People – friends, doctors, counsellors – keep looking at me and saying I don’t know how you are standing up. Or how much more you can take. And then they catch themselves and say “Oh but you are strong!” and I want to stamp my feet and say NOOOOOOO, I’m not strong, I’m pretending!
(And the little girl inside me whispers, won’t someone see?).
But of course I don’t. I carry on pretending I am coping with all manner of sorrow. A veritable avalanche of the stuff! Not because I am a martyr but because my heart tells me that it is the right thing to do. That those who need me to be ok will believe me, and that I will pretend so hard, I might just start believing myself.
I pretend for my boy, because he shouldn’t have to carry the weight of my heart and I pretend for someone who isn’t here, where he should be, at my side, but has again gone back to his Mum’s to lick the dreadful wounds yet another change in medication has wreaked upon his soul. Because I love him and he is more broken than anyone else knows. And maybe this time he really isn’t coming back. But I will cope. Because I cannot see any other choice.
This then is about coping when you don’t want to cope.
When you wish with everything you have got that someone would just wrap their arms around you and let you fall into them so you don’t have to pretend anymore that you are fine (of course you are fine!), for the sake of a boy who loves you so much, he watches your every move. carefully calculating when the tears in your eyes will spill. And for that of a grown-man who is always trying so hard, but hates himself so much that when crisis’s collides, he implodes into the abyss of the trauma written in his blood and runs for the door, shoving his rage into a rucksack so that he cannot hurt you with the lashing of harsh words and abject misery, all over again.
You will feel like your head is about to burst and you will want to smash things but of course you won’t because things are precious and you are sad but you aren’t stupid. You will forget to eat. And then you will remember and get sensible and make smoothies and sip huge pink bowls of lentil soup. (So that he who watches doesn’t worry). You will be astonished (and secretly rather pleased) at how fast the weight falls off. Sixteen pounds in as many days. Fright and worry doing a number on flesh usually so stubborn. You will clean everything one day and nothing at all the next. You will laugh at yourself because you don’t know how to empty the new condenser dryer and feel madly appalled at yourself when the house fills with steamy stench of damp laundry.
You will cry. All the time. In bed and in the shower. When you are washing the dishes and when the postman is kind. When you open your eyes first thing in the morning and remember that things are different now. And when you lie there thrashing about in a warm, lonely bed, unable to sleep though you are demented with exhaustion. When texts come that make you smile and when others come that make you want to drop the damn phone out of the window. When you cannot quell the sheer practical worry of it all.
You will cry. Because it hurts so very much. But you are pretending to be strong, so you will paint nails you haven’t got and sit with your feet in a foot spa bubbling with magnesium (for the sake of self-care you understand?). You will walk around the block before your sip your tea in the morning and one day switch off the eggs boiling in the pan at lunchtime and go around the block again because if you stay in the house for one minute longer you will lose your mind.
You will get brave. You will pop on your big girl pants and make necessary phone calls and hold meetings with landladies and be a whole lot braver than you ever give yourself credit for. (But bravado isn’t strength, my child. You know it and I know it). And you will forget. Yes. Sometimes you will forget. You will turn to share a joke with someone who isn’t there. OR go to make a call to another who has blocked you. You will forget and then you will remember.
There isn’t a part of you or I, that doesn’t want it to just STOP. For the pain to go away and the world to stand upright again. But you do not know how to make that happen and sometimes patience is more than a virtue, it is the very key to your survival. But oh, the not knowing, and the not understanding is gut-wrenching.
This then is about coping when you don’t want to cope.
So walk. Walk all the time. Wander past fences covered in trailing honeysuckle and breathe it in as you tell yourself it will be ok. Make it your mantra: it will be ok, it will be ok, it will be ok. Do all the things they tell you to. Have long baths. Let people look after you. Sleep whenever you can. On the sofa. Or in your pyjamas at two o’clock in the afternoon. Examine your thoughts. Let them spill. Study them all day long until you understand exactly whether that which you are in such deep mourning for is really worth having. Work out intricate plans for your own survival. Work out whether you are cutting your nose off to spite your face. Laugh because life is funny and sometimes it is downright ludicrous and anyways, let yourself laugh, because laughing is your birth-right.
Be brave, Be foolish. Look stupid. Don’t bother trying to explain yourself but make yourself understood. Scream all that you have to say, all that pain, out loud. Be brave. And if necessary pretend. If I can, you can.