A few weeks ago I despaired as to how I would ever face my uncle again. After hallucinating him and being harassed extensively by ‘They’ in the wake of dealing with my sexual abuse issues in therapy, I was convinced – as were my psychiatrist, psychologist and GP – that seeing him in person would send me over the edge. My personal concerns were twofold – one, I feared I’d end up in the throes of such a psychotic break that those around me would have no choice but to have me assessed for a section, something I still fear intensely. Perhaps more importantly, though, I was worried there was a danger that, in a completely batshit state with no control over myself, I’d throw accusations left, right and centre at or about him, and end up with the apocalyptic familial schism that I have so fervently sought to avoid by keeping quiet about things.
I knew the time would come when I had no choice but to face him; even though I am now in the fortunate position of no longer having to see him and that side of the family with the frequency that I did as a child, not ever going to their house would raise many, many eyebrows. In all probability, the extended family would simply think I was either a selfish bitch, or that I was in the throes of a mercilessly long depression or something, but whatever the case, the power of one’s mother is very strong, and to that end I knew I’d have to face it eventually. I wanted this, however, to be entirely at a time of my choosing, and on my terms.
As if! I should have known that I was shockingly naive to even think that a possibility.
I went to my mother’s house on Monday this week, as I was seeing C (who had swapped his days from his usual Thursday) on Tuesday morning (I usually stay with my mother the night before C). I was sitting there in her living room at one point minding my own business when the phone rang; it became apparent as soon as my mother picked it up that the caller was my cousin Sarah, Maisie and Paedo’s still-resident-in-Paedo’s-house-despite-being-well-into-her-40s daughter. There was nothing unusual in the call itself – Sarah is a chatterbox who rings my mother with some frequency to harp endlessly on Very Little Indeed.
However, a few seconds into the conversation, my mother started abruptly, and put the phone under her arm.
“Shit, I forgot – I meant to ask you before now, Pandora,” she whispered urgently, “but are you OK to go to their house tomorrow?”
My face fell. I didn’t say anything for a few seconds, I just looked at her in a sort of disgusted desperation.
She either failed to notice my horror or she chose to ignore it. “Well?” she pressed, irritably.
“Um…I have to see C in the morning,” I replied, clutching at straws, whilst simultaneously trying to think of a better excuse to avoid the proposed sojourn.
“Yes, yes, I know, we’re not going that early. It’s OK to go after that, I take it?”
My mind failed me and went completely blank. Defeated, I nodded meekly.
She returned the phone to her ear. “Oh, yes yes Sarah, that’s fine!” she cooed sycophantically. “We’ll see you about 11.30am tomorrow.”
My first reaction had been of horror, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt anger. She claimed to have forgotten to ask me in advance, and in her defence that’s entirely possible, but my cynicism did wonder if she had deliberately taken me off-guard to prevent me from having time to think of a decent excuse to get out of it. I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if this were the case. Either way, being put on the spot is not something I appreciate in any but the most extreme of circumstances, and I was annoyed in the extreme. I went on a mental rant on Twitter.
The consensus from my Twitter support group was simple and clear: DO NOT GO. Everyone was right, of course, and I decided to concoct a story for my mother along the lines of how I would be so “emotionally distraught” as a result of the session with C that I would be unable to face anyone (as it turned out,this wasn’t that far from the truth, but that post will come).
In the end, though, I caved in. I started to protest to my mother when I got back from C’s, and she become predictably hostile, and I figured I would rather be persecuted for weeks by ‘They’ that be persecuted by her – at the end of the day, at least I hate ‘They’ so I don’t mind being in conflict with them (even if it does one day result in my suicide). I did manage one minor win against my mother though, which was to use Disraeli (my car) as our transportation, rather than The Box (her’s). I figured this put control of when we left Paedo/Maisie’s house (Hotel California) in my hands, and furthermore that if I went really mad, that at least I would have an escape route.
Of course, this was an imperfect plan. My driving was berated the whole circa 30 miles from her house to theirs – either I was speeding (when I wasn’t), I was taking corners in too high a gear (second or third? Really, mother?) or I didn’t look over my shoulder when changing lanes on the motorway (even though I did). And so on. When I told her to leave me alone, she accused me of “having an attitude,” and that that was why she had tried to persuade me to take her car.
The hypocrisy of her little diatribe both irritated and amused me. She is an utterly crap driver these days, whereas I really think that I am relatively OK for the most part. Yet if I open my mouth in her boxy piece of shit, I get what she would describe as “the rounds of the kitchen” (a Northern Ireland rural colloquialism for a Northern Ireland urban colloquialism – “slabbering”. She grew up in the middle of nowhere, whereas I was raised on the outskirts of a city. In proper English, they each mean something akin to “harsh criticism”).
Anyhow, eventually we arrived, without me having deliberately driven us both into a wall at 100mph in a fit of pique. I turned into the gate of Hotel California and noticed Paedo was gardening. He looked up and saw us, but made little attempt to desist from his activity. This was excellent.
Even more encouraging was the fact that, when we went inside, only Maisie and Sarah were there. Normally everyone in the entire Northern hemisphere that shares a trace of genetics with Maisie is perpetually packed into her house, which even if Paedo was not guilty of anything would freak me out nearly as much. So, win number II.
Of course, the presence of a mere small number of personnel wasn’t to last. Eventually Sarah’s daughter, Suzanne, turned up with her two young children – Marcus, the two-year-old, and the four-month old that is named after Paedo. I had been lamenting this fact to C earlier that morning (as I have lamented on many other occasions). I was scared of how I would react to the baby given its name, even though of course it is not his fault. I mean, of course it is not its fault!
Both children were asleep as we had lunch so my reactions to the baby temporarily remained to be seen, but at this point of course Paedo came in from his horticultural tasks in order to get fed. He sat directly opposite me. I was interested to note that he consistently avoided eye contact with me.
Emboldened by this apparent deference, I decided to talk to him. At first I just gabbled about inane, everyday stuff, but eventually I became so confidently snide that I started making oblique references to his behaviour around children. Nothing which would have been decipherable by the various assembled members of the clan, of course, but possibly to him. Then again, him decoding its cryptic nature assumes that he has an IQ of over five, and I really doubt that he does. Very few that have any connection to Hotel California do, even those that are on the mere fringes of the place, never mind those right in the centre of it.
My party piece came later when, when a discussion about cancer somehow arose, I was able to tell my dining companions that (according to Heal My PTSD) victims of child sexual abuse are eight times more likely to develop adult cancers than the general population.
The comment was specifically addressed at Suzanne who had been musing about the possible causes of the Big C, but I shot a surreptitious glance at Paedo to gauge his reaction to my hint at him. I was disappointed to note no discernible guilt or shock on his face, but I was nevertheless pleased at having the balls I did to make such a direct statement.
Eventually the baby started crying, and Suzanne went to address whatever need it was expressing. I absent-mindedly commented that I had not ‘met’ it yet, and was instructed by She Who Thinks I Am A Five Year Old to go and engage with it. Mainly because I was fed up sitting opposite Paedo, I acquiesced.
Suzanne had her back to me as I walked into the room, and the baby’s head was resting on her shoulder, facing me. I looked at it and nervously said ‘hello’ in that ridiculous tone that is always employed by adults when speaking to babies. To my astonishment, its fat little face seemed to light up, and it smiled a massive smile at me. Suzanne passed it to me without prompting and it sat in my arms for a long time, laughing innocently and playing with my florescent hair.
I’m not going to sit here and lie: I wasn’t overcome by some overwhelming love and spiritual awakening by holding the baby like some people claim to be, but – just as with Marcus – I didn’t dislike it, despite my general contempt for kids. I probably wouldn’t have expected to have actively been repulsed by it but for the fact it was named after Paedo, but I am pleased to note that that issue didn’t really impact upon how I felt about it.
I don’t know what to call it here [muses for some time]. OK, I think I will call it Sean. That will pretty much guarantee that if my family ever find this blog they won’t know that I’m writing about them, as they would never call one of their offspring an Irish name (some of them are sectarian bigots, on top of everything else). Yes. Sean. Marcus and his little brother Sean.
The rest of the clan began to arrive in dribs and drabs. StudentMcF, who had just graduated with a First in Psychology, turned up with her mother. Student talked about her plans to undertake a doctorate in Educational Psychology – and, perhaps surprisingly, this was the worst part of the whole day. My blood was infused with a pulsating, jealous rage and, even though she is actually quite a nice girl, I wanted reach across the table and break her neck to prevent her becoming Dr McFaul.
Mentalism has ruined my fucking life. I didn’t even get to finish my Masters degree because of it. If I hadn’t been mental, I would have been the first one to get a doctorate. I always wanted – I always intended – to do a PhD. I was fairly lazy at school and university I admit, and I recognise that that’s not terribly conducive to becoming a doctor in one’s chosen subject, but lazy or not, I’ve always done well academically because I’m intelligent. I find fault with myself daily in a million different ways, but my intellect and capacity for retaining knowledge is never, ever one of them.
I’m the smart one out of Student and me. Student is not stupid, not at all (which is a remarkable achievement given that she comes from the dubious auspices of Hotel California), but what she is first and foremost is an intensely hard worker, rather than a brainbox.
Here I am, sitting on a sofa all day, existing. The issue of identifying with my mental illnesses has been hovering about quite a bit recently, and whilst I feel that I have some sort of self-definition through that, as I tried to state the other day, that’s only part of how I see myself. My stronger life narrative is that of my intellect. I should not be existing in this sad, pathetic bubble of blankness. I should be working in Downing Street, or researching at a decent university within the area in which I am educated, or forming policy on same, or something. I should not have been sitting in a few glorified admin jobs and then sitting on a soft instead because I don’t know where the next fake fucking voice is coming from. FUCK.
*throws toys out of pram*
Anyhow, this is not meant to be one of those ranty posts about my wasted life – it’s meant to be about my day yesterday. At one point, a curious thing happened. Marcus wanted to go outside and play, so I took him – but to my considerable distaste, Paedo followed. I felt the sting of hypervigilance pervade my body and mind, and perhaps I chewed at my lip a little too much.
Paedo and Marcus started paying football (soccer to Americans), whilst I hovered about trying to figure out how I should proceed. Marcus made the decision for me, however, by insinuating that he wanted me to be the goalkeeper in this hugely life-changing, World Cup standard, epic match. So I ended up playing fucking football with the man who raped me throughout my childhood, and his great-grandson about whose welfare I had become obsessively worried.
I was acutely aware of the surrealism of this bizarre circumstance as I stood there, deliberately letting in Marcus’ goals (and saving all of Paedo’s – hahaha). As I reflect on it now, as well as that sense of strangeness, I also feel some mild self-disgust. Have I sold out to something or someone by behaving so nonchalantly around Paedo? Shouldn’t I be threatening him with justice or something? Shouldn’t I be telling him that if he so much as looks at those two children in the wrong way that I’ll personally cut off his sorry bollocks with a rusty scalpel and feed them to his beloved fucking ducks? Shouldn’t I be doing something less normal than playing football with him? Shouldn’t, wouldn’t, couldn’t, what if, why didn’t, blah blah blah, subjunctive musings ad infinitum.
Most of the rest of the day was a write-off in terms of my engagement with members of McFaul dynasty. I spend most of it in the toilet being sick or in agony with IBS. Although these issues can be psychosomatic, in this case I don’t think they were. I didn’t eat that much by Hotel California standards, but one of A’s favourite McF-similes is that Maisie is like Mrs Doyle from Father Ted. “Oh, you’ll have a wee bun, Pandora. You will. You will, you will, you will!” If you attempt to refuse, she looks appalled and eventually, physically or hypnotically, manages to force your concession. In this case, it was not so much the amount of stuff forced down my throat that sent me running so frequently to the bog, but the amount of fucking wank in which it was cooked. It’s no wonder that Maisie literally makes Jabba the Hutt look thin.
We eventually left around seven, which was a lot later than I had intended, but it hadn’t been quite the unbearable experience that I’d been predicting. Let me make this clear – I’m certainly not in any rush to go back, despite Maisie’s continual begging that A and I “get up a weekend soon”. But at least now I know I can do it, even if my social anxiety has to deal with 12 people in one room (as indeed there were at one point) on top of dealing with the nefarious demons of the past.
All that being said, a combination of the McF visit and the session with C left me in a pretty poor frame of mind after I’d left my mother off last night. I flew down the motorway back to the city at close to 100mph, just to see if I could. How reckless and borderline of me. I then sat here pointlessly doing nothing at all for a few hours, before knocking out 700 words of a blog post trying to enunciate how I felt. Because, you know, you’re supposed to put words to these alien things they call ‘emotions’. It was navel-gazing but pretentious bullshit and anyway, most of it relates to C rather than the visit to Paedo, so I’ll not share it here.
So here I am: alive, not yet psychotic and not in the best frame of mind…but surviving. It’s not ideal, but then very little in my life at present is ideal. Every cloud and all that. At least it’s not the polar worst it could be.
(NB. I know some new followers of this blog have queried how my mother could even consider taking me to see my childhood abuser. The reason is simply that she doesn’t believe – or, rather, that she has chosen not to believe – that he is guilty of any of the things of which I ‘accused’ him. Most of the story is detailed here, here and here, but feel free to ask if you need any more clarification).