Tag Archives: loss

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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Peace be upon us all

I had the opportunity to have a thorough run through of the 10 commandments and how they relate to my life. I very much enjoy being able to explore my spiritual beliefs or lack there of. 

To make it clear. I would place myself somewhere between Atheist and Agnostic. I explore as much religion as I can and consider if there is a place within each that might fit me. I’m still looking.

Predominantly, I look towards the Christian faith. I grew up with a fabulous grandmother who was very firm in her Catholicism and she enjoyed scaring God into us. I can’t say she was very successful but she stayed true to her faith until the end. She was a stern and complex individual who fled her home in Ireland to offer her illegitimate son a better life. She married my grandfather and raised a total of four siblings together in the best way they could. My grandfather seemed to shun religion, he openly scoffed at Sunday Best and I don’t remember him visiting Church except for hatches, matches, and despatches. Only one of the four children seem to have a connection with religion today and her own children have found Allah. Islam has brought peace upon them and they are active, happy members of their communities. I love that my cousin seeks comfort from her maker and leads her life in a way that honours his teachings. Her quiet faith brings strength and support and, I imagine, brings its own questions and a journey to the answers. 

We grew up being brownies and beavers – both branches of organisations with God, Queen and Country at their cores. The Girl Guides, 1909, was started to respond to the specific needs of girls and young women, whilst the Scouts was started the year before. Robert Baden-Powell wanted to encourage young people to be responsible, capable, God lead individuals. I spent week after week pledging to live my life under a code of honour which I never thought twice about. I would follow my dad to the Methodist Church for Mothering Sunday and other calender events before hot footing it to the Salvation Army to take part in the tambourine performance and hear another beautiful sermon about the Lord. I admit to finding great comfort within the church walls, I learnt things that school would never teach me and was read stories of a time long ago with men and women of courage and faith. If I hear the choir sing today I can feel my heart swell and my own voice joining in. 

As an adult, it is from the communities with ties to the Church that I receive greatest support and love. My friends, religious and otherwise, welcome me into their homes and into their hearts. They stand shoulder to shoulder with my family offering them unconditional love and an overwhelming sense of being welcome – mostly. 

I spend my time between the fantastic congregation of the Salvation Army, I listen with an open heart to the words and with an open mind to their structure and then willing give more of my time with my Baptist family in the hopes that their love and guidance will sink into our family as it did with myself as a child. 

The youngest Gingerling very much thinks we are Christian. We go to church sometimes and we close our eyes when Mr A (for Awesome) tells us to open our hearts to the Lord. She’s a very astute nearly, nearly 7 year old (6 and 4/5). She has been told that good Christians go to Church and listen to what the people say. Our dear friend and Major Redhead always spoke in a way that our Little Sponge understood and would have her listen intently before asking what a word meant or by nodding with a “we do that, don’t we mummy!” by way of acknowledging the words flowing into her. 

I can see the older girls all seeking something, all listening, all questing. They, like myself, are willing to listen, to feel God in their lives. In many ways I hope they do find what they are looking for. The way of the Lord sits so well with our church family, the glow of his wisdom is beautiful to behold. If only it was so easy for us all.

Whilst talking to the Good Rev about the commandments I found it easy to answer his questions truthfully and whole heartedly. He makes it very comfortable for me and I respect him greatly for it. I fear that he could not support my son with such easy grace. His Lord made it very clear, 2000 years ago, that there is no place within his heart for my boy. And yet, if I apply the 10 commandments to my son I can see that his place in heaven would be well deserved. A kinder, more sincere and honest a human being would only be found amongst other beautiful young people. They live their lives by a code of conduct that is based upon the words spoken by our parents, grandparents, great grandparents. Do no harm. Do not lie. Do not steal. Do not cheat. Respect your elders. Protect those who cannot protect themselves. They don’t even use any Lord’s name in vain preferring the plethora of profanity in the English language or the good old almost swear “oh for pete’s sake”, “frickin’ heck” or “fiddlesticks”! 

Why is my child not welcome? I can’t ask this of the Rev just yet. I want to know but I also don’t want to hear that my child is somehow less worthy of any God’s love because his inner being has been nestled into a body that feels alien in nature. I do not know enough about Islam, Jehovah’s teachings, or other holy scriptures to know how my boy would be seen or received. All I know is that he is pure and he is good and if a god does not love him for that then he cannot be the true saviour of which I seek. 

And there in lies the conundrum. I look for a place of belonging, not just for me but for my children too. I cannot listen to a chosen mouthpiece of God and have them tell me that my child is not worthy, not welcome. My understanding of religious faith and doctrine is too limited. I have yet to find my spiritual leader, I know not if I ever will.

So many lives have been lost this past 24 hours. Some to life limiting conditions, some to old age, some to war, some to famine, some to disease, some to a violence without a name, and some because of a man who seems to have lost his way and may have uttered the name of a Lord he may or may not believe in. The loss of so many children, possibly 25,000 every single day, is not easily reconciled. I imagine God has been listening to many prayers today. I hope that many of those prayers have been answered in one way or another, that those mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, doctors, nurses, friends, emergency service personal have the comfort they seek.

Perhaps we all (okay, maybe 90%+) seek answers from a higher power when times are tough. I am open to seeking the truth, the answers, the continued questioning. My love is with you all, always. I will not stop seeing you as my family and any Lord I find will welcome you too.