A few years ago I discovered the term “disenfranchied grief”. The term describes grief that is not acknowledged by society. I think a lot of HSPs may be able to relate to this type of grief as, like most things, we tend to experience loss and separation more acutely. We love deeply and we grieve just as deep. It is hard for people to understand how we can hurt so much (or for so long) over something which seems relatively small or unimportant. We may find ourselves grieving the death of a relationship as though the person has died. We may grieve a friend as though we’ve broken up with a romantic partner (there is a great article on Psychology Today where Seth writes about how the emotional bond people feel with a close friend is as close or closer than the bond with their romantic partner). It may not even be a person we grieve, but an animal, object, place or loss of physical or mental function. Yet in our society, it is hard to get the same sympathy and support for these things as people do when someone, such as a family member, has died. Or when we’ve broken up with our partner. Sometimes we cannot even speak about our loss due to stigma. It may have been a secret relationship or we may have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection. This also leads to disenfranchised grief. Continue reading “Disenfranchised grief”
Mistress of the Sea, they call you.
But I now know you were a siren,
And I was a sailor riding your sea of bitterness and sorrow,
Lured by your enchanting music
To shipwreck on the rocky coast of your island.
I cannot shake the idea of you
Your sweetness a computer program installed in my head and heart.
It cannot be deleted
even now I find it’s infected with viruses
that are taking over my entire system,
destroying me from the inside out.
I lie on fake grass
Eating chips cooked in genetically engineered canola,
Under clouds that were planted by planes
Thinking of the words you said-
That I’m your baby
A sister to you.
That you want to protect me.
That you think of me
That you miss me
That we will keep in touch.
Words that make me feel like somebody.
Words that wrap my entire being
Like a snake, whispering, tempting my heart.
Your words dance on in me
Even when the music has long ceased.
Under sunset skies dripping with aerosol,
With invisible confetti,
With rain induced like pregnant women
Or forced tears
I think of your words
And how they fit with my broken heart.
With the empty inbox which greets me each day.
With the nobody I feel.
Your actions wrap my entire being
Like poison ivy choking my heart,
And I can’t help but wonder,
Is anything real?
The big day is here. I stagger out of bed. I’m already one down as I didn’t fall asleep until sunrise. I open my wardrobe crammed with clothes. Some drop to the ground as the doors open. It makes no sense that I have so many clothes as I never go out. Most days I never get dressed. I guess I just see the potential in every single item. Whether that makes me a hoarder or an artist depends on who you ask. It’s important for me to keep my options open, to know each item is there if I ever need it. But my options are anything but open now. I cannot find what I want and the task of getting dressed is completely overwhelming. It is overwhelming just being in my room, a physical replica of the turmoil within, as though my mind has been turned inside out. Continue reading “A day in the city”
I got you know you from the periphery, like a blog follower, or a fan learning about a singer through their songs. We were young- myself barely a teenager- and it was Karen’s party, my mother’s best friend. You stood alone in the crowd. You were as silent as a flame and you wore only the colour of night, yet you stood out to me. An air of mystery surrounded you. Beauty. Look but don’t touch, you screamed, without words.
The next time I saw you was at the house of some people Karen knew. I don’t know who these people were to you, but you were staying there. Longer than they had expected. You didn’t have a home. I learnt that you were deaf, but unlike some deaf people, you did not speak.
Your name often came up at the table when Karen came round. You were the crazy friend. You did not like it when people left, and you had threatened to blow up your psychiatrist’s house. But when I turned nineteen and began therapy myself, I suddenly understood why. I understood what love can do to people. I understood what it is like to lose your only connection to the world. I understood how the mental health system can kill rather than save us. We were the people who the system could not help. We were looking for love and security in all the wrong places. We had been sucked in by a system built on glass and then spat out on the doorstep with our hearts clenched in our hands.
I was twenty two when we found ourselves in the same room once again, and you were in your late twenties. I trembled as I arrived at the Centre for Adult Education and pressed number four on the lift. My therapist also worked on the fourth floor of a building. Four was my number. I found the room the support group was in but paused at the door before entering. Finally I took the plunge and quickly grabbed one of the chairs which were lined in a U-shape around the facilitator at the front. I wished I could just crawl into a hole and not come out. I didn’t know whether I wanted to wear the badge of BPD, and still wondered whether it was mine to wear. We were all strangers, united only by our insanity. Then you arrived in a wheelchair with your interpreter.
We sat together in the support group each month but we never acknowledged each other. I wasn’t sure if you recognised me. Then one day, just as unexpectedly as you popped into my life, Karen died. I went to the funeral and, once again, watched you from a distance as you, too, arrived.
I finally approached you at our support group and revealed that I knew you. You remembered my dad and his distinctive beard which makes him a natural candidate for Santa Claus at Christmas gigs. I wrote to you online. I told you I had found out where my therapist lived and wanted to go to her house. You were the only person who truly understood. You told me the local police knew you and warned me not to go down the same path.
You told me that you were unwell. I told you I hope you get better soon, as is our automatic instinct. You told me that you were not going to get better. You had tumours the size of golf balls all over your body, though to me you never lost your beauty. It was a degenerative illness that took your hearing and was soon going to take your life.
I still think of you and feel the urge to contact you sometimes. “Milly will understand”, I think. Then I realise you are probably dead.
The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long, Lao Tzu said. I don’t know how long my own life will last. I have long felt I’m going to be someone who dies young too. People don’t understand what it’s like to live with chronic illness. We think people get unwell sometimes but then return to a normal baseline of wellness. Some people, though, sometimes get well but then return to their normal baseline of unwellness. There are many things I want to do, but my days are never as productive as I hope. It is exhausting just to get something out of the cupboard. I try to go to bed early and have a good night so I wake up ready to tackle the new day but I do not wake up refreshed. I start my day behind the minute I wake up. Some people just don’t get better. You, Milly, understood that. You, Milly, understood how meaningless the words “get well soon” are.
fill me up
with your seduce
ride with me into the night
wing my dreams and give them flight
No one knew how it started, but Little Red Riding Hood wasn’t the same. Her family described her as the most ungracious child. She did not help out around the house, she scattered her belongings everywhere, she fought with her mother and she no longer saw her friends. She stopped going to school and slept all day instead. One day she traded in her red riding hood for one in black, the only trace of her old self the red ballet flats she wore. She then left home and moved into her grandma’s old house in the forest which had been vacant for years since the woman’s death. Continue reading “Little Black Riding Hood”