sounded perfectly rational. He said he understood that I was probably fed up, but that he thought we might try counselling. He said it was obviously “disappointing”. I said I hoped for so many things, but that so many of those hopes were unrealistic. “We have to be realistic,” he sighed.

So, I am lying when I say I rang Ben so he could say goodnight to Rosie. Really, I rang to find out how he was, because I never intended to tell him these things over the phone, at this vulnerable point in his treatment.

Now, each bus that drones by is filled with portent. Each creak and shuffle downstairs hatches one dragonfly after another in my belly, until they swarm up into my lungs, blocking out the air, blinding me from sleep.

Just now, I flicked the button on the deadbolt to the front door. With that engaged, it is impossible for anyone to unlock the door from the outside.

Now I know for sure he won’t come. Not inside, anyway.