I always knew that I wasn’t the girl who was there for everybody. When I was thirteen I had a very toxic friendship. My friend was a lovely person, but she was depressed and dealing with a whole range of issues. We bonded over liking the same kinds of things, but after a few months it became really hard to be her friend — she would routinely recall the same memories of bullying and hardship and injustice that my teenage brain couldn’t cope with. She hated almost everyone. It was virtually impossible to be her friend, so with the help of a very helpful teacher counsellor, we parted ways.
We have been friends on and off for years, but our friendship now looks different to that time or butterfly clips and Clippy, that Microsoft Word assistant in the shape of a paperclip.
When we were BFFs in Year 8 it was just us. She was absent a lot and I never really took enough time to build up friendships with other people but when I did, she would hate them due to some misdemeanor from years ago and we couldn’t talk to them EVER AGAIN.
I always longed for a BFF though. I have people I call best friends. I have people I love more than they love me. Do I have someone I tell everything to though? Nah.
Seven months ago my world was rocked, and I had nowhere to go.
I couldn’t listen to music, my number solace through break ups, graduation, injustice of university life, my almost everything. Music was suddenly an enemy I couldn’t face.
I couldn’t eat.
I didn’t want to sleep, and when I could, I didn’t want to wake up.
I tried to run away, well, with permission, and only to go back home. One rainy day in December I took Natalie to ‘my beach’ which is Stingray Bay in Warrnambool. That’s also the beach that the Oddball movie is about. While I was there I had no phone and I’d hidden my keys and our shoes in the rocks, just like we used to when I was a kid. No one else was there. It wasn’t raining but it was about to.
As I looked around though, I remembered so many memories. Coming to the beach with my family. Being scared of the river channel. School excursions. When the footbridge was built. Digging huge holes, and making sandcastles with my brother. Wading across to Middle Island after Girl Guides with Mum and my brother to see the fairy penguins. This tiny little part of the world belonged to me. It was bigger than me, but it was the place I felt most connected to the rest of the world again.
You can’t say that to a two year old though, and after chasing sea gulls and playing with seaweed, we went home.
I don’t know how I got back to Adelaide, but I did. I know that the audio book I selected stopped working on disc three and I had to listen to a repeat of Conversations — twice — on the way. I stopped off at Hahndorf for a fake Polly Waffle. It wasn’t worth it. Plus, I kind of hated everyone looking happy and smug and downright glad to have it be Christmas time. None of me wanted to be in Adelaide.
And, yet, here I am, this June, with a very different life to what I had in December and January and February.
It’s just me and my babies now.
This road has been terribly lonely, and even though I had had my family and a couple of friends along the way, I’ve mostly walked through the bad days by myself.
I thought I knew heartache.
And now I’m doing this stuff on my own. The last few months of pregnancy. Being the one and only parent most of the time. Recovery after 12 hours or labour and an emergency c-section; and then another 5 added days in hospital because I got an infection. Paying the rent and the bills, and looking after a cat, one of whom only has three legs.
I don’t mind being alone. I never have. I’m almost always better off when it’s just me. It’s just that this isn’t the life I would have picked. I was the girl at 17 who didn’t fantasize about the next party, but dreamed of Saturday shopping, rag rugs and rugrats with some perfect guy who would do grocery shopping with me on a Saturday. (PS — don’t do grocery shopping on Saturdays unless you really want to be out of the house for three hours.)
I don’t know too much about reaching out. Even though I could count on two hands and two feet people who I knew loved me, I knew that there would be bitching and gossiping, so I’ve said almost absolutely nothing to almost anybody until a few days ago. And what I have got back has been exceedingly kind, well, almost everything — there are a few exceptions, there always are.
I did decide to tell my friends when I saw them, but seeing as everyone else has a life and I don’t, this was few and far between. Plus, when and where is a woman in her eighth month of pregnancy going to go and see her friends? It’s bloody exhausting just breathing half the time.
My first boyfriend didn’t want to go out with me anymore so he feigned the flu, and even then I didn’t have a clue that he wanted to dump me, and I would have turned up with a Thermos of soup because that’s a) kind and b) kind of romantic.
All the other break ups I’ve had since then have been kind of okay, even the one that seemed to be under the microscope, and the break off of an engagement. I’ve been cheated on before — three times now. I’ve been dumped for shitty reasons and for some good ones. I thought I’d been through everything; I hadn’t. I knew absolutely nothing.
Every other break up has ended with a hair cut or colour, or some way to get over it and give the offending party the finger. I’ve joined gyms out of spite. My first flu-ridden boyfriend was sent spam mail from three different websites on a daily basis. I’ve been the gracious ex girlfriend, I’ve been the complete bitch. I’ve even taken one or two of them back. (That didn’t end well.) Sometimes silence works best, but you can’t do that with someone you co-parent with. You can’t delete their contact details, or take a break from them on Facebook or even have a whinge to your friends.
Oh yeah, when you’re married you can whinge about your spouse all you want, but as my friend once said after complaining for an hour, ‘Lisa, you know all of this is just bullshit and I really love him?’
Yup, everyone knows that — people love their spouses, despite their annoying traits or selfishness.
But when you’re no longer with someone, you don’t complain about their weird habits anymore. You can’t make jokes at their expense. If you are kind you don’t want to say anything hurtful. You don’t want people to take sides, even though most people do.
I have four weeks to go of my break from uni. My thesis is on the romance genre. That’s not ironic, that’s not hopeful; it is what it is. And while I have wanted to lay down and die, every day of these terrible seven months I have got out of bed and been a mum. Up until two months ago I was working. I have studied every day with only a few exceptions — like childbirth and having a raging infection. I trained at gym until I was 39 weeks pregnant. I’ve shown up for my world and my routine because stopping would be worse.
The last few weeks I’ve seen a lot about asking people if they are OK. During this time no one I knew had checked in with me. Before that, at different times, people had asked in a really kind way. And I appreciated it.
Am I OK?
I don’t think I’m depressed. I’ve had depressive episodes, and this doesn’t feel like that. And I know that it doesn’t feel like that because I can laugh again. And, not just my usual laugh at everything, a real good and proper laugh which I haven’t had for a very long time.
Now would be a good time to berate people for not being there when I needed them. But it’s kind of uncalled for. Everyone has their own shite they’re dealing with. Half my friends are loved up newlyweds. They don’t need this right now, and if that was me in the reverse situation, I wouldn’t want to deal either. The other thing is that my scope outside my little world is limited. I don’t care about work problems or broken down cars. I can’t help with that right now. Old me would have been keen to listen. Current me is still selling vintage clothes on eBay to pay bills. Current me spends hours doing claims on Centrelink, only to have the site crash repeatedly. Current me is up with a newborn four times a night. Current me is heartbroken and sad and can’t drive for two more weeks and doesn’t care about trivial stuff.
Current me is no reflect of previous me: designated driver, unqualified HR consultant and total babe. Future me: graduate, mum to two under four (instead of two under three), and total babe will care again. It’s just that current me needs someone to reach out every now and then.