Be you.

This blog is not an easy read, it’s a tough read but I hope if you do read it, you’ll find it is worth it. If you want to skip it then do it and don’t feel guilty!

It’s been a hard post to write, not least because I worry about how it affects those I love and know but also I have to write it …. for the people I love and know and also for those I don’t.

When your child dies…..and I’m sure for many other people who have lost a parent a sister, a brother a friend, a husband a wife, any loved one……but dare I say it…… maybe  even more so when your child dies and I put more emphasis on this because the point is so important……. for a parent…. our future is changed, forever, in that second.

When the consultant came into the side room of the hospital where we waited, in a part of the hospital I never knew existed, when as he opened the door in his blue gown, we held on to the one percent of hope, despite what we’ve seen, we hold on to the sliver that a miracle might happen, a miracle that might mean our  fourteen year old daughter has not died.  But.  When the door opens and you see the look of despair on the clinicians face, you see that despite his difficult job that this is one of his hardest days.  As he begins to spill out the words that begin with… I’m sorry…. you scream silently inside while at the same time inexplicably feeling empathy with this man who has had to tell two parents that their daughter has in fact, died.

In that second it isn’t only death.  It isn’t only loss.   As a parent it’s your whole future. Changed in that second. Gone. Altered. Disappearing dreams. Vanished.

I have mourned and continue to mourn for what I have lost, what future we have lost and this blog is about how I almost was not able to face the future without her.

Suicidal thoughts. Not something we talk about. Not something I’ve talked about much. I have a son who fills my heart and I would never ever ever leave him or hurt him and he is primarily why I struggled with the idea of writing this but equally young people need to know us older people aren’t perfect despite what we try to let them see, it’s not right not to talk about the deeply dark times – how else can they know it can be totally normal at times to feel this way and that there is a way out of it.

On occasion, over the years, I’ve allowed myself to imagine how it’d feel to be without the constant pain. Without the ache. Without the heavy tsunami of grief.  I have lived with the enormous guilt of these thoughts for the best part of the last five years until a very courageous person (thank you for letting me share this) confided their feelings of similar despair.  Of feeling suicidal.  Of not wanting to go on.   This person then gave me the confidence to share with them how I have felt on occasion and then during the last few months I have also shared these thoughts that I’ve had with three other people.  I have shared with them that sometimes the thought of not being here has passed through my mind.  I talked about the guilt.  I talked about the fact I would never do it to those around me.  I talk about how I wouldn’t do it but I had imagined it. I talked about how awfully guilty it feels just to have those thoughts at all.   I talked about how glad I was that I had eventually, talked about it.

Do you know what astounded me? Out of those people, every one confided in me that at some point in their lives they too had fallen to those levels of despair. Every one.  So, it’s either a huge coincidence or the truth is there’s a lot of people out there that have felt similarly and just don’t talk about it.

I thought long and hard about writing this blog. I know how it can affect my friends and my family and people I love but this is bigger than that. Suicide obviously kills. Predominantly it kills men and it doesn’t take much to work out why because men in general don’t share, don’t talk, don’t reach out. We have to find a way of talking about our mental health just like our physical health and we need to treat our mental health alongside our physical health. Understanding that what we eat and how we exercise and who we talk to and how we interact doesn’t just make us physically well,  how we live keeps us mentally well and sometimes we are all not mentally well, just like we can’t always be physically well.

When we are physically unwell we look after ourselves better, our friends and family help us or we visit a chemist, maybe a GP if it becomes worse and perhaps further on we may even need to go hospital. Our mental health is and should be treated just the same, however it isn’t . People don’t know if you don’t tell them and sometime people don’t know what to do so they stay away or they misinterpret your mental health problems for something else.. being quiet, being reserved, being moody.  Sometimes we need help for our mental health, that isn’t embarrassing to admit. It’s brave.

I got help.  Lots of it.  From multiple people – professional and not.  I still do.   I am very fortunate to have people who truly love me for the whole person I am. However had I not talked to them, they would never known I needed that help.

So talk please or if you are on the other side – listen please, because from my experience there’s a huge amount of people suffering in silence and sadly we probably all know at least one person who didn’t make it, someone who decided and went through with their thoughts.  Talking can’t solve everything but being silent solves nothing.  All it needed was for one brave person to open up to me about their feelings and I now feel I need to be open to others.

I’m well now.  Really well in fact. Happiest I’ve been in a very long time, I’m a little giddy on life and the reasons are many (x), with honesty brings clarity.  What I feel more than anything at the moment is that I am being me.  Truly me.

Be you.

Happy Sunday xxx

 

happy face

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First steps

The other day I parked up to take my dogs over the viaduct a few miles up the road. I’ve walked it a few times, as I put my handbrake and looked across I noted there wasn’t anyone else on there. A few canal boats bobbed quietly along the left hand side but there was no sign of any humans which was unusual for this normally popular beauty spot. The dogs excitedly barked as I park up and jump over the drivers side as I open the door on to the green verge beside the canal. It’s a bright sunny day, a picture postcard type of day where the green of the canal boat gleams against the sparkle of the blue sky reflecting in the water. We cross over the small lock to the other side, unfortunately the canal boat that sells coffee isn’t open today so we head on towards the viaduct crossing. The dogs spot some innocent ducks and make a pathetic run towards them knowing that they won’t get anywhere near them and the ducks are unperturbed, confident in their safe surroundings.

I look at the viaduct outstretched ahead. The 126ft high viaduct. First I walk past the four canal boats while trying not to peer in, I am so intrigued by the long wooden vessel that house wood burners, flat screen TVs, flowers and kitsch curtains. It’s eerily quiet and I wonder for a moment if I have actually come out earlier than I thought due to the recent change in clocks, but I haven’t. I get closer to the viaduct and as I approach I began to feel a little uneasy, nervous.

 

I’m a bit perplexed by this, although I know many many people who won’t walk over it due to the height, I haven’t ever been one of those people. I have been the encourager. I have been the one saying… oo look at the other side where there’s no barrier. I’ve been the one happy to step to the narrow edge for a pram to get past. I’ve been the one to bravely let my dogs run over off the lead, trusting them.

 

Now as I take my first steps where it still feels relatively safe, I start to feel, yes, it definitely is nerves. I ponder this as I look over the metal railings towards the stunning golden and green view and I realise why I am feeling nervous.   I have never walked over here on my own. What’s the difference in walking here on my own and walking over here with someone else? Turns out, quite a lot.

 

Not one to give up I tell myself to look ahead and remind myself how long this viaduct has stood the test of time, there are no boats going across the water and no people walking on the path, I begin the narrow walk telling myself I am simply walking on a path!!! I’m a quarter the way over and I look to my right, the view is absolutely breathtaking particularly on such a lovely day, I spot sheep that look like small cushions of snow and hedges that appear unreal, like lego.

 

I’m beginning to get so far that there’s little point now in considering not to walk the whole thing so I carry on. Slightly disconcerting is the fact that every twenty steps or so there’s a grid and every time the dogs get to the grid they stop and consider what to do, they then decide to jump over every grid and I can’t help but wonder that they know something I don’t – so I of course also avoid contact with the grid.

 

As I get to the half way point I notice that my legs feel different, my legs have become jelly-like and I am now in no doubt that I have become scared and on top of that a slight bit of vertigo has set in. I am half way over so I can’t go back and at this point I don’t much feel like going forward, I do know though if I carry on going forward I am also going to have to come back across unless I want to walk fives miles out of my way. I’m totally bewildered that I have found walking across (did I say it is 126FT up in the air!!!) the aqueduct such a different experience because I’ve done it on my own. Continuing to look forward and avoiding the aforementioned grids I breathe a sigh of relief as I’m two thirds over and the distance between myself and the ground becomes shorter and my breathing begins to normalise.  As I feel the safety of land without the threat of imminent death… I ponder this strange change that happened inside my mind and the physical changes that took place in my body – simply because I did something alone.

 

The fact we can get such strength and confidence just from being with someone else was quite a revelation to my independent mind however I also gave myself a virtual round of applause that I did not shy away from it, despite feeling scared and worried and wanting to run back, I didn’t. Through the week it made me consider how we normally do things with others and how ‘brave’ it can feel to go it alone. It’s great to be in a couple, be with friends and family but it’s also really important that we can face and manage challenges by ourself too – to live the life we want.

 

Happy Sunday XX

grid

 

 

 

Porcupine

The other morning despite getting up when the town sounded fast asleep and the stars were just disappearing while the sky remained black and the street lights shone orange beams on to the pavement… I still find myself two hours later rushing around to get out of the door so that I could get to work on time. Mascara was to blame.

I have a pink and orange floral box on my 70s wooden retro dressing table, it has some make up and bits inside. The main function of the contents is to assist the morning transformation from porcupine like hair to smooth shiny locks and magic a face of sleep lines and still tired eyes to one where creams and colour erase a miraculous fifteen years from my birth year. That’s the hope anyway.

At the end of this ten-minute routine (cheeky…. it doesn’t take *that * long) I searched for the item needed to finalise the job, my new black mascara which also promises to make my lashes thicker by a zillion times with the also subtle promise that with one sweep of black liquid I’d walk out the door looking and feeling like Kate Moss.

I couldn’t find it and I convinced myself it was lost so despite the small size of the floral orange and pink box and despite rustling through it more than ten times which now also made me ten minutes late… I couldn’t find it.

I began therefore to open drawers and start scattering head bands and paracetamol and used face wipes and odd socks but I still could’t find the mascara that was going to change me from scarecrow to supermodel. I empty another drawer finding a Bluetooth speaker and another European plug adapter. Why do those disappear right about the time you set off on your next foreign holiday and then magically reappear as soon as you’ve bought a new one?! I digress.

With my bedroom now looking like it should belong on ‘storage wars’ I go back to the box for one more look. I know it’s there. I need to calm myself down, move away from mascara gate and take it slower. I need to stop looking so hard. I look again as my mobile phone glares at me… telling me I have a few minutes left before I need to leave. Behind the tinted moisturiser I spot plump mascara noir sitting alone and I grab it, thankfully. My naked eyes are saved.

As usual it’s often a small moment from my week that leads me to other random thoughts and in this case specifically how sometimes we can search so hard for something, we miss what’s right in front of us.

How many of us search for the perfect house, job, experiences , wealth, friends, holidays, love, evening, weekend, look…. when just like the mascara it’s more likely a lot of those things are right in front of us should we take a bit more notice. Our landscape, the sea and the trees not yet explored , friends not yet met, overlooked items bought but forgotten, a home undiscovered, unfound friendship, love.. right in front of your eyes.

I suppose it was a strange reminder as I searched for the mascara that all of us probably spend an infinite time looking for something we think that’ll make our life better when if we looked around us a bit closer. It might just be right there.

Happy Sunday x

Puddles

I was shopping for a gift for my soon to be eleven year old nephew on Saturday (I failed miserably) – a surprise he said when I asked what he wanted – I suspected as I held up the nostalgic board game ‘Game of Life’ that had I bought it this may well have been a surprise for him – a surprise that it wasn’t a)Money or b) Football related or c) Electronic in some way. I put down the game that held many fond memories of earlier years with my kids when board games had been semi forced upon them but almost always entirely turned out to be the best times! I’m sure my nephew too would enjoy the game once he got over the shock of a, b & c but confidence was not on my side as I replaced it and left the toy shop for the safety of something far more appropriate with ‘sport’ in the shop title.

I veered off my initial shopping track slightly, ending up in (of course) a clothes shop eying up another pair of skinny jeans and internally wondering whether the dark navy high waisted pair I held up were in fact any different to the … dark navy high waisted pair I was currently wearing…. along with contemplating whether I was now too old for said skinny jeans. Opting for a couple of casual tops (in the sales I might add!!) I queued up to pay.. trying to divert my eyes away from those items placed purposefully near the counter – did I need a new pair of gloves or a pack of five black socks perhaps?

A child ran past and I hear her mother raise her voice. Come back, she said. The child of about seven had long dark chocolate brown pig tails, huge brown eyes. Defiant, she took a seat away from her mum and her smaller sister followed suit. Mum was clearly exasperated and this was probably the nail in the coffin after no doubt a tiresome day out shopping with her two young daughters. She’s so naughty said (I presumed) Gran. Right, fuelled by this fire…. that’s it, mum shouted. This is going back. She held up a purple and pink unicorn shaped pencil case and tossed it on the shelf behind her. Fake wailing came from the pig-tailed child along with much pleading. No, insisted mum. And then she said something that I thought was just a bit odd to be honest. She said.

You are acting…. You are acting LIKE A CHILD.

I’m a parent and I’ve been stressed with my kids… so I am not in any way judging mum but to accuse the child of…. acting like a child was totally perplexing. Not least to the child, who was looking at her with huge confusion.

Mum didn’t give in. Unicorn shaped pencil case stayed sadly behind. I heard the (now real) cries rise as they left the shop and I stepped up to pay.

As I continued to walk around the shops, searching… the mums words echoed in my head – acting like a child. What did it mean to act like a child and how did we learn to stop acting like a child? Was it wrong to act like a child? Even now?

I don’t know who made up our education system or parenting rules but looking at our adult population I’d say something has gone drastically wrong with most of us who are now ‘grown ups’. We’re mostly anxious, rushing about, no time to talk, not eating properly, drinking and smoking too much, depressed, always looking for something better, discontent, materialistic. In competition.

I wondered what would have happened had we not gone to school and not been boxed off to be just like everyone else? Or if we had still gone to school for our education but… had not been boxed off like everyone else.

My brothers at school were always referred to as daydreamers. I remember this vividly. I was the ‘good’ one (rather ironic now!).. I knew looking out the window was not the behaviour expected at school. How I wish now that I had spent more time day dreaming about my future rather than doing what I thought was right. I was told by my careers teacher that I’d possibly ‘make a secretary’. As a good pupil that is what I went on to do. Shit. I wished I had spent more time day dreaming instead, I may have actually planned out the stuff I really wanted to be and do… an actress, a writer, a singer, a painter, a photographer. Instead I went with expectation… I signed up to a YTS course (yes I am one of the few!) and I worked for £27.50 per week, learning how to do office work.

I can’t pretend that I have not done well out of it, I’m in a good job (I’ve worked bloody hard for it!!) but what if I had allowed to be a child…. and day dream?  What would we do if perhaps we hadn’t had the ‘childish’ behaviour knocked out of us?
We might still jump in puddles. We’d laugh a lot more. We’d play fight. We’d tell jokes. We would use our imagination, a lot. We’d make up stories. We’d draw pictures. We’d learn from each other and from our environment. We’d keep trying new food and we’d say what we didn’t like. We’d pick up sticks and look under stones. We’d still have amazing instincts learning what was good and bad. We’d read what we want. We’d seek out to learn about subjects that interested us. We’d run when we aren’t ‘supposed to’. We wouldn’t be defined by stereotypes. We’d still write down the lyrics to songs. We’d fall in love and out of love and wouldn’t be shackled by the expectations put on us by society. We’d say what we saw without being embarrassed. We’d talk about our feelings without thought. We’d be expressive. We’d embrace difference. We’d be truthful. We’d be ourselves.
It might seem far fetched that we could be adults while holding on to our innate instinctive child behaviours but I for one would rather walk down the road and be able to jump in the puddle, laugh out loud and be in awe of the water jumping in globules around my legs…than be what we have become – avoiding the puddle, sensibly walking on, quietly. 
I’m off to get my wellies!
Happy Sunday to you xx

Every day

This week saw world mental health day and I was amazed at all the posts from so many people with quotes and anecdotes. What struck me most was that for the other 364 days of the year I rarely see these posts about mental health.. theirs or anyone else’s. Social media is full of pretty and smiles and going out and holidays and money and sunshine. Social media is a constructed picture of perfectness.

I’m not advocating we all have to start talking about how rubbish our day has been but it is interesting that we usually only share what’s socially acceptable.

It’s great that world mental health day gets people posting but it’s something we need to be doing and talking about every day. Like if we had a sore throat. Because until then those of us with our ‘issues’ are going to feel alienated and freakish no matter what other people tell us. Everyone needs to normalise mental health for it to be ok and easy to talk about.

So for world mental health day this week… I’d like to ask that along with spreading the word. Reach out. Be there. Listen. Talk. Share.

Every day.

Lots of love to you this Sunday x x

 

 

 

 

Silver linings

I felt really disappointed one day this week. The reason isn’t important but I woke with a pit of disappointment sitting at the bottom of my belly. It was my day off work so I considered skulking around. Instead I saw my trail shoes and put them on. The dogs, excited as ever, pulled me up the hill with the red brick houses and I took a turn up the narrow one track road seeing the horses graze as usual standing expectantly at the gate. My heart and also my legs were feeling heavy, the hill was stretching out my calves, without thought I found myself forming a slow jog. The dogs got excited and ran gently along side me.

The hill continued to stretch ahead with no break but I gritted my teeth and kept going eventually getting to the top and I then with new energy let my legs easily run away at their own pace, faster, down the steep hill. At the bottom I’d generally do a loop left but I had gained some momentum and no doubt serotonin levels had risen from the exercise so instead I took a right and added another mile on to the run. The dogs panted as they continued to jog gently alongside, occasionally looking up at me as if they were asking – what are you doing?! We ventured up a track that I had found a week ago over a small hill where flowers had been laid (for someone, I thought) and bearing left I crossed a wooden bridge, passed a farm house with a red telephone box outside and looped back towards home.

Dealing with disappointments for me generally means that I tend to ignore what the disappointment is, this time I really made myself focus on what I was disappointed about, every time my mind tried to get me to stop thinking of it and pushing it to one side, I made myself think of it again and in the end I managed to make a lot of sense of why I was feeling like I did and I managed to deal with it a lot quicker than I would have normally because I made myself focus in it.

Generally I’d have buried this disappointment down in my the soles of my feet and it’d have bit me on the bum in a few weeks/months sometimes even years later because I’d have tried to ignore it. It feels far easier in the short term not having to face up to emotions, disappointments, rejection, change. No wonder a lot of us decide to run away from what’s facing us in the hope it’ll turn out ok. Problem is those niggles rarely go away. Anyone who hasn’t dealt with a problem knows this. It just comes back.

I suppose what I was reminded this week was no matter how much we try to protect ourselves we will always face disappointments and challenges, we could lie in bed under the covers or we can get our running shoes on.. we can ignore what hurts or we can find a way through, we can concentrate on the dark clouds or we can search out the silver lining,

Happy Sunday xx