Painted Eggshells


Painted Eggshells

Painted Eggshells

 

filled with lies; my life unfolds

a shattering glance, my blood runs cold,

painted eggshells; breakable

crack and fall, with fractured skull

hospital beds, disinfect

the part of my life you don’t detect

one time a punch, one time a kick

lying on the floor, feeling sick

my body cries with muted pain

you took all of me, made me feel insane

although you’re gone, locked away,

I lie awake, waiting for the day

you seek me out, and make me sorry

it gets hard to breathe, I’m so full of worry

I heard you’re changed, you regret your deeds,

but that just doesn’t cut with me

the scars you left are deeply etched

and I don’t need to hear your regrets

Moving On

Moving On

 

Moving On

 

She sweeps an eye

over her room, and

butterflies 

dance inside.

 

Leaving is never

easy, but somehow

it always ends this way,

she has to move on.

 

Feeling suffocated, 

strangled by 

love,

its confines restricting her

flighty soul;

she knows life is flowing, and

while she plays at

happy marriage,

her heart thuds

to the rhythm of the

dull melody.

They say a restless body

can hide a peaceful soul,

but her spirit is at war,

and it will not rest

until she is 

far away

from this life, in which she’s

dying.

 

She steps outside, and

life is dawning,

morning sun warms her skin,

and doubts disappear

as she walks toward … 

who knows what …  

 

Finally, she is part of it,

life is hers;

not for the first time in her 

life,

she is 

moving on.

You’re An Original

This story is based on the Sheryl Crow song, “You’re An Original.” I love to use songs as inspiration, and Sheryl Crow is one of my  favourite artists. “You’re An Original” is one her lesser-known songs. It’s take from her “C’mon C’mon” album.

 

glitter

 

You’re An Original

 

“Hey, Lomi, come over here! You have to meet this person.”

“All right, all right. Let me finish my business over here, first.” The girl in scarlet hot pants and a glittering, green bikini top waves her hand to dismiss the man with thinning, sandy hair. I watch this girl as she takes the rolled up £10 note and inhales the magic powder. 

I knew this girl; once upon a time. She was different then. My best friend. We did normal teenage things, like going to the mall, shopping for shoes, and discovering boys. I recall Lomi chatting non stop about her first love; a wiry, acne laden boy called Will. But, life has changed. For Lomi, at least.

“Steph, come with me,” my friend says, holding out a heavily tattooed hand. “Stuart wants to talk to me, and I’ll only forget what he says if you’re not there.”

We approach Lomi’s manager and wait for him to speak. His eyes are fixed on me as he speaks to Lomi. “Tom Philips wants an interview, Lomi. He saw the show tonight, and he wants to meet you in the morning.”

“Yeah, sure, Stu. Whatever. Come on, Steph, let’s get back to the party.” 

Lomi is already dragging me away when Stuart says, “Wait. Lomi, you can’t screw this one up. He’s from ‘Celeb Weekly,’ and you need them behind you. You remember the heading last month, right?”

My friend stares at Stuart, and her blank eyes reflect a lack of understanding. She has forgotten. I haven’t. She was caught driving drunk after a two day bender. The headlines were brutal. True, nonetheless. ‘Celeb Weekly’ said, “In your cadillac, reaching for your Jack, there’s nothing we can say to stop you because you, Lomi Burnette, are a star.”

“Don’t worry, Stuart, Lomi will be just fine,” I say, not really believing my own words. With so many vicious stories hitting the celebrity magazines, it makes her behaviour worse. After the drink-drive story, rather than stopping or cutting back, she started to drink at ten in the morning, rather than waiting until mid-day.

A couple of weeks ago, some one-night-stand sold his story to a magazine. He said Lomi was, “deadly in the sack.” It earned her an army of new fans. 

“Thanks, Steph. Now, where did Josh go with the magic dust?” she says, glancing all around. 

I grab her arm as she starts to walk away. “Don’t get wasted, Lomi. You have to nail that interview tomorrow. You have to be sober.”

“Chill out, Stephanie. I’m Lomi Burnette. I can do anything I want.” As she shakes off my hand, she walks away, throwing over her shoulder, “Why are you here, anyway? You follow me around like a ridiculous, little puppy; stifling my fun.” She shakes her head as she says, “You’re pathetic. Just get out of here.”

Latching onto the first body who passes by, she heads toward the restroom with him. I’m caught between saving her and letting her set fire to her career. I decide to let her burn.

Stuart yells at me as I leave the party. I ignore him. I’ve had enough. Lomi was right, it is pathetic how I do everything for her and get nothing in return. I thought I was being a good friend. But sometimes friends have to do the right thing, even when it’s not the easy thing.

I hear nothing from Lomi for eleven days. Then, ‘Celeb Weekly’ publishes her exclusive interview. It seems she was not sober for Tom Philips. He found her to be, “A little, wannabe queen; dirty mouth and mean.” 

From what I can make out, my ex best friend was barely coherent. Tom’s final conclusion was aimed directly at Lomi; “Yeah, you’re an original, baby, like we’ve never seen before. You’re an original, baby. Turn around and you’re looking at a hundred more!”

Remorse tugs at my heels as I throw the magazine in the trash can. Right about now, Lomi  will be screaming and throwing things around her penthouse suite. Despite the fact that her rise to stardom came through reality TV, she is genuinely talented. It’s such a shame that couldn’t be enough for her. That’s the thing about Lomi: she could never be satisfied. Sure, her strong will ensured success. But the flip side of that came too easily.

********************************

Tom Philips’s article started the decline in my friend’s career. A photograph appeared of her falling out of a cab at an exclusive London club. The headline ran, “Caught you in a pose that everybody knows. You’ve done that a million times already. We thought you had something special. Seems we were wrong.” It was hard to return from that one. 

When my doorbell rang this morning, I didn’t expect to see Lomi standing in my porch. A spiral of sadness wound its way through my core as I took in her skeletal frame. Her skin—covered in acne—stretched over her bones, and she couldn’t meet my eyes.

“I’m so sorry, Steph. Please don’t hate me.” Her voice was a whisper, and my heart constricted. Pulling her close, I ushered her inside before anyone could see her. I knew, deep down, this day would come. Now it has, the vindication I imagined hasn’t appeared. The only feeling I have is sadness. My best friend is broken, and all those people who rode on the back of her fame have dumped her now things are tough. Well, not me. She is my best friend. That means something.

 

Letting Go

broken-heart-syndrome-300x200

 

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

disindetification1

 

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. 

Easter Memories

Easter

 

As I sit at my desk, looking out at a grey and rainy day, it’s hard to believe spring is finally here. It feels more like a dreary November, when days are short and nights too long. But then, I remind myself today is Good Friday. Today is a special day, and it has been for many, many years.

I had a long conversation with my GP yesterday. She is a wonderful lady (I think I may have mentioned that before) and she rings me every week, to check on how I’m doing. My anxiety makes it hard for me to get to her office to see her, so she rings me; to make sure I’m okay.

Yesterday, my mood was particularly low when she rang, and I told her that even writing (the main thing that has helped with my PTSD symptoms in the past) provides little relief. I told her how all I’m really able to write are depressing poems that are totally bleak in their life view. This has always been my go-to when things are tough. I don’t know what it is about free verse poetry and depression, but they just go hand-in-hand for me.

After acknowledging these poems are written from life experiences, she suggested I think of positive life events I can write about. She asked me about any happy memories from childhood, and I drew a blank. I mean, I know I had happy moments growing up, but I just couldn’t remember. Not only happy memories, but bad ones, too. I just couldn’t remember any specifics from childhood. It’s like my mind has blocked it all out, for fear that if I remember anything (no matter how good), it might open the door to something bad. At least, that’s what I think is going on. So she reminded me of when I first met my husband and when we were married in New York. Those were the happiest times of my life. I think I will try to write about them.

The reason I’m telling you this today, though, is that our grocery shopping was delivered just now, and with it came my Easter Egg. Instantly, I remembered something happy from childhood, with no bad memories attached whatsoever.

Mum was a Christian. Dad was an atheist. Me? I’d say, after years of professing my atheism to all who would listen, I’m probably somewhere in the middle, if I’m honest. I don’t know what I believe. Like Mulder, I want to believe. I used to believe, when I was a child. But life kind of messed with that.

When I was young, Mum taught Sunday School in the church, and I loved listening to her Bible stories. My favourite was the Good Samaritan. What a great tale of helping our fellow people. After Christmas, Easter was Mum’s favourite time of year. She would read to me from books of children’s Bible stories. I vividly remember the story of Jesus touching lepers and curing them. I loved how he was not afraid to lay his hands on these people, who the rest of the world shunned. He stood up for and helped those less fortunate than him, and that made him a pretty special guy, in my young eyes. Every Easter until I was about ten, Mum read these stories to me. It was a special time. Really special.

And then, there was the Easter Egg treasure hunt. Every Easter Sunday, I would come downstairs to a series of clues Mum had carefully crafted in the weeks leading up to Easter. I loved this treasure hunt so much. Honestly, I probably enjoyed the hunt more than the chocolate eggs. And I’m a serious chocoholic! When I look back at those times, I smile. At the same time, I have a tear in my eye. There were happy moments, and they’re lost forever. I wonder what other happy times there were that I can’t remember? I wish I could. For now, though, I’ll make do with my Easter memories.

One final thing … My Mum died on Easter Saturday, 2012. It was 7th April. The vicar, who knew Mum and knew how completely selfless she was, said something that stuck with me. She said Mum’s body was ready to pass over, but she didn’t want to go on Good Friday or Easter Sunday, because she didn’t want to take any of the attention away from those special days. So she passed on the Saturday, when God had more time to take care of her. Isn’t that a lovely thought? I think so.

Alfie

Do therapy animals have a place in your life? Would you like to have a therapy animal? Do you think it would help?

I don’t have a therapy animal, and I’ve never had a therapy animal. In terms of physical capabilities, I don’t need one. I’m not really sure how they would help me mentally. I guess, the main way is through relaxation and reducing anxiety. Perhaps, through being a companion when I leave the house.

So, with that in mind, I have to mention my (not so little) scallywag, Alfie. Here is a picture of him that sums him up pretty well.

Alfie is the best friend ever. He’s a very cuddly dog; the most cuddly I’ve ever known. He’s also the funniest dog (and the naughtiest, but I won’t go into that!). Just stroking his soft ears and rubbing his tummy always soothes my mind at least a little. I also find leaving the house easier when he’s by my side. So, he’s kind of like a therapy dog. Apart from the fact that he’s desperate to say hello to everyone he meets and always wants to play with every other animal he meets. And he really doesn’t like to listen when I tell him no. So, he’s not the kind of dog who could steer me through the trials of a panic attack while away from home. He’d probably leave me in a heap on the floor to say hello to that hedgehog that pricks his nose every time he sees him. Although, to be fair to him, the last couple of times he’s pulled me over, he has stood over me, sniffing my face and sneaking in the odd lick for good measure. That’s an improvement because he used to run off with gay abandon whenever I fell over (I’m quite a clumsy person).

So, I feel I’ve gone off on a tangent with this topic. To summarise, I have no experience of therapy dogs. But Alfie sure does help me a lot.

The Fallout

Frayed rope breaking

 

I wrote this haiku sonnet, based on this quotation: “Mental illness leaves a huge legacy, not just for the person suffering it but for those around them.” -Lysette Anthony

 

the fallout

another day starts,
bones heavy with night’s trauma,
her blank face breaks hearts

not always easy
to love someone so distant
strength; the cross to bare

hate-filled words hurtle
through air thick with silence and
insults which batter

always fearful of
losing her forever, this
half-lived life kills

shroud of loneliness numbs mind
relationship frays

An Open Letter Regarding Mental Illness

MH2
Dear everyone,

I am writing this letter because mental health, or mental ill-health, is something I have quite a lot of experience dealing with. It would be good to use my experience to help others who might be going through the same kind of stuff. A lot of people who live, work, interact with people who are mentally ill don’t know what to say that might help. For that reason, it’s often the elephant in the room. People don’t want to upset the person with the illness or make things worse. Which is understandable. I get it; I really do. But, sometimes, it’s the most unhelpful response. So, these are my thoughts. They are things that do and don’t help me. Everyone is different, but these are my experiences, based on my struggles with depression, anxiety, and PTSD …

The most important thing to say is never, ever try to minimise what we are going through. All your, “Ahh, there are those worse off than you,” and, “Sure, you just need to make up your mind to get better, and you will,” speeches are the most unhelpful you can give. Don’t tell us, “Just get over it, you’ve been wallowing for long enough now. It’s time to move on.” You don’t simply move on from mental illness. You don’t just get over it. The amount of times my dad told me to do just that. Even though he constantly battled depression and anxiety, frequently giving in to it. If only it were as easy as just moving on. I suspect there would be very little mental illness in the world.

For me, the most important thing people can say is that they care about and support me. To tell me they are here for me if I ever want to talk, and that they love me whatever my illness makes me say and do. I appreciate this isn’t an easy thing to do. There are times, I’m not an easy person to like, let alone love. It takes a lot of patience to watch someone relive the same nightmares every night for years. It’s hard to understand how things don’t improve. Or, even harder to understand how they do improve, and then revert to a place that seems worse than they originally were. But, please remember, if it’s frustrating and heartbreaking for you to watch, imagine what it’s like to experience it first hand. You won’t understand, unless you’ve been there, but understanding isn’t necessary. You just have to listen and let them know they aren’t alone.

It’s important to remember we are speaking about mental illness. I know it’s been said many times before, but it is an illness. Physical or mental, if you’re ill, it isn’t your fault. Don’t judge mentally ill people. Don’t be afraid of them. You can’t catch their illness. Spend time with them. We are people who deal with an illness in the same way that someone with angina carries their spray around to help them out if things get bad.

I think it’s important you aren’t afraid to discuss difficult subjects. I know it’s easier to ignore the things that scare you. But, ignorance can have terrible consequences. Please, never be afraid to discuss subjects such as self harm and suicidal ideations. When people are experiencing these, I guarantee they are feeling incredibly alone. So, let them know you’re there. Hold their hand. Ask them if they have any plans to end their life. You may be surprised how big a difference getting them to open up and talk about their plans can make.

So, what helps? Patience. Support. Love. Friendship. Time. Being unafraid. Understanding. What hinders? Ignorance. Judgement. Unwillingness to try to understand. Impatience. Hate. Fear.

You know what helps the majority of the time, though? Being treated as though I’m a normal person. Because I am. Every single person on earth is unique. That’s how I look at it. My illnesses dont’ define me. But I do deal with them every day. I used to be ashamed, but not any more. I’ve been through a lot, with mental illness as the end result. But I’m not just mental illness. I’m a writer, a wife, a friend, a niece. All of this things come before my illnesses, and I want everyone to remember that.

Rachel