Back to therapy

“If I could pay to have you in therapy for the rest of your life I would”

Is what one of my doctors said to me a few years ago. I don’t take it as a negative thing as therapy and talking works for me, certainly better than most medication, although in the long run that has helped as well.

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It was good to realize that I can look forwards rather than constantly backward on my life. I have never been a one to get excited about what’s going to take place in the next six months, more regretting what has happened and why things went so wrong.

Having someone that’s completely independent, someone doesn’t know anything about who I am or what I have done, giving their honest opinion. As the therapist said ‘I am not here to tell you what you want to hear’.

The opinion on matters and what they think about them. Unlike someone who has known you for some time, they aren’t afraid to give their honest response. One of the things I noticed I was doing was apologizing for those things that interest me like books, religion, and music. I always got a strange look and a pitied reply when I told them that my degree was in Religion. It seems I have had to apologize a lot for what I like.

Things have changed in the last few months. I have managed to get on a plane and fly to another country on my own. If you knew what state I was in twelve months ago you wouldn’t believe I would be able to do such a thing. But I have and I will continue to get better and more confident. There have been some knocks but I am resigned to put that in the past and moving on.

Last week I gained the most visits and views on my blog here than ever before and that has made me one happy person. Not that I am sitting hoping that I get thousands of views but to know that maybe some people are interested in those things I often apologize for.

How do you move on?

I spoke in the last blog about remembering the time when my father died and how it has affected me now that my mother is no longer with us. There are some people who stick to death and bereavement like chewing gum sticks to the cat. But how do we move on?

Firstly, do you want to move on? There seems a thread now in society that if we aren’t at the grave every week or sometimes even every day that we have forgotten the person or the person somehow doesn’t hold the same meaning to us when they were alive. I have seen and read numerous times how families are clinging on to the memory of their loved one in some vain attempt to keep them alive. Siblings forced to mourn for a brother or sister they haven’t even met.

Because you are moving on with your life that doesn’t mean you forget the person or love them less. Building shrines to someone aren’t helpful. I will talk about the person but there are times now after the stage of mourning where you have to start living your life again. Sitting around thinking about the person you have lost all day isn’t helpful or healthy.

I am not a one to shy away from bereavement and expressing the hurt and pain it causes. At my funeral, I don’t want any of this ‘celebration of life’ crap. I want crying and tears. Then when you have done the dishes and hoovered then you can raise a glass or seven and then start moving on with life. I am dead. Gone. Not coming back. No amount of bright colours or waving off balloons is going to bring me back. I might joke about this but I know that a lot of people want a celebration of life and there is nothing wrong with that either. It’s not me and not who I am.

People who post messages to a person on social media like they are looking in from another spiritual dimension can be helpful for younger people in the beginning but again I have read where people are posting messages about how the person who has died will be drinking alcohol and spending Christmas on a cloud somewhere. A bizarre way to view the afterlife and a little childish in my opinion.

Bereavement can cause a whole raft of behaviours that are strange. It’s when that behaviour is unhealthy or even dangerous that help should be given. It can cause serious mental illness and as someone who has suffered from depression for over twenty years I have had to be aware of my own health and keeping that from slipping downwards.

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The best advice I have heard in the past few months is taking a few small steps into the world again but don’t expect change over night. I am terrified of leaving my home town and going on holiday. I am racked with guilt about ‘enjoying’ life. Somehow it seems wrong to have a life outside of mum. Having been her carer for so many years. But if I was to ask what she might say about my guilt, she probably would laugh, and ask ‘What on earth have you got to feel guilty about?’.

She would then chastise me for being silly and tell me to move on. It would have been her way of dealing with things. Dismissing them and then getting on with life. If life was as easy as that I wouldn’t be writing this blog in my living room but in the south of France somewhere.

So you take small steps until you are ready. I went for bereavement counselling as part of those small steps I am not ashamed to say I got help. There is no shame in asking for help from anyone. It hasn’t been easy but I am glad I did it. It doesn’t make me any weaker or less of a man it means I am being honest about what I am feeling and willing enough to take steps to being well again.

Despise

 

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I despise this sort of Christianity and religion. It’s not praise God in the slums and the places where people are of need. The area in question is California. Lovely sunshine and a wonderful place to be. It’s middle-class christianity which is safe and unassailable. Giving thanks to god when you are part of a huge church with a support network that keeps you from feeling down and debilitated. It is a prosac religion.

I don’t usually name the people who post these sort of things but this guy has a huge influence on young minds who see this sort of religion has acceptable. It isn’t real life and when the bad times do hit the become confused that life isn’t all about sun shine and happiness.

Giving up (update)

I few weeks I posted a blog about looking towards the future and trying to comprehend life after the death of my mother. The post got me thinking that taking small steps to achieving something was the way forward. I know that from time under the CBT therapist she mentioned about setting smaller goals and putting a step forward in ways I know that could be measured and achievable.

I turned to one of my great loves. Photography? no. Drinking? no. Ogling young men? NO! Just tell us!!!

Food.

It always makes me chuckle when people ask me if I like a certain food as I pat my belly as say I didn’t get this size chomping on sticks of celery. I learned to like all food. It was a given in my household growing up that if you didn’t like what you were given you would go hungry as there was no alternative.

So I decided to make the thing that I really wanted to eat. Gone are the days when people cooked traditional food in the house. It’s now ‘pub food’ or ‘gastronomy delights’ and that sort of crap. I do like meat and I am a fan of the steak and kidney pie. I thought I would try it first rather than the steak and kidney pudding which my grandmother used to make.

So I have cooked and prepared. At the moment the meat is cooking and I have other stuff to do. I haven’t made the pastry from scratch because I don’t want to try everything at the same time and I haven’t made pastry since I was a kid.

Kenneth Williams

I had a look back at my blog and thought I must have written about him hundreds of times only to realise I think I mentioned him once when I had bought an autobiography for 1p on Amazon. That’s it. It is strange what you perceive in your own mind and what is the reality. Things couldn’t be any different once you delve into the past.

I feel an affinity towards Kenneth Williams not only did he appear in the 26 of the most successful British comedy films through his life but he was a consummate raconteur of the talk show circuit in the 1970s and 80s. He was a brilliant panelist on Just a Minute a BBC radio show from 1968 until his death in 1988. The premise of the show is talking and this was his craft and he honed it to perfection.

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Kenneth Williams led a reclusive and sad life. He wouldn’t allow people to visit a sparsely decorated flat that he lived in. He hated any kind of germs or untidiness. He was brought up in a strict Wesleyan Methodist household. It was certainly different from the Methodism we see today. High morals and certainly a disapproving of someone who was seen to be a homosexual. It would have been seen as a sin and a dark cloud that would have irritated and upset Williams’ father, Charlie.

It was only in 1967 that Britain decriminalised homosexual acts and by this time Kenneth was well into his forties. The deep spiritual belief that being gay was a sin was entrenched into Williams’ psyche something that he wouldn’t be able to accept or come to terms with throughout his life.

Even meeting the playwright Joe Orton with his liberal views wasn’t enough to shake off the British facade of wearing the collar and tie even on the beach. You had to look the man to be the man.

My mother was desperate for me to emulate older people within my family unit. “Why can’t you dress like your uncle so and so?” She used to ask me. Growing up with someone who believes that in the 1980s young teenagers should dress like someone in their late 60s caused a great amount of conflict in my house. Especially when it came for me to tell them I had become a Christian and would be regularly attending the local church. My mother was horrified that I was going to church each week dressed in jeans and t-shirt. I had become morally bankrupt in her eyes.

My life seems to have been almost a copy of Williams on paper. His father was Welsh. The religion was Methodist as was my mother’s. We both suffered from depression and conflicts due to being gay. Always the consummate clown from an early age. I was berated by my mother when they received the annual school report to say Philip is messy and a chatterbox. I can remember from the age of six thinking up my first joke. I explained to this to my mother many years later that in conversation with who it may be my brain is thinking of a funny line to say. If I do think it’s funny, I will say it. If it isn’t I won’t. Other times I will say things without thinking and some people do laugh but others seeing as being crude or rude.

Williams quoted someone in one of his television appears about being an atheist. The person in question had asked what if all of life was just a joke and there was no God. The person responded by saying if it is a joke let’s make it a good one.

Moving on

I moved to the house I live in now 14 years ago. I was so excited about getting away from the old house I really didn’t think for a moment that I would spend the next three month after moving day being utterly miserable and regretting my decision.

I know that statistics tell us that moving house is one of the most stressful things to have to to go through and it’s up there with divorce and bereavement. Being naive to this at the time, the move was extremely stressful as the looney that was buying the house that I owed demanded all sorts of work be carried out at my expense before she moved in. She dictated the process all along. She knew I was in love with the house that I wanted to move to and kept making pretty unreasonable demands.

When moving day finally arrived I really questioned whether all the stress, time and money was worth it. I was now in a house that I hated and was desperate to have the life I had back in the in the old place. I had moved on quite literally and I felt it was unnecessary and ultimately the worst decision of my life.

Sometimes you look at the past and you are desperate to go back to what you had. You want that final conversation or just time to say goodbye and know that the person you have lost knows that you loved them. Grief can do strange things to people and I what I have learned so far is not to punish yourself. Taking each day at a time is important and making small steps at a time when you know you cannot run.

Some people try and keep themselves busy almost to shield themselves from the pain but there will be a time when that grief will manifest itself in whatever form it takes. It can creep up on you when you are least expecting it. If you are one of those people who say ‘I am not going to cry or let it affect me’ you might be doing more harm to yourself in the long term.

I know people who we all have lost wouldn’t want to see us upset with pain but sometimes we need to let go of what the person we think would want and allow ourselves to mourn. In allowing ourselves moments we are releasing the pain. It’s not that we are releasing them or loving them any less we are allowing ourselves to heal. It’s not moving from the love but moving on with our lives.

BBC – Stephen Fry

The BBC have been highlighting the issue of mental health with week of programmes about the problems that people have faced with getting a diagnoses and treatment. The first programme retraces Stephen Fry’s life and how he has had to adjust things to cope. Ten years on from his award-winning programme about a secret life of a manic depressive.

I cannot believe that it is ten years since he made the programme and four years since he visited a country of Uganda with it’s hideous and rampant homophobic views of their politicians who have passed laws deliberately target those in the gay community. Seeing it as a ‘sin’ which must be crushed and eradicated. The established church have a lot of serious soul searching in fuelling that homophobic view of gay people seeing them as some sort of curse or deviant negative force in the world.

It was good to hear on the programme the different experiences that others had in having to cope with serious mental illness. It isn’t just a matter of snapping out of mood of feeling sorry for yourself or long-term sadness.

I know that looking at recent experiences and having to evaluate my own health and life that I need to make sure that I am doing everything in my own power to protect myself from being swamped by the over-whelming feeling of worthlessness and look introspectively.

Having cared for my mother for such a long time and that being my entire focus I may I have taken my eye off the ball and not realised that I too must take care of my own health. Allowing myself to grieve and taking time to get my love back for life and the things I appreciate and care about.

Sunshine after the rain

Parts of the USA getting blanketed with snow. People stranded and others very sadly have lost their lives. We are at the mercy of mother nature and the ever changing weather patterns across the world. If you are in the UK you would have heard the news about the localised flooding which has caused millions of pounds of damage to peoples homes and businesses.

When you are in the middle of it all and you are seriously affected by it it seems like the pain and misery caused by the weather will never go away. People who have to literally rebuild their homes can take months and even years to put back together the life that they once new. Sometimes it cannot ever be the same again. You are left still with the mental damage that this has caused. My thoughts are certainly with the people who have lost loved ones in serious weather conditions.

This weekend has been the first time in months that I have felt ‘normal’. I was used to waking each morning full of anxiety and dread of what the day will hold. It took a few hours of that anxiety to go and somehow I would calm down. That no longer happens. I can wake in the morning and feel like normal human being.

After looking after mum and grieving for her you have to put your life back together. Things that were dismantled and put on hold will need to be restarted. The storm has passed but it’s time to get on with things and sort out that which needs to go and others things that can be salvaged. The key thing is not going too fast and making a mess of things. Progress of this sort takes time and patience.

Frost

It’s been a cold week. I haven’t been going out much as I have been recovering from a winter bug which saw me laid up in bed for the best part of two days doesn’t really help when you aren’t feeling the best in the first place. It was bad because I was waking up thinking I was back living at my parents and they, when you realise where you are at it, makes you feel like crap.

I don’t know what it is when I’ve got older I have become less tolerant of the cold. I was talking to a friend about this and they said it doesn’t bother them. Just put more layers on. I think it’s more to do with hardwiring in my head that has a lot to do with it. Trying to protect me and feeling safe. If I feeling I am a little out of my depth or insecure going to somewhere and it makes me uncomfortable for whatever reason it will cause distress. It is a self-preservation mechanism that kicks in.

The spring and the summer are great. Nothing better than flinging the windows and doors open allowing the warm air to go through the house. Sitting in the garden and admiring the view (when it looks nice and not like a council landfill site as it does at the moment).

Everytime – Britney Spears

On Saturday night I couldn’t stop crying. I feel okay today. Yesterday was okay. But with having lost a mother sometimes grief hits you when you least expect it. This song perfectly puts in to words what I was feeling. Particularly the lines …

I may have made it rain,
Please forgive me,
My weakness caused you pain,
And this song’s my sorry.

 

 

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Still grumpy

Gari Wellingham

UK-based musical theatre geek previously living with a brain tumour!