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

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Trying…

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It’s true what they say, certain moments stay with you. Sometimes they’re huge life changing events like the day the man you love gets down on one knee and asks you to be his wife, or the cry of a baby that pierces the air after spending all night trying to push it from your body. And sometimes it’s the moment your heart breaks when a hand goes limp in yours and you know that the person holding it has taken their last breath. I’ve only experienced two of the above, one filled me with a happiness and love I didn’t know existed in me, the other filled me with something I have no words for, it’s left me reaching out for something I know isn’t there.

It comes out of nowhere, a sense of dread pressing down on me, smothering me as I desperately look for a way out. It’s a golf ball that forms in my throat when I try to recall his voice and a pain in my heart when I realise that’s long forgotten. Stored somewhere dark and dusty that I can’t quite reach. It’s the moment I realise he left this earth 7 years ago, and in some ways the pain makes it feel like it was only yesterday, but in another it makes it feel like a lifetime as I try to recall the features of his face and sound of his laugh.

It’s the anger I feel at myself when I wish I could have done more, could do more, but lack the motivation or energy to do it. The empty promises I’ve made myself to make the most of each day and live life to the fullest and enjoy it whilst I’m here, when really there’s that dark shadow always floating in the background lying in wait to reach out its hand and hold it on my shoulder. It’s reminding me that I’m too tired or busy or skint to do that thing that I swore I’d do before it was too late. It’s the loss of breath and blur of vision, the thin layer of sweat that breaks out on the palms of my hands as I try to stop the anxiety attack that stops me in my tracks, when all I wanted to do that day was to go for a walk and enjoy the sun.

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It’s the smell of rain on grass, in warm summer air, that makes me recall the small details I’d like to forget, the hands clasped and cold. It’s the gaping hole I’ve carried with me every day. I struggle to hide it all the time, painting a false expression of happiness on my face on the worse days, in the hope that if I try hard enough it will work. The colours are less vibrant now, my breathing more laboured. I’m struggling and I don’t know how to explain it or what to do but I’m scared and I hate myself and right now all I want to do is vanish. I know that’s a selfish idea, because he can’t be here and even now that’s something I cannot comprehend. I look at his photo across the room and I want an answer about why he can’t just be here. I’m 30 years old and I still can’t grasp what’s happened. All I know is that it hurts to breathe most days and that pushing back the duvet and getting out of bed is a struggle on a daily basis, its a constant static fuzz in my head. When people ask me what my anxiety and depression feels like I don’t know what to say. My tongue swells up and I lack the ability to vocalise it, so I wrote this instead. It’s smothering, all consuming, terrifying dread. A fear of something that’s already happened, things that are yet to happen and plenty of things that are out of my control, I know it’s not rational but I can’t control it, I can’t stop it. I wish I could.

I always knew growing up that I would have to lose people, but I never knew or considered how the death of my father would impact on me, thoughts of the night he slipped from this world sharp in my mind. I mean, I was holding his hand as he died. That stays with you, you know..I was 24 years old. After all this time..I don’t know what to do; it’s getting harder as the memories of him seem to grow more distant and I desperately scramble to remember them.

I’m tired. I’m tired. I’m tired. One person fraying at the edges and desperately trying to keep it together. So please, to the people who tell me to just ‘not stress’ or ask ‘why are you getting so wound up’ tell me what I’m supposed to do? I’m doing all I can and it doesn’t feel enough. So tell me…What should I do? Because honestly I can’t continue this way.

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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.