To Help You Breathe More Easily

She sits at a window and thinks.

They are all wrapped up the same. We are all wrapped up the same. Stamped and labelled, rewarded with chemical bliss that masks the reality of existence. Take the muscle tension, take the distraction, accept that feeling is inconvenient.

Like automatons they move through the day, playing out the actions required to maintain the illusion of normality. The insides of their mouths are black. The windows to their souls are glazed.

She knows the root cause of this. Why can’t they see it? Why deny it, if they can? Do you put your faith in Freud, or Jung, or Berne? Behind the pure white veil, do you believe in anything?

If she sits in her chair, with ten minutes to make a diagnosis, is it unreasonable of her to ask what you would like her to do? Is it unreasonable for him to take the chemical path, to move you through the door?

Do you believe in anything? Do they? Find a window with a view of the sea. Find a chair. Sit at that window, sit in that chair. Look at the sea. Let the sea draw you out to the horizon.

Rinse then repeat

‘It will be alright,’ are the words I most want to hear. I’m an adult, independent, self-reliant, autonomous. I know stuff. I’ve done this life thing for long enough to know that very little is insurmountable. And yet.

I still want to hear my mum, or my dad, I don’t mind which, since they’re both equally gone, say those words, unpick the knot that sits at my centre, draw me back from the edge I seem to be living on.

I feel like a child who’s afraid of the dark, of going to sleep without knowing what waits for me on the other side.

I think I have things under control, but the mind plays tricks. I function, turn up to things, laugh in all the right places, absolve people of the need to worry about me. I tell myself I’m doing okay, but the sleepless nights say otherwise, and the adrenaline in my body says otherwise, and the panic at not knowing what will happen next says otherwise.

All of the words that I want to say are balled up in my throat. Where do I begin and how will I finish? Who will give me permission to speak?

Morning found me

This is part truth, part lie. It doesn’t bother me that you are right. It bothers me that I think I did something wrong. It seems so shallow to need reassurance.

Insomnia, my once familiar torment, took a stranger turn the night after I scattered her ashes. Insomnia, those long minutes of sleeplessness ridden out until I could sink back into what was left of the night, changed to panic, an hourly waking from dreams of amnesia and failure.

Morning found me staring down the all consuming nothing. Because she, finally and forever, is no longer in the world, and there was nobody to hear my grief.

(This isn’t true.)

I took a week and spent it idly. I took too much to drink. I drowned myself in absence. I surrounded myself with friends.

It didn’t work, so I took a walk to the doctor. I took some pills and another week ticking over. I drowned myself in abstinence.

Grief is like moving in a still frame. Everything paused but still in motion. Numb and silent, I’m waiting, unable to articulate what I need. I don’t know what I need. I don’t know how to ask.

It seems so shallow.

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Written in response to Low from the R.E.M. album Out of Time

Yesterday

Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away.

And I’m telling you this because who gives a fuck.

Yesterday was the first time I felt normal since my mum died. Today I feel shit & guilty for feeling normal. What a fucked up species we are.

Yesterday I felt glad because I thought the mourning was over. Turns out it isn’t, and so today I have whisky remorse.

I’m telling you this because once you told me something about your mum and I felt jealous. Because it strikes me that your mum is a force of nature like my mum was.

Some types of pain can’t be alleviated. Not by alcohol or drugs, by fucking or anything. Some types of pain resist even love. This type of pain rises up in the throat and threatens to suffocate. This is the pain that repeats the mantra I’m okay I’m not okay.

Who gives a fuck? Who really, truly gives a fuck about the pain felt individually by people up and down the country? The pain that any of us feel is the tiniest drop in an ocean where we gather to wallow in isolation.

I’m telling you this because it doesn’t matter.

Nothing Prescribed

He forgets. She doesn’t know how he can.

Sometimes, she wonders if it’s wilful. She sees them around the house, on window sills, on the dining table. He pulls them from his pocket, a look of puzzlement on his face.

While he forgets, she remembers. Things lie heavy on her heart. She takes pills of her own. Nothing prescribed. Nothing as bad as she used to take, although it’s reaching a tipping point. The heaviness in her heart keeps her awake at night. So she takes over the counter medication. A cocodamol here. A Nytol there. She still doesn’t sleep, but at least she’s fuzzy enough not to care. Sometimes she takes over the counter alcohol. She is soft core.

It isn’t hard to remember. It’s the remembering that causes the heaviness. She wishes she could forget. That leaving things behind could be as easy as getting on a bus and moving away from them. But memories follow you around. Disillusionment clings to your ribs. Thoughts leak from your mind and lodge in your throat just behind the suprasternal notch. She presses the place where they stick sometimes, for no clear reason.

No, it isn’t hard to remember at all.

Good Grief

Because I am a conditioned creature, subconsciously and occasionally consciously paying attention to what is said in media soundbites and HR management techniques, I have this notion of grief. I know that it’s bullshit, because every grief is different.

Here’s what the received wisdom says I should be feeling:

denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance

Nope, nope, nope, nope, yes.

I longed for my mum’s death, because of the nature of her illness. Dementia robbed us of her person, leaving behind the physical shell. I’ve had six years of dealing with the loss of her. Maybe I’ve been through what the received wisdom says I should go through already.

This is what I feel, cycling through from moment to moment:

relief, sorrow, guilt, pride, joy

Relief that it’s over.

Sorrow that she’s gone.

Guilt that I couldn’t do more to help her.

Pride that she was such a remarkable woman.

Joy that she was in the world and made a difference in her own small way.

It’s not a cycle, really. It’s a scribble. A tangle of string that doesn’t want to be linear, or cyclical, or focused on progress.

I don’t know why I’m telling you this. It doesn’t matter.