Music to my mind is a most puissant form of magic, and has the power to invoke such strong memories and emotions, that tune that always reminds you of your first love, or the song that could be your own biography, and all those happy reminders of your past.
When Liz first played Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Valse Lente for me, she did so in the hopes that I’d like it enough to start learning it myself. I did, I really loved it, instantly, it spoke sweetly and dearly to me. It spoke to me of childhood memories; merry-go-rounds, music boxes and the Italian commedia dell’arte and its comedic and tragic characters, the Pierrot doll I had as a young girl, and still have to this day. And I played it for my son, and to him it spoke of a fantasy computer game he used to play. Ah, the generations! Music speaks differently to people.
This beautiful piece however soon became a reminder of great loss, the last piece Liz and I worked on together. I stopped playing it and listening to it after her sudden death two years ago. I always knew that when I eventually returned to it, I would have gained at least some acceptance of what is a great loss for me.
I made a promise to you Liz, that I would keep working it, a promise I intended keeping. I’m back working on it now, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to talk to you about it. See I still forget at times, that you’ve gone, and I cry when I’m on my own, and oh I still see you walking down the street. However I also think of you often with joy and happy memories and thankfully there’s more of these than tears these days. And I think happy thoughts of a beautiful Valse Lente again.
For you my dear, dear Liz, for all the wonderful memories I have because of you, of music and books, the love of which we shared, lovely evenings with wine and chats, of laughter and silliness and an eternal friendship that will never fade. I love you. I miss you.
Cheers and shine brightly.
Have you seen the suggested posts on Facebook, I’m thinking of one in particular; “Are you depressed about the fine lines around your eyes”. I see red every time I see this. Why do we throw away words in such a thoughtless or careless manner, mindless of the implications and effects over others. Whether it’s using such a powerful word to describe a few lines or making promises to friends we can’t or aren’t prepared to keep.
Depression isn’t being upset over a few lines on our faces, it’s being alone with your thoughts and those thoughts are telling you over and over, you’re useless, worthless and unlovable. It’s pain and not just emotional, it’s physical, and your body aches all over. It’s finding it damn near impossible to put one foot in front of the other, let alone get out of bed in the morning. It’s exhaustion, physically and mentally, but not being able to sleep. You can’t eat and when you force yourself, everything tastes like cardboard. Every sense in your body is numbed, colours are faded, images dimmed, sounds muffled and then there’s the hypervigilence and every noise makes you jump. People talking around you is akin to a jackhammer pounding away outside your door for the last eight hours. You can’t leave the house because crowds make you panicky, shake and sob. Your dreams die and your passions and loves no longer interest you.
Then comes isolation, as people drift away from you, the few that stay around, well you can hear in voice and see in their eyes, their desire to be a long way from you. And why not, you’re not fun to be around and you sap their energy and they’re busy getting on with life. And the others, well they can’t be found, later they’ll tell you, “I didn’t know what to say” or “I wouldn’t have been much help anyway”. Don’t you know I would have given anything to hear you say, I love you and I’m here for you, if you need me. Why couldn’t you have given me that choice. You’re trapped inside this aching body and insidious mind and you just want the pain to stop, so you consider what is unthinkable to a healthy person, and the planning of it is as mundane as making a shopping list. And if things aren’t bad enough, people will tell you, there’s no such thing as depression, why don’t you just pull yourself together. Everybody has bad days. To my mind depression is a grieving process, and the loss is of one’s self. That’s the face of depression. To use this powerful word in any other way denigrates the suffering and desperation of those with mental illness.
But I was one of the lucky ones, I had a great GP, who kept in contact and who knew when it was time to hand me over to the experts. I got a proper diagnosis, my medications were changed and adjusted gradually till they worked for me and then months of therapy. A wonderful space to explore, talk and cry, where I wasn’t judged or hurried away. I learnt ways to process my thoughts and emotions in a more positive and harmonious way.
That was me two years ago, today I’m so much better, but I have to work at it everyday. I can never become too complacent, but I’ve learnt to recognize my triggers and I know when I’m beginning to sink again. What works for me is communication and open dialogue, the power of words, but sometimes it falls on deaf ears, and I’m left reeling from the emotional turmoil. I am overly sensitive and in this dog eat dog world, I struggle. Utopia to me is a world filled with compassion and empathy, what a caring and wonderful society we would then have.
I want to embrace life, it’s experiences and challenges, as well as new and renewed relationships, fully, but how do I do that without getting hurt. Is it at all possible? That is my challenge, I’m back looking for work, a somewhat disheartening process, but I keep my head up and move on to the next possibility. So I’ve got the experiences and challenges under control, but relationships are very different. I always seem to end up getting hurt. Why do I dive in head first, and get so emotionally involved, when I know it’s going to end in tears. Why do I keep making the same mistake. Words again, I get lulled into this sense of security, of believing and trusting, in what others say, but at the same time I’m scared of not believing and not trusting and missing out on something wonderful. What is the key, I really wish I knew. All I can really do, is keep positive and strong and in time too, perhaps my relationships will come good.
So have you ever experienced something you can’t explain. Oh I know, a lot of you will probably be thinking, oh no, she’s finally lost it. Granted I’ve never tried to make sense of my experiences, but they are my experiences and they are very real to me.
So how did I come to think of all this again, well one thing led to another, as it does, and here we are. I’ve been laid up in bed the last three days with the dreaded lurgy, alright probably a virus, but should be right as rain for tomorrow, Monday, typical. I got to watching documentaries on Tudor history and one ‘Tudor from Above’ transported me back to the late 1980’s and the wonderful village of Lavenham in Suffolk England. Lavenham is noted for it’s wonderful 15th century church and medieval and tudor cottages. To stand in the High Street and gaze at the houses snuggled neatly together but tilting in all different directions, backwards, forwards and sideways as they have settled over time, was a wonder to behold. The cars whizzing by, an anachronism to a backdrop of times gone by. I fell in love with that village and it’s history and wonderful character filled buildings.
This of course then led me to recall Elm Hill in Norwich, a cobbled street lined with more medieval and tudor houses, nearby the great Norwich Cathedral. By the way cobbles look wonderful but they’re murder on the feet and in high heels deadly,and after many months of walking on them, they no longer hold any romance for me….
And on to the first house I lived in when I returned to this part of the world.
I shared this house with my aunt, three cousins and my sister. My aunt owned a gift shop which was on the ground floor, and this was my first job on arrival. The house had been a tavern in it’s early days, and was a wonderful house with lots of nooks and crannies, crooked walls, tilted floors and narrow stairways everywhere. Five storeys including the cellar and attic and it was haunted, purportedly like a number of other houses on Elm Hill, but my story doesn’t begin here.
My aunt is unique, it would be safe to say, a witch, dreamy and flighty, and quite frankly a little nuts, but I wouldn’t say that to her face, who knows she might actually be able to turn me into a frog, but she could also be very kind and affectionate. One of the first things she said to me after all the hugs and kisses was, “Do you remember the grey lady”. I didn’t, but I’d grown up hearing the story.
I was born in London and lived there until the age of 5 when I moved to Australia. When I was 2 we moved into police flats in Grove Park, my father having just joined the London Police Force. The flats were relatively modern having been built on the site of an old house that had been torn down. We grew up listening to many of my fathers stories of his time as a London Bobby. His regular and friendly meetings with Harry Secombe of The Goons, who nicknamed him Blue, a name that stayed with him during his time as a policeman, and of whom he was a great fan and the actor John Mills, as well as encounters with the infamous Kray twins and a very young and lets just say, under the weather Mick Jagger. It was at this time that my father received the Queen’s commendation for bravery, he’d attempted to save two men from an overturned burning newspaper van by going in several times to pull them from the vehicle, but was sadly unsuccessful. However it left him with severe burns to his hands and face and damage to the eyes which left him severely shortsighted for the rest of his life. He was rightly proud of his silver laurel leaves, but to my young mind, leaves should not be silver and I attempted to rectify this with the aid of a green felt tip pen. While my parents were able to remove the green from the laurel leaves, there is still evidence of my mischief on the velvet lining of the box they are kept in.
But the story that fired my imagination was of the grey lady. There was a glass wall divide between the hall and the sitting room, of the flat, where I would go and sit, head raised and smiling and babbling away toward the corner of the hall, for long stretches of time. When asked what I was doing, my only reply over and over was “the grey lady is smiling”. My parents were of course unnerved, but it became such a regular occurrence, and they never felt overly frightened by it, that it just became Gill’s friend, her grey lady. While my parents took it in their stride, my uncle was so frightened and upset by experience and witnessing my babbling conversations, that he ended his one and only stay early and abruptly and refused to ever visit the flat again. When I saw him again twenty years later and asked him about it, he refused point blank to discuss it with me. So it went down in infamy as one of my extended families collective stories and events.
I don’t myself remember this episode, but I have experienced similarly unexplainable events since that time. As I go through life, I realize there is so much mystery out there, an infinite expanse of mind, energy and universe and sometimes you don’t need an explanation or a reason why, it just is.
When I was working in the gift shop in Elm Hill, during a quiet afternoon, with my friend and colleague Denise, I experienced something, that although time softens and blurs the memory, still sits strongly with me. I took a step back and bumped into someone, that is all I can describe it as, the clumsy meeting of two bodies, I apologized as I turned around to be met with no one. I have no idea what happened, but I will swear till the day I die that it happened. Of course Denise was overjoyed as was my aunt on hearing the news, but then she always seemed to have an affinity for things spooky. Most of our day trips were to very old and eerie places including Blickling Hall in Norfolk, the reputed birth place of Anne Boleyn and is said to be badly haunted. There is a picture emerging here, I think my aunt looked on me as her own personal ghost hunter. Yes, no, maybe. But more upsetting was a feeling of great unease in the attic bedroom I shared with my sister, which I felt in no other room of that wonderful house.
To my own home, which I would like to state is a very happy and warm house, and yet I’ve experienced many things over the years. Running footsteps in the back garden at night, mirrors that shake on the wall, a kitchen door that frequently opens on its own to a glass on my bedroom dresser that started shaking then fell to the floor and smashed. But there is a place in the house that don’t hang around near and have felt myself being watched more than once. But the closest I came to being frightened was the little blond boy who appeared in the back sitting room as I was bedding down the fire late one night. Although the child was smiling and in many ways reminded me of my youngest, and who out of the corner of my eye, it first appeared to be, it was gone in the blink of an eye, and this experience chilled me to the bone. Of course I checked all the kids rooms and all were sound asleep, fortunately, I’ve only experienced that once. Several members of my family have experienced some of these events, so I’m certain I’m not imagining all of this.
I don’t know what happens after death, but I do believe our energy, spirit or soul, call it what you like, continues long after our corporeal existence ceases, so it is within the bounds of possibility that we can still communicate on some level with those that have passed. I have two very strong reasons for believing this to be that case. Some 25 years ago, shortly after I’d moved into my home, I was alone one night and woke to very powerful and vivid thoughts of my grandmother. I lay awake thinking of her for some time and vowed to write the letter I’d promised her the next day. I woke several times more that night and again those same vivid thoughts. I woke the next morning to the news that she had passed away during the night. I believe with every fibre of my being that she was with me that night. And to my father, shortly after he’d passed away in 2000, I was outside talking to him, when suddenly I heard his laugh. He had a wonderful infectious laugh, and it was like he was sitting next to me. I know some would say it was a memory of his laugh but the timing was perfect, I’d just been telling him a funny story of something that had happened that day, then this wonderful laugh. Call it what you like, but for me it was the first time since he’d died, that I felt he hadn’t gone from me forever.
Perhaps this is all down to a fantastic imagination, and perhaps even believing, allows us to make sense of our loved ones passing, it gives us a sense of acceptance. But I do wonder why some experience these things, while others do not. Like I said, I’ve never really tried to make sense of it, it just is, and that’s good enough for me.
I’m coming rapidly to the end of my therapy. I was talking to a friend about it last week, she asked how I felt about it. In the spirit of positive thinking I responded, that I was great and it didn’t bother me, but the reality is a bit different. I’m scared, scared of retreating back inside me, with only my horrible critical self for company. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not admitting defeat, because I’m going to work very hard to stay positive and strong. I’m on the usual drugs, antidepressants to lift the depression and anti-psychotics to stop me from getting too high and I’ve no doubt they’ve helped me considerably, but having someone to talk to about living with bipolar depression has been a god send and without the therapy I don’t believe I’d be anywhere near where I am now.
Therapy has given me the space to talk, cry, howl in pain, to strip my very being down to the basics and start rebuilding and accepting and really living. It’s given me the tools that have allowed me to become once again, content, strong, independent and hopeful. Recently I was asked to think about what makes me resilient, to write about it, I was excited at first but as I sat down to write, nothing came to mind. I know I’ve developed great resilience but it was an unconscious enlightenment, I just was, I feel ready for anything right now. But that isn’t enough, to have any hope of meeting depression head on the next time, I need awareness. So I began journalliing, I forgot about an audience and wrote just for me. What a powerful tool a journal is, to write as thoughts come to mind, no matter the order, as you release one thought another comes to mind and another. What I’ve learnt is to be aware of all my thoughts, to challenge the negatives and challenge the critical thinking, don’t allow them to own you and never give power over yourself to any other human being. Be your own master and let others be theirs. To own who I am and make no apologies, to love my own company and to allow that aloneness to energize and strengthen me, to find lots to laugh at and always be hopeful, nothing is insurmountable. And finally hindsight, I’ve survived depression and suicidal thoughts, a few times now and I’ll do it again. That’s what makes me strong right now, and right now is where I’m at.
But right now, I’m still in therapy…..
I’m not a fool, I’ve had several bouts of depression over the years, and I doubt this recent one will be my last. If and when that time comes, will I be able to meet that challenge without my crutch, will I remember everything I’ve learnt or will I be doomed to repeat the cycle of pain and loneliness and descent down that dark and bottomless tunnel. Journal, hindsight and challenging the thoughts. Let it become my mantra.
When I first started writing this blog the superego in my byline was a very dear friend. And yes he’s still a very dear friend and still capable of some amazing superego qualities (you’re smiling aren’t you, Exultatron). I tended to live vicariously through him back then, to look to him for approval, he was the exciting to my questioning and doubting. But as I’ve emerged that superego has slowly become me, the me I am right now, right this moment, the me I want to continue being, an exciting and wonderful future that is my doing. I’ll still at times be that sidekick, because I’ll always continue to question, occasionally doubt, and maybe I’ll even hate me. To ignore that possibility, is to put my head in the lion’s mouth, a dangerous folly. It is strange that this is my blog, my journey and yet I made myself invisible. Instead of being a participant in my own life, I became a watcher from the sidelines.
The observations and obsessions of a Superego’s sidekick. I’ve come full circle, I’m the superego and occasional sidekick. I’m now an active player in my own destiny and this is my story.
My daughter announced the other day that her first anniversary is coming up. First anniversary of what! She’s only 19, when I asked her what she was talking about, she looked a little hurt and then a lot disdainful as she replied ” Neil and me are going out a year,, duh”. She didn’t actually say “duh”, but it was implied. And it doesn’t stop there, they have big plans. Big soppy, drippy romantic plans, involving, scrapbooks, photos, etc. Ah!! My eldest son is the same, 3 years with his current wonderful girlfriend and 4 with the previous one. He’s only 24, so many years of drippy romantic blah. I’ve no idea where he got it from, his father is definitely not a romantic and I’m pretty sure I’m not overly so.
When I was their age, here it comes, none of my relationships lasted that long. Oh I fell in love, body and soul, teenage love, but it never really lasted. I hated the clinginess and worse the pedestal placing. I got to getting sick of them fairly quickly, well ok nearly straight away. Maybe I just liked the idea of being in love, but couldn’t handle the reality of it. I think my longest was eight months, and that was only because we lived 5000 miles apart. I think I was more interested, in meeting lots of people and having lots of new experiences, than being shackled to one person and doing the same things with the same people, over and over. Maybe I was a little worse than most, but I think that was my generation, am I wrong.
So why is it this way, why are they in such a hurry to grow up and belong to one person. Teens today have a much harder time of it than we did, I’m convinced of that. Being a teenager in the 70’s and 80’s was a lot simpler. Oh sure we had our concerns, the cold war was raging and that brought uncertainty, and then of course there was the Skylab which disintegrated and fell to earth in 1979. I was convinced it was going to land on me, and yes the world did revolve around me back then. Of course it didn’t occur to me that it was pretty big and it probably would hit more than me, in hindsight. The world was a much bigger place back then, and despite that not as scary.
The internet has shrunk our world, and brought it all into our homes. Everything is at a hands reach, places, people and experiences. And never has there been such pressure to conform. Teens and young adults are being constantly bombarded with what to wear, say, think and listen to, maybe being with one person is a comfort, safety and belonging in an internet world.
A pet peeve of mine, as I segue into a rant is text speak and modern phrases that are peppering social media sites. The first time I received a text full of text speak from a friend, it took me half an hour to work out, she was asking if she could call for a cup of coffee. Maybe she was just very bad at it. Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin, recently announced they’d agreed to a conscious uncoupling, what the hell, separate like everybody else in the same situation. And then last week, my daughter told me one of her facebook friends had just announced she was polyamorous, what that, maybe she’s bisexual, I thought, nope wrong, it means she has lots of partners, at the same time, Mmmmmm, Yep, we had a word for that and it wasn’t polyamorous. And anyway, why would you tell the world that.
So I guess congrats to my daughter and her lovely boyfriend, but don’t forget to be a teenager and have a ball, that’s what it’s for. There’ll be time enough for everything being an adult brings, don’t be in too much of a hurry to get there.
Edward Roy Cawdell
“I didn’t want to kiss you goodbye, that was the trouble; I wanted to kiss you goodnight. And there’s a lot of difference.” ~ Ernest Hemingway.
Fourteen years have gone since your passing. Does it get any easier, the days in between do, but those special days, your birthday, my birthday, fathers day, Christmas and the 9th August still bring me to tears.
I remember that day like it was yesterday, the seconds move forward in slow motion. The sounds, images, words and the people with me, so vivid. My brothers voice, so strange, what’s wrong with him, then screaming, frightened children running. Repeatedly writing and writing to leach it from me, but still it stays, will that day always remain with me, so strong. The funeral I was unable to attend, never really being able to say goodbye. For weeks feeling like a part of me was missing, your being like a phantom pain in an amputated limb. I’d wake up in the morning , and for a second everything was normal, until I remembered.
You were only 61, so much ahead of you, seeing your grandchildren arrive into this world, and grow to the wonderful young men and woman they are becoming. Your retirement after all those years working to provide for your family, time for just you and Mum. A massive heart attack in your sleep, the only mercy was that you felt no pain, I’m grateful for that. There were police there, I hated that, it felt so….dirty, but it had to be, a sudden unexplained death.
I do prefer my happy memories though of a very wonderful father, and there are so many more of them, you were funny, intelligent, charming, cheeky and very loving and affectionate. A wonderful chess opponent, but a terrible dance partner, remember the French’s wedding, you trampled all over my feet, you were shocking, but I still loved dancing with you, I was so proud. I remembered you singing in church, how could anyone forget, Cath asked you to stop, she was an embarrassed teenager, but you just said, “God gave me this voice, he deserves to listen to it”. I loved watching you playing conductor to your much loved classical music, when you thought no one was watching. And whenever I hear Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, I think of you. You made everyone around you feel important and special, you had such a natural way with people. You inspired us all, to be kind and loving and loyal and to work hard at everything we do, and I see who you were, in little parts, in my kids everyday.
We all still miss you, myself, Dave, Ted, John, Jen and Cath, but we talk of you often and those memories bring us great happiness and tears of joy. You have lots of grandchildren, five girls and eight boys, they’re growing up quickly and very soon you’re to be a great grandfather, a little girl is on the way. The due date, your birthday. We”re all so looking forward to that. Mum can’t wait to be a great grandmother. I planted a tree for you, I wanted an Elder, but couldn’t get one, so I planted an Oak instead. It’s growing tall, lush and strong, and I like sitting under it and thinking of you. I’ve felt you many times, when I’m talking to you and I hear your laugh, when you come to me in my dreams, I can’t believe we don’t live on. And when I’m old, very old after a long and happy life, with my children, grandchildren and maybe if I’m really lucky great grandchildren, I look forward to being with you again.
All those good memories and mostly good days, I love that, I love that it’s getting easier. I love that the good memories now outweigh the bad one.
God rest you, my beautiful and wonderful Dad. Shine brightly.
Depression is a cruel and crippling disease, but it is a disease, not a weakness. It’s still very much a taboo subject, and the days of institutions and mind numbing drugs still exist. We’re becoming more educated though to mental illness, and this is a very good thing, but we’ve still a long way to go. There are so many treatments out there, the right medication, therapy of all sorts and sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is find someone to talk too. Back in January 2013, my most recent bout of depression struck, I turned to my GP, a wonderful, wonderful man. He understood and recognized what was happening to me, and stayed with me, supported me, and listened to me no matter how long it took. And when the treatment wasn’t working, he turned me over to the care of people who could. I’m so much better today and am so grateful to him, I couldn’t have done it without him. My struggle was long and difficult, but I’m nearly there, but I would of loved to talk to someone who knew what it all felt like, to tell me things get better.
So if I could go back in time , just for five minutes to reassure and comfort myself. I’d tell myself this will make you stronger and more independent, more forgiving and kinder to and of yourself. You’ll be more understanding of family and friends, all those times when you think they’ve deserted you, they haven’t, they love you, but they just don’t know what to say or do. Be kind to them, they’re doing their best. That night, 3 o’clock in the morning, walking the streets in so much pain, you do have a choice and you’ll make the right one and life will get better. But from that experience, you’ll become more compassionate to those who are suffering. You’ll learn that it’s ok to put yourself first, because putting yourself last didn’t work, you became overwhelmed and broken. And you were no good to anyone, when you could hardly get out of bed in the mornings. Life is precious, wonderful and amazing and you’ll come to believe that again and there’s always someone who can help and cares. Do always try and find something to laugh at or some one to laugh with, the best medicine of all.
If my words and experience bring you comfort, then I’m pleased, look that person and ask for help. It will be given.