"You f**cking piece of shit"
My thoughts were spinning - another classic act of self sabotage and I was driving, crying. Until I remembered what my coach suggested.
NOTE: There are all the F & C bombs in this post.
I’m driving around the roundabout near my home, nestled in the armpit of the M20 and the M25. I hate driving, my brain is pounding the traffic is fast and I can feel myself swirling my head swirling and sinking.
The job vacancy is closing in two days. I haven’t applied and my brain is screaming and I’m crying. I’ve done it again. Fucked myself again.
Beside the council dump, I pull over. The sinking and swimming is happening fast and again it’s here. It happens every time I fuck something up - every rejection email, every time I see someone else posting a food waste something or another friend get a job they absolutely deserve or something breaks in the house and I know it’ll stay broken because there’s never any money for more than something small unless I go out and work all weekend but then I’m never sure where that money goes.
A few months before I’d started working with a trainee work coach. I had ideas, I had smarts, and I was Pushing Into My Discomfort and Side Hustling and newly single parenting. But nothing seemed to be shifting, I still didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know what to focus on at 10am on a Tuesday morning - the side project, the retainer gig, the contracting, the kids, the housework. I was in a loop.
I was so, so tired.
The coach happened to be brilliant. She worked for an investment bank, could afford a private member’s club membership despite being under 30 and was entirely comfortable with money and ambition, her French accent the perfect accessory to her immaculate handbags and coats.
It’s a week after my latest rejection, after a panicked phonecall where she’d talked me down as I cried into my handset in my quiet kitchen. We’re in a glass panelled meeting room in the heart of the City of London, blinds drawn down, up on our feet. Wearing one of my best dresses, tupperware lunch of leftovers deep in my bag, I feel foolish but allow myself to trust.
She walked me through the experience: recall seeing the email appear, remember how my eyes scanned the text, how I realised I had been rejected and the exact feelings that came through. I crumbled as I conjured up the rejection email in my mind, popping up on the screen, the thorough, kind and devastating feedback, “not creative enough”. I’m 37 and a fuck up. Seeing the email I felt so alone, but I knew I couldn’t keep leaning on my friends.
‘I can’t keep calling my friends when I have a wobble, they have enough’. It happens so often it even has a name: Radio Storr. I know that everyone gets rejected and I know that I shouldn’t freak out, but I’m here to make the change.
It was the talking, we worked out, that I found helpful: it slows me down enough to think. Recording them might help me to feel it’s a ‘thing’ with a beginning and, importantly for all ‘rangey’ thinkers, an end.
I left the bank feeling less like a fraud, less small, taller. I called a friend, tried to share the new wisdom. I was so busy talking that I got lost somewhere between Broadgate & Moorgate and barely made it to the school run in time.
A few months before, happily drunk, I’d stumbled from a bestie’s to my parent’s, past the Indian restaurant, the Wetherspoons and parks that were my teenage drinking life. I was besotted with an on-again-off-again man, and he couldn’t get enough of Radio Storr. Profoundly, I decided that he would love to hear A Portrait of The Drunkard As a Teenage Idiot, so I rambled into the memo for a solid 40 minutes “And THIS is where I snogged Adrian, man, he was SO PRETTY” etc etc. Texting him as I chattered away, he was flattered that I wanted to tell him so much about myself. He wanted the recordings. Yes, I said, but they’re long, let me trim them down.
The next day, I plugged my headphones in and waited to laugh at myself and the silly stories of teenage snogging, friends and partying.
But. Every time I got about to say anything that might matter, I’d evade, I’d joke or sing. Even after a fun night, even feeling as comfortable as I could with someone who presented zero critical capacity as long as I was giving him my undivided attention and who loved to hear my nonsense, I could not be honest.
He kept asking to hear them and, no, I said, they’re weird. Good - he said. Just text them, don’t worry so much.
“That’s exactly like you”, he said “You always go quiet when you have something important to say. And then you don’t say it”.
I hit ‘record’ on my voicememo. I’m alone, I’m stressed and the noise of the engine is white noise enough.
There is something there - there are words that, like when I was 9 and needed to apologise to a brother and just had to spit the words out. They are there, the words but I can’t get them out of being a feeling to being Words.
I remember what the man said. How it felt to hear myself lie to myself as I’d lied to myself for years about the happiness of my marriage. That it wasn’t funny. That it was sad.
I remind myself that this is for me, for myself this is not for a single other soul in the world. I don’t need to tell anyone about anything I say here and now and so I just talk and talk and say everything that’s pushing and bashing and sucking my energy and words pour out and I’m trying to not think and I’m trying to not do it again stop again lie to myself again and
“You’re so greedy, you fucking greedy cunt you’re fucking disgusting you think you’re better than everyone else, you fucking piece of shit, what the fuck is wrong with you … is this, is this Jay talking to me?” *
I go quiet. My voice trails up and, in saying the words out loud, I realise - this is Him. Let’s call him Jay, the Bad Boyfriend. He had a distinct accent, and, as these words come out of my mouth I realise: it’s him. There are many things that people have called me over the years but only he has repeatedly said “You fucking piece of shit”, and the way I say it - a hint of his South African accent and intonation. I can’t datestamp incidents, but there he is, I see him I hear him sneering at me, leaning over me his 6 ft 4 towering over me.
He’s still verbally abusing me. I haven’t seen him for 17 years but his words are still there, still telling me who I am, what I’m capable of, what I should think, where I could be
. Who I Am.
My head is light, spacey. I can’t stop blinking. I can see the base of the iceberg under the stormy sea, where I’ve been crashing into it over and over and over for 17 years. I email my coach - I tell her, this doesn’t feel like an excuse, it feels like a revelation (thanks Catholic school). Still, STILL, when everything goes wrong I am slipping under a sea of his rage, his disapproval and hate. His rage is still controlling me, despite my 11 years of marriage to another man.
It’s not been a simple fix, and 6 months on I was still falling into spats of this self-loathing. But I could pull out of it more quickly, not stay in the mire for days. It had a name, a start point, and therefore an end. I had a name, it’s name was Jay. And, just like I did one Sunday March morning, I could choose to walk away and shut the door behind him.
* I found this memo to write this piece. This is verbatim, bar the pseudonym for the ex.