Thursday, 23 April 2015

The voice that won't be silenced

I have a voice. A persistent voice. A voice that talks and talks and talks. No, it's not LittleBear, though I think he might be running this voice a close second. In fact, I think I might know where he gets it from.

This voice is my inner monologue. And it never shuts up. It's not a malicious voice, or an intrusive voice, or a voice that I dislike. Not much anyway. I mean, it's me. It's the sound of myself. It's my constant companion, it's my friend, my ally, my confidante, my harshest critic, my list-writer, my blogger, my planner, my thinker. I don't know how to think other than in words. Even if I'm solving a maths problem in my head, there's a constant string of words accompanying me... that's 1, then 4, 45, 42 is 6, 3, 36, don't forget the 1 and 6, 36 is 5, only 1, ignore that, 1, 6, 5, 165. That was me dividing 1156 by 7.

My inner monologue doesn't simply observe the world around me, it explains what I'm doing or thinking or feeling to some unknown "other", almost as though I'm practising what I'll say if there were a real person there. Sometimes I fill in the blanks of what the "other" will say. Sometimes the "other" is a manifestation of a real person in my life. And then I can descend into arguments, tears and angst with other people. Entirely imaged arguments can reduce me to tears.

My voice makes little asides during films. It ambles off and writes a shopping list while I'm supposed to be listening to a lecture. It meanders along writing blog posts in my head while I'm driving. It plans how to convert a chapel into a house while listening to Bach's St Matthew Passion (I know, I'm a philistine). Everything I think I vocalise internally. I think therefore I talk. Constantly talk. Endlessly talk. If I'm on my own I let my voice out for a bit of exercise rather than keeping it confined in my head. Sometimes I let my voice out when I'm not on my own. Yesterday even the man trying to sell copies of "The Watchtower" avoided me in the street, so there are benefits to being the crazy lady who walks along muttering to herself.

My voice allowed me to drive for twenty minutes with my car stereo set to track-repeat without noticing because I was so engrossed in my own internal world. I admit that I do like "Judy and the Dream of Horses" (Belle & Sebastian for those of you not into mid-nineties Scottish indie pop) but not enough to listen to it solidly for twenty minutes.

My voice allows me to plan what I'm going to cook for dinner over the next week and suddenly realise I have absolutely no idea what my boss has just been talking about, though I'm sure I ought to be trying harder to pay attention to partition coefficients.

Sometimes my voice allows me to have conversations with people that I become convinced actually happened and I'm bemused when they subsequently have no idea what I'm talking about.

It's at night that my voice is most likely to become a problem. Unless you think not listening to your boss is a problem, in which it's a problem most days too. At night though, untrammeled by reality, common sense, rational influence or BigBear, my voice can talk me into endless trouble. Monday night was one such night...

I made a mistake. I admit it. I put LittleBear to bed in his pants and pyjamas and not a nappy. He'd been dry at night for about six months, but in a nappy anyway as he was still in a cot. Without the ability to get out of his cage cot it seemed peculiarly unkind to rob him of his only safe way to wee. A few weeks ago he launched into this "going for a wee is boring and I don't want to" routine in the mornings and would stand (occasionally even get as far as the bathroom) and defiantly wee in his nappy rather than use the loo. So, once we took the side off his cot and converted it into a "big boy bed" I took his nappy away too.


Turns out he's reverted to wee-ing in the night as well, not just in the morning. Curse those nappies for not having a data plotter on them so I knew when he'd used them.

I discovered this not-actually-dry-at-night-any-more feature at 2am on Monday when LittleBear appeared beside my bed to inform me his pyjamas were wet. As was the sheet, the mattress, the duvet cover, and the duvet. It's a miracle the pillow wasn't wet. And the cuddly penguins had a lucky escape. I got him clean and dry and warm and cosy in bed and returned to my own bed. I then lay awake for TWO AND A HALF HOURS while my brain chattered away to me.

I shouldn't have put him in pants, he isn't ready. What if I've ruined it all now? He hates getting wet, now he'll be traumatised and we'll never get him dry at night. My poor little boy. Why was I so stupid? Does he need a wee in the middle of the night every night? Don't tell me he's like BigBear and I'm going to have two of them getting up every night for a wee. I don't want to be woken up every night. Not again. This is the beginning of sleep-deprivation insanity again. What will I do? There's no point me sleeping in the spare room as LittleBear only ever wants Mummy at night so it's all going to fall on me. I don't want to be woken up every night...

It's awfully dark in the bathroom in the night. How will LittleBear see to go to the loo when he can't reach the light switch? BigBear hates the light, so I can't just leave the light on in there all night. Can I get a night light? Is there such a thing as a bathroom nightlight? Maybe I should Google that. If only I had my phone here, I could look it up under the covers and BigBear wouldn't be disturbed... No... I can't be bothered to go downstairs. I'll make my own plan. We don't have a shaver socket, and there are no sockets on the landing, so where could I plug a light in? Aha! There are mains sockets in the airing cupbaord. Should I fit a shaver socket? How would I get the wiring out to it? Would it be OK to run surface wiring? I don't really want to chisel a hole in the plaster to fit a socket. I hate sockets that aren't properly recessed, you can always tell they were an afterthought and not installed properly. What about a light on the outside of the airing cupboard door? That might work. No. The wiring would get in the way. How about a light above the mirror? It's right next to the airing cupboard and I could do some pretty discrete surface wiring. Could it be flat twin core? Or would it need to be earthed? I'd better check the wiring regulations for bathrooms.

And on and on and on and on. I planned ever more elaborate means of making sure there was enough light for LittleBear to find his way in the bathroom. I planned different strategies for getting him back into nappies, and yet persuading him to not use the damn things. I wondered and worried and fretted and thought about how much damage I'd done. And I did it all in one long internal monologue. My brain doesn't even have to pause to draw breath. My brain also repeats itself. A lot. In fact it seems to have a sort of half-arsed edit function, where I get most of the way through a sentence and then go back to the beginning to correct it for style and grammar. Yes, I edit my own thoughts for poor use of English. Can I please give myself a break?

As the two hour mark passed, I tried to meditate my way back to serenity. I tried a technique that's worked for me before:

Breathe in. Breathe out. 1.
Breathe in. Breathe out. 2.
Breathe in. Breathe out. 10.

The aim is to not let your thoughts wonder. To not let yourself lose count. To focus only on breathing and counting. To try to get to 10.

I couldn't get past 4 without realising my mind had started talking again and I'd forgotten what number came next. Shut Up PhysicsBear! For once in your life, just SHUT UP! Usually my one sure-fire way of silencing my voice is to read. The words of what I'm reading take over completely. I don't read them out loud in my head, but my voice simply can't compete with the cascade of words streaming into my mind, tumbling over each other, desperate to be lapped up. Maybe that's why I enjoy reading so much? I can finally get some peace and quiet in here. I don't think BigBear would thank me for turning on the light and reading at 4am. Besides, I'd finished my book just before bed time, so what would I read anyway?

At 6:30 LittleBear re-appeared with more wet pyjamas, bed etc. Oh bugger.

On Tuesday night LittleBear had an exciting new treat. Pull-ups! Look at this LittleBear! They're like pants, so you can pull them up and take them down yourself, but if you have a little accident it won't matter! To my enormous relief, LittleBear thought this was an amazing idea. What he thought was even more amazing was the sticker chart on which he would get a star every night he didn't wee in his pull-ups. So amazing that in the first half hour after being put to bed he'd got up three times for a just-in-case wee to make sure he didn't wee in his pull-ups. BigBear and I hastily invented a new chart, where there'd be a star in the morning if he'd stayed in bed once put there. Making it up as we go along? Us? Hell yes.

LittleBear slept for 11 hours, and got two stars in the morning and is inordinately proud of himself for not weeing in his pull-ups. Phew. Let's hope the novelty and excitement of not weeing lasts.

And the bathroom night-light? I went to the hardware shop and bought a battery-powered LED light with PIR sensor. It creates a gentle glow in the bathroom whenever someone moves in there. It's fantastic. And there's no wiring.

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