July 28, 2017

When the darkness wins.

Posted in July tagged , , at 4:14 pm by viewfromthisdesk

This blog post has been three days in the writing.  And I’m still unsure if I’ll press ‘publish’.  So if I do, please know that as tough as this may be to read (and I am fully aware that I may be imagining the strength of my writing skills there) this has been a million times tougher to type and be fully honest.

Recently there’s been celebrity suicides and people react with ‘but they had it all; fame, money, family, why would they need to do that?’ and it’s sad.  These people may have had what we perceive to ‘be it all’ but it wasn’t enough to make them feel worthwhile.  The glass facade shattered and let’s face it, reality sucks.

Someone (a total stranger) wrote something on a social media site last week about their suicide attempt.  To try and explain that they weren’t a coward, that they weren’t looking for an easy way out because in the moment that they were trying to cut their wrists (and it wasn’t that simple, their description was awful and raw and real) it was the strongest they had ever been.  That it hurt and it wasn’t quick but it was just the last thing they had control over.  It was a powerful piece of writing and it’s stuck with me.

I’ve never tried to kill myself.  I’ll put that out there now.  But I have often felt that it would be easier to just not be alive.  I personally feel there’s a big difference between wanting to die and wanting to not be alive but you may feel they’re the same thing.

All my life I’ve lived with not being good enough.  My Dad would punish me physically when school reports came home and it wasn’t all A’s.  Apparently A for effort doesn’t count because even though the teacher felt I’d tried my hardest in everything, if I hadn’t gotten top marks, it didn’t count.  When we moved up here, I was told by the people we lived with that anything less that straight A’s or A*’s was letting my parents down, that I’d failed them.  On GCSE results day when other friends were getting money or meals out, I was asked why I’d only gotten 2 A’s and then 8 B’s.

It wasn’t good enough.  I wasn’t good enough.  I was a blue screen error message.

On school awards night, I asked if they were proud of me.  The reply was that they’d rather I was at home studying to get better marks than collecting awards.  They went on holiday rather than support me during my A Level exams.  They didn’t take me to university like every other family in my place of residence.  They charged me £60 rent when I returned for a week the first Christmas. And then my worst offence – I dropped out of university: I was a failure, a disappointment, an embarrassment.  And although I got my degree with the OU, that didn’t count.  It wasn’t enough.

I wasn’t enough.

I’ve never been enough.  I’ve never made anyone proud.  Or at least, no one has ever told me.

At a family wedding a few years ago, the father of the bride gave a speech about brave men marrying into the family.  My Dad was not included in that speech, nor my husband.  I took that personally because if they don’t count, then I don’t either; a reminder of how I’m not enough.  I’m sure he didn’t mean it to be like that and it’s not as if I could have interrupted the speech and asked about it.  A wedding is not the place to question details.  And I can’t ask now because the moment has passed.  But it sits in my brain, a sharp stick poking away.

At school I didn’t fit in because I spoke funny / because I didn’t have divorced parents / because I wasn’t allowed to go out after school / at the weekend / use the phone / go to my end of year ball / get a job / came from a different school to begin with.  At uni I didn’t fit in because I had no family visiting me to take me shopping for food / help me settle in / because I’d worked damn hard for the financial scholarships that kept me afloat / was using uni as an escape.

Society views me as a failure.  The abuse I’ve received because I’ve not had kids is truly awful.  I’m a waste of a human being, a waste of air, what is the point of being alive if not to push out children?  No one will love me because I’m selfish, I’m not fulfilling my biological purpose.  And these are your everyday human beings, not religious fanatics who want to populate the world for a higher purpose.  I can ignore all this stuff because it’s utter drivel but it does get to you.

Historically the whole ‘when is he going to propose’ bombardment at events really niggled into my brain.  Really upset me and made me think that I wasn’t enough for him to love me that much.  I wasn’t good enough, wasn’t acceptable to his long term plans.  And then when we did get married it was that pitying ‘Oh, but you had to ask, not the same really, is it?’

When I work away, I’m ‘not the usual girl’ or I get ‘what are you doing here’ or ‘oh, it’s you’.  I’m not included in conversations, I’m ignored and treated less than politely.  I’m working my socks off to help them out but I feel like something those socks trod in.  There’s no support or gratitude, I may as well be painted the same grey as the walls.

I’ve felt ignored and left out and simply not enough and pushed to one side all my life.  Intentional or not, my feelings are mine and no one can tell me they aren’t real.

And so, thinking that my not being alive is somehow better, is not surprising.  If I can’t be enough then what’s the point?  If I’m not enough, then someone else could be instead.  I don’t feel worthy.  I don’t feel worthwhile.  I am an appallingly bad wife, terrible sister/rubbish friend/disappointing niece/absent cousin.  The doctors just gave me anti-depressants when I spoke up.  They don’t change anything, it’s not going to re-program the last thirty-odd years.  Counselling was tried at uni.  I can’t afford it now and I dislike speaking these words out loud.  Hiding behind this keyboard is as honest as I can be.  Don’t ask me if I want to talk, I will tell you I’m fine.  I can pretend I don’t know who is reading this, that you are not real.  That I am typing to empty my brain temporarily and these words will fade like I was writing in lemon juice.

The darkness that lingers in my brain never goes away.  I do try and ignore it but I’m only human, I’m still struggling.  The other week it got particularly bad.  I didn’t want to leave the house, didn’t want to see people, not even people I’ve known forever.  I didn’t want to have to talk to anyone or look at anyone – or even worse be looked at – or interact.  If Pirate Cat were still here, we would have set up the duvet palace and she would have been on Chief Cat Guard.  It’s never gotten that bad before and with hindsight, I’m concerned with how much that darkness overwhelmed me.  I’ve never shut myself away like that previously.  And yet, it happened and I fully expect it to happen again.  I’m not scared of it happening again, it’s not an issue for me but it’s a new thing to contend with.

Suicide for me is not an option for purely practical reasons; I dislike swallowing pills even though I’ve taken enough over the years.  I dislike pain even though there’s a constant white noise of it.  I couldn’t jump off or in front of.  I wouldn’t be so selfish as to have that memory imprinted on someone else for the rest of their lives.  I could not do the deed.  The darkness may overwhelm me but it’s not going to push me over the edge.

Suicide is a decision of absolutes.  There is nothing else after.  And it may be the one thing that a person has control of when the rest of their life is a whirlwind of madness.  And it’s going to be that they feel that their family, their children, their friends are better off without them.  I’ve felt that.  I’ve absolutely felt that very way.  No one would miss me as I don’t contribute anything to their lives – what can I give people the state I’m in?  Apparently, my illness is not real, I’m attention seeking, I’m making it up.

Please don’t think this is a new surprise thing – I have been honest about how I feel.  I’ve told hubby on many occasions that I’d rather not wake up one morning because I feel worthless.  I feel more of a burden that a contribution.  This isn’t something I’ve hidden from him.  I’ve told him he needs more than I can give.  And yes, he’s told me I’m daft and I shouldn’t think like that but my brain doesn’t hang onto that fact, it focuses on how crap I am, how I can’t have a proper job, how my friends and family don’t invite me to stuff because I won’t be able to go anyway.  How all this medical stuff has made me different and useless.  In the early hours when I’m not sleeping my brain goes utterly mental shouting horrible things and I listen and I save them on a loop reminding me over and over again that I am pointless.  A waste of air and cells.

I don’t know anyone who has committed suicide.  As far as I am aware, I don’t know anyone who has tried either.  Maybe I do but they keep it so well hidden.  They are stronger than I know.

Growing up I was told that suicide is the cowards way out when someone doesn’t want to face up to their problems.  Suicide is not an easy way out.  It cannot be.  You make that decision knowing the absolute tidal wave of reaction that will be triggered.  You know that those around you will be hurt beyond all comprehension but you feel that the hurt will be better than the reality.  You’ll change their lives forever but you honestly think that’s the best thing for them.  You make the decision and you follow that through.

So I understand what the writer meant when they said that in the act, they were the strongest they had ever been.

 

I am not strong.

July 25, 2017

One Million Lovely Letters

Posted in July tagged , , , , , at 10:22 am by viewfromthisdesk

I had planned to write a post about suicide, which is nice and cheery but then that all changed last night.  As ever, I’m referring to something I saw on tv which got me thinking.  And crying and laughing.  If you didn’t watch it, find it on iplayer.

Last night on BBC1 at 7.30 was a program about a lass called Jodi who started writing letters to total strangers.  She has a target to write ‘One Million Lovely Letters’ and some of the people featured talked about how her letter had arrived at a really difficult time and had gotten them through.  One guy was from Canada and had fixed her letter to his computer so it was a daily reminder.  Letters, words, ink on paper are powerful things.

I used to love writing – my teenage years were full of writing to friends and boyfriends.  The angst of those years would pour out as my inky scrawl would fill pages and pages.  I’d look for colourful envelopes and nice paper.  I’d save any money I had for stamps which were much cheaper back then.  I’d feel full of love and excitement when I had an envelope for me when I got home from school.  That someone had taken the time to sit and write to me, take that time to think about me and want to connect with me, that was magical.

I still have notes from people from when I was 14, I’ve kept them and I re-read them.  My gratitude jar was amazing for the couple of years that it worked.  But it’s not been contributed to for a while.  Maybe I haven’t done anything with anyone worth writing about?  But that was amazing, tipping that out on New Years Day, seeing what people had scribbled on the back of a cinema ticket or shopping receipt.  Because it didn’t have to be an essay it could just be ‘I had a really nice time with you today’.  Something so simple makes a huge impact.

I miss it.  I miss writing terribly.  Holding a pen is absolute torture now and it’s all I can do to write happy birthday to someone.  Emails and faceache just are not the same.  They’re nice, but not the same.  I try and write proper letters to people but I have to type them now which I think is somewhat bad mannered.  It’s cheating.  But it’s all I can do and so I console myself with ‘at least I’ve written’ and try not to think about the medium within which I have written.

So, going back to the show – Jodi last night, had set up a webpage where you could request a letter.  At the time of filming, she had 8,000 waiting emails.  According to Twitter, she had over 1,500 emails during the program.  There are that many people out there, who feel that they need that random act of kindness from a stranger to tell them that it will be okay, that they will get through, that they are enough.  And I’ll be honest, I wanted to add myself to that list.  But now I know how many people have also asked, I don’t want to add to her pressure.  I don’t want to make her feel overwhelmed.  In all honesty, I don’t feel worthy.

So. if you find yourself with half an hour this week or weekend, write someone a letter.  Or a card.  Or just a post-it note.  Or rearrange the fridge magnets if you can’t be bothered to pick up a pen.  Tell someone you like their hair, their top, that they made you smile today, that they *are* enough.  Take lyrics from a song (with credits in case they want to listen to it) if you can’t think of anything!  Maybe challenge yourself to write to one different person every day for a week.  Spend fifty pence on a stamp, make them feel special.  It’s important.

Or do what Jodi did.  Write a note and hide it on the bus or train or in the communal fridge.  It doesn’t have to be huge.  Just a handful of words on a boring square of paper.  You don’t even have to add stickers or glitter or a smiley face.

Words hurt and that hurt lasts a lifetime.  But words can also make someone’s life turn turtle in a good way.  Words can remind someone that it’s worth persevering, that it’s worth struggling through because somewhere out there, someone does give a stuff.  Someone does care.