Gristle (A True-Life Story)

This is a real-life story that I wrote a few days ago. As I’m terribly busy for the next week, I thought I’d post this piece, but I hope to write a more up-to-date post when I can. This is rather long, so I would be very grateful if you could take the time to read it. Thank you ~ Ellie x

PART ONE

I missed her terribly, but not a word had been uttered about her disappearance from home or, more painfully, from my life, leaving me in limbo and feeling very vulnerable.

Instead, there was a strange woman who’d taken the place of my mother. She got me up in the morning, gave me breakfast and ushered me out the front door to begin my short journey to school. I was told to call her Auntie Vera, but at eight years old, I silently objected to calling a perfect stranger my Auntie. She was bossy, with straight grey hair swept back off her face in a bun. She wore my Mum’s blue and white checked pinny around her thick waist. I wanted to say that the pinny belonged to my Mum, and I didn’t want this total stranger wearing it. It wasn’t hers, after all, but I didn’t dare risk a scolding from this sharp-tongued woman. Auntie Vera became the only person I saw every morning. There was, as usual, no sign of my father, who always left early for work at the upholstery factory with not as much as a ‘good morning’ or a ‘goodbye.’

At breakfast, I sat at the small Formica table while Auntie Vera pulled down the flap on the front of the sage green kitchen cabinet to get the porridge oats. She tipped a large spoonful into an aluminium pan, added boiling water and a pinch of salt and left it to cook for a few minutes. Then she dished out two large steaming dollops into my bowl. I didn’t like it; it wasn’t like my Mum used to make. Auntie Vera’s porridge was so thick and gloopy that my spoon could nearly stand up in it, and it made me feel sick it. I so wished my Mum was here, but there was still no explanation about what had happened to her. My mind wandered, and I shivered as I wondered if she had died, but no one had told me. I missed her so much, and the thought of her never returning upset and scared me. I choked back my tears and forced my porridge down.

That day, after school, I trudged home reluctantly, knowing grumpy Auntie Vera would greet me. Earlier in the day, I’d been told off for daydreaming in class. I so wanted my Mum to be the one to open the front door and reach her arms out to hug me and ask me if I’d had a good day. But it was only a dream, and I was met by this ill-tempered woman still wearing my Mum’s pinny. I felt cross, but I didn’t dare say anything.

A couple of hours later, I was very surprised to hear my father opening the front door with his heavy keys. He wasn’t usually home at this time. He told me to go and brush my knotty brown hair and to put on my best dress and smartest school shoes. I did as I was told, as I feared being reprimanded by him. He led me to his black Morris Minor outside our house. I clambered into the back seat while my father sat at the wheel, lighting up his foul-smelling pipe as always. The plumes of smoke wafted into the back of the car. It made me feel sick. I was glad when he pulled up in front of a large building and got out. I had no idea where we were or what this building was.

PART TWO

My father roughly took my hand as I climbed out of the car, and he led me into the building, and then up two flights of stairs. I wondered where we were going and what we were doing there. We turned through a door on the left and were met by a nurse. I was confused; why had we come to a hospital? We were taken through a set of double doors, which the nurse unlocked for us to enter. As we did, I was confronted by two long rows of hospital beds, one on each side of the ward. I could hear loud, muddled voices and the occasional shout or scream. People in nightgowns walked about the ward, many muttering to themselves. A nasty strong smell of urine permeated the air. I was scared and didn’t understand why we were here with all these strange people.

Suddenly, a small bearded man in pyjamas shuffled nearer and reached out to me. My father pulled me away sharply and continued to walk the length of the hospital ward. I glanced around, and as we almost reached the end, I was shocked to see my Mum sitting in a chair next to one of the beds on the righthand side. She didn’t look like she did at home. She was pale, thin, and dressed in a pink hospital nightie and grey woollen socks. As we reached her, she didn’t appear to recognise me, so I leaned over to her and planted a kiss on her cheek. She didn’t smell like my Mum. She smelt of TCP – the same liquid Mum added to a pan of my father’s dirty hankies that often boiled in an old saucepan.

My father walked to the far end of the ward and returned with two folded-up wooden chairs. Sitting on the neatly-made beds wasn’t allowed. This was my Mum, yet I was lost for words to say to her. My father said very little, too, so I sat, upset and uncomfortable. Mum didn’t attempt to make any conversation, but she stared vacantly into space for much of the time. I didn’t understand why she wasn’t looking at me or talking to me. It was only many years later that I discovered that my Mum had had ECT treatment, which delivers an electric shock to the brain and is meant to help get a person back into a less-depressed state. Instead, it seemed to have left her confused and drowsy, unable to speak to us properly. The longer we sat there, the more distraught I felt. I wanted to go home but, at the same time, I wanted to stay with my Mum. I was frightened that I might never see her again if we left.

Finally, a loud bell rang, signalling the end of visiting time. My father got up, returned our chairs and told me we were leaving. I waved at my Mum, but she didn’t respond.

Would I ever see my Mum again? What if she could never talk to me again?

I felt a chill running the length of my spine as I once again wondered whether she would die in the hospital and never come home. Tears were running down my cheeks, and I let out a quiet sob.

 “Stop snivelling, you wretched child,” my father ordered. The ward doors were slammed and locked behind us, and I quickly wiped my tears away as we continued down the two flights of stairs.

We climbed into my father’s car and drove the short journey home. On arrival, my father turned the keys in the lock; we were greeted by Auntie Vera in my Mum’s pinny again. She noticed my tear-stained face and spoke to my father, demanding to know whether I’d be causing any trouble. I always seemed to be in trouble with this woman. I didn’t want her there; I desperately wanted my Mum to come home again.

PART THREE

Weeks went by. Dad was rarely home in those days, so I was left to the mercy of Auntie Vera, still wearing my Mum’s pinny. I wanted to snatch it away from her, but I wasn’t brave enough. She would have certainly told my father; then, I’d be in for a good hiding, like many times before.

I ran to my room, burst through the door, and threw myself onto my bed, grasping my bear, Peter, for comfort. It was cold in my room, so I slipped under my pea-green woollen blanket to keep warm. I knew I’d be in trouble if I were caught, so I lay there, hardly daring to breathe and hoped that I’d hear Auntie Vera coming up the stairs in good time to jump up and tidy up my bed so she wouldn’t know I’d been lazy.

It wasn’t long before I began to feel hungry, but it was time for Auntie Vera to go home, so as usual, she took me to the next-door neighbour’s house. It was the same routine every evening. The family cared for me until my father got home from his regular visit to the pub after he’d finished work.

The neighbours were called Auntie Rose and Uncle Mohajit. I enjoyed playing with their two children, who were ten and eight, but I didn’t like the food they had for dinner, which was often chicken or mutton curry and rice. I wasn’t keen on spicy food; Mum never cooked anything like that. I didn’t dare make a fuss and had to force it down, hating every mouthful. Occasionally, I came across a gristly piece of meat. I tried chewing and chewing, but I just couldn’t swallow it for fear it would get stuck in my throat, making me sick. I knew better than to spit it out.

Everyone else had finished their meal and left the table, but Auntie Rose instructed me not to leave until I’d eaten everything. They all went into the living room while I sat there, desperately wishing the lump of gristle would disappear. I looked around the dining room with my mind wandering in different directions. Did I have enough courage to bury this lumpy bit of meat in one of the flowerpots? I could dig a hole in the earth, and perhaps, no one would ever know. Or could I sneak out and give it to their tabby cat when no one was looking?

After a while, although terrified of being caught, I tiptoed silently to the large rubber plant in a heavy clay flowerpot. My heart was thumping hard as I carefully dug a hole in the soil with my finger. I spat the gristle into my hand, quickly pushed it firmly into the hole, and covered it with the remaining earth. I returned to the table briefly, feeling guilty about deceiving the family. I gradually caught my breath again and waited for my heart to stop beating so hard.

Should I join the family in the living room? I wondered whether they would somehow know what I’d done. I knew I’d been in terrible trouble if I were to be found out. I walked hesitantly towards the living room door, knocked softly and waited to be let in. As the door opened, the whole family stared at me. Now, I knew I was in serious trouble and was sure my father would be told, and I would receive a beating. Oh, how I wished my Mum would come home again. It would be several weeks before that happened, and in the meantime, my nightmare continued …

THE END

An Alternate New Year’s Day

I know it’s New Year, and much joy abounds
but I’m full of despair, and it’s really profound
I’m trying to enter into the spirit of things
but I know this week is carrying the sting

Last night, bells rang, and glasses were clinked
I sat here alone, and all I could think
was the fear inside of me is here to stay
It filled me with utter and complete dismay

At Christmas time, I had my family here
and just for a while, it allayed all my fears
The children were great; I was thankful to see
Then, darkness descended, crippling me

I’m trying to hang on to a morsel of hope
when the whole of me is fighting to cope
I feel like my world will collapse forever
as my therapy ends; our relationship severed

I’ve written a letter to say thank you so much
I’m longing for a hug or a gentle touch
I know it’s unlikely; it’s not meant to be
Boundaries are there for Chris* and for me

I’m dreading Wednesday coming this week
I can’t see a future, not even a peek
My body is shaking; my head full of fear
The feeling of grief rises up to appear.


* Chris is my therapist/counsellor (until Wednesday)




NOTE: Forgive me a while if I can’t read your writing
I love you all, but I’m tired of the fighting
.

(Photo by Danil Aksenov on Unsplash)

Dear Unknown Counsellor

Many of you will know that my counselling with Chris is ending on the 4th of January, which I’m terrified about. I would normally be there this afternoon and again next week, but the counselling agency is, understandably, closed for two weeks for the Christmas holidays and New Year. The best way I can cope with the absence of my session today is to write, so I thought I’d write a simple poem for my new, as yet unknown counsellor.


Dear Unknown Counsellor,

I’m devastated and so upset
to be away from Chris
I’ve fallen into the darkness
and straight into the abyss

I’ve no idea when I’ll meet you
Apparently, there’s a queue
Otherwise known as a waiting list
How long? I wish I knew

I do hope that we’ll get on
and in you, I’ll learn to trust
I hope you’ll understand my truths
and not view me with disgust

I write a lot of poetry
and dabble with some ‘art’
It’s just how I express myself
pouring out the whole of my heart

I have a problem with anger
I can’t get it off my chest
I can’t scream into a pillow
although I’ve tried my best

I hope I get to meet you soon
I’m scared out here all alone
I’ve been so lucky to have Chris
and the care that she has shown

*Please take away the ticking
of the therapy room’s clock
It reminds me of the horror room
and the door with the bolted lock

My heart is already broken in two
I have one more week; then, the end
I hope my words are acceptable
and these thoughts that I have penned

Where do I begin with you?
Do I have to start over again?
I think I could talk forever
dispelling this huge weight of pain.

* See previous poem The Passage of Time

(Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash)

The Journey – A Poem

Most of you who know me will have learned that my desperately-needed counselling has to come to an end on the 4th of January 2023 (straight after the New Year). I’m on a two-week break over Christmas at the moment. You know how terrified I am of being without Chris. I’m still on a long waiting list to enable me to see someone else; this is likely to be months rather than weeks. All the things and emotions I’ve shared with her, some of which I’ve never shared with anyone before, where do they go? Do I have to begin all over again with a new person? I’m not sure I coud bear that.

I wanted to write something for Chris to express my gratitude for all the work we’ve done together, but also to share my fear of coping without her to speak to every Wednesday.

THE JOURNEY

I wanted to write something purely for you
to say thank you for all that you’ve done and do
I came, and you helped me to open my heart
You’ve listened to poems and seen bits of art

You’ve travelled my journey alongside with me
through all the depression and anxiety
We tried to deal with my muddled eating
That was the first thing we intended treating

But, then came the flashbacks of child sex abuse
A crime committed with no good excuse
I shared secrets I’d never discussed before
Felt guilty as hell as I stared at the floor

You’ve been by my side and witnessed my pain
Taught me I’m worthy and have lots to gain
You’ve reassured me I wasn’t to blame
and helped me let go of the awful shame

Trying to deal with my anger was tough
I couldn’t scream or shout loud enough
I did once throw hard clay at the chair
Tried to imagine the bastard sat there

I poured out my soul in words, rhyme and tears
and looked at my strengths and all of my fears
I’m so grateful to you for hearing my truth
of long, long ago, back in my youth

You’ve listened to secrets and made me feel brave
and I’m dreading our final goodbye and last wave
How do I live with this loss and my pain?
I just can’t believe I won’t see you again.

With my love, Ellie Xxx 🖤🖤🖤



A Ribbon And A Bow

I thought this year would be different
but no, I should have known
While half the world is celebrating
once again, I’m on my own

Christmas is meant to bring joy
but for me, it’s another sad day
I know it is for some others, too
I wish it would all go away

It’s just like any other day;
there are no presents there for me
Couldn’t put the decorations up
Couldn’t manage a tree

I don’t want silver and gold
tied up with a ribbon and bow
I don’t need the fancy gift wrap;
that’s not how I want it to go

My family around the table;
that’s all I asked for this year
My son was coming on Christmas Day
but now he is going elsewhere

I miss my dear Mum at Christmas
We’d talk on the phone half the day
Both alone again but so far apart
before she passed away

Often, when alone on this day
I take a ride into town
to see if a soul is on the streets
I go with a smile, not a frown

I still have much to be grateful for
There are people worse off than me
There’s still beauty in the world
if I open my eyes and see

I hope you don’t feel I’m a humbug
but it’s extra tough this year
Nevertheless, I give to you
my ongoing love and good cheer.

Warm hugs, Ellie Xx 💓🌲💓

A Bitter Pill

I cannot think; I cannot write
I can only see the end in sight
I cannot read the blogs I follow
Keep saying that I will tomorrow

My brain’s in autopilot mode
I just can’t carry this hefty load
My counselling has nearly ended
And yet, my heart still hasn’t mended

I’m losing C., my therapist
She’s going to be so sorely missed
Desperation is setting in
Fear like shark’s teeth on my skin

I’ve just got two days left to attend
I know that I am reaching the end
What will there be left of me?
An empty vessel is all I’ll be

The holidays just two weeks ahead
With jolly Santa, dressed in red
It’s such a struggle again this week
Where do I find the comfort I seek?

My heart beats fast and faster still
As I swallow down this bitter pill
I really don’t know how I’ll cope
I’m trying not to give up hope.



(Photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash)

FOR GRAHAM J.
A neighbour died two doors away
I only found out yesterday
He was a husband, friend and dad
Mourning him and feeling sad.


RIP Graham J.



Make Believe


She got up early and painted her face
to cover the shame and her falling from grace
She dyed her hair ginger and put blue on her eyes
She thought she’d catch all her friends by surprise

She smacked on red lips and looked into the glass
Outside the window, she watched people pass
Nobody noticed this sad tired stranger
Nor that she was in imminent danger

She pulled on her face and forced out a smile
and held the expression for quite a while
She easily feigned joy; could have earned first prize
for kidding them all with her perfect disguise

Exhausted and weary, she started yawning
and time slipped by, ‘though it was still morning
She pulled down her hat to cover her frown
No one would know her, dressed up as a clown

She’d tried so hard but things were so tough
She decided that enough was enough
What a sham, what a game; she picked up the knife
Could she pluck up the courage to take her own life?

An Ear To Listen

An ear to listen, a hand to hold

My story’s been told a hundred-fold

About my abuse, about my pain

And my mental health that fucks with my brain


~~~

I’ve told of my struggles, I’ve told of my fight

Whatever I do, I can’t get it right

My body is tired; my mind’s been stricken

With thoughts that make my heartbeat quicken


~~~

My mind is a jumble, just word upon word

My thinking is such that the lines become blurred

When will my world stop spinning around?

My head craves silence, please, not a sound


~~~

Yet, the thunder continues; there is no rest

And bedlam moved in as a permanent guest

Is there no respite for one such as me

While chaos reigns but no one can see

~~~

I sit and ponder these thoughts of mine

And watching the clock, eating the time

The mornings are better; not so afternoons

Bedtime can’t come a minute too soon.

Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay

Cutting Some Slack

Sitting here blankly, staring at the wall
Asking myself why I’m still here at all
Only two days ago, laughing and joking
Anguish has returned, prodding and poking

I’ve been making such effort all day today
Holding in misery and fearful to say
Just when I thought it’ll all be okay
Depression decided to come out to play

Keep my head in the clouds, feet on the floor
Hoping joy will return to knock on the door
Fighting the sadness, I’m not giving in
Not knowing how or where to begin

Tired though I am; I’ve got to keep running
Fighting off memories; keep the good coming
Therapy fading and slipping away
Making the most of each session, each day

I’m trying so hard again not to lose hope
Nearly evening now, and it’s tough to cope
How do I start to cut me some slack?
Come on, start climbing; no looking back.





Image by Dr StClaire from Pixabay



Russian Roulette

There’s nothing clever or even vaguely intelligent about this poem. I wrote it on the spur of the moment. It’s not one of my better pieces, but it expresses how I feel, as does all my poetry. This isn’t a ‘work of art’ by any stretch of the imagination. It’s merely a ditty …

I realise my blog posts
have been sad and sombre of late
I know it’s been hard to bear with me
I’m sorry, but I’m not feeling great

My doctor has given me tablets
Both Valium and Zopiclone
The latter should help me sleep
Plus a crisis number to phone

I’m trying to appear cheerful
but I doubt that I’m kidding you
I’m painting a broad smile on my face
but you can’t see that’s what I do

My poetry is brutally honest
Every word, every space, every line
Perhaps, if I painted landscapes
the results would be more sublime

My dear friends, I want to thank you
for sticking close to my side
And also, I’m eternally grateful
for mopping each tear that I’ve cried

So, I beg for a little more time
And please don’t desert me yet
I’ve really got so much to live for
though I’m playing Russian roulette

A message here to each one of you
from my tender and delicate heart
I’m doing my best, so please hold my hand
I don’t want to blow us all apart.




Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay