Treat yourself.

Georgia has been on holidays for four weeks, waiting for the adults to find the right place for her. Lily trudges off to school with heavy reluctance, and I take Georgia out for breakfast and we sit and talk like adults: what are you doing today? how are you feeling? what’s new in your world?

On Wednesdays we go to see a nice lady in a tiny room, and I stare straight ahead and talk too fast because I am so claustrophobic I could die, but if I leave then what kind of no-good person am I? Gaz knows all the tricks. When my hands start to shake he grinds his knuckles into the base of my spine and puts his hand under my thigh and he does that until the moment has passed, however briefly. We sit in the tiny room and the psychologist tells us how we should speak to Georgia (which is not, No, you can’t have those boots, stop asking for everything! and more It must be frustrating not to be able to get those boots).

On Thursday we started going to a group therapy session, with other parents who also have kids with behavioural quirks. Obviously I can’t write about any of their particulars, but what I can say is that we pushed a few tables together and ate some assorted cream biscuits, and we introduced ourselves by our children’s names, and then we all looked at the facilitators with the same expression. The same I don’t know what I’m doing, and Please have the answers, and we had a tea break and we laughed a lot and then we went home and looked at our children in their beds and thought, What the fuck.

The thing is that really, I am learning more about myself than anything.

It makes sense, the stuff we need to do for Georgia. Set her up to succeed. Tell her that her feelings are valid. Let her be angry, frustrated, happy, discouraged, quiet, loud, soft, blue. It is easy to get to the end of the day and feel as though she’s been properly supported, for that one day.

But self blame!

The woman in the tiny room has banned me from saying Sorry. Because what I say is, I’m sorry I took one valium while I was pregnant with Georgia, and at the time the ambulance guy said, ‘Are you sure you should take that?’ and I said, ‘It won’t do any harm!’ but it did, and I am so sorry. And then in another session I say, I’m sorry I diluted Michael’s sanity genes, and if I had known then maybe we could have done a kind of selective IVF and screened out the bad ones.

And Gaz digs his knuckles into my spine to bring me back.

The woman in the tiny room tells me every time that I come from a cycle of blame and guilt. That being the oldest child and having to prop up a mother who spent a lot of time shouting and crying (because she had a mother who also cried and shouted) has created a horned demon that sits right in my ribcage. We reenact that scene from Good Will Hunting and she tells me it’s not my fault, it’s not my fault, it’s not my fault until I am seven years old and the lunches aren’t made and I can’t find my shoes and my heart

and Gaz has his hand under my thigh and I can feel his blood rushing and it soothes me.

The woman in the tiny room doesn’t ever remind me that it’s not my session, that we’re not there to talk about my issues. You are a unit, she says, and so we treat every element of the unit.

What we are really doing is identifying the cycle, so we can pull Georgia out of it. We are finding the emotional triggers and we are changing them.

We are treating me, so I can help Georgia.


“Anna Spargo-Ryan returns with another impressive novel that will have readers feeling every emotion experienced by the beautifully written characters.” Books + Publishing

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I’m Anna, a digital strategist and writer who likes to drink 'Ice Tea' but doesn't understand why it's not called 'Iced Tea'. By night and occasionally morning, I eat things, write things, berate my children, walk my dogs and hug my chocolate.

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