29 August 2012


What I strive for in this blog and in life in general is both intellectual and emotional honesty.

Do I always succeed? I don't know? You'll have to be the judge of that. And feel free to call me out on it. It's an attempt. It's hard to figure out all the unconscious influences we experience day to day. In order to integrate them we do need to become aware of them, and the best way I've ever been able to do that is to either recognise it in others, or have it pointed out to me.

I never just ignore a criticism, be it valid or invalid. It may be hard but I usually try to think about it and be honest with myself. Now the trick is in the honesty with yourself. It's easier to lie to ourselves than to others. In my experience that is. Unless you're a really good public liar I guess.

I struggle to lie to others. My face gives it all away I think, but it's easier for me to lie to myself, and believe it. So one has to be able to admit not only those intellectual faults, but also those yukky emotions.

The hidden dark creepy ones that we don't even want to examine. I struggle a bit there. Intellectual is easier than emotional to me. I usually subdue those feelings, and that leads to withdrawing from those around me. Joking about it is a good way. The way I joke about my super dysfunctional family. Worst is when I just struggle to interact with either my husband or my daughter. I just feel blank. No emotion. Can't be good for her. Can't be nice for him.

Emotionally withdrawing from emotionally damaging situations is okay. Getting so emotionally blunted that one withdraws from those you love, is not okay. I've done the latter. I still do occasionally. I don't know how to stop it yet.

I've had to emotionally withdraw from damaging situations so often that I now do it even when it's not needed. When you subdue your emotions all the time it becomes harder to face up to them, to let them out. To cry, to laugh, to allow yourself to be angry (without projecting onto others)

Thankfully we're addressing this in therapy. I hope that allows me to deal more honestly with those things I feel uncomfortable about.

I often push beyond the discomfort, but I have the sneaky suspicion I'm still protecting myself from a lot of nasty emotions. Things I feel guilty about, things I feel angry about, things I don't like about myself.

Hopefully I can work through it somehow. This blog seems to be one of the ways to get in touch with it.

22 August 2012

Answer to Education and Children

This comes from a friend of mine who is South African but currently lives in Germany. I thought she gave me some good advice and so I wished to share it with you guys who feel like I do in the Education and Children post:

"Read your blog link regarding the school and religion...Am not a parent, but from the perspective of myself as primary school kid, i.e. your daughter's current position, my answer to "what is a parent to do" would be:

Don't waste time and energy trying to fight the school into changing all that religious crap. You are not going to win, because as you said, they cannot see it, so what dragon’s head you cut off today will grow back somewhere else tomorrow. Except if they target her directly and try to "convert" her or something, then of course you have to step in, but in the case of participating in a religious song that no one thought twice about including, it is sadly a matter of majority rules, and the majority of parents probably did not mind...

Caitlin herself is the point where your vigor should be focussed. Of course teachers and peers can do loads of damage, and lots of things happen that are outside your sphere of influence, but the more solid the education she gets at home in these matters, the less susceptible she will be to the outside.

I believe all a potential freethinker needs is someone to tell them „It is OK to think free“. Hey, you and I both went through all that crap at school and at home and turned out good fine atheists, didn’t we? But if someone had told little me that the fact that she thought everything they said at Bible Studies and in the church sermons and in Sunday school sounded utterly unlikely is perfectly OK, it would have saved me a lot of soul-searching and feeling lost, alone and different. I went to Kinderkrans from around 3-years old and my parents were both Sunday school teachers. As a pre-schooler I wasted no thought on religion, it was just nice stories, I don’t think my mind made much difference between Maya the Bee on TV and the story of Noah in the Bible. In primary school and Sunday school that changed, now we had tests on that stuff and had to listen (and believe). And it never really rang true to me, and first and foremost I found it utterly boring, whereas everyone around me seemed to be so enthralled... I believed if I prayed really really really hard to God to come into my heart, the way they said in Sunday school, it will all make perfect sense next week and I will have as good a time as the rest of the starry-eyed bunch.

Nope, didn’t happen. Next Sunday I still thought the preacher talked bollocks. I can more or less put an age on it, cause in third grade there was a contest where you could win a Bible, you had to collect small change from friends and family for charity and the kid who brought in the most got the Bible. I thought if I did so dilligently, God will finally come into my heart. I did not get much pocket money but all I had went into that donation tin. And I got the Bible. And instead of feeling more religious or believing in it all, I was just very relieved, because I knew my winning would blind my parents and teachers into believing I was an excellent young Christian for a good while, so for a while I could worry a tad less about someone noticing that I am not one of them. But I wouldn’t call myself an atheist at that stage, I guess I did believe in God, I just thought he did not want anything to do with me... The thought that perhaps he is simply not there and that it could be OK to think that never crossed my mind. Even all through high school, the Bible never made sense but I always believed the problem was on my side, because surely if everyone around me including all figures of authority believed in it, it must be true and there must be something wrong with me?

Actually it was only as I reached film school that I realized not everyone bought the whole Bible thing lock, stock and barrel. Not that there were much discussions about it, but a comment here or there made me realize „I am not alone“. And then of course coming to Europe and living my ex’s family who were also not religious opened my eyes to a whole different world, one where it is simply not an issue. And I would have loved to have that as a child.

You are in the position to give your daughter that. Of course she will experience some confusion when her teacher tells her something else, or her peers go all „Jesus this and Jesus that“, but you have the power to tell her that those things are as imaginary as any of the fiction books you read to her. That is is just stories. That some people believe those stories are real, but other people believe other stories (here you can introduce some other religions and their anecdotes, including that religions come and go – see Greek mythology, Egyptian gods, etc.). Maybe you can find some age-appropriate introductory books to archaeology – I knew I was always riveted with the idea of all those people who lived so long ago – and was very confused about the topic of their gods, cause if you go by the Bible, they lived somewhere between Adam and Eve and us, so why did God let them believe in their „heart of hearts“ that those other gods were real if he could’ve „saved“ them too by letting Jesus make his visit to Earth a tad earlier? Your Daughter has the priviledge of being raised by someone that can introduce her to all those scientific topics without raising a bunch of questions that are just brushed off with „God’s ways are mysterious to us humans“. 

Give her the relaxed atmosphere of it being a non-issue, instead of having to cringe every time her mommy has a go at the teacher for doing something religious – that might put her in the spotlight in her class in ways she would not like or might not be able to handle well. Would you mind her performing a song from Lion King or mind her taking part in a performance of Little Red Riding Hood? Fairy tales etc. usually have some kind of moral or important „lesson to learn“ in them, like „don’t run off with strangers“ – you can also teach her that the stories in the Bible have morals that can be good to follow – like helping others, or whatever, but that just as „not talking to strangers“ is not limited to big, nasty wolves, the morals in the Bible that are worth following do not come parcelled with having to be religious and believing you have to do them because God will punish you, but because they are good common sense. And if she knows that the religious song is just as fictitious as the one about Humpty Dumpty or whatever, she can dance and sing along without being harmed by its indoctrination.

If she has questions as to why it is like that at the school, and why they have to do all those things if they are fictitious, you can tell her something along the lines of „when in Rome do as the Romans do“ – If you guys had lived in a Hindu area, where all schools involved some Hindu teachings, and the only options were no education or going along with those rituals, she’d had have to do those things. Am not suggesting raising her to believe she has to conform all the time, that it is wrong to be different – not at all. But if she goes to one of her soccer games, she has to go certain things that go with the game, like kicking the ball with her feed instead of grabbing it and running with it like in Rugby – even though she might feel like running with it. And she has to wear the appropriate soccer uniform, even if she might feel like wearing some specific dress that day or might not like the colour of the uniform. So in all those small and little things, we all conform to get a certain result that we want – either to have the fun of the soccer game, or in the case of school to get a good education. In all that, she is still free to prefer wearing clothes in other colours when she is home, and in spite of not making a great issue out of not believing the stuff her teachers say, she is still free to think whatever she wants... I think when explained with analogies like that, children her age are perfectly capable of understanding the difference between playing along with the „rules of the game“ and losing your own identity by conforming.

If you give her that relaxed atmosphere and confidence that she can ask you anything about religion when she is puzzled by her friends and teachers, I believe the school can’t do much harm. And if in spite of that thorough preparation, the religious activities at school are enough to turn her into a „true Christian“, then there really is nothing you can do about it, then it is her choice – but it will be an informed choice, not like the childhood we had.

I thought this was great advice from someone who knows what our schools are like, and one of the few atheist friends I have. I will try my best to relax about this issue, and try to follow this advice

20 August 2012

Education, and children

Lets start with a bit of background. In South Africa among especially Afrikaans people, religion has become entrenched and mixed up with culture. It is assumed, expected and accepted that you are church going. If not church going, you are a Christian in some way, or refer to yourself as Christian. Probably a little bit like the US Bible Belt.

In schools it is accepted that you don't mind bible stories and christian songs being taught to your children. That there will always be some reference to Christianity in all things, and no parent will mind it. Prayer in school is okay, and children can really be ostracized if they do not take part.

If you're not a christian it is assumed you are a satanist, or somehow evil. Atheist is a swear word.

I posted about my inner turmoil when I had to fill in the school's application form here

At the beginning of the school year I went to the teacher and told her in no uncertain terms that we are not religious and don't want Caitlin to be exposed to any Indoctrination.

The problem with that is the Christian inability to recognise their own indoctrination. They can not differentiate between what is educational and what is indoctrinating, because they can not recognise their own indoctrination from a young age.

So this brings me to two disturbing things, and my frustration around them

Two nights ago we had the Grade R concert, and our kids were lovely. They danced and sang to a ton of really funky Afrikaans pop music, and it was adorable. But then the second last song was religious and I felt sick. Was it really necessary to put that in there?

I'd like to complain but I know I would be seen as petty. This is the huge problem I have with the Afrikaans culture. I should not have to constantly be undoing damage done by her EDUCATORS. It's enough that I have to be constantly vigilant to damage done by her peers.

I wanted to change her to an English class for next year, but was told they prefer children to receive teaching in their mother tongue, and wouldn't believe me when I said we are bilingual. They then claimed the English classes for next year are full.

So what is a parent to do. I am getting really frustrated with this constant battle. Just when I think my wishes are being met, our laws regarding religions in school are pushed to the utmost boundaries, and I have to clean up the damage to ensure my child grows up a free thinker. Yes, this is turning me anti-religious, which I haven't really been before having a child.

Update: a Friends gave me some good advice on this here 

15 August 2012

Guilt and Paranoia

I hate this Irritable Hypo-manic frigging mood I am in right now. Fuck it I thought the meds were working.

I'm responsible though. I worked all long weekend, I've been pushing myself beyond what I should know are my tiny limits of how much stress I can handle.

It starts of with me feeling a little irritated, and snapping at either my dad or my husband. I then make the situation worse because everyone is already pissed off at me for being irritated, and it feels like they keep on picking at me, they keep hassling, they keep demanding. (This is my skewed perception) No one leaves me alone so I get more irritated. Every encounter is filled with irritation. everything anyone does or says gets to me. There is no relief.

Then I start drifting off. My attention goes. I just managed to put in a lot of concentrated hours with work, so I notice the difference. I sit and stare at my PC screen. I drift off wile I drive staring at one spot in the road. I can't read. I'm still agitated and my mind goes at a 100 miles a minute thinking of all the things I am pissed of at. I get so angry. I see injustices perpetrated upon me. Everyone is out to screw me, use me, abuse me. They're all conspiring to just drive me insane. I know this isn't true. But it feels like it is. I notice that I'm uncertain of whether it is truth or paranoia. At least I am that self aware.

I warn my husband that I'm hypo-manic, but he doesn't know what to do with the info, and seeing as I am doing all the things I think others are doing to me ( picking on him, taking my mood out on him) He also struggles to not return fire with fire.

It affects my daughter who starts acting out, which makes it more difficult for me to keep my cool. I find myself grinding my teeth. Biting my tongue. Making fists, doing anything in my power to not explode, to not hit a wall with my fist, to not scream.

My mind is hyperventilating and my body is itching on the inside. I stay up way to late because I am so angry and I struggle to switch off. I have to put on a sane face when I leave the house. I have to put on a smiley mask, and by this stage it's usually showing some cracks, so I find myself losing boundaries and venting to people I don't really know.

I eventually try to apologise to my husband, but he struggles to accept it. I feel guilty. I feel horrible, I wish there was a switch. I feel angry that he can't see that I'm not in control. I can't control this. I pushed myself too hard in an effort to earn the money we need. In an effort to take responsibility for everything no one else wants to take responsibility for. I keep forgetting that I can't handle stress like other people can and I am under a huge amount of stress.

My psychologist said I can reduce my stress levels by more than half by moving out of my fathers house, and I know that is true, but trying to get to the point of earning enough money in able to do this is killing me in other ways.

What to do?

I hope I don't hit depression after this... I usually do.

13 August 2012

Light at the end of the tunnel

In the last month and a bit since I wrote anything I've been down and very very up, and then went slightly insane with anger, and then found balance.

Wow what a month. I didn't even realise it all only happened in 4 weeks. It felt like 4 months. I went into this deep dark, really disturbing depression. All I kept thinking of is how horrible I am, how worthless, how pathetic. How this world would be a better place without me. I constantly thought of death. Even when the thoughts weren't suicidal, which wasn't often. I thought of death and dying, and how wasted this world is when we die we just die. Nothing else, and how I was wasting this little bit of day, which is my life.

Then the Psychiatrist said to up the dose of Epitec and lets see how quickly we could do it, as I had been struggling since March to get to 200 mg, and was only at 125mg.

So immediately when I hit 175 I hit happy high. Extraordinary when you've been in the dark for so long. Ecstasy  happiness, fanfuckingtastic. But all the while I was slightly scared of coming down again. I was aware that I was way too high for it to be healthy. Then I hit angry manic. The worst kind. The happy high lasted exactly 2 days and then the person who is my worst trigger, my father, triggered me (more about him in another post)

I stabbed myself int he thigh with car keys in an explosion of viscious uncontrollable insane anger. It was that or hit him with the fist. I felt horrible. I felt like a complete asshole. I knew I crossed a line somewhere in my mind. I submitted to all the years of parental conditioning and became an abuser. My walls crumbled. The cracks were showing. No more control.

Luckily since I'm on 200mg I have been slightly more in control again, but there's been flames of anger. I just walk away though. I also started seeing a godless heathen psychologist. It's been tough but we're making progress. Unfortunately I only have 7 visits left with him because of my medical aid. I'll have to make the most of it. He says with my alcoholic father and my narcissistic mother he is surprised I actually turned out this well. That just makes me sad. I cry a lot when I'm with him. And gosh I am not a crier. Maybe it's good to cry for a change.


Ps. As I re-read this I realise I screwed up badly this weekend. I worked all of it and am a bit edgy. I'm so scared of going into the angry manic again, Trying my best to snap out of it, but we all know how little that helps. Gonna try and de-stress somehow but my life at the moment is too full of stressful situations