Monday, 8 November 2021
Hello, it's November
I've been thinking of you all a lot lately and wanted to check in. I couldn't really write this book without thinking of you - the people who will read it, and the people who are helping me to make it happen. I'm currently turning the first draft (60,000 words of absolute chaos haemorrhaged on to a page at various points over the last five years) into the second draft (an actual book with a structure and some coherence). I set a timer and write for 45 minutes every day and that gets me through a chapter a month.
I'm currently on chapter eleven, which is set in the mother and baby psychiatric unit during the spring of 2014. It's giving me feelings which are both vague and unnameable, and at times huge and profoundly uncomfortable. I don't know why. This is one of the nicest bits. People were kind to me there. It was the turning point at which things started to get better. I have cheerfully ploughed through a lot of awful stuff up to now and it hasn't affected me that much, I think partly because it feels like it happened to someone else. That might be a dissociative thing, but everything was so different then. I was so different then. It's a long way removed from me, now, typing away in my slippers whilst my enormous son is at school. Another lifetime.
Yet there are moments when the past is all too present. This book-writing process has been so immersive all year. It's never far from my thoughts. And it's process that I have to walk through alone: no one knows the material except me, no one can solve the problems that come up except me. I'm finding my way and working out what the story is, what to share and what to hold back. I'm telling this story, in full, for the first and last time, and then I feel I'll be able to leave it behind a bit and move on with my life. I want to use what has happened to reach other people, to speak with them, and to forge a meaningful contribution. You're enabling me to do that and I really can't thank you enough.
This week, though, I'm so exhausted. I'm trying to trace the origins of this bone-deep tiredness, this constantly fantasising about burying my face in a duvet while instead I must keep flaying myself onward. It's part trauma-mining, part trauma-processing, part long covid... and partly it's the fact that my work life is currently completely unsustainable. This wasn't supposed to happen but people kept extending my contracts, and now I work for Women's Health and Family Services on Mondays, the University of Manchester across Tuesdays and Wednesdays, back at WHFS on Thursdays, and Bliss on Fridays, and then there's freelance work to pack in around all of that. But my time at Bliss will expire next month (by the way, have you seen the young parents' research...?) and things should settle a bit over Christmas.
I hope this hasn't read like a moan-essay... I am feeling rather done in but that's not what I wrote to tell you about! I just wanted to say hi and thank you again and I hope you love this book. I am excited about it: right now its contents are a little secret that I'm hugging to myself and getting ready to share with you. In a sense, it's a book about me but really what I'm trying to do is to use the first person to write about things that are a lot bigger than me. I hope that they will resonate, and maybe you will see yourself in parts of this book. Maybe that's how we see each other.
Pay it forward