Tuesday, 29 May 2018

A new plan, again: Day 30

Well, here's the big one. 30 days of not drinking, of getting decent sleep, of writing on here every day come rain or shine or horrendous bank holidays. 30 days trying to face up to my life.

How am I feeling? Lonely and low, today. I had a plan of how this post would go, but I'm depressed now and I don't know if I have the energy for any of it. It's like feeling the strength drain from all your muscles. Every cell in your body giving up at once.

Really don't think I can plot out a post and jump through the hoops to say how well I've done getting here, what challenges I've faced, where I want to go in the future. All that prosaic stuff. Ung.

But what I can do is the last thing the depression is expecting, which is tell the truth about why I got depressed today.

What happened was two people talked to me about swimming.

I was feeling tired and drained anyway, which makes me susceptible to mental illness, like the unstable air before a storm. And I was lonely because Fran was looking after her mum and my friends were busy elsewhere and I had a day off by myself. I went shopping in town and I mooched around and read my book and everything was a bit flat.

But the spark that set the storm in motion (I know sparks don't set storms in motion but it sounds good so let it go) was two different people bringing up the idea of going swimming. My housemate said she was thinking of joining the gym down the road, and asked if I liked swimming, maybe would I like to accompany her. Then my friend at work, when I dropped in before walking home, casually mentioned she was spending her day off tomorrow going out to a lake in the countryside with her boyfriend and going swimming.

I don't go swimming. I don't go swimming because I've got acne scars on my chest and back and I don't take my top off around people.

I hate saying that. I don't take my top off around people and I don't talk about it either. What am I even doing saying this?

I guess what I'm doing is being brave because it's the end of 30 days in which I've been a tiny bit brave over and over, and I should be properly brave now or there's no point in any of this.

I've suffered from pretty severe acne since I was 15, which I've written about before, and though it's mostly under control these days, I still get bad breakouts, and I've still got scars all over my body, and I never take my top off around people. I don't do sports, I don't join gyms, I don't go on beach holidays, and I certainly never go swimming.

I never talk about this because I was bullied pretty badly at school for being weird and different, and as a defence mechanism I think I learnt to try to hide any aspect of myself that stood out jaggedly, to feel intense shame over the bits of me that people might mock. And also because everyone hates to be ugly, and acne makes you inarguably ugly.

You never see people with acne on TV or in movies, unless maybe they're the bad guy, or they're someone sad or detested by the town. You never see models with acne advertising perfume or fashionable clothes. Companies make money hawking miracle cures for acne that (spoilers) don't really work. Society inherently knows that having acne is just plain yucky.

A girl at work the other day was tongue-in-cheek joking about how she was a nine out of ten on the attractiveness scale, but because she had a spot coming up on her chin that knocked her down to a five. I couldn't see the spot at all. I walked away and thought about what I would be on that scale. I didn't think I would be very high.

I still remember a sleepover as a teenager where we were playing this Would You Rather card game marketed as "gross-out" and "adult-only" and whatever. I had new friends from the ones who'd bullied me, and though my face was obviously a mess I kept the spots on my body a secret, felt that the worst thing in the world would happen if these friends found out my back and chest were an alien planet of pimples and pustules and lesions. I'd been to change into my sleeping shirt in the toilet so no one would see or know. I came back just in time to hear the question, "Would you rather have toes sprouting all over your face, or back acne?" My new friends all yelled "Eww" at the same time and sat for what felt like eternity discussing how repugnant either of those would be, how they couldn't even make a decision. I shrunk down into my sleeping bag and blushed and stayed silent.

So, I don't like talking about any of this. At all. But also -- because I've been being brave over and over this past month, and because I'm not 15 anymore, I'm 33, and because we're all dying and this might be the only life we get and if we don't seize this brief flickering beauty now as it hurls itself apart all around us we might never get the chance again -- because of this also what I think is very much fuck it.

Everyone has their thing about themselves that they wish they could change. Gap teeth, small tits, squinty eyes, hairy arms. We're all warped and hirsute and wobbly in some way. Yes, some have it worse than others. For many the worst thing about their appearance is that their little toe curves under its neighbour, or that they have a double chin in some photographs, or strange elbows. For some of us the deformities are more difficult. We're not all born physically equal, it's true.

But some beautiful kids are born in Aleppo, or in the slums of Dhaka. Some women with immaculate hourglass figures are sold into prostitution in Venezuela. Some men with the most perfect creamy unblemished skin imaginable have to kneel and watch as their families are executed in front of them in South Sudan.

It sucks to have acne, for sure. But a lot of things suck in this world.

All we can do, I think, is bring as much light and warmth and grace to this oft-desolate, oft-achingly-painful Earth as we can, while we are able. There are scars on the surface, but there is so much beauty below, if you can be brave enough to look for it.

I'll let you know what I'm doing with the blog tomorrow I guess. Right now I'm going to go collapse.

Lots of love x


  1. Actual tears. You write so poignantly and you are such a beautiful person. I have the word light tattooed on my wrist as a reminder to bring it with all that I can. I hope you've had a decent sleep xxx

    1. Thanks Lucy, I must have missed this comment. Love to all of you there xxx

  2. This is an immeasurably beautiful piece of writing.