Friday, 25 March 2011

In a quiet room, raging.

In space, so the movie trailer goes, no one can hear you scream. Yet another year has passed and my sessions with the lady my husband has affectionately nicknamed "La Doctora Melfi" (in tribute to our one-time Soprano's habit) are rapidly coming to an end. I will have to say goodbye to the little beige room and my talking cure. I will have to go it "alone". Being alone with the aftermath of my Dad's suicide seems to be a key theme for me. Which is why it has been so important for me to share a little of it.

Initially I was spurred to write this blog for myself and also for those who also found themselves with no one to talk to in their life as a "suicide survivor" - a term which, I hope, is understood to mean those surviving another's suicide, not those who didn't manage to go through with it. I was hoping that I might be able to reach out and at least take someone's metaphorical hand just to say "you're not alone". Quite simple really. Some of you have been kind enough to contact me to say that my words have helped you in some way.

However, I've found it hard to 'blog on suicide'. It takes too much effort and courage to dig into the raw shit of it and to try to represent the experience on a regular basis. I find I have occasional epiphanies which I want to share but on a day to day basis I think that my blogs would be something like "saw some daffodils and remembered planting them with Dad" or "getting the freezing, crushing feeling AGAIN". Pretty dull and/or depressing reading, really.

So, going back to screaming in space, or rather, raging and ranting in quiet rooms; the room was mainly my head and the screaming was almost entirely silent. I still battle with the inner/outer selves who seem to be so often at odds with one another. The image that comes to mind is as if Pandora's box were made by Apple (the iPan?) - trying to keep the smoothest, whitest, most perfect of surfaces, utterly concealing the twisting, roiling inner horrors. Except now I don't feel that the inner stuff is quite so horrific and I also realise that being a looking glass has it's drawbacks. And whilst I probably haven't let myself go enough to totally rage and rant in the presence of another, in our real quiet room I have cried me a river or two.

I find it such a wonderful revelation to watch my young daughter and see her inner life written so plainly across her face, the total transparency is a joy - like a clear yet incredibly deep well. I can't see to the bottom of it but I feel that it is crystal and pure and good, even the temper tantrums and the crying. Having grown up around someone so closed, so unknowable, not to mention critical and occasionally volatile, I learned to keep myself to myself quite early on, to present a mask and to shrink away from my own sides so as not to be discovered and invaded. But although that was a good way to get through back then as a kid in a an unhappy family, it's not so good for me now that I'm a woman with a family of my own. Applying my keep-a-lid-on-it tactics to the suicide was the final fatal blow.

So the lid-lifting is to continue in another form - photography, art, installations... I'm not quite sure yet but it's coming and there's not much anyone (even I) can do about it.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Belongings, in boxes and out of them.

I have been opening the box, literally and metaphorically, on my father's possessions. The real objects that I have kept of his fit into a shoe box (a makeshift memory box that I've never had the heart to improve upon). They consist of the following:

A pair of leather driving gloves
A Roget's thesaurus, cover missing.
A waxed cotton hat with check lining
A horses bit (that's the metal thing that goes in the horses mouth)
A heart-shaped wooden box, sealed with sellotape containing some of his (grey) hairs.
A framed black and white photograph of my father aged around 8
A metal sweet box containing dried rose petals
A CD of Jacques Loussier

I have always treated these things with the reverence and solemnity of religious relics. I occasionally would come across the box, in some tidying session or house move, and pick warily over the contents, handling them like museum exhibits. Usually I would just feel sad or dragged down. Then I'd put them away again.
I am now trying to unpack this box a little more. I am photographing the objects and I am working out how I can treat them with a little less reverence and bring a little more of myself into the equation. Growing up with my dad was to grow up not knowing how to do right by him, what I meant to him or how to connect. It meant pushing myself to one side and trying to live out some imagined life. There seemed very little that was Real, that was pulsating with Life. All was hollow, at a distance, removed.
So now here I am with this box of solid objects that I still cannot connect to an actual person because he never seemed real, even in life. Instead I am having to delve inside myself and try to find the belief that I can be free of my father's suicide and his depression. I am trying to work out what to do with these objects - should I bury them, should I give them away, put them back in the box, or should I try to re-make them, to somehow put myself into the frame with them?
Answers on a postcard, please...

Monday, 8 June 2009

No more numbers. Taking it personally.

Enough numbers already! Ten years since I last tried therapy and it didn't go so well. Tip: don't have "therapy" with a non-accredited counsellor of the opposite sex. Really. Ever.

So (it's been ten years) since I last tried to unravel some knots and here I am again. Because I'm still hitting my head against the same walls. Still feeling like a failure. Still thinking there's something wrong with me. 

So, on Tuesdays it's an hour of just me and another woman in a cream room with a box of tissues to hand. Talking... mumbling, purging, admitting, dreaming, saying, stating, discovering, deciding, realising... Going over the same things and suddenly, unexpectedly taking what seem like complete tangents. 

In the midst of all this, realising one very stark fact. That I took my father's suicide personally. Which sounds ridiculous. Of course I did... He was my Dad and he chose to die (THEREFORE) I was not worth being here for. And at the same time, how could I? It was his life to take. It was nothing to do with me, it was all to do with him. That second argument still sounds so much less convincing.

I'm a mother now. I know what it means to have a child and how important I am for her. I don't want to pass this on. I know it's my responsibility to make sure it ends here. At the same time, feeling parental love makes it harder to understand. Maybe I have to accept that I will never understand.

You are not alone.

If you have lost a loved one to suicide, this may help you to realise that you are not alone. 
There are others out there who have been bereaved in this way. 
These are bits a pieces of my own experiences. 
I hope they may help in some way.