Apologies for the two-week(+) comms blackout… I guess I needed to unplug for a bit. It’s been an odd couple of weeks. First of all, there was the release from the hospital; transitioning from supervised care to life back in the world.
This felt a lot scarier than you can imagine. I immediately bolted for the south coast to spend some more time with family and this proved to be valuable and much needed. But as my time there was concluding, news came in that my last surviving grandparent was starting to fade and that the end was in sight.
So, plans to come home were delayed a little and I had the chance to make one last visit to her before she died, peacefully in her sleep, two days later. This troubled me greatly. On one hand, I could see that it was an end to the years of decline she had gone through, that there was no more suffering, or confusion any longer. But she takes with her, ninety-nine years of experiences, memories and wisdom that were so uniquely her.
I have such fond memories of my summers on the Kent coast with my grandparents. Going to the seaside, playing in the amusement arcades, seeing generations of the family together… And now that’s all gone. It’s like it was told to me; that line, the one that separates us from ‘that’ conclusion, has just been moved a little closer and makes us just that little bit more aware of our own mortality.
Of course, with the deep, dark depths of my mental struggles, my own mortality is a bit of a sensitive topic for me, but one that I had to dig deep for just a day or two prior to the arrival of the news about my grandmother. I had been out for a drive and stroll and found a little place called Caple-Le-Ferne. A village on the cliff-tops overlooking the English Channel.
They have a lovely Battle Of Britain war memorial up there. It’s peaceful, respectful, beautiful. It’s a place for contemplation. And as I thought about the tremendous and profound impact that wars have on populations, as Russia and Ukraine had just begun to attack and defend territories, I began to feel small, insignificant and hopeless.
Just a few yards away from me was the cliff edge. A sheer drop, maybe a couple of hundred feet, straight down to the railway tracks below which looked impossibly tiny, almost like they were part of a model railway. I moved closer to the edge and looked down the cliff face. A rush of adrenalin hit me and I felt myself become a little light-headed and faint.
I spun around and marched back across the grass to the car park. It would have been so easy to have just ‘slipped’ over the edge, and that push to dare myself into trying it was too tempting. As I sat in the car and tried to calm down, my hands shaking as much out of fear as anything else, I felt all the usual old feelings of shame and hate and guilt. All the things I could easily have transferred elsewhere had I gone for it.
Eventually, I had to make the transition back to trying life on my own, in my own place and in whatever groove I find for myself. Coming back was hard, not helped by having to drive for two hours with a broken shock absorber after the M20 blew one apart near Tonbridge. But then being home again and having things to do that I can’t face doing…
It hits me time and time again just how difficult it is and just how stuck I feel. I’m not in a groove, I’m in a rut. And I’m just spinning my wheels and digging in deeper instead of finding traction to pull out of it.
Just a couple of days ago, for the first time in five weeks, I stood at my balcony doors and looked out at the trees behind my building. They’re starting to grow blossom. As they transition from being lifeless, bare branches, into thriving and vibrant, colourful entities, full of life, so I wonder if I can do the same.
Can I make like a tree and come back from being this bare and desolate thing and morph into something hopeful and wonderful? The task of making that transition feels insurmountable to me right now. At a time when getting out of bed in the morning can take anything up to three hours to achieve, finding the strength to reinvent myself, to regrow my identity, feels like too big of an ask.
People tell me it can be done. People tell me it will happen. I still have my doubts, but I’m trying hard to not disappoint them. I’m attempting to take small, tentative steps into the world. I’m trying to learn what it is I’m meant to do with my life and what it will take for me to feel like a ‘me’ that ‘I’ want.
To find a shape that suits me without using someone else to provide the definition that I seek. To find a purpose that fits with my ideals, beliefs and desires. To not hate every fibre of wanting to be this person because it may not be what ‘typical’ people are like.
As I continue to wait for the medication to properly take hold, I remain cautious of my behaviour while I readjust to life at home. Though it has only been a few days so far, I can feel myself battling to keep my composure. I’m still easily distracted, poor to focus and prone to getting enveloped in cycles of thought that overwhelm me.
But it also isn’t all bad. I think back to the week and a half I spent with family. The conversations I had, the light-hearted chat, the jokes, the brilliant madness that is my sister’s household. And thinking of those makes me smile. It makes me long for more of those moments and I find myself asking my thoughts more and more if my future lies in the extreme south-east of England and not up here in Buckinghamshire.
But to gain more of that, would mean giving up on a lot of the connections I have in this area. It feels a lot like cutting off and arm in the hopes it will help a leg grow back; sacrificing something valuable in search of something equally as precious.
Is that a change I want to make? Would it be healthy for me? Would it make sense? There are strong arguments for both sides of it. I guess a big part of it boils down to me letting the winds of destiny carry me to wherever they have in mind and me learning to let go to some degree and just be a passenger along for the ride.
But I have trouble letting go of things. I have trouble letting go of my anger. I have trouble letting go of my past. I have trouble letting go of people who are no longer in my life, whether they have left because we grew apart, or because they died, I have trouble letting go and accepting that it’s how things are.
I don’t understand why I keep hanging on to these things, even the ones that are genuinely toxic and upsetting. But I hold them all close and I won’t let go. And this is confusing and distressing and frustrating because I want to distance myself from them at the same time.
I look out at the trees; these magnificent things that rest and then reawaken with such splendour. I envy them. They make it look easy, peaceful. Just swaying in the breeze and letting the world happen around them.
As they prepare for the spring and to grow new leaves, so I must prepare for a new life that may not necessarily look like the one I thought I was going to have. But, I ‘do’ still have a life to live. I’m still here, I’m still going, I’ve not gone plunging over a cliff-edge.
There’s still a chance yet to make my transition back into a person that can find a place in the world for himself…
Even if it is just to feed biscuits to squirrels.