Posts tagged ‘depression’

LOVE IS WATCHING SOMEONE DIE. 

We are through the first half of 2017, and almost halfway through July now as well. I made it through the 14th anniversary of Daughter Number One’s murder but only just, regular viewers, only just. I am still here, still breathing, still putting one foot in front of the other. 

I don’t try to pretend it is easy. It really hasn’t been. During the first five months of this year two beautiful souls I had the privilege of connecting with died and in June another, most precious, followed. On top of my own personal grief, watching people I love in pain is almost more than I can bear. I say almost because there isn’t a choice. I love them and they are in pain. If the most I can do is bear witness then it needs to be done. But I have been so sad. For me, for them. It all hurts so much. My body hurts, my soul hurts and oh, I’m so tired. So very, very tired. 

In the week before the anniversary of Daughter Number One’s murder we had the bombing in Manchester, at Ariana Grande’s concert. An attack on children. An attack on music. Shortly after came the London Bridge attack, again involving young people on a night out and shortly after that came the Grenfell Tower disaster. Babies and children, whole families, living their lives, losing their lives and all of these events in quick succession hit me like a ton of bricks. The weight of it, mixed with the other losses in my own life. The pointless waste of snuffed out potential. The reinforcement of how tenuous our grip on life is. How quickly everything we have and know and hold dear can be gone. It was crushing. 

As always, during these times, we were offered the very best and the very worst of humanity. Stories of homeless men running to give aid and strangers holding children, comforting them as they died. But the overwhelming aftertaste was of man’s inhumanity to man. These are the things I try not to hold onto. I really try. Consciously. I choose to look for the good and to be better, not bitter. But every ‘Missing! Hasn’t been heard from’ photo on facebook and each confirmed fatality, each snatched glimpse of footage showing billowing smoke and bereft people before I quickly changed the channel, took me back to a policeman’s face and the sound of his voice saying “There is nothing to identify. We’ll have to use dental records”. Over and over and over again. 

I am still sad. I am still scared. I am scared because at some point, in some way, love will equal loss, because that is the deal. And I choose to keep loving. Is it better to have loved and lost? Still, yes, I guess. For me at least. But the loss bit is just so very hard. 

Still, I get up in the morning and I put one foot in front of the other. Some days are slower than others, but I try and I try because the best way I know to honour the dead is by living. All the dear ones I have loved and lost, none of them would want me to not live my life. It would not give them back theirs. 

I have spoken before of the privilege of being adopted by a network of ex servicemen and women of all designations; military, police, fire and ambulance: Their support and generosity of spirit are second to none. A friend wrote recently to share his positive experience with a new medication he was trialling. Traditionally a blood pressure medication, it is said to have the bonus side effect of getting rid of ptsd related nightmares. As someone who routinely screams herself awake this sounded almost miraculous. In truth, after all these years I cannot imagine what life might be like without them. I just know it sounds good to me. 

After using antidepressants for over ten years I stopped taking them four years ago. A doctor said to me that she didn’t think my depression was biologically based, rather a reaction to events. I thought ‘Abso- fucking- lutely’ and at that moment there didn’t seem to be much point in continuing to take them. I only speak for myself. I don’t make judgements about what does and doesn’t work for anyone else. I was under medical supervision. But for me, I have not had any more bad days or anymore good days since I stopped taking them. That’s what I know. 

Four years down the track from that decision, hearing about a medication that specifically targets the nightmares was pretty exciting! So I made an appointment with a gp and asked. The Dr I was seeing had never heard of using this particular medication in that way so she rang a registrar for more information. She confirmed what my friend had been so generous to share. So, I got my prescription. And I don’t know that it will work for me but I don’t know that it won’t. And hope is a fine thing! 

One foot in front of the other until you get to the other side, while sirens in the distance have me listening for the voice that will never come. 

Safe onward travel to all my lovelies, wherever you are and wherever you are headed x 

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THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME. 

This morning I woke up from a nightmare in which I was getting my children ready for some imminent apocalyptic event. I don’t remember what it was, I just remember speaking to my kids and trying to prepare them, in a detailed way, including instructions on what to do if separated from me, or from each other. They were smaller, younger, more vulnerable versions of themselves, just to add to the ambiance. I was talking to them in a very matter of fact way while in my head I was screaming because I knew it wasn’t enough, wasn’t enough, wasn’t enough and the very bad thing was coming and I couldn’t keep them safe. 


Yesterday I woke up from a dream that left me so disoriented that it literally took me a full sixty seconds, without exaggeration, to work out – first – where I was, but then, when I was. In that order, which is weird. Yesterday disappeared into a bit of a hole that I was unable to crawl my way out of. The level of exhaustion is hard to describe. I read somewhere that people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder feel so tired all the time because you are basically on high alert constantly. After nightmares all night (I will wake up several times during the night and even if I go back to sleep all I remember are nightmares) I slump into some days. My head pounds, I have chest pains and my limbs all feel like they are made of concrete. My whole body aches with heaviness. Everything, every. little. thing. requires such effort that, even if I can be bothered, a small task can take up most of the day. There are days I can’t even pretend to be a functional human being. 

I guess this is my annual Mother’s Day whinge. Feel free to stop reading. I don’t claim any exclusivity. Everyone has hard days and Mother’s Day is hard for lots of people, for many reasons. Childless mothers, motherless children, women who mother other people’s children, children and mothers who are separated by whatever circumstance. I don’t pretend my list is comprehensive. You all know who you are. 

For some, it will be their first Mother’s Day and for some it will be their first Mother’s Day since. For some, it will be both and that’s just the way it is. What I know is that as soon as Easter was over, literally the day after, shops were full of Mother’s Day merchandise. Mugs and slippers and photo frames everywhere you turn. Brochures in the letter box and advertisements on television and Mother’s Day espisodes of television shows. Choking up my newsfeed in every direction. A constant assault that is impossible to escape. And for me this year the added bonus of a later Mother’s Day bringing it even closer to the anniversary of my Daughter’s death. Two and a half weeks to go. Bonus. 

Would I have been a grandmother by now? I cried on the packed train today, silently, after scrolling past a mother guessing her daughter was pregnant on a facebook post. Bit, fat, hot tears that dropped singly from my lashes and felt like lava carving their way down my face. 

After tomorrow there will be marked down slippers, mugs and photo frames and that is nowhere near as fun as marked down Easter chocolate, nowhere near as fun at all. But the days, even the hard ones, pass. Just a bit slower. 

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Tonight I am baby sitting three rascals of the four legged kind. Two very special babies and the big brother of the little girl Son Number Two and I have staying with us; precious souls all of them and I am glad to be here. 
A friend asked me to edit her manuscript recently. I cannot possibly put into words what it meant to me to be trusted with that task, but it meant so much. It worked for me on a number of levels. 
I have friends I can text random things to and they will meet me where I am. I recently went to see a performance of live theatre. It was an incredibly moving adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank hosted by the Western Australian Academy of the Performing Arts. I’ve had lunch in the quiet, leafy grounds of a University and laughed at my Daughter Number Two and my Sons. I have felt the relief of cool nights after just warm enough days. Videos of small boys and big dogs that melt my heart. And, you know, marked down Easter chocolate. 

The best of times and the worst of times. 
For the rest of my life; the best of times and the worst of times. 
Safe onward travel x 

IT’S A NEW DAWN. 

Well, here we are again. Another year.  2017. Donald Trump is the American president and it’s safe to say the times they are a changin’, for me personally and on a worldwide level. It’s safe for me to say that because times always do. Change is our constant. 

My current psych is trying Cognitive Behavioural Therapy with me. Part of that is mindfulness. Be in the now. Sure. Still, as much as I acknowledge that the past is the past and cannot be altered the inalienable truth for me is that the absence of my Daughter Number One is my present. I acknowledge that she is gone but that loss, the great, gaping, abyss-like wound caused by her absence is with me always. And most days, most minutes of most days, it takes everything I have not to just fall right in. Some days it takes everything I have not to just jump. Or to simply let go and drift gracefully into the warm, inky, welcoming, comforting, NOTHING blackness. 

Because for me, there is nothing beautiful about my own struggle. It is me, hanging on by my fingernails as I feel them splinter, grazing my knees and elbows as I stumble along, blinded by my tears and struggling to breathe against the constriction of my chest. Aching joints, aching head, aching heart. And that is me being mindful. That is me living in the now; where my other children grow older and my Daughter’s friends get engaged to be married and my first born Daughter never does and never will. Where I accept the reality of her absence but that will never make it ok. 

After George Michael died last year, after Prince and Leonard Cohen, I commented somewhere that it was the year the music died, but of course I was wrong. The music is eternal. The gifts people give the world, that is what they leave us to hold onto. For someone who only lived fourteen years the legacy of love my Daughter Number One left behind is immense. I am awed by it. Sometimes I am even comforted by it. But it is not enough and never will be. Call me a greedy bitch if you like, I know some people have much less. But I want more. 

Since I have told you what there is safe to say and what is fair, let me tell you what is UNFAIR and not safe to say out loud. Ironically, as I wrote that last sentence I wrote ‘fear’ instead of ‘fair’ and I allowed myself a wry chuckle, that, sitting on a crowded flight with tears escaping from my eyes, could only enhance the aura I imagine surrounds me!

This year I face the fourteenth anniversary of my Daughter’s murder. No anniversary is easy and I have told you before that the months between her birthday and the anniversary are progressively excruciating. As the years have passed though (how is that even possible?) I have been aware of an increasing dread. As we start off another year I can tell you it has now grown into a creeping, cold terror that wraps itself around me. It is crushing. It is paralysing. 

It is the knowledge that at a certain point this year my Daughter Number One will have been gone for longer than she was here. And for some reason the thought of that is DEVASTATING to me. For a start, it doesn’t even seem possible. To continue to be living this long without her. It is a thought my mind has trouble containing because it is just so wrong. JUST SO VERY WRONG. Incomprehensible. Perhaps it is the simple fact that we are not meant to outlive our children. It isn’t the way it is meant to be. Which is why, when Debbie Reynolds died so quickly after Carrie Fisher, I thought ‘Oh, that’s good’. 

Rationally I know that this year will not make my Daughter any more gone but I can only tell you how it feels. And how it feels is like I am losing her all over again. That, somehow, she is getting farther away. That she is disappearing further and I literally do not know how I will bear it. I do not know how to do this. To keep doing this. I am so scared. What I don’t expect people to understand unless they have similar experiences (and I don’t wish that on anybody) is that it isn’t and has never been one finite loss. Clear cut and contained. It is a million, billion losses that still – daily – assault me. Sometimes with the force of a sledgehammer and sometimes more of a pin prick but they are chronic and unending. My loss does not diminish. It is infinite and immeasurable. I have simply lived with it longer, the longer I live. 

My other children, my beautiful friends, my family of the heart; they are the reasons I keep putting one foot in front of the other. I know I am so lucky to have them. I know I do not walk alone. But oh, gosh, it’s been such a long walk. I am so tired. It is not so much good days and bad but better days or worse. I know joy, I feel happiness but they are bittersweet. Part of that is guilt. Even when I am happy I am sad. Trying to ‘pass’ as a functional human being is exhausting. 

Today I am travelling and I enjoy that. I love being up here in the air. When you get above the clouds the sun is always shining. I am sitting in the emergency exit row. My first time ever. I don’t like having to put my handbag above me in the overhead locker and not having it easily accessible but, eh, I took out everything I hope I’ll need on this short flight so ok. It seems a small price to pay for the extra leg room! I am actually sitting here with my legs crossed! Which is probably really bad for my circulation but feels so comfortable! 

This is the second of three flights I will take today and as usual I am taking the long way around. The road less travelled. My first flight took me south. This flight takes me north, over and past the point from which I started and the flight this evening will take me west and home. Five flights, four airports and three states total in forty eight hours. I am lucky to be able to spend time with people I love on this journey. But parting is always such sweet sorrow. So I am in a state of agonising ecstasy today.  

I knew early on, after my Daughter’s murder, that it would be terribly easy to slip into a cosy state of detachment. In fact, completely switching off emotionally is what I constantly, consciously fight against. It would be so easy, to just not feel. It would be So. Much. Easier. And some days I need the reprieve. But as a very dear, much loved kindred spirit reminded me today, indifference is the opposite of love. And I choose to keep loving. And feeling and living. Because how is any of it worth it otherwise? 

My not so little now Daughter Number Two said to me yesterday “It is hard when you are always missing someone.” 

And she’s right. It is. It just is. 

Safe onward travel x 

ONCE I WAS SEVEN YEARS OLD. 

A couple of nights ago Son Number Two woke me in the early hours of the morning. I had been having a nightmare that something was coming at me out of the dark and, in my dream, I had been screaming his name. He said, in real life, that he couldn’t understand what I was crying out, but that I was clearly distressed, so he woke me up. It wasn’t the first time, it will not be the last. He wakes me up and talks to me for a couple of minutes as I reorient myself and then he goes back to bed. And in the morning he gets up and goes off to school. 

Last Wednesday was Son Number Two’s eighteenth birthday. That seems incredible to me but there you have it. My beautiful Daughter Number One died when he was four years old and he has very few memories of her. Life ‘After’ is life as he knows it. I wanted his birthday to be all about him and I think, I hope, that he felt that it was. The birthday video I made to post to facebook had only one photo of him with each sibling; the rest of an increasingly good looking boy across the years. So many memories as I trawled through photos to pick the best ones. 

And I got things together and I organised his birthday dinner but by the big day I was exhausted from the effort of containing the unfairness of his big sister not being here to celebrate this milestone with him and the brutality of the knowledge that she never got to see her eighteenth birthday. Or any birthday after she turned fourteen. Each night this week brought a nightmare that didn’t really stop when I awoke. 
On his birthday Son Number Two went off to school and I attended to the last few details. I went to visit a friend and while they were sweeping outside I stood in their kitchen with music on full blast and sobbed the kind of heaving, full bodied sobs that leave you unsure if you are going to vomit and bring you literally to your knees – and they did, and they did. But before my friend came inside I had wiped off my face and regained my composure and the day wore on. 

I came home to my Son and one friend, followed by another, then another. We all got ready to go out for his birthday dinner and there were many laughs. The general consensus amongst his friends seems to be that I am cool, as parents go. But they have no idea of how hard my Son’s life has been at times. We have had some adventures though, he and I, and I guess we have both made it this far. That’s saying something in itself even if I’m not sure what that is. What I do know is that he has a solid group of friends who, like him, are loyal smart arses for the most part. But funny as fuck. 
We all prepared to go out and I sent them off to the bus stop and waited for my own lift at the top of my drive way and with their laughter travelling around the corner to me I felt the tightness in my chest and the change in my breathing as the grip I held so tightly once again started to slip. I sent an emergency text to one of my oldest, dearest friends and then my other lovely friends picked me up to go to the restaurant. 


The birthday dinner was a good night out and a jolly good time was had by all. I limped through the rest of the week and here we are, on Father’s Day. 

Once again I feel for my son and all that was stolen from him but more than that, I am so grateful. I am grateful beyond measure for the truly good men who have been in his life. The ones who came to his birthday dinner and clapped him on the back, shook his hand and hugged him goodbye. I am grateful for all of those men who have spent time with him over his life and who have cared enough to make the effort. I am thankful for the beautiful men and fathers I have the privilege of knowing, the true good guys that mean I continue to have hope. Lastly, I am grateful for my Son, who he is and who he is becoming. 

Safe onward travel x 

YOU WERE ALWAYS ON MY MIND

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I had the usual ‘countdown’ from Son Number One’s birthday nine days beforehand to the anniversary of Daughter Number One’s death yesterday. Really it starts around her birthday in February but kicks in in earnest from Son Number One’s birthday. There’s been the nightmares, with various themes revolving around loss and fear (read terror). I wake from these dreams exhausted and literally sore from holding tension in my body and thrashing in my sleep. Sometimes this translates into actual injuries but aside from a painful wrist and knee I’m not doing too badly. I haven’t clawed at my face, so that’s nice. I’ve been more easily startled than usual, and with the whole hyper vigilance thingy I startle easily anyway so having that rev up a notch has been interesting. We were driving home on dusk the other night and two cars turned near us and that was enough to make me jump out of my skin. Twice. 

Today I woke up with chest pain which went away during the day but is back in force as I write this evening. The eczema on my hand has flared up. Headaches are how I usually manifest stress so it’s business as usual there. There’s some dizziness and disorientation. I am more clumsy and absent minded. My body feels heavy and apart from the soreness on waking there is a pervasive ache throughout, as if I am physically bruised all over. Everything feels too hard. I was more than usual antsy yesterday and couldn’t put my finger on it until I realised that this anniversary fell on the same weekday as the day Daughter Number One died, which added another dimension and made it harder to get lost in the present day. In the preceding days my head plays on a loop her final ones. I distract myself as best I can. On the actual anniversary it jumps to hours and minutes. ‘At this time you were sleeping in because you didn’t know it was your Daughter’s last day on Earth’,’At this time she was walking out the door and that was the last time you ever saw her’ (and I can see her still, see what she was wearing, see her leave but I can’t go back and I know, oh god, that she is gone now, that I have lost her, even though she hasn’t taken her last breath yet),’At this time you were going out of your mind because you didn’t know where Daughter Number One was and you didn’t yet understand she was never coming back’. Thankfully, last night, by the time ‘At this time the police car pulled up out the front and the police chaplain got out’ came around I was in bed with The Love of My Life’s arms wrapped around me, asleep.

I don’t pretend for a second that I am easy to be around sometimes, for any number of reasons, so I am extremely grateful to those that love me enough to stick by me. Special mention as always goes to my knights, those loyal friends who walk with me. Ones I’ve had since before my Daughter’s death, and those I’ve made since. Those of you who drop in to read my words. The person closest to me though gets to witness my grief on a much more intense level. The Love of My Life can’t scroll past my words on facebook or not read my latest blog post or pretend not to notice when he’s not in the mood, because I’m living this life right here next to him. When I exclaim aloud in the car and clutch the dashboard because something (nothing) has made me jump, it is him I distract from driving. He sees my tears and feels them wet against his chest. He asks me questions and listens to me speak Her name.

Throughout the last week The Love of My Life has been able to hold me, gently cupped in his hands, while my wings beat frantically against his palms in my fear, pain and confusion. He has neither crushed me nor let me fall. And when I’ve steadied myself it will be his hand supporting me that lifts me up to fly again.

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BABY COME BACK, ANY KIND OF FOOL COULD SEE THERE WAS SOMETHING IN EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU.

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That’s What All the People Say. (For Matt and Chris, with love x)

Ah, life! You sadistic, sucker punching bastard! You’re riding high in April, shot down in May. Or you know, ok on Tuesday and over it by Wednesday. 

Bittersweet is something I am overly familiar with. Son Number Two is doing a musical this year, Little Shop of Horrors. It’s the same musical that his Sister did the year she died. He’s in the chorus. She was in the chorus. He’s in year 9. She was in year 9. He’s older than she ever was. He’s still here. She’s not. Not in the ways I wish she was.

Still, that’s life. That’s my life anyway and life for too many like me.

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When we went to see his Sister in Little Shop of Horrors Son Number Two was absolutely petrified of the giant plant. We went backstage to see his sister and he was beside himself! He was so very little then. Shortly after that his whole world exploded. What I wouldn’t give for that little boy to have been able to live a bit longer before he had to find out that monsters are not just make believe. Take him back to a time where all he had nightmares about were papier mâché plants and a hug from his big Sister made everything ok. 

Son Number Two is going to his first rehearsal today. I hope he has a blast. 

And now over to one of my favourite philosophers who says it far better than I ever could. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you- Eminem:

“Beautiful”

[Intro:]
Lately I’ve been hard to reach, I’ve been too long on my own
Everybody has a private world where they can be alone
Are you calling me? Are you trying to get through?
Are you reaching out for me, like I’m reaching out for you?

I’m just so fuckin’ depressed, I just can’t seem to get out this slump
If I could just get over this hump
But I need something to pull me out this dump,
I took my bruises, took my lumps
Fell down and I got right back up
But I need that spark to get psyched back up
In order for me to pick the mic back up
I don’t know how or why or when I ended up in this position I’m in
I’m starting to feel distant again
So I decided just to pick this pen
Up and try to make an attempt to vent
But I just can’t admit
Or come to grips with the fact that I may be done with rap
I need a new outlet, and I know some shit’s so hard to swallow
But I just can’t sit back and wallow
In my own sorrow
But I know one fact I’ll be one tough act to follow
One tough act to follow
I’ll be one tough act to follow
Here today, gone tomorrow
But you’d have to walk a thousand miles

[Chorus:]
In my shoes, just to see
What it’s like, to be me
I’ll be you, let’s trade shoes
Just to see what it’d be like to
Feel your pain, you feel mine
Go inside each other’s minds
Just to see what we find
Look at shit through each other’s eyes
But don’t let ’em say you ain’t beautiful, oh
They can all get fucked.
Just stay true to you
So don’t let ’em say you ain’t beautiful
Oh, they can all get fucked.
Just stay true to you, yeah, so…

I think I’m starting to lose my sense of humor
Everything is so tense and gloom
I almost feel like I gotta check the temperature in the room
Just as soon as I walk in
It’s like all eyes on me
So I try to avoid any eye contact
’cause if I do that then it opens the door for conversation
Like I want that… I’m not looking for extra attention
I just want to be just like you
Blend in with the rest of the room
Maybe just point me to the closest restroom
I don’t need no fucking man servant
Trying to follow me around and wipe my ass
Laugh at every single joke I crack
And half of them ain’t even funny like
“Ha!, Marshall you’re so funny man, you should be a comedian, god damn”
Unfortunately I am, but I just hide behind the tears of a clown
So why don’t you all sit down?
Listen to the tale I’m about to tell
Hell, we don’t gotta trade our shoes
And you ain’t gotta walk no thousand miles

[Chorus]

But don’t let ’em say you ain’t beautiful
Oh they can all get fucked.
Just stay true to you so
Don’t let ’em say you ain’t beautiful
Oh they can all get fucked.
Just stay true to you so

Nobody asked for life to deal us
With these bullshit hands we’re dealt
We gotta take these cards ourselves
And flip them, don’t expect no help
Now I could have either just
Sat on my ass and pissed and moaned
Or take this situation in which I’m placed in
And get up and get my own
I was never the type of kid
To wait by the door and pack his bags
Who sat on the porch and hoped and prayed
For a dad to show up who never did
I just wanted to fit in
In every single place
Every school I went
I dreamed of being that cool kid
Even if it meant acting stupid

Aunt Edna always told me “Keep makin’ that face it’ll get stuck like that”
Meanwhile I’m just standin’ there
Holdin’ my tongue tryna talk like this
‘Til I stuck my tongue on that frozen stop sign pole at 8 years old
I learned my lesson then cause I wasn’t tryna impress my friends no more
But I already told you my whole life story
Not just based on my description
’cause where you see it from where you’re sitting
It’s probably 110% different
I guess we would have to walk a mile
In each other’s shoes, at least
What size you wear? I wear tens
Let’s see if you can fit your feet

[Chorus]

[Outro:]
Lately I’ve been hard to reach, I’ve been too long on my own
Everybody has a private world where they can be alone…
So are you calling me, are you trying to get through, oh?
Are you reaching out for me, like I’m reaching out for you?
So oh oh

Yeah… To my babies. Stay strong.
Daddy will be home soon
And to the rest of the world, god gave you the shoes
That fit you, so put ’em on and wear ’em
And be yourself, man, be proud of who you are
Even if it sounds corny,
Don’t ever let anyone tell you, you ain’t beautiful, so…

 
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Remember friends,
 
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Travel safe x 

 

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