THIS WEEK: on backup

Industrial strength required

They’re known as Frankie Freakouts – double capital F. They don’t happen very often but when when they do – oosh, you’d better take cover. As someone who can hold their shit together 95% of the time, when that 5% hits and I lose it, I really, REALLY lose it. I’m talking hiding under thebedsheets, tears down the telephone, haven’t washed my hair in a week, eating Nutella with a dessert spoon meltdown. It ain’t pretty. 

What causes them? Nobody knows. I have been known to bounce back from breakups in record time, take job losses in my stride and deal with high-drama family scenarios before breakfast. I am practical in a crisis and I can deal with stress. When it comes to life, I’ve. Got. This. I am solid as a rock, until out of nowhere, it all gets too much and suddenly I’m rubble. 

I have had three Frankie Freakouts in my adult life. The first one was when I was twenty three and  in my final year of University – I blame my dissertation. The second was when I turned twenty seven and had just moved into my first – and utterly minging – flat share. Both lasted for a couple of weeks and both were pretty awful. To be honest I thought (hoped) I’d grown out of them but – cooee! – right on schedule, four years after the second one, eight after the first, my third Frankie Freakout pounced on me recently – someone hand me the Nutella.

This won’t be the last Frankie Freakout I have and you know what, that’s ok. Why? Because I’m lucky enough to have a support system to drag me back out of it. The funny thing about support is that, very often, you don’t think about it until you need it, and thesilver lining in all of this is that every time I lose the plot, I’m reminded that I have a back-up team to put me back on track. And though my network is small, it’s industrial strength.

With twelve years of heavy lifting (and counting) one of the longest serving, and dedicated of them all is the cute blonde to my right. Charles has been there to hand-hold, to pep-talk and to wine-drink in the most desperate of times. She’s coaxed me back to myself when I’ve drifted and been ready with large dollops of perspective and confidence when I’ve lost mine. And in return,  I’ll crawl under her sofa to grab a spider whenever she needs it. Sometimes it takes an army and sometimes it just takes one – thank God I’ve got my Wingwoman.

Seeking the silent type

A few months ago – right around my 31st birthday – I met with a life coach. I should point out that this was at a work event, rather than an appointment I’d made myself – which may explain why I was a bit resistant to the process.

We – it was a group session – were asked to identify something we wanted. Then the life coach would help us to realise what we really wanted wasn’t that specific thing, but what it represented, and how we already had it. Ta-da!

Mine were a book and a boyfriend. According to the life coach, I didn’t really want to write a book, I wanted to be creatively fulfilled, and wasn’t I already? And the boyfriend – wasn’t it possible that I was receiving thesupport I craved from friends and family?

Um, no (I did tell you I was resistant). They are representative of a book and a boyfriend, actually. I actually want to write a book. And the boyfriend? That’s a different type of support to theothers.

I can call a handful of bloody brilliant women (and one man: hi dad). Each would problem solve, or help me rage against the machine, or head over with a bottle of wine.

Which is wonderful: I’m very lucky with my people. But what I’m missing is thesomeone-in-my-house stuff. Last year was a rotter for my family. I took on therole of clown; it was my way to be useful – and you’d be surprised at how much comedy material you can find in a hospital when you’re really determined to make someone laugh. 

When I came home, I was all used up. We all were – but while the others went home in pairs to sit catatonically in front of the TV together, to eat in silence together, I did it alone. It was better than coming home to near-strangers: that was one of the big motivators for my move out of a shared house. But I could have really done with someone just being in thesame space as me. 

I didn’t need problem solving, or raging against the machine, or wine (though there was plenty of that). I just needed someone else to remember to buy milk and pay the TV licence. I wanted to be alone, but know there was someone in the other room thewhole time. And I wanted to sit catatonically in front of the TV together.  

Strangely enough, there’s not a tick box for that on Bumble.