One of my favourite bloggers, Abby, over at Abby Has Issues, wrote a post last week about coming out – a topic that is often associated with disclosing your LGBT sexuality to those around you. Abby, however, furnished her blog readers with an interesting twist, and came out to them about her struggles with OCD and depression.
I found this post, as I do all of her writing, captivating and inspirational. And I also thought it was really fucking brave of her.
And so I too, have decided to come out.
About the death of my Mum.
And the way such a tremendous loss has slowly shaped me into the person I am today.
My Mum died in January, 2000.
I was eighteen and living in France.
I’d spent New Years Eve marvelling at the colourful fireworks soaring across the dark, black alpine sky. Shortly after that, I fell over; I’d drunk too much of course, and I giggled as one of my friends coaxed me from the ground, my legs trembling like a newborn deer. I was young, fearless and lived off a paltry £200.00 a month. I ate awful food, made equally awful choices, slept in a triple bunk bed and nearly broke my neck learning to snowboard. But I was happy and free and didn’t have a care in the world.
17 days later, that world, was obliterated into a million tiny pieces.
It’s not easy. Even 11 years on.
I still cry; sometimes silent tears fall unnoticed, and other times, I scream and sob into my pillow, the sheer weight of simply missing her is enough to drown me for the day.
But, and to echo Abby’s words, it’s real, it sucks, I’ll spare you the details.
The poet, Mary Oliver, wrote in her Thirst collection, “someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift”.
I guess most people wouldn’t associate loss with being a gift.
But I do.
If I could change back time, I would. There’s nothing more I want, no, need, than the guidance, nurture and love of my Mum. The void that was created the day she died, sits, like a huge, echoing chasm, in the centre of my chest, and sometimes, on the worst days, it literally aches.
I have learnt, however, that the void, no matter how painful, cannot be filled with anything other than my own offerings. Denial, or avoidance, or alcohol, or exercise, or being the life and soul of the party and consequently pretending to be someone you’re not, or smoking, or eating chocolate or loving another so much that you’d literally die for them, only creates a smoke screen over the void. You might not be able to see or feel it. But it’s still there, eating away at your soul and preventing you from moving through to a stage where the only thing left is acceptance. Acceptance, and loving yourself, unconditionally.
It’s taken me a long time to get there, and I’m sure I’ve kept Amazon in business with the amount of self-help books I’ve bought, but I’ve slowly come to realise that I have the power to determine my own path in life. For years, I played the victim; my Mum’s death dogged me like a trailing wet blanket, and I felt the world was cruel and unfair and that it owed me something back, for taking her away. I hadn’t realised that the role I was unwittingly playing was stopping me from realising my true potential. I was angry and defensive and saw things only in black and white, I literally couldn’t see beyond my own angst, and I behaved like an abandoned child, terrified that I’d experience a similar loss and chose to respond to situations by crying and throwing tantrums until I got my own way.
Sometimes, that frightened little kid still clings to my leg and I find it hard to walk straight, but nowadays, instead of ignoring her and shaking her off, I pick her up and give her a hug and let her know that everything is ok; “I’ve got it covered”, I tell her. And most of the time, she listens.
I often wonder what I’d be like if my Mum was still here today. Would I call her when I was sad, or would I continue to learn to parent myself? Would I still self-soothe, or would I book a train ticket back home so that she could wipe away my tears?
I am proud of who I am nowadays,. Yes, I often don’t like myself very much, and I find myself comparing my life to the seemingly more interesting lives of others, and I wish I could write better, or run faster, or be prettier, or learn to look after my money more, but I can finally say that I know who I am and I am true to myself.
The death of my Mum was an unexpected gift.
It just took a while to unwrap it completely.