As I continue to struggle with my own internal disorder, things are moving in the real world. A price has been settled on for the little blue house. My uncles have agreed to sell it to me. A buyer has been found for mum’s house. I set my mind on cleaning out the house, desperate to move away from this place. But I am conflicted. I need to move, but I don’t want to have to clear out all the things in this house. I don’t want to do it. It’s too soon. But I have to get the house ready for sale, so I have no choice. Manically I sort, sift, chuck, revere, place, order and collect. I try to just focus on the physical task and get it done. But there is so much stuff. It’s all her stuff. And I mustn’t get overwhelmed. I must keep moving. I just do one bit at a time, to keep my hands busy. I don’t hold on to items for too long. I don’t look at them for too long. I don’t let my emotions recognise what they are, and what they mean to me. I know that if I do, then I will be paralysed with grief. I have to keep moving. I have to remember to breathe.
Some nights, when I cannot sort or clean, or pretend anymore, I drink. I feel strangely numb, but no different. The pain is always there, lingering, waiting for me to stop moving. And it is not even pain – it’s something else – something far more damaging and debilitating. I move from room to room, trying to feel different, like changing the space will somehow change the feelings I have. I sit in the back patio and I feel hideous. So I go and lie on her bed. But there I feel abandoned. I go outside, and walk around to the side of the house, and all I feel is lost. It’s all the same, no matter where I stand. So I keep drinking until it feels different. I just need it to feel different. I am so desperate for difference. The agony is draining the life out of me. I physically feel the life draining from my body, like water from a leaky tap. The aching is so acute.
I drink so much that I vomit. Still, I drink more, until I can’t feel my body any more. And it is good for a moment, in the hazy world of disillusion. But the sadness floats over me, like an apparition of impending death. I cannot escape it, not even as I lay on the bathroom floor, vomiting out the alcohol and the grief. Not even as I cry into a pool of my own vomit, and pray to waste away into another reality.
I am alone in the house. It is daytime. It doesn’t feel like day. Mind you, I don’t really distinguish day from night anymore, or even register time, it all just seems meaningless. Unless there’s appointments of course, and there’s always appointments. And these appointments always have times, and they require conversations and justifications. I have had to go back to the lawyer numerous times. I hate her. I have finally got the stupid, ‘Papers of Administration’, so I can now complete all the paperwork. I can legally sell the house, buy my gramps’ house, close her bank accounts, transfer her money, claim all the insurance, and claim the super. I am expected to do all these things, and to remain sane whilst doing so. I do all these things; all these ridiculous things.
But I am not coping at all at the moment. It is a morning without any appointments. Yet I am so angry at the process, at having to do any of it. I am angry at the fact that she has left me behind, with all this hideous stuff to do, and that she has the nerve to not help me, and she will not ever help me again. Because she is gone … gone forever. I cannot cope with that truth today. I must drink. It is my only solution, even if it is a poor one. It is all too much. There is just so much to deal with. And the emotions are clawing at my body, trying to break free.
Oh, I should just let them. What’s the difference anyway? I’m pretty much fucked for life – now that I don’t have her.
I need her. I don’t have her. But I need her. Well, that’s too bad because I will never have her. She will never come back to me. Drink it away. Drink the thoughts away. Drink.
Angry. I am still so angry. It is an empty house. How dare she not be in this house! I play some sad music. Fountains of sadness are brimming over the sane walls of my soul¬¬ – stripping them, taking the walls down. They are creating a canyon of darkness. I look around at everything. Some things are packed up. Some things are gone. But too many things remain. They remain, and she does not. They are too cheerful. How dare they be so cheerful!!! They must be destroyed. All of them! Every ounce of good and light and beauty and CHEER must be destroyed!!!
I sit, with these feelings consuming me as the rage builds. Suddenly I get up, in a violent rage of unleashed wrath, and begin my destruction – my purging of cheer. I smash anything and everything I can get my grasping paws on. I grab, clutch, throw, toss, break, damage and destroy anything my exasperated hands come into contact with. I pick up objects and throw them violently at the floor, at walls, at furniture, at GRIEF. I am manic with destruction.
But it is still not enough. I stop, panting, and stare at the space. The inside of the house is now a pile of broken dreams. The fragments littering the floors and furniture are like pieces of crushed soul. I run outside and continue destroying, in the hope that it will purge the anger from me. I smash all the pots, all the decorative adornments, and I pull out all the flowers, shrubs and plants, and toss them ruthlessly onto the ground. I pick up rocks and bricks and boulders and throw and smash them. And when there is nothing left, I crumple in a heap of ashes and sob on the pavement, rocking, with my hands on my belly, knowing that I will never feel any different.
Time drifts away while I am rocking. But it doesn’t end there. The bottle is my only friend. The lights of the night guide me toward the patio. I am in a drunken haze of desperation. I am soaking in sadness, losing my feeble grip on reality. I am letting go of it completely. Dancing memories laugh in my tortured mind. Please get out. Leave me alone.
There is so much pain in this place. I can feel nothing but pain. I need something else. I can’t live like this! I need a release. I need sleep. But I can’t sleep. The demons are still dancing. It is all hopeless. I pick up a piece of glass. I slash into my wrist. I watch the blood pour out of me and with it I sink into a sweet temporary relief. I feel so much better now. The grief is leaving my body. I can see it, forming a path of red down my white arm. The red path of grief glides out of me and splatters onto the pavement. But who cares? It is out of me. I feel relieved. I can sleep now. I can finally get some rest. Grief has left me for tonight. Tonight he will let me rest …
As soon as I wake up the next morning, I am met by hideous flashes of last night. But they are no worse than the visions already plaguing my every waking and resting moment, they are just different. The first thing I notice is red. There is blood everywhere. I look down at my arm. The wound is still bleeding. At the sight of it I feel a deep sense of regret at haven given in to the temporary fix of self-harming. People don’t understand it. How could they? But I have been doing it sporadically since I was fourteen. You do it to try to kill the thing inside you that is destroying you. And you feel better after you do it. You do it because it works. But it is nothing more than a temporary fix; like a shot of heroin. Seeing the blood makes you feel like the agony you feel inside is leaving your body – like you are getting rid of all the pain. You have tangible, physical proof of the pain leaving you. But others don’t understand. They never have and they never will. I don’t expect them to.
The wound is bad, so I have to go to the doctor to get stitches. Ross takes me – my beloved, understanding Ross. When I get home, I realise that I am going to have to tell my dad and Jane. My arm is bandaged, so I can’t hide it. I feel sick about it. But still, I make myself sit them down and I inform them of what has happened, trying to assure them that it won’t happen again. They take it well, considering. But I can see the fear pulsing in their eyes. And the fear is in me too. The truth is that I don’t want to do this to myself. It is weak. I thought I’d put an end to all that nonsense. I’m angry at myself. I won’t let it happen again. There has to be some other way of getting the pain out.
But there’s not. You know there’s not. And I remember thinking last night, just before I did it, ‘What is worse for my son – that I drink or that I cut?’ I thought, in one lucid moment, ‘If I drink he drinks … but if I cut, then I cut only myself … and he is … safe’.
Ellie, Debbie-with-1-leg, Ross and I took a well-timed trip to Bali in July of 2005. I had already been three times, but Ross had never been anywhere other than England. Ellie and Debbie-with-1-leg were serious Bali travellers, frequenting there as often as possible, solely for the shopping and the cheap drinks; the fact that the place could be beautifully relaxing was lost on both of them.
One day the four of us took a trip into Denpasar to peruse the gold markets. We had already been to several shops before Deb took us to a jeweller who had done work for her many times before. Ellie, of course, was first in, with Ross and I not far behind. Ellie was in the process of making a speedy beeline for the drawers of gold encrusted jewels when, all of a sudden, Deb pushed violently past me and Ross. She proceeded to stumble toward Ellie, who was already ensconced with the plethora of tacky items presented in the glass cabinets. Deb ruthlessly pushed Ellie out of the way, bent over to adjust something on her prosthetic leg, and then eagerly threw herself at the gold cabinets.
Ellie was dumbfounded. She stood there, perplexed, staring wide eyed at Debbie, thinking, ‘Selfish bitch, she obviously wanted to get to the gold first! Well, we’ll see about that!’ With that thought, Ellie flung herself alongside Deb, in the hope of grabbing any item that Deb might take a fancy to purely out of spite. Completely overcome with gold, they both forgot about the pushing match until we were safely out of the store, laden with purchases.
As soon as we were out, Ellie turned menacingly on Deb, demanding to know why she had been selfish enough to push her out of the way so viciously. Ross and I were also quite curious. All three of us were, however, quite surprised when, rather than answering in defence, Deb silently and methodically draw something out of her handbag. We didn’t immediately identify it – it looked like a long, white bit of paper. And then Ellie began to laugh. It dawned on us that the said item was in fact an unseemly panty liner. Holding the shameful product up in the air, Deb explained, through tears of laughter, that it had been stuck to the outer rim of Ellie’s half-master jeans. Deb, far from being selfish in her pushing, had merely spotted the superfluous, misplaced item, lunged for it, and swiftly popped it into her handbag before anyone else saw it.
As the truth was finally revealed, all four of us doubled up on the filthy streets of Denpasar, wetting ourselves laughing. Through her mad hysteria Ellie managed to say, ‘Now, that’s a true friend Debbie!’
I am missing her more and more. It just seems to get harder, even though people persist on lying to me and telling me that it gets easier. Still, I get the practical things done. I had a bad day yesterday. I have had lots of bad days. I’ve had some that are good, but the bad ones are so debilitating, and it’s completely unpredictable. I am drinking a lot on those bad days. I know it’s a problem. I cannot describe how bad I feel about it. But sometimes I just feel so desperate and frustrated that the only option I can see to survive is to drink and try to numb some of the pain. It is monstrously excruciating. I drank last night to try to survive. Then when I woke up today I decided, ‘Right, no more alcohol! It doesn’t matter how hard it is to do it without the booze, it has to be done, so I will do it!’ I felt strong and confident in the plan I had formulated.
I spoke about it to Ross and he was proud of me. But then my dad came out and abruptly said that he’d reached some conclusions. He had decided that he couldn’t stay here anymore and watch me abuse myself in such an immature way. He didn’t see standing by and watching me destroy myself as helping. He then posed three questions to me.
The first was, ‘Do you want to get better and lead a NORMAL life?’
I answered, ‘Yes, please, I would really like that, and I am trying to achieve it, despite what you think’.
But that was not good enough for him. He thinks that my way of dealing with the situation – by drinking – is self-destructive. He also adds that it has gone on for too long, and that he believes that I should have been over the grief in four weeks, which I’m clearly not. Funny that, as I didn’t really think you could put a time limit on the grieving process.
His second question is, ‘Can you give up the drinking?’
I answer, ‘Yes, but I need love and support around me’.
His response to that is to question it further. He tells me that I don’t handle anything and I never have – that I let the slightest thing put me into a decline, and he says that’s not the way a mature, stable, twenty-seven year old should handle things. He says to me, ‘What you’re doing is not NORMAL’.
This leads him to question three, ‘Will you go and see a psychiatrist’.
I am outraged. ‘No, I don’t want to’, I reply.
Dad argues that he thinks I need the help. ‘So, I’m completely fucked am I? I haven’t managed to move forward at all?’ I protest wildly. Apparently I don’t want to move forward, he says, and I’ve never actually dealt with any of my emotional issues, of which I have more than the ordinary person of my age, according to him.
What is he basing this on? I fucking woke up today and felt strong enough to deal with the day! And instead I get all these ultimatums, and I am expected to be okay after only a month!
I am now faced with another challenge – my father has only lasted six weeks with my exploding, unpredictable emotions. He tells me that he must leave to save himself. It is too hard for him to watch me anymore. I can see the pain welling up in his otherwise stoic eyes. This is a hard decision for him. But he has made it nonetheless. He has thought it over, and decided the solution is to leave me to my madness. He has decided that the best thing, for everyone, is to leave me to my grief.
I have clearly failed him and so he has left. He has packed up his bags and left to god knows where, I don’t know. I sit there, dwelling on everything he has said. He thinks he isn’t doing me any good. He needs to regain his strength because I’m draining him, and I’m taking him and everyone else down with me. It’s not fair, he can’t cope, and he disagrees with the way I’m handling it and thinks that I’m an UNSTABLE person who doesn’t handle things normally.
So he has left indefinitely. I understand, but I am still left with a lot of anger. How dare he leave me?! He has actually left me! Abandoned me at the time I need him most! And now Ross is left alone to carry the burden, and to clean up the debris, day after day after day, as I purge my pain. And yet he does it – with compassion, with love, and with his own heart burning with fear and loss.
I can’t believe dad’s fucking left! I have just lost my mother and now my father has abandoned me, once again. How am I supposed to go on? How am I supposed to be inspired to not drink and move on with my life? He told me that he’ll be in the background to deal with the practical things, but not the emotional ones, because I don’t deal with those PROPERLY. So leave then, just fucking leave and I’ll deal with it all myself! That’s obviously a prudent solution and will clearly work out for the best.
I feel so low now; so desperate, so abandoned, so unloved, so unworthy. I feel like such a failure. And now I have to continue without him here. No parents. One is dead – the one that actually understood me. The other has left, claiming that one month was long enough to wallow and that he wouldn’t stand for it anymore. So, unless I’m strong enough to get through it straight away, I don’t have my dad. I don’t have my surviving parent. I have no parents. One died and left me, and the other chose to leave. You tell me what the hell I’m supposed to do?! If that doesn’t make one want to drink and self-destruct more, then I don’t know what does!