All the Zucchini

lets talk

Bell Let’s Talk Logo

Buckle up folks. In honour of #BellLetsTalk day today, I thought I give you the history of my life with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Depression. I sometimes think that we see images of people with mental illness, where they say to “reach out” and “ask for help” but we don’t see how they got to that moment. We see a person who tells us they were ill, and now they seem fine, or at least they are functioning. I think it’s hard for those who are suffering and at the beginning of the journey to get the help they are looking for, and to know just how long recovery takes and how messy that recovery is. This post is going to be long so if you have the time, say while you’re sitting in your car around the corner from your house after a long day at work, just looking for a little piece and quiet, that’s perfect. Or if you’re on the toilet, or waiting at the doctor’s office, or in line to renew your driver’s license picture, I hope I can fill your time with some useful entertainment.


How Did I get Sick?

I have asked myself this question a lot. My therapist tells me it doesn’t matter how I got here but that we get me out of it. I agree, but as a person with anxiety, you know I can’t just let that go. I need to analyze it and figure it out to protect myself from future attacks. This coping mechanism for survival is annoying a lot of the time, though I know it’s just my nature trying to keep me alive.

Here are a few contributing factors that I can think of, with the most serious ones near the end of the list. That’s when I really began to unravel and need help.

1. I didn’t like the career I’d chosen. I went to culinary school and hospitality school. I dreamt of opening my own restaurant one day. Then I started working and discovered that I hated it. I hated the hours. I hated the macho environment of working as a chef. There is no crying in kitchens. You burnt yourself? Suck it up. Your feet hurt? Suck it up. You’re being sexually harassed? Suck it up. You haven’t been home for a holiday or weekend in forever? Suck it up. I decided to change careers (a wonderful decision) but suddenly I was a student again after years of full time employment. I was poor, just starting a relationship, my father was sick. This was stressful. 

2. My father died. As you can imagine, this contributed to my depression. He was sick for a long time. 

3. I got married. We planned our wedding while I went to school full time and had a part time tutoring job. A happy occasion, but super stressful. 

4. My father- in- law died. Unexpectedly. 

5. My husband hated his job. I was going to school full time. We were broke. Then we moved. I left behind the house my grandparents built, where I last lived with my father, and a place I dearly loved. 

6. I graduated with my BA in Creative Writing and English. I couldn’t find a job and ended up delivering pizzas. 

7. I got into grad school! While this was amazing and positive, it was so super stressful. Impostor syndrome is real friends. I felt I didn’t belong. I worried I’d flunk out. I worried I wouldn’t keep up. (none of this turned out to be true. I kicked butt in grad school btw. Straight A’s and came up with a defense that no one had seen before. Boom! Honestly, I have no idea how I managed to get through those two years.)

8. Two weeks into grand school, my husband got sick. In spectacular fashion, he had an impressively terrifying grand mal seizure and subsequently developed epilepsy. I thought he would die. Thus we embarked on the crazy adventure of trying to figure out what was wrong. He was no longer allowed to drive, so I drove him everywhere. On days I didn’t have classes, this meant two hours of commuting, half an hour to drive him to work, half an hour to to pick him up, plus return trips. Switching gears between responsibilities became incredibly difficult for me mentally. I was chauffeur, student, and also had a part time job on campus as a research assistant one year and then a T.A. the next. I was also wife, caregiver, and daughter. Too many hats to try on. Maybe none of them fit? 

9. I got sick. I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. I suffered a traumatic event at the hands of a gynecologist. I was put on birth control pills to stop me from bleeding to death due to my PCOS. They changed my personality and made me into a totally different person for almost a year. I was boiling with anger that didn’t belong to me. I felt out of control of my body. I also have IBS, as I have mentioned before. Side effects of both PCOS and IBS include, you guessed it! Depression and Anxiety. 

10. 2 traumatic events involving dog attacks. 

11. A family history of depression. 

12. We moved again.

13. My mom got sick. My mother-in-law got sick. My husband was sick. I was the glue. I held it down, I paid the bills, I cooked, and cleaned. This is what love is about. This is what family is about. This is why life is hard sometimes. 

14. Two long time friendships ended.

15. I graduated with my MA in Communications and Culture. Now what? The stress of being a 9-5 type of person was getting to me. My soul was dying at the thought of a “normal” job. I am a self starter, I knew what I wanted (a big ol’ writing career folks). But how could I tell those depending on me I was choosing the past of least financial stability?

“You’re Depressed”

My list could probably go on, but you get the point. I was overwhelmed. Many times over the days, months, weeks, years of the happenings of that list, my husband would say to me “you’re depressed”. I’d sometimes say, “no, I’m fine”. Later, he’d say it again, and I’d agree, “probably”. Sometimes I’d say, “yes, I am”. I wasn’t prepared to do anything about it, however. I kept going. Because that is what I did. I had to get through life, get through the day. No stopping, no thinking. Survival. Survival. Survival.

It wasn’t until I developed a racing heart and tremor that things started to truly concern me. I couldn’t stay awake. I was on edge, easily frightened and startled. I panicked a lot. I yelled and was an awful person. I visited my doctor and did LOTS of tests. My heart was healthy, my adrenal glands top notch, my thyroid, never better. “You’re a healthy young person”, my doctor told me. “So why do I feel so bad?” I wondered.

A year passed. My tremor got worse, my racing heart, which had subsided, returned. I stopped using knives, for fear I’d slice off my fingers. I stopped driving, for fear of killing someone. “Could this be in my head?” I asked my doctor. “Yes.” was his answer. I decided it was time to see a therapist. This decision was hard. Truly difficult. I did not want to face what was making me feel this way. I thought I could cope. I had been getting through life just fine. (This is patently untrue, but my mind told me otherwise.)

I did some research and found a therapist who I thought seemed good. For those looking for someone to talk to, I Googled, “Therapist in ‘name of town'”. I found a list of profiles. It was super helpful. Now, what I’m about to tell you might make me seem silly, but it was an important step in getting help. My doctor’s office offers a therapist service through their group of physicians. You get eight free sessions with whomever becomes available first. Free is a great thing to hear. However, I chose not to go this route, because, I suspected I needed to see someone on a more regular basis. These free sessions, as you’d imagine, are booked up quickly. I knew I needed more help than once a month or longer. Also, I wanted to choose someone to talk to with whom I felt I shared a connection. I was about to divulge some tough, personal, stuff. It was important I felt comfortable.

The therapist I found, is my age. They also have IBS. They also have mental health struggles. They also have a family member with epilepsy.  Ding Ding Ding, we have a winner! Did the therapist have all this info on their profile? No. But somehow I managed to listen to my instincts and choose someone who turned out to be a great fit for me. My sessions were not expensive, however, we couldn’t really afford them. To date, I’ve spend somewhere in the neighbourhood of $1500 on visits. Complications with insurance meant I have paid this money out of pocket. Did I cry a lot knowing I was spending money we couldn’t afford. You bet your ass I did. Did my husband tell me it was all worth it? Yes. We sacrificed so I could get well. It was worth it. Also, we can put those visits on our income tax and hopefully get some of it back.

Taking Medication and Other Leaps of Faith

After I started seeing my therapist, I got worse. I had talked to my doctor, I had talked to my therapist and it was like I had to let go. I had to let go of holding it together and trust they would save me. I had insomnia, where I probably didn’t sleep at night for approximately a month. I slept during the day, or not at all. My tremors were out of control. Every little thing scared me so much I’d sob like a small child. I had panic attacks. I couldn’t eat. I had constant migraines. When I went in for another appointment with my therapist I told them about the way I felt. They hooked me up with an appointment with a psychiatrist, and I went back to my doctor’s office to ask for medication.

My doctor started me on a medication. I will tell you, I felt truly awful. I was sick to my stomach all the time, bloated to the point of not being able to wear most of my clothes. I had terrible headaches and I swear I could feel the frontal lobe of my brain throbbing as it absorbed the serotonin it craved. My appointment with the psychiatrist was pretty cool. In my area of the world, wait times to see someone in person are almost 2 years long. Through my therapists office, I was able to connect with a doctor virtually. We sat in my therapists office and Skyped through a secure program. The doctor asked me questions, diagnosed me with GAD and Depression. She suggested a change in medication. I agreed. Then we discussed something to tackle my tremors. Here was the part where I took a leap of faith. I was given two choices. A medication, Adivan, that can be addictive. I had taken it once before to ease anxiety for an MRI. It made me drunk, and unable to speak other than in the letter M. While hilarious at the time, that was not how I wanted to live my days. The other option was a beta blocker. I didn’t know what to choose. A funny side effect of all of this was I had lost the ability to trust myself. I looked to my therapist and trusted that they, along with the psychiatrist, would make the right choice for me. Beta blockers it was. (They slow down your heart rate and help to calm the tremors, in case you were wondering,)

The journey through adjusting to the anti-depressants was hellish. It took 13 weeks, with taking the first med, coming off that one, then starting the new one, to get to my ideal dose. I felt terrible. I felt sick. I didn’t fit in my clothes. I couldn’t eat. I felt like my body wasn’t mine. I stuck it out. Then one day, I felt better. I had gradually been feeling changed, better, but it was hard to see. But one day, like magic, I woke up and was ME. I had energy, I had vim. I finished writing my novel that week. I know it doesn’t work that way for everyone, but for me, it did. I was lucky.

Lasting effects on my body, due to the bloating, included my ribs being shoved out of place. They hurt a lot and were uncomfortable for months afterward. I’m happy to say, they are mostly back to normal now. My body also hurts a lot, just in general. This is probably due to depression and the battle I have with myself every day to just move.

Now, for the Zucchini

Once I started to feel better, I began participating in life again. I had mostly stopped talking to friends. Texting was bearable (almost) but phone conversations were a no go. I didn’t go to events, I didn’t even go to the grocery store. Deciding to do anything was a days long process. But now, that I was starting to be me again, I could go out. I did however, notice something curious.

The anti-depressants, also acted as anti-anxiety medication. Once my anxiety started to ease off, I noticed that I was maybe not making the best decisions all the time. For instance, I recall walking the dog through a lightning storm. Meh, this is fine, we’re safe. I thought to myself. Um… no. My husband quickly told me to get back into the car. Thank goodness he had some sense.

The funniest thing that happened with this lack of good decision making skills involved going grocery shopping. We were out of vegetables. I decided I’d look after my fam and head to the store and stock up. Off I went. I grabbed a cart, and went for a tour down the aisles. I filled it with all my fave gluten free snacks and treats I hadn’t been able to eat while my appetite was so poor. I felt free. The last place I went to was the produce section, choosing a variety of delectable items (it was nearing the fall harvest season). With a smile on my face I checked out and headed home.

Upon arrival, I began to unpack my loot, only to discover I had not brought home the bounty I believed I had selected. Instead, I had one bag of green beans and six zucchini (3 yellow, 3 green). “What the hell?” I asked myself. “Why did I buy so much zucchini?” Zucchini is one of my favourite veggies. But my husband doesn’t really like it cooked all that much, so I would normally try to get a variety of items. But in my ‘lack of decision making skill’ stupor, I just bought all the zucchini I could carry.

This problem eventually resolved itself, but the point of telling this story is that, recovery is a journey. It isn’t going to go smoothly.

Doing the Work is a Pain in the Ass

So, I kept taking my meds. I kept going to therapy. Did I want to do it every day. Absolutely not. But I knew I was getting better, that I had to keep trying.

I wrote in my journals, which helped immensely, but I hated Every. Single. Moment. Of. Doing. It.

I went for walks.

I did breathing exercises.

I meditated. (not my fave)

I prayed.

I petted my dog.

I leaned on my loved ones. (My mother was also a huge support during all of this. Don’t want to forget to mention her.)

I took baths.

I knitted a huge amount of hats.

I bought myself presents.

I wrote positive notes to myself and stuck them to the wall.

I had epiphanies.

I was proud of myself.

I talked. And talked. And talked.

I learned to say no.

I hated myself.

I learned to ask for what I needed.

I tried to vegetables.

I doubted myself.

I took so many vitamins.

I drank water. And tea.

I failed. I had to start over.

I confronted hard things that I hurt my heart.

I cried.

I slept.

I listened to the professionals who were trying to help me.

Did I do everything they said? No. I did most of it. I did what felt right for me and what I knew would help.


I can say that I am much better. I am able to function more reasonably through life. I can make better, safer, decisions. I see friends. I talk on the phone.

I still don’t like leaving the house much. If I go out with you, please know, I have planned to use my energy that way on that day. I most likely go home and sleep for hours after I’ve seen you.  I like quiet. I like my hermit hole.

I have been able to make strides in my career, holding a workshop, sending my work out to try and get published. I even made a cold call appointment for a job I wanted, a job I invented. I put myself out there. My doctor was surprised and excited for me. That felt good.

But, every day is a decision. I am extremely tired most of the time. I must choose to get out of bed every morning. Some nights, I still have insomnia. I try not to get upset if this happens, and readjust my day so I feel rested. I take listening to my body much more seriously than I did in the past. It’s not perfect. I still am trying to eat my veggies. I need more exercise. But through this, I have discovered I can only tackle one thing at a time. I am better, but not best. According to my therapist, early recovery for depression and anxiety is a year. I am coming up on that mark soon. I wonder how I’ll feel then? For now, I know I have made great strides. I still see my therapist, though I am not going as often. I still take my medication, every day. Even when it’s hard and I don’t want to.

Getting better is work. It doesn’t happen on its own. You must earn it. It is HARD. I hope my story sheds some light for you. A before and after doesn’t really exist. It’s just a before and progress. Up and down. Backward and forward. Imperfect.

Until next time this fat woman is…. battling mental illness and gradually winning.



“So you see” from “Mr. Lucky” by Nigel Bray

So you see, I had already made two (totally unrealistic and unsuccessful) bids for freedom, and now this Simon was heading my way…..what could it mean? My insides were like jelly, it was like being in love again, right at the start, when you’re a bit breathless and you do a small wee. AND I didn’t even know the bloke, though it felt like I always had.

‘The train arriving on platform 2, is the 14.06 from Paddington.’ I (apparently) was running up and down the platform like a fucking eejit, going “Where is he? Where is he? I can’t see him! Where is he?…...” David was standing, arms folded, by the barrier. What premonitions did he have? And, then, at 18.15, April 4th, 2007, as I said, I met the man who was to mend my heart and break David’s. There he was, in his too – small jacket and big red shoes, and I was lost. Gone for good at that moment.

“Oh HIIIIII!”  I screeched.

“Hello,” he said, in that honey voice and leant in to kiss my cheek.

I’m David,” said David, holding out his hand.

“Good journey? Train’s on time. It’s been sunny here today. Have you eaten? Would you like some tea somewhere? A café? Or a pint maybe? Are you tired? Do you want to run away with me and keep me close in your heart in a place where no one will ever hurt us?”

I didn’t actually say that last bit, but I WAS babbling like an idiot as we walked to the car. I don’t remember the drive home, other than I had my hand on his foot all the way, like staking my claim, sneaking my fingers up his trouser leg, or maybe offering comfort. I could see him in the mirror too – and oh FUCK!! He’s looking back! Blue eyes fixed on my reflection. I looked away, burned by the intensity of his stare.

We got home, had large gins. Dinner was ready. He’d changed and was wearing very loose pants, Indian style. He was somehow at my end of the table and – dear God – we were able to play footsie under the table. If David detected anything, he didn’t show it. Dinner passed in a wine fuelled haze, and the next thing I know, Simon was lying (very provocatively, I have to say, you naughty man) on the settee, and I was right – he wasn’t wearing any pants. And David made his move. I was horrified! Mine!! He’s fucking MINE!!

The ‘we don’t play separately’ rule seemed cruelly inappropriate but there it was, so I had to join in and get what comfort I could. We went upstairs, I was drunk, and we had some sort of sex, the three of us, and after, went to bed. Me in the guest room, he in my bed. The only time that the stranger in my bed was welcome and I was in the next room.

The next day, we had a wander round town and then went to the beach and took a lot of photos in which, looking back at them now, there was such a clear and present connection between us; the way we stood, looked, posed, laughed, all pointed towards US being the couple and David the visitor.

We had drinks, overlooking the sea, and were joined by Paul, a sometime acquaintance and the man who was booked in for reiki the next day.

“Paul, this is Simon. He’s a reiki master too, but is trained in Seichem. I’m Usui trained as you know. It might be good for you to have us both treat you tomorrow? What do you think?”

Paul agreed, and we went back home. I can’t remember the evening. Did we do anything? I don’t know, I was only enthralled to have this splendid man in my house and in my life, even just for a short while. It wasn’t long before Simon went off to bed, early, on his own. I think he wanted to avoid another sex session, which he clearly hadn’t enjoyed.

The next morning we did what ostensibly he had come down for and set ourselves up in the study to try to sort out the website, though it was clear all we wanted to do was to have sex again, on our own, but….’we don’t play separately’ and my luck was already massively pushed. We fiddled about with pictures and text frames and hyperlinks and CSS and made the best of it. Paul arrived at 2, and we began our reiki session. Paul had no idea of the cataclysm that was about to unfold above his head…

All was going well, Michael turned up on cue, I was treating Paul’s neck, Simon his feet. The reiki filled the room and it was both tempestuous and healing. Then, I was bidden to stretch out my hand towards Simon, who did the same and our fingertips touched. I am not linguistically skilled enough to describe what then occurred – if you picture what may have passed between Adam and God, when their fingertips touched, as imagined in the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. A bolt of pure energy exploded between us, through us, each into the other. It was terrifying, and powerful beyond words, but glorious and exultant and exhilarating and magnificent. We snatched our hands apart, both a bit stunned, like we’d been electrocuted by pure love, but unsure about what had just happened. When we eventually talked about it, after we’d stopped pretending it hadn’t meant anything, it seemed a clear message from spirit that we had met our true soul mates; both open to spirit in that moment, we were able to transmit the true essence of each to the other. It was indefinable but without any room for doubt. We BOTH knew what had happened, but what the fuck to do about it? NOW what?

Even weirder, the next day David said:

“I’ll do breakfast. Why don’t you two go out for a walk? 20 minutes?”

“Erm, yeah, OK. You want to?”

“Sure, yeah,” said Simon, glad to get me alone whenever he could.

So off we went, through the hedge, up to the Beacon; a bit of sightseeing always calmed things down a bit. There’s a little area with picnic benches where you can sit and look far down West, where the eclipse had rolled up that day, back in ‘99, scaring the bejeesus out of us all. We sat. Opposite. Our hands touched and with no prompted thought I said:

“We’re going to live in France, and I’m going to help you run a healing centre at your house. Aren’t I?” Actually it wasn’t a question, it was a fact, a thing I KNEW.

“Yes. We are,” he said, and once more terrified, we leapt apart and said no more.

We went back to the house to finish the website (to sit really really close together). The site wasn’t too bad; bit amateur really but it was by now, of course, completely irrelevant.

“I’m just going down the shop. I won’t be long,” called David, and out he went, leaving us alone. Again. Upstairs. What the….?? I knew the shop, the local was just a few minutes and so there was no time to make love, not like we were both aching to do. So we kissed, and as he ran his fingers along the length my cock, he smiled, and said, “I am looking forward to when I can have that all for myself.”

“I love you,” he said.

“I have HIV,” I said.


I hadn’t planned to say anything. At least not yet. Not till we were somewhere safe, and he was mine, but that would have been absolutely the wrong thing. He needed to know before, so he had a chance to run. To be horrified. Disgusted. Afraid. Like I was.

There was a beat. A silence. And into it, I expected to hear the slamming of laptop lids, hurried excuses, eyes that were just a moment ago boring into mine, now downcast and avoiding meeting, business arrangements made to pay for the work done so far, ‘Thanks, but no thanks’….

But not this man. Not this brave, gentle, honest, solid man.

Then he looked at me and said,

“That’s OK, It doesn’t matter. I love you. That’s all that matters,” and the front door opened and David was back. We sprang apart, erections wilting, red faced. What have I done? That’s that then. Still better to know now than make some stupid mistake and THEN have it go tits up. But I didn’t know him, this man. This man of courage, this man who loved me. He meant what he said, and I had to trust it. But it wasn’t mentioned again. Was that a good thing or a bad one?

That evening, we’d planned a meal, en plein air, round the chimenee, for which I was cooking Mexican. The works. I know it wasn’t his last night, but we were planning to go out on the last night, a proper Cornish pub meal. I couldn’t bear thinking about it, so I had some more gin. You KNOW what happens, Bray; you and gin are trouble. Anyway, I wanted to quell the panic of him leaving on Sunday. How would we ever put our plan into operation? Then, another weird thing: David said. “Why don’t you two go and have a walk before dinner? I’ll do the prep?” So off we went again. Alarming! What was he playing at? Trying? Trusting? Trapping? Dunno, but I just wanted out of the house, with Simon, for a wee while, probably for the last time, particularly now, after this morning’s liddle revelation, before he left on Sunday. We climbed over the stile, walked up the field to the top and as the sun set over Treningle, my house, and my marriage, we held hands and knew, somehow, we were to be together.

“We’ll have to wait, to find a way. I have NO idea how, or how long. But there will BE a way. YOU know what happened in that room,” he said. The sun grew redder and the air cooler. “Come on, let’s go back. I’m starving!” I said to steer the conversation away from the “thing” so huge it was uncontemplateable.

“We’re back! Ready to eat everyone?”

I put ABBA on full blast, (‘The Winner Takes It All’), poured myself a glass of forget- me- juice and, watching David and Simon sitting chatting, through the window, began to cook dinner. All the red pepper pieces were the same size.

The tracks went down (‘Dancing Queen’ being caterwauled as I cooked), the wine went down and the sun went down. The chimenee was roaring, the table was set, the fajitas were done, the beans refried, the guacamole whizzed to a fine and spicy delight and….I wanted none of it. I wanted it all to go away, to be over and to be alone in Simon’s arms. But. “HEEEEERE we are!” I yodelled, carrying out the food. We ate, the music played on, we talked about the inconsequential, the drinks went down…..then we ran out of chat and sat and watched the flames, mesmerised, in a row, with David in the middle.

Deliberate? Just how the chairs were? I don’t know. What I DO know is that he was between us and, as I got more and more pissed, I got more and more desperate to touch Simon. What could I do? Lean across? Ask to swap seats? I know. I know – I’ll just say, “Excuse me, David, can I sit next to Simon as we’ll be running away together soon.” Fortunately, Simon decided that he really didn’t want to share me at bedtime again and excused himself and went to bed. Probably just as well; my gob was gearing up to run away with me, the pressure was so enormous.

“’Night…..” Peck on my cheek as he leant in and I could smell him, feel his weight on my shoulder. “’Night David,” and he was gone. Leaving us together alone. I’m not sure why David suddenly started touching me, rubbing his hand up my thighs, proprietorially? As a reminder? Just horny? Whatever the reason, and I am ashamed to say, dear reader, that I found his touch offensive and wrong and I pushed his hand off. He put it back, nearer the top of my leg, nearer my balls this time and I said, “Will you just fucking get off me!” A little too fierce. A little too tell-tale. But, he did. Then he went and fetched the brandy (Dartington) decanter.

“I’m having a nightcap. I suppose you want one?” he said in that ‘don’t you think you’ve had enough already?’ kind of voice.

“Yes, please, if that’s alright. … a bit more than THAT. If that’s OK with you?” He’d poured enough to just make a film on the bottom of the (Dartington) glass. Remember, I’M in in control here….. “Thank you.! He poured more. “More, if that’s ok?” By this time the glass was half full of neat brandy (Courvoisier) and we sat in silence, pretending that the flames were interesting. Actually they were. The brandy was fierce and I was becoming unmoored. The man I adored beyond all else was just 20 feet away, sleeping now no doubt, for now at peace and untroubled. More staring. More silence, as wide as the bed which now held my love.

“I’ve had enough of this. Shall we go to bed?”

“No, I’m fine. I’m staying for a bit. ‘Night.”

 “OK. Don’t be long. And make sure the fire door’s shut. And the water feature’s switched off. And don’t forget the light. And bring your glass in. I’m sure it’ll be empty.”

Go. Just go.

Alone and drunk, I wondered if he had any idea why I was so unhappy so suddenly? Everything was so exciting a couple of days ago. I supposed not, in a drunken kind of way; we’d done nothing untoward.

I heard a rustling from next door. Then I had a brilliant idea!

“Hey! I can hear you! And I can smell dope, you naughty girl! Roll us one?” Utter madness. A decision that could only be made by someone already robbed of sense and reason. She passed the joint over the wall and I took a drag. Instantly my head began to spin and I felt disconnected from the world.

“Thanks, G”.

“Go easy, you twat,” came the whispered reply.

Another drag, further from reality. Another slug of brandy. And suddenly. Whoooo. Suddenly I was done. Enough already! I couldn’t really see properly and standing was proving a bit tricky as everything was all slopey. Oh fuck! Suddenly my head spun really fast and I lost my balance, and toppled over, luckily landing on the steps by the gate and not the fire. Wait. Pause. Breathe. Breathe.

Everything slowly came back into focus and gingerly I tried to stand. Shut the fire door. 20 paces to the steps. Switch off water thing. 10 steps back to the door. Switch off light. Good boy I am. Fuckity arse. Forgot the glass. Ne’er mind eh? Need a pee now. Like NOW. Fortunately, I had installed a handrail on the stairs. Came in handy as I hauled myself up to the loo, in that being Really Quiet drunk way. I had to pee like a girl as I’d have needed two hands to wee the boy’s way and I had to hold on to the towel rail. Fuck, was I drunk. And stoned. The whole room was lurching and spinning as the THC in the cannabis thwhacked me in the brain. I felt AWFUL and sorrowful and regretful and my life was shit and nobody loved me and I needed some cheese. Yes, that was it. Cheese.

Hauling myself, I felt my way back downstairs to the kitchen for cheese.

What was it again? I stared round the kitchen, swaying, and threatening to do that funny run that drunk people do, that we all laugh at when it’s not you. I wanted….. um… I don’t know now. My eyes stopped swivelling and came to rest on my phone, on the worktop. I moved towards it, oops, bit too fast, misjudged the distance there. I know! I’ll write Simon a lovely text so he will see it in the morning when he wakes.  I wrote:

My darling Simon

You are sleeping not ten feet away and I am in the wrong bed. But don’t worry because soon we will be in France together. I love you like I have never loved anyone else. It will be hard to say goodbye on Sunday, but it will only be temporary. I don’t know how long, but be strong.

With all my heart. XXX

Aww, that’s nice. He’ll see that tomorrow. Bed. I now need sleep. Not cheese! That’s what it was. Cheese, but I don’t want cheese now, I want bed. Not cheese. And, before I ended up sleeping on the kitchen floor, wove my way back up the stairs to bed.

Leaving the phone on the bench, open. With the text unsent.

05.15. A time, easy to remember. Something kicked my foot, and startled me awake and I was facing the clock. That’s how I know. Woahhhh my fucking head……sleep. More sleep. Then something kicked me again. I opened my eye, and swivelled it in the direction of where the pain was now coming from. And there was David. Holding my phone. Not really knowing what was happening, I raised myself, carefully onto one elbow – Jeez, brandy gives you the WORST hangover – and looked at him. What? What you just standing there for? What’s that in your hand? What are you showing me? Focus. Focus. My phone. It’s my phone.

“What?” What are you doing? Is that you kicking me?”


“Why have you got my phone? Has somebody rung?”


“Uh? What? What are you saying?” Fog clearing….


“What? How long what?”


And he shoved my open phone in my face, where I could blearily discern ‘My Darling Simon…’. The beginning of the text I left on the work top. The one where I didn’t press the ‘send’ key. Oh my days. You know the feeling when you are utterly busted, completely fucked with no possible recourse or excuse? That moment when the blood drains from all your vital organs, and leaves you with no breath, just a feeling of imminent death? That’s what I had then, and realising that there really WAS no way out, said:

“Three days. That’s all. Three days”. That was kind of true, but not really, as it had been going on for weeks, even months or even years if you factor in the time the planets had been spinning and bringing us to this moment.

“Down fucking stairs. Now.” David rarely swore, so I think he was probably a bit mad at this point. I stumbled out of bed, feeling real bad. Really sick, hungover, tired, but not scared. That was the remarkable thing. This could have been a trigger for all those times my Dad had thrashed me, but this time I didn’t care. I was SO clear in my intentions, he could do or say what he liked – it just WAS.

He was standing silhouetted in the window, the orange halo making his features indiscernible



“How? Where will you live? What on? You don’t have any money.”

That much was true. I HAD money, but never had any access to it. He always managed the money; when we went shopping for Stuff, he always paid; when we ate out, he always paid. He always joked: “he’s like the Queen – never carries any money. Ha hahaa” Yes, you control freak. That’s because you never let me have any. And again, I let it happen. So. Not really your fault. Mine. Stupid mine, which has led me, finally, to this moment.

“How will you get there? You don’t even know him. Are you fucking mad?”

“I don’t know how. Or why, or when. All I DO know is that I love him and I WILL be leaving you. For him. Sorry. But that’s just the truth.”

“He won’t love you. Not like I do. Anyway you’ve got AIDS.”

And that, dear reader, was the end of all things. If Simon had left tomorrow alone, there is now no way I could ever stay here with this man, who had just said the cruellest of things. I had never fully recovered from, or forgiven him for, the Monstrous Lie, but had married him anyway, but that, that was the worst thing he could possibly have said. And it was the end.

“Sorry. Nothing else I can say.” Actually there was, but noticing the clenching fists and increase in breathing decided it was in the interests of self-preservation that I didn’t. I just sat, naked and shivering – cold, post adrenalin, fear, all three – on the settee that had seen so many betrayals and waited.


I thought about reminding him it was OUR house, actually, but given the circs….

So I went back upstairs, found my clothes from where I’d stumbled out of them earlier, and went in next door. The room of more betrayals.

“Simon,” I whispered, “Wake up. Wake up.”

“Gnnnnnnn….. Oh, good morning. Why’s it still dark? What time is it?”

“It’s early. Come on, get up. We have to go.”

“Go where? What’s wrong?”

I’ll tell you as we go. Just get up. Can we go to yours? In London?”


“Here’s the phone. Ring your landlady and ask. Do it now.”

He sat up, this man to whom I was now committed and was risking everything for, rubbed his eyes, and said, “Has something happened?” Somewhat of an understatement…..

“Just ring home and see if I can stay for a couple of days. We have to leave. Now.”

After a muffled conversation, which I only heard through the bathroom wall from where I had gone to collect stuff, he said, “She says it’s OK. Are you going to tell me what’s happened?”

“David knows about us. I’ll explain as we go. I have to get a cab. Pack your stuff. Hello? Bodmin Taxis? Yes, Parkway please. Immediately. Thankyou. I’ll see you downstairs.”

“I need my Barclaycard.”


“My card. I need it. There’s a cab coming.”

No response. Just a back, implacably turned towards me. My card was on the worktop. I picked it up. “OK. Well.”

“I’ll see you then.”

Simon came down the stairs and I herded him, dazed and confused, straight out of the front door, and into the waiting cab.

On the way to the station I explained about the text and what happened after, and you know what? He just said: “Well, there you go. Reiki has a funny way of working, but work it does…”

We were in a bit of a state of shock – I had no idea what would happen now; we were together; it was out in the open; I had no Plan B, But, after a strong coffee and politely telling a well-meaning, but really really annoying man to FUCK OFF and no, we weren’t interested in seeing his model railway, we boarded the 08.20 to Paddington, holding hands all the way to London, as we hurtled towards whatever new life awaited us.


Artist Bio: Nigel Bray is an Englishman, writer and actor. Long-term survivor. Boyfriend, fiancé, now husband, and eloper to France, where he now lives in peace and love, with wine and cheese, his man and his dog. Visit his website at: E-mail Nigel at


Food Guilt and Why I’ll Never be Vegan

food guilt and why i'll never be veganCanada’s food guide was recently updated. It now includes more fruits and vegetables and less meat products. I think this is great. I want to eat this way, in theory. Unfortunately, this type of diet doesn’t work well for me. And I feel really bad about it.

I have IBS, and food allergies. If you’re not sure what IBS is, here’s a helpful explanation. To give you a quick lowdown on how it affects me, I get diarrhea. A lot. Like, everyday. I also experience painful cramps, everyday. Bloating, nausea, everyday. And I can feel my food being digested, something you aren’t supposed to be able to feel. It’s a fun ride. Because of this, I have developed a special diet over the last, nearly 20, years of my life. This diet is designed to be easily digested, and to limit gas and mucus production in my intestines. (Eww, I know.) On top of these special dietary requirements, I also have food allergies and sensitivities. Basically, eating is very stressful, and a potentially pain-filled situation for me. It also, unfortunately, prevents me from eating the diet I actually want to consume.

I think a lot about eating meat. I enjoy it, for the most part, though to be quite honest, it’s not my favourite thing to consume. I like chicken quite a bit, and I’ve recently been on a breakfast sausage kick. I often crave shrimp. But beef, and pork I can take or leave most of the time. I also like fish, but to be perfectly honest, we can’t afford to eat fish on a frequent basis. We can barely afford chicken.

I went to culinary school and I know what it means to butcher an animal. It’s sad. I hate it. I once had to de-bone a head-on rabbit for one of my classes. I couldn’t eat it afterward. I have watched many cooking programs where they are openly butchering animals. I watch because I eat meat. I should know what it means to take a life. I think about this a lot when I cook. I actively must put these thoughts aside when I consume meat because I must look after my health. I am an omnivore. I own it.

For those of you reading and asking yourself what the heck it is I do eat and why I can’t just quit meat and dairy, please take a look at the handy chart I’ve created that shows you the list of good and bad foods for my life and digestion. On a positive note, I recently have been able to add corn back into my diallergies and sensitivities_ gluten tomatoes eggplant soyet, thanks to the anti-depressants I am taking. Of course, living with IBS causes lots of anxiety, and I have been able to ease some of it with this medication. They say our emotions, mental health, and well being are connected to our guts. I am truly starting to believe it. Perhaps, in time, I’ll be able to add in more items I have eliminated from my diet.

I do eat a lot of vegetarian foods, not by design, but because that’s what I like to eat and often my breakfast or lunch end up that way. I eat a lot of carbs. They are easy to digest. My “bad days” meals consist of instant mashed potatoes with butter and salt, white rice with butter and salt, toast, cereal, soup, applesauce, bananas. Bland, bland, bland (and salty– apparently I need it). When I feel especially bad I crave olive juice (green olives preferred), peppermint tea, vanilla soft serve ice cream, lemon juice straight from the jar, and a lot of sleep. Yes, all of this is incredibly weird. I have learned that it is important to listen to my body. When you have had diarrhea all day, sometimes it is these cravings that get you back into balance.

I am making an effort to put more fruits and veg into my diet. But there will always be meat. It is hard for me to see people touting their vegan diet. I’d love to give it a shot, but it’s not worth the literal pain and suffering I would endure if I did. It makes me feel so guilty to eat meat. I want to save the planet, just like everyone else does. I want to help those who don’t have food. I’m just truly flummoxed as to how to accomplish this when I struggle to look after my own body every day. Not every diet is designed for every person and I wish we understood that more in our society. I can make small changes when I have the means to do so. Buy organic, free range, local food when I can. Eat more veg, fruit, nuts. But I also question the extremely processed nature of vegan products and wonder if they are really as healthy as they claim to be. I don’t know what is right. As a fat person, I have spent the majority of my life considering each thing that goes in my mouth. I feel bad for eating, I feel bad for existing. These feelings are compounded by my allergies and dietary restrictions. I love food too. I learned to cook professionally. It brings me joy and peace, confusion and guilt. If I could never eat again, I just might. Or I’d be like Captain Holt and just have a nutritious smoothie.

Until later. This fat woman is… still eating meat.

Am I a toxic friend?

broken heart love sad

There is something I have been thinking about for a long time now. In recent years, I have had a couple friendships end. Presumably, these endings were because of some things I had done, at least according to the enders of the friendships. The thing was, I didn’t really see what I had done wrong.

According to these people, I was a bitch, a complainer, a gossip, and a downer. I was a generally negative person, and as such I didn’t deserve to keep these friendships any longer.

I thought and thought about these descriptions. I have never considered myself as any of these things, but, maybe, I am. Does this make me a toxic person? Am I a toxic person? If I were to describe myself as a friend, I would say I am kind, funny, thoughtful, and that I go out of my way to help and support the people I love. But, maybe this isn’t true. Or at least, not entirely.

I know I can be a gossip, and a complainer. Part of me feels like this could be because I am also a writer. I like the minutia of the human experience. I want to see how others react when they hear a secret. I don’t go out of my way to be mean when I share gossip, but after these break ups, (which is what they were), I truly considered if I had been a bad person by relishing this human behaviour.

Thinking back over the years, many hard things happened in my life, resulting in a generally negative attitude, I suppose. I also came to find that I was suffering from depression. Now that I have received help for this, I have come to realize that I was ill with depression for far longer than I admitted to myself. Possibly eight years or more. This too, contributed to my negativity.

The point I want to hit home is that we are starting a new year, where we are all too eager to dump the old and replace it with whatever is new and shiny. I don’t believe I was a truly toxic friend, but perhaps I was hard to handle and be around. Instead of asking me if I was okay, or even suggesting that I did not seem like myself, my former friends decided to ditch me. I have struggled around this concept for a long time. I would like to encourage you out there who feel the need to ditch your difficult friends to ask yourself a few questions first. Is this friend truly mean, or are they unhappy? Has something big happened in their life that they are having trouble moving past? Am I being too judgmental or placing expectations on this person that they don’t understand? Are they hurting me, or are they just annoying? Should I offer this person a shoulder instead of showing them the door?

I am not sad any longer that these relationships ended. Sometimes that happens, and sometimes it is for the best. I do encourage everyone to do what they feel is best for them, and if that means moving on from a friendship, then you should do so. I do ask though, that you don’t just cut a person from your life, or send them a cruel email to prove that you are a better person. Try kindness. Always kindness. Perhaps your friend is just suffering from mental illness and hasn’t realized it yet. Maybe they are toxic to themselves and need a helping hand to get out of the muck.

Until later… this fat lady is… recovering from negativity.


Photo by burak kostak on