Letting Go

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April 7th, 2018. Six years ago today, I lost my precious mum to pneumonia. She was the bravest, most selfless person I ever knew. Most of her life, she was ill and in pain, and yet she never complained. Like, not ever. She was my hero. She is my hero. If I could be a quarter of the person she was, I would be happy. She write poetry. Although our styles are very different, I inherited her love of all things literature. I thank her for that every day.

This is a poem I wrote about losing her …

Letting Go

I sit next to the 

sterile hospital bed and

wonder how she got this ill—

how I never noticed,

when I was supposed to look after her.

I watch as the angry mask

furiously forces air into her lungs,

her body slamming into the bed

with every blast.

Holding her lifeless hand,

I trace the misshapen 

fingers and thumbs.

Memories cascade before my eyes;

I am a grown-up child again,

five years old, taking care of my mum,

(my precious responsibility),

but I was selfish, 

all I wanted was a mum

who could play and run with me, lift me, 

hold me.

None of that matters now,

my sole desire is for a mum who can 

hear me, 

speak to me,

but I know she is lost forever,

so I turn to the doctor and

nod,

and the mask is removed;

the machines switched off.

I’m terrified as I watch her breaths—

almost imperceptible—

gradually fade to nothing.

She is still,

pain free, 

and I am broken.

I look to her face,

and in her very last breath 

she has smiled, 

and I know she has seen my dad,

the love of her life.

They are reunited in death,

and this comforts my shattered

heart.

 

Tears

I awoke this morning with this song in my head, and it’s created a tailspin of memories.

 

I don’t know why it was in my head. I haven’t heard it for years. But it was very firmly stuck on a loop in my mind.

I first heard this song when I was about ten, I think. It may not have been this version. I remember falling in love with the lyrics, and feeling like they could have been written about me. I think a small part of the ten-year-old me believed they were.

I learned at a very early age that tears were not acceptable. Actually, there was more than one reason why. My grandfather, firstly. (He always seems to work his way into first place, doesn’t he?) I don’t know exactly when I decided to stop giving him the satisfaction of seeing me cry, or begging him to stop. It was shortly after my sixth birthday. I remember that because Percy, my purple teddy bear, was still brand new, and I got him when I was six. I made a promise to myself to never let the monster see me cry again. I understood how much he got off on it. And so I stopped. I toughened up.

My dad comes second in the story of my lack of tears. He had no time for weakness, probably because it was the thing he hated most about himself. He told me on many occasions that I had to be a good girl and not cause any trouble. When I cried, he would mimic me. God, I hadn’t thought of that in a lot of years. It’s brought a lump to my throat right now. He belittled my fears and sadness by making fun of me. That’s so sad. He also told me that if I cried a lot or made a fuss or did anything vaguely naughty, he would take me to the children’s home and leave me there. I believed him with all of my heart.

I also couldn’t cry because of Mum. I don’t blame her for this. But she was always ill, and I had to be a grown-up five-year old and look after her. I was not allowed to upset her in any way, for fear of making her sicker.

So, I didn’t cry. At least, like this song; not out loud. Actually, I don’t think I really cried on the inside. I stopped feeling everything, except for fear. The world became a terrifying place. Nowhere was safe. Everything was always at stake. I felt on the brink of losing it all.

I saw a counsellor for a little while a few years ago. She told me I was the only patient she’d ever seen who didn’t cry once. Counselling, she said, is a fairly wet business. But I couldn’t cry.

When Dad died in 2007, something shifted. I cried for, like, a year. The slightest memory of him could send me into uncontrollable sobbing. I was an emotional wreck. I stayed really emotional for a few years after he died. I remember watching ‘The Green Mile’ and crying for about two hours after it finished! It was like I was making up for the decades of no tears. It was ugly.

Today, I am married to a wonderful man who I love with all my heart. But he criticised my tears so much that they are once again hidden. I feel them inside, bubbling under the surface. But that’s where they stay. It makes him angry if I express any sadness at random things (like TV shows or songs). I think it’s because he’s afraid of sadness. Anger is a much easier emotion for a man to feel.

Well, this was not the blog post I had planned for today. It’s been rather self-centred. But, it’s helped to write about it, so I guess that’s good, right? I’m sure there are people out there who can relate to this. To you all, I say: cry. If you need to cry, then do it. You’re emotions are yours to do with as you wish, and if that means having a good cry, then do it. Cry out loud!

 

My Mental Illness Story

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My Mental Illness Story

 

I thought it was probably time to give my blog readers a bit more of an introduction to my mental illness and were it comes from. When I began this blog, I intended it to be a platform for my writing. I do share my poems and stories, but I’ve gravitated toward writing about mental health. I guess this is my passion. I wasn’t sure what it would be when I started out, but mental health (and women’s rights and safety) has come to the front. So. Here is my introduction. (There are parts I’ve left out for reasons I don’t really want to go into right now. Maybe later.)

I’m rubbish at introductions. I either clam up, or speak incessantly about nothing and freak the other person right out. At least, I get to write this one down.

Where to start? I guess my main mental illness is depression. That’s the one that’s suffocated me since I was a child. Although, today, PTSD is the beast that slashes at my heels. Anxiety became a huge problem after my Dad died in 2007. He had cancer, and I was with him for every appointment, and at the end. When he died, fear took over every aspect of my world. My long-standing, fluctuating OCD kicked in, and I saw germs in everything. I almost drove myself out of my mind with this fear. I still have problems and germs today.

There are lots of things from my childhood that contributed to my mental health issues. I was abused by my grandfather and a couple of other men. My relationship with my parents was complicated. That’s not to say it was all bad. I had some happy times with Mum and Dad and my friends. But the overwhelming sense that I would never be happy just kind of strangled everything else. 

I’ve been hospitalised a couple of times on a psych ward. The last time, they persuaded me to have ECT. I didn’t want to, but they (doctors, nurses, NAs) told me I was so ill, it was the only thing that could bring me back from the edge (or some other such nonsense!). I had two sessions that went okay. Just a headache and a little loss of memory afterwards. The third time, the anaesthetic didn’t work properly. I awoke in the middle of it. I couldn’t move because of the muscle relaxant they gave me. There was something in my mouth and nudging my throat, so it felt like I couldn’t breathe. I was terrified! Somehow, I managed to move my little finger on my right hand and one of the NAs noticed and they put me further under. After this, I refused to have any more ECT. But they all worked on me (doctors, nurses, NAs) saying it had never happened before, and it wouldn’t happen again. I gave in. It happened again. After this, I flat out refused to have any more. The result was that I was kicked out of hospital as I clearly didn’t want to get better. The psychiatrist said, “There is nothing more hospital can do for you.” His exact words. I did wonder why keeping me safe from myself wasn’t important, but I was just glad to get away from that terrible place. I swore, as I exited the main doors, I will die before I go back there again. 

Dad was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in June 2005. It devastated Dad, Mum, and me. My Mum was disabled since before I was born. I spent most of my childhood looking after her in one way or another. When Dad was ill, I found myself caring for both of them, taking him to all his appointments, and holding down a full time job. I burned myself out. So when Dad died, I crashed. 

This is when I met a man online. Sounds dodgy, no? He lived in Tucson, AZ. I lived in South West England. But we clicked. Instantly. After a few months of emailing and speaking on the phone, then Skyping, he flew over here so we could meet. This year, we will have been married eight years. He is the most wonderful man, and he’s made a big difference to everything. He loves me, you know? Just, loves me. I’ve never had that before.

I thought I would be “all cured” when I met him. That my past would be erased and the darkness brightened. But it would appear that aint gonna happen. My mental illness is part of me. I have to live with it, rather than keep fighting it. Easy to say . . .

Where I’m at right now is dependent upon the day. PTSD, depression, anxiety, agoraphobia. They all stick to me whatever I do. Somedays (rare days), I can shake them off a little and take the dog out on my own. Not far, but on my own, nonetheless. Other days—or weeks—I can’t leave the house at all. Writing helps. But, when I’m ill, I can’t concentrate enough. 

The main thing I struggle with is PTSD. I have the voice of my grandfather in my head all the time. He mocks me, shouts at me, instructs me to do things. On good days, I can dial him down so that he’s background noise. Bad days, it’s not possible. I also have a lot of issues with sleep. Going to bed scares me. I have horrible nightmares every single night, and when I wake, sometimes I don’t know whether I’m awake or not. The dreams are real, and he’s in my room. It’s not just in my sleep that I remember. Flashbacks plague me, especially when I’m not so well. It’s like my childhood is stuck on a loop in my head. I don’t know how to make it disappear. I don’t think it will. 

All of this affects me physically as well as mentally. My body acts like it’s constantly on alert for some kind of incoming danger. It’s ready to help me to survive the attack, which I know will come. At least, my body knows it will. I know—rationally—that’s not going to happen. Just as I know my grandfather isn’t really in my head or in my bedroom. It doesn’t stop the fear, though. 

I think I’ll leave it there for today. I just really wanted to talk about this a little. I wanted to talk about PTSD a little. 

Hobby Horse

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Hobby Horse

Her baby face fills with
mischief;
dark blue eyes sparkling,
newly grown teeth
poking through her smile;
delicate, blonde tendrils
dancing around her ears
as she rides her horse
that was once upon a time
just a broom.

Salt water stings my
cracked lips;
memory so raw
it bites into my flesh
and holds me captive.

I can smell the coconut
in her hair
and hear her
little-girl-giggles
as she jumps imaginary fences …

Why can’t I touch her?

Life: the saga that
lasted too long;
trapping her in sorrow,
leaving scar tissue
so delicate it
burns
in the sunlight.

These, her final thoughts,
are all that remain
of my baby—
these words and the
photograph atop the mantel
of my daughter
riding her horse.

Evil C

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Evil C

Poisonous cells
dividing, multiplying,
the equation of
loss
trampling our hearts.
This sum of
devastation
crawles over and under
our skin,
leaving numbers seared in memory
(one in three, one hundred per cent sure)
facts and false hopes,
tears and prayers,
strength tested and
broken,
life taken and tossed aside.

No matter how many times I do the maths,
the answer always lies in minus you,
with the addition of
heartbreak
thrown in for free.
Will the outcome ever change?
Will my bones ever stop
aching for you?
I think not.

 

  • For my Dad. 13/05/1935 ~ 21/09/2007.

i want

My headspace has not been good this last week or so. I mean, it’s rarely great, but right now, it’s crippling me. I decided to try to write it out, as this sometimes help. It made me cry, which I hate. So, I’m sharing it with you guys because I know there are a lot of you who understand ~ Rachel.

       i want

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i want my Mum
(spoken from a middle-aged waste-of-space),
someone to hold me,
say it’s okay,
a moment of feeling
i am enough—
no matter what
(even when i know i’m not)

lavender hugs,
able to stabilise the most f r a c t u r e d
of hearts . . .
i want her arms,
no matter how out-of-shape,
tears sting my
cheeks,
blasting trails through the dirt and
p a i n,
my branding lays me   b a  r  e,
and i wait to be flogged for my sins

fear swallows me,
snuffing the lights that
have been keeping me
from letting go,
i don’t know what to do,
nails broken, faith stolen,
his voice
his voice

so sick of fighting
when here is where my destiny lies,
he took me then, and
he takes me now

i hate the dark

 

 

Missing Mum

 

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It was the annual Christmas Party on my Mum’s side of the family yesterday. Mum was one of ten children (eleven in total, but one died age three months), so I have a lot of cousins. Consequently, each year, we have a Christmas Party and a Summer BBQ. It’s a lovely tradition, and one I have always looked forward to.

This year, I found myself feeling sad, though. The older I get, the more of Mum’s siblings are no longer here. Only five remain, and one of those lives in Australia. My cousins are all married with grown up children, and a lot of them have moved away.

Yesterday, only sixteen people came to the party. In one way, it was nice because I hate being amongst too many people. The smaller number meant it was easier to talk to people. But Mum’s loss felt huge. It always does. She died in April 2012, so it’s not my first Christmas without her. I should be used to her loss. I think, maybe, I was already feeling sad before I went yesterday. Something inside made me sad, and I felt old and like my life is going nowhere, and like all the good bits have gone forever. Old feelings, for me. But I wished they had stayed away yesterday.

After losing Uncle Rob in August this year, I’ve felt like Mum’s family (and my connection to her) is disappearing. Which, I know, isn’t true. I worry about my Auntie Beryl. She’s always been my favourite. She and Mum were next to each other in line of birth, and they spoke two or three times every day on the phone and saw each other once a week. Plus, she is the kindest, most generous person you could ever meet. She’s seventy-four and has a better social life than me! She’s always on the go. But I worry about her. She’s had two heart attacks in the past.

I didn’t intend to write this post today. I had a story all ready to paste into here, but my fingers had another idea. I guess, what I’m trying to say is, don’t take those you love for granted. Love them and hug them and laugh with each other. Spend precious times like Christmas together. The company of loved ones is so much more important than presents and Christmas lunch. Enjoy the time together, make memories you can fall back on when you have the mean reds.

I will share this poem with you, though, in an attempt to brighten the mood a little:

 

The Silver Trousers

The moment I dreaded was finally here,
My auntie’s house, full of festive cheer,
With twinkling eyes, she gave me my gift,
Uncomfortably, on the spot I did shift
“Open it now,” she said with a grin,
“Show everyone what you find within,”
Smiling back I carefully unpeeled
the paper, saw the present, I reeled,
Silver trousers, shining bright
I had to shield my eyes from their light,
“How festive,” my dear husband said
“You should try them on, go ahead,”
Grimacing, I climbed the stairs,
Into the bedroom, I sat on the chair,
One leg first, then the other,
They fit perfectly, “Oh bother!”
In trepidation, I rejoined the crowd,
My husband actually laughed out loud,
I shot him a look that plainly said,
When we get home, my love, you are dead.

Sliver Trousers

Broken Heart

This is another poem I wrote in response to a prompt. This time, it was to write about the sad moments in life. Needless to say, I could relate to this one.

Broken Heart

It doesn’t matter how long you’re waiting for

the inevitable to crash through your life,

when it does, you aren’t prepared—

how can you be?—

how can anyone steady their resolve enough

to be ready to lose their loved one’s love

forever?

The thing nobody ever admits is

when parents say they will always be there for you,

they lie,

one day (maybe not so far away)

they will die and you

will crumple and watch—helpless—as

parts of you break off and float away,

and you won’t know how to put yourself

together again,

and you question if you even want to.

The world—always scary—

becomes a place in which you inhabit the periphery,

perching as far away from others as possible,

waiting to fall into the depths,

from where there is no going back.

But who cares?

The well-meaning people

(who have so much wisdom you want to

scream at them to

stop!)

tell you time heals,

and to remember the good times,

but don’t they know it’s the good times that are killing you?

Without the laughter and love and memories of

that video your Dad searched everywhere to find

when you were ill and he just wanted you to smile,

getting over it would be so much easier.

I’m not sure about the “loved and lost” theory,

I never could figure why pain is better than

nothing.

Still, I love,

and with all my heart.

How fracked up is that?

Ghosts of Christmas Past

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As the big day rapidly approaches, I can’t help but think of my parents and how much I miss them. Christmas was always a big, family time of year. My Mum loved the holiday, and her love filled the house. A big part of the joy from opening presents came from watching her face as I ripped the paper she had carefully wrapped. She smiled through every second of the day.

Things are different now. Mum is gone, and so is Dad. Christmas is a whole different affair, and their loss tugs at my heart even harder than usual. So I wrote this poem. Because, what better way to deal with my grief?

 

Ghosts of Christmas Past

I cast my eyes over our festive tree,
delicately graced with shimmering lights,
and my mind meanders
along winding lanes,
leading me back to
Christmases past.

The ghost of my mother
smiles at me,
anticipation lights up her face,
as her memory captures my reaction
to every gift;
so selfless, and now forever lost.

As I prepare our meal—
the most important of the year—
I feel sad it’s just for two,
but I can see the spectre of
my father,
sipping brandy,
rosy cheeked and laughing;
the warmth of his joy
tugs at my heart . . .
there used to be such happiness.

I return to this Christmas,
table settings are sparse, and
loneliness consumes me,
residual is the only love that stays.

My eyes tear at the sight of two                                                                                                                    empty chairs                                                                                                                                           I will feel their presence, see their smiles, and hope
my memories can keep them near.
These ghosts I love, as they loved me,
I’ll miss them for eternity.

In Dreams

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In Dreams

Dreams of Mum,
of insignificant moments,
playing out as though
real,
and in those moments
she walks and laughs and
sparkles,
her eyes—light blue—
smile as she listens to
conversations between Dad and
me.

The three of us,
alive,
together,
and it feels so natural,
so safe,
and then I wake,
and my dream fades to
dust
I’m left with an ache that
twists my insides,
it’s like losing them
all over again,
my mind can’t compute how
they were just here,
so real,
and now they’re gone,
leaving only a faded cine-film reel,
spluttering in my head
flashes of love,
unpindownable.

A lone tear
escapes
my heart . . .
what I wouldn’t give
for one more
insignificant
moment.