This wasn’t planned. I just this second decided to write it after reading first Carol’s post about memories of her mum and then Gary’s post of his latest ‘sighting’ of Terry.* It won’t be long, I just thought I should put my hand up and say ‘Me too!’ (I lied about the ‘long’ bit, sorry).
So many of us suffer in silence when we feel overwhelmed. We try to cope, to carry on with our daily lives and not worry anyone else. I used to keep everything inside. I never talked about anything. It just built up and built up until I suffered a physical and nervous breakdown, my first aged 17, my second aged 19, my third aged 25 and on through adulthood. Once I had children, I learned to hide it better. When Dad died suddenly, I took up red wine! But I eventually recognised that it wouldn’t solve anything. When I was bedridden for 5 years, my children had gone to university and my husband worked long shifts, I was at my lowest and started writing poetry to stop me writing suicide notes. As I matured, I learned to recognise the signs and adopt strategies to get me through them. I took up creative activities, used aromatherapy, meditation and so on.
I haven’t had depressive episodes for a long time. Changing diet, positive thinking, keeping a gratitude journal and acquiring a couple of grandchildren led to improvements in health and a life to look forward to. There have been very low times when family concerns have caused almost unbearable stress and worry, but I got through them.
Recently, though, I have felt a head of steam building. My elderly mum needs a lot of attention – from a distance, this is extremely difficult – and we have taken on a lot of extra responsibilities which often require a lot of butting of heads against brick walls. At the other end, family members are struggling to cope with the fall-out from a rare condition, which also affects us inasmuch as we can do so little as so little can be done, and we have to stand on the sidelines and watch those close to us stretch themselves to the limit on a daily basis.
The upshot of all this is that on Saturday I found myself sitting in our local twelfth-century church with tears rolling down my cheeks. I have lived here 30 years and never been in this church. I had been to a nearby shop and on coming out, had turned towards home but something made me look behind and I saw the church tower. I have often meant to go in to have a look round. It was Saturday afternoon and I expected to see the trappings of a wedding going on, but it was quiet. I started to walk towards it, the main doors were wide open. I hesitantly stepped in the porchway expecting to see a congregation but again, it was quiet. I could see a couple of women attending to the flowers, so I stepped inside.
As soon as I did, my shoulders relaxed. Facing me was a notice inviting people to have a prayer said for someone who needed it. I am not religious. I just love old churches. I love the tanquility, the architecture and sense of history, and of all the people who have been there before. I like the peace to sit and contemplate. However, I stepped forward and wrote a card out for the young person and her children, struggling with the disease. I placed it on the table at the front of the church, sat down and let the tears flow quietly.
A flower lady came over and asked if I’d like her to sit with me. I thanked her and explained that I hadn’t realised how overwhelmed I was feeling or that I was going to cry and I just wanted to sit for a while and contemplate. She passed the message on to the others and they let me be. After a while, one of them saw me looking about me and asked if I’d like a guide on the history of the church. I said yes, thank you. It was absolutely the right thing for her to do. It got me out of my head. I walked around and took it all in.
Later, in the early evening, after 3 long calls and 2 messages from Mum I couldn’t sit still. I needed to go outside. I needed to talk to Dad.
I visited his tree in the local cemetery just down the road. When I had finished, I was just saying thank you when a squirrel ran by, a few yards in front of me. I stood and watched for a minute. Tears filled my eyes. I looked down and there was a white feather and a smile grew on my face.
The moral of this story is, talk to someone; whether it be a flower lady in a church you don’t attend, a long-dead parent or even a tree, share what’s going on. Find somewhere where you can be quiet, somewhere away from the causes of your stress, your worries, for just a few minutes. Take slow breaths. Then look outward, take notice. When things build up, we can spend too much time in our heads. I like to watch the birds in our garden, talk to the neighbourhood cats while I have the doors open and I paint or make cards. At other times, only loud music accompanied by raucous singing will do! And occasionally I rage against the world.
Just let it out.
Thanks, Dad x
Copyright: Chris McGowan