The Mercurial Whirlwind..

*Content warning – suicide

On Monday 19th February it was eleven years since my Dad phoned me early one evening to tell me that my younger sister Mary had died. She was 35.

You hear people say things like “I knew it was bad news when the phone rang” but I genuinely went cold on the first ring – I’ve no idea how to explain it, but I swear I somehow knew it was really bad news about Mel.
Unfortunately she had ended her own life. I could speculate for hours (and did initially) on exactly why, but it serves no purpose. The simple truth is that at that moment in time she needed to stop. Undiagnosed depression certainly impacted her actions.
But that was how she ended, it wasn’t who she was. I’m not sure I have the words to capture the mercurial whirlwind that was my little sister. No one else has ever made me laugh (or cry) so hard. She was beautiful, funny, kind, generous, quixotic. She was also stubborn, defensive, argumentative and had a flash temper that raged white hot then just as quickly was gone.

She’d unexpectedly turn that megawatt smile on you and you had no choice but to grin back.

As kids we fought so much, but had each others back, always. I have loads of fabulous memories, good and bad, and that’s how it should be, saintly she wasn’t!

I remember at the time she died being unexpectedly angry with her, simply because we were supposed to grow old together. Losing her was hard, but it was almost as tough dealing with the loss of both past and future memories.

There is no-one else who remembers how to play “mummies, daddies & little darlings”, who knows how you had to step over the second floorboard from the bathroom door because it creaked so loudly, who swears she saw a ghost in our kitchen, who could play connect four for hours, who can remind me how I taught her all the basic swear words after she begged me to! Who was my partner in crime on teenage hair and makeup, and my best friend even when we ‘hated’ each other.

It’s like I lost some of the vibrancy from my past memories when she died, they’re still there, but without her to help me take them out and polish them or argue over them they’ve faded.

Of course we should also already have another eleven years of adult sisterhood to mull over. But she’ll never make a new memory in this life, as much as I carry her with me always.

There’s simply a Mel shaped hole missing from the second half of my life.

So I want to use this post to let anyone who is feeling like they want to stop know they are not alone. You are worthwhile, you are seen, you are loved. This really will pass, so please reach out for support in whatever form feels comfortable. I promise help is out there.

UK & ROI Samaritans – 116 123

USA – Lifeline Chat – 1-800-273-8255.

Australia – Lifeline – 13-11-14

Canada – The Canada Suicide Prevention Service – 1-833-456-4566

Advertisements

Love Is All

A very beautiful & treasured friend of mine has lost her husband suddenly & so unexpectedly. I am stunned, and I am so sorry for her and her family’s heartbreaking loss.

I just wanted to take a moment to say please hold your loved ones close. Then hold them closer.

Make the words I love you the most common ones you use, and mean it. It is not a cliché to say not a single one of us are guaranteed tomorrow.

Make your loved ones your only priority. Forget the extra shift at work, it’s so damned unimportant. Forget who put the trash out last, who cares? Hold hands, dance together, sing together, scream together, spend time with each other.

Talk about inconsequential things whilst looking at the night sky, talk about the important stuff whilst looking into their eyes. Smile in the rain, laugh in the face of storms. Time is the most precious gift we ever give to others, and it’s so fleeting.

Make your moments count, fill them with laughter, make memories. Remember this means all of those you love, not only partners and children and parents, but the family we choose for ourselves, our friends.

Don’t put off that lunch date, or keep forgetting to make that call while time slips through your hands like water. Love with all of your heart as fiercely and as loudly as you can, because when it comes down to what’s real it’s all that matters.

Love is everything. Namaste 💙

Finding Balance 

Yesterday I cried and wept, illness taking friends is so bleak

Today I (chair) danced and sang with friends who filled the room with life
Yesterday was for death and dying
Today was for love and joy

Balance is so important. Anyone with a chronic illness sees too much darkness. We lose time, we lose careers, and sadly sometimes we lose friends.

There are those who might say that if we’re singing and laughing then we can’t be that ill, or we exaggerate the pain. There are those who would say if we can do this today we should be able to do it again tomorrow.

They will never understand the joy of grabbing a few hours in the sun when the rest of our time is darkness. And I hope they never do. It’s absolutely necessary for our mental health as well as physical that now and again we simply say FURA!!

Spending time with people we love whose company delights us, and recharging our joy in living is probably the most important thing we can do for ourselves. No, it’s not easy. Yes, we’ll pay for it afterwards, often very painfully. But when you spend many days alone and hurting so bad you don’t actually want to even speak to anyone, dipping our toes for a time into positive, loving energy is truly restoring.

It’s very easy, especially on days like yesterday to focus on the dark, when someone passes so young and has the same condition you do you are frighteningly aware of your own mortality. It was coincidence that lead to this ‘sad day, happy day’ weekend, today being birthday drinks with lovely people, but it made me feel blessed.

So I believe that loss, as awful as it is, also acts as a reminder that we are still alive. And that’s so incredibly important. See that movie, kiss that boy, hug your children, visit your family, phone your friends, tell them you love them. Not in morbid fear, but in sheer joy that we live another day. Think of those we’ve lost, and rejoice that they were in our lives, celebrate how very fortunate we were to know them.

I’ve always loved this poem, it reminds me of those that have gone on, and how very wonderful it was that I had them in my life, however briefly. Namaste 💙

She is gone

You can shed tears that she is gone
or you can smile because she has lived.

You can close your eyes and pray that she’ll come back
or you can open your eyes and see all she’s left.

Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her
or you can be full of the love you shared.

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.

You can remember her and only that she’s gone
or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.

You can cry and close your mind,
be empty and turn your back
or you can do what she’d want:
smile, open your eyes, love and go on.

David Harkins, © 1981

Unbreakable Bonds

As some of you will know the reason I’ve not posted for a while is that my Mum had been poorly, and she has recently passed.  She unfortunately suffered from dementia in the last couple of years of her life, and as anyone who has been through this knows you feel you’ve lost the person you love before they’ve gone. 
I found this so hard, but tonight I have sat quietly, lit candles and drifted through memories of her long and happy life, both those I share and those I will never know. I feel she has been here with me, helping me to remember the person I love, and it has given me so much peace. So I ask you to indulge me….

I remember seeing this picture of Mum when I was a child, and wondering that she was ever this young, glamorous girl.

image

We so often don’t think of our parents as people, having lives and loves and stories that started long before us.

I’m fortunate that Mum shared some of her story, such as starting work in the London Stock Exchange when she left school, and working there for over 25 years, becoming a Gilt Edged Securities Clerk, managing three girls under her and literally processing millions of pounds.

Or her travels to Kenya as a single woman in the 1950’s, visiting her dashing older brother, a pilot first in the RAF then privately after the war. I will never forget her very matter of factly telling me how she had hidden in the back of a car for hours from hostile attack during the Mau-mau uprising, very much my Mum, always understated!

There are some lovely b/w shots somewhere of her holidaying in Jersey before she met Dad, and I would love to have known this beautiful, bright career woman.

The Mum I knew had such warmth, kindness, generosity and love. She had stopped working, but she never stopped moving. Cooking, baking, sewing, knitting, embroidery, card making… A truly creative and talented lady.

Just from my recall in Randwick where we grew up she volunteered at school doing reading and crafts, helped run and was treasurer of the playgroup, became Brown Owl for the Brownies, and was an active member and fundraiser for the Mothers Union and the Women’s Institute  – all while raising two slightly lively(!) girls.

In later years she moved to Great Bedwyn, became President of the WI for a time and was a massive support to The Bedwyns Link Scheme, an active village voluntary scheme providing cross community support locally to all who needed it for over 15 years.  Wiltshire Life presented her with a well deserved Carer of the Year award for this tireless work.

The sheer number of cards we have received, sharing memories of her and mourning her loss have been an amazing testament to the hearts she touched along the way. Nearly all of them mentioned her smile, which to the last could light up a room. 

Mum I will miss you more than words can say.  You truly were an inspiration. I learned from watching you how to be fair, how important it was to be caring and generous with others. 

Through my adult life you have been a gentle constant presence, never judging, just loving and welcoming as always. I’ve probably taken that for granted sometimes, but you have been like a light in the window that has always been there to welcome me home and make me feel loved.

I want you to know how much I love you.  It’s that simple, and that huge and that magical.  That bond is something that time and the universe can never break.

Always, your loving daughter, Denise.

The Loss of Me

The weather is matching my mood this morning.  It’s dark and raining heavily and the wind is howling.  Much like inside my head today.

I occasionally get melancholic, it doesn’t last for long but it was here to greet me when I woke up this morning and it will probably stick around for the day.

I just feel a little overwhelmed.  I know this will pass, that it’s actually part of my mental process, I sometimes deal with things by diving into the sadness then finding the positives as my way out.

I know this has been brought on by RA, and the impact it’s currently having on my life.  It’s fair to say the last time I went through this much of a life change I was getting divorced.  And I wanted that!

What makes this harder is that I’m not feeling in control, RA is.  That’s very hard for me.  In simple terms RA impacts my health; impacts my ability to work; impacts my finances; impacts my accommodation; etc, you get the the picture.

I am currently under notice on my rental home, that makes this very real.  But it’s not about bricks and mortar, it’s about loss and grieving.  It’s very likely RA will impact on the rest of my life, as an independent female that grates a lot.

It has already taken my previous pain free existence, my social life, my enjoyment of silly alcoholic drinks on occasion, smoking (not a bad thing),  my gym membership, my working routine, my enjoyment in driving, and my enjoyment in cooking.  It’s also taken away my ability to employ a cleaner which frankly is a disaster!

Will I overcome these losses? Of course.  I will learn to find alternative things to fill my life, learn hacks to make things like cooking easier, learn to turn the losses into positives and make that climb back to ‘normal’.

But today, today I’m grieving and I’m ok with that.