Time and Distance

Taking a rare step back from books for a moment and reflecting on the past year or so, this is going to be quite a personal post. My life has changed so much in the past few years, I was married and living in a lovely house. Things happened and my marriage broke down, I moved back home with my mum. I got into relationships with people I thought cared about me and loved me (and I honestly thought I loved them) but now I’ve had time and distance I know that I was naïve. I was blind to their tricks and manipulation and cheating because I so desperately wanted someone to just love me for me. But I didn’t love them either; I just wanted to feel that I did in order to feel something other than shitty.

Fast forward to latter end of last year and I was beginning to get my confidence back, I went to Chicago with one of my best friends and came back full of ideas, energy and the desire to start making the changes and steps in my life I had put off for so long. And then my mum passed away suddenly. It’s not even been a year since she left us and I still hurt more than people know or realise, or even show. I still have nights where I see things that happened that night so clearly in my head that it hurts to breathe and I get launched into an existential panic about changing the outcome. I still blame myself for not going downstairs 5 or 10 minutes sooner, and although my brother tells me I shouldn’t think like that, it’s something I will carry with me forever. Having to do CPR on your own mum isn’t something you forget and I never will. I’m hoping that sometime in the near future I will be in a position where I feel ready to get counselling and speak to a professional about how I feel but at the moment I feel that I would unravel and not know how to put myself back together. So I manage by way of anti-depressants, making to do lists and pre-occupying myself with hobbies.

The past few weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about various things. But mostly about how selfish I have been. I got into a relationship with someone I thought was “amazing” and rushed into something I wasn’t ready for, so when they ended it abruptly because they couldn’t deal with my anxiety I was shocked and upset but really I shouldn’t have been and I should have payed attention to all the red flags about their own behaviour. In hindsight they were nothing special and definitely not someone I should have wasted so much time pining over. They didn’t deserve me at all, I didn’t see or realise my own worth but I do now. I distanced myself from friends and family and existed in a little bubble and did some really stupid things, things that hurt those close to me and made them worry unnecessarily. Things I’m not proud of and for that I can only apologise.

I travelled to Amsterdam for 4 days on a solo trip and did some much needed soul searching and it was good for me. Not long after I returned I started a new job (which I absolutely love and feel so lucky to have) and got back in touch with someone who has always been in the background of my life. Someone I met 14 years ago at Monday night Ritz, when he spilt a pint on me.

That night all those years ago, I looked in his eyes and laughed and we spent the whole night sitting on the stairs (him ditching his friends, me ditching my bro and our friends) just talking to one another. We dated a little bit but the timing was bad, but we stayed in touch. Years later we once again got re-acquainted and dated again, but it wasn’t too long after my dad had passed away, I wasn’t in the best of places and neither was he. But he was someone I always kept on Facebook, always thought about. Last year I posted something on Facebook and he commented on it, and we got chatting again. I got such a thrill and warmth from talking to him. I saw he was in a relationship and eased off as I didn’t want to make his girlfriend uncomfortable but still thought about him.

Anyway, on the first day in my new job, we got talking again. We didn’t stop. He phoned me and it wasn’t uncomfortable, it just felt right. There were no awkward silences or phatic conversation. Fast forward a bit and we start dating and it was going well, like really well. And now, almost 2 months since we made it “Facebook official” I couldn’t imagine being without him. And in fact, I don’t know why we didn’t do it sooner. I honestly believe he was the one that got away but thankfully we found each other again. He’s not like anyone else. I can truly be myself with him, he doesn’t judge me, get angry at me for being upset about things or make me feel like a “head case” or call me one because I have anxiety and depression. He makes me laugh so much, he has one of the kindest hearts I’ve ever known and above all I trust him 100%. I don’t feel like I have to look over my shoulder, or worry about another girl or anything like that because he gives me no reason to. No matter whether we’re together or apart, he makes me feel like I’m the only person in the room. For some reason, he loves me for who I am my faults and all. And I can honestly say that I love him too and on some level I think I always have. Over the years whenever I’ve heard certain songs, they’ve made me think of him and I’ve smiled. And now it’s so nice to lie in his arms and listen to those songs and know that they made him think of me too.

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Being with him makes me want to be a better person and for the first time in a long time, I actually feel like I have a future to look forward to. When my mum died I was in pieces and didn’t know how I’d get through each day. Part of me feels like she brought him to me, a little cheesy but I honestly believe it to be true. Since I’ve been with him, I’ve been taking steps to sort things out in my life. My divorce is underway, the house we shared is on the market and it’s all remained amicable, which I’m glad about. I wish no bad to my ex and hope he finds happiness one day, but we both want to get it sorted quickly so we can start our new lives.

Other little changes mean I’ve been looking at my relationships; I’ve not made time for some people where I should have done and consequently have had my head up my own arse thinking my shit is the worse. When that’s not true at all, other people have been going through stuff and I should have been there to support them or check in and I didn’t or haven’t. But that’s going to change. I am trying to make amends with people and patch up what I can. I’m trying to be kinder to others and to myself.

I’m trying to become vegetarian because I hate seeing what’s happening to the planet and I think of my beautiful niece and nephew and don’t want their generation to suffer. I’m focusing on my career and pushing for skills and experience that I hope will make me better at what I do. I’m booking onto exercise classes that I enjoy (burlesque, aerial hoop and pole fitness) and trying to worry less about my shape and how I look and more about how the classes make me feel. I’m taking up a bullet journal to help with my anxiety and have booked a holiday for February next year because I want to see the world with the person I love and make memories.

I know it’s not going to be easy and that everything won’t happen overnight but I’m trying to be better, more understanding and more loving. I don’t want negativity or bitterness or anger to be part of me or my life. I’m trying to let that go and with Kyle, I feel like that’s possible. Life is far too short and precious to waste. So here’s to a healthy life, with good memories made with amazing people and above all, a life filled with love.

G.
x

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Without Her…

It’s been a long time since I put pen to paper or fingers to keys if you’re feeling pedantic.  But my life has changed so much in the time since I last wrote here.

I took my first trip to America in September with a close friend, who is more like my adopted sister, and we went to Riot Fest in Chicago. It was incredible. I fell in love with that place so much. The skyline’s are like nothing I have ever seen before and it helped give me a lot of clarity and space to think about the things that have happened over the past few years. I came back full of confidence, drive and clear about what I wanted to do and how I was going to make it happen.

But then life dealt me the hardest blow I’ve ever had to suffer. It’s hard for me to write about because it’s all still very clear in my head. In the early hours of Wednesday 3rd October I found my mum on the living room floor, she wasn’t breathing or responding to me saying her name. I don’t know how I did it but I rolled her on her back, cleared her airways and started chest compression’s whilst dialing 999. I had to do this for 5 minutes, whilst the woman helped me count and kept me up to date with where the ambulance was, I felt something crack and panicked but the woman on the other end of the phone said that was normal. And then when they arrived, I was told there was nothing they could do. I begged them to use the defibrillator but they told me it wouldn’t do anything.

It’s hard to say how I felt in that moment. I held my dad’s hand as he took his last breath and left, but I never in a million years thought my mum would die. I never thought she’d leave me. It felt like I was falling but nothing was there to catch me. Everything suddenly seemed so far away and unrealistic but what I felt inside made it very clear that it was very much real. Just hours before we had sat and talked whilst eating our tea. We’d laughed and hugged and now she was gone. I couldn’t and still can’t get my head around it. Losing someone you love is never easy, but to lose her just broke me. She was my best friend, my confidante, my cheerleader…She gave me hope on my darkest days.

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The days following blurred into one long day, of beating myself up that I should have checked on her sooner, I should have tried harder with the CPR. I kept checking my phone waiting for her to text or call me. This has probably been the hardest thing to adjust to. In the 33 years of my life there hadn’t been a day where I hadn’t spoken to my mum either in a text, on the phone or in person. I suddenly realised how alone I was. Don’t get me wrong I have a lovely and amazing brother, who took charge of planning the funeral and I have amazing friends and extended family. But the truth is, when my marriage broke down, my mum and I became a family again. And now she’s gone, I feel like a jigsaw piece that doesn’t really fit in anywhere.

It was hard enough having to take each day but what it made it worse was the fact that I now also found myself potentially homeless. I reached out to my ex who I’d overpaid by £2.5k and asked for the money back or a 10month break so that I could help pay for the funeral and wouldn’t be homeless. But was greeted with a response that just hurt and made me feel worse. My brother and I had to start going through the house and selling what we could to pay for the funeral. None of us really had time to grieve.

Because there was no obvious cause of death, it also meant delays to when my mother could be released from the Coroner and consequently meant that we only had one day to visit my mum at the Chapel of rest. All I could think about all that time was how she was alone and cold and I know she would have hated that. I picked out her favourite jumper and jeans because she liked being cosy and warm. I kissed her on the forehead and stroked her hand and we put some sentimental things in the coffin with her. I hated leaving her there, knowing that would be the last time I would physically see her.

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The funeral was the hardest day I’ve ever had to live through. And I don’t think there are any words in the English language that convey how hard that was. My heart broke saying goodbye to her and I still have moments where I feel like I will wake up and it will all have been some terrible nightmare. I feel lost. I lost so much in a short space of time, my mum, my home and my childhood house. Even now it’s hard to wonder why I wake up each day. A couple of weeks after I had my phone stolen, which had voicemail messages from my mum on it. Luckily, I had photos etc. backed up but I’ve lost all the text messages she sent and the voicemail messages. Another of life’s cruel jokes sent to test me I guess.

Some people say things like “I’m sorry.” Ask how you are or say things they intend to make you feel better like “At least they’re at peace.” Or “She’s with your dad now.” I’m not criticising the people who have said this to me. It’s nice they want to offer words of comfort and send their love. But the truth is…It doesn’t make you feel better, you’re really not ok and there’s no need to say sorry for something you didn’t do or had no control over.

It’s getting closer to Christmas, again a time of year I have spent with my mum with the exception of one and I’m finding it so hard. She’s always been an integral and loving part of this time of year and her presence is going to be missed even more. Since my mum passed, two friends have lost parents. And my heart goes out to them. I won’t say sorry etc. but I will let them know to go through the motions, that there’s no right or wrong way to grieve and that I am here if they need someone to talk to or a distraction. Because that’s the truth.

My life changed so much in the space of a few hours, and I feel the loss of my mama every single second of every single day. So it’s nice sometimes to have someone willing to distract you or treat you normal when your life is anything but normal. I struggle each day and weirdly, even though it’s the thing I long to hear the most, I cannot watch a video of her playing with my niece because hearing her voice breaks me. It’s been a weird month or so…And I still have a lot to go through. But I hope I have the courage to face each day just like my mama did. I hope I can make her proud. And to all those people out there, who are facing their futures and Christmas without a loved one, please know you’re not alone in this pain. Please don’t struggle in silence. Please don’t give up.

All my love..

G.
x

Mr Keating and I…

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I still have no words at how unbelievably saddened I feel about the passing of this great man. The Dead Poet’s Society was a film that really inspired me when I was younger; I fell more and more in love with the written word and absorbed as many books as I could. I always dreamed of having a teacher like Mr Keating, but was never lucky enough to have that dream fulfilled. But when I recently re-watched the film, I realised it doesn’t matter, because Robin Williams brought Mr Keating alive on the screen and immortalized him forever on film. And like a well loved book, all tattered, beaten, dog eared but incredibly loved, I can revisit him as often as I want and find myself being inspired all over again.

Robin Williams & Depression.

This blog was, and is, mainly going to be about books. But last night saw the death of one of the finest comic actors of our time. My first memory of Robin Williams came as a child, when I used to watch Mork and Mindy on Channel 4. It used to make me giggle so much and as a child I could often be heard saying ‘Nanu, nanu!’ whilst doing his trademark hand sign. Over the years he provided us with some fine pieces of performance in films like Hook, Mrs Doubtfire, Dead Poet’s Society, Good Morning, Vietnam, Fisher King, Jumanji and Aladdin.

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It’s incredibly sad to know that this great man was lost to depression. It still baffles me how in this day and age we’re still afraid to talk about mental health issues and depression, as though the conversation will cause some kind of social stigma and make you an outcast, but the truth is it won’t. I’ve often thought that silence is a disease, this belief that brushing it under the carpet and pretending it isn’t happening to you or someone you love and just not talking about it will somehow make it all ok and disappear. But really it’s making it worse.

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Depression has touched my life a few of times over the years. I suffered depression quite badly after the death of my father, I just couldn’t cope. It was like being trapped inside a house of repetitive gloom, where I questioned everything. How I could be living and breathing and he was ceasing to do these basic things that gave him life and made him be there and be my dad. It felt like I was walking around in a shell, I felt like a zombie and the basic abilities for survival like sleeping, drinking and eating, lost all appeal to me. I didn’t eat and wash for weeks, I’d have bouts of anxiety and panic attacks. Suicide was a regular thought to me in those days, but if it hadn’t have been for the people around me giving me some outlet for my thoughts and anger, I probably wouldn’t be here today. Sadly, my mother has been severely depressed by the death of my father, and from events in her past, and is currently undergoing therapy. It’s a daily battle for her, and I often don’t know what to say, there’s that curse of silence again. But what I can do is let her know I can listen. And often that’s what I do, I sit and listen and it’s amazing how much that can help. I can visibly see the weight lift off her shoulders and the sun shine on her face, like someone’s pulled back the heavy curtains of doubt and depression that wrap themselves around her and threaten to cut off her view of the world.

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But it’s something I had to learn the hard way, to listen. Some years ago now, I was sat in a lecture at college and received a text from a friend, what I read shocked me. A good friend of ours had been found hanged in his room; he’d left a note behind saying he just couldn’t go on anymore. When I think about the kind of person Tom was, no negative word’s spring to mind. He was an absolute joy to be around, a sweet guy who always had a smile on his face. He’d battled with depression for years, I’d seen him just a week before his death and he seemed somewhat subdued and quiet but I just put this down to being tired from work. I kick myself everyday, for not just taking some extra time to ask him if it was more. It’s something I’ll always live with. Perhaps if someone had taken him to one side, offered to listen he’d still be here. What if I would have offered to listen?

You will get people out there who will see suicide as a weakness and to an outsider it can seem this way. It can seem selfish, ‘stupid’ is a word often bandied around in situations like this, but until you have walked a day in those shoes you can’t for one moment understand how the prospect of no more torment, no more painting on a smile for others and no more pretending to be ‘normal’ seems like such an appealing option. The truth is people like my friend Tom and Robin Williams felt that it was their only answer, their only chance of peace. You cannot pass judgment on them or question their motives, but what you can do is try to understand. If you know someone suffering from depression, help them, listen to them, let them know they are loved, keep your eyes and ears open but don’t pretend that ignorance will help. Depression is blind, it doesn’t care if you’re poor, or rich, smart or dumb, ugly or pretty. It affects people from all walks of life and it’s not going to go away just because we choose to ignore it as a society. It will affect you or someone you know, and if it’s not doing so now, it probably will in the future. If you see someone suffering speak to them, chances are they probably already feel abnormal enough without people walking on eggshells and not wanting to address the elephant in the room. If you’re suffering from depression, speak out, if you know someone who suffers, just listen and don’t judge.

To my dear friend Tom, we still miss you. To Robin Williams, rest in peace and thanks for laughs, my thoughts go to your family and friends. And to all those who have lived or are currently living with depression, don’t suffer in silence – let this act as a catalyst to stop this stigma of shame attached to mental health issues and let’s talk about it.