Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Relocating August 2008

I relocated in August 2008, the restraining order was due to expire and The Captain had been to court and been found guilty of common assault.

I was not going to be able to manage the bills, mortgage payments etc alone so the house would have to be sold, I knew that the housing price crisis was going to continue and all my invested monies of £30k would be lost. My career would be over and all my 3,000 books delisted. The future looked safer but nontheless grim.

In the few months leading up to my big move I had been flirting online with a few guys, Judy included, nothing serious, just public banter, comments on shared photos, and encouragement. I took none of it very seriously but was enjoying the attention and renewed confidence that was stirring in me.

On my return, I started seeing an ex-soldier Julian, he had was very very tall, and very bright... he had a secret to share with me, a wound. He had been tortured by a sub saharan group when captured on an intelligence mission and had suffered serious mouth injuries resulting in the loss of most of his teeth. Julian was incredibly handsome but he never smiled. We connected over he fact that we were both previous sufferers of Post Traumatic Syndrome, two people who understood that it is the strong who overcome misery. He spent some time at my house with me and my children when he could and on one occasion visited his flat, he was orderly and respectful, we actually mentioned the hope of marriage, I would laugh but did wonder what a happy marriage would be like, as I had no idea to date.As I am actually very very stupid when chosing suitable partners!

The fling was to be very shortlived.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

A Sibling account of Suicide April 2006

I mentioned a couple of times in my earlier blog that my brother had taken his own life and it had profoundly affected my view on the world, and in numerous ways will always have left me vulnerable, yet undoubtedly stronger. This following piece is extracts from a book I have been writing, I am not sure this book will ever be completed. Four years into the healing, I can now talk about his death without crying but when I do I automatically raise my hand in a halting signal, as if to say I will speak but I have to block the agony. Stop.

For Rex: Remembering by Brian Patten

Not all that you want and ought not to want
Is forbidden to you
Not all that you want and are allowed to want
Is Acceptable.
Then it gets late on
And things change their value.

You are tired.
You feel the ground with your hands.
A single blade of grass appears before your eyes.
It flashes on and off,
a remnant of paradise.

And then perhaps you will remember
What you have forgotten to remember,
What should have been so easy remembering.

You will recall the hut in the morning,
And how the hoof-prints were flooded with frost.
And how a weed and a pebble were caught once
On a cow's lip.

And perhaps how on a tremendous horse
A small boy once galloped off.
And how it was possible to do
All that now seems impossible,
All you ever wanted.

Do not be sad for me I need to speak my pain- let you know the truth of my loss and how it affected me, the process of traumatic grief, the kind of grief one feels when soemone dies unexpectadly in shocking circumstances like murder, or an unplanned death like an accidental overdose ... how the pain can make you lose your mind and want to die... I need to assure you show you can come out of it, smiling, wiser, a different person but perhaps a more caring person.

That a brutal act like suicide does not have to be a terrible legacy. You can recover... because I did.

Grief was like standing on a traffic Island with my brother’s ghost, with family members, my partner, my colleagues driving around us with singular focus on their own journey,… and I would plead and implore with Rex to tell me how he came to undertake such a dreadful task but his gaze was set on the middle distance and he would not speak or gage eye contact with me and I know he never will. He would never be called into account. To try to embrace him was futile, as a phantom has no substance.

I never dreamt I would be writing an initmate account of my encounters with surviving suicide and feeling suicidal, I had only ever thought of suicide as a drastic solution, a choice that sad and tormented people make. I didn’t think that I would have my life changed forever. That I would become an obsessive reader of books on suicidology and any literature that might give me fragmented answers, and a sense that what I was feeling was natural, that all the contradictive feelings were to be expected. Writing this was a compulsion to try and articulate what I felt. My thoughts and feelings were a vortex of destructive negativity, I had no peace of mind and nedded to draw a map to negotiate my way back to a normal life.

I wanted to write my brother’s autobiography, but quickly realized that I didn’t know enough of his life, our story was only entwined in childhood, then different roads were taken. Ironically it was to be my own memories. In adulthood we had lead very separate lives, only really meeting up when he needed my advice, or he would assist me in a house move, a few calls a year, breezy calls and angst ridden calls, when he would want to talk about our childhood, fractured by divorce and my parents incompatibility. To be truthful for a large portion of our lives I found him bad tempered, sometimes cruel and sadistic and often obsessive. He would phone me in his obsessive stages and interrogate and bounce his theories off me. His entire life from the age of 16 was taken up with numerous court cases, he would contest wills that had been written and would not hesitate in hounding people until he had sought his revenge. He had a huge chip on his shoulder. I still loved him though and am eternally grateful that in the last five years of his life he had seemed to mellow, had formed what seemed to be strong friendships and had family around him, he had mellowed and I finally enjoyed having him around.

Writing is a therapy, a casting off of sacks and cleansing of ashes,it help's to order the thoughts that never leave or are never far away, to look at and order the unceasing questions, the why? The "if only I had been there?", "If only I had done more?". The unresolvable issue, that I could, should have been a better sister. To do something productive, to talk and reach out and not be silent. Not talking can have such lethal consequences. I don’t want my brother’s death to make me another of life’s casualties.

My Mum is alive and I do not wish to ever hurt her feelings she has been hurt enough, she had not seen her son for a very long time before he died, she made mistakes and so did he, both were strong minded individuals full of pride

As my mother said to me recently- “If Rex had wanted to punish me for the rows we had, well he has, and I am forced to live with it for ever... If I had known he was even half that unhappy I would have helped him. I assumed he was happy with people he loved around him and I assumed wrong.”
We all assumed wrong though.

My mother was young when she married my father, his father owned one of the flashest houses in Nantwich, his mother was a wealthy cheese factor’s daughter from Flintshire and in photos my father was a knock-out in his RAF uniform, the crack shot of his regiment. For a beautiful girl from the back streets of Crewe he was a catch, they had a whirl wind romance and everyone’s fate was sealed. My father was a charming and endearing man but he was a compulsive gambler and seasoned liar. My mother was openly adultrous.

Families that have significant adults who have addiction problems such as gambling have to deal with periods of poverty, lies, protracted arguments and insecurity. Children's of these unions either replicate or develop deep insecurites and needs just as Rex and I did.

My parents loved each when they got married but it was a time bomb…
Another aspect of my life that will not be discussed at length is how six years prior to my brother’s death my children were removed, without my consent by by ex-husband to Dublin.

In hindsight all I can say is that he took my children because he loved them and needed the help of his family.

I had left our family home in Cheshire as I found my marriage completely unbearable. My autstic son, then five had chronic sleep problems and It was a unrelenting having not had a full nights sleep for five years, It was depressing, my ex-husband was a veteran weed smoker and was impossible to live with.

My kids remained with their father so I could get myself back together, during the period after we had separated my father was in Fordingbridge Hospice in Hampshire dying of bowel cancer and I had a duty of care to stay with him until he died. I had reluctantly given my ex-husband temporary residency. Intentions are a wonderful thing, I was convinced I’d be reunited with the children, but I needed to organize a secure home, a safe haven, a regular income but he took away this option. It took me six years to get them back.
My two little children would ironically eventually save my life, just by being there.

Because there is no greater reason to make a commitment to living than to love and be loved in return.

My brother, Rex, was found when a young mechanic playing football from the garage next door kicked a ball over Rex’s wall… he found my brother dead in his car. Rex had attached a length of hose to the exhaust fed the hose under the back seat and inhaled enough Carbon monoxide to wipe his world away. I don’t know if that young man will ever forget what he found, he was a friend of my brother and it was completely unexpected. Months later, from the post mortem we learnt that Rex had drunk a couple of glasses of red wine, probably to give him self Dutch courage. The Police Officer said his Suicide Note was soaking wet, he had wept over it. He was a seemingly healthy man in his prime of life. He was 47
It read
NO flowers No Service, no one there.
Please just put my ashes in Crewe Cemetary
Try not to be sad
It was no one thing, just been depressed for a while.
Please can someone look after my cats.

Rex had planned his death meticulously, most of his possessions had been given to charity, all his nice things were meticulously packed in boxes. He had told our Aunt that he was moving to Dorset for a fresh start. When we went to clear out his cottage his credit card bills were in one neat pile, all vehicle documents and a brochure for his chosen funeral parlour. Only two photographs were left on display, one of his Grandma Mildred (who lost two siblings to suicide herself) and a photo of me at about eight years of age in a blue pinstripe dress and peaked blue Davy Jones type cap. It was the only indication that he had loved me.

What remained could fit into a car, and piled up by the back door was about 400 demands from various banks and credit cards, institutions who had thrown £23,000 at him despite him having no regular income. What he did changed us all forever. The mark of his death is a black stain that it indelible. The Beast of Barclay’s did not clamber though his bathroom window and knife him, no, it was one bill, then another, flooding into his hall, piling up, more and more pressure, more and more fear…. He did what millions of people do everyday, he left the letters unopened and carried on spending, until every card was maxed out and the car was completely knackered – It is sinister, as the Grim reaper may as well have been stuffing those letters through his letter box. It is a concern that money lending institutions in the UK are willingly lending money to money that they cannot repay, causing worry, desperation and feelings of hopelessness and a strong sense of failure. Rex was no exception in our society, there are many stories online and in the papers, where financial worry becomes the straw that broke the camels back.

It took me 18 months to write this, in the initial week after his death, I started a very different book that was line after line of vociferous hatred, a view that was distorted by fury, blame and murderous accusations all aimed at Myself, our Mother, our Dead Father, the Banks… my hard drive died one day though and looking back this was fortuitous, as my overwhelming grief was producing a manuscript without reason and that had not been ordered by Time’s soothing hand. Having a scapegoat does not heal you, it diverts the pain and your scapegoat keeps the pain vivid

Finding out

It was bright and unusually sunny for early April, and Selsey in West Sussex was lush and on the walk home the clear blue light of the cloudless sky seemed to brighten the green of the hedges and Spring flowers. My day job as a sales rep, had been typical with the normal small talk, gossip and periods of mind stultifying monotony, satisfaction at subscriptions sold and the joy of walking out of the office, The phone rang and with that call my life was to be jettisoned into a whole new terrifying. orbit
I remember vividly the minute I was told, I came home work and answered the phone: My estranged cousin Lucy was calling me, this seemed strange as she had never called me. She said something about having some bad news and then that she couldn’t do it… the phone was handed to my aunt who said she had some dreadful news, that Rex had died, I asked how… “He gassed himself” she whispered.

I recall on telling my partner, a look of unforgettable horror on his face, as a tidal wave of violent shock hit me that I could never have anticipated. My heart beat escalated to such an extent that I thought I was having a heart attack, my legs collapsed beneath me (and for several days after my legs kept giving way). My partner was holding me up in the kitchen, I was hyperventilating and repeating…

“No, no, it can’t be, Oh my God It’s my fault, it’s my fault, oh my God I didn’t know, why didn’t I call him,”. I stood in the kitchen and started to scream......

It was to be many months before I could stop crying, waking in the night to find I was sobbing in my sleep, I would wake from fitful sessions of dozing to find my face and hair soaked with tears. I did not know that anything on earth could ever hurt that much, could cause such devastation. His death made me re-journey back in time, though all our years together, desperately trying to remember everything and anything that would give a clue to how we could have got to such a terrible place.

The three months after his death are a complete blue, I cannot remember any significant events, I do not remember how I got back in touch with my estranged mother, I do not remember where my toddler son Isaac was or who bathed him and fed him, changed his nappy…. Every thing except Rex ceased to exist, I lived in a waking dream where I would see my brother in Shadows, his image reflected in television screens, I would imagine has the butterfly that lived outside my patio door. All my perceptions were fragmented, tranquillisers did not take my hurt away but kept me alive. I would put the kettle in the fridge and a half defrosted chicken in the cupboard, I would lose my varifocals and find them days later in the cutlery draw.

I could not accept (and will never accept) that an act of suicide in healthy person is acceptable, the only thing that makes me regain normality is that the suicide’s death can only be reckoned with through understanding and living with life’s inherent contradictions. Rex’s life became my fixation to try to understand how one death can make you question and re-evaluate the meaning of everything. I lived with a spectre that would never ever speak back to me, or give me an indication that I understood why he did it.

The news was a terrible shock, I understand now, why the news made me so ill that I had had no warnings, there were no previous attempts, no history of mental illness. It was utterly unexpected and like a lobotomy changed my personality completely.
I have been a heavy drinker ever since.
My GP said shock on this level is what soldiers suffer from when they have been in battle or tortured.

Part of the road to recovery is understanding that you will never fully understand.
Part of the solution is knowing that sometimes there just isn’t a solution, there are no options that you can choose, except to carry on.
You cannot find peace until you accept that no more can be done for them.
That you are still here and that luckily he/ she was once there with you. You shared a unique bond, even if you didn’t get along you were connected by biology and family history.

Lucinda, a Rabbit and a Psychiatric nurse

I had been wearing the same clothes and my coat for 3 days, warmth evaded me, I wanted to be alone I wanted to sleep the sleep of the dead, not wake up, I was not aware of anyone around me, I could not stop crying, my legs were weak, I couldn’t move. My mind was an obstacle course,
Someone as banging on the door

She bustled in, gaunt and classy even in wellies and a filthy fleece.
“C’mon, you can't lock yourself away like this, we’re going out in the car”
“I don’t want to” I snapped
“Resistance is futile you Silly Cow, you know me better than that
You can’t sit their Tillie all day, you don’t have a choice. We’re going”
“Where are we going”?
“To see a rabbit”
“Does it have a degree in Bereavement Counseling?”
“Don’t be sarcastic just get your keys” she ordered.
We drove
“I don’t understand for one minute how you feel but you need some comfort”

The animal Rescue centre at Sidlesham is scruffy old place but the rescued animals are well cared there and at the centre there is no room for pretension

Lucinda placed a large camel coloured and speckled white rabbit gently in my lap, I held it to me and my tears dropped onto its soft thick fur.
Lucinda sat beside me silently then spoke softly placed her hand on my back.
“It will get better Tillie”

She was right.

God sent two friends to me, because where on earth did Lucinda and Sarah come from? We weren’t close before Rex died. But they seemed to materialize, beautiful, tall, slender Sarah is and was just there, like Lucinda she didn’t know Rex, but has always and still does just ask questions about him, she just listens and never asks ridiculous questions.

I am indebted to them. They listened and acted with great kindness, never passed judgement and helped keep me sane.

They just let me talk

Sarah and Lucinda know that people in mourning don’t have to wear black robes to be in real pain.

I think my friend Mary Moylan came to stay with me and offered me support....but I can hardly rmember her trip....everything was blocked out.
I am indebted to these women for their love.

Why did he do it?

In Rex’s case what determined his death was multi-determined. A cocktail of events and traits that made him highly susceptible.

Immediately after his death I seriously resented the questions people would ask
Did he drink?
Was he a drug addict?
Did he have a history of depression?
Had he tried before?
The answer was no to all these questions.

People would say things that I at the time thought idiotic.
It was what he wanted.
He didn’t know what he was doing
You have to accept it.
He is at peace now.

The only question I could answer yes to was “
Was he in debt?

The only addiction my brother ever had was chocolate, in any shape of form… It’s 1977 we are standing in the Summer Sun on a Cheshire country lane, the hedgerows towering around us, his hair was a mass of dark length Robert Plant curls, he is squinting his lapis eyes in the sun and we are going to the Marina to buy treats and he is Wearing a purple T-shirt with Cadbury’s written on it. “|Life isn’t really shit Millicent when you’ve go £5 to spend on chocolate” He was a prog rock metal head and I was a little 12 year old punk rocker. Generous to a fault he would make up for his own excess by including his kid sister.
I never saw my brother drunk or heard of him getting drunk, he was disciplined and with the exception of the chocolate approached all intoxicants with caution. Although after a couple of glasses of wine he was expert at gay-dancing… despite being straight.

The question of depression is a tricky one, he was never treated for depression, or to anyone’s knowledge treated in any way for mental illness; but he had a history of getting in obsessive states and could fly off the handle in rages. After his death it became clear to me that the Rex I knew was radically different to the Rex known by everyone else. We were estranged for large periods of time, as shortly after my parents divorce I was sent to boarding school in Shropshire and we were never really to live under the same roof again,

After some dreadful family rows I went to live with my Mum but Rex drifted to live with various relatives until he found his feet.

A couple of times a year he would phone me and he would always instigate long and painful discussions where he would revive painful memories of our childhood and would not relent until I was desperate to get off the phone. He was tortured by dark shadows of our early childhood as a family and could not move on.

The Rex known by his friends was a character who would do anything to help, who would never arrive empty handed, a man of taste and a wonderful sense of humour, the guy who would never out stay his welcome, the guy without a worry in the world,… When he visited, I would always say Don’t go yet Recca”
“You know me better than that Mathilda I never out stay my welcome”
He was the one person who should have stayed longer.

When well meaning people would say to me “It was what he wanted”, it would provoke a terrible anger in me, because how is the blackness of death a thing to want. Who chooses oblivion over this beautiful planet, he had loving friends and immediate family who clearly thought the world of him. Yet clearly the despair that took over at the end of his, the concerns he had made it to him, the only option. It was not a cry for help- it was well executed plan that would not fail.

How can such a selfish thing be a thing to want, how can there be acceptance when the one you love has been murdered and that loved one IS the murderer. I become aware as time ticks by that the only mental state one can adopt is resignation that it can never be undone.
The greatest irony is that in my own clinical depression that followed his death, Suicide became what I wanted and it was only a twist of fate that prevented me. It was not what I wanted but seemed to be the only answer to racing and demanding thoughts that took away all logic and the ability to sleep.

It was staggering- how could everything else be normal? – it couldn’t be


Rex lived alone with his cats, yes indeed there were always people around but ultimately he went to bed on is own and he got up on his own Rex mentioned a desire for a baby, but the right woman “never came along”.

It was only love and responsibility that pulled me back from absolute despondency. Out of the blue, two of my children who had been snatched 6 years previously were returned without warning and with one move of his hand God added the strength of two children to grab me by the cuffs and haul me back over the edge of the ledge of the abyss.

I significant factor in his death that links him with other suicide’s is that of utter hopelessness, nothing to look forward to, no money, no job prospects, no one to love him, or to make love with him.

I see now that he was isolated on the periphery of other peoples family groups. He had told me this on many occasions, that he didn’t really fee he was at the heart of any ones family.


Rex’s death was characterized by one clear factor- Debt- the inability to admit he had debts- incredible pressure from British banks- And in one brave move of ultimate cowardice – He did a truly Masculine thing – he turned away from the crap once and for all. Every year thousands of men commit suicide, as society does not equip with men a voice to admit that they messed up, that they need help. But if Rex committed suicide because of debt it was foolish of him, as the banks had nothing to take off him, he was renting the cottage, his car was a write off, the suspension had gone, he had cashed his stocks and shares years before. But he was living a lie, living beyond his means and to declare bankruptcy would have meant revealing that he was fallible. “Real Men” never admit that they fucked up.

“We had no idea” was all anyone could say

Who was He?

I’m at a loss to tell you, I grew up with him, he played with me, bullied me, protected me, would tease me and spoil me. I was his annoying kid sister, we were the weird kids on the block, the odd ones out. We had one similarity, we were both labeled eccentric at an early age- Characters! A charming label for people outside the norm. Perhaps in the long run Rex’s desire to be normal would lead to the debt? Treating his friends to expensive lunches- shopping treats for his pretty friends.

Never turning up anywhere without a gift or an excuse to be there.

But Rex never had a proper job, his income had always been feasting or famine, he wouldn’t claim benefits.
He ran Sweetbriar Property, where he would find people their dream home, as they were too busy and too rich to look themselves but it never generated any money, not enough to sustain someone, the odd couple of hundred pounds maybe. He lived from the age of 30 to 40 on £250k that he won in my father’s Pools Syndicate*, in the two years after my fathers death he lived on a £22000 inheritance, when that ran out he started living on his credit cards, then they were maxed out.

But Who was He?
Even now I am not sure
He was just a bloke, a nice bloke, a kind bloke, and clearly a vulnerable bloke.
Rex though became something sinister… The Suicide, it is easy to forget the man when he becomes the Incident. When we went up to Cheshire from West Sussex to arrange his funeral, a long discussion was had on where Rex’s ashes where to be buried, One family member was adamant that his ashes should be sprinkled near Blandford Forum in Dorset, as he had loved this part of the country. I tentatively suggested that he should go in the family plot with his Grandmother, who had deeply loved and who had always visited. The response was the slice of a knife, “But we couldn’t put a suicide in with our loved ones”
As if he would have sullied the resting place of those we loved.

Rex was severely dyslexic and this knocked his confidence at a very early age, he loathed school, regularly truanting, walking the streets rather than watch the letters crawl along the lines like spiteful little spiders. He had less than half an education but he had dreams, ambitious dreams of wealth. But he couldn’t get a job as he was too ashamed of his hand writing,

These are words at Rex’s funeral that I heard- Charming, Complex, unobtrusive, funny, loyal, bad tempered. But this wasn’t really the Rex I knew- I was cautious of my brother- he hated our parents and could not comprehend that I loved them. He wanted answers from me and my answers would not satisfy him as he had perceived our childhood in a different way to me and I think been more damaged by it.
When someone you love commits suicide I think it is normal to question EVERYTHING, everything that lead you to the point where they left and you got left behind. You question who they were and it is frightening to accept that nine times out of ten your memories are your own and are always different from those that shared those times with you.
In my dreams I am running through a Dept Store wearing a Catherine Hamnett T-S Shirt it Says IF ONLY.
When he died half my childhood died with him.
It was a palpable amputation, an irreplacable part of my emotional self a tearing away of sibling dialogue and memory connection, just severed.
All dialogue ceased
There are no repercussions for the dead, it is the castaways of traumatic loss who have to put a survival plan into place.

Reminders erased with no refresh option.
When he died he left definite holes in my memory, I lost a catalogue of prompts, I was a sibling and now when strangers ask my Mother how many children she has she sometimes says One. I want to remember him, but I only have fragments of him and our history
And feelings of love.
It is isolating to lose a sibling as the trauma seems to suck the matter of recollection from your mind and a vacuum remains.
I want to remember and I do not want to forget
I can not move on
I want to be at peace with it
Rex was not perfect, nor are you, nor am I and perhaps when one can marry their imperfections to the strengths, we can then see beyond the Spectre of the suicide and in our minds embrace the one we love and grieve for.
When someone immediate to you dies by suicide you lose their often essential perspective on past events and their personal version of events- When alive my brother was well able to put the “record straight” and would explain clearly why he took particular courses of action.
Lives are often compared to books with introductions, and chapters, with a last chapter. With sub plots and major and minor character and Death took the pages of our lives and threw them into a turbulent and cyclonic sky, the sheaves of paper wheeling like gulls and cast the stories, the memories and sucked them into oblivion.

For a year I would search and rack my mind for anything that would ressurect him in my mind, good times bad times, the first time I remembered him and the last time I saw him, the last time I ever heard his voice, I couldn’t piece the memories together, trying to put together a manuscript with most of the pages lost. It was pointless and now I now you take what you have and you appreciate that at least you had that.

It is difficult to tell strangers that a close member of your family has taken their own life- as no one ever knows what to say. Cancer you can understand, a bullet you can comprehend, to say a loved one committed suicide is to state what happened but never really answers the question why. When my father died of bowel cancer, we said our goodbyes, talked things through, explored his fears of what came after death… friends and strangers would relate to my story and tell me their cancer account. It was comprehensible. When Rex died It was very difficult, I felt ashamed, it was and always will be socially awkward. The question even now “Do you have any brothers or sisters” Is a tricky one. You see a shadow on discomfort and bafflement distort peoples expressions: this is what they
“I’m sorry”
“How did he do it”

And sometimes, rarely, you meet another survivor and that is wonderful- because they connect to your process and your experience immediately.
When recovering from a traumatic suicide bereavement it’s essential that you talk to other survivors/ as they can assure you that all the pain, all the contradictions, all the changes happening to you are normal in your situation.

Other survivors will lesson the chance that you will also commit suicide.

The Suicide Gene and Normalization

If my brother came back I would kill him, this was the first joke I told after his death, but I was very angry that he could do this to us… but of course he was not a survivor of suicide, so would have no idea what we would go through. Although we had a history of suicide on both sides of our family, not in the last generation but in our parents living memory, both my paternal Grandparents had lost siblings to suicide. My Grandmother Mildred had a sister Maria who drowned herself in the bath and a brother who shot himself when his business went bankrupt. My father’s father also had a brother who shot himself.
He would laugh
“God help us Mathilda, it’s in our blood!”

Rex used to talk about our family history, but it was a matter of fact, an option our descendants took, we had not borne witness to the pain and my Nana had never discussed it. It was normalized in our conversations. Something drastic that was was done as a choice, put into their social context but not an emotional one.. I had no idea that our family history was priming Rex to follow them.

In the trauma after Rex’s death I started stockpiling anti-depressants , with the clear intention of taking my own life, to be with Rex, to be still, to stop the mental searching… only one things stopped me and took away that desire… I was needed, I did not want my children to find my body and I having experienced the aftermath of a suicide did not want them to live with the spectre of a Suicide-Mother and her Suicide-Brother. I knew the pain and would not wish them to know that pain too. Ironically 5 months after Rex's death my children after 6 years were returned to me permenantly and unexpectadly... this saved my life as I had my suicide planned. I was hanging over a cliff and they grabbed my coat, I was forced back into routine and reality. They had no idea how significant their returm to me was going to be.
I had something to live for.


I always felt that their were similarities
The unexpected
Families who are left behind after a murdered loved one, can seek justice, if the murderer is caught they can gather insights, write letters, try to understand and occasionally forgive.
With Suicide the loss seems unique as there is never a sense of sense of justice.
Your loss is a conflicted as the lost one is both murdered and murderer
Thus you have emotional conflict.

Somewhere on the web I read that Siblings are called The Forgotten Bereaved
Standing in the sidelines aside from parents and wives.

One of the most significant and helpful realizations for a survivor of suicide to have is that his feelings are normal, given the situation. In a group setting, it is reassuring to hear that others share their fears and their losses, and that it is not pathological to feel this way. In fact, it is perfectly normal.
Understanding. This begins when the person starts to open up. By telling his/her story by verbalizing it - they are beginning a process of organizing thoughts and feelings. This may be the first step in understanding the "whys", "what ifs", and "why didn't I?"

The Haunted Ones
Online, there are forums, and websites all dedicated to suicide Survivors, the voices that are ominously similar:

“My brother was dead.
In my life at the moment I don’t seem to have anyone to talk to about it, most of my friends think i should be 'over it' by now, no-one seems to understand. I miss my brother terribly.
I hope my story isn’t too hard for you to read, it would be really nice to hear from anyone in the same kind of situation, anyone who understands, or just someone who wants to talk.” Jessica

“My brother died on Christmas Eve 2005 in the same way.I know just how you must be feeling.

”I know people think you should be feeling better but it will takes months, years or maybe never to feel the same as you did before your brother died. I have the same problem its because its all we think about all day long”. Catherine

I lost my little 18 year old brother to suicide on March 13, 2007. It has been the worst feeling that I have ever had in my life. He was just about to graduate high school and had so much going for him. As someone else said, I have never been depressed before. It has been almost 5 months and reality still has not set in. I still catch myself realizing that he is really gone and not coming back. I do not understand. I am so lost without him. I am now an only child. He left 11 notes and a will. I do not understand what he was thinking. About a month a ago i thought i was getting better, but now it seems to be starting all over again. It does not seem to get better and i don't know if it ever will. Miranda

There are many voices,
Stronger voices too, of the ones who now have more good days than bad days.
It seem morose to log onto Suicide Survivor websites but when Suicide is still a taboo these forums are the places that will normalize the experience.

It is hard to live with an association that somehow tarnishes you, to be the Sibling of a ghost.

It is important to seek out and read the experiences of others who know that taking one’s own life does not merely have an impact on your emotional life it affects your social life as it is such a massive social issue, society and non-surviviors cannot deal with it. You cannot blame friends for not understanding.

Silence indicates that you are OK, you have moved on, you are “better now”

But it is hard to introduce a taboo-pain into a conversation. As one risks being shunned.
But it I essential to talk to other survivors, find them online, contact your local library and find a support group. Internalizing such terrible pain is dehabilitating and can make you very ill.

After the initial inconsolable grief, I moved into a state of complete detachment, it took several weeks before the Coroner could release the body, as technically a crime had been committed and postmortem had to be taken.

When there were no more tears, I became a shop mannequin gazing though the glass that separated me from a weird reality. Around the time of the funeral I stayed with my Aunt who helped organize the funeral, I sat in her kitchen in a state of complete inertia, and every time we laughed we laughed at a memory we felt guilt, guilt at feeling happiness albeit briefly

The stiff upper lip and freaking out

I have all along been expected to keep a stiff upper lip, how insanely British- the definition of a stiff upper lip is :
(1). to face misfortune bravely and resolutely
(b). to suppress the display of any emotion.

I am distinctly aware that I am expected to be tough, in the early months after my brother’s death, my ex partner made it very clear that I needed to pull myself together and was instructed to get back to normal. It was very difficult for him to manage my grief and we maintained a British silence. We were a couple and we never spoke about any aspect of Rex’s suicide, I believe that he felt powerless to help and out of control if I expressed my grief, and he liked me to be brave and by not talking about my feelings I give the illusion that I was fine... it took two years for it to tear apart our relationship. We seperated.

In the UK the regular use of therapists, counsellors and psychologists tends to be at odds with a generic attitude with maintaining “dignity”, not wanting to appear needy. I believe as well that survivors would rather suffer In silence than take the risk of opening the wound. The onslaught of emotion can be intense, but it is a necessary catharsis, a cleansing as a stiff upper lip can lean us to depressions, stomach ulcers, even suicide if we do not articulate what we feel.

Two months after Rex died I returned to work I still had three children to feed and knew that I had to “pull myself together” and face the sympathetic faces and the well meant questions. The first hurdle was easy enough, I just gave the bare facts and repeated over and over again “I am fine, honestly I am fine”

I was acting and the anti-depressants made me exhausted. My career in Telesales means a demeanor that is light and chatty, cheery and persuasive, to fit my tone to the tone of the caller… I was on auto-pilot and on returning home with the children after work I would frequently lose my temper, kick toy across the floor, swinging between desperate intolerance and genuine remorse. None of the children knew the nature of Rex’s death and I felt they were too young to comprehend what had happened. I was struggling with the needs of three young children in a cramped house and a need to find a quiet place and just to be still and alone.

I went to work, on a beautiful warm day and took my usual short cut through the park I had had a row with my partner over something petty and meaningless, probably an unpaid bill, as I walked into the open plan office a hundred different conversations raced through my mind, and my heartbeat was escalating, I couldn’t stop thinking about my brother and all the things I wished to say to him, I wanted to die in the slim hope I would see him again, I wanted to die so I could confront him, I needed closure. I was desperately trying to maintain an air of professional calm as I entered the office, I felt nauseous nad distinctly neurotic.

Sitting at my desk I started to wrote an angry and confrontational email to my partner, I needed to get it off my chest so I could work normally and like a method actor get into the expected role of sales person extrordinaire….All the topp Brass from Dulux were in the boardroom with th door open negotiasting with our MD. My manager, tapped me on the shoulder and asked me what I was doing,, I was meant to be working, an unexpected and out of character wave of unmitigated fury gushed from me,

“It’s an email, it’s private, just fuck off, for Gods sake leave me alone, I have had enough, I don’t give a shit anymore Bridget”. I was shouting.... a volley of violent expletives spilled from me. "You can all just Fuck Off!"

I threw my glasses across my desk, kicked my chair over…
I ran from the building and over the main road without glancing at the traffic, I ran and ran, weeping and sobbing and was manic and insane.

I wasn’t fine, I wasn’t coping, my stiff upper lip was making me very ill indeed. I was living with a torrent of internal questions that I could find no answer to, I was yet to realize that there were no answers and this silent grief could kill me.

I took another 2 months off work and started bereavement counseling,

Moving on
In the eighteen months following my brothers death, I initially coped by never stopping, I would garden, go for walks, make things, jewellry, cakes, plant vegetable plots and do back breaking work in the garden, I would do anything to stop my self thinking.
Now I am more inert, I can spend hours sitting doing nothing, but the kids keep me busy, their demand snap me out of my morbid reveries, when I am wishing myself back in time to try and dissuade him from getting into his car that wretched day… a little voice invariably snaps me into reality “Mummy, I need a drink”

I am lucky as I am resourceful at talking about my ghost and it helps, I no longer devour books on suicide, I need to understand and although I know I will never fully understand, every snippet of information that I can relate to, calms me and normalizes my own grief and I know that I am not alone.

My mother responded in the same way, we had been estranged for several years, and there was animosity between us, but now we are very close, and we talk into the early hours and sometimes cry and we are healing and we do constructive things together, we are at the start of this journey.

But we found our love through a terrible shared loss and a need to talk when others are not aware of what hell we went through to keep our sanity. We have both stared devastating pain in the face and together chosen to acknowledge our mistakes and in turn heal that pain.

My mum has placed stickers all over her house,

“Smile” on the garage door
“Do I look bovvered” on the kettle
“Jesus loves you” by the bed
And more messages that prompt her back to reality.
I like her stickers they help me too.

I love my Mum now as she is the closest thing I have to Rex as he was of us and we were of him.

What happens now?

Well I am back on my feet in most ways, writing this has helped. I go to work part-time, I have my sense of humour and don’t cry in private anymore… well not too often. I am fortunate I geuss, I am happy to talk about my brother and am obstinate I refuse to feel ashamed and to see it as a nasty secret. The children don’t know what happened yet but I will tell them when they are bigger. I have good days and black days but by all accounts this is normal and I presume that I will always have regrets but I am resigned to that and look to those I love to have reason to live and celebrate my life.

If I can make one person see that they are not alone and help them to open up and talk, then they have helped me in my recovery.
Positive resignation vs acceptance

Well meaning friends of whom I have many, say to me “you have to accept it”

But at this point I can only resign myself myself to a set of hard facts
I cannot turn back the clock
He did not want to talk about his pain
He assumed I was happy
As I assumed he was happy
I will never know what he was going through
Or what his last moments of consciousness were- I would like to know what he was thinking, but I never will.

If I can resign myself to not torturing myself on a futile quest of soul searching then I can move on, and lead a loving and fulfilling life with my children.

I hope to look forward to

Not wondering:
To seeing Rex as the man and not the act of suicide.
To become reattached to others.
To help other survivors (this is the only real way to feel a sense of normality, you cannot carry the feelings in silence).
To not now live my life through his act.
To protect others from this fate.
To not feel ashamed.
To find supportive people to listen to me.
Every time I tell the story of his death it gets easier to live with. It becomes his tragedy and not my curse.
I sometimes drift away and hear nothing around me - in my mind I am talking to a shadow, I am happy to let the silence absorb my thoughts. I no longer seek a reply.

Four years since his death and I can go for hours without thinking about him and sometimes smile to myself when I have happy memories. Everything will be OK.
I chose to survive- there will be no more victims in my family. I chose love. To love Rex still and love those who would love me in return.


Chronology is awkward, trying to sort out what exactly I am trying to demonstrate what should be gleaned from the past and whether this should be a step by step account or whether to do stream of consciousness type flashbacks. Whar lessons are to be gleaned from the past, is pain always of use, does it make us or break us. Does it fortify some parts of the personality where as other aspects of your mind are eroded?

I need to remember I am writing a blog not a book. Blogging is new to me but it seems to encourage me to write and to think about how I write and for what purpose. Why bother at all? But I am seeking answers. I need to take these experiences and use them for the common good of my family, for Angela and of course for me. To find my own peace of mind.

I have a battle with normality, I feel apart, like a visitor from a distant Galaxy, outside looking in. Are my neighbours secretly as eccentric as me? A subversive streak battles with a desire to be Mrs Average next door, but the common place doesn't seem to have a place for me. I have been nomadic for my entire adult life, i want to settle but i don't have roots i have wings, I am not sure where exactly I should be, or where I am wanted.

Three are steps that I need to take, I need to look back and from all the regret find vigour and determination to be a success on my own terms again- i am not going to allow my self to fail.

Monday, 28 December 2009

June 2008 Courtships

For a few months I had a restraining order against The Captain (after a nasty punch to my temple and a failed attempt to break my arm... i burnt his face with a cigarette, he promptly stopped the assault, well he was clutching his face and calling me a total bitch, and I fled to the police). The Captain was now under force of law to keep well away from me and my two eldest children, he was allowed routine contact with our son.

I was suddenly alone as a woman! Single...
A friend at work suggested that I join Facebook as a way to keep connected and maybe make some new friends. It seemed logical and seeing as I was often online I could intersperse my social networking with work. Or should that have been the other way around? It did not occur to me that I could get a date or that anyone would want to date me, I had so deeply internalised that I was an overweight plain Jane I assumed I was destined to being lonely for a long long time.

Amongst the many applications on facebook, free dating sites are abundant and I was sent links to them by well meaning friends, I am only human and I checked them out, I would flicker through the pics of men, late at night, wretching and heaving excaliming in horror "Oh my God Disgusting" usually because they were bald, hairy or clearly liked football, I contacted three or four and under the shallow premise that they were very handsome and I might like some adult fun in the future. I never learn honestly! I am a serial monogamist. Amongst the plethora of orcs and chavs, was a profile of a very beautiful woman applying her lipstick in a mirror, a lesbian? on closer inspection, it materialised she was a t-girl, a tranvestite, my heart beat a little quicker, she was literate and well educated, said she was in her mid-forties, just slightly older than me. She was single. I was curious... I dropped her a line. I will call her Judy (as she is for now a well loved friend).

She was in London and I was in West Sussex... we sparked off each other instantly, our senses of humour and love of language made for a mental jousting that I had not encountered since my University years. Mentally we were very connectes, with a smiliar love of reading and a deep interest in science, when we exchanged messages, it was mercurial and light hearted. After lot of heartache, Judy was making me laugh again. Our relationship was entirely web based we never talked on the phone and we planned to meet in Manchester for a meal when I had gone through my relocation. I was looking forward to it, as we clearly got along. I was au fait with issues around gender, as had studied it and had lived with trans people in london in the early 80's. I associated tranvestism as something that was fun and rather exotic. A chilli that could splash some heat into the dull stew of my life. I was sure me and Judy would be friends for a long long time! And what a clever girl she turned out to be!

I was looking forward to friendly dinner with Judy in September but in the interim has been asked out on a date by an-ex army intelligence guy, I had accepted!

May 2006 The forced hand

The Captain goes to the pub after work to watch the football, since the return of my two eldest children, (their abduction of six years is another story) he has been bitter and resentful he cannot forgive me for ruining our little dream by wanting the return of my two eldest children, then aged 7 and 9. I had refused to even negotiate them not returning. I would have crawled to Birmingham New Street from Sussex to get them.

It's a relief to me, with him out of the house, the three kids start to play again, we can get through the evening routine, of baths and stories without any frayed nerves or looking over your shoulder. At 8.30 all three will be settled into bed I can lose my self in my Internet shops, ordering beads from all over the world and evaluating my antiquarian books... talking to other book dealers on a variety of forums, work is my escape. Even when out of work as a telesales rep , I work...

I glance at the clock on my taskbar, it is 11.11 - he is due back, I reluctantly walk away from my cyber cocoon, to my other comfort a very large glass of red wine. I lick my lips as I watch my consolation pour into the tumbler, a stiffener to brace myself for his return.

I sit on the sofa, that has a clear view of the front door, I will need to be vigilant, and on guard, I know what the possible options are, he will come home pissed and irritable looking for a fight or he will come home pissed and fall asleep on the sofa. I have an ongoing problem with violent people I will not comply or collude. Thousands of women all over the UK, at this time are in an identical scenario, i don't feel connected with them at all.

I hear the key in the door
He closes it loudly
He is swearing under his breath, his team has lost, this is not looking good, a javelin of angst pierces my diaphragm. I breathe in deeply and breath out slowly.

He swerves in the hallway and his shoulder bumps the wall.
Almost as if surprised to see me in the room, he laughs out loud like I am a joke. He is sitting in the chair rambling about my inadequacies, tedious warped nonsense, intended to increase his narcissistic nature and to in effect undermine my self worth. I am trying very hard not to get mouthy or sarcastic, as I cannot risk the children hearing raised voices.

I ask him politely if we can discuss these issues in the morning when he is less tired as I need to sleep and he is clearly tired. Conflict resolution is the term people with nice lives call it. I feel very wound up, he has been insulting me for several minutes, I am not good at being a doormat.

I stand up to leave, "Goodnight"
He spits the word "Cunt"
As I walk away I say quietly
"Like you could get any"

Foolish to taunt drunk hurting people... and head up the stairs with fleet light steps. I can hear him pacing down stairs, enraged.

Foot steps his,
BEd room door opens
I am sitting on the edge of the mattress faing the door
still dressed
"Take that back"
"You're half a man"

The Captain flies across the room and for a split second as his body lands on my mind I think he is going to try and rape me, but he is far too drunk, he grabs me by the throat and pins me down, I realise, as i cannot inhale that he could accidentally kill me in his rage,... a reprieve... he releaves the pressure for a split second and with the velocity of one gasp of air I clench my left fist and punch him in an upward sweep on the bridge of his nose. Their is a loud cracking sound.

He groans and rolls off me, holding his face, he insults me and staggers down stairs. I sit up to my original position, I'm sweating profusly, my knuckle hurts. Tears pour down my face, silent, listening for any motion from the children's rooms. I feel utterly abandoned and wish some one would walk into the room and simply pu their arm around me and rest their head against mine. Tell me what to do. I know I should go to the Women's refuge but do not want to leave my house that I own and the village Police Station shuts at 10am. My mobile is down stairs, i cannot face another attack or more drama. Weary to the core, the blackness is devoid of answers, for now. Just the Darkest of nights.

In the morning before the kids awake, smoking roll-ups in my lush and green garden is a refuge, The Captain leaves early for work, with luck he well make tracks without seeking me out.
He comes through the patio doors and looks sits beisde me on the bench, he light a cigarette, inhaling very deeply, his bloodshot deep green eyes are filled with tears, he is contrite, and all the love I had ever felt for him in our five good years is now a vacuem.
"I'm sorry Tillie, I was pissed, I was bang out of order, I am stressed out right now."
"I think you broke my nose Tillie"
Trying to be sweet and funny Tipping his head to one side he says
"Did you ever consider taking up ladies boxing you've some left hook on you" He fleetingly grins- seeking my forgiveness.

Like violence is transistory, acceptable, easily quipped away.

"I don't believe in hitting women Babe" I whisper.
Standing to leave, ho looks at me puzzled, The Captain says
"There's just no winning with women like you."

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Forced renewings

This blog marks the first anniversary of my relationship with a male to female transwoman. Angela. But firstly I need to explain how I got to this extraordinary point in my life.
I am a 45 year old woman of Northern heritage... I have been around the block and come back again, full circle.

Life can be very unpredictable can't it? In 2007 I was living the life that many others merely dreamed of, in a coastal Nirvana, my career was progressing well, I ran two Internet businesses that were booming, in a warm, well equipped home, suited and booted in West Sussex with the Captain of the Cricket Club. A life that many women can only fantasize about. We had a beautiful baby boy and the sex was boring but acceptable.

Then everyone's nightmare comes home to roost and pulls away all the veils from the lies and rot, necrotic beneath the shimmering facade of suburban success. Unfaithfulness, unpaid bills, huge debts hidden from me, lies about business trips that were in fact golfing holidays, and when asked "Why?" he became defensive and violent. I was afraid when I was confronted by the skeletons in his closet.

Finally I left, I had to consider leaving, I had my children to consider and my own sanity. When your lying on the kitchen floor with a man hurling abuse at you and a child stands in the door and says "Please stop shouting Daddy" It's time to leave. I in time relocated from my chocolate box dream to a situation where I had to make a whole new start. It was going to be tough my options were limited. My brother had committed suicide in 2006 and I was extremely depressed and unsure about the point of living, it was just my children that kept me alive, I did not want to leave them a legacy of guilt and despair.

My first marriage had been to an immature Irish guy, very arrogant and cocky, I had given it a go after I got pregnant on a one night stand. I wish I had never seen this man, it will always be a regret I could have been so stupid to marry someone I did not like even standing next to. I was an active feminist, who before falling pregnant had got a Masters Degree from Trinity College Dublin. I was an occasional lesbian: I should have stayed within the women's community. This marriage also declined into violence and his drug abuse was the final straw.

My heterosexuality has been completely eroded by machismo and male aggression. In 2008 in my new home in Cheshire, with my three children, my sexuality was bewildered and very aware of the dangers of vanilla men, the desire was sometimes there but not the trust or belief.

Glimmering like a beacon in the darkest night was a light in the trans community, little did I know but a whole world full of cross dressing men, t-girls and transwomen was waiting for me to reinforce them and yet be reinforced in return. Tears and intense joy lay ahead. I was in for one hell of a trip.