My actual ratbrains!

Non-blog, Rat Brain

After a long period of procrastination and anxiety I finally have some pet rats – Janet and Chidi (who are in fact both girls…)

It’s been a difficult decision committing to a pet. Mostly because it is a commitment – to sticking around, to living here, to caring for these little beings and not just myself. I’ve had pets before of course but always known my mum would know what to do. So I’m choosing to commit to these little guys.

These are my first pets since moving out and they’re ones I’ve always wanted as a kid – but my dad hates rats. Considering the theme of this blog though, I think it’s an entirely appropriate choice!

Dear Rat Brain: What are your stories?

Rat Brain, Relationships

Dear Rat Brain,

Whenever I come home, I notice the pattern we immediately fall back into. We’re snappish, quick to criticise, sometimes immature. It’s a frustrating thing to deal with when you try hard to move *away* from this kind of behaviour when you’re not at home — but as soon as your foot steps over the threshold, I hear you squeak, ‘Ooh, I know this place! I know how we used to act!’

Part of this is the stories other people have about us; other times it’s the stories I still carry around myself/my family.

‘I must defend myself. They don’t understand me. I don’t know any other way to be besides passive aggressive’. The walls we put up as a teenager for our safety were needed then, but not now.

My goals for this Christmas are to try and unpick these stories, bit by bit. To extend some kindness for myself and for our family, who are trying their best and almost always have our best interests at heart. Even when they unknowingly hurt me, fight with each other or try to control each other, they are acting out the stories they hold onto, too. I can’t begrudge them that.

Why do you feel like you don’t belong here?

Other, Relationships

Dear Rat Brain,

Here’s a (terrible) picture of you that I drew during lunch at work, where I know you like to go a bit mental.


It’s only been a little over a week now so it’s not entirely surprising you’d feel like you’re some kind of ignorant alien – like you have no idea what you’re doing. That’s how we operated throughout most of university after all… And secondary school…

(And primary school? Who knows).

You squeak:

What if I don’t belong here? What if they find out I don’t know what the hell I’m doing? What if they realise I’m mentally about five years old and whenever I do things right it’s a complete accident? What if I mess up?

Obviously, it doesn’t matter to you that you get good grades, that you come up with good ideas, or that you can explain concepts to people when they need it. It doesn’t matter that you’re on top of your work. It doesn’t matter that when stuff goes wrong you know how to fix it.

It takes longer than a week to fit into any workplace, let alone your first one. But you’re not willing to put in that time to be bad so you can eventually be good. You’re also not willing to realise that no one else knows what the hell they’re doing either; the standards you set for others are not the standards you set for yourself.

When you’re always aiming for impossible imperfection, is there any wonder you always feel like a failure?






Why can’t you let go?


Dear Rat Brain,

Here’s something I know sends you spinning — the prospect of having to let go of someone. An ex-friend, an ex-partner, an ex-random-person-you-spoke-to-for-a-few-days-years-ago-and-got-overly-invested-in; they all collect like dust in the corner of your cage. Sometimes you might think about cleaning it away, but –

What if?  What if there’s more to learn here? What if they realise the error of their ways and they want to be in my life again? What if letting go means I forget what I’ve learned about boundaries, and I hurt someone else or get hurt again? What if letting go means I must face my real emotions, and I won’t like what I see —

Even more egregious is when you scurry around, flipping out whenever a thought or feeling comes up, in case you’re not letting go:

What if? What if I’m letting go in the wrong way? What if I’m just digging everything up again by talking about it? Am I boring or annoying other people?

Why am I not over [insert thing that happened to me years ago?] They’re over it, surely. How pathetic, how childish —

Get off the wheel, Rat Brain.

There’s no right way to grieve, or let go. There’s no way to force yourself to accept that something is over; trying to do so, ironically, is the opposite of acceptance.

You don’t have to talk about it X amount of times, with Y amount of people, for Z amount of time.

You don’t have to rake the Trauma Leaves into a neat pile in order to make it easy to process.

You don’t need to do compulsions (you know the ones) to deal with ‘bad’ emotions, like sadness or anger or anxiety. There aren’t any; only things you’ve been taught are unacceptable to feel.

You don’t have to find the moral of the story; there is none.

You don’t have to have a carefully curated list of what someone did wrong, in order to feel justified in letting someone go. It is enough to simply want to let them go.

But first, you have to want to.