Coffee and Cake

(Photo credit: Simone’s Kitchen)

I wanted to share this poem in dedication to my dear friend, Jenna, who I’ve known for over thirty years. I worked as a home help (before I became disabled) for her and her husband with their three older children when I was a single divorced parent who brought up my two young children alone. I loved being at her house – it was a grand Georgian house with a sweeping staircase and mahogany panelled walls in the hallway, and I thoroughly enjoyed my work there. Lots to clean with all the nooks and crannies. We’d sit for an hour in the middle of my morning talking about all and sundry. I always made my coffee time up working later than my allotted time there. She was always there for me, and I for her.

About four years ago, having lost her husband and two older boys tragically, she moved down to the south coast to be near her daughter and granddaughter. She’s now living in a little cottage almost on the beach. She loves it there, and I’m so pleased for her. That’s not to say I don’t miss her very much because I do. She no longer drives, and I’m unable to visit her because of the distance and lack of accessibility of transport. She’s eighty-three now and becoming frailer in her old age. It worries me greatly as just recently, she’s started to deteriorate. I dread anything happening to her.

COFFEE AND CAKE

I miss the times we sat together
Over your heavy pine table
We drank coffee and ate dainty madeleines
As I poured out my troubled heart to you

That time spent together
Strengthened and deepened our friendship
We cannot sit there any longer
But, my friend, my memories are so fond

You saw me through my best and worst
Through a close-shave house move
Through damaging relationships
You soothed me as my mental health declined

You never once judged me, never criticized
Quietly there amid your own turmoil
And coffee and cake became a sigh of relief
Time to stop and share both joys and tears

Now, so far away with miles between us
You by the sea and me still in town
We still speak for hours, not every day
Perhaps, once or twice a week

We never tire of things to speak of
Often, putting the world to rights
We talk of our children, some lost, some grown
Partners and mothers long since passed

We talk and talk endlessly
I feel that I witness your life
In its goodness and its pain
As you too, witness mine

Our extended phone calls
Prove those miles between us
Hardly matter at all
But, my dear friend, I would give my all to see you again.

© Copyright Ellie Thompson 2022

MIXED EMOTIONS (AND POTTING UP GERANIUMS)

elderly woman gardening

(Photo credit: http://www.healthtap.com)

Ok – so this isn’t a picture of my Mum and those plants aren’t actually geraniums, but to all intents and purposes, both of those things could have been facts as that’s exactly what my Mum would have been doing at this time of year if she were still here. She loved geraniums of all colours and would have been repotting them all into bigger pots as they would have grown after their dormant period in the dark and damp basement of the house. They would have all been neatly arranged on the patio outside the kitchen, making a huge splash of colour in the garden.

In fact, this was actually what she was doing along with mowing the grass, cutting the hedge and tying up raspberry canes just two weeks before she had her stroke last year. She remained in hospital from then until the day she passed away just before the New Year this year.

I miss my Mum. I hurt. I’m still hurting. I don’t when or if the hurting ever stops. I have photos of her in my living room and by my bed and yet, believe it or not, I can’t look at them. I cannot look at my Mum. I just am not able to ‘make eye-contact’ with her. Perhaps, it’s too early. Perhaps it’s the pain of not having her here anymore. Maybe, it’s the shame. Perhaps, the guilt that I wrote about in a previous post is telling me that she would be ashamed of me.

I can vaguely scan past the photos. I know the one on my desk in front of me so well. It was a photo I had which was taken only weeks before Mum had her stroke. It’s a picture of her in the garden which was always a sanctuary for her, with the big honeysuckle rambling up a large trellis covering part of the brickwork of the house behind her and next to that are the peach-coloured, climbing roses clambering up the wooden fence. The patio in front of her, adorned with pots, large and small of her favourite geraniums, orange, white and red, all in full bloom.

But, every time my eyes catch the slightest glimpse of her face or her eyes or smile in the photos, my heart is wrenched from my chest, and my mind is screaming, “Noooooo ….”  I cannot cry – I really can’t. My eyes are prickling from the sheer pressure of my tears building up behind my eyelids and fighting to get out. Maybe, I can’t can’t cry because I’m afraid that if I start, I won’t ever be able to stop. I want to go and visit her grave and lay fresh flowers there, but it’s 50 miles away with no public transport with wheelchair access so impossible. Sometimes, I still feel so close to her and almost forget for a second that she has gone. At other times, she seems so very far away.

All the legalities regarding the will, probate and selling the house are continuing to go on in the background. It’s so hard to think of my childhood home being taken over by someone else. Who knows what will happen to it … maybe, it will house another family for many more years although there is also the possibility that it will be completely gutted and turned into several flats and that’s much harder to stomach. Moving on, emotionally, isn’t easy but I have to remember too, that it was only five months ago that Mum was with us and living in that house.

Mum was a great one for ‘keeping things’, usually followed by, “It’ll come in useful for something”, a trait that I’ve inherited. Amongst all the ‘useful somethings’, we’ve unearthed photo albums, not just of our childhoods but also of Mum when she was growing up and even some of my great-grandmother in the 1800’s … real treasure … a pictorial history of my family on my Mum’s side … fascinating. It’s going to take me forever to sort through all of those photos and distribute them to our remaining family. They’ll certainly provide me with lots of happy and no doubt, funny memories too which will probably eventually get passed down to my grandchildren and who knows, perhaps their grandchildren one day? Actual history in the making. Mum would be pleased.

GRIEF WITHOUT DEATH

I miss my Mum. I miss her so much.  A death you would think.  No, my Mum hasn’t passed away, but she’s had a severe stroke and has been in the hospital for nearly three months now. I miss her presence in my life – she was always there to talk to when I had problems with my children growing up and always in these later years when I’ve been battling with my mental heath.

She used to support me through everything and as the years ticked by, I was the one supporting her (and rightly so). We would talk on the phone for many hours, putting the world to rights and putting each other to rights. We rarely had a cross word.

I have to confess, there have been times when it’s felt a bit of a chore to have to phone my Mum every day, sometimes twice a day in more recent years.  I would, perhaps, think, “I want to spend more time with friends” on that particular night or “I’d like to spend the time writing my blog”.  Worse still, I’d be keen to text a good friend for a heart-to-heart or get that email written that I’ve been meaning to do for days.

Now, the evenings come, and I find myself thinking,  “I’ll just phone to see how ……….” – My sentence is cut short by the stark realisation that my Mum is not occupying the same space as she used to do. Something else is in her place – a horrible silence broken only by memories of how our relationship used to be.

Gone are our chats, our shared laughter and our mutual support. There are no long discussions about what she had planted in her garden that day with the full expectation of seeing her little seedlings and shoots develop into strong, tall plants. She’d tell me how she’d tied them up with green, garden twine against bamboo canes and watch them develop and bloom.

She won’t go back to that house again, nor her beloved garden that was her sanctuary, her escape from the world when life got difficult – not now. She could never manage the stairs, feed herself or live without 24-hour care and yet she’d managed independently since her separation from my father. She had lived in our family home for over sixty years. And to think the grass was being cut by her only two weeks before she had her stroke.

The damage to her brain is so extensive that she’s still unable to communicate verbally or in any other way,  and any hope of further improvements is met with serious doubt by the doctors and consultants.  The physios, the OTs and the speech and language therapists are not hopeful either.  I try to talk to her on the phone when I can’t get there – hoping to get a response but my questions always have the same replies – nothing – it’s heartbreaking.

I’m still travelling up to the City by train to see her at least once a week. The journey is always tough, fraught with difficulties and exhausting but I need to be there. I need to retain that little bit of hope. However, she isn’t even able to acknowledge that I’m there and I wonder where she has gone inside that broken shell of a body.

I feel I should not be grieving as she is still present with me. But I am – I’m grieving the loss of the person that my Mum once was; her presence in my life, her faded personality and her love, care and affection. She is no longer there.  But grieving when she is still alive; is that right? Is that acceptable? It is simply grief without death.

SKELETONS FROM THE CLOSET

happiness1

I’ve been offered a new course at college – it’s called ‘Telling Your Story’. At first I was keen….I wanted my story to be one of finding some positives from so many negatives in my life. The idea behind the course is that I would look back on where I’ve been (mentally and emotionally), through various ages and stages of my life and then work out what helped me to move on from the darkest places (where I still find myself on bad days) to the better place that I am in now, in general that is. I’m not saying that all my worries and gremlins from the past have disappeared, far from it. They will always be there. My past will always be a big part of my life…my past will always be my past – it’s just that I don’t choose to live there on a permanent basis anymore. I am in good therapy and that is where I deal with any gremlins and Grinches when they do arise. I don’t want to carry them round with me like a great big sack of potatoes.

grinch

I’ve thought carefully about doing this course and have spoken to my college tutor about it at some length. There is something about it that I find strangely attractive and yet, if I am honest with myself and after speaking with my therapist today, I have found myself thinking, do I really want to drag that old pile of skeletons out of the closet again? Do I really want to dig through all that sh*t again? Is it worth risking how far I’ve come just to prove something to others and to myself? And…..I think the conclusion that I have come to is no. There is just too much at stake.

Having said that, there is something to be said for making a neat little (or large in my case) package from my not very neat life, ‘telling my story‘ and sharing my feelings. Equally, there is also something to be said for not recounting my story or doing anything with it for that matter, other than letting sleeping dogs lie.

However, I am still very affected by what happened to me, mostly as a child or as a direct result of that, and I still have awful memories, flashbacks, nightmares, thoughts, reminders, triggers that I’d obviously rather not have. But I am a human being and that is just reality. Then, on talking with my Support Worker, we struck upon the idea of a black memory box. Sound strange?! It did to me at first but then the more I thought about it, the more things I thought of that I’d like to box up and put in there.

black box

Things like the first book I had published which I dedicated to my first therapist who turned out to be very dangerous and has since been ‘struck off’ the accredited list of counsellors in this country. I won’t go into detail about the content of this book other than to say it is morbid to the extreme. There are books and gifts she bought me at the time which are still kicking about my house. The song lyrics to REM’s ‘Everybody Hurts’ which I used to play over and over on repeat which just drove me further into my despair. A photo of my father who abused me for all of my childhood. A piece of classical music that reminds of my further abuse, an empty bottle of alcohol from my drinking days, a razor blade from when I used to self-harm (not that long ago) etc…..all things that I’d let to literally and metaphorically shove somewhere where they can’t hurt me anymore. I’d pack it up and put it somewhere like the attic or the back of the garage where it wasn’t on constant view. I just don’t want to live in that place any more. I want and intend to move on.

FIRST DAY COLLEGE TRIGGER

I have to say, having completed my first full day at college plus travelling (by wheelchair), I’d forgotten how exhausting it all is, having not done it for many years. I got caught in the rush-hour. I haven’t had the ‘pleasure’ of that for years, thankfully!

I arrived at college early so had time to have a much-needed coffee which always calms me down if I’m feeling anxious (I know that goes against all the health guidelines about caffeine but it works for me!). The course started at 10am. It was really strange being amongst other people in a learning environment. It’s been many years  since I’ve been in a classroom of any type. I took notes on my laptop because of my physical inability to write. The topic was interesting…Food and Mood of which, having been anorexic, I thought I was an expert on! But this wasn’t about calories and kilos but about the chemical changes that take place in your brain and how that ties in with nutrition. There was only five of us given that a couple of people were away sick and another couple had backed out at the last moment. I was pleased in a way as I find working in a large group too impersonal.

college

We stopped for a lunch break and I got chatting to two of the other students over coffee (and a banana, my lunch!). We got on really well and swapped phone numbers so we could stay in touch and in fact, I have already spoken to one of the girls from there this evening which was nice.

Then came the afternoon group (a totally different ‘kettle of fish’ altogether). I felt intimidated both by the size of the class and also by the tutor who seemed very unapproachable and obviously  wasn’t used to working in a mental health environment despite the fact we were studying NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) which is a type of therapy or way of managing life. Useful? Yes. Interesting? Yes. Interaction between students and rapport with tutor? No.

We were working through several leaflets, handouts and books, breaking NLP down into various sections. I found it quite fascinating and could connect with most of what was being said or studied. But suddenly i was overcome and shocked by a flood of unexpected feelings which left me completely paralyzed and locked in my own little world. Why? Because we’d turned the page and the not-so-approachable tutor announced that we were going to talk about triggers!! She was apparently referring to positive triggers like evocative memories of music, smell, feelings etc. I was ‘gone’ by then….flashbacks flooded through me, memories of abuse including smell, touch etc suffocated me. She mentioned pleasant scenes from the past being positive but all that was going through my head by then were very negative, abusive, terrifying scenes from the past. I found myself holding my breath; my eyes welling up; my body shaking and then the PTSD took over and I had a full-blown panic attack followed by uncontrollable sobbing.

post-traumatic-stress

I managed to wheel out of there into the kitchen, swiftly followed by one of the students I’d got chatting to earlier who made me a coffee and sat with me for a while, for which I was very grateful. I couldn’t go back in to rejoin the class though as I was too shaken. I really hadn’t foreseen that one coming. However, on a positive note, I’m not giving up. I’m going back on Thursday to have another go, including tackling the NLP group as this time I will be prepared, just in case, although the centre of the topic will have probably moved on by then but if not, I will stay with it and not let my abusers prevent me from furthering my education as they did as a child.

I will have a future and move on from being held back by my past. I will not let those bastards win. This time, I will beat them!

INCOMMUNICADO

I am writing this post by way of an apology to you all.

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I am sorry i have been so out of touch recently; that i haven’t read or replied to your blogs; that i haven’t said thank you for all the kind comments you left on my last blog, which i have only just seen; that i haven’t been of much use to anyone really. In addition, i found a crass, sarcastic comment from some sick pervert which i didn’t ‘Approve’ so that it didn’t appear on my page to upset anyone else. I seem to attract perverts. I think i have done so ever since i was a small child.

 

I have very few friends and most of those have buggered off since i’ve not been well! I know i have my blog friends, here, who i value highly even though i’m never likely to meet any of you and we are all, to some extent, incognito.

 

I really crashed after that experience i wrote about in my last blog. I’ve been getting so many vivid flashbacks that i’m scared to hardly breathe. It seems as if they appear directly in front of my eyes in glorious technicolour and i inhale them one after the other until i go to pieces altogether, break down and feel like i am losing my mind  I can’t seem to function at all. I am unable to concentrate on anything, including my blog, finishing my book, reading, phoning family or catching up with many emails. I am so exhausted all the time and I just want to be curled up in bed permanently.

 

I’m not interested in food and am only eating the bare minimum; at the same time telling myself, firmly, that this is not my anorexia returning although i have lost weight. 

 

My therapy sessions are fraught with memories, anger and tears. Thankfully, i’m not self harming, nor have i gone back to the drink and drugs or overdosing although i have felt tempted many times.

 

Well, i think that about sums up where i am at at the moment. So, i’m very sorry if i have hurt any of your feelings and all i can say, with the scrap of humour i have left is ‘normal service will resume as soon as possible‘.

 

Hugs xxx

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ONE OF MY INSECURITIES

I’m wondering if i have the energy to blog tonight  after a sleepless night following my confrontation with X yesterday re blogging. “Should i be blogging at all?”, i ask myself! But I’ve not had a good day today.

 

I went to my regular Monday morning Art and Craft class which is usually a really good place to chill out and try and put my problems and worries aside for a couple of hours. But today, NO! I was sitting opposite a man in his seventies who always speaks his mind, often ‘puts his foot in it’ and ought to know better! Today…he decided to put the world to rights. He went on and on about the newspapers and the news on television and radio, the ‘rubbish’ they put in magazines today etc, etc. Then he decided to air his views on women wearing short skirts and how, if we do, we shouldn’t complain if we get abused or raped!!! My first reaction was anger but before that could develop into anything tangible, i was triggered into my world of flashbacks and disassociation.  

 

Suddenly, there i was. Back at age four, wearing a flimsy skirt that my mother had dressed me in that morning before she’d left to go shopping. I was left alone with my father who promptly sat me on his lap, lifted my skirt….I can’t go there right now and Chloe is screaming out at me, wanting to talk. I need to get away from here. I hastily made an excuse and left the class.

 

I can’t wear skirts, dresses or shorts. My legs are always well covered, night and day by jeans, leggings, pyjamas etc. Even tights are too exposing for me. I even sometimes put a blanket on my lap (making me look somewhat like an elderly lady, which i’m not) while i’m sitting in my wheelchair because i feel extra vulnerable, being unable to defend myself. Some people who don’t know my inner turmoil, make a joke of it, asking if i have any legs at all under there…ha ha (not).

 

Even before i became disabled, i would never wear skirts or dresses and would point-blank refuse (with some pathetic excuse), any invitations to cocktail parties, little black dress occasions and the like.

 

I can’t even bear to see little girls running about or playing in the park with their little dresses blowing in the wind. I want to scream out to their mothers, “can’t you see that you are putting your child at risk?” I look at the ‘dirty old man’ on the park bench, eyeing up the child and automatically assume the worse. (No offence to the majority of men). It makes me cringe; it triggers me back into my childhood; I’m losing touch with reality. Chloe is screaming louder no. I don’t want to be on my own…help!!

Somehow i got home but can remember nothing of my journey back from the class. An hour later,  I am exhausted from crying and reliving my childhood experiences and the memories of the pain i endured. Nevertheless, i am now angry at this bloody, insensitive and ignorant man in the class.

 

No-one should have the right to dictate to women (or men) what they should or shouldn’t wear, and people who come out with crass comments, like “she was asking for it, dressed like that!”, need their tongues cut out and castrating. Maybe that it is oversensitivity on my part but it does make me angry. I’m now more exhausted than i was previously and need to sleep, hoping i will be undisturbed by terrifying nightmares and haunting memories infiltrating my sleep. It’s times like this when i’m too frightened to close my eyes.

 

 

 

TRYING TO MOVE ON.

I  feel so screwed up today; I am hurting. I think a mixture of BPD throwing my emotions all over the place, (frustration because i can’t get my new avatar to show up in my thumbnail) – i wanted it to depict me and my inner child, me being Ellie Sofia and she, Little Ellie. This is the image i chose to represent ‘us’ which should be in my thumbnail and isn’t!

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My inner child is trying to ‘grow up’, away from all the pain and the trauma. Little Ellie is running as fast as her little legs can carry her to get away from her raw emotions and memories.

Sometimes, i feel like a helter skelter, up and down like a yoyo and i’ve changed my blog page more times than i’ve had hot dinners to try and keep up with each passing phase. This page was supposed to be a new, bright start and yet i keep getting pulled into the dirt again.

I trying to move on, i so want to move on, move forward, leave my past behind me as if none of it was true, none of it really happened. I want to think of green trees and sunshine, smiles and sandy beaches; i want to think of cute kittens and pink candyfloss. But, no, here i am again, going round and round the same hamster wheel, while desperate to climb the little chrome ladder to escape it all, to escape the cage that locks me up as a ‘victim‘. I want, so much, to be a survivor, not a victim and i strive every day to try and fit this ‘adult’ role. But my Little Ellie refuses to let go of my heartstrings, refuses to stop crying, refuses to grow-up. We are both so tightly entwined, we are bound by our umbilical cord, we are one no matter how hard i try to fight it.

And then, i hear this song which i feel compelled to find on Youtube and it literally brings me to my knees, with Ellie Sofia, sobbing and my Little Ellie a crumpled heap on the floor and incapable of even lifting her petite, little head let alone, standing up and ‘moving on’. {It is only fair to say to you, please don’t watch this clip if you’re feeling very vulnerable}. IT HURTS. It hurt me to the core and so much, it left me crying in pain and flooded with unwanted thoughts and terrifying memories.

I’m sorry, i’m truly sorry, my dear, dear friends, if this leaves you crumpled too but i want us all to feel less alone with our pain, our ongoing war to survive each day.

This is why i am trying to move on, run as fast as the wind, escape the black hole, fighting the hard battle of change.

This is why is why i’m trying to move on.

BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER (THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN)

Black-and-White-Abstract-ACEO

This is me giving myself a good talking to about trying to be more positive after a session with my therapist today where i’d said that i was fed up of being down or in other words, i’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.

I have Borderline Personality Disorder (see my last blog). I see everything in black and white.There is no grey in my emotions: positive or negative; up or down; happy or sad; calm or manic etc. I know my emotions can and do, fluctuate in a matter of hours, if not minutes. I never know where i am at, where i will be or where i’m going with my heart. My heart feels everything including feeling deeply for other people too. I care about others, i worry, i want to help, i want to be there for them.

But then my therapist asked, “well, where are you for you?” And she had me stumped, till i answered “nowhere” and was then taken aback by my own response.

OK, so i have BPD – i know that, and sometimes i have good days and sometimes they are bad and i can’t predict when these tidal waves are going to crash. Today happens to be a ‘happy’ day (tomorrow i could be in the mud again). Today, i can tell myself not to take everything to heart because that’s when i hurt the most. When i let past memories intrude and bring me down, quite understandably so and with good reason to, and sometimes, i have to go back there and visit; but i don’t want to let that to become my place of residence.

I have to stop and think; try to act less impulsively. A difficult one that as anyone with BPD will know. Maybe i’m writing this impulsively: I probably am as it’s midnight, my time and i should have gone to bed ages ago as i have to up for my carers to come (i’m disabled), at 5.30am which i’m quite happy to do most days, at least when i’ve had enough sleep.

Anyway, i’m going off the track as i often do! Basically, i don’t want my emotions to rule my head all the time; sometimes my head has gotta learn how to tame those emotions if i’m to have any control over my life. For a pessimist, i can be pretty optimistic,(on a good day this is!). I’ve lived my whole life being miserable: I don’t want to spend the rest of doing the same…..what a waste of a life!

I read a good blog this morning by a guy who has overcome BPD successfully and he really inspired me and i’m now following his blog (thanks Edward – you know who you are, i think anyway).

So, basically this  is in complete contrast to yesterday (back to the black and white thinking), but who knows, tomorrow i might feel like the girl in yesterday’s video again. So, today is obviously a pretty positive day but what will tomorrow bring? I guess i’ll just have to wait and see. I’ve got to stop wanting to be in control of everything all the time and learn, sometimes, just to let the tidal wave wash over me and still be able to stand up and say, “Well, i made it; i’m still here, i’m just ME”!

PTSD – THE ATTACK

Sometimes the days are so bad that they all become nightmares merged together so tightly that i feel totally overwhelmed and cannot find an exit.

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The last few days have been gruelling for me. I have to say that getting through them has been akin to wading through a sea of treacle. I am worn down, unable to find peace, rest or sleep.

 

I feel as if i have been attacked by my mind and the horrendous, debilitating flashbacks; by my memories, my thoughts and my life events, most of which have been horrendous reminders of the endless abuse i have suffered during the course of my life. Sometimes i wonder whether i attract abuse; whether i have a sign on my forehead, saying ‘I am just me.You may use me. You may abuse me’ . The feelings stay with me forever as do the images in my head, which are stuck on constant repeat.

 

I give myself a good talking to, “Pull yourself together”; “For goodness sake, get over it”. Those words that i have heard, said cruelly to me by people who shall remain nameless who have no compassion and are never going to understand what i’ve been through, not in a million years! Having PTSD is like being a hamster on it’s treadmill in a cage. There is no stopping and i am trapped within it. I am still being attacked by my abusers, even after all this time.

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