Odds & Ends

CW: suicide

It’s almost midnight on Monday 18th March 2019, and I’ve just watched this week’s episode of Criminal Minds. Nothing odd or unusual about either of those things, at least on the surface.

Tonight’s episode had a special guest star who I’ve not seen on TV in many years, the talented singer Johnny Mathis. Very famous in the 70s for any younger readers who are thinking who?! He had/has a beautiful and very distinctive voice which even as children my sister and I loved, probably mostly because my Dad had his cassette in the car ๐Ÿ™‚

About fourteen years ago my sister’s partner, Andy, emailed to me (if my memory serves) a link to an mp3 of a song he’d been begged to find by Mary. She’d had no idea of artist or title, just remembered a snatch of lyrics about an “empty tube of toothpaste”. Well, bless him, he finally found it on a Russian music site (this was before YouTube got useful) and voila, here it was – Odds and Ends by Johhny Mathis for the first time since we were children.

Talking about it after we could both clearly remember listening to the song over & over in the car outside a local pub while Mum & Dad popped in for a drink*.

*Important historical note – in the late seventies children were as welcome in most pubs as the bubonic plague, and about as likely to happen. Crisps & lemonade in the car park in the summer were a treat ๐Ÿ˜‰

I digress – so OK, it’s nice that I saw this singer on TV tonight after all this time, and it sent me on a little trip down memory lane, but that’s still not odd or unusual.

Until you factor in the date.

As I’m writing these very words it’s almost midnight, by the time this has posted it’ll be the 19th March.

Which is exactly 12 years to the day since Mel died. I had no plan to post or blog, in fact the date wasn’t something I was conscious of, until Mr Mathis appeared in my living room this evening, looking older but still with his beautiful twinkly eyes.

So I’ve played the song through a few times, it’s made me remember happy days and laughter, and it’s made me smile, as well as cry.

Although written about the end of a love affair, in light of my sister’s suicide one part of the second verse feels particularly poignant;

“At least you could have said goodbye
You shouldn’t have run away
Were you afraid that I would cry?
My tears might have made you stay”

But – feeling sad is OK, grief is the price we pay for love, and I pay it gladly, because my heart would be so much less without her in it.

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before I’m not religious, but I am spiritual, and I know in my soul that in some form or other we continue, energy does not die. To quote the writer Aaron Freeman;

“You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every bit of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world.”

And whether you believe in gods, goddesses, divine beings, angels, a guiding light in the universe or the principles of science alone, whether you believe it was serendipity, fate, the angels or the stars that brought Johnny Mathis back into my life in this particular moment, on this day, I call that magic.

I feel blessed. ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿ’™

Support:
For anyone in need of emotional and/or mental health support for low mood or suicidal feelings please, please, reach out. Call a friend, a stranger, me, a doctor, therapist, whoever but ask, help is out there for you. The Samaritans are available 24/7 in the UK & ROI for free, confidential support

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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

Reach Out – A Pleaย 

It’s sadly ten years ago this week I lost my younger sister Mary to suicide. I’ve written this as a plea to anyone who is feeling this low, please reach out, to someone, anyone.  You are not alone. You matter, we all matter. Please make the call that she was sadly unable to.  Namaste ๐Ÿ•‰๏ธ

UK Samaritans is a free call on 116 123
USA Samaritans is a free call on 1 (800) 273-TALK
Australia Samaritans is a free call on 135 247 

The Unspoken Deathย 

Heads up, this post covers suicide and may cause some distress. There are contact details for support agencies at the bottom of this page. Latest figures I could find suggest more than one in ten suicides are related to chronic illness, so this is something we really need to talk more openly about.

Suicide has sadly touched me closely as I lost my beautiful sister Mary to it nearly ten years ago. I miss her every day. But for the first time on my blog the words below are not mine.

An online RA friend posted these words in our private support group this evening, and they are powerful and moving. I have her permission to share, and she has my promise to remain anonymous.

“Today I had to do something that I never dreamed I would. I had to go to a friend’s wake. My friend had other health issues which she was dealing really well with but was diagnosed with RA a couple years ago.

Her RA was progressively getting worse, I had talked to recently and I thought I had convinced her to join our group for support. However she tragically took her own life this week.

She left a note and the main gist was that RA had turned her into a person that she didn’t like anymore. She felt like she was more of a hindrance. She did not want to go into a wheelchair. She did not want to put any pressure on anyone in her family because she felt RA was her problem to deal with. She was ashamed of the condition that her body was in. She was ashamed of the fact that she was always so tired and that she had to cancel family things because she just did not have the energy.

Attending her wake hit me hard. I think of all of us that have RA know about all of the different feelings and emotions that we go through. Everything she mentioned in that letter I have felt at some time. The reason why I brought this to our group is to show that RA is not only a physical disorder, it also affects us mentally.

RA turns your life upside-down, inside-out, and sideways. But for me this is no reason to take your life over this disease. To me that means the disease won.

I’m putting this out to the group so when you get depressed or you’re having a bad day or even having these thoughts please please reach out. Tell someone that you need help because you are in a bad spot emotionally. There will be many people that will help. I was always told when you have a problem and you share it with another person your problem is cut in half.

This is a subject that we all need to talk about. The suicide rate among chronically ill people like us is very high. Let’s not allow that statistic to continue. I can tell you from seeing it right up in my face and also seeing the grief of her children and her husband the damage done by my friend taking her life is worse than having Rheumatoid Disease.

So this has opened my eyes and I’m encouraging us all to reach out and asking people who say they are having a bad day what’s going on, and how you can help. I have been part of this group I think 3 or 4 years now. I have developed friendships with a bunch of you and I truly do care. You guys have become my family.

For those of you that are new or that sit in the background and read the posts, please introduce yourself, talk to us, let us get to know you.

Most importantly if you are having thoughts of committing self-harm or suicide please put it out there. There is always someone always online. I do not want to lose another friend because he or she thought they were all alone and the only way out was to commit suicide.”

Contact details for confidential support:

UK – The Samaritans

US – National Suicide Prevention Line

Canada – The Lifeline provides a list of contact details for individual states, a national helpline is planned for later this year

Australia – Lifeline Crisis Support & Suicide Prevention

Poem – Count

When the pain is so bad and you’re wanting to die, count the good stuff.

When your heartbeat betrays you by beating on regardless, when your breath keeps on coming in between sobs of pain, count the good stuff.

When the view is so bleak and the clouds are so black, when the rain and the cold and the pain knock you down, when you feel like a long distant shore may be home, because being pain free would beat being alone, count the good stuff.

When the tablets are calling and sleep is your friend, count the good stuff.

When the night is too long and the days never ending, when the bottle’s a friend and it doesn’t judge. When the bitter black anger screams this isn’t fair, this isn’t my life, I didn’t chose here. Count the good stuff.

In the worst of your pain you’re never truly alone, that’s the good stuff.

When you’re angry and wanting to scream at the day, when your damned limbs betray you and get in your way, when the pain is a physical beast that you fight, that tears it’s way inside your head deep at night, it’s the love that clings on and gives strength to your fight – that’s the good stuff.

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