When love dies and takes you with it

I was in love with a man who was wrong for me in pretty much every possible way, our relationship was the epitome of dysfunctional and we weren’t even in a romantic relationship at this point, but we both loved each other very very much. He suffered from ADHD, drug addiction and alcohol addiction.  If he were a food, he would be marmite cos you either loved him or hated him, there was no in between.  We met in 2004 through his cousin who is one of my best friends and under extremely sad circumstances.

The first time I saw him it was like someone fired a nuclear warhead inside me. His eyes were so incredibly beautiful and his smile blew me away.  We clicked immediately and it was only a couple days before we shared a cheeky kiss.  They were in mourning for a young cousin who had lost his life in the most horrendous way.  He was in the middle of a court case, having spent 9months on remand in prison (found not guilty btw).  I had just come out of a very miserable 4.5 yrs. relationship.  We were not on stable ground.      I chased and trapped every ounce of caution and common sense and then threw that shit to the wind.

We had one crazy month. Just one month of being “in a relationship” by normal standards and it was over.  Or so I thought.   It’s pretty hard to explain what our relationship was like because it took on sooooo many different roles over the proceeding 4 years.  It was definitely a co-dependant relationship.  Mother and Son, brother and sister, best friends and lovers and we never really knew which relationship mode we would be in from day to the next.

We both had other relationships along the way but ultimately he would always end up back at my house. His family became my family and they were always happiest when they knew he was with me because he was safe.

He would go out every day, drink every day and cause or get stuck in the middle of trouble almost every day. It’s like he was a beacon for trouble, if he didn’t find it, it would find him.  He wasn’t a bad guy.  He had a big heart, too big sometimes but he also had many demons and they would take over more often than he could handle.  He had walls and boundaries like a fucking labyrinth and who you saw sitting at the pub or dancing at the club was not who he was at all.

I would sit up and wait for him every night. Somewhere between 9pm and 1am I’d here a little tap on my window from the little stone he would throw to get my attention.  I would go over to the window and there he would be smiling up at me turning the night to day.  I would let him in, make him some dinner and I would stay awake until he fell asleep.   This was his safe place.

Lying on the sofa, his head on my lap, this was where he could let go and be himself. His walls would collapse, the bad boy image that he clung to outside would slip away and he would be at peace.  We would talk for hours and often these conversations would be an opportunity for him to unload his pain, and sadness.  He would cry and tell me how much he hated himself and his life.  How much he wished he could change but knowing he simply didn’t have the strength to do so.  How much he loved his family and how much he wished he would just die so as not to be a burden on them.  This is where he was real; his demons would pour out of his eyes.

I saw him through break ups, police car chases, brutal bar brawls, family feuds, sibling rivalry, car crashes (the kind where you have no idea how the fuck he didn’t die). I’ve washed blood and mud from his body and clothes.  I saw him at his best and at his absolute fucking worst.  If the spectrum of emotions were a roller coaster, we rode that mother fucker a million times, hands in the air, screaming, sometimes loving the ride at other times begging for the ride to stop but ultimately getting right back on that bitch for another go.  He was addicted to Booze and coke and I was addicted to him.

In the timeline of a normal life, we didn’t have or know each other for long but the intensity of what we shared, most people couldn’t pour into two lifetimes. We were connected, it didn’t matter if he was seeing someone or if I was seeing someone, he would still come back to me.  To be clear, I never cheated on my boyfriend with him that was a no no, but I did introduce them and clarify the relationship and in fact they grew to like each other.  All though he would always cheekily ask for kisses or more, always testing.

Eventually for various reasons I decided to move back home where my family was. This was a tough decision to make and the nearer the time came the harder it got.  I’d be leaving my best friends and 21 years of my life behind but the most difficult was leaving him behind.  The day I was leaving, his sister picked me up and we went to their parents’ house, she said she had something to give me.  His family had become my family, I called his mum, mum.  I was nervous, I could feel the emotions within me bursting to get out and I didn’t want to cry.  When we arrived she presented me with a beautiful white gold ring with three diamonds, I’m not a jewellery sort of girl but this was special and I have worn it every day since.    I asked where he was, we both seemed to be avoiding the inevitable moment.  He came down stairs; we hugged and he told me to turn around.  He put a necklace around my neck with a small amethyst heart pendant.  We hugged again; he said he couldn’t believe I was leaving.   We hugged; kissed, said I love yous and then goodbye.

Over the next couple of years I stayed in touch with his sister through the miracle of emails and phone calls, he went through mobile phones like they were going out of style so I would talk to him when I called his sister. I flew back a couple times for weekends.  May Day weekend 2008 I flew over and my best buddy threw a BBQ so I could see everyone in one place.  I didn’t know if he would show or not.  His sister told me he had a new girl and the green eyed monster was desperately trying to crawl out of me.  I told myself to play it cool.  When he finally arrived, it was like firecrackers going off inside me but I had to play it down.  He walked over to me and planted his lips on mine, (I could have happily died right there and be ok with it) I only wish I had known that that would be the last time.  I would have played that day out so differently, I would have spent more of it with him, sitting on his lap instead of the “other guy” in my mission to act like I wasn’t that bothered.  YEAH RIGHT.

31st July 2008, day before my birthday, I went out with my sister and cousins on the standard bar crawl birthday bash.  At bar one, the waiter came over placed a drink in front of me and said “this is from that table over there”.  I looked over and saw some colleagues so I go over to say thank you.  Suddenly I was jumped on by two blonde crazies.  It was his cousin and my best mate both wearing Hannah Montana wigs.  “Happy birthday!!!!”  They had flown in to surprise me for my birthday and it was the best birthday present ever.  We had an epic night and an epic weekend together and it is set in the “this is your life” book as one of my best moments.

The next day, my mobile rings as we are walking down the road. It was him.  “Happy birthday babe”.  My face could have ripped in half from the smile that spread across it.  We spoke and he told me that he had wanted to come over with the girls to surprise me, he’d gone back and forth but ultimately thought if I was seeing someone it might put me in an awkward position.  I told him off and said something close to “you know you always come first”.  I asked if he had been behaving himself and how he was feeling, he seemed in good spirits.  He told me he missed me and he told me he loved me, we said good bye and I floated on a cloud the rest of the weekend.

12 days later, my phone rang. It was one of my mates in UK.  The dreaded question left her lips “are you sitting down?  Are you alone?”  Adrenaline immediately started coursing through my body, my throat started to close.  I didn’t know what she was going to say I just knew it was going to be bad.  “Just tell me what’s happened” I told her as I paced around the penthouse apartment my friend and I were staying in for the week.   The 2 seconds before she answered felt like an eternity.  “It’s Leoni” she said – my mind racing, he’s had a car accident or a fight, he’s in hospital again, he’s been arrested, and the expectations flew through my mind.  “I’m so sorry,” she said, “he’s dead babe, he had a heart attack last night and…”  I dropped the phone and just stood there frozen in the most awful single moment of my entire life, wishing I could go back just a few seconds and never have to experience that moment.  My friend was looking at me, waiting for me to say what was happening, she picked up the phone and I took it back still frozen on the spot, raised it to my ear.  “ok” I said “I gotta go” and I hung up.  By 11pm that night I was back in the UK knocking on his mother’s door, it didn’t feel real, I was convinced it was all some sick twisted joke to get me there.  The next three weeks were a living hell, I stayed in his house, I sat outside his bedroom and cried til dehydration no longer allowed the tears to fall, I slept (when exhaustion subdued insomnia)on his sofa, always dreaming of him.  Those few moments as I woke up would be so peaceful, the memory of him in my dream so real that he must be right there, and as the haziness cleared, reality would bitch slap me and my body would be overtaken again by the greatest weight of sadness. One morning his mother asked me to go see him with her.  I was not prepared, not even a little bit, but my desire to see him, to be near him, was bigger than my common sense.  We went to the funeral parlour and the lady at reception told us to take our time as she ushered us through a door and then there he was.

He was lying there in his jeans and white t shirt, he looked angry, not at all at peace and I rushed over to him and took his hand in mine and it was so cold and heavy. I hadn’t expected that, I don’t know why.  With my other hand I started gently stroking his forehead like I had done a thousand times before and the tears began to slip out.  His mother standing next to me, keeping it together and rubbing his leg.  As my hand swept over his forehead and across his shaved head I felt something strange and I realised he had these giant Frankenstein stitches all the way around the back of his head from behind one ear all the way over to the next.  I realise this is standard procedure for anyone who has had an autopsy but this was fucking shocking to me.  I felt angry and betrayed, like someone had done this to him, to my baby, it didn’t matter that he didn’t feel anything when they did this, in my heart it felt like he had, I could see it on his face.  The pain got bigger and in that moment I took an epic journey inside my own head.

You know how they say your life flashes before your eyes just before you die, it was kind of like that, only it was my life with him, every moment we had ever shared starting right there with him in his coffin and working backwards right up to the day we met, like some kind of Hollywood montage. I turned to his mother and asked her if I could kiss him and she said “of course” so I tiptoed and angled myself to look at him head on and slowly and gently placed my lips on his for a final kiss and our Mayday BBQ kiss came to mind (I wish I had known then it would be the last) His lips were so cold but I’d have recognised them with my eyes closed among a million others.  “I love you” I told him, before backing away.

Suddenly a new emotion gripped me. Guilt. This was my fucking fault, I had killed him, I let this happen cos I left, if I had only stayed here, he would have been with me that night he died, instead of on his own, perhaps he wouldn’t have taken anything, or even if he had I could have given him CPR and brought him back, or at the very fucking least I could have been with him when he slipped away so he wouldn’t have felt scared or alone, I could have held him.  My thoughts were interrupted by his mum. “do you think we should have an open casket or do you think he would want it closed?”  WOW.  That was not a question I ever thought I would have to answer for anyone ever and here I was, the weight of responsibility on my shoulders.  I looked at him and then at her and answered.  I told her I didn’t think he would want anyone to see him like that and with that she nodded at the receptionist and said come on lets go.  I said goodbye to him and tried to walk away.  I felt like I was wearing concrete blocks for shoes, I didn’t want to leave, I wanted to stay there with him forever, walking away knowing that was it, and my heart was tearing itself apart.

The next week was much of the same, family coming round, lots of talking and crying and eating and drinking and then another one of those things I was not prepared for. The family had requested that his coffin be brought to the house the day before the funeral.  I didn’t know that was a thing but apparently it is.  Suddenly there in the front room, propped up on a stand was this big maple coffin with an engraved plaque on the top and silver handles along the sides.  The front room became a mourning circuit as family and friends came to pay their respects, walking in at one end, making their way around the coffin, saying a prayer and walking out.  Some stayed longer than others.  It was all very surreal but I know he would have loved the attention.   That night I lay there next to his coffin waiting for the sun to rise, waiting for this day that was meant to bring peace and closure.

His funeral was pretty epic, almost legendry in the same way that he would remain legendary to those who knew him. There was the standard black car procession with all friends and family riding the tail but when a gang of bikers showed up on Harleys’ revving their engines outside his house, blocking traffic all the way along the procession to keep us all together and revving their engines as his coffin emerged from the car to be taken into the church was a pretty amazing and overwhelming experience.  He wasn’t a biker but he had met them through his cousin’s husband and the Leoni charm had won them all over even in such a short time.

I was asked to do a reading at the church, I wasn’t sure if I would manage it but I did. After the funeral we drove to the crematorium.  They played some of his favourite songs and everyone approached the coffin for final good byes.  When the curtain began to close I lost my shit altogether.  It’s the moment of desperation where you want to just run over and stop the whole damn thing and scream at everyone.  “what the fuck is happening, we can’t do this, take him out, wake him up, please, this isn’t real, it can’t be, just stop it, don’t let the coffin go, it’s not too late we can still wake him up and undo this all, please”.  Instead I broke down and cried harder than I have ever cried in my life, I thought I might just die in that moment, it was so dark, so bleak so overwhelming and so hopeless.

A few days passed and we were called to collect his ashes. We arrived at the crematorium and sat in the waiting room.  A woman came out holding something but I couldn’t see, she had her back to me and was standing in front of his mum.  I heard her voice break as she said thank you and the woman took a step back.  When I saw his mum sitting there with this little wooden box I was overcome by rage.  I wanted to go over to the woman who had brought it out, I wanted to punch her in the face and ask her what the fuck was this? Where is he?  I want to see him!  There is no way he is in that box, no fucking way, how is this even happening?  She walked away never knowing how close she came to getting knocked the fuck out.  The little box was passed around from mother to father, sister to brother and eventually landed in my lap.  I sat there staring at this little box that contained every ounce of my heart.  More flashbacks, more memories, more tears.  When would this pain stop?  We went home and he was placed in the front room surrounded by photos and portraits.

I’d been in London for three weeks and it was time to go home. I thought perhaps that real life would begin and the pain would stop.  How wrong I was.  I said good bye AGAIN and headed back home to my kids, my job, my life only I wasn’t all there.

The next few weeks I drifted from place to place like a ghost. I wasn’t eating or sleeping.  Coffee was getting me through the day and beer was getting me through the night.  I was living with my parents at that point so my kids were safe at home while I was out attempting to cope.  Instead of getting easier, things were getting darker, harder.  I started writing songs about him and playing guitar as a way to process my feelings but the lack of sleep, the constant pain, the overwhelming sadness had their claws well and truly imbedded in my soul.  By October I was a fucking broken suicidal mess, unrecognisable even to myself.  The stages of grief are not really stages at all; there is no pattern, no order, and no structure.  You don’t start at one end, work through each stage and come out the other side.  It’s more like the wheel of misfortune of Grief.  You bounce from one “stage” to another, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  Just when you think you’re in the clear, boom denial crops up again.  Once thing no one seems to tell you about grief is the Numbness.  This was by far the worst part of the process.  At least when you’re sad or angry or desperate you’re actually feeling something, but the numbness, that was fucking awful.  I would have times when I felt absolutely nothing at all.  And I would sit there wondering wtf was wrong with me.  What did this numbness mean, did it mean I didn’t love him anymore, I didn’t care anymore, was I ok again, would joy be around the corner or was sadness making a comeback.  It took me longer than I care to remember to figure out wtf was happening.  When we are filled with so much pain, so much emotion that our bodies can no longer take it, our brain goes into survival mode.  It flips a switch and you say bye bye too all your emotions for a while.  It’s like a self-service rest stop.  It’s unconscious.   What it actually did to me before I figure that out, was make me feel incredibly guilty.  The numbness could last anything from an hour to a day before being catapulted right back into one of the stages.

Eventually I had a breakdown at work after a thoughtless and tactless comment from my boss which resulted in me grabbing every last thing on my desk in one scoop, screaming like a maniac and throwing it all up in the air. Monitor, keyboard, telephone, mouse, files, stationary everything!  I then fled the office in tears.   A couple hours later when I had calmed down I returned with the intention of resigning but a colleague pulled me aside and told me not to resign but rather to go to the GP and get myself signed off with depression and get some counselling.  I took her advice.  My doc signed me off indefinitely, gave me some sleeping pills and told me that there was a 6-9 month waiting list for a counsellor.  I knew I would be dead in a couple of weeks if I didn’t see someone immediately so I found a private counsellor.  I went once a week and started spending more time playing guitar and writing, going to the church (even though I’m not religious) just to light a candle every Tuesday.  I carried on self-medicating with drink and went out a lot.  I thought I was getting better after a few weeks, but in hindsight I was merely distracting myself from the pain I was feeling.

The over-riding factor was guilt. I could not get it out of my head that I could have saved him or been there for him if only I hadn’t left, if only I hadn’t abandoned him.   Over time, with distractions, good friends and counselling, life did what it does and carried on, with or without me.  3 months became 6, became a year, 2 years.  Crying bouts became less frequent and less intense but he was never far from my thoughts.  I kept him here, with me, all the time.   Despite the years, the tears, the counselling, I had never really let him go; I had held him hostage within my heart and my mind, replaying the pain and sadness as a way of punishing myself for the guilt I felt.

If you have actually read this far down, thank you so much with sticking with it. I’m going to end it here for today.

Tomorrow post will be about acceptance and how my counsellor has helped me finally say goodbye.

Baa Baa Black Sheep

“We are the sum total of our experiences. Those experiences – be they positive or negative – make us the person we are, at any given point in our lives. And, like a flowing river, those same experiences, and those yet to come, continue to influence and reshape the person we are, and the person we become. None of us are the same as we were yesterday, nor will be tomorrow.”

B.J. Neblett

So following on from yesterday’s free fall, I woke up today with the incredibly dark humid cloud over me once again. The reason, the trigger was a message I received from my sister last night.  The message was everything that is wrong with my relationship with my family in a nut shell.  The content of the message  is unimportant to this post, what is important is why it was sent and the answer as you may have guessed is because I am the black sheep of my family.  What does that mean?  It means that my family are constantly trying to squeeze me into boxes of their creation and design that I simply do not fit in to.

Here is a recent family portrait, that’s me lying down.

blacksheep

My relationship with them lives in a constant cycle and 3 months seems to be the boiling point.  By this I mean that they are fully supportive and loving for stretches of approximately 3 months.  The terms and conditions of our relationship are that they will love and support me so long as I am living to their standards.  If I parent my kids the way they think I should and how they parent theirs, if I act, speak and live they way they do.  The support is conditional and they love nothing more than bringing up every mistake I ever made, and constantly regurgitating the past.  Every moment of support is thrown back in my face.  If I colour outside of their lines all hell breaks loose.

What makes me the black sheep?

Well, that quote at the beginning has a lot to do with it, however perhaps the question is incorrectly phrased. Perhaps the real question is why does my family think of me as the black sheep?  The answer is pretty fucking simple.  Ignorance.

I’m not saying they are ignorant in an evil sort of way, what I mean is that they have absolutely no idea what my experiences were or what memories I have and since those are the building blocks of who I am today it is impossible for them to understand why I am not exactly like them. After all, in their eyes, my siblings and I had the same parents, the same home, the same schools, the same upbringing, the same relatives, the same holidays.  They naturally assume therefore that our equations are all the same and if that’s true then  by rights we should all have turned out the same way, save perhaps different physical abilities and characteristics.

They have no idea that my brain developed very differently to my brothers and sisters. They do not know the suffering, the pain, the sadness that I lived with.  They are unaware of the abuse I suffered.  All they see is a square peg.  A fuck up, a crazy, unstable, messy person.  I’m far to free spirited and that scares the shit out of them.  During a session with my counsellor she suggested that it was quite possible in fact that they harbour some jealousy because they would like to be as free spirited as I am and that perhaps seeing me and my life is a trigger for their own anxieties and insecurities.

I spoke about core memories in a previous post. Those memories are the lessons we learn and take onboard at such an incredibly deep level that they impact your entire outlook.  While my siblings think we should all have the same or similar core memories in reality we had very different experiences of childhood.  The lessons I learned were different to theirs.

These are the lessons I learned in childhood and they are very difficult to unlearn;

Distrust – Trust no one, depend on no one.  Keep your problems to yourself cos no one gives a flying fuck anyway.  “Just smile and wave boys, just smile and wave”

Guilt – The world’s problems are all somehow my fault.  I didn’t behave myself, I didn’t pray today, I didn’t go to church, I moaned about going to church.  I felt guilty about everything, still do.  Not just little things in my own little world but far reaching and global.  My parents finances, my mums emotional wellbeing, my mum being tired from a night shift, kids being bullied at school, old people who couldn’t walk very well, people dying of starvation in third world countries, children dying of preventable diseases, animal abuse you name it, if it was causing someone pain, I felt an enormous amount of guilt, an 8 year old shouldn’t be worrying about any of that,

Fear – I feared my mum, she could go from Carol Brady mum to oh my fucking god Dexter would shit his pants mum in less than a second.  She taught me albeit unintentionally that when you are angry, upset or unable to control a situation violence and rage was the answer.  In her calm moments she would say things like violence doesn’t solve anything.  I think the irony was lost on her.

Unworthiness – As an adult something I hear a lot is that I need to learn to value myself, know my worth.  That’s pretty fucking difficult when you grew up feeling as unimportant and worthless as I did.  Feeling like nothing I ever did was good enough.  Constantly being compared to my siblings or cousins or even friends.  Why can’t you be more like him or her?  I was even compared against both my abusers.  Imagine that!  “Why can you be more like her?“  and in my mind im thinking “what her, the one who takes me to her room and does things to me and makes me do things to her that are unspeakable?  That’s who you want me to be more like?”

During one of my counselling sessions my counsellor asked me to think about the child me. What did I think about her?  What would I say to her if she were standing in front of me now?  I hadn’t thought about “little me” as a separate person before and suddenly this wave of emotions roared over me.  I wish I could go back to those days as an adult and go find little me.  I would pick her up and hug her so tight, I would whisper how very proud I was of her, how incredibly brave she was, how strong she was.  I would also tell her that she didn’t need to be, that she could let it all out, she didn’t need to carry such pain, such heavy burdens.  I would tell her she was amazing just the way she was and that she should never forget that.  I would go find her abusers and beat the ever living shit out of them; I would drag them up in front of my parents and tell them what they were doing.  I would stand between little me and my mother and tell her what she was doing to her daughter.   I would tell little me that I love her.

My core memories are blue. Inside me there is great sadness but not many people know this.  So how could they possibly understand why I am so different to them?  They can’t.  And they’re not even awake enough to consider that maybe, just maybe they should stop being so judgemental and just accept that we’re all different.  But that would be too easy that would mean level pegging and that would require them to get down from their mighty fine looking high horses.  It’s much easier to call me the black sheep; it helps make their whites look whiter.  Trying to understand me would require far too much introspection and when you grew up thinking you were the best thing since sliced bread introspection is a scary prospect, I mean fuck, what if you suddenly realised you were actually quite an arrogant asshole?  Your entire world view might be completely shattered and then where would you be?  Right down here with me and the other black sheep.

blacksheep 1

For what its worth, I’m proud to be a damaged black sheep who cares too much, loves too deeply, and feels so much she might burst.

 

 

Free Falling

Highs are great aren’t they?

Euphoric, wonderfully empowering almost majestic feeling that you can do anything be anything, go anywhere. I’m not talking about drug induced highs, (they have their own benefits and downsides lol but that’s another blog altogether)  I’m talking about the feeling you get after a few days of feeling like total shit and suddenly the dark humid clouds seem to have parted.  You think WOW, this is great, the storm has passed, I feel better.  All of a sudden, your fears are blown away by a new found courage, your procrastination is set aside by determination, the sadness is a distant memory and you’re wondering if only for a minute, why the fuck you felt so shitty yesterday.  Now you’re ready to take on the world.  You start planning all the wonderful amazing carpe diem stuff you are going to do to make your life awesome.  You look in the mirror and you think “DAIIIIM I LOOK GREAT TODAY”, maybe even give yourself a little wink.  You throw on some clothes and hit the road.  This is my day, this is it, this is the first day of the rest of my life, WOOHOOOOOOO!  You join a dating site, start a blog, tell your friends all the great ideas you’ve had, start looking for spiritual retreats, subscribe to 100 YouTube meditation videos you sincerely plan to do every night.  Life doesn’t get any better than this……  and then BOOOOOM you’re free falling without a fucking shute!

ARRRRGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

There is no fluffy bouncy pad at the bottom, in fact you’re not even sure there is a fucking bottom.   All you know is that you’re falling, and each moment is more painful and scarier than the last.  WTF is going on, what just happened?

If this only happened once, it would scare the shit out of you but you could move along and get on with things. What confuses the heck out of me is that this has happened to me so many fucking times and STILL, I don’t recognise it when its happening.  When im having the high or the climb, its like the part of my brain that knows what happens next decides to fuck off on holiday for a few days without so much as leaving a note.  So I climb and climb and climb like the cliff hanger on the price is right, remember him?

cliff hanger

Only I don’t stop near the top and take home a luxury holiday in Cancun and $10,000 in cash. I climb and then base jump off the top.  FUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK

hole

Right about here I’d love to write some wonderful words of wisdom, something to provide hope to anyone reading this looking for answers.  I’m still trying to figure it out myself.

For the record, I haven’t been diagnosed with any particular disorder. I know this blog screams of bipolar, or Cyclothymia.  Over the last 20 years I have suffered with generalised anxiety, depression, postnatal depression, derealisation, depersonalisation, health anxiety, (the little known) relationship obsessive compulsive disorder and grief.   I’ll venture deeper into the historical side of my journey in another post.

My shining light and glimmer of hope is my current counsellor. Ive been seeing her for 2 months now and she has a way of making me look at myself from perspectives I didn’t even know existed.  Here’s to hoping I can sort my head out once and for all.  Find some balance, some peace and find me.
 

Let it go. Let it go?

What am I doing?

Why am I holding on to so many hurts?

Im not who you think I am.

I have picked myself up, dusted myself off and moved on so many times its pretty much my super power.  But here’s the thing, that super power is also my kryptonite.

Ask anyone who knows me or thinks they know me to describe me in five words and I’d put money on the following reply: Crazy, Fun, Strong, Loyal and Caring.

Am I?

Well, yes I think I am all those things, but there is another version of me, a version few people have ever seen, yet alone had a chance to get to know. The dark me.  The hurt me.  The incredibly lonely, utterly sad and endlessly scared me.

I don’t tend to cry a lot, I haven’t exactly figured out why, but my brain rejects the emotions that would make any normal person wail. It’s not that I don’t cry, it’s just that my crying lasts about 10 seconds before something forces me to suck it up, get it together and stop being so damn silly.  I wish I could cry properly.  Sometimes I think if I truly started to cry for all the hurt and sadness I feel inside, I might never stop.  I might cause a flood.

The division between the me that they see and the me that I see is so huge that I pretty much feel like a total fraud which pours thick curdled guilt into my already overflowing cup of self-loathing but we’ll put that aside for now.

Sadness. The recent pixar movie Inside Out, really struck a nerve when I watched it with my kids.  It was a wonderful way to put emotions and mental health across to kids.  However watching it  I couldn’t help but feel robbed, cheated out of Joy entirely.  I don’t think an animated movie or any movie for that matter has ever had such an impact on me.  It made me go on a time travelling mission, which im not actually back from yet (so yes I’m writing this to you from somewhere between 1983 and 2016).  While the movie depicted Joy as the main character, the leader in the minds control centre, I couldn’t help but think that for me, sadness has been taking the reins for pretty much my whole life.  Remember the Core Memories, the ones that were yellow and joyful until Sadness touched them and turned them blue, I think mine are all blue.

This isn’t about feeling sorry for myself, or seeking pity.   This is about self-discovery, realisations, learning and growing.  And after 36 years of life, I have only just acknowledged through the help of my counsellor, the true depth of the sadness that I carry, the weight of the hurt and the burden it is on my life.  It’s been strangling me for years.  The root of my anxieties, depression and even physical illness.

So the first thing I am told is that I need to “let go”. HAHAHAAHAHAH.  If only it were that simple hu?

I thought I was very much the hippie, go with the flow, deep and meaningful butterfly woman. I was wrong.  All this time I thought I was letting go, I was actually burying.  Pushing each hurt, each sadness, each tear, way down inside so that I wouldn’t have to feel it.  The problem with this? It’s much like sweeping things under a rug; eventually the rug is just floating on a great big pile of shit.   It begs the questions, why haven’t I let it go?  Why haven’t you let it go?  I’m not entirely certain just yet but one possibility is that holding on to the pain, to the hurt, allows us to live in some kind of sick fantasy land where we can continuously punish ourselves while also remaining well and truly in the bargaining stage of grief.  This is the stage where you are convinced there is still something you can do, say, feel or think that might undo the hurt, or change the past.  One of my biggest pains and deepest sadness was the loss of someone I loved very deeply and I recognise now that after 8 years I still haven’t let go, not really, I still feel like I can undo his passing and make it so he never went away.  How insane is that?

So what the fuck does letting go actually mean? Well my counsellor and I are going to talk about that next week.  In the meantime, being the impatient  git that I am, I decided to start looking into it myself.  The general consensus from various sources implies a period of grieving is required in order to effectively “let go”.   Many people think grieving is only about dealing with the death of a loved one, however the process of grieving can follow any situation where a sense of loss is felt.  Loss of innocence, loss of love etc.   The reason why we fail to let go is because as I already mentioned above, we get stuck in the bargaining stage.  Back in the 60s Elisabeth Kübler Ross’s book, On Death and Dying, set out the stages of Grief, completely changing our view and understanding of the process.

The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. To be clear, even by Kübler Ross’s own admission, the stages are not set in stone, not everyone will experience each stage and even when they do they won’t come in any particular order and worse still just when you think you’re in the clear you can slip right back to one of the stageskind of a lather, rinse, repeat affair. There is no structuring grief, each process is as individual as the person navigating it.

My list of things to let go is pretty fucking long so in order to deal with my grief as a whole, I’m going to have to break down the list and try to find a way to grieve each loss one at a time.

I must admit I’m pretty bloody terrified about what this process will be like and who I will be when I get to the other side. After 36 years of holding it together, keeping a smile on my face, being the life and soul of the party, I wonder what will be left of the me people think they know.