“My nerves are jangling,” was often my mother’s refrain. What did she mean by that and what impact has it had on me growing up?
Before I was born my mum had a massive and catastrophic car accident when a lorry travelling on the wrong side of the road round a corner hit her. She was not expected to live. She survived but with lots of physical injuries.
Mum and Dad married and had me eleven months later. When Grandma found out mum was pregnant with me she fainted; mum was not meant to get pregnant so soon. She’d broken her pelvis in the accident, amongst other things.
Mum had a difficult labour. She said she wouldn’t have cared if I had been a frog after such a long, arduous labour.
If Mum found things too much she would say, “My nerves are jangling.” What she meant was she was finding life too difficult and she wanted something to change. Raising a child is hard. Losing a child is even harder. My twin sisters were born four years after me. Rachel survived. Ruth did not. I think the combination of physical injuries with mental injuries caused mum to struggle. She didn’t have the emotional vocabulary to name her feelings and so “My nerves are jangling” had to do.
Her nerves could ‘jangle’ because I was not doing as I was told quickly enough, or because she was tired, hungry or just out of sorts through physical or mental pain and anguish.
Jangling, for me, is synonymous with adrenaline and cortisol running through my veins making me feel jittery, anxious and keen to flee. When mum’s nerves were jangling mine also jangled. I learned the word ‘jangle’ signified trouble for me.
So, for others ‘jangle’ might represent happy times: the jangle of keys as a loved one returns home; the jangle of money in a beloved grandfather’s pocket signifying a windfall or the jangle of a horse’s reins on a gallop. Yet for me the word ‘jangle’ triggers negative emotions. Emotions of fear and anxiety at memories of what happened when nerves jangled.