Mirror, mirror

Mirror, mirror you tell no lies

I see the sadness in her eyes.

I see the emptiness deep inside

Which she no longer tries to hide.

With trembling fingers I gently trace

the tears that glisten on her face.

 

Mirror, mirror please make her stay

For I see her slowly fade away.

I see the darkness, I feel her pain

I beg to bring her back again.

The girl who smiled cos she didn’t know

Of pain so deep it tears the soul.

 

Mirror, mirror you tell no lies

I see the guilt deep in her eyes.

I see the anguish in every pore

I know that she can take no more.

My hand breaks glass and she falls apart,

Like the million fragments of her heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living with PTSD

As it’s Mental Health Awareness Week, I’ve decided to write briefly about one of the conditions I suffer with. I have written about Psychotic Depression, which I also suffer from, and have blogged openly about my journey through grief; sometimes in prose, sometimes through poetry.

Depression and anxiety have been a part of me, my life for the past few years. I have developed PTSD since losing my 5 year old son, Ned, in a car crash last year.

I was aware of the term PTSD before. I had read a little about it, heard it discussed, primarily with regards to soldiers returning from war. I never really understood it, not until it grabbed hold of me and has been eating away at me for the past year.

The diagnosis was made by my psychiatrist a couple of months after the horrific crash that shattered my whole world. I have suffered a massive trauma and am unable to ‘recover’ from this. I have counselling and medication to help, and am due to start psychology next month.

But what does it mean? What is it like to live with this disorder?

For me, it means re-living the car crash over and over and over. Even though I wasn’t there, I can visualise the accident so clearly and can’t get the horrific images out of my head. I see my little boy thrown forward with such force in his seat that he died from catastrophic liver damage. I wake in the night wailing for my little boy.

When I’m driving, I ‘see’ the car in front of me veer over the white line and crash head-on. My heart races, my stomach clenches with fear, I start to sweat and tears fall.

Day after day after day I relive this horror.

I search for answers to the relentless battering of questions in my head. Why? Why did it happen? Why couldn’t they save him? What have I done that’s so bad that I’ve had my little boy taken from me? Why did I let him go? Why wasn’t I there for my little boy? Why wasn’t I there to hush and soothe and hold his little hand? Why? Why? Why? It’s like an angry swarm of wasps buzzing in my head. I pull at my hair, I bang my head against the wall but they won’t stop. It’s torture.

I’ve been told that I have ritualised certain behaviours in order to cause myself more pain. I visit the roadside every month to place flowers. I visit Ned’s grave every night to tell him how sorry I am. I can’t not do these things. They’re all I can do for my son now; the only care that I can show him.

I’ve been asked if I believe that I should suffer? Yes, yes I do believe that I should. I let my little boy die. I failed him in the worst possible way. He didn’t get to live beyond 5 years of age because of me – that’s what PTSD tells me.

It is, quite simply, a living hell. I’ve tried self-harming behaviours to relieve the pain, but they don’t work. They numb me for a short while, nothing more.

Perhaps psychology will help me better come to terms with what has happened to us. I don’t know. The only certainty that I do have is that my heart has been shattered; an explosion of fragments like the stars in the night sky that happened when I was told that my little boy had died. And I know that my heart won’t be fixed until the day I am with my little Ned again. When that will be, I don’t know. But the day will come when I have my precious angel back in the safety of my arms, and when that day comes, I will never let go of him again.

 

 

Dad

Although you have been taken, too soon to say goodbye,

I’ll remember all the happy days despite the tears I’ll cry.

You’ve always been right here, to lead and guide the way,

To help us find our place in life in your quiet, gentle way.

 

Your heart was filled with kindness, your soul a soul of gold,

I’m filled with treasured memories that I’ll forever hold.

And though my heart is broken, sorrowed tears I’ll always shed,

Deep inside my tortured soul I know you’re with my Ned.

 

Ned loved his taid so dearly, for his visits he would wait,

To pounce upon and play with him – taid’s special little mate.

Not really into football, performing more Ned’s style,

His ‘awesome moves’ and made-up songs would always make you smile.

 

My place for now is here, with Tomi and with Cai,

Battling cruel anguish and that pain-filled question why.

But I know you’ll hold Ned near and keep him safe for me,

Until my final breath I’ll take and together we will be.

 

The girl in the mirror

Today, as I’ve been lying in bed recovering from my operation (I had my appendix taken out last Thursday), thoughts have floated through my mind like falling autumn leaves as I’ve drifted in and out of sleep. I’ve been watching the life of the girl I see in the mirror every day. And as the day has gone on, I’ve cried more tears than I’ve ever felt possible. My heart has ached for the girl in the mirror.

She was diagnosed with clinical depression at the beginning of 2015, which she had been suffering quietly with for about three years. It began after her return to work as a Primary School teacher, at the end of her maternity leave with her second son, Ned.

She tried so hard to ‘snap out of it’ as people would say, and to ‘stop being so miserable, you have nothing to be depressed about’. But the black cloud wouldn’t lift. It began to suffocate her. She would cry the whole 30 minute journey to work; she had panic attacks whenever she left the house; she would lie on her bed at weekends, the thought of getting up physically too tiring.

When she began to have thoughts of not wanting to be here any more, she realised that she wasn’t just a miserable old cow, but there was something very wrong. She went to her GP and began to talk. She let it all spill out like vomit as her GP listened to every word she said. Her GP held her hand and said, ‘Sharon, you’re ill. You have depression and anxiety.’ Relief flooded through her. She was ill. She wasn’t just useless and a burden to everyone. And if she was ill then she could get better.

She started on antidepressants and although they took a while to have an effect, once they did, she felt like a different person. Through talking with her GP, she knew that the root of her illness was her job. This saddened her as at one time she had loved teaching. It wasn’t the children who had made her feel like this, it was the constant pressure to achieve targets, maintain almost impossible standards and always being told that she needed to change this and change that. She felt demoralised and deflated. What was the point? Nothing was ever going to be good enough. There was always something else needed from those up above.

She finally made the decision to give it up. It was a huge decision for her and her husband as it would mean a huge financial loss; but she knew that for her mental health, she had to leave.

Then came her hysterectomy. She had suffered for so long and now that they had their three beautiful boys, their family felt complete. It turned out to be a complicated operation which left het physically unwell. She was emotionally challenged – had she made the right decision?

It was whilst she was off on sick leave that she sent her letter of resignation. This she knew for certain was the right decision. Once she dropped the letter into the post box, she felt a huge weight lift off her shoulders. Finally she had broken free.

At the beginning of last year, life very slowly began to feel right for her. The dark cloud was lifting. Her world began to be one of colour not just a dull grey. She could finally see a future – a happy future.

She was writing whilst the boys were in school; eagerly anticipating the release of her debut book in September. She was able to take her boys to school and pick them up every day. She was able to take them to their swimming/running/football/rugby clubs. Her evenings were free for playing, homework and reading. Her weekends were free for days out, going to the park, doing arts and crafts. She was finally able to be the one thing, the only thing that she had truly ever wanted to be. She was being Mam.

Then tragedy struck on March the 25th – Good Friday. Her little Ned was killed in a horrific car crash. Her whole world was shattered. Since that day she has battled to stay alive. She has been hospitalised on several occasions when she’s begun to lose the battle. She cries endless tears every day. She curls up in a tight ball in Ned’s bed and begs why. She sits by Ned’s graveside and says sorry over and over again.

A year somehow passed and the anniversaries loomed. Ned’s birthday, the day of the accident and Good Friday.

Ned’s birthday happened to be World Book Day. She was invited to a school and she went in Ned’s memory. The date of the crash came and she physically couldn’t get out of bed. Good Friday came and she fought her biggest battle of all. She fought against her darkest thoughts which were sensed by her mental health team. She fought against being sectioned. Her two best friends were with her throughout the day. They were not going to let them take her away from her home; from her safe haven, from the closeness of Ned’s resting place.

She won the day-long battle. She was physically, emotionally and mentally drained. She took her prescribed medication and crawled into bed. Tomorrow would be a new day she thought. She felt a slight shift. She wasn’t going to let those darkest of thoughts win.

She woke on Easter Saturday with a phone call from her mam. Her dad had passed away in the early hours of that day.

Once more her world came crashing down. How could it be possible? Why was this happening? He was her dad. Her rock. Always there. Quiet and gentle. Her mam’s soulmate.

She went straight home and visited the hospital – she had to say goodbye again. Broken-hearted she held her dad’s hand and asked him to take care of her precious Ned, until her time came.

She is now lost in an abyss of anguish and sorrow. She doesn’t know who she is. She can’t find a space in the world for her. She’s still a mam, but she only has two sons physically present in her life. Two sons for who her heart aches with love. But there’s a huge gaping hole in the middle, an emptiness where Ned should be.

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She’s still a daughter. But there’s a gaping big hole next to her mam; an empty chair where her dad should be.

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I look at her in the mirror. She is lost and broken. Her sunken eyes are empty. Her cheeks are tear-streaked. She’s tired. So very, very tired.

I want to reach out to her. I want to hold her tight and tell her that somehow she’ll get through this. But my hand touches cold glass. I can’t reach the girl in the mirror. She’ll be forever trapped behind the glass; the girl with a shattered heart and a tortured soul.

Psychotic Depression and me…

I have written a few posts about my journey with grief, which is of course on-going as grief is not linear and it is something I will carry for the rest of my life. I have also been diagnosed with psychotic depression. It’s a severe illness, but one that people can choose not to see. This is why I write openly about my mental health. It is very real and it is very frightening (for me and my husband who witnesses the ‘bad’ episodes).

I have major depression with psychotic symptoms. I am not hallucinating or hearing voices, which is one form of psychosis. What I am experiencing is an extreme sense of worthlessness due to the guilt I feel for letting Ned go on the day he died. I feel like I failed my little boy and I am so terrified of failing my other two sons too. I have continuing suicidal thoughts which I battle against on an almost daily basis. I feel torn between Ned and my two other boys. It is a living nightmare, but one I want those who know me to understand a little better.

People ask me how I am and I have absolutely no idea what to say, so I simply say I’m ok. What else can I say? But for those who read my blog posts, I know that they understand me a little better and that feels so important to me.

There are certain triggers to my psychosis which cause me to have severe panic attacks – I struggle to breathe, I usually drop to the ground, my heart races, I sweat. I have an overwhelming need to go to Ned when this happens and if I’m home, I can run to his graveside. I sit until the panic subsides. If I’m not at home, I have to work hard to get out of the attack, usually aided by one of my friends.

I feel overwhelming sadness which is why I have become socially isolated with less than a handful of friends who have remained close. I don’t like leaving the safety of my home. I am constantly anxious and find it difficult to sit still. I am so very tired that I often fall asleep in the afternoon and still go to bed by nine at night. Most days the simplest of tasks can feel like huge mountains to climb.

Along with this, I am grieving for my little boy. Life is incredibly difficult but I am trying; I am trying so hard. This is why I’ve written this post. There are people everywhere who are living their own nightmares, suffering and battling their own mental illnesses. It needs to be spoken about openly because it needs to be understood.

If one person reads this and thinks, ok, I understand her behaviour a little better now; or if someone reads this and identifies with what I say, then I feel proud that my words have had that tiniest effect.

My blog is called ‘Sharon Marie Jones – Just Being Me’ – and that is what I’m doing.

 

 

What I know about grief…

Until you’ve suffered grief in its rawest form, you simply cannot understand how it feels for the person who is suffering. You may be one of the people who say such things as ‘time heals’, or ‘you’ll get better in the summer when the sun’s shining’ (yes, I have been told this). Or you may be one of the people who don’t talk about what has happened because you think this helps.

I had never encountered real grief until I lost my son last March. Since then, I have been living in the dark belly of grief and this is what I now know:

  1. Grief is not an illness. You can’t ‘get better’. It stays with you for the rest of your life.
  2. Time does not heal. Time may heal a wound on the skin, but it can’t possibly heal grief because it’s impossible to turn back time.
  3. Grief is so very lonely and isolating. People expect things of you that are just no longer possible.
  4. Grief is unique to every person – my husband and I are grieving in completely different ways.
  5. Bereavement counselling helps because I can offload and say whatever I’m feeling without being judged. And I’ve learnt that crying is a good thing. You have to let some of the emotions out.
  6. People are afraid of grief. It doesn’t get spoken about openly. It still carries taboo.
  7. Grief is not linear. You don’t pass through certain stages and reach peace at the end. Some days you can be in the depths of one stage, to find yourself in another the following day, only to be right back at the beginning the next.
  8. Grief affects your body emotionally, mentally and physically. It’s exhausting.
  9. Grief is the worst pain anyone can ever have to endure.
  10. Grief is utterly terrifying.

I believe the loss of your child is the worst kind of grief possible. No parent should have to see their child dead, encased in a coffin. No parent should have to watch as their child is lowered to the ground or cremated. No parent should have to live with the eternal torture of this loss.

It takes a very special person to be able to help a grieving person stay afloat. I have less than a handful of true friends who have been with me since the beginning of the nightmare and I know that they will always be there with me. These are the people that are able to not make the pain their pain; they are able to put their pain aside and do whatever they can to help me. These are the people who I will be eternally grateful to.

Grief … 12 months gone

I wanted to write this post mainly because I have become tired of hearing people tell me that once the first year has passed, following the loss of a loved one, you get better, life becomes easier. Grief is such an individual journey. No one can understand it until they too live in the nightmare.

It’s coming up to the one year anniversary of the death of my son, Ned. I am not ‘better’ because grief is not an illness. There is no ‘getting better’. You live with it for the rest of your life. Some days are slightly easier than others. Some days are utter hell. That’s as good as it gets.

Physically, there are several changes in me. When the accident happened and I first starting living in this nightmare, I lost a lot of weight. I have had to rely on medication to survive. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t take the medication. My dosage has been increased several times throughout the past year. A side effect of this is that I’ve re-gained the weight lost and have put more on. I look overweight and bloated.

I am drained of colour. I have been since I was given the news that my 5 year old precious little boy had died. My skin has a dull, grey pallor. My eyes are glassy and I have a faraway look about me, so I’ve been told. I feel disconnected as I look at others living day to day.

I have started to lose my hair. At the moment it’s around the hairline and I have spiky little tufts, similar to how it was after giving birth. I hope that the condition won’t worsen but it’s out of my control.

I am bone tired. No matter how much sleep I get I still need more. I ache with tiredness. I look like I haven’t slept in months.

I still have an unstable relationship with food. I can’t sit and have a family meal. I have only managed this a handful of times over the last twelve months. This means that I tend to binge at times when I suddenly realise that I’m hungry. I know I should be eating healthily, looking after myself better. But when you hate yourself and live in this perpetual darkness, you don’t think about yourself. I make sure that I do everything  possible to ensure that my other two sons have a normal, happy childhood. It is so hard when all I want to do is curl up and die.

I feel nauseas most of the time. I am always on the verge of tears and am constantly battling them back. I continue to have panic attacks, at home and in public. Some are severe, some I can control.

So that’s what’s happening physically twelve months on. Not a pretty description really. These are the manifestations of my grief that others can see.

Mentally, I am suffering more than I have ever suffered in my life.

There’s an emptiness inside me, a gaping hole. I feel the nothingness in my arms where once he would wrap himself tightly around me. I’m starting to forget what it felt like to hold him and that terrifies me.

I cry endless tears day after day. I lie in his bed which I haven’t changed since the day he died, but his smell has faded. This also terrifies me.

So not only do I live with the devastating sadness of losing him, I now live with the terror of really losing him – his smell, the feel of his hands around my neck at bedtime, his straight from school hug. They’re fading and I can’t stop them no matter how hard I try to grasp onto them. We have video recordings of him which I can’t bring myself to watch right now, but his physicality, his being is fading.

I blame myself for what happened. It was one word. If I’d said ‘no’ instead of ‘yes’, he would still be here, filling the house with his energy and love. I made the wrong choice. I have to carry that with me for the rest of my life. I will never forgive myself for saying ‘yes’.

I’m lonely. I have never felt more alone in my life. No one can know how I feel, not even those closest to me. I lie in a crumpled heap on his bed because there’s nothing I can do to stop the pain. There’s nothing that anyone can do.

I’m not a religious person. I have no definite beliefs. I don’t know what I think happens when we die. I’m no longer afraid of dying, but I still don’t know what death means to me. I don’t think I ever will. It’s too big. I get struck several times a day with the knowing that he’s dead and it leaves me winded, gasping for air. But to think that there’s a never – never see him again, never hold him again. No. I can’t accept that. I have to cling to some form of belief that I will see him again. I will hold him. He will ‘be’.

Twelve months on, I’m not ‘better’. I never will be. The mental torture of my everyday life is showing on me physically. I ask if anyone who knows me well and reads this not to make the general assumption that after the first year things will get easier for me; that I will learn to cope better; that I will learn to live with what has happened.

Twelve months on, I still carry the devastating sadness and the guilt, but added to these now is fear. Fear of everyone moving on and leaving him behind. Fear that I’ll forget the tiniest things. Fear that the day will come when I succumb to the voice that screams at me at times to take an overdose and that it will be the one that has one tablet too many. Fear that I’ll let my other two sons down the way I let Ned down.

If I had to give words to how I feel right now, there are five adjectives that I can come up with.

Devastated. Heartbroken. Guilty. Lonely. Terrified.

I am a mam who has lost her son – the little boy who grew safely inside me for 9 months; the little boy who was always by my side for five short years. Ned.

Panic Attacks – what happens to me?

Today was going to be a bad day. I knew it was. It was the school Eisteddfod and Ned had been so excited last year, I couldn’t help but imagine how he would have been today. I tortured myself by watching videos of last year’s Eisteddfod and there he was, my little boy, alive on the screen singing and reciting. It took my breath away, but I watched it again and again and again because he was alive in front of my eyes.

When I got to the school this afternoon to pick Tomi up, as soon as I parked and heard the children’s voices drifting from the school hall; songs that Ned sang all the way home last year, it became too much.

When this happens, I have a panic attack. I struggle to breathe. I lose my bearings. I’m not sure what I’m doing. I can’t focus. I can’t respond. I know that this can be frightening for anyone who witnesses it. Today, several parents came to help and I am thankful to each one for showing their kindness and support.

I can start feeling claustrophobic quickly and I apologise if I pulled myself away from your embrace. I cannot deal with my senses being overloaded. I struggle. Sometimes I vomit. I hyperventilate. I sweat and my heart rate quickens.

What I need to do is plant my feet firmly on the ground and try to recover my breathing. I always have a paper bag in my car to stop the hyperventilating.

I suppose I wanted to write this short blog, knowing that some of you who were there today will read it and I wanted to say thank you, and I wanted to help you understand a little of what is happening to me physically when an attack happens.

It’s simply the pain of losing Ned becoming unbearable. It’s the fight leaving me. It’s me not wanting to be anymore. It’s me tired of the daily battle. I don’t want that to frighten anyone, I hope it will help you to understand. Some days are just really bad.

It’s been nearly a year and I’m not ‘better’. Grief isn’t an illness. I will carry it with me forever – it’s in my heart, my bones, my soul. It’s like the ocean – some days can be relatively calm, other days I’m riding rough, stormy waves that threaten to drown me. It’s never still. It ebbs and flows.

So as I saw a #randomactsofkindnessday on Twitter, I thought it apt just to simply say thank you to those who came to help me today. It won’t be the last panic attack I have. But I do come out of them. The worst that can happen from a panic attack is that you pass out, which I have on a handful of occasions.

I’ll end therefore with just a big diolch/thank you to everyone who helped me and to those I allow close enough who have been with me every step of the way. Diolch o waelod calon.

Time heals, doesn’t it?

It’s been almost a year since I lost my little boy. So I must be getting better, right? I mean, I get told all the time, once the first year has passed you’ll feel much better. I stare blankly. Better from what? I’m not ill. Well ok, I had appendicitis at the start of the year and I have a lingering chest infection, but surely they’re not talking about that?

Grief isn’t an illness. You can’t ‘get better’. I can’t take a pill to make it better, or have surgery to have it removed. It is a part of me that will never go away. It’s in my heart, in my bones, in my soul. Time doesn’t heal. Whoever said that originally had clearly not experienced grief in any form.

Some who know me may read this and think, ‘Well, she was shopping in town this morning.’ ‘She looks a little pale, a bit bloated, but she’s out and about.’ I’m pale because I can’t sleep. I’m bloated because I take so much medication, even my GP wonders how I’m standing. I’m wandering around town because I can’t face going home and seeing Ned’s empty bedroom.

Then I get asked, ‘Isn’t the medication numbing you? It’s making you put on a lot of weight. Shouldn’t you just be without them so that you can grieve properly and let the healing begin. Start living again.’

I feel like I’m being judged. Yes, the medication is numbing me. It’s numbing me to the point that I’m almost a walking zombie. Am I grieving properly? Not a day passes without I cry and cry. Not a second passes without I think of Ned. Not a day passes without thinking that I don’t want to be anymore because I let my little boy go and he died.

But I have two other little boys. I would never want them to suffer the pain I feel day after day after day. They’ve lost a brother. They certainly couldn’t cope with losing their mam too. So for those pondering as to whether the pills are stopping me from grieving, no they’re not. They don’t touch the grief. They are repressing my pre-existing depression and anxiety a little. But most importantly, they’re making me get out of bed and battle through each day for my boys.

As to the starting to live again. I exist. I’m breathing. That’s all I ask for. I am being mam to my two boys, because the medication allows me to be. I know there’ll be someone reading this who will be against taking medication … believe me I’ve had offers of massage, Reiki, mindfulness … they’ve all been thrown at me, but not one of the people offering such ‘healing processes’ have lost a child. I don’t mock these processes or doubt that they are a godsend for some. They’re just not the right offerings for me. I cannot be healed. I will forever have a broken heart that cannot be mended.

I don’t seek pity. Believe me, seeing pity on someone’s face when they look at me hurts. My aim with my blog is to have people understand. Have people understand that everyone’s grief is an individual journey and I am sharing mine, because you can’t see the emptiness inside me and the gnawing guilt that I wasn’t with my little boy when he was so badly hurt; when he battled for over an hour to survive … I wasn’t there. And I should have been. I should have been holding his hand, telling him that mam was there and that I loved him to the moon and back a million times. I should have died, not my innocent five year old healthy little boy, who was so powerless to his fate as he sat in the back of that car. I shouldn’t have let him go.

That is what isn’t visible behind the glazed eyes and the sometimes slurred speech. This is what lies beneath the emotionless exterior. This is what hides behind the smiling face my two boys see. I have suffered the greatest loss. So please, don’t judge me for taking medication because today I have battled another day. I am surviving. And as to getting better? I will never be ‘better’. I will live with my grief for as long as I’m alive.

Flying Free

I sit and wait as night cloaks day

For then I know I’ll drift away.

Away from life, from pain-filled fear

Where sorrow falls in every tear.

 

With angel wings we freely soar,

The guilt and loss inside no more.

Our souls entwined we freely fly,

With you right here I’m free from ‘why’.

 

But morning brings its dawn too soon,

An empty bed, an empty room,

An open door, toys on the floor,

The burning candle burns no more.

 

A shattered heart that cannot mend.

A tortured soul has reached its end.

With your small hand you guide the way,

And with you now I’ll always stay.