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Hello there, my name is Zoe.

Now it’s all very complicated, so please be patient. I was born just over twenty years ago to a psychopath, or maybe a sociopath. She wasn’t very pleasant and so my life was a little unusual.

The way in which my life was unusual is due to the sort of relationships and behaviours that characterise a sociopath. Needless to say, my mother doesn’t love people.

Me and my siblings were born to make her life easier, to keep her from working, to fund her cigarettes and alcohol, to allow her the sympathies of a mother, and to bind my father to her. There were no ‘I love yous’, no bedtime stories, no hugs, no care, no understanding, or nurturing of any kind. Imagine a skinny child alone in a room infested with lice crying to no one. When my dad was away I was fed poorly, rarely spoken to, often insulted, and left to stew in filth and squalor. I grew to be smaller than average and sickly. Like most neglected children I had a withdrawn and sad personality. I haunted classroom corners, sometimes crying, and weeped under trees.

That is not to say that everything was bad. Eventually I managed to make a small number of friends. Some of them knew about my mother. My teachers had long assumed that my withdrawn demeanor and general inactivity, meant that I was slow. At about eight years old it became apparent that I was in fact deceptively intelligent. I moved from the bottom of the class to the top in a day. A self fulfilling prophecy was created. I was seen as bright but strange.A small group of amicable children accepted me, with some disagreement. They were the ‘geeks’ of the class. To fit in with them I created an imaginary videogame, complete with script, story, and painstakingly created merchandise.I began to behave both more academically and creatively. I created dollhouses, stories, shelves, playlists, song lyrics, keyboard music, poems, drawings, and crafts. In order to keep up with my newfound friends I began studying the sciences and accumulated science toys such as chemistry sets. My friends had a structure to their lives. My impetigo infected body craved such a structure. It is at this point that I became very harsh on myself. I became my own disciplinarian. As you might imagine I did surprisingly well in school, for I had nothing else going for me.

Secondary school was essentially a continuation of my newfound identity, with a number of dips in the road. I acquired a larger group of friends known for their boisterous creativity. I became much more extraverted and began to identify as such, albeit self consciously. It is the case that introversion and not extraversion is associated with higher intelligence, in a way that is more applicable to the academic setting. My desire for comprehension was in conflict with my extraverted persona. As per the usual pattern, I was bullied, but I had my friends to support me. It became apparent that my thinking was a little different to that of the other adolescents. I had a comparatively abstract way of thinking, that was not logical.  During secondary school I amplified my unusual identity, exploring sexuality, niche psychology, personality theory, and using  my peculiar nature as a defense mechanism. It became apparent that there are different levels to the responses in breaking social mores. I noted that if I was strange enough people would cease to bully me and actively avoid me. After I had a group of friends to support me I did just that. Despite my deliberate breaking of conventions I still very strident and secretly competitive. I acquired the highest GCSE score in the final year.

And what of my mother? She degenerated further. Each morning and on returning from school I was showered in vitriol. Aside from that she would not talk to me. Sometimes she left no food for me. At times she would sort of chase me through the house, shouting at me, and sometimes she would throw things at me. The drinking started, she ate less, and smoked more. I knew then that I was not small and weak because I was from a economically lesser background, but because of her. The emotional consequences reemerged and I became sick. I had been ill often as a child. Likely because I was kept indoors, fed poorly, frequently stressed, lived in squalor, and was unsupervised. One day the illness didn’t go away.

When I was about forteen years old after a long period of dental disintegration caused by malnutrition, five molars and premolars ruptured. Most of the teeth were on the right side of my jaw. While my dad was at work he relied on her to arrange my appointments. She didn’t. Soon, I had an acute dental abscess and I was in abject agony for months. I spent a lot of time sleeping and crying. I was too immature to deal with the problem myself. My immaturity and inability to engage with the world practically was mediated by my isolation from it. I lost all five teeth. Today the bone that would have anchored the missing teeth has been absorbed by my body. The degree of absorption means that my face has less bone structure on the right side, and consequently my face is extremely asymmetrical. I am technically disfigured.

I was in frequent pain during the last two years of secondary school and I started to develop severe acne. During the summer holidays I acquired a liver infection from a festival. There were feces all over the cubicle, even in the sink. I was ill for six weeks and suffered with a lingering viral arthritis. During that time my mother left me on the floor with symptoms that are comparable to the flu. She didn’t move me, visit me, allow my siblings to see me or feed me. My dad would check on me before and after finishing work. The sickness marked the advent of my severe acne, which I suffered with for over three years.

College was extremely difficult. By this point I was chronically ill, and suffering with severe acne. Somehow I managed to acquire a boyfriend. He and his family thought little of me, and his apparent feelings for me seemed to be manufactured by his ideals, a mutual emotional connection, and his low standards. I was frequently insulted by other people at college, in the street, and in my boyfriend’s home. I began to disintegrate in all the ways a person can. It was slow. My mother started to abuse my father, first verbally, then indirectly and directly in a physical way. She started drinking more. Eventually he hit her back. She claimed that he had domestically abused her, he spent a night in a cell, and we were homeless. Soon my boyfriend left me.

Most of the time I simply struggled to survive psychologically. I watched my nails break, my skin become pale and refuse to heal, my hair fall out,  my energy plummet, and my body suffer. It was unbearable. Soon I had no one. I stayed indoors as much as possible and lived another life in fantasy. By the end of college I lived with my dad in a tower block opposite a drug dealer and my grades had dropped off. I was no longer a high achiever. I had nothing. Despite this I applied for philosophy at university and was successful in my application. I dreamt of self-renewal and transformation. On some level I was planning my recuperation.

During this time my mother had managed to drink herself into a coma. Her spleen had ruptured, she developed pneumonia, her lung was punctured and infected, and she had four heart attacks. On her medical certificate it said “alcohol abuse”. My siblings were put into emergency foster care. Before my mother fell into the coma, she had put a restraining order on my father linked to our old house. I saw my siblings only a few times over the course of eighteen months. Eventually my mother recovered and my siblings came to live with her in supervised accommodation. She is still under the watchful eye of social services today.

Throughout the run up to university I participated in a few short courses and organised the logistics of my new life. When I arrived I was still ill. I may have suffered from depression at this point. As weak as I was I struggled to keep up and adapt to the demands of university. Somehow I acquired a new boyfriend who claimed to believe that there was something inside of me, that would allow me to surpass the austerity of my life. At the end of the academic year I was in a slightly better position and had achieved a 1.1.

Me and my father moved to a new property in August 2015 and my siblings visit us every Saturday.  By this point I finished a course of accutane and one problem petered off for a while. Predictably my mother threw my younger sister out as soon as the associated financial benefits became uncertain, and she became difficult to handle. She now lives with us. From August to November I used the my new found confidence and self preservation capabilities to overhaul my diet, hair routine, skin care routine, supplement stack, oral posture and trained to run 5km. I went back to the first year of university, by changing my course to psychology, as to create time and resources for self-renewal. I made a deposit of £1380 for a dental implant which is scheduled for January, and will take about three to six months from start to finish.

Unfortunately I experienced a sudden onset of erythematotelangiectatic rosacea, or type one rosacea, likely facilitated by vascular damage caused by accutane. Consequently I am focusing on treating the chronic gut issues I have suffered with since the age of fourteen, and my new skin condition.

And here we are, welcome to the present. For the last four days, I have barely left the house, my stomach has been hurting, I have abdominal spasms, I have been anxious, flushing, stressed, my office is a mess, my hair is dirty, I have been sleeping erratically, and I have lost my appetite. I am at a low, and what a perfect place to start a journey it is.

This blog will detail my life as I try to grapple with what has happened to me, and I try to make something of myself despite the odds.

Welcome to A Useful Obsession.

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When She’s Gone

I heard on the grapevine that my mother has been to hospital again, one of a number of recent visits, and scans have found ‘shadows’ on her lungs. These shadows can be indicative of serious diseases such as lung cancer, and heart disease. It occurred to me that she could die at some point in the near future. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if she did, given that one of her lungs is collapsed and she managed to drink enough alcohol to rupture her spleen. Is it wrong that I don’t think I’ll miss her when she is gone?

I have no positive memories of my mother, no happy moments, no birthday songs, and no loving hugs. Nothing. At best, I can recall a few neutral events. I ask for a Panda Pops drink at the corner store and she relents and buys it. After hours of crying for attention she finally relents and gives me something of a hug to shut me up. That’s it. Looking back on my relationship with my mother is like looking into a void, where the occasional bad thing appears, at least until I turn fourteen and then it’s all bad. I don’t know why my emotionally absent and neglectful mother, decided to become actively abusive. Maybe keeping her words and hands back didn’t benefit her anymore.

Death isn’t anything to celebrate and is often painful and messy. That said, when she is gone she won’t be able to hurt anyone anymore. Sometimes my mum pretends she is interested in making things up to my sister, the one who ran away down south, and then doesn’t turn up to meet her. At other times my 13 year old sister cries and worries that my mum will hurt her pet dog. The social services remind my dad  Bad things keep happening, even now. Is it wrong that I think my brothers and sisters will hurt less when she’s gone?

I can’t say I am happy that my mother might die, but I can’t say I am sad either. Honestly, I don’t think I am attached to my own mother. When she threw me out after I defended my dad, who she hit and strangled for months, I didn’t miss her. Not once. We haven’t spoke to each other for seven years and she tells her friends that she only has five children. When I look bad, I feel like she wasn’t there. I’ve told my dad, that if she ever does die, I won’t go to her funeral. Why would I? How can I say goodbye to someone who was never there? How can I celebrate the life of someone who caused so much hurt?

I don’t think that makes me a bad person.

me and the cat
The only picture of me and my mum together

 

2019 Updates

Since my last update I have:

  • Graduated from university with a 2.1 in Philosophy
  • Worked as a guide at an adventure park
  • Completed an internship in marketing and communications for a renewable energy initiative based at a university
  • Had a temporary administration job, with bid writing responsibilities, which I hated
  • Started a new relationship with a man who works internationally
  • Unsurprisingly my mum’s abuse got to one my little sisters, who refused to go home, and now lives with me
  • Started my Ma in Philosophy at a top ten UK university
  • Moved away from home to go to university and to practice living independently
  • Flew in a plane for the first time, first to Germany and later to Qatar
  • Further improved my skin and developed my confidence (due to child neglect and abuse I am a bit of a late bloomer, but now I can confidently travel independently nationally and internationally)

 

My mother is yet to face justice.

The Answer: to Feeling Unlovable

This post is going to be a little complicated. 

Imagine. There’s a person who is very upset about their appearance, and for a long time they have worried about whether they can make it better, and how to live a happy life if they can’t change it. Naturally, they turn to the internet. Some articles confirm the commonly accepted knowledge that your appearance is crucial to how your life turns out because of evolution, while other articles offer platitudes and remind the reader that when they are older it won’t matter as much. Years pass, countless articles are read, and many attempts at changing their appearance are made. There is significant progress and people treat them in a more positive way, but still they don’t have an answer. Until one day, they felt they did.

It wasn’t a perfect answer, it missed out a number of variables, but it was life changing. They were no longer afraid of growing old out of fear that things would get worse, and they were no longer afraid that they would be unlovable because of their appearance. At last, they felt peace.

I can’t guarantee that what I am about to say will help you or that it will be easy to understand. Just know, that it made an incredible difference to someone who was afraid like so many of us are when it comes to our appearances and whether we are capable of being loved.

There are things you should know.

Love Can Be ‘Transcendent’

It is possible to create a less conditional from of love in a relationship, and this means that getting old isn’t an issue. This type of love does not rely on your appearance as much as the love you have in the beginning of the relationship and it is not directly derived from your appearance.

Romantic relationships develop over time and it is possible to think of them in terms of stages. You might categorise relationships according to how long they have lasted and whether certain actions have been performed like getting married, living together and starting a family. There is another way to categorise relationships. Over time more passionate romantic love is replaced by companionate love. Some people see the shift from romantic love to companionate love, categorised by intimacy, affection and commitment, as a bad thing. It’s not. Companionate love is part of the answer, and explains why people in older couples can still love each other deeply.

The less conditional form of love that can relieve you of many of your fears is based on companionate love. It is a type of companionate love that is created in a certain way. Psychologist John Gottman has studied what makes relationships work for over four decades and has looked at thousands of couples. Gottman has conducted a myriad of studies using different methodology, and by observing interactions in couples was able to predict with up to a 94% accuracy whether couples would divorce or not several years later. The behaviour of successful couples is the key to creating the less conditional form of love.

To create a less conditional form of love, the sort of love that elderly couples who are madly in love have, you need the right mindset and approach when it comes to relationships. You and your partner also need a certain degree of emotional stability.

In the simplest sense Gottman found that the key to lasting relationships, and therefore companionate love, was kindness. A sort of kindness that results in positive reactions to your partner’s bids for attention and interaction. This means that when your partner says something you generally respond in an engaged and positive way. Relationships where both both partners were kind, and emotionally stable, had a high probability of success. It is likely that this sort of kindness results from having an attitude that allows individuals to consistently respond in this way.

I believe that the key to this attitude is acceptance. Imagine that there is an ambitious and hardworking man, who is intensely logical but at times emotionally detached and unavailable. You can imagine that certain strengths, in this case ambition and rationality, tend to accompany certain weaknesses. Creative people tend to be messy and disorganised whilst more structured people can be more averse to change. Understanding this allows you to truly accept people for who they are and if you accept people then you will understand that weaknesses are part of the package and are intrinsic to what you love about your partner, and what makes your partner great. Once you accept your partner then it is easier to respond with kindness when it comes to their failings and quirks. In this way acceptance can help you develop an attitude of kindness towards those you love. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t accept just anyone, in order to achieve a lasting relationship your partner must accept and respond positively to you too.

To put it simply you can attain a relationship where you are loved irrespective of your appearance through mutual kindness and acceptance, which likely results from a positive attitude towards your partner. This means that while you might need a certain level of attractiveness to acquire a partner, you don’t need to look exceptional, you do not need to be attractive to be truly loved in the long term.

The key to feeling unlovable is kindness, and a little bit of work.

How You Look Doesn’t Determine How Valuable You Are

Your appearance, if it is problematic, can make life seem almost unlivable. It can hinder your chances of forming relationships, getting employed and being respected. Despite this, logically speaking, it does not determine what you contribute to this world. It is possible to inspire others, develop talents and add value to the world irrespective of your appearance. In this way, while your appearance may influence your lot, motivation and determination will allow you to succeed and add value to the world irrespective of it.

Ultimately, your appearance doesn’t determine how valuable you are.

Many of Your Insecurities Are Baseless

I have come to realise that many of my insecurities are irrational. At one point my severe acne and rosacea, in addition to my other health problems, made life extremely difficult. People would insult me in the street almost daily, eggs were thrown at me from cars, shop clerks ignored and on occasion derided me, people in the street looked at me with disgust, my boyfriend who was settling finally left me, and children asked what was wrong with my face. Beyond this, before and after this, I was still unattractive but the disadvantages were mostly invisible. Just a person born blind may never lament missing something they have never known, for the most part, I didn’t lament my lack of attractiveness. I was truly accepted for who I was in my first relationship despite my appearance and I made friends quickly and easily. Despite my abusive home life I acquired good grades and did well given the situation. Ultimately despite my issues I have been truly loved, assisted and cared for by my father, most of my siblings, my first partner and my nicer ex boyfriend. Suffering from the very worst parts of our lives can colour how we see our past, present and future.

You may well find that on inspection, many of your insecurities are baseless.

Think about it. 

Video Before and Afters

I have been looking through a few of my shorter video recordings on my computer and it occurred to me that I could create a sort of before and after video collection. It is worth noting that these videos have different content, and have been created with different settings and lighting. Nonetheless I think they might say or indicate something.

The skin changes between the first and second clip are obvious but I also think there is some subtle facial difference between the second and third clips. What do you think?