Galar a Fi

Dwi wedi penderfynu ysgrifennu yr hyn yr oeddwn yn ceisio ei ddweud ar noswaith lawnsiad ‘Galar a Fi’. Dydy siarad yn gyhoeddus ddim yn rhywbeth sy’n dod yn naturiol i mi, ond mae ysgrifennu yn. Do, mi siaradais ar y noson, ond yr eiliad camais oddi ar y llwyfan, doeddwn i ddim yn gallu cofio r’un gair o’n i wedi ei ddweud! Poeni wedyn, fel ydw i. Nes i ddweud yn iawn? Nes i wneud synnwyr?

Felly dyma fo’n ysgrifenedig, yr hyn dwi’n ei obeithio fy mod wedi llwyddo i gyfleu ar y noswaith. Dyma fo yn ddu a gwyn rhag ofn i mi fethu.

Ateb cwestiwn oeddwn i am ba mor bwysig oedd ysgrifennu’n agored ac onest i fi. A dyma fi’n ateb…

Mae o’n hollol bwysig i fi fy mod i yn agored ac onest. Dysgais bwysigrwydd hyn cyn i mi golli Ned. Cuddiais y ffaith fy mod yn sal am sawl blwyddyn. Trio cario mlaen. Gwneud esgusodion. Ond llusgo fy hun at y doctor bu rhaid yn y diwedd a chyfadde nad oeddwn eisiau byw rhagor. Y doctor wedyn yn gafael yn fy llaw ac yn dweud fod pob dim yn iawn, bo fi’n sal, yn dioddef o iselder clinigol a’i bod hi’n mynd i fod gyda fi bob cam o’r ffordd wrth i mi frwydro’r salwch.

Cododd bwysau o’m hysgwyddau. Dwi’n sal, feddyliais, a mae hi’n mynd i fy helpu. Mynd ati hi wedyn yn wythnosol a siarad; gadael i’r holl deimladau oedd yn pwyso’n drwm yn fy stumog allan. A doeddwn i ddim yn teimlo unrhyw gywilydd. Salwch oedd gen i, nid fy mai i oedd o.

Dechreuais ysgrifennu blog ar iselder, gan bo ysgrifennu yn rhywbeth dwi’n neud, rhywbeth sy’n fy helpu i. Ond dechreuais gael bobl yn ymateb i’r blog, yn dweud bo fy ngeiriau i’n eu helpu, bo nhw yn yr un man a fi. Cefais syndod enfawr – fy ngeiriau i yn helpu eraill? Dyna oedd deimlad da.

Ond yna daeth fy myd i ben. Daeth y geiriau fwyaf creulon gall unrhyw riant eu clywed … roedd Ned wedi cael ei ladd mewn damwain car. Ned bach fi. Bachgen bach pump oed. Doeddwn i methu gwneud synnwyr o ddim byd. Doeddwn i erioed wedi profi galar o’r blaen, felly pan ddaeth fel hunllef fyw i’m bywyd, doedd gen i ddim syniad sut i’w reoli.

O’r oriau cyntaf fe ges i help broffesiynol gan y meddyg teulu a’r tim iechyd meddwl – a hynny gan fy mod wedi cyfadde chydig dros flwyddyn ynghynt fod rhywbeth yn bod efo fi. Pwy a wyr beth fyddwn wedi ei wneud petai’r help yna heb fod ar gael i mi o’r cychwyn.

Does gen i fawr ddim cof o’r misoedd yn dilyn y ddamwain, ond roedd y cymorth yn ei le, fel rhwyd diogelwch yn dynn amdanaf. Ac roedd ei angen arnaf. Roedd fy ymateb i i’r golled erchyll yn un cymhleth a pheryglus.

Pan ges i’r gwahoddiad i gyfrannu at y gyfrol hon, y peth gyntaf feddyliais oedd, os ydw i am gyfrannu yna mi fydd yn rhaid i mi ysgrifennu’n gwbl agored ac onest, neu fel arall beth byddai’r pwynt? Ond mae’n anodd siarad allan. Mae’n anodd cyfadde’r pethau difrifol dwi wedi eu gwneud, a chyfadde eu bod dal yn cripian fyny arnaf o bryd i’w gilydd, ddeunaw mis ar ol y ddamwain. Mae’n anodd rhoi eich hyn yn yr agored lle da chi’n gallu cael eich barnu. Mae’n iawn yn yr ystafell ddoctor, neu gyda’r cwnselwr neu’r seicolegydd a’r drws ar gau. Ond siarad allan fel bo pawb yn clywed, mae hynny’n wahanol.

Bues i am hir yn meddwl sut i ddechrau. Doedd gen i ddim geiriau byddai’n gallu disgrifio’r hunllef dwi’n byw ynddi. Ond yna fe ddaeth yn glir ataf. Dweud wrth Ned. Dyna dwi’n ei wneud wrth eistedd ar lan ei fedd. Dweud y cyfan wrtho. A dyna ni, llifodd y geiriau allan a cheisiais dangos effaith galar ar fy mywyd – dangos y poen, yr euogrwydd, y salwch.

Dwi’n gwbod fod rhai wedi ei ffeindio’n anodd i’w ddarllen; yn ffeindio’r darn yn frawychus. Ond gallai ddim cuddio. Gallai ddim cau’r drws ac esgus nad fel hyn yw fy mywyd. Pwy fydd yn elwa o hynny? Nid fi, ac yn bendant neb arall.

Felly dyma fi yn siarad allan, yn dweud yn uchel i bawb fy nghlywed. Dwi’n dioddef, dwi mewn poen anioddefol. Dwi wedi cael diagnosis o iselder seicotig a PTSD. Dwi ar lot fawr o feddyginiaeth ac yn derbyn therapi wythnosol gan seicolegydd.

Ond does na ddim un tabled all wella galar, gan mai nid salwch ydi galar. Mae o’n gallu arwain at salwch fel sy wedi digwydd i mi. Ond mae galar ei hunan yn hen fwystfil hyll sy’n byw y tu mewn i chi. Mae o yn eich esgyrn, yn eich calon, yn eich enaid. Mae o’n anferthol, ond mae rheswn dros hyn. Y pris mae’n rhaid talu am gariad ydi galar.

Does dim gwella, dim ond ceisio dysgu byw efo’r hen fwystfil sydd raid. Ac mae hynny’n broses hir ofnadwy, mae’n siwrne a fu’n parhau am weddill eich bywyd. Does gen i ddim yr ateb ar sut mae gwneud hyn. Does gen i ddim syniad. Dim ond bodoli dwi’n neud ar hyn o bryd. Ond mae hynny’n ddigon am nawr. Jyst bod yma – yn wraig i Bleddyn ac yn fam i Tomi a Cai. Ac efallai yn fwy pwysig na dim, yn dal i fod yn fam i Ned. Siarad amdano bob dydd, rhannu atgofion gyda’r teulu a ffrindiau agos. Cadw Ned yng nghof bawb oedd yn ei adnabod, a’r rhai na gafodd y fraint o ‘nabod y bachgen bach direidus oedd yn wen o glust i glust drwy dydd, bob dydd.

Dyna’r anrheg dwi wedi ei chael o gael y cyfle i gyfrannu at y gyfrol pwysig hon. Mae enw Ned yna, i bawb i’w weld. Fy machgen bach annwyl i na gafodd y cyfle i fyw ond am bum mlynedd. Ond oherwydd ‘Galar a Fi’, mi fydd o’n byw yng nghof pobl am byth. Ned.

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EMDR Therapy (2)

Yesterday I had my second session of EMDR therapy. The biggest thing I learnt is that this therapy is exhausting. Considering I’m sitting down with my psychologist for an hour, at the end of those 60 minutes, I am physically, mentally and emotionally drained. My psychologist had told me that this would happen and has strongly advised that I go home to rest after each session.

Yesterday, we progressed from my ‘safe place’ to the very beginnings of reprocessing the trauma. The trauma for me is, of course, the sudden loss of my little boy Ned last year in a horrific car crash.

The therapy works with images. I needed an image I had of that day, before Ned left in the car.

As I recalled the image I began to cry and I became extremely agitated. My legs began shaking and I began to scratch at my skin. My breathing quickened. I felt physically sick. I had to make a statement to go with my image. It was simple. ‘It was my fault.’ I let Ned go. If I’d said ‘no’, my little boy would be here this very second being his usual bundle of energy and happiness.

With this image in my head, my psychologist began the reprocessing. This is when I follow her fingers from left to right for a set amount of time (45 seconds). No speaking is done during these sets. At the end of each set, I’m asked how I’m feeling physically and emotionally.

I am so amazed at the effect this therapy has on me. I feel physical changes. By the end of the session I no longer felt sick, I wasn’t agitated, I wasn’t crying. In my mind I had an image of Ned choosing his favourite clothes to go on his day trip – his purple jeans and a blue top with an orange dinosaur on the front. He was smiling. He was hopping from one foot to another. He wanted to go. And I let him go because I didn’t know what was going to happen. How could I?

The session ended with me returning to my ‘safe place’ where I don’t have to hide my grief. I don’t have to pretend. It’s ok to cry for the loss of my little boy. It’s ok to howl in pain there. It’s ok.

My psychologist explained that the reprocessing would continue during the next few days and that I would likely experience strong images. I have to practise being able to ‘go’ to my safe place, preferably when I’m calm and not anxious.

I’m no scientist. I have no real idea how the brain works. But I do know that when I’m sitting with my psychologist for that hour, something is happening in my brain and that something is hopefully going to help me to live day-to-day. That’s what my lovely psychologist has given me – the gift of hope. She is amazing and I will be eternally grateful to her.

During a very difficult weekend before yesterday’s session, my pain and anger was so all-consuming that I resorted to some of the self-harming behaviours that I have written about in the past. These behaviours give me temporary release. They in no way make it go away. They are not helpful and they are risky. They are behaviours that I want to stop.

I will never stop hurting for the loss of my precious son. Never. I will never stop crying for him, for the life he should have had. I will never not wish to feel his little arms wrapped around me again. But I do want to be here for my two other precious boys. I want to be their mam. And I want to do everything I can to keep Ned’s memory alive.

I will always have three sons; three beautiful, precious sons who I love more than I could ever put into words.

EMDR Therapy

This is my first blog post in quite some time. Since losing my little boy, Ned, last year, I have blogged about my journey through grief. These blog entries have shown how my grief has affected my mental health, and I have spoken openly and honestly about this.

I have recently contributed to a book in the Welsh language about grief. There were 14 contributors to the book, each with their own story, each with their own unique experience of dealing with grief. The book has become a huge success and has started several discussions about the need to be open about grief; about the need to talk honestly about it.

By also writing openly on my blog, I hope to reach out to someone. I hope that someone can read an entry and identify with it and thus feel less alone. I also hope it helps those who know me personally to understand a little better what life is like for me.

Due to having pre-existing mental illness which has escalated dramatically since losing Ned, the support I have needed has been complex.

Grief is not an illness. There are no tablets that can help make it better. It will never go away. One can only hope that somehow, they learn to live with the pain. I have weekly bereavement counselling, specifically for my grief.

I am on strong mental health medication specifically for my depression and anxiety.

I therefore have two paths – my grief and my mental illness. These paths have now become intertwined. They can’t be separated. So where do I start? How do I begin to deal with such a complex and frightening concoction? I struggle to get out of bed in the mornings. I struggle to remember which day it is. This is why I have to rely on professional support.

I see my wonderful GP fortnightly. We re-assess my medication, my mood and my actions. We talk. We both agreed that I still needed more. I’m not moving on. The hole I’m in is still as dark as it was on March the 25th, 2016.

This has lead to my decision to have psychology. I have reached a point where my coping strategies have become dangerous.

I began having psychology a month ago. My psychologist told me that the therapy she would be using is called EMDR therapy (Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing), which has been successfully used to treat PTSD.

I came home and Googled the therapy and to be honest, it all sounded a bit strange. I couldn’t really grasp what I was reading. This is one of the reasons that I have decided to blog about my experience of having EMDR therapy. What I understand so far is that my brain has been unable to process what happened last year. Ned’s sudden death was so traumatic, my brain just hasn’t been able to cope. This has lead to me having PTSD (I have  previously written a post about living with PTSD). The aim of EMDR therapy is to reprocess this trauma so that my brain can store the information in a much let intrusive way. It will never take away the pain I feel at losing my little boy, but it will hopefully make my grieving journey safer to manage.

I have only had one session so far, so I’m starting at the very beginning …

My psychologist asked me to visualise a safe place. Somewhere real or imaginary where I can go when my feelings begin to overwhelm and suffocate me. No one else can be with me in my safe place.

It took a little bit of time, but I did find my safe place. It’s a small cottage which opens up onto a secluded beach. I’m alone in my cottage therefore I don’t have to pretend. I can grieve openly for the loss of Ned and my dad. I can cry without trying to hide my tears. I can scream at the waves crashing onto the shoreline. I can curl up on a chair wrapped in a blanket, close my eyes and lose myself in my memories. There is no one worrying about me. There’s no one waiting for me. There’s no one wanting me for anything. I’m alone and I can simply be me – the broken me that I have become.

Once we had established my ‘safe place’, my psychologist began with the eye movements. I visualised myself in my cottage then followed her fingers from right to left for about 25 seconds. This was repeated several times and at the end of each set, I was asked how I was feeling. I honestly couldn’t believe that I was experiencing physical changes in my body. The weight in my stomach felt lighter, my limbs felt lighter, my tears dried and the most important one of all for me, something that I haven’t been able to feel since the day my little boy died, I felt like it was ok. It was ok for me to be alone. It was ok for me to think only of me. It was ok to be broken. I didn’t need to hide.

At the end of the session, my psychologist explained that we would continue with this until I’m able to access my safe place without her help. I need to be able to do this before we start reliving the trauma.

As yet, I have been unable to access my safe place when I’ve been in a heightened state of crisis over the past week. My psychologist has said that this will take a long time. She has encouraged me to try to return there when I’m feeling calm and quiet. The more times I can reach my safe place, the easier it’s going to get.

I am full of positivity about this therapy. I will never ‘get over’ losing my little boy. I will never stop hurting. I wouldn’t want to. He’s my son. The little baby that grew inside me. The little boy who was always at my side, beaming at me with his beautiful dimpled smile.

I have two other beautiful sons too that need their Mam now more than ever. My hope is that with EMDR therapy my coping strategies will become safe ones; that I will no longer turn to the ‘risky behaviours’ that I have used to cope over the past year.

I hope that slowly, step by small step, I can move forward in my life, with Ned safely tucked up in my heart.

 

Happy endings …

I’ve been worrying a lot lately about my 9-year-old son and the massive losses he has experienced in the last 12 months. Prior to March 25th, 2016, Tomi hadn’t experienced any form of loss. We’ve never had a pet; my husband and I haven’t separated; he’s never had to change schools.

Tomi has always been a thinker and would often say at bedtime that he didn’t want me to grow old because old people die. That was his idea of death.

His first experience of death was so different to this, there is no way possible that this wouldn’t have an impact on him. On March 25th, 2016, his little brother Ned and his grandmother died in a horrific car crash. Ned was 5 years old.

Tomi came to Ned’s funeral and became deeply traumatised by Ned’s burial. He kept saying that Ned was trapped in the ground. Only once after the funeral has he been back to the grave with me. He cried and said, ‘We’re never going to have Ned back are we?’

He started having counselling (and continues to) and we’ve been given specific books that talk about death and grief. But reading them, I felt that Tomi was detached. Eventually he said he didn’t want to read them (he didn’t like reading anyway).

Fast forward to April 15th, 2017. My dad, Tomi’s grandad, died suddenly and unexpectedly. Another massive loss. When I told Tomi, he looked bewildered and lost. He was silent. He turned away from me. I suppose it was too much for his young mind to process. How can Taid be gone now too? How can his whole world shatter even more than it already had?

Although Tomi doesn’t like reading himself, he does enjoy listening to stories. I began to look for books where the main character had suffered a loss. Not the books given by counsellors, but just fiction books for children (although I think children’s books should equally be enjoyed by adults). I thought that if we read a story together where the character had the same feelings etc as Tomi, maybe he would begin to see that his feelings are ok. Maybe he would begin to understand. This is how powerful fiction can be, in my opinion. Yes we can escape to another world, but we can also find someone, ‘a friend’ who we can identify with. This is what I wanted to find for Tomi. I wanted to read a story that wasn’t explicitly about death and grief to him. I wanted him to have a ‘friend’ who felt the same as him.

Two books grabbed me – two very different books. Now, please don’t think that I’m writing this blog to judge either book. Who am I to say that an award-winning book is ‘wrong’? I simply want to explain my reaction to reading these two books as a grieving parent.

The two books I’ve read are ‘Time Travelling With A Hamster’ and ‘Bigfoot, Tobin and Me’ (read in that order).

As I read ‘Time Travelling With A Hamster’, I quite quickly had a heavy feeling in my stomach. I became anxious about how the story was going to end. I wanted to finish the story, I had to know. If you haven’t read the book I don’t want to spoil the ending for you, but I can’t explain my reaction without mentioning it.

As I read it late at night I began to beg silently – ‘Please don’t say that Al’s dad will come back to life at the end. Please don’t do that to me. Don’t give me a book that has a happy ending that is filled with false hope.’

Like I said, I am not judging. I’m simply stating my opinion. The fact that Al does manage to ‘save’ his dad and that Dad is back at the end of the book left me crying angry tears. I wanted to shout ‘No! No you don’t get to have the dead person back. They’ve gone.’ I would do anything to have Ned and my dad back, but I can’t. It’s impossible. How could I read this to Tomi, a 9-year-old who desperately wants his little brother and Taid back? How could I let him see that in stories you get to have the happy ending, but in real life, sorry but you get to suffer.

This is how it made me feel as a grieving parent. I’m not saying that my feelings are right. Maybe for another reader the ending would be a relief, an escape. But when you long for a happy ever after and know that you’ll never get it, I found it a really tough read. I haven’t read it to Tomi. I can’t. I can’t let him have the tiniest belief that maybe he can build a time machine and go back and save Ned from that crash. Because that’s what he would think. The story is so powerful it made me believe for a while that maybe time travel could be possible. That’s when the anger and uneasiness began. I didn’t want the story to give me something I could never have.

So I looked again. I found ‘Bigfoot, Tobin and Me’.  When I got to the ending of this book, I cried again. But this time, they weren’t angry, frustrated tears. They were sad tears yes – Lemonade doesn’t get to have her mum back – but I also felt peaceful, hopeful. I cried when Lemonade thinks about her mum and says, ‘If somebody gave me that chance again, I’d never let her go. Not ever… when he (Tobin) got to even hope that his dad was coming back, I wished I could hope too. You know, that Mama would come back to us, too… But Mama is never coming back. I can’t even hope for it. And it’s just not fair, that’s all.’

And there it is. The reality of losing a loved one. It isn’t fair. They can’t come back no matter how much we want them to. But the story ends with hope for Lemonade. She has her grandad and new friends. It doesn’t say that things will be easy for her and that she’s going to be happy every day for the rest of her life. But she will be ok. She’ll make it.

That’s what I want Tomi to see and feel and understand. Here is a young girl who has lost her mum and who is grieving and angry and sad and experiencing all the emotions that he is, but she’s going to be ok.

This book I will read to Tomi. It has become such an important story to me. It’s so beautifully written, and sprinkled ever so slightly with magic, the real magic of hope.

I have cried the whole time I’ve been writing this blog post, but I felt I had to write it. It has made me question whether children’s books should always have a happy ending. In a way yes, I think for younger readers they should. But a happy ending that is based on false hope makes me feel cheated. An ending that leaves me feeling hope – that’s a happy ending for me.

If I hadn’t lost Ned, I probably wouldn’t have reacted like I have to ‘Time Travelling With A Hamster’. But I have lost Ned. Tomi has lost Ned. Tomi has lost his grandmother. Tomi has lost his Taid. Tomi needs to know that despite this devastation, he’s going to be ok. He’ll never have them back, but he will be ok.

I would be really interested to hear from anyone else who has read these two books and what your opinion is. Are there other fictional books that you feel deal with bereavement ‘correctly’? Should we hide reality from our children? Should fiction merely be escapism? Does fiction have the power to ‘help’ a child who feels alone in a world where bad things happen?

I think fiction does have this power which is why I feel so strongly that if a story is going to deal with real-life issues, then they should be dealt with in a ‘real’ way. This doesn’t have to be brutal. It doesn’t have to leave a child crying. It can leave a child feeling that someone else knows. And that someone else is ok at the end.

Tomi’s counsellor feels that children are shielded from bereavement. It’s not something to talk about. Why talk about something so incredibly sad with a child? But when tragedy strikes and your child’s whole world becomes a world he no longer understands, that’s when you realise that shielding a child from it causes more harm than allowing them to ‘experience’ it gently and safely.

My little boy is grieving. He doesn’t understand his emotions. Why him? Why did he have to lose his brother? No one in his classroom has suffered like this. He needs a ‘friend’ who understands. He needs a story that is like the story of his life. He won’t ever get the happy ever after, but he can be given the gift of hope. He can learn that it’s going to be ok.

 

 

 

A life so precious …

I’m not an extrovert and am certainly not an outspoken person. In fact, I am the complete opposite. But following an incident that happened yesterday which left me terrified and angry, I feel like I need to write it out of me, to help ease these feelings. This has been one of my coping mechanisms since losing my little boy, Ned, last year.

For many of you who know me personally, you were there yesterday, at Aberystwyth rugby club, for a special day in memory of Eifion Gwynne. For those who don’t know me personally, but who read my blog, I’ll briefly fill in some facts.

A charity rugby match was played between ex-Aberystwyth players (my husband being one of them) and ex-Wales players in memory of Eifion, who died tragically last year, leaving behind a young wife and family.

At half-time, the children’s local rugby team were to play a game of tag rugby. As parents of those children who were going to play, we handed them over to the care of the coaches before the game began. I have a very busy 2 year old child and was unable to keep an eye on my eldest son, Tomi, 9 years old, who I knew was safe with the coaches.

No one could foresee what was to happen, but a tackle resulted in two of these huge rugby playing men falling onto two of the children, because they were sitting on the touchline, not safely behind the barrier. I didn’t see it happening, but my friend told me that Tomi was one of the ones who had been hurt. I will say here, before going any further, that Tomi is thankfully ok.

Going back to that moment, my heart stopped. I went into a severe anxiety attack as I ran to where he was. My boy. My vision of him lying under the weight of two huge men.

Tomi was drained of colour from shock when I got to him. He had a stud mark on his shoulder, grazing down his neck and face and bruising already forming on his upper arms. But he was ok. Another young boy was taken to hospital by his mum, due to a cut on his head.

There were whisperings later when the incident was flippantly tossed aside by many that I had over-reacted. I was told that some had been saying they didn’t understand my reaction. This is why I’m writing this post. This is why I still have anger burning away inside me. I did not over-react. I have a mental illness and one of its symptoms is suffering with severe anxiety attacks.

I have lost my 5-year old son and I try so hard to keep my fear of any harm coming to my other sons hidden. But in that instance, in that second when I heard Tomi’s name, I couldn’t hide my fear.

I haven’t written this post as a judgement of those who were in charge of the children. No one could foresee that anything would happen – thankfully a lesson can be learned without there being a serious outcome. We all know now that the children should have been sitting behind the barrier.

Today, due to my existing PTSD, I am ‘re-living’ that moment over and over – but the outcome is different. I see my son lying motionless, chest crushed, his breathing laboured. This is what PTSD does to your brain.

This I know some of you will think as being overly-dramatic, and an over-reaction to the incident. For those who do think this and are reading this, please, just for a few seconds, imagine you were me. The pain and ever-lasting effect of losing a child is beyond words.  So please don’t judge me for the need to write this post, or for the way I panicked yesterday. Like I stated, I am not judging anyone or pointing blame, as I know that a lesson has been learnt for any such event in the future.

A child’s body is fragile, their internal organs can be so easily crushed.

This I know.

A child’s life is so very precious.

This I know.

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 feel 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 her 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.