At first it was just little nudges, here and there.. Asking me ‘What about the house?’ ‘What about the money?‘.. ‘Did you tell D yet?’, as I put up the Christmas tree.
I ignored her, she wasn’t welcome, this wasn’t the right time.. No, she could surely leave me alone to enjoy this moment. She relents – but she waits, in the corner. She looks at me, into me, with narrowed eyes and I avoid her gaze for as long as I can.
I can feel her there, on Wednesday morning – so I confront her. With defiance I dial D’s number. I am going to tell him what the score is, and he is going to adhere, only it doesn’t go like that. We argue, and we argue with ferocity. I am yelling and screaming at him and he is bellowing back at me through the line. My ear is burning from the heat of the phone beside it and my free hand is flailing and thrashing around in the air as I try to articulate my argument.
He clicks off the line.
I put my hands to my face, I feel the venom dripping from my fangs as they retract. I am breathless, I am hoarse, I am overwhelmed. I was sure I had just made zero progress and caused maximum fucking damage. She rolls her eyes at me in the corner, she knew I’d fuck up, and she was more than ready to help me feel horrific about it for just as long as I needed. She sways in the corner, I bat her off when she approaches. Eryn wakes and I sigh, relieved. I look over at her, rocking excitedly back and forth in the corner, raring to go. I mouth “Not today” and I pull myself together. I turn my back on Anxiety.
This morning, I woke up with her. I felt her cold hands slide over me in bed. At the kitchen table as the boys eat breakfast, she is sat beside me, sat on me.
She has me wrapped in a unforgiving embrace and is kissing me tenderly, on the mouth. She is whispering in my ear, and I cannot turn away. Smirking, she presses herself against me as her words hiss and screech in my ears . I cover my face and beg her, silently, to leave me alone. My throat feels tight, my skin is on fire. I want to run, but where the fuck do I run to? She is winning.
I snap at everyone around me, she is so heavy to carry around and I am so tired. She must have snook into bed last night, it makes sense now. I slept so fleetingly as she plagued me with hindsight, with unnerving possibilities and worst-possible-outcomes. She mocked me for being so ‘stupid, and careless’ and I believed her.
No-one else hears her, just me. She likes to keep our relationship private. She likes to make sure that we are exclusive, so intricate are her methods, that if I do tell anyone, they will discard it. Everyone has worries, don’t they? Everyone has fears? Why on earth should mine be noteworthy?
She has a good point. Who gives a fucking shit? I mean, really?
Because on the exterior, it looks dandy, doesn’t it?
You’re in Sweden, land of affluence and equality. You’re catered for, for the most part, financially. You have a house, your husband has a car. You have two healthy, beautiful children. You have electricity, food, water. You have your physical health. You are so lucky, so, so lucky.
The part they leave out is that yes, you’re catered for financially and that you hate it. You love it, and you absolutely fucking hate it. They forget to mention, you have no bank account in Sweden, merely a dwindling British one with funds your nan slides across on the low to make you feel more independent, less of a leech.
You watch as daily the fibres of who you were, who you are, undo. That with each day that passes you are thought about less at home and recognised no more here in Sweden. You are floating. Existing, not living. And you are fucking exhausted.
Yes, we have a house. We have a lovely house, that we rent. Does it keep us warm and safe? Does it provide shelter for me and my children, are we lucky to be able to afford it? Obviously and for that we are blessed. So then why would you ever consider the house might function as a make-shift prison? Why would you ever think it might be the only place I feel I can breathe, away from the rush of incomprehensible voices, away from the finely dressed, regular fucking people that live and exist all around me?
Whats next…..Ah yes, we have a car.
We have a merc, a car that is a good few sizes bigger than mine.. Or should I say, mine was. The one I gave away, for pennies, because I was desperate. It is inevitably my husbands car, and as such it is gone from the house for upwards of ten hours a day. It permits me to drive, after six months plus of absence, on the wrong side of the road. The car has that feel of pseudo-freedom about it. Where the fuck do you drive, when you have nowhere to go? Do you consider how it might feel, having no friends or family to visit? No familiar faces to drop in on, no-one to affectionately bounce Eryn while you make a cup of tea for you and them. To pet their dog/s, and talk about the news? How it might feel to stand in the middle of a supermarket, hear little conversations among people that you can’t relate to, you can’t even eavesdrop, it is just noise. So much noise.
Lets move on to my children. My beautiful, amazing children. They are stunning to place your eyes upon and have such wonderful natures about them. They both smile almost constantly, and exude joy. So then, what could they ever bring me other than happiness? Why do I need to worry about them in such a fan-fucking-tastic place?
You must not have experienced leaving your child at six, who is clutching you tight, within a sea of voices neither of you understand. He looks to you for reassurance and you use he same, tired pigeon Swedish phrases that you’ve learned, to make him feel better. You cannot, if you are judging me, understand how wrenching it is to wonder every time you walk home from the school run, if you’re doing the right thing, does he deserve this? Am I being fair to my big lad?
Does he want to go home, would he tell me if he did? Is he okay, or is he just persevering because he wants to please me, to please P? Does he miss everyone, like me, and is he desperate for our life back? I wish he’d tell me, so I know I’m doing the right thing. I wish I could be honest with him, without making him insecure. I wish I could tell him that I want to go home, that I want our normality back. I’d tell him that I miss our time together on a Sunday afternoon, under the duvets, watching Batman with a bag full of sweets.
Do you consider the anxiety that a mother might feel, while they so completely are at a loss, sat rubbing her eyes at the kitchen table.. tired, worn. Constantly trying to figure out what is best for these two beautiful souls who so heavily rely on you doing the right fucking thing?
Can you imagine for a moment functioning properly after spending three months walled up in a house on an island, surrounded by negative energy..
Waking to slamming cupboard doors, backhanded comments, food thrown in the bin. Have you considered how it might make someone feel, to have their inners ripped out and stomped on, not once, but several times a day? How it feels to be lied to, to be talked and whispered about, in your ‘home’? To be bullied, almost relentlessly some days, and have it witnessed by others who claim to love you, who did nothing to stop it, until you were a wreck?
To have someone tell you your identity is not legit? That being ‘British’ is poisonous, that you’re made of dirt. You are dirt. That you owe a whole other country a living, and that you, as a working-class-woman from Yorkshire, an impoverished place, owe it to your children to strive for more than Thomas Cook holidays and council estate life.
Do you see me now? Do you feel like you could maybe judge me less, now, support me more?
I decide to sit with anxiety a while, we drink coffee and cry to some sad songs. She becomes tired and she takes a nap on my shoulder. Her arms slacken from around my waist and I breathe deeply for the first time in twenty four hours. I move slowly, quietly, hoping she sleeps long enough for me to function, to get back into the real world for when Eryn wakes from her nap.
As I make some toast, Anxiety stirs and opens one eye. I usher her back to sleep. I boil the kettle again and I sip my tea in silence..
I press the cup against my lip, inhale deeply and pray she eventually finds someone else to keep company, before I break.