In the previous episode Mr D and I were troubled by exams (both Cost Centres under a cloud of studying) and employment worries (mostly Mr D). In spite of all this, and mostly because of it, we re-join the story just before their wedding anniversary.
This year we are celebrating in style, visiting the beautiful city of Amsterdam. I’ve never been and Mr D has only been on business trips. We pack in as many touristy things as possible, returning to our hotel room each night, footsore and giggling. No we didn’t partake of the ‘herbal’ cigarettes and foods… I think we managed to absorb some just by osmosis! I now know why Amsterdam is home to so many chip shops, each offering a mouth-watering variety of toppings! We definitely had the munchies!
Ticking off the Rijksmuseum, Dam Square, Canal Cruising, the Red Light District (and a show – naughty people!) and the Sex Museum (purely for research purposes, honestly!)
I decide that I will do a bucket list but in reverse. Let me explain my warped thinking. A traditional bucket list is one you prepare in advance and tick off as you complete each thing. My list, on the other hand, works like this. Do something new/bonkers or visit a new place for the first time, or revisit somewhere and do something completely new… add all of them to my list. This way there’s no disappointment at the end of the list when you look at the things you didn’t do/see. Well, I did warn you it was my type of list.
Letting loose my inner daredevil!
Spurred on by Amsterdam I decide my next novel experience will be zip wiring when we visit the Eden Project, Cornwall, England’s longest and fastest zip wire. In previous visits, I’ve seen so many other people of all ages, flying overhead with a mix of joy and excited fear. I want that feeling for me too. We are lucky with the weather, making the most of it by heading to our favourite beach, Watergate Bay for a spot of body surfing. I’ve yet to try my hand at standing on an actual board, preferring the short, body boards that require very little balance or coordination. The sea conditions are ideal for catching wave after wave back to the shoreline. Within minutes I lose myself in the waves, thrilled at the joy of being whooshed up the shore by a strong one. Whooshing (and the accompanying giggling) does not stop at the beach. I fulfil my promise to myself and book onto the zip-wire. There I am, orange-suited and helmeted up (my phone stuck to a holder on my helmet) waiting my turn, stomach rolling with anticipation and excitement.
Reaching speeds of around 60 mph, I’m soaring head first over the biomes, giggling and shouting ‘To infinity and beyond!’
What a rush. As I near the stop zone, the staff are there to make sure I come to a safe halt. Bugger! It was over too soon. I want to do that again!
The annual sting of leaving Cornwall to return home is somewhat lessened this year by the knowledge I have something else to look forward to, a trip to the Harry Potter Studios in Leavesden, courtesy of my kids. They know me so well and are prepared to have to haul me out at the end of the trip. Fortunately our family are huge fans so I’ll have plenty of time to wander round and visit the shops.
All these new and exciting experiences leave me feeling so positive and generally much more settled, even with Mr D’s employment future uncertain, that Dr Siskin and I agree that we will finish our weekly sessions in early October. Setting an end date allows any remaining issues time to make themselves known. Almost as if on cue, they do just that. The tinnitus is increasingly more irritating and I can mood-swing for Britain. One minute I can be joyfully singing along to the radio, the next second tears appear out of nowhere, dissolving my mascara as they cascade over my cheeks. Even I end up asking myself ‘what the heck was that all about?’ Mind you, a quick look at the calendar reminds me that we are approaching the Autumnal Equinox. For some, as yet, unknown reason (to me) I always seem to feel extra prickly and out of sorts around the equinox. Must be some long-forgotten survival behaviour!
At last, a change in fortune…
Along with the seasonal change comes a change in fortunes for Mr D. Having parted company with his previous employers (the double-crossing weasels!) he has a new job already, and they want him to start as soon as possible. He has negotiated a delay to the start date so we can go on our very first holiday away without children. Not just a week, but two whole weeks of Mr and Mrs D time! Look out Sri Lanka and the Maldives, we’re on our way. My bucket list is looking spectacular already. How excited am I? Beyond words. There’s just one tiny little issue, clothing. I have no clothing suitable for hot destinations. Everything I have is geared around camping in Britain! Scouring the shops and on-line sites doesn’t help much, unless I want to spend my entire holiday in a skimpy bikinin and beach wrap. Fine for the Maldives but not so good for visiting the temples of Sri Lanka. Still, I am reasonably creative and make the best of what I can find, packing light, well light for me!
Meanwhile, in the headology department (psychology to you), I have listened to the increasing complaints my body has created, and decided that October is too early for me to stop seeing Dr Siskin. With her approval (I could see that knowing look in her eye, the one that says I’ve mastered another life lesson) we agree to keep up the appointments until Christmas time. I use the holiday time to really chill out. It is amazing what two weeks away, unplugged from technology, can do for your mind. I am convinced that humans were never meant to be so inseparable from our little bits of technology; being contactable 24/7 is bad for our mental health. Enjoying each other’s company reminds both of us of the things that brought us together in the first place, and keep us together, even when we’re being battered by life events and perimenopause.
The down time is a real gift, allowing my mind to work on things in the background while I’m busy experiencing as many new and exciting things as possible. One big thing added to my bucket list is diving. Mr D can dive, learning while at university. I’m not the world’s most confident swimmer and hate being out of my depth. However, the combined efforts of Mr D and our dive instructor, meant that I was able to visit a coral reef up close and a few meters below the surface. I have a confession to make. It was mostly the dive instructor who got me down – him being a tall, buff, blonde South African chap with a dazzling smile. I’m such a sucker for a smile (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!)
On the long flight home, my subconscious, the bit that’s been doing some work in the background, pops up with an odd word. It is quite insistent that I do some research once home again – the word is ‘narcissist’. One of the benefits of seeing Dr Siskin, is that I’ve learned to trust this urge. Typing the word into a search engine shows up a number of associated search terms I could use, one of them being ‘narcissistic mother’. This is a momentous discovery for me. Whilst my mother does not fit all the criteria to be diagnosed with Narcissism, she displays many of the traits. It is the beginning of me understanding what drives my mother’s behaviour. Before I get too carried away with my theory I check it with Dr Siskin and I am right.
The way she (Mother) operates, is to always take me down a peg or two, particularly if I am feeling happy with myself or trying to honour my own boundaries. Her comments are designed to undermine my fragile self-confidence reducing me to a child once more. I have no intention of being ‘the child’ again. That poor child and her sister were subjected to physical punishments (accepted in those times, but traumatic nonetheless) and psychological distress, but were told that events did not happen how we remembered them. I believe the term is ‘gas lighting’. I remember being bullied at school. I remember telling mother about it. My sister remembers it all too, yet Mother denies all knowledge.
‘If only you’d told me, I would have done something about it.’she said when I tried to discuss my therapy with her. I felt sick to the core. Had I made all this up in my head?
Her statement made me doubt myself until I spoke with my sister. We know the truth. This is why I was bullied at school. This is why my relationship with food has been difficult. This is why I am seeing Dr Siskin now. None of it is my fault. We should have been loved unconditionally but we weren’t.
And so it begins, the rebuilding of my self-esteem, the rediscovery of me as a person, giving voice to my own needs and wants, setting my own boundaries.
This is the biggest lightbulb moment I’ve ever had. The turmoil of perimenopause and the associated physical symptoms are all tied up with my past. Suddenly I see so much of my life clearer than ever. I will not be a frightened child any more. I am willing to accept myself just as I am and I don’t mind if nobody else approves. I am buzzing with excitement and ready to take on the world again.
Next week’s episode (16) sees Cath join the dots, begin to take control of her perimenopause journey, turning into a perimenopausal warrior queen. Look out world! Cath’s got her big girl pants on!