Loopy, Lonely and Lost

Posts Tagged ‘childhood

Everybody has their moment of great opportunity in ife. If you happen to miss the one you care about, then everything else in life becomes eerily easy.

– Mostly Harmless, Douglas Adams.


This isn’t how it was supposed to be.

All children laugh when grown-ups say “these are the best times of your life”. Nobody wants to believe that that’s it – that predictable routine, acne and over-seriousness are the notable traits of the period of your life you’ll long for one day.

But the truth is that all the good things in my life happened before my eighteenth birthday. Read the rest of this entry »

They’ve been shouting again. Mum keeps crying and saying horrible things to Dad. She keeps saying she wants to go to the hospital, but every time he offers to take her, she shakes her head, all defiant, and says there’s no point. So I’ve gone upstairs, gone to bed early, and I fall asleep, curled up in the dark, pretending I can’t hear. I don’t want to hear.

Later, some time in the middle of the night, a hand on my shoulder. It’s my dad, lit by the light in the hallway. “Wake up, Laura. We’ve got to go to the hospital.” We’re too little to be left at home alone.

He helps me out of bed, tugging clothes on over my pyjamas. I rest my head on his shoulder and nearly fall asleep again. “Come on, Laura. I’m sorry about this.”

“Can I take a book?” I ask. I’m small enough for my dad to pick me up with one arm, but already old enough to be bored by all this. Already cynical enough to be thinking about how I’m going to keep myself entertained.

My brother appears at the doorway, pyjamas showing at the bottom of his trousers. I laugh at him. It’s okay to laugh, because this is fine. It’d be insensitive to call it an adventure, but look, it’s the middle of the night, and we’re dressed and going out.

We drive to the hospital, and the only sound I can hear over the engine is the sound of my mum crying. The roads are empty, and the sky is pitch black, and I have my book tucked under my arm.

Then, at A&E, after a discussion with the receptionist, it’s time to start waiting. The chairs are uncomfortable and my feet don’t touch the floor. My brother curls up in one seat; he can sleep anywhere. My mum sits there, bent double, face red and shining with tears, one hand holding so tight to my dad’s hand that it must be hurting him (I don’t like holding her hand when she’s ill – it’s always wet and snotty, and she grabs so hard – but I do sometimes. She asks me to, like it might make things better, and I’m a sucker for trying to solve problems).

I try to read. Taking the book was good planning – we’ve been here so many times before, and I know it’s boring. I feel a bit defensive, though – everyone in the waiting room keeps looking at her. She never has been able to suffer quietly, all gasping sobs and loud declarations of agony. I feel vaguely embarrassed, and a little bit guilty for that. It’s not her fault.

Eventually, we go through the doors, and there’s a bed for her. She sits on it and cries so hard, and we look for chairs to sit on. Doctors and nurses come and go, asking questions, doing tests. When they ask about the pain, it’s always “ten“.

We sit, and wait for things to get better.

Hospitals are alright, really. The thing I remember most about A&E is the colour scheme – the smooth cream of the walls, the weird patterns on the floor (the pink and green that will always make me think of hospitals). It’s a place of screaming and crying and awfulness, but I feel reasonably detached from it. I read my book, and if we’re there long enough, my dad gives my brother a few coins for the vending machine, and we get to have some sweets.

(Hospitals are better than doctors’ surgeries, anyway. I don’t like thinking about GPs. I don’t know the details – never will – but we change GP surgeries a lot. She falls out with them, I think. They think she’s faking it, or at least, she thinks they think it. And when she has the energy, and is well enough to think about someone other than herself, she has taken me there, to whichever doctor we’re registered with at the time.

If I cry, or get angry, or have an opinion, the shouting starts. She screams at me that I need to behave better, change my attitude, grow up, stop being a baby and an idiot. And when she’s not shouting, she’s talking in that serious voice she has. If I don’t stop acting like that, she’ll take me to the doctor. And they‘ll see me for what I really am. I’m a crazy bitch, and they’ll be able to tell. They’ll laugh at me, and lock me up, because that’s what I deserve.

In that time, I go through two phases: first, sheer horror. I don’t want to be locked up, and I swear that if they try, I’ll kick and scream and bite. She laughs at that, says that’ll make them want to put me in a hospital even more. [If it’s not the threat of hospital, it’s Social Services. “I’ll get social workers to take you away,” she says. “I can’t cope with you anymore. Maybe they can find someone who can.”] The second phase is where I give in. I start to believe her. I believe that I am weird and mental and wrong, and that when I get scared or upset, or when I argue with people, it’s because there’s something wrong with my head.

I approach her slowly, quietly, and say that I’ve changed my mind. I want to go to the doctor. I want them to make me better. I don’t want to ruin her life anymore. She laughs at me. It’s too late for that. She tells me I can’t be fixed. I cry again, and beg her. She doesn’t usually relent, but every now and then, she agrees, and takes me to the doctor. Sits there in the room with me and the GP, and watches with that triumphant look on her face [sometimes, I wish it could be just me and the doctor. I could be honest then, and they would tell me how to be a better person. But I can’t tell the truth with her looking at me like that, like she’s indulging my childish whim]. I mutter something about having headaches, and the doctors must think I’m wasting their time.

She takes me home, and tells me that maybe that will teach me not to be so silly.)

The doctors and the nurses smile at us, usually. They tell us what they’re doing, and ask what I’m reading.

Mum just keeps crying. She doesn’t think the people at A&E understand. She thinks they think she’s lying, faking her pain. So she cries and shouts and insists on tests and scans because she needs proof, she needs to make them understand.

I don’t understand, and I feel a bit embarrassed because the people at the hospital seem wary of her, as she snaps at them, and shouts, and tells them they’re shit at their jobs, and asks them to slice her open. It’s hard to know what to say in the face of all that pain and misery.

She keeps throwing up. I’ve become something of an expert at recognising her nauseous face and quickly passing the sick bowl. My brother leans over, disgusting little boy that he’s always been, and whispers to me, “it looks like mushy peas”.

I pull a face and kick him. “Don’t say that!”

A faint smile passes across my dad’s lips.

My mum sees it, and goes berserk. She says this isn’t a laughing matter, as if we ever thought it was, and sends my dad off to find someone, to pester them for test results, or more painkillers, or just something that looks like progress.

Sooner or later, they admit her. Pass her along to a ward, where the whole thing continues. Dad takes us home, and we get a few hours of sleep, before we have to get up for school. If people ask why I’m yawning, I don’t tell them. It doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that other people understand.

For a few weeks, then, things are different. I feel like my dad’s some sort of super-hero, balancing full-time work with raising two children, doing all the shopping and housework, and visiting my mum in hospital every single day.

Sometimes (really, quiet often), she ends up having surgery. Other times, they try to just change her treatment, but she soon gets pissed off with that. I’ve lost count of the number of times she’s discharged herself.

Sooner or later, she comes home. Maybe she feels a little better, maybe she doesn’t. It’s only a matter of time before it happens again.




I had to go to A&E with my mum today. It’s okay, she’s alright, and back at home. But every minute I was there, everything felt weird. I felt detached, like everything was a dream, or a vivid memory. I felt like I was living my childhood again.

When I was in Year 7, my form group did this thing, where you write your name on a piece of paper, and pass it to the person next to you. Then, with every piece of paper you get, you look at the name and write a complimentary word or phrase about that person, and pass it along. Eventually, your piece of paper comes back to you, and it’s covered in a list of all the good things about you.

There must have been 20-something ideas on that piece of paper. About half of them said some variation on “funny”, the other half “clever”.

Eleven years old and I’d already narrowed down my personality to two traits. And I was so sure of myself, back then. I glanced at the list, felt a little thrill that people had actually written anything at all, and then felt vaguely disappointed that no-one had said anything new. I hadn’t learnt anything about myself: the adjectives that people used to describe me were the adjectives people always used to describe me and, if I could be sure no-one was going to call me arrogant, they were the words I’d use to describe myself, too.

But still: at the time, and for years afterwards, it was enough. Maybe it would still be enough, if only it was true.

I don’t make people laugh anymore. I mean, sometimes they laugh at me, or out of pity, or because I’m churning out over-used old jokes in an attempt to avoid engaging with the conversation. But I don’t feel quick, or witty, and I don’t feel like anything I say is new or original or side-splittingly hilarious, like it used to feel back when I knew how to deal with people.

And today – it’s today now, already past midnight – I’m going to find out my degree results, and prove once and for all that “clever”‘s a misnomer too.

There were two good things about me, and they’ve faded away. I suppose that means that either I’m horrible, or I’m nothing.

Such a simple, two-dimensional personality, and it’s gone. What little character I had has faded away, and the empty shell that remains is hardly even human.

Every time I relax my mind, I see my death. Vivid and violent, myriad methods and endless, excruciating detail. Images bursting unwanted into my head, indelible traces etched on to my mind. I think my brain is probably trying to tell me something. Make a point.

I hear it loud and clear, of course. I don’t know what the immediate future will bring, but I know that if I decide to die, my absence will be an unimaginably small dent in the world. About the size of my presence.

I don’t know how old I am. I think, maybe, that’s because this isn’t, strictly speaking, a real memory. It’s an archetype, a platonic ideal. I can describe it as one occurrance, even if the exact words, the exact timeline, didn’t happen, because that saves me the trouble of casting back in my mind for every time, every distinction between one time and another. They’ve all blurred into one, anyway.

I think I might be about twelve. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted on: March 11, 2009

My parents don’t have any stories about my childhood. Perhaps there was something more important going on at the time.

They have plenty about my brother. I’ve heard them so many times now that I can repeat them as if I was there when the events happened, even the ones that happened before I was born. He was the typical little boy – cheeky and noisy and always saying and doing things that embarrassed our parents.

But me, I was different. Read the rest of this entry »


My name is Laura. I was once told that I have cyclothymia. This blog is mostly where I write about living as a person with extremes and instability of mood, and the history of a life that led to the development of those symptoms.

I complain a lot, I'm very repetitive, unreliable, and I tend to contradict myself.

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June 2020