Monday, 3 October 2016


I can’t remember a day in the last 11 months that I didn’t cry. Crying for a multitude of reasons, not just because I was sad, although that probably makes up about 85% of the tears, but crying because I was angry, frustrated or in pain. No happy tears unfortunately.

I have read that there are different chemical compounds, depending on the type of tears we cry. We have Basic tears, which keep our eyes lubricated and appear as we blink. Reactive tears, which appear as a reflex response, like when we peel onions or get something caught in our eye. And then we have Emotional tears, which can be happy, sad, angry etc. Emotional tears are the interesting ones to scientists, however, because not only do they look different under the microscope but they taste different too. Emotional tears, especially the ones produced when we are grieving or unhappy, are produced when our stress hormones increase, so they are actually denser and contain more sodium. They sting because they contain more salt and the more they sting, the more we rub, hence red swollen eyes. The sweetest tasting tears, of course, are happy or laughing tears where no stress is released so there is not as much salt.

Only humans have Emotional tears. No other mammal has the capacity for this sort of crying, no matter how many photos you’ve seen of elephants or chimps with a slow tear rolling down their faces. I sometimes wish we didn’t cry. I feel so exhausted and dehydrated from crying all the time. I know it’s a stress relief but the after-effects are horrible. My face is almost always puffy, eyes red and sore, I have constant headaches from the stress and tension of pushing out difficult tears of pain. It is not a healthy way to be.

I had extensive survey last November and now have a titanium lower thigh and a high-grade plastic knee. I couldn’t move my leg for 2 months and was out of action for almost 4. I had to leave my flat in London and at the age of 48, move back in to my parent’s house in a tiny village in the middle of Hampshire, so that I could be looked after. The shock to the system of intense pain and complete silence was huge. I had only a few visitors, the ones able to get time off to visit from London, or a smattering of family. People find it difficult to cope with other people’s pain. They either over-comfort or change the subject when I wince or cry out. And the trouble is, 11 months later I am still crying out.

They now say I have chronic pain. Pain that never goes away. My leg, physically, has been mended. The titanium is in the right place and it is all moving correctly. But when you think what has been done inside, the invasiveness of the surgery, I’m not all surprised that my leg doesn’t like it. Naturally your body wants to expel foreign objects and I honestly think that if the metal and plastic weren’t physically bolted and cemented into my bones, then they would force themselves out through my skin, desperate for air. That’s what it feels like. My body just doesn’t like it’s new visitors. And now, almost a year down the line, my good leg, my right leg, is in the same sorry state of disrepair as my left, and also needs the same surgery.

I have named my knees – Lulu for the left one and Ropi for the right – so that I can swear at them and tell them what I think. I can converse with them and ask them to behave. I can’t unfortunately, ask them to leave, like an overdue drunken guest.

I sometimes wake up and find my pillow wet, having cried in the night without realising. I have never screamed or sworn as much in my life, as I do physio every single day and feel no improvement whatsoever. I have had second surgeries and endless MRI’s to see what needs to be done next and yet, when I then see other people suffering, I realise how pathetic I must seem. At least I have my legs, and I have been helped. Others haven’t and can’t. I tell myself to pull myself together and fucking stop crying but then there is so much other shit going on that I sometimes feel justified in my self pity. Self pity is a disgusting selfish emotion. I cry and then hate myself. I then cry for hating myself.

Everyone has an opinion on my crying and most people think I’m depressed. I don’t think I’m depressed, I know it for sure. What I won’t do is go on antidepressants. And the reason I won’t go on antidepressants is because currently my Mother is on them – for her manic depression – and my Father is on them – to cope with my Mother’s depression. And they are the ones I’m sharing a house with. Two depressed parents. As if it couldn’t get any worse....

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

My arse in an airplane seat.

I’m worried about my arse! I’m not usually worried about it... in fact, when I do think about it, it’s usually when I see it in a dressing room mirror, from behind, at an awkward angle, and I think my God that’s a good chunk of bum, but at the same time I’m annoyed that it doesn’t fit into many jeans or trousers. 

I have a large posterior, always have done, and it does get a lot of attention from a certain type of male. The certain type of male that likes voluptuous round arses funnily enough. But that’s not the problem. The reason I’m worried about it, is that next week I have to squeeze it into a small seat on a small plane, for ten hours on a flight to Cuba. I’m fine in normal airplane seats but I get the feeling that this might be a bit smaller than the normal jumbo jets and that I’ll have to push it down, between the arm rests and hope my neighbours don’t mind an extra bit of bum and top thigh pushing against their own. 

Most people look at me and see a pin head, then they look further down and see ample boobs and a waist. But then my body sort of explodes outwards... I am a very peary pear-shape and it takes people by surprise. I stupidly have changed my seat to a window seat and realise my bottom will have to pass two passengers to reach its destination. My big bum inches from their faces!! I just hope they don’t tut or sigh loudly and don’t roll their eyes or give their other neighbour a knowing look that says.. oh great, we’ve got a fatty next to us! For ten bloody hours!

Or let’s just hope they are one of the people that favour the larger derriere, then I’ll be fine!

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

How Similar.

When you find a blog that seems to be written by your doppelgänger or at least someone that seems to be in a similar place to you.. it's as refreshing as spring rain. It goes something like these ladies…

Wednesday, 11 February 2015


I'm stuck. I'm stuck in a circle of illness and the inability to want to continue my life the way its has been going. I'm not sure if the illness is causing the despair that my life is not how I want it, or the disappointment of my life is causing me to be ill. Chicken and egg.

I can absolutely and truthfully admit that my illness is real. As was the 5 hours spent in A&E yesterday. That sort of thing you cannot fake. You cannot fake chest x-rays and blood tests. You cannot fake asthma or a constant and unforgiving rattle in the lungs that teases me and bullies me every time I breathe. You cannot fake a doctor saying to you that you have a chest infection and sinusitis and labyrinthitis. That you need to go home and go to bed and take all the medication and take it easy and not rush back to work. You can't pretend to be ill when the experts are poking and prodding you because science doesn't lie.

So why do I feel as if I've willed it to happen. That another day spent freelancing for a studio, doing a job that at most makes me feel lacklustre, has somehow caused my body to rebel and bring on all these sicknesses because I don't want to do it anymore. There is another vicious circle at play here… if I don't work, I don't have the luxury of doing the things that do make me happy – writing and traveling. If I don't work I don't get paid, I am a freelance designer after all. If I don't get paid, I can survive about two weeks before things start to unravel. Two weeks without work and my direct debits are in jeopardy, my bills are on the cusp of not being paid, my mortgage may bounce. I should have savings though, you think, possibly out loud, as you read this. I have a back-up plan surely, for when things are bad. But you see, I never really have had a back-up plan. I always seem to do ok. I always work just enough to cover everything. I don't work more hours when offered because I don't like what I do, enough to want to do it for more hours than is absolutely possible.

So, here I am in week three of being ill, wondering what the hell I'm going to do. You see I did something stupid. I was so miserable before Christmas with the endless rat run of my life, that I spent my tax money on a trip to Cuba. I paid out £2500 on an amazing 2 weeks in Cuba that I am supposed to be going on in 3 weeks from now, and I am left with nothing. I cannot pay my tax, my bills, my mortgage. I have no spending money to take to Cuba. And I have not been able to do a full weeks work in 3 weeks because my body (and mind) refuse to get well. But there is this nagging thought in the back of my mind, that somehow, I have made myself sick. That it is some kind of wake-up call, making me really truly face my fears and get the fuck out. 

I did attempt to go back to work on Monday. I was still on antibiotics and steroids and inhalers but I knew I had to try and make it for a few days at least. I needed to earn some money and so I managed to just scrape through those 8 hideous hours. I wasn't given anything too difficult, my brain coped as my body cried to go home but it was ok. But yesterday, Tuesday, I only made it to midday. I then had a panic attack. I was sitting in front of my computer and was about to work on a design, and the room began to swim. The printers – which quite unfairly have been moved next to the freelancers desks, and emit a loud whine and an intense heat at all times – were screaming as they forced out paper after paper. I held my head and groaned and a couple of freelancers nodded in appreciation of my pain. They felt it too but they weren't ill and so the intensity wasn't quite so great. The printer was the pain in my head, and I gripped the desk as the room swayed. As the room swayed, I blinked and blinked but couldn't focus, on anything. My breathing became shallow and I started to wheeze and as that small whine left my body, I began to panic. I couldn't do it. I stood slowly and unsteadily went to the loo. I put my wrists under the cool water from the tap and I looked at myself in the mirror, willing it to stop. I told myself not to panic and I used my inhaler. My breathing started to slow and I went back to my desk. Then wallop, it was back. I gripped the back of my chair and quickly put things in my bag, vaguely trying to form a plan. I couldn't think straight, I only knew I had to get outside, to leave the building, to go home. I made it to the lift and clung to the walls as I went to the lobby. No one was around except the two receptionists. It was lunchtime thank god, so no one had noticed my strange behaviour, my unsteady steps. But the girls at reception noticed immediately. I must have been white as a sheet. One said… Jules, and put a hand out towards me. Are you ok? she asked. No, I said. And then I just stood there looking at her. I didn't know where to go, or what to do. I just wanted someone to take care of me, to help me, to tell me what to do. And she put her head on one side and told me to calm down, and that everything would be ok, and she guided me to a little room and said she would call a taxi. She took care of me for 30 seconds and I felt such gratitude. I have no one to look after me and miss those little kind words and caring gestures. I sat there and thought how tired I was, of it all, of doing it by myself, all the fucking time, and the panic came at me again, in a giant wave that left me gasping for air and holding onto the coffee table as I tried to keep whole. 

I heard the receptionist tell the taxi driver to take me to emergency, to University College Hospital, and I didn't refuse. I walked slowly to the car and tried to breathe as the car raced through traffic and road works to the busy hospital. They signed me in and heard my rasping breath as I tried to explain what was happening. I saw the concern and genuine worry as they led me to a nurse. But the panic was making me silent… I felt if I tried to explain that my world might end. That voicing anything at that moment would turn on a tap that wouldn't stop, so I let them do their medical things and I waited. I wasn't told I had had a pretty intense panic attack. That, I think they knew was the tail end of the illness. They knew that the asthma and the general feeling of being incredibly unwell had most probably brought on the panic attack. They most probably see that everyday too so know its best just to keep to the facts and remain calm. They genuinely were some of the nicest people I have met. Maybe they saw the fear in my eyes, the loneliness too, or maybe they were just doing their job, but I felt a level of compassion that I haven't felt in a long time. 

And so with that, came an amazing restfulness. My panic subsided as I let myself be looked after. I let them do their chest x-rays and their blood tests. I let them put in drips and needles and I let them bring me sweet tea and biscuits. I let them do it all for 5 hours until the consultant had all he needed. I then let him tell me I should be in bed, that I was really quite ill and I listened to him. He was kind and gentle and explained things to me. He gave me advice and wrote prescriptions and he made sure I was ok to leave on my own. He made me promise to call him if I was worried and gave me a number. He took his time.

I had someone tell me what to do and I stopped panicking. All it took was a reassurance and a few kind words, and the relief of not having to make every single damn decision on my own, every day of my bloody life, was glorious. 

Thursday, 5 February 2015

On reflection...

My last post on here was almost a year ago. Why?

It’s hard to tell the truth all the time. 

I write another blog (WhatISaw.WhatIHeard) which regales the reader with tales of my life, but it’s the fun stuff, the witty anecdotes, the amusing observations. On here, I write openly about my hurt, my open wounds. It’s more like a journal and therefore, is more painful to write. I suppose my blogs are the two sides to my personality. The one I want people to see, and the one I don’t. This one I hide from my friends and family. It is anonymous. It is secret.

We are all very good at hiding things in everyday life, I know I am. I am so often told how jolly I am, how confident I am, how unafraid I am. That I make the most out of life and grab each day with gusto. Yes, that’s the Jules I want people to see, and I’ve become very good at it. But that is my external self, the public self, the self-preservation person, the one that doesn’t get hurt, the one that doesn’t need anyone or anything, the one that has no vulnerability. So am I leading a double life? Of course I am. 

No one can spend the day thinking of all the stuff in their life that they don’t like, the things that get them down, what makes us cry. We would all be leaping off tall buildings if that were the case. But we all get moments when we can wallow in the sadness, when we don’t want to get out of bed and would prefer to cry and hide under the covers for a while. And you know what, the older I get, the more readily I can admit to that. I’m not alone either it seems. My friends are more honest about themselves, about their hopes and disappointments. I get long emails from old school and college friends, pouring their hearts out about their sadness and despair. I write back with my own. I share more. I know that by getting things out, it doesn’t seem as lonely a place as I originally thought. 

Even today I have been writing back and forth to a friend who I see at work almost on a daily basis. I happen to be off sick with a heinous chest infection but I know I will see her in a few days. So why write endless emails to each other? Because we really aren’t that brave in person. We can’t seem to get it out in speech and not be embarrassed by our purging. Writing is so much easier isn’t it? We are both in our mid-forties. We are both single. We are both childless. My decision to not have children was taken out of my hands when I was told at 39 that I was going through the menopause. Until that age, I had not met the right man and therefore, hadn’t been in a situation where I wanted to have a child. My time ran out. My friend is in the same situation but without the menopause bit. She has just never met the right person either. She did not want to have children with a man who she didn’t see as part of her future. It’s an incredibly responsible approach really and very unselfish but now she is alone because of that decision. It seems very unfair. We also have bonded over our loneliness or rather our hidden loneliness. I have exposed to her my vulnerable side, I have told her how lonely I feel, with no shame or embarrassment because I know she experiences the same thing. But on the outside, aren’t the two of us the most fun-loving, strong, independent women we know? Of course we are, it’s self preservation. If we let our guard down, we would be two pathetic bawling rags on the floor!!! And we can’t have that can we? Certainly neither of us were brought up to be so ‘open’ about our feelings. Gosh, sometimes our parents make it very hard for us don’t they??

So, as I lay here in bed for the third consecutive day, on both steroids and antibiotics for my crappy chest and asthma, I began feeling even more sorry for myself. Illness is a great time to feel well and truly miserable. Your body hurts, your brain hurts and every single thing in your life seems shit. And for me, living alone, with no boyfriend, husband or kids, there is also no one to bring you a mug of soup, or some paracetamol. You are alone with your illness and there is nothing crappier than that. I think that’s where it started this morning, the emails with my friend. I kept thinking – as well as dying and no one finding me for days – that if I was ill in 10 years or 20 years, would I still be alone in my flat with no one to worry about me, no one to take care of me. And I cried. I cried for my older self for a good 5 minutes, until it sent me into a wheezing and coughing frenzy and then I stopped. Self pity is rather revolting but a good cry every now and then is wonderful because you can then shout at yourself afterwards for being so stupid. 

I had an email from the friend at work, just as I had finished crying. All she wrote was, “I feel gloomy today. Sick of flogging it alone”. And it went from there. As a detail, she had just started dating a man with children, going through a divorce. After 3 weeks, he said he wasn’t ready for a relationship and that she didn’t seem to need anyone in her life anyway. He was mean to her, his words hurt her but they also made her realise that she comes across that way, to men. She is afraid to get hurt by seeming to need or want anything. So she makes out her life is perfect. It’s a lie of course.

I wrote back… (and I know she won’t mind me putting it on here because if it makes one single person feel a little better and not so alone, then that’s a good thing)

Oh me too... That's what has upset me so much this week. Just that vicious circle of going round and round with nothing changing. I feel like a hamster on a wheel, just round and round with nothing to show for it. Always doing it on my own, no support, no one to help, no one to look after me. Then I fast forward 20 years and wonder what will life be like then? I don't want to be alone anymore either. I know how you feel darling. It's just shit.
I think that's the hardest part of not having children. We see no change in our lives. With children your life changes daily as they grow. Your life constantly looks different whereas I feel my life hasn't looked different for years. Yes I fill it with friends and fun things and traveling but from the outside there is nothing different.
God I don't mean to depress you any more darling. Sorry.
I think we both need to find men that already have children. XX wasn't the right one for you but I think we are both incredibly nurturing and need someone to look after. With someone that has children we may get the chance to experience that, or at least grandchildren in 20 years, at least.
I'm not in a good place to start dating again but I think I'm now realistic with what I want. And that is family. My own family and I are soooo close and so it's incredibly important to me. I have known since I was 39 I couldn't have children and so it was always a case of... Well how else can you have a family then?
I know we are so similar in how we think. We are cheerful and upbeat on the outside, but inside we are crying for someone. And yes, we get down and blue. I know I am very prone to illness... I knew that from the moment my thyroid was removed, one of the side effects unfortunately. Low immune system. So I get ill a lot. And when I get ill I get very blue. I overthink everything and my life feels so empty. But then I get emails from friends and I realise I have such am incredible support network and that you guys keep me going.
I know we are fairly new friends but I really value your friendship honey. I'm always here for you too. Huge hug.
X x x

J, Every single thing you've mentioned describes exactly how I feel. On the outside I stand strong and prob come across as a little tough & hard to the opposite sex.
I'm defo tough but I have an enormous heart with so much love to give - this feeling can be suffocating.
Although cock features isn't for me I found myself saying "I love my life, I feel blessed for what I have ( I do) but I won't tolerate or compromise unless it feels right", which is true - I painted my life to appear fantastic as I was protecting myself.  I do this a lot.

K, I do think we do sometimes shoot ourselves in the foot for not being vulnerable though. My ex said to me.. sometimes you appear as if you need no one. You are so independent and self assured, it sometimes feels as if there isn't room in your life for someone else. And your confidence is a little intimidating, as if I will never be good enough.
Eek.. so our strength is actually sometimes quite off-putting!
Men do like a bit of vulnerability. They like to be wanted and needed. The damsel if you like… And I know I have to change that about me sometimes. The big brave Jules is my exterior protection shell. No one can hurt me if I don't trust or open my heart to anyone. I know that. I was ready when I met my ex, to open myself to him, to show what I really wanted. I trusted him with my honesty and vulnerable side… and then it went wrong. He chose his dead wife over me… he was being honest with himself. And of course I was devastated. But I don't regret opening up to him. I don't regret having my heart broken. I felt a sense of euphoria and freedom for not pretending all was ok and I could combat everything.
It's taken me a while to think I can do it again though. But I do learn from my mistakes. I need to knock down my armour a little and not appear too bloody Boudicea or Boodica, or however you are supposed to pronounce her name these days.
Yes we are strong women, but are lives are far from perfect and its not a sign of weakness to admit that. Even if its just between us.. haha.
Love you sweetie.

J, I think we both have to choose more wisely, sometimes it's not always that straight forward as men play games. Better to have loved than not so I'll try and open myself up more. I will  learn from this.
Great we can chat like this x

The exchange went on for the next hour (not sure what work she is doing!) but it was pretty much along the same vein. The email exchange won’t solve anything, it won’t change either of our circumstances but it is so wonderful being able to tell someone, and in my friends’ words, and how she signed off her last email…

“… it is just comforting to know you feel the same.”

So it is. So it is.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Life, later.

It is interesting reading old blogs… like reading old diaries and letters, you see yourself how you were, and sometimes that person is a stranger. Many of the emotions, I felt two and three years ago, I see as so selfish and self indulgent now. I want to shake my slightly younger self and say, "Do you realise how amazing your life could have been, how much time you wasted?" I have read a dozen or so posts this morning and have been sobbing, reliving it all over again… the sadness, the struggle. I have swallowed many of those memories. You never really want to live though the sad stuff again but seeing what I went though and where I am now, I'm proud that I made it ok. I could have sunk deeper but I chose to swim.

I'm not saying the last few years has been easy… I have probably had my heart broken in more ways than in my previous years put together but I think with experience and knowledge you deal with things differently. I have already talked about my Mothers terrible illness and the repercussions that it has had on the family. But other members of my family have been ill and some have died. Death, when it happens more regularly, makes you take a really good look at your own life. Have you lived your life to the full? Are you proud of what you've achieved?

I went through years of panic attacks and endless dark days, struggling to come to terms with being childless. When I finally accepted I wouldn't be able to have children of my own, and there was no sperm donor or IVF treatment in the world that could help me, it finally set me free. That was January 2012. But then, of course, came the philosophical questions. If women are put on this earth to procreate, what is her role if she cannot have children? Why am I even here... what's the point? I began thinking of gloriously dangerous jobs I could volunteer for, because it actually didn't really matter if I died. Ok, sorry, that probably came as a shock to read. What I mean is… I just felt that there was nothing stopping me, I had no one in my life that relied on me for anything, so why not do charity work in a war zone. I thought about this for months and months assuming that now my life was worthless, I could devote myself to helping others instead. I rang up the Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières, offering my help. I was rejected again and again. Having a BA in Graphic Design is not really the qualification they are looking for… doctors and nurses, yes, a girl with an eye for a good typeface, no.

I finally rejected all the extreme ideas and focussed on what I could do... be a good friend, a supportive and loving daughter, a wonderful sister. I seemed to be able to make people laugh and cry when I wrote, so why not leave that as my legacy instead? So I started a new, more positive blog called “What I Saw. What I Heard.” I began a creative writing class, writing story after story, until finally one of them won a prize. After years of feeling worthless, that one silly little literature prize made me feel that life wasn't shit and that I could do something worthwhile. I started traveling more, visiting friends and family around the world, really embracing the freedom I had, that not having children had given me. Instead of being made to feel selfish (my own doing), I took my childlessness by the horns and ran with it.

2012 was my year of writing and finding my new independent self but 2013 was my year of love, passion and heartbreak. I had woken up in January, happy and confident, realising that my life was pretty wonderful but that I really wanted to fall in love again. Friends and family can fill your life with love and laughter but being in love, having a partner to hold your hand and grow old with, that can not be replaced with writing and traveling. So, I bit the bullet and joined a dating website. I had 9 disastrous dates and then I met Mr Blue (a pseudonym of course).

Mr Blue was the most romantic, handsome, loving, tender man I have ever met. He was a widower, having his lost his wife to cancer 15 months earlier. He had been married to her for 21 years... they met when he was 18. She was his only love. He was still grieving terribly but felt ready to meet someone and try and love another. In fact, in one of the very first letters he wrote to me (yes, he really was old school romantic), he said, “I just want you to take this big broken heart heart of mine and hold it in the palm of your hands”. His letters were beautifully written and made me weep with the tenderness he expressed. I have never ever experienced anything like the love I felt for him. It came quickly and explosively and I was so unprepared for having this man turn my life upside down, that I really did go through all the ridiculous symptoms... not eating or sleeping, crying all the time. But I realised a lot of my tears were for him and his wife and not for our happiness. The more I heard him talk about his late wife, the more I knew he wasn't ready. His grief was palpable and raw and he cried openly about how much he missed her. Every day I spent with him was emotional... his pain and sorrow transferred from tears to incredible passion in bed. It was the one time we were together that he could forget her and so it became all consuming. He did love me, I don't doubt that for a second, but he also knew he wasn't ready to leave her love behind. He began feeling that he was being unfaithful, that he was betraying her by being with me. I honestly thought we could get through it, that our relationship was strong enough. I offered him time... time to grieve on his own. We talked, we cried, we wrote letters to each other and after a week away with a friend, I came back, thinking things would be ok. We sat on Wimbledon Common and he told me he couldn't do it anymore... that his guilt was eating him up, that he was betraying her and that he would rather hurt me now, than a year from now. That he would rather be alone with the warm comfort of his grief than be with someone he couldn't give himself fully to. I was devastated. I cried for weeks. I wrote him letters saying I would wait, and then didn't send them. I wrote him letters saying how much I missed him and, they too, are still sealed in my kitchen drawer. I stupidly deleted all traces of him from my phone, I threw away the letters, the books he had given me. My heart was in so many pieces that I couldn't risk seeing a glimpse of him.

It has been 6 months. I have only just been able to wake up without thinking about him. When friends ask about him, I still cry. I miss him so much but my recent tears are not only for the breakup but for him, his grief. I am so sad for him... I can see past the relationship and my love for him now and recognise the grief and pain he must have felt. And I want to reach out and comfort him and make it better, but I know he will never reply if I wrote. I know his guilt is too much. He knows he broke my heart and will never ever contact me again. The heart hurts more when there is no tangible reason to break up... no one was unfaithful, no one shouted or screamed, no one moved away. It's sad.

I went to Alaska for a month in September, which helped me think about other things. I then had a stupid fling just before Christmas... the cliché rebound. A Canadian, with so little in common it was quite perfect. And so here we are in 2014. No boyfriend and certainly no internet dating... I may have found the love of my life on there but I just can't go through that again, any time soon. I have a very full social life though, great friends, I try and challenge myself all the time by doing different things, and have booked 4 holidays already. And, of course, I'm still writing...

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Two Years and Three Months.

It has been two years and three months since I last wrote on Single Supplement. I began to find it harder and harder to put things into words, because all my inadequacies were there for everyone to see and I started to feel quite vulnerable. I was also embarrassed at the ridiculous state of my love life, or lack of it, and have been cringing as I re-read some of the posts! With my other blog, I write about the funny things in my life, what I do, who I see, where I've gone. I try to be witty and upbeat and I don't talk about the pain or the suffering I often feel. Maybe I thought that by not writing or thinking about it, it would go away. My parents are like that… stoic, traditional, the 'stiff upper lip' generation that are embarrassed by confessions and emotions. They seem to brush things aside, rise above the shit and get through life with a deep breath and a pat on the back. That was until my mother was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, two years and three months ago. Oh my God. I have, literally, only just realised that's when I stopped writing this blog… how extraordinary. So, unknowingly, I stopped writing about my true feelings the moment my mother got ill. In fact, not only did I stop writing, but I stopped talking. Hmm… what would a therapist think of that?

Well, I can actually answer that question because I saw mine very soon after my mum became ill. I sat in my therapists office, crying, but not uttering a single word. When I managed to eek out a sentence, around the 56th minute of the hour, and explain my wracked sobs, my therapist knew exactly what was going on. Suddenly, I had to think about someone else other than myself. I became meaningless the moment I saw my strong vibrant mother turn into a small frail bird. She physically and mentally disappeared in just under a fortnight - the metamorphosis was staggering. I have gone through illnesses with friends and family over the years but nothing quite so terrifying as this. My Father has survived his cancer for almost 12 years, my sister has had surgery, other relatives and friends have been terribly sick, but their personalities haven't changed. In the depths of my mothers depression, I don't recognise her. I now understand why mental illness scares people so much… because it's totally unpredictable. And you, as the loved ones, know that it can't be cured with a pill or potion, with kind words or a hug, you just have to wait and hope and pray the darkness will fade. My mother does have an incredible team of doctors and therapist and they prescribe and they talk and they suggest… but it really does all come down to time. Just waiting for her to get better.

Each depressive episode seems to last about 3-4 months, and each of those times seems to be triggered by winter. She gets depressed around the beginning of December and starts to get better in Spring… we don't know why. The not knowing is the hardest things to grasp. No one really knows the cause of bipolar disorder, experts included… all they agree on is that it's a chemical change in the brain. Some experts believe that it can be brought on by trauma, or by a latent memory of an unhappy childhood for instance, but this usually happens to people in their 20's, 30's or 40's. My mother was 71 when she was diagnosed, and for all the Doctors I have spoken to in the last two years and three month, that is very very unusual. Why now? Has she really stored up all tough times she's experienced through her life until this moment in time, when she and my father lead a comfortable happy life, living in a lovely Hampshire village, surrounded by friends and family? It doesn't make sense. 

My mother has experienced trauma though… her own father suffered from bipolar disorder, although in the 1960's it was called manic depression. My grandfather owned a farm in Lincolnshire. He was a proud man and kept the profound darkness he felt to himself. He had to keep the farm going, struggling every day with his demons but unable to tell a single soul… and when it finally got too much, when he was enveloped by the black cloud, he hung himself. My mother was in her early 20's, newly married and had just had her first baby, my sister. She was suffering from baby blues (the gentle mid century term for post natal depression) and suddenly, as the oldest and most responsible daughter, had to not only take care of her distraught mother, but also her 3 younger siblings. From that day, my mother was always the one who took care of everything. She helped her sister and brother through cruel addictions with drugs and alcohol; she also watched my grandmother's slow decline into alcoholism and dementia; she was helpless to prevent the loss of all the family savings through some unfortunate investments, and therefore have their lives change overnight and forever; she has seen my sister go through a devastating divorce and struggle to get her life back on track; and she has watched me, her younger daughter, go through life threatening surgery, numerous heart wrenching break-ups, and witnessed my constant feelings of inferiority and disappointment of being both unmarried and childless. So yes, my mother has had upset in her life. She has had cause to be depressed but she has never allowed herself to feel it. To push the pain down, to change the subject, to not dwell on upsetting things… this is the way my mother was brought up and how she has always dealt with pain, with disappointment, with anger, with sadness. Until now, it seems.
Currently, my mother is in her third bout of depression, but, on seeing the cherry blossom on the trees and the daffodils springing up from the earth, I'm hoping the longer days and brighter light might signify it is nearly at an end. Her illness has aged my father, yet it has also brought out a tenderness that my sister and I have never seen before. For my sister and I it has meant worry and stress like never before. But I, possibly because I have no husband or child to distract me, have maybe immersed myself a little too much. I read every article and science magazine to try and understand this horrible illness and discover a better treatment. I send dozens of emails to my father, suggesting sleep treatments and light therapy, I phone constantly and visit every few weeks… but the more I have tried to fix my mother, the more I have become ill myself.

I cannot remember the last time I slept well. I am plagued with migraine type headaches and seem to come down with every cold and infection going. I know I'm run down but I can't stop worrying and trying to help. A month ago, I was told by my Doctor and sister, to take a step back, to not get quite so involved because it was consuming me. I was going to bed thinking about my mother, and waking up a few hours later in tears, angry and despairing at this cruel change of fate. Because my mother should not be spending the last few decades of her life with this illness, it's not fair. She has lived her whole life as one of the most energetic, wonderful, generous and slightly eccentric people I have ever known. She is an incredible and inspiring mother, sharing her passions for the arts, literature and her joie de vive with me, and making me the person I am. So why now, is that being taken from her?