Bubbling

This is one of those blogs that I get a bit nervous of putting ‘out there’. Do I. Don’t I? The main reason I think it’s important that I do is that my life isn’t just one of beautiful walks, beautiful people and beautiful unplanned meetings that lead me to write. This is a blog about life, life after a massive trauma, it is about the ‘journey’ and it would be wrong if I just wrote about the turquoise skies and luscious lakes and ignored the clouds of stormy days.

If you’ve read my blog you’ll probably know that after I lost Tes I was diagnosed with suffering with an anxiety disorder. Anxiety can be hard to explain, people often say – yes I’m a worrier too. Anxiety isn’t like worrying. It’s a controlling tiny voice changing your reality, creating a world of danger that doesn’t truly exist. In truth anxiety had probably been bubbling due to issues from a long time ago for a long while. It manifested itself in my late teens with severe panic attacks that lasted for years and that I mostly hid from those around me. That was a very bad move I realise now. In fact, I did try to tell someone but I was told not to be silly, I think they hoped that if I didn’t talk about it that it’d go away. So I didn’t open up again for a long long time. Suffering and coping in silence.

When I learnt that panic attacks were just serotonin levels raising due to the flight or fight instinct within my body I was very annoyed that I’d spent years avoiding things I perceived as ‘dangerous’. These included any situation really that I thought I couldn’t easily get out of… like busy supermarkets or even sitting in the middle of a row at a concert. Buses. Ferries. Planes. I was the worlds best at coming up with excuses to avoid these situations. Eventually after about 5 years and learning about the physiological causes I managed to take control back (thanks in most part to the book I’ve talked about so much before – Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway – it changed my life).

Anyway. Since I lost Tes over five years ago, after a 20 year absence, anxiety entered my life with a gigantic crushing wave. I spent the first two years fighting it off. Fighting it off with running. Fighting it off with wine. Fighting it off with mindfulness. Fighting it off with being ultra busy. It wasn’t getting me again. However. Get me it did. After two years of fighting, I was exhausted and admitted defeat. Ending up at the doctors before it had even opened one morning crying, asking for help. With that help medically and psychologically I learned to live alongside it and it stopped controlling me.

So it’s been a bit of a shock this last 2 weeks or so to realise that I’ve had a mini relapse. Anxiety has managed to seep it’s way in somewhere, only a little bit. More like a light drizzle than a full blown storm. I realised because I’d started worrying about strange things like where I’d normally walk and feel safe I’ve started walking in busier places again, just incase. When I’d go to sleep for a few hours (I don’t sleep much now anyway) I’d wake up at 2am and convince myself someone could try to break in. When my son was picked up to go to footie instead of watching something on tv or writing, I sat imagining the worst until he came back through the door. And I start thinking I’m getting ill. A lot. Again.

The best thing is, since I talked to someone about this 3 years ago, I’m not scared of it any more, I know I will get better and because of that I’m nowhere near as ill as I was a few years ago because I’m not frightened and I’m also not pretending that I’m fine. In fact I am actually genuinely feeling pretty much very fine. I’m thriving in my new job, I’ve lots of plans and holidays coming up, I’ve a lovely life. That’s the thing with anxiety (and I’m sure other mental health issues) it can seep in whenever it pleases at times but by talking about it with someone we trust and who can help we can also eliminate it as we would a headache with paracetamol and some rest, we wouldn’t ignore a migraine so why ignore your mental health

As I write this I know some people will think I’m exposing myself but someone else will, I hope, read it and feel some hope of their own.

Most importantly for me .. I can talk about it.. to you! That helps more than you know x

Thanks for listening.

Happy Sunday

Xx

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5 years and two days.

One of the hardest things I find about meeting new people is waiting for them to ask me the inevitable question of. How many children do you have? Even now. 5 years and 1 day later, I dread it. Not for the reasons you may think. I’m entirely happy and comfortable to talk about my daughter Tes. Alive and also not. My dread is for them. The question they think only can have happy connotations is met with.. well.. death. And that’s tough for them.

I have started a new job 3 weeks ago and of course my new colleagues unfortunately have had to hear this sad story and I feel so sorry for them as they try to find the words. They’ve managed beautifully I have to say.

As I left on Friday I carried the gorgeous orchids that my new colleagues had bought me as a gift in recognition of the anniversary date we lost Tes. The 21st of April. Someone passed me on the stairs on my way out and cheerfully asked me … What have you done to deserve them? I always think about lying at times like this. To protect them. But I don’t lie. So I have to tell him the truth.

I dont know how you deal with that. He said.

I found myself replying and saying something that I hadn’t before. Not in the last 5 years and 1 day.

I dont know how to answer that, I said.

And what I meant was. Neither do I. I also don’t know how I deal with losing Tes. I have no idea how. I do know that many many people deal with loss and also get up and also put their mascara on and also get pleasure from wearing their newly bought shirt. That others turn the music up loud and sing along and that others go out for dinner and drink a glass of their favourite wine. I know others too still love the beach and their mountain walks. Still giggle with friends. Still find a lot to live in this life.

But I don’t know how.

I do know it’s wrapped up in immense guilt. I do know I do all those things and I also have a weight that feels like it’s as heavy as a house right there in my heart of pure and utter grief and pain… that sits just by the side of where my immense love for Tes still is. Always will be. I know now that massive heavy stone of loss will never go.

But I know too that despite it, I will get up tomorrow. I will get up on the day that’ll make it 5 years and 2 days. I will walk my dogs. I will choose a lipstick. I will drive to work. I will text friends and arrange to meet. I will look forward. I will. I’ll go the cinema and to that gig and to see that comedienne. I’ll meet those friends for afternoon tea and go on that holiday near the sea. I’ll celebrate birthdays and I’ll meet friends for the weekend.

I will look forward. I don’t know how. But I will.

And she wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

We miss you Tes. Every bit of every second of the last 5 years and 1 day. My 14 year old and 350 days old beautiful gorgeous fun busy clever crazy knowledgeable sensible organised human being that I was and am still immensely proud to call my daughter. I miss you more than I could ever write, even if I had a million words.

Xx

Religion

A word that often conjures up controversy.

Up to about eleven years old, religion to me meant going to Sunday school, colouring in some pictures of Jesus, being quiet, having to dress ‘posh’, singing songs I didn’t know but MOST important we used to get some Opal Fruits.   Green ones were my favourite.  They still are.  To anyone under 30, that’s a Starburst to you.

Very quickly despite being made to feel guilty about anything that appeared to be outside of the rules of the Bible (in particular drinking at whiskey at 15, rolling up your a-line Marks & Spencers navy school skirt and/or smoking through a polo) – I made my own mind up that I’d never seen this God person or Jesus and that the stories of fish and bread and walking on water all seemed rather unrealistic, plus religion had done me no favours at all so I decided to leave religion right there.  To be honest I don’t think I ever believed.  I just believed for Green Opal fruits.

At my friends dads funeral last week, I finally got some understanding of what religion means to people.  In this chapel of beautiful glass stained windows and wooden carvings, the congregation of those paying their respects were in fine voice singing to the hymns.  I find some religious funerals difficult, if you’ve been touched by sadness and cruelty in life it is hard to believe that someone out there is supposed to protect you.  I don’t believe in God.  I never will. However fundamentally in this funeral where people came together, where people smiled at each other and held compassion for each other.  Where a large group of people for that small amount of time chatted to each other, supported each other, hugged and empathised.  Where colour, gender, sexuality – where any differences seem to disappear and in place a large huddle of people gathered to just be there for each other.  I thought to myself.  That is religion.  Religion is a collection of rules and morals that fundamentally should mean we are a huddle.  A huddle of acceptance.  A huddle of live and let live.

Unfortunately as we see from the raging wars, from the homophobia, from the racism and hate, many humans have chosen to interpret religion on the whole as a weapon to be used against each other.  One where people can feel superior, one where people often think they can set rules that you should live by.  One then that can only fail.  

As happens so often when I’ve thought to myself, I think I’ll write about ‘this’ this week something else will come along and cement the reason why I have to write ‘this’.  As I walked my dogs on Tuesday afternoon on the cold but sunny banks of the canal, two hilarious poodles, tanned and white, ran up to my dogs and one stole the ball from mine.  No matter what the owner of tanned poodle did, tanned poodle was not for giving up the ball.  Don’t worry I said, I’ve got a spare.  We got chatting.  For whatever reason over the next ten minutes we ended up chatting about loss (her husband, my daughter), difficulties, strength, new beginnings and religion!  We both agreed that we were not religious but interestingly she said, do you know what …….this is religion, this is spirituality, this is what religion is.  A meeting of two people who are strangers yet who care, who give time and who leave each other that little bit more fulfilled with life.

Poodle owner gave me a hug as she got into her car.  Take care cariad, she said.

Religion – believer or non, the one sentence that I do try to live by is to treat others are you would like to be treated, can’t go far wrong with that one!!

Happy Sunday x

 

atheist

Fog

I’ve deliberated a lot about whether to post this blog.

It’s sad and it’s personal and it’s probably a bit heart breaking.

However I started this weekly blog after my lovely daughter died. It became a place to write about loss and survival and now I write on Sundays about something of significance to me that week. At times I feel guilty that the blog doesn’t often specifically relate to Tes and that I veer away from referral to grief.

Who wants to read about grief on a Sunday morning!?

So if you don’t.. and I totally understand that. Give this week’s blog a miss.

Four and a half years later and it can grab hold of me with such force it’s hard to breathe and I spend much of my time trying not to be physically sick. I cancel plans and I just survive. Do I talk about it? Will I upset my nearest and dearest by talking about it? Do I still stay strong and get up and go to work even though I want to cry buckets under the duvet? Do I tell anyone because then it’ll ruin their day and they’ll end up worrying about me? Will people start to avoid me if I tell them?

I went to Uni this week to start my MSc. When I got there a woman sat next to me and immediately started talking to me. They asked me this morning – what had I done that I was proud of, she said. I’m proud of the fact I’ve raised my children and now I’ve got an adult daughter and she’s not dead yet.

That’s what she said.

I managed to say ‘oh’ and I think I faintly smiled at her joke.

She wasn’t to know that on the drive on the way to my first day at Uni that at one point I had to physically bite my fingers to transfer the pain to stop myself from crying. If she did know she’d feel awful. I know that.

There’s not a huge point to this blog this week, there was a need in me to revisit grief because I know other people who have ‘lost’ read it too. There’s a point where I guess I just want to shout…. ‘I’m hurting’ but then I don’t’ expect anyone to do anything about it. You can’t.

So – not the happiest of blogs and I apologise but that’s been this week. The grief fog lifted yesterday. I didn’t realise until I found myself dancing in the kitchen while making breakfast. It’ll be back but like others I’ll find a way through it and despite the part of my heart that hosts grief…. the rest of my heart is still ready for a life of love, travel, walks, friends, family, plans, laughs and even this MSc!

Lots of love to you all today – go hug someone!! xx

Thank you

I drove home on a beautiful shiny sparkly hot day. The road stretches ahead and I remember the reason why I bought this car in the first place. As the salesman busily tried to sell me the car that was within my budget, I spotted the purple and silver car behind him. I saw it as soon as I drove in. I test drove the ordinary one first. There were no gadgets or playthings or sat navs or blue tooth music devices. It was nice but it was ordinary. The purple and silver car stared at me as much as I stared at it. There was no contest. How much is that one, I say, dreamily. It didn’t really matter how much it was because I knew I was going to get it (the pain of that decision kicked in about 3 months later!).

 You see as soon as I test drove that one, I pressed a tiny button and the roof disappeared in one swoop. I was driving a convertible. Sold!
So, I was driving home from work and as normal I have my ‘Thelma and Louise’ moment as the road stretches towards Denbigh (rather than Mexico) and I press that button. The blue sky eeks through second by second and before you know it the wind is messing my already messy hair. I’m practically on a movie set and the journey home becomes significantly brighter.

That is until there was a clunk. That is until the lights on the dashboard started to flash. That is until I remembered. You shouldn’t open a convertible roof when you’re driving 60mph. I pull over and the roof is mashed up. It’s stuck fast. I push and shove and shout and swear a bit. It won’t budge. And by now in a few minutes the sun has decided to do one and it starts to speck drops of rain.

I’m really frazzled. I drive on in such a stomp wondering how much my ‘Thelma’ moment is going to cost me and I almost start to whimper as I’m already a bit fragile and anything extra to deal with is just one thing too much! What am I going to do? I’ll freeze in the winter. How many layers will I have to wear now that I am driving a permanent convertible??

I drive less enthusiastically for many minutes and then from the corner of my eye I spot a garage that I’ve not been to before. I drive past as I’m not confident enough to just walk in and say – hey can you help me, I stupidly have broken my convertible car because I’m so impatient. I get to the roundabout and decide. No. I will go in and ask for help. The reception is full of men in navy boiler suits with oil on their faces and hands. Funny that.

 I sheepishly say, I wonder if anyone can help me and go on quietly to explain what I’ve done. A smiley man about my age comes out and has a go. Nope. No budging there. He looks at me with a look of ‘no idea sorry’. I look back at him with a desperate ‘please help me’ look. He says ;come on then let’s have another go’. He spends the next twenty minutes millimetre by millimetre edging the angry roof while getting me to press the by now tired button. Hey presto. It’s done. Yay, the sky has gone, the button regains consciousness and the roof is safely closed.

Thank you so much I say. I have to refrain from hugging this man in a boiler suit that I haven’t ever met before. It’s fine he says. What do I owe you? Nothing, he says. Wow. Thank you so much I say again and head off without any thought of Thelma or Louise. Or Mexico.

A few weeks later I pass the garage and I remember this kindness and I think I should’ve gone in with something to say thank you and at that moment I drive to Tesco and get some Thorntons and drive back and drop them in. I imagine that mechanics don’t get many boxes of chocolates from the look on their faces. I drove off and I think I felt happier than they did about making the effort to say thanks.

So with this in mind I’d like to say a few more thank yous! 

I want to say thank you to you who let me talk freely about Tes although it might be painful to hear. Thank you for telling me that I inspire you despite my protestations and for telling me that you look at your life from a different more positive perspective. Thank you to those who trust and confide in me. Thank you for still texting me from afar and just asking, how are you? Thank you for making me laugh, not just a chuckle. A real belly laugh. Thank you for the hugs. Thank you for helping me even though you hardly know me. Thank you for fixing things I’m no good at fixing. Thank you for coming over unannounced to drink tea. Thank you for making it known how much you value me. Thank you for being so generous. Thank you for your honesty and thank you for loving me despite my flaws. Thank you for your unconditional love. Thank you for letting it known I can ring any time. Thank you for talking about normal things. Thank you for not avoiding subjects. Thanks for sharing those photos. Thanks for sharing your ideas. Thanks for your enthusiasm. Thank you for leaning on me and making me feel useful.

Thank you x
  

Holiday still.

What a mixed bag holidays have become. 
The excitement of booking and reading reviews before getting to our sandy destination. 
Ordering the currency and double checking passports. 
Waking up at 3am and excitedly squeezing luggage into my tiny car. 
Arriving at the airport searching for the last car park space.  
Wheeling our luggage over the cobbles finally getting to a queue. 
And another queue. 
And another. 
Hitting the unfamiliar hot air as we disembark amongst the cloudless sky. 
Destination arrived. 
Every time. It takes time. To get over your absence. Everyone feels it. 
Literally it’s etched on everyone’s face as we try not to show it. 
We miss you so so much. It takes the first few days to get used to the hole left. 
Get over it we must. 
We must play volleyball and cards and table tennis without you. We must eat out and swim the clear sea water. We must collect shells and explore new coves. Without you.
Otherwise we would only stand still. 
We can’t stand still.
I searched your face in such a happy photo on my return home where you are effortlessly beautifully dynamic and I can never make sense of you not being here. Ever.
This bit of writing is to really say you were missed Tes so much on our hols as you are missed every second of every day. That’s all xx
  

Where have you been?

i was asked today where I’ve been and was I going to write again soon?I’ve missed your writing was the message. I replied I hadn’t felt up to it. I replied I’d written a few drafts but hadn’t  wanted to post them. I just hadn’t  been up to it.

Just a few lines persuaded me to put something down and answer the question, where have I been? Where have I been this last couple of months?

I’ve been down, anxious, frustrated, annoyed. I’ve been wishing I could have a normal life back. I’ve been wishing that when I wake up every day it didn’t take some almighty strength to face the day. I’ve been feeling sorry for myself. I’ve been crying. I’ve not felt like going out. I’ve been to the doctor, I’ve cried on the phone to the doctor. I’ve been worried about things I didn’t know anyone could worry about. I’ve been a mum who has cried and a partner who has just complained. I’ve been quite crappy really.

And that’s why I didn’t write. 

As I write those things down though,  I have to remind myself what I’ve also been. I’ve been happy, I’ve stuck to my new running regime. I’ve discovered cooking new healthy foods. I’ve been a supportive friend and have supportive friends, I’ve been at work and taken on new responsibilities. I’ve been a busy mum and loving partner. I’ve  been out to a spa, met up with friends and had dinner out. I realised I needed help and saw my counsellor again. I’ve been taking photos and enjoyed walks on the beach.  I have got up every day and I have faced the world. 

So I’ve been struggling I guess but I’ve also been fighting with a smile and that is where I’ve been and that is where I am. 

Thanks for missing me and for making me remind myself that where I’ve been might be actually worth writing about x