Mother Issues

I am up to 5 sessions with my counsellor now (out of the proposed 8 designated by standard NHS procedure) and I can tell he’s not going to drop the mother thing.

I was 13 when mum died and she had been ill for about 4 years. It had a profound impact on me and on my lifestyle and it has shaped my attitudes to certain things including myself.
However, it is no more the root cause of my depression than it is the reason I fancy women – I don’t care how Freudian you want to be, it is not the be all and end all of my existence and my life is not all about her absence.

I know that it is perfectly possible and probably legitimate to read my (ongoing) anger at people’s fixation with my mother and my rejection of sympathy on the topic as symptoms of my inability to grieve or due to a developmental gap caused by the lack of a mother-figure and the requirement to grow up and take resonsibility I didn’t want.  I grant you that its probably not entirely a helpful attitude to take but I can’t help it – it pisses me off.
So here are some of my psychological issues that I think are related to my mother dying followed by some I think are not:

  • A rather mixed attitude to life and death – I’m hyper-conscious of mortality which sometimes pushes me to take risks in order to make sure I experience life; I am occasionally flippant about my own death and unfazed by putting myself in danger (a habit I am working on breaking for the sake of my partners) & I can seem cold and unfeeling or over-emotional about other people’s illness and death
  • A need for control – I had no control over her illness and I hated it since then I have endeavoured to take control of what I can and shut out what I cannot (linked to but not the same as Quitting whilst ahead, see below); Being forced to take on more responsibility caused anger and confrontations but ultimately led to me having to have more self-control – leading to suppressed feelings and
  • Self-harm – although I believe that my anger turned inward in order to get things done and my need for control ultimately tipped me over that precipice, I also remember the signs of a desire to punish myself and a lack of ability to express myself before my mother’s illness so this one is a little double-edged.
  • Fear of attachment/commitment – pretty self-explanatory really, don’t get too close cos it’ll hurt when its gone
  • Sense of not being good enough – try as he might my therapist still hasn’t quite worked out how to link this to my mum’s death, and I think this is because I believed I was inherently flawed before I started school
  • Quitting whilst ahead/hating to lose – in this world there are some things I am destined to only be OK at, I have come to accept that, what I can’t accept is being second-best (or worse). I hate knowing I did everything I could and it could never be enough so I try to avoid situations where this might come up. This is not the same as situations where I feel if I work harder, longer or more concentratedly I would and therefore should be better (like say a thesis, housework or relationships)
  • The crushing sense of responsibility – in my heart of hearts I know that only I can change me (inevitably leading to the knowledge that my depression and physical issues are my fault) and that it is my responsibility to make everyone’s lives that I touch in any way better by some increment, my duty to always consider the impact of my actions, words and emotions on others and to therefore act, speak or express myself in such a way as to help not hurt them. It is a moral/ethical stance I stand by but it can lead to obssesive behaviour and thoughts and a spiral of guilt.

I can’t help but feel that my sense of self  and self-worth had a profound impact on how I reacted to my mother’s death and therefore on the way it affects me now.. but hey ho I’m no professional and I can’t quite get the eagle-eye perspective

Ale and Fine Whisky

I will get to the fun part of the post in a moment, but I will first offer a little flavour of my weekend..  I planted potatoes and seeds with my wife, went to a memorial service and worked. As you may imagine, the joy of further building our garden together and making the steps towards new life was a bittersweet counterpoint to the memorial for a life cut short by cancer. It wasn’t the best or worst memorial I have ever been to, whilst it was beautiful to hear the choirs Gill sang with performing for her I could have done without the lecture on the doctrine of the resurrection.
So anyway..

  • Ale: This weekend marked the launch of our local Ale Trail – an annual event organised by the local CAMRA branch to tie-in with the town beer festival. The premise is simple; a booklet describing 28 pubs within the district is published and punters go around ordering halves of ale or cider (or an appropriate designated driver drink) in order to get stickers proving their devotion, in return for completed (to over the minimum level of completeness) booklets sent to the organisers they are granted entry via special queue to the beer festival and entry in a prize draw. The pubs get free publicity and some unusual trade – it sounds idyllic right?
    In some respects of course it is, but I for one could do without the politics involved in the choosing (and omitting) of pubs whilst still retaining the right to think that the selection contains a fair amount of dross. I also really dislike the growing tradition for massive opening weekend pub-crawls – have I mentioned that I don’t like drunk people? And finally pathetic though it sounds, drinking a half pint really does feel like a token effort from some of these people rather than genuine increase in trade which equals hard work for me and little to no gain for the pub.
  • Whisky: – This weekend did have however a drinking highlight in the form of our drinking club’s monthly meeting. This time focused on Scotch and particularly the Islay variety. ‘Twas an educational round of comparative samples indeed with a couple of cocktails and slideshows from our hosts’ trips to distilleries thrown in but the highlight for me had to be the limited hard-to-find tasters: Caol Ila Moch, Bowmore Tempest Batch 1 and Lagavulin (Limited Edition/distillery only release) Cask Strength 2010.
    It is hard to offer tasting notes (I’m a drinker not a hardened tasting expert – my palate just ain’t that nuanced folks). But in short the Moch was grassy and fresh for an islay, leading to a quaffable light smokiness, the Tempest was disappointing for a limited expression – sweet but not as complex as I hoped, on the other hand the lagavulin was indeed all I ask from a lagavulin plus the extra alcoholic kick but without more sobriety and a careful comparison of each of these with their standard editions I feel ill placed to judge

It happens to mice too


Some, um 3 ish years ago, a very good friend passed away unexpectedly and round about the same time the first of mine and the wife’s mice also shuffled off this mortal coil; I am sure that at least another of the subsequent four-leggeds also passed away at an inconvenient time. Regardless, today, with a sense of irony, one of the pair of fancy mice in our home headed on to the next world.
I’d like to say that I could be rational, expectant and unmoved by a pet’s demise and yet every time (even after 15 or so pet deaths  in my lifetime) I am kicked in the gut.
My poor beloved wife finds the death of our small things especially hard. Partially she feels responsible for their care and therefore their life span but partially because she finds relating to the inarticulate, hopeful, antisocial and yet forgiving and loving beings who expect so little from her so moving and so comforting.

Although it seems daft, some days it is easier to grieve for something that expects nothing and asks nothing.

Rest all.

And So Goodbye..

Sleep well G.

It is a year now since you were told it was terminal; more than 7 months since you found the next new tumors and began another round of treatment and 3 weeks since the pain told you something else was wrong. A week in a hospice is enough for anyone so I hope that the quietness of whatever is next is better.
Whilst it is not my personal choice I am consoled by your faith and in the most simplistic of terms I am grateful for the end of waiting and the confidence that beyond all else the pain is over.

I don’t know how to say how I feel – I’d like to say I’m surprised or hurt but it’d be a lie. Not only have I been waiting for this phonecall but I am relieved by it. Yes, the reminders of my mother’s decline run strong and painful but each person has their own self and deserves to be remembered in their own way.

Getting Ready to say Goodbye

When someone’s cancer progresses to a certain stage (or indeed as people begin to show certain side-effects of aging) there is a certain inevitability about their death that looms just on the edge of sight but eventually you have to tackle it straight on.

Today a friend is being moved to a hospice in order to get round the clock palliative care and end her days outside of the anonymity of a hospital ward with some kind of ‘dignity’. Her family have asked that people don’t go and visit her at the hospice in order to preserve the best image of her (though I have no concept of what her preferences are/have been). These last few weeks the decline has been rapid and painful and though perhaps we as her friends have been shocked at the speed – I for one am not surprised by this outcome.

Today I prepare to try and see her one last time, in the sure and certain knowledge that my next chance will be the funeral. I wonder about the wisdom of traipsing in, of the loneliness of knowing there are people who you will never see again as your body gives up on you. I wonder what ways there are of making it a little easier…

There are no answers only a sense of disappointment in the inadequacy of words and the fragility of life.

Introspection on a Decade

Apparently I started University 10 years ago.
Oct. 2001 was an odd time to move away from the country to a large town – the world was changing and I was 18 and that peculiar mixture of cynical and idealistic best manifested by being a teenager free to live their life how they chose.

2 years ago I wrote:
[Tuesday, 14 July 2009 at 15:59]

Having an introspective moment.

What were you doing 10 years ago? What did it feel like? Do you remember? How much have you changed as a person since then?

10 years ago: 1999- the edge of the silly number change and some parties, a pre-twin towers world.

In ’99, I sat my GCSE’s and turned 16, spent my last summer as a semi-pro showjumper, started clubbing and going to pubs on my own, turned loneliness into self-destruction, fell in love, helped make a film, came out to my friends and bought the only CD single I own – though not in that order.

So what was it like? My memory of myself at that time is that I was an arrogant fuckwit, I refused to admit there was anything I couldn’t do on my own & yet I also remember that I didn’t believe I was capable of what I was doing. I remember the sense of optimism about the possibilities of the world and the things I wanted to try – a new sense of financial and personal freedom and the beginning of clearer self-definition. But I remember the absolute certainty that my friends thought I was stupid, lazy and superfluous, crying myself to sleep every night running up to my exams and thinking it was normal and pushing myself to exhaustion to be good enough. Its odd but I don’t remember feeling miserable, just useless, and also restless and determined to get on and get experience.

How have I changed?


I never got around to really answering my own question, but as I muse on my decade in this town I can begin to look at the things I have done and achieved and the people who have passed through my life in that time.


Got a degree and a masters, and am working towards a PhD
Got a job that I haven’t been able to quit for 8years
Walked up Kilimanjaro, wandered across much of Scotland and learnt to climb (then knackered my shoulder so I can’t)
Moved 5 times and bought a house

9 Weddings: A Handfasting and civil-partnership of my own, witness for Dad & My Step-Mother, Best Man for D&J, Readings for L&A and Kitten & Mr.C and a guest at 3 more (cousins various). Also witnessed a decree absolute for a divorce.
3 Funerals: Shirley, my Aunt Maddie and Fenton, plus an extra 2 where I only went to the wake[Good to know I am still in the phase of my life where I have been to more weddings than funerals]
Tried 4 different medications and seen 3 different counsellors; helped 3 of my closest friends make the decision to get professional support and taken one person to a psych ward
Taken over 2.5 thousand pain pills!
Sat at my sister’s hospital bed as she struggled through a coma and watched her learn to speak again and finish her degree.

Mostly I have fallen in love and started to build a life…

Unreasonable Guilt

Ever found that nagging feeling where you feel responsible for things that you have no control over? It happens to me all the time.

At the moment its a worry that I should have done more to take care of a friend having a relapse in his mental health problems.

Today we had him sectioned.

There are no words for how awful it feels to hand someone over when you know they are terrified and don’t want to be there – nothing like the feeling you have let them down and betrayed their trust. I know in my heart of hearts its where he needs to be right now and that we as friends just couldn’t do enough to look after him. Taking him to the hospital and going through the process (which incidentally took 6.5hrs & involved talking to 8 different people) was the right thing to do but its fucking hard.

Add to which a) It would have been a dearly missed friend’s 40th b’day today b) I bloody hate hospitals and psych wards trebly so – makes for a somewhat miserable and nervous Byghan.

Drugs and bed then – more coherent thoughts soon…


Have you ever waited for someone to die?

There are many ways of waiting, we are most used to it being years in the future but sometimes we can watch it get closer. Even when you don’t know the person well any sort of personal connection makes the experience surreal. You have to start planning for when they aren’t there any more and your brain starts make leaps between present and past tense.

Tonight some distance from where my wife and I have our marital home her uncle is in the final stages of cancer. He has recently been moved into a hospice and now its just a matter of time. There is nothing we can do and no consolation to be offered we are just waiting for the call to say its over.

It brings back bad memories – but right now I just want to be supportive.

Somewhere nearer to home a friend is fighting to keep her fight against cancer going. She’s been told its aggressive and that she’s dying. This time the radiation barely kept it under control for a couple of months and as her body gets weaker she wants to keep trying. Soon I will find out whether they have decided she is well enough for a new round of chemo. I can only visit her and talk so she doesn’t feel alone and try not to feel like I’m waiting for the next round of bad news.


W’s uncle has passed away quietly.

My friend is out of hospital for the time being and hoping to start chemo on thurs.

May Delights

This is a very odd time of year for me.

A long time ago on a Mayday bank holiday weekend my mother died. It is an odd memory blurred and vivid at the same time. I remember the clarity with which I knew that my sister and I were summoned home because she was dead or dying, I remember the texture of her skin and the sight of the Dr. signing her death cert while she still drew the oxygen from the tank. I remember her chest slowing its rise and fall to nothing. But I don’t remember the time of day or any words at all. For years I have had a few drinks for her memory and wondered at what has passed and changed

On the other hand W & I chose MayDay for our legal wedding ceremony in fine pagan tradition, and to try to lift the mood to spring and new beginnings. It is a fantastic opportunity to go for a picnic or out gallivanting with fire and sex.

Since then W’s Uncle and an Aunt of mine have also both died around the same weekend. – It makes it hard..

And thats just trying to ride the rollercoaster of the first week or so.