Tag Archives: death

Don’t count the rain clouds, count the rainbows

I remember being very small and very sad. Mummy and Daddy seemed very sad and very angry. When Daddy lived at someone else’s house, Mummy cried lots. She seemed lost. When my stepdad moved in everyone was very happy. I didn’t like having to share all my things or having to sleep on the fold out bed because it was closer to the door, closer to the toilet. I had lots of bad dreams and lots of wet sheets. 

Mum got very sad again when the Baby was born. We all thought she was lovely but very noisy and very smelly. When I was 9 I went to live with Dad. My sisters came too but not the Baby because she had her own Daddy. It was weird living with Dad. We didn’t see our brother everyday anymore and Mum never seemed to smile anymore. Then Grandad got sick and I wasn’t allowed to cry because it would make him feel bad. I wasn’t allowed to sit on his armchair with him anymore, we needed to be very gentle with him, just like we were with the Baby. Mum let Baby come to visit when our brother did! We showed her how to use the dollshouse and we played in the garden. Grandad died when I was 11. I would smile everyday because Grandad liked it when we smiled but I didn’t want to smile. I wanted to cry every day.

At school we were told about taking drugs, how bad they were, how even paracetamol could be very bad for you. I remember wondering how bad it must be, it couldn’t be any worse than the way I felt inside. I stopped looking in the mirror. I stopped caring about good food and ate lots of chocolate ice cream with fresh orange juice. I stopped talking to people, no one listened anyway. 

Dad had a few relationships with other single parents. They all seemed very nice and they liked that he was taking care of us girls. They just didn’t seem to like us very much. I preferred it when we were left home alone. I would stay up until 2am watching rubbish telly. I kept paracetamol on me all the time. We had one of the medicine bottles and I could hold just enough tablets inside. I liked counting them, making sure there was the same amount all the time. Dad’s new girlfriend was just like everyone else. She seemed nice enough but had no interest in us girls. She had two of her own and that was more than enough. 

I wrote a note one day. I was so sorry, I didn’t want anyone to cry, I wanted them to know that it would be better without me. My sister came home from school early and I chickened out. My Dad found the note but never mentioned it. My kind of stepsister took an overdose. She had to have her stomach pumped and drink charcoal liquid. I opened up to her, told her she could confide in me at any time. I can’t remember us ever having a conversation after that day. I didn’t mind, I didn’t want to talk to anyone either.

At 14, I moved back in with my Mum. I wanted to take my younger sister with me but she admitted that she didn’t really know our mum nor did she know her. I missed her terribly but I would see her every school day. My Dad was very angry with me. I just felt numb. He would call me names, hurtful lashing out, but I couldn’t stand being ignored anymore. 

I tried to be happier at my Mum’s. I got to talk to my brother, play with the Baby although she wasn’t that anymore! Mum would cook with me, make sure my uniform was clean every day, that I had brushed my hair. I stopped carrying the pot of pills everywhere. It wasn’t perfect but it was my home. I felt loved and wanted. I felt happy. 

At 15, I was trying to become independent, find friends closer to my new home. The first friend I made raped me. He took advantage of my caring nature and I found myself alone with a fairly drunk, slightly older guy. At any other time, I would have fancied him but actually I had a boyfriend (well, kind of, in a silly teenager way) and I wasn’t the kind of girl to mess around.

He stripped me of my innocence and violated my thoughts. I couldn’t get his face out of my mind, every face in the street was his, every squeaky male teen had me struggling not to wet myself – I didn’t always manage to prevent accidents. Going to school every day was like walking through hell for me. I couldn’t tell anyone, how could I explain it? I had put myself in a position which made me weak and vulnerable. Why had I been so stupid? 

The guilt, the shame, it stayed with me for years. The following years at school saw me skip more of it than I actually attended. Even when I got a proper boyfriend, I craved attention, I needed someone to notice how numb I was. At school I would jump around on tables, act ridiculously, sing and dance and be a fool. Then I would spend nearly every Wednesday alone, I would draw my isolation, dark sketches of my broken mind. Still it went unnoticed. My pill pot came back into use, the pills being counted out one after another. 

I resisted the urge, I swung back and forth between my parents, I lashed out, I clung to the few wonderful friends I had and I focused on staying alive. It took every part of me to stay alive. It would have been easy to opt out, to follow through on my carefully constructed plan, to stop the pain.

I didn’t, couldn’t, go through with it. I looked at my two younger sisters who I love and adore and realised that these two were happy to see me, willing to waste time with me. I had to keep going until these two were old enough to stand alone.

When I first saw Mr Bear, I instantly fell in love. I do not make light of this. I whispered to my friend standing next to me “I’m going to have his babies”. I didn’t even know his name or even if he was into women (he was and is a very metrosexual male – confident in his own skin and happy with his life). I was in awe of his ease, how he didn’t even notice that a fair few of his female cohort found him extremely likable. I was so lucky to have him know people in our small group of friends, blessed to have his bestfriend know one of my closest friends and so I got to know him well very quickly. He seemed so comfortable with life. I watched him as he went through trading cards, as he finished homework, as he ate pizza like I ate biscuits but he was satisfied and full whilst I felt empty yet fatter by the bite. 

When I was with him, my pain dissipated. In his arms, I slept for the first time in two years without a nightmare rerun. I am so safe with him. He is the love of my life.

He hasn’t cured me. I have bouts of depression, normally triggered by the most mundane things yet their consequences gain momentum in my mind and the darkness descends yet again and I question my worth, my value to society and to my family. Being a mother is everything I ever wanted and more and I wish these human beings were enough to push away the vacuum that sucks me in whenever it feels like.

Postnatal depression is the most common name they’ve used to describe me. The flooding of hormones, the waves over the body as you adjust to life without a mini being inside of you, they would once again show only the dark shadows and the place of rest looks warm and inviting once more, a place where there is no more pain, no more failure, no more guilt, just the end of everything.

My children are everything to me but the darkness is all consuming and I fight with all I have every single day to keep the waves away. Some days the fight beats me. On those days I want to hide away from the world and forget that anything else exists. That isn’t a very practical response and I most commonly find myself at a stay ‘n’ play, a fake smile playing on my lips and the words of other mothers merging into a string of convenient white noise. It is oddly comforting, to be reassured that the world is still turning, the universe still expanding. These days ebb and flow, my physical pain often leading to more frequent bouts of shadow. The longer the flare the harder I find it to climb out of the pit but I have to. I can’t give my children the early childhood we had. My mother loves me, I know that although she has never said it or shown it. I tell my cubs at every opportunity that I love them, that they are most loved and most wanted. I couldn’t be half the parent I am without the Mr’s help and support. He can be a proper irritant with his teenage strops but he steps up to the plate and he tries his hardest to be a very active and enthusiastic parent. None of us are perfect but he does an excellent job of pretending he is.

It’s strange how I have ended up suffering from two very different, very similar, invisible illnesses. Both are under explored and under funded, both leave me in pain which we try to manage using only one type of drug, one is hidden in the brain, the other in the muscles, nerves, and immune system. It is only within my relatively short, relatively recent time of diagnosis that Fibromyalgia has been recognised and reacted too. Poor mental health, especially amongst young women, has been known about since the dark ages and the use of trepanning to release demons from the cursed and yet we still do very little to treat the illness but prefer to hide it under a layer of mood suppressants and stabilisers. 

Have we come so far only to ignore the increasing recognition of poor mental health amongst society? Why do we turn our backs on friends and family when they need us the most? 

Today was Mental Health Awareness Day. I want to stand up and be counted amongst the many other people who I know and love who struggle daily to avoid the shadows, who orbit the black hole of depression each night terrified that it might be the last night it can stay in orbit, who haven’t made it but who still desperately show a glimmer of survival amidst the darkness.

Never stop reaching out. That friend desperately wants to join you for coffee in the park café, they just haven’t been able to make it out of the house yet, but she will, if you just give her the chance.

I was told a story of grey iced cupcakes with rainbow coloured cake which sparked a beautiful friendship between two extraordinary women. I wish we could all find our rainbows. One day, I hope to reach my own.

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V is for Vanishing

I’m sorry to have been quiet for so long but it has been a long and difficult month here in the Bear Cave. I actually have 3 or 4 half finished blogs that I should finish and edit and will try to soon but for now I just want to reflect on the passing of my beautiful friend, Vicky.

We had such a hot headed relationship with many ups and downs but since she died, I keep thinking about are the times when I must have hurt her and she never deserved it. Like the time I slapped her when we were in year 9. She called me a b****, and rightly so, but in my defence she had taken my diary and showed my crush all of my embarassing teenage ramblings.  We were besties again by the end of the day and she never got the £5 she was promised for nabbing it. Ha! Then there is the hilarious start to our friendship when rival school girls join forces against the kids from schools we had never heard of. We complimented each other in many ways, she was the Ying to my teenage Yang and we were both thoroughly happy about it. I miss her so much it hurts, physically hurts. The morning of her passing, I had planned to visit with her again. Once a week, at the very least, I’d drive in tears to the St Christopher’s hospice, I’d wipe away the tears, plump my cheeks and slap on my smile. We had our “smile” in common too. We both used to hide behind a perfectly performed smile for decades whilst our insides were crying and screaming for help. For decades, we had both lived in the shadows of our depressions, we learned how to live without having people see the dark circles from restless nights and we hid our secret food consumption, although some would argue that point and our expanding waist lines would back them up.  Vic knew my deepest, darkest fears and never once did she tell of my feast and famine relationship with food. 

When I had counselling as a young person, it was Vic who I told the whole truth too. I was scared of my dad being told about how hard I felt the breakup of my parents’ marriage, how lost I felt when we were pushed from pillar to post and from one girlfriend to the next, and why I missed my kind, sensitive, generous Grandfather who provided the stable father figure I desperately clung to and who had been cruely ripped away by Leaukemia just as I hit double digits. Vicky heard all of my woes, she held my hand, and she helped me past the worst of the pain. 

I wasn’t the adventurous one of our small group. I was stable and quite happy to keep my feet on the ground where they belonged. Our friend, El, would talk of climbing mountains and flying planes. Vicky would listen with wide eyes and awe whilst I stood shaking my head with a big fat nope. It was no surprise to me that she abseiled down one of the tall buildings of London and she thoroughly loved every minute. Last year she would recall in great detail all of her many adventures in her “Not a bucket list bucket list” and we would swap names of complicated pills on our joint efforts to combat our painful bodies. 

At out last gathering of friends, she giggled over the silliness of the two children now exploring her house and laughed with delight as the smallest of them climbed on to the cat’s radiator bed and found herself in a miniture swing. We had to stop for a photoshoot before the little madam squawked and asked for help! Vic was in such high spirits but we could tell that the cancer was winning this time around. She was repeating herself and not making complete sense. We were watching her slip away from us as the brain tumours took her from us.

I spent a few hours in her company that penultimate Saturday. Her darling Mummy was on hand and also one of her newest and inner circle friends was ready and willing to chat for a while and share stories of grey iced cupcakes with brilliantly colourful cakes underneath. She told of many tea and cake catch ups and the ease in which their friendship blossomed but that was Vicky summed up. Fiercely loyal to her friends and no time sinkhole people who took more than they would ever give. When we found a moment, just Vic and I, the words fell from my lips onto sleeping ears. I wanted to tell her how much I loved her, that she meant the world to me, and that the last three years were the best of gifts from her to me. I needed her to know that we would all miss her terribly and that it would take an enormous truck to fill the gap she left in our lives. 

I said goodbye to her that day not knowing if it would be the last time I could. When I got the text from her sister letting me know that they had got the final curtain call, I dropped. Here ended the best of people. She vanished like the light from a candle in fresh summer breeze and blessed us with this most beautiful summer sun. It was no surprise when she arrived for her greatest ever party, that she did so with style and a huge splash of pink flare! I managed to sit on the chair with the best view of her. I listened with thrumming ears as her wonderful friends spoke fondly and with love, I sang through the songs as they played not caring if anyone else would mind and my Natters and I clung fast to each other. 

Afterwards we shared great stories, laughed and cried together and toasted this amazing example of what the human race has to offer. Mother Nature, God, Allah, Zeus, the little green aliens… I don’t know who exists and who doesn’t but if there is an almighty (or several) they have a very odd way of sorting the curds from the whey. The Die of Destiny has been rolled and mistakes have been made. 

Vicky was one of the good ones. She filled our lives with pink and fluffy and cats. I owe her my life, truly. She stayed with me when she had no reason to and I love her for it. 

Vicky, I miss you. If there is an after, I hope it has cats, cake, and a lovely pot of rosie lee. It needs to have deck chairs and the sound of the sea lapping on the shore, fish and chips in the paper wrapper, and cheesy love songs, lots and lots of them. You will stay with me forever and a day. Love you xxx