On Having Divorced Parents

My parents divorced about 9 years ago, when I was 8 and my sister was 11. We were told separately: me in a graveyard by my dad and my sister was told by my mum at home. I cried, asked where mum was going to live and then my dad got me a recorder as a present to cheer me up. I have no idea what my mum said to my sister but because I was 8, I didn’t really get it and just knew my mum was moving out: I didn’t know if I would go with her and for some reason, I thought I would never see her again.

I don’t remember much from that time. I don’t remember the arguments that came before their divorce – I knew there were some; I remember vaguely some shouting . It didn’t really come as a surprise to me, both then and now: my mum hadn’t lived full-time in the house since I was 6 because she’d been working abroad. Then again, I couldn’t tell you much about how I’d felt because I don’t remember it: I wish I did sometimes. I know I was sad, that there was a battle for custody and that they got joint custody of both me and my sister. Mum got a rental house and then a year later, got a proper one.

I’m lucky: my parents get on. They don’t fight; they don’t hate each other; they aren’t awkward around each other. My dad remarried and my mum now has a steady boyfriend and it’s all good from that standpoint. I don’t dislike either of them and because I don’t remember them screaming at each other, I don’t have a reason to. It’s not all like that and the divorce – however “amicable” I thought it was at the time – has affected me in ways I only realised recently because before, I thought that absolutely everything was fine.

There was one thing I’ll distinctly remember for a long time and that was when my mum kicked our bin in. Being carried by my dad, I had no idea what was happening because this was after they’d split. She got so angry: I only remember me yelling at her in my 8-year-old way. We had to replace that bin, although it wasn’t for a while and when people came in, we didn’t comment on the dent. I don’t blame my mum because her and my dad were having a massive row but when I think about it, it’s kind of fucked up and the worst part is that it didn’t phase me and I thought it was normal to do that.

As much as my parents get on, they live in two separate houses. That means I switch between them and not on a regular schedule either: at the time of organisation, I got so panicked when a week at a time at each house was suggested that this idea was scrapped. We never did implement it: I go to each house when I feel like it. Or, I don’t. I wish it was that damn simple because I’m so grateful that they don’t hate each other but it just makes switching between their houses much more difficult.

When I was younger, it didn’t bother me: it was exciting. I used to joke: “I have two rooms!” and “It just means that friends can come to two houses!” – forgetting the fact that I had two good friends in primary school – but as I got older, problems started to happen in my mind concerning the switch. After discussing it a lot with my dad – who is the only one I can really talk to about this – I’ve come to the conclusion that it comes down to guilt.

I feel like a package. I’m at dad’s right now but that’s because my mum is with her boyfriend; it just feels like my mum thinks that going to my dad’s is a necessary evil or something. Every time she says “And you can come back to mine tomorrow!” I feel miserable inside because I’m not brave enough to tell her that actually, I’d rather stay at dad’s today. I’m terrified I’ll hurt her feelings because my sister’s at university and she’d be alone at the house.

My mum does try and she’s a good parent but sometimes I feel trapped. My mood noticeably dropped when I go to hers: I become snappy, horrible, not myself and because I feel on edge most of the time, my self-esteem plummets. Then it’s fine; I settle back in; I go to my dad’s and feel relaxed. It’s the expectation: she thinks that I’m coming to hers and when I go to dad’s? “I need a break anyway haha!” It’s like I’m being passed from one to the other. When I spend a while at dad’s, mum asked WHEN I’m coming to hers and that makes me feel worse. I don’t want to upset people.

At least I get to see them though: I should stop complaining. There are so many people out there that can’t see one or both of their parents. However, when you’re treated like some sort of object occasionally, it affects how you feel about yourself and I don’t like that. Whether it’s because of this – whether it’s the root cause or this has just increased an existing feeling – recently, I’ve not felt worth much.

A superficial thing is that clothes get misplaced from one house to the other. I’ve honestly lost a bunch of my clothes because when I transfer, I bring some but not all: they get washed, put in a place where I can’t find them and then I get so stressed. It gets to the point where my parents communicate with each other to find out where the fuck my tops have gone because “They’re not at mine,” which consequently makes me panicky because it puts pressure on me to find my clothes. It’s another thing which I don’t have independence over and I feel like crying because I really hate being told “Okay, have you packed everything?” and having to organise when to get picked up, with my mum constantly asking “Can you say this-โ€ when I’m on the phone.

I just sometimes hate it, you know? It’s so much better than if they were still married because they’re happier but I wish I had more freedom: it’s not that I don’t, it’s that I feel guilty about upsetting my mum especially. She wants me to spend most of my time round hers: I’m going shopping with her tomorrow so she can help me buy clothes and I don’t want to go. I want to stay home, revise and actually relax without becoming angry or defensive. I hate myself when I’m like that.

Knowing that people have it worse can be comforting but it sometimes makes me feel like my problems or feelings are stupid or worthless. Then, I shut them out or block them because I feel like I don’t deserve to feel them because both my parents are nice, don’t argue any more and ine happy now. I shouldn’t feel like that but I do because I am lucky.

I know that their divorce is all in the past but I never got to talk about it when I was younger. I didn’t really realise it needed to be talked upon because it seemed pointless: everything was okay; I wasn’t bothered. I haven’t spoken to my sister about it much at all because it’s too late now but I still feel panicked when I think about how they might both be lonely if I leave.

Opening up about this has taken a huge weight off my chest. I always feel like I can’t talk about it because it happened so long ago. It’s not like it’s serious but I know that at least some of my worry and excess clinginess and paranoia is due to feeling like I have to juggle houses and being at the whim of plans I have no control over. I don’t know. Even talking about this is making me feel guilty because I know my parents love me so much but the reality is, I couldn’t have gone through this unscathed.

I want you to know that you’re not alone. Going through a divorce is so hard for parents but it’s hard for us too. Even if it happened 5 years, 10 years or however many years ago, it can still affect you. Time doesn’t dictate whether you should be “over it”: I should know; you can talk about how you feel. If you don’t feel like its worth anything, remember that it’s your mental health. It’s not easy and if you need to speak to anyone, you can: my email’s always open because I know what it’s like, especially, to not realise that a part of the reason you get so angry now and in the past is because you weren’t aware you could express your feelings of panic and isolation before.

From Elm ๐Ÿ™‚

Little Elm was the Worst Child Ever

I am so incredibly glad that none of you who read this blog – save for one person – knew me when I was little. If you did… You’d be shocked at the change.

Last night, I stayed over at my friend Poppy’s house – it wasn’t planned, because I was at the party of a family friend who I really dislike which was hosted at Poppy’s and I fell asleep. This morning, whilst feeling absolutely gross because I had no change of clothes and no toothbrush, Poppy started talking about how I was when I was a kid.

Oh, God. Because Poppy’s known me for all of her life (she’s one year younger than me), she remembers some pretty horrendous stuff. Put it this way, I wouldn’t be associated with my younger self if I could help it.

Sadly, I can’t, so what I try and do is point out how truly fucked up I was, JUST to make it clear to you that I have changed, I am a completely different person… Or I bloody hope I am.

Even though I WILL regret doing this, I’m going to share with you a list of shit that I did, or how I acted, when I was… Below the age of 10. After that, I got more bearable, though I only started acting in the way I act now a year and a half ago. As in, being kind to people, trying not to argue, helping people etc.

Oh dear what am I doing? This is HORRIFIC!

1. When I was in year 3, so when I was 7, my friend Ivy offended me somehow. I was a violent child back then, so I shoved her, but I couldn’t see the stinging nettles that she then fell into. I’m SO sorry about that!

2. There’s a video of 8-year-old me singing Miracles, up on youtube, in Poppy and Rose’s bathroom. I sounded like a fly and it was the worst thing I’ve ever heard.

3. Up to when I was 5, when I got pissed off, I dived into the doorway between the kitchen and living room (there isn’t an actual door there). I then proceeded to kick my legs and shriek, and when people ignored me, I cried insanely. I mean I was 5 when that stopped – even if my sister says it was later, but that’s bullshit.

4. All throughout my childhood, I used to go to Poppy and Rose’s, pretty much every weekend. I slept over, and woke up at 6 o’clock in the bloody morning. Most often, I woke Poppy up in the process, and we played this game where we created an imaginary world. I was hyperactive and completely weird, so I acted as the characters in that world OH GOD THIS IS MORTIFYING. Turns out that Poppy was just pretending to be playing, and she was actually trying to sleep because 6-year-old Elm WOULD NOT leave her alone. I even pissed off their mother on several occasions by going downstairs, or talking too loudly. Aaaahhh!!

5. This is the worst one by far. Quick family history: my mum comes from a country in Asia, and our extremely distant relatives were part of a tribe (I don’t know how to spell the name). So… I must have been 8 at this point, or 9, and I decided to try and act as if I was part of it because I thought it was cool or it made me interesting?! Now I think on it, it was kind of racist… WOW. I spoke in this screwed up language that I made up, and tried to… CURSE Poppy and Rose’s brother, or even those two when I got pissed off with them. I sat on the stairs and mumbled in this strange language and when Poppy brought it up this morning, I started yelling “OHMYGOD stop we do not talk about that ever!” because I’m sorry, but what kind of kid pretends that they are part of a tribe which they know nothing about?

6. When I was 6, so when I was in year 2, this girl who I didn’t really like fell over. At that time, I was kind of neutral towards her because she didn’t treat me like I was stupid yet, but when she fell over I laughed. I LAUGHED. Yes, I think it was because I didn’t know what else to do, but still! I feel so bad now.

7. Until I was 9, I had no real technology: no computer, no phone, no Nintendo or whatever, so I used to listen to CDs. I sat in my little chair in the kitchen (which we still have) and listened to stories, which is most likely why I went into secondary school with a horrifyingly pretentious vocabulary. The embarrassing part is that I used to sometimes listen to it when my FRIENDS were round, which is so antisocial and I feel very bad for them now.

8. I had a friend in primary school called Harrison. We always used to hold hands, because that’s how people guided me when I was 8. We were walking down to Church (because our school was a Church of England school, says the Atheist) and one of the teaching assistants says, “Elm, should you really be holding Harrison’s hand? People might think you were boyfriend and girlfriend!” I screamed so loudly that people probably stared at me, dropped his hand and TRIED to run away. And failed.

9. In year 6, I took it upon myself to think that I fancied all the boys. I had a crush every week, except it wasn’t because I was 10. One day, our teachers sat us down in a circle and said they needed to talk about something. That something was “fancying”, and how we were a bit too young to be thinking about that. Narcissistically, I thought they were talking about me so I got terrified. Obviously they weren’t, but still; I was under the impression that I had crushes on all of these guys. Awww!

I think I’ve gone so red that I look like a traffic light. I actually can’t believe I did all that stuff.

I think I’m going to sob in a corner. There are more stories, but I can’t think of them off the top of my head.

Do you have any really weird things you did as a child? Please tell me I’m not alone!

From Elm ๐Ÿ™‚

I’m 8 Times Her Age

So after some crappy mocks (well, physics and chemistry didn’t go so badly but french was bullshit), I was looking for something to brighten up my day, but I NEVER would have thought it would be this.

About an hour ago, one of our neighbours came round to our house to ask about extending part of her house but that would extend into this alley we have round the back. Of course mum said it was okay, but really I wasn’t listening to them at all, because the woman had a 2-year-old daughter named Tilly. Yes, that’s her real name because come on, no one’s going to connect that name to me. SHH ANONYMITY.

I don’t want to have kids and at some point, I’ll write a post on why. But the point is, this little girl basically made me think, “MY GOD, kids are bloody adorable!”

Because this one was. Her hand was so little and she ran around like a hurricane, giggling like mad and dancing on the spot and it was infectious. I laughed along with her and we had these little conversations – her speech is surprisingly good for a 2-year-old.

The main highlight of it was when I showed her my electric piano. I pressed the keys and she slammed them down as any tiny kid does, but I managed to get her to play it quieter by letting her copy my movements. On the piano, there’s a setting to change the instrument where you just press a button. She did this by accident but then when I said that was good, she did it again without being prompted – all I had to say was, “Hey Tilly! Do what you did earlier?”

Genuinely, I felt PROUD when she played the same note that I did, or when she changed the instrument, AND when she grabbed my hand so she could play on her own. I swear my heart melted a little, especially when at one point I was sitting on the stairs with her and she grabbed my hand with her tiny fingers and it was the cutest thing ever.

When she had to go, she was really upset and shrieked “NO!” when her mum asked her to say goodbye. I managed to teach her my name, though, which makes me feel bloody accomplished. It almost makes me feel happy that I was the reason she laughed and that I was the reason she didn’t want to leave.

Yeah, I’m 8 times her age, but I really enjoyed talking to her and teaching her. There’s this model of a shoe on one of the window-ledges and she loved feeling the patterns on it.

This has brightened up my day, and I hope it’s made you smile a little. I’ve got to say, the curiosity of tiny kids makes me wish I still had it.

From Elm ๐Ÿ™‚

16 years, 16 Weeks Early and I’m DAMN WELL ALIVE

I’m scheduling this post because I’m an absolute REBEL.

It is L‘s birthday. AND my birthday.

I’m 16 years old. WHAT THE HELL I’m 16 YEARS OF AGE.

I don’t often care, or even bother mentioning, that I’m shocked I’m still alive and ONLY with vision loss. I SHOULD have more problems. This girl, who’s a few years older than me, was born 16 weeks – or maybe a bit less – early, and her internal organs don’t really work. I’m blind. That’s it. And I’m so fucking thankful for that, but just WHY?

Survival rate was low when I was a baby. I was in an incubator for ages. BUT SURVIVING FOR ME WASN’T SOME MIRACLE. I just did. I just am, and that’s all there is to it.

People say I should be lucky that I’m alive. Maybe they’re right, but I’m NOT lucky. I just am. I’m here, I’m alive, and it’s not something to be celebrated. Yeah, I had a high chance of dying or developing other problems. Maybe I still WILL develop those.

It might seem weird that I’m so nonchelant about it, but I’ve never really had to think about the fact that I’m still here. It was NEVER an issue, never raised as one, never really celebrated except when my parents got emotional.

But for now? I’m living. I’m breathing. It’s not ASTONISHING – it just is. That’s how I often describe my life.

I’m not some inspiration. I’m just a human, a 16-year-old human in this messed-up world who’s trying to get by as well as any other human. I’m ME.

I guess I’ve never had an overappreciation for life. Life’s what it is, but now I’m starting to realise what living really is. I’m not philosophical about it; I don’t go round telling people they should live while they can and be thankful for life, because hell knows that it’ll make no difference – people live their lives how they want.

I want you to know that I’m just me. Whatever happens, I’m me. It strikes me as strange that I’m still here, still alive, but then I realise it’s just something that is. I may have been BORN 16 weeks early, but now I’m just me.

Thanks so much for reading. I don’t say it enough. You KNOW how deep-thinking I get at this time of night; it gets especially strong when I’m contemplating life and death and everything in between.

From Elm ๐Ÿ™‚