This is a repost from a few weeks back. I trashed it because I experienced another bone crushing depression, felt suicidal and figured that all this blogging is pointless. It’s not though – it’s truth. It’s just at times I struggle to let the truth sit on the web for all to see – worrying about how it makes me ‘look’ – but then I realised I really shouldn’t give a fuck how it looks. So I have decided to repost some of my former posts.
Grief has been causing me a high level of stress and anxiety. I have been feeling this for 1135 days now. Yes I’ve counted. All the baggage that I carried with me through life is all wrapped up somehow with this grief. My dad died and I was left to deal with all the shit I was carrying around – the shit we used to carry together.
I just want to grow the fuck up and move on – I’m fifty two years old. It’s so tiresome to be still sifting through the cuntish times looking for the gem – that elusive treasure that surely must be the reward for having to feel all this stuff. But deal with it I must if I ever want to truly move through this grief that seems to be hanging around way past the use by date. That’s the other thing – we put use by dates on how long we should grieve when someone dies. Like there’s some magic formula people use to work through it and I’m just the mental one still stuck in the kiddy corner trying to figure it all out. I’ve since been told by my doctor that I have been suffering PTSD – well it makes no difference to me – I want it done and dusted once and for all.
Dad and I were a rocky duo and there’s more layers to us than a giant onion. That bloody descriptive word again. He called me an onion once. We were driving back to the Gold Coast from the Toowoomba police station where he and Mum had picked me up. I’d run away again, this time with my ‘boyfriend’ at the time – he was my cherry popper by consent. Alas I was under age (14) and my boyfriend was 18 so my folks had agreed that he should be charged with carnal knowledge. In order for all this to happen I of course had to go through an internal examination at the police station. Anyway later on, I was sitting in the back of the car and mum and dad were pissed off with me – and dad was on one of his rants. The words he spoke that day have stuck with me because they pierced through me back then and they still hurt today. He was refusing to believe that this boyfriend was the cherry popper and he told me I was just a bloody onion where all the boys had had a layer of me.
No dad, I thought to myself – it was grown ass adult men who took those layers – one of them a good mate of yours remember you cunt? So if I’m the onion you must be the chicken shit fertiliser. And there goes the cycle again – think about shit, get angry and sad about shit and then feel stuck in the same fucking shit. But it’s moving forward – I know it is – I just have to love on myself and have faith in my ability to let all this stuff go. I have to be more resilient and think about things in a new way. I know all the theory – it’s the prac I struggle with.
One of the ways you can use cognitive behaviour therapy is to come up with new ways of thinking about a situation – with a fresh set of eyes, having a different viewpoint and perhaps with some additional insight. It gives you the opportunity to look at things from many different angles. It sounds so great in theory but in practise it’s not always so easy because sometimes there really is just one way to look at it. Alternatively we can change the way it makes us feel – we can choose to place the responsibility of a person’s actions firmly in their court – not yours. Unless they’re dead – that fucking ball is gonna be bouncing in your court – a dead person can’t be on that court with you. So it’s just you there on that court – alone and that ball is still bouncing.
I’m aware of all the talk therapy, the behaviour therapy the therapy the therapy the therapy – sometimes no amount of therapy is going to cut it. Sometimes I just have to be able to say “you know what? What you did, said or didn’t say was a real cunt of a thing to do and it’s fucking not OK. But I still loved you even when I hated you and I have forgiven you a thousand times over and I will keep forgiving you until I can go to the goddamn supermarket and choose a bloody onion without those words of yours tearing me apart.”
Anyone who knows me well would be able to tell you that I hardly ever have onions in the house because I ‘forget’ to get them nearly every shopping trip. I mean, who wants to stand in front of the onion section at the shop and be instantly taken back in time to when your dad called you a filthy slut? Yeah me either.
So grief – yep – still here. Still grieving because the stuff that was already there before dads death is still here and getting in the way of me being able to move on. I’m sick of the word ‘grief’ – it’s wrapped up in regrets, words never spoken, forgiveness never understood and failing dad in death.
I didn’t let him die how he should have. Should have, could have – what does it really matter. See how this fucking bipolar noodles the brain so that it all gets twisted and harder to extract yourself from? And Dad, I just want you to fucking say something when you come to me in my dreams – I’m sick of the ‘thought energy’ – you know they’d lock me up if they heard me don’t you? Just say what you want to say – or am I just waiting for you to say what I want to hear. Well do that! I need to go. I need to move the fuck on.
It’s been a while since I wrote that bit of a rant. I’ve had some time to think. You might be wondering what the onion story has to do with grief. The layers of an onion are like the layers of grief. There are many of them and there is always an annoying hard bit right in the centre that nobody wants. I’ve only just passed that point – 1135 days later after dad died.
Dad failed me in life and I failed him in death. At least that’s what I felt like. That doesn’t mean it’s true. However regardless of what is true or not, how we feel reigns supreme until we start to get to the hard centre of that onion. See what I’m doing here? Taking the power away from that damn onion. Dad’s words all those years ago damaged me and that poison brewed for decades and you know what I did with that poison? I spewed it out on those around me and always left just enough inside to continue poisoning me. So the onion story needs to be transformed into something useful and for me it is to think of the onion as a way of working through grief and all the emotions that go with that.
I’ve been really bloody busy in the head since dad died. There was no closure before he died. There were moments. When dad could no longer speak he stared intently at me. In the final weeks we would be alone in his room for hours on end. I would feed him, wash him, chat to him, play music and basically cluck around him like a mother hen. I was the good daughter – not because it’s what you should do but because it’s what I wanted to do. It was my decision that dad would never be left alone in his room. I was determined that he would not feel abandoned in death as he had been abandoned in his childhood. I know exactly what it feels like to be abandoned because he abandoned me (emotionally) as a child. I could have been a cunt and left him there. But I wanted to make him feel safe, secure and loved. Because I did love him – despite everything and I know he loved me. He was simply so fucked up he didn’t know how to tell me. We shared a dysfunctional love. As fucked up as it seems – we are only two of millions around the world – and I know this from reading the stories of others. People fuck people up – and it’s on a constant loop. We, as in, society needs to change that, yeah?
So it sounds beautiful doesn’t it? Me looking after him, forgiving him and wanting what was best for him. Except it wasn’t beautiful. It was really fucking hard. While he was dying in that hospital bed he had a few visitors. My mum would come for short periods of time – short because she was suffering the cancer pain so she needed caring for too. When I was with dad someone else was with mum and vice versa. She would come, her and dad (when he could still talk) would chat and they always told each other “I love you.” when they were saying goodbye. My daughter would do a shift with him when I needed a break and he would tell her he loved her. My sister was there too and again – he would always say I love you back when she said “I love you dad.” Whenever I said “I love you dad.” he never said it back. He would engage in the cheek kiss, the awkward hug etc but never would be utter those words. I even joked about it to the others, because yes it happened when they were around. You know what – we all laughed. We all fucking laughed that dad found it impossible to tell me he loved me. I laughed – and died a little more inside. The poison was like an annoying dripping tap inside and something else was happening too. I could feel all the familiar symptoms – I was being triggered, my mood swings were beginning to cycle rapidly. But there was simply no time for my bipolar, no time for anything other than nurse dad through to his death and to make sure mum was OK too.
I couldn’t self medicate because I needed to be in full functioning mode. I was stuck in a really hard place. Yes I realise I have written those forbidden words ‘self medicate’ – well there you have it – the real world at it again. Pesky real world.
Dad chose me to be the one that would be his main carer or perhaps we simply chose each other. It was just an unspoken agreement. He seemed to be more OK when it was me doing most of the stuff for him. I know why too – he thought I was the stronger one and he found it less embarrassing with me. He didn’t want to see my sister cry. He always hated seeing her cry – it upset him to think she was upset. It also used to frustrate him because he said he could never stay cranky at her because she would end up all upset and crying. We used to joke about her being the princess of the family. No one would ever hear of it when I used to say, you guys don’t really know her at all. She’s not a damn princess – you guys just treat her like one. I knew my sister – she’s as resilient as fuck and level headed (most of the time). So those last weeks at the hospital were hard. The tumour in dads brain was really fucking him up and he eventually couldn’t speak properly – all that came out was garbling noise (which I happen to have on a recording). Part of me was glad about that – it meant that he wasn’t telling everyone else he loved them while choosing to leave me out of that. I know it’s juvenile, immature or whatever – but it is what it is. On one particular day it took him more than 6 hours to tell me what he wanted. He was trying to say something and I would have to do the guessing game and he would nod if I was right. It turned out that he wanted all of his kids in the room at once. I knew then that he fully understood he was dying and wanted to say goodbye. So my two brothers, sister, mother, daughter, husband and I shared that time to tell him we loved him. My sons had visited him a few times and my niece, nephews, Aunty and two uncles had also visited in the lead up to his death. Yes I have spent quite a lot of time thinking about who visited him and who didn’t bother. Grief causes you to sit with things, sometimes for far too long, because it’s easier to deal with those little fixations rather than feel the pain. I understand it’s all part of the process and that the process itself is different for everyone.
The day before he died he was staring at me for an age and I was looking back at him while holding his hand and his eyes were ‘telling’ me a very big story. In his eyes I could see all the love, all the regrets, all the sorrows and the ten thousand things. I asked him was he thinking about the ten thousand things about us and he nodded. He was crying and I wiped away his tears and I said “Thank you, I’m sorry, I love you, I forgive you.” I had told him this about a week before but he was asleep – we get braver when people can’t actually hear us yes?
My sister would be able to tell you that throughout this process, while I was stressed, even agitated at times particularly with the hospital processes and ‘busy’ – I was coping extremely well considering. However she would also be able to tell you that in dads final hours I was an hysterical mess. I was laying with him on the bed, he had started the Cheyne-Stokes breathing at 10pm the night before. My sister and I were with him all night. We had decided that at 6am we would have my husband bring mum back in to the room (we had rented an apartment next to the hospital). At 4am dads breathing was the same and nothing else had changed, yet I had the strangest feeling come over me and chose to not ignore it. I told my sister I thought we should get mum in now. I also rang my daughter so she could come in. My mum was holding dad’s hand on one side of the bed and my sister was holding dad’s arm and also mum’s shoulder to support her. I was on the other side but with half of my body on the bed with him – just about on top of one side of him. I was crying and saying the same thing over and over and over and over – almost trance like. All I could say was “I love you Dad.” I could not stop saying it and I was getting increasingly upset. I so needed him to hear me but the truth is I so badly wanted and needed to hear him to say it back but I knew deep down I was never going to hear him say those words – he was slipping away. In his last moments he opened his eyes and turned his head towards the window. At that moment I grabbed his head to turn it back to look at me and looked into his eyes and said “no no no no no no no.” (Yes exactly seven times – 1 2 3, 1 2 3 4 – that’s my stress pattern) I knew he was going – he saw something that I saw – a bright blue/emerald flash of ‘energy; – his eyes followed it and then there was nobody home in those eyes. As I pulled his head back towards me he breathed his last breath. He was dead. It was 6.05 AM.
I was aware throughout the process of him dying that Mum was telling him she loved him and that it was OK to go. Often after I said “I love you Dad.” my sister would say “we ALL love you Dad.” – and I was aware (or paranoid) of the emphasis on the word ALL. I remember thinking “shut the fuck up – you’ve already won the competition.” I am deeply ashamed to admit this. I was angry, so fucking angry because they had all had their I love yous from Dad – and I was so incredibly shattered that mine was never going to come. I was the loser.
For a while after his death our little family were kept busy with Mums chemotherapy and our jobs. I was doing my best to help mum find a new way of living without dad. She would readily admit that she thinks of me as her new life partner. I was experiencing another episode of mania and funnelled that into an obsession with hiking. I spent thousands on all the gear and did all the typical things a bipolar episode entails: lots of energy, finding a way to funnel that energy and spend money that we could ill afford.That kept me busy and to be honest all the hiking actually helped me process some of my feelings. I was just not in the right mental state to deal with those feelings. So I stuffed them down and let them sit there until the next episode of deep depression came knocking. I spent nearly a year in that depression with a bit of rapid cycling every few months. I knew what it was – I just wasn’t doing anything about it. I kept finding other ailments to blame and sure some of them were actually true. Those other ailments though weren’t the problem, nor was the bipolar – it was the past crap that I had psychologically attached to my grieving process.
On my most recent visit to see my doctor I was again frustrated that we yet again ended up in another talk therapy session (they are exhausting and painful) which was then followed by another chat about medication. Mood stablisers, antipsychotic drugs, adjunctive medications and my existing autoimmune disease medications – it simply makes my head spin and to be perfectly honest I am not the most compliant patient. What we did seem to agree on is that my anxiety levels are at an all time high and my resilience is at an all time low. I feel so fragile and so very tired after my episodes of mania. So we agreed on medication to tone that down. We both also agree that my childhood trauma has been such a focal point in my life right now because of the finality of death and feeling like there is no closure.
Writing this is part of my ‘therapy’ and through the process I have been ‘coming out’ to those around me as bipolar and I feel that these things will help me to accept where I am in life and be able to gently let go of the past and focus on the ‘now’.
So about dads death. I was a very firm believer in facilitating a peaceful death when possible for people. I wasn’t the calm and peaceful woman I wanted to be. I was traumatised and you know what – I finally can say that’s OK. Dad’s death was not traumatic for him because he was drugged out of his mind, which is the case for most cancer patients. Drugged within an inch of their life so they can simply slip away. That is the reality. Could dad hear me? Could he feel me? I truly don’t think he could – he would have been far too stoned to feel much at all other than blissful oblivion – perhaps there was some awareness but in a peaceful drugged out his mind kind of way – who knows. So I can quite easily let myself off the hook with that one. Me being close to hysterical wouldn’t really have impacted on him as much as I initially thought. Of course I have taken more than three years to come to that conclusion – yet here I am – progressing to that conclusion. Perhaps now I can move on from ‘failing him in death’ to the fact I found his death itself confronting.
The childhood stuff is getting a bit easier too – the more I write the easier it feels to peel back the layers and really look at it and to allow myself to feel how I did as a young girl but not stay there as a young girl. In fact it feels like my adult self has taken my child self by the hand and walked back to have a good look at it all and made my child self feel safe and loved. Right now I feel like I can see my child self running off to play – without a care in the world.
I can think of dad right now in this moment and remember the good moments we shared, the loving things he did and how he tried his best with the tools he was given in his own childhood. I can also choose to focus on the growth he experienced in his older years and how that growth showed through his loving relationships with his grandchildren. I can see that he couldn’t forgive himself about our relationship so he was asking for forgiveness through the displays of love to me in non verbal ways. It just wasn’t enough for my healing at the time. Too little too late. I’m no longer sweeping things under the carpet, nor ignoring the awful things – just choosing to acknowledge all of the feelings and not staying stuck on any of them. Just letting them go and moving on. Yes that feels better.