The ‘C’ Word

Post 5: The Results

Another long day, waiting for Mam and Dad to get home from the hospital. She was happy to just have Dad there, meaning I didn’t have to cancel my therapy session, although if she’d wanted me there I’d have much preferred to be with her. The therapy session was a waste of money that day as her results were all I could think of.

She got home after I did. With good news! The cancer hasn’t spread! All clear!!!!

There are more results to come though. Apparently there is a test in America that can determine the likelihood of the cancer returning. If it’s high she will need chemo but right now it just looks like radio therapy.

The family are reacting in different ways- my brother doesn’t talk about it too much but he seems to be doing OK, Dad is struggling- he gets angry if it’s mentioned at all. My sister will talk about it, and is big into her research, but I’m avoiding any google searches- I’m sticking with the facts in front of me, I’ll panic if I start researching. Mam has just been incredible! Keeping busy, but incredibly upbeat and positive and puts on a happy face no matter how many questions or sympathy is thrown at her. I’m so proud to call her my mother!

I went to a drama reading that evening and got a lot of compliments on my reading. I think I was just on such a high I could have done anything at that point! I also met my drama friend who’s Mum is going through the same thing- coincidentally enough she got results that day too and her cancer hadn’t spread, she’s also waiting on the test from America. So we hugged each other and toasted to good news and cancer not spreading- an odd, but enjoyable experience!!

Unfortunately the radiotherapy is further delayed while we wait on these results. But I’d been planning to cancel my London trip to visit my cousin, so that I would be around for the beginning of the radiotherapy. But now it looks like I have no reason not to go, and Mam is keen on me not cancelling… so every cloud, eh??

Apologies this isn’t a well written post- It’s late at night and I couldn’t sleep, but too lazy to write a draft and re write it! Sure who reads my blog anyways? 😛

Hopefully the next results are as good. I keep having to remind myself that yeah, she has cancer and that sucks, but in the grand scheme of things we have been incredibly lucky! Keep Mam in your thoughts and prayers.

The ‘C’ Word

Post 4: Telling People

Telling people has been strange. It’s hard saying  ‘my Mam  has cancer’ because that just sounds so terrifying, but then saying things like mam is sick/ not well seems like a lie because she feels well (bar sore from the surgery) and doesn’t appear sick at all!

Feel free to skip past the italics to the actual story… I rambled on a bit here!!

The first person I told was a girl in work. I had come in early to make sure I caught the principal of the school so that I could let her know (just in case I ever need to come in late if I have to bring Mam to appointments) and I wanted to make sure I had time to compose myself before the students came in, in case I got upset. Anyway, the principal was late and not in her office when I went down, and I met my friend when I was coming back, and we got chatting. She knew I was off, and also that it was odd that I was in that early. I can’t remember how the conversation got there but I just said ‘my mam’s not well.’ To which she responded ‘oh?’ and I just said ‘cancer’. And then I started to well up and she came over and gave me a hug and I got rid of the tears and started to go very matter of factly into the details. I’ve adopted that response ever since. Very matter of fact and no discussing emotions. It helps me stay detached from it though I’m not sure that’s a long term plan.

Anyway, I have told a handful of people. Not because I want it kept quiet, just because I’m not really sure how to bring it up, even though it’s nearly all I can think of. Some I told because I had to, one or two because I wanted to, and others just because it came up.

Reactions have been varied. I’ve had people tell me oh right… I know someone else who has cancer too, I’ve had someone compare it to the time they found a benign lump in their breast and somehow that makes them qualified to understand all that my mam is feeling, others get awkward and try to change the subject, I’ve had 2 people hug me (I think since adopting my matter-of-fact attitude I give off an air of ‘don’t touch me and don’t dare ask how I am’, others sit in shock, other people tell me not to worry about certain other things (be it work/ theatre or any other kind of commitment related)- that family comes first and some things are more important than others, some people are looking to keep me distracted, others haven’t a clue what to say to me. I think I’m going to learn a lot about friendships during this time- I’ve been pleasantly surprised and a little taken aback by a few people already.

But the bizzarest of all happened last week.

A friend asked to call over for a chat. She said she needed to talk. Usually I am quite good at listening, at being empathetic. I feel like even if it’s the tiniest problem in the world, if it’s a problem for someone, if it’s making them feel bad, then to them it can’t be tiny, and belittling it will only make them feel worse. However, the last few weeks I have been so caught up with my own stuff that I’m not too interested in other peoples problems, and often want to shout ‘you think your boss having a go at you the other day justifies a bad week…. you have no idea what a bad week is!’ Dramatic eh? I realise how selfish this is, so when said friend asked to talk, although I couldn’t control my irrational feelings, I could control my actions, and I got my game face on, prepared to feign an interest and listen or offer advice as best I could. To be fair to this friend, she’s not one for getting bogged down in the little things so I knew she really did need to talk, and I wasn’t going to let her down.

She is currently involved in a play with my brother and a lot of other drama friends. My brother seems to have decided not to tell anyone about Mam, so I’ve respected that and I won’t tell anyone from that group until he is done with the play.

Anyway- my friend calls over just before she rehearses with my brother. She makes me promise I’ll say nothing to my brother or the others, she just feels she needs to let someone in the group know what she is going through, and feels we are closest and she can trust me. I’m trying so hard to care at this point, and hating myself that it’s so hard. And then she says the words- ‘we found out at the weekend that my mum has breast cancer.’ I stare at her for a second. A few weeks ago I probably would have given her a hug, have been straight in with words of comfort, offers of anything I can do, planning a little care package for her….. Instead I just looked at her and said matter of factly, ‘my mam has breast cancer. We found out last week.’

And then we stared at each other. And it was awkward and weird and so sad I just wanted to cry. And then I’m not sure why but we both burst out laughing. Hysterically. For a solid few minutes.

We’re similar in the sense that we’re not good with serious conversations. If something needs to be talked about we nearly prepare a script and go over every possible outcome of the conversation. My friend said she’d been doing that in the car. Prepared for anger for her not telling my brother, an over load of pity and sympathy, the chance that I’d cry with her or be annoyingly reassuring about things I couldn’t know. Not in a million years was she prepared for my reaction. And never in a million years did I expect to laugh at such news. But I did. And it was the first time either of us had laughed properly since hearing the ‘c’ word in our families.

And we just spoke, matter of factly about what was going on. There was a mutual understanding not to get emotional or delve too far in to the feelings side of things because that makes it too real. It was nice. It was easy. It was sad too and if we ever retell the story to friends I’m sure they’ll think us insensitive. It was an insensitive reaction. I can’t explain it. But I needed it. She needed it.  It’s nice knowing I have someone who ‘gets it’ going through it at the same time. I don’t know what the future holds for either of us, but I pray it’s good news all round, and that whatever happens, we’ll carry on being there for each other.

The ‘C’ Word

Post 3: The Surgery

That Wednesday Mam went into hospital. She went in early and had x-rays and scans almost straight away so no one could wait with her. She said she was kept so busy she hadn’t time to worry, or be bored or lonely. By early afternoon she was taken in. The procedure itself was only an hour and a half but what with waking from the anaesthetic and being groggy and then waiting to get her phone back, it was well into the evening any of us had heard from her. Dad rang the hospital beforehand and we were told all went well, and she was resting. All good to hear but we were all keen to hear from her!

When she did eventually ring, she told Dad the doctor hadn’t been to talk to her. When the doctor came in to her later, she asked Mam if she had any recollection of talking to her earlier! Mam was mortified. I’d have loved to have been a fly on the wall for that conversation!

Once we’d heard from Mam we were all a bit more at ease, and able to sleep a bit better!

She was home early afternoon on the Thursday, Dad collected her. She was tired and groggy, but chatty and positive. She’s been tired and sore since, what with the anaesthetic wearing off, but she is carrying on as normal, without any heavy lifting!

On the Friday afterwards it was her birthday and she even managed to get out for a drink. She only had 2 but lasted the night!

At the weekend after that I had a performance in a variety show with a local theatre group. It ended up being a ridiculously long event on seats that were clearly invented as punishment and Mam still came and sat from start to finish to watch me take part in 2 short pieces. She really is the best person in the world.

She and Dad had a holiday booked the day after she is due to get results. They said they would try get her results to her a day early, but rang to say that no, it would be the following day and she would have to postpone her holiday by a day.

Another woman Mam has met through all this (her ‘boob buddy’, or ‘breast friend’ we call her!) had to ring herself, and was given an appointment half an hour after Mam and told ‘we’ll hopefully have your results’.

I’m not sure if this is a good or bad sign, or just a case of they had to ring Mam as they had told her they would try get the results to her quicker. The closer it gets, the harder it is not to think and worry, and I can see Mam getting  anxious too.

I really hope it’s good news, and I’m terrified of it being anything else.

Keep her in your prayers and keep everything crossed 🙂

Willie Clancy Festival

I have always loved the idea of this festival. An entire week of trad music, meaning lots of music sessions, singing and dancing. I don’t know too much about trad music but I love sitting in a country pub with a trad session playing, especially when random musicians join in. Such a talent to be able to pick up and play along with a group, I have always been jealous of that! Unfortunately, despite how much of a love I have for music, I wasn’t blessed with the musical gift my siblings were, but I got a bodhran for Christmas as a kid and hopefully someday I’ll bite the bullet and learn to play it…. it can’t be that hard? Christy Moore makes it look easy anyway….

Now with everything going on in my life right now I decided to only go for 2 days, meaning I’d be home when Mam got home from surgery.

So I went down on Tuesday. After an epic saga getting to Clare (the first time Google maps has ever let me down!)- I ended up an hour and a half outside of where I was meant to be. My friend ‘dropped a pin’ by her house, and google maps decided to ignore that. All very amusing until my battery went- I hadn’t my friends number or google maps, and I was driving down country roads and didn’t pass a person or a garage. I eventually found my way back to the motor way, pulled over in the hard shoulder and waited half an hour for my phone to charge, text my friend for directions and she came and rescued me! It was too late to go to hers then, so we went to a hotel where I parked my car, then I hopped into her car and we headed to Miltown Malbay where her sister and friends had rented a house for the week. So what should have been a 2  and a half hour journey turned into a 5 hour saga!! It was amusing though and I had a glass of wine with dinner and all was forgotten!!

Tuesday Night

We ordered a taxi and ‘Jono’ arrived. Undoubtedly the most entertaining taxi drive we’d ever had- got a bit of history and the low down on where to go, along with a lot of random stories!

The first pub we went into that night was Freils (as recommended by Jono!!),  and it was packed but brilliant! Only standing room but the music was in full swing. So many places we popped into over the few days were ‘pop up’ pubs and restaurants, as in the pub or restaurant itself was small, but they had houses attached to them, and kitchens and sitting rooms were opened up to cater for feeding, drinking, and Irish music during the festival- very Father Ted-esque, it was brilliant!

We stayed for 2 drinks in Freils and listened to a great deal of music. That group had some singers too which I loved!!

We moved on to another pub, quite possibly Martin Flynns (I lost track of the names!) where there was a few rooms with different sessions. Out the back was a smoking area and they were playing ‘real’ music- so we sat out there for a little while, one of the girls wasn’t as into trad as we were! We didn’t stay there long though, and went back in and listened to one of the sessions for another drink!!

Following that we went to ‘the marquee’- I can’t even tell you which pub this was at the back of, as everyone just referred to it as ‘the marquee’.  There were 2 men playing there. They did mostly old Irish songs with a bit of modern, so I was happy!! We got there relatively early so it was quiet, and as it packed up, we had our own little corner to ourselves.

When the night had ended (or so we thought!), we hopped in a taxi and ended up out in  a place called Coor, in a pub called McCarthys- also recommended by Jono the taxi driver. It was the worst kept secret of the festival. Despite being literally in the middle of nowhere, regulars of the Willie Clancy week and locals I’m sure, know well about this pub that doesn’t seem to sleep. We got some Tayto and peanuts and more alcohol, got chatting to some great characters and listened to some more music. Unfortunately, one of the girls had a wee bit much to drink (not that anyone else was far behind!) and we ended up home by 4.30 am. I was talking to an old friend I bumped into down there who apparently didn’t leave Coor until 7am! I would say that was a great session!

Oh well- at least we were a little more rested than some, and hopefully would be all set for the next day!

 

Wednesday

We were up and about in the morning- very surprising! Cooked a fry for breakfast, and went for a very windy walk down the Spanish Point, which certainly brushed off any cobwebs!

Afterwards we stopped in the Armada to have a nose at the ‘Céilí Caravan’ (unsurprisingly also recommended by Jono the taxi driver, although he probably didn’t mean a sober tea time session!!)- because everything in Ireland needs a Father Ted reference, they had a Graham Norton themed Caravan from the episode ‘Hell’, which apparently was very lively at night, but even during the day there was a bit of singing going on inside! After having a look at the caravan- it didn’t take very long- we moved into the Armada for some tea and cake! It was a beautiful hotel- we sat in the restaurant which was very nautical themed with quirky decor- I loved it! Apparently it’s a common spot for weddings down there. With its big rooms, lovely food and unreal views, I’m not at all surprised it’s a popular choice!! Although I was craving a bigger caffeine kick than tea would give and I haven’t trained myself to like coffee yet (it’s a work in progress!!) so I was dying for a mocha which they weren’t serving! Tea, coffee, hot chocolate, latte’s and americanos, but no mochas 😦 Still, the tea and cake warmed me up after the seaside walk! Then myself and my friend spent so long yapping there, that it was time for dinner! The carvery looked amazing, we’d been nosily admiring all our restaurant neighbours dinners for the many hours we had sat chatting, so we decided to be lazy and not cook and eat the food there. It was definitely worth it!

We went home for a little rest, then started to get ready. We were staying with a group of musicians so we had a little session before heading out which was possibly the highlight of my trip! Then we called a taxi and much to our delight ‘Jono’ showed up! We filled him in on the night before, he filled us in on his late night (I’m pretty sure he shouldn’t have been driving!) and we all nearly died laughing when one of the girls innocently asked ‘do you always work this week or do you ever get to enjoy the Willie??’.

He warned us, and others had also the night before, that Wednesday nights at ‘Willie week’ were always crazy. We heard rumours of a local annual football game that brought the crowds out, and apparently a lot of local towns bussed people out for the Wednesday night!

Freils seemed a good place to start, it was great the night before! However, we walked in, pushed through the crowds and ordered our drinks. There were 2 sessions on but we couldn’t hear either, it was too busy and loud! We moved on to Cogans which was a lot quieter but had some live music. I knew I’d a long drive relatively early, so I was happy to stay there, but the girls were on for another mad night! We had a drink and listened to the music, chatted to Maidhc the barman who’s number was posted on the computer screen (I’ll save you the effort- don’t call him girls!! Or guys…. apparently he’s not fussy!!) then we tried the place that may or may not have been Martin Flynns but they must have been packed as they were just closing the doors. So we ended up going straight to the Marquee. The music was good, but there wasn’t as much Irish music and the place was full of 18 year olds who seemed to have little or no interest in trad music. Most people were messy drunk, there was a 20 minute queue for the bathroom, lots of people fighting or then practically having sex on the band! I danced a bit, drank a bit more (hadn’t been the plan but there was no enjoying that night totally sober!) and was more than delighted when the music stopped and the crowds were ushered out by the extremely rough bouncers! Seriously, I was most likely the soberest person there(I had 5 drinks in total between 8pm and 2 am!), but happened to be standing  near them and literally got pushed out of the way twice and witnessed them lift people off the stage! (Now I’m sure people standing on the stage is illegal, or at least plain annoying and dangerous- at home a bouncer would ask you to move first, moving by force was a last resort- here people were pulled/ pushed/ lifted straight away! It was entertaining to watch, but this was happening the night before too, when people were still somewhat sensible!)

Anyways- after the night had finally ended, which I never thought it would, we got back to the house. I got straight into my pj’s but the girls were all on for heading back to Coor. As tempted as I was to chug a few beers and join them, I had been getting texts from my sister throughout the night, and one from my mam saying she was fine, my mind was elsewhere and I was even more conscious of the drive home, and wanting to get there as early as possible!! This wasn’t to say I wasn’t enjoying everyones drunken state! It was beyond entertaining and the fact that about 20 people had asked to stay that night, and there were ready made beds everywhere (one even in front of the washing machine!), I was quite happy for everyone to get a taxi back out and me to fall in to any of said beds!! As it turns out, the taxi rang back and said McCarthys wasn’t letting anyone else in, and at the time there was only 8 of the 20 odd in the house, so they all insisted I had one of the ‘real beds’ as they knew the journey home I’d to make the next morning (only one of them knew the reason of  my leaving early, so I was beyond appreciative to those who were just insistent I had a bed!)

It took a while to get to sleep that night but once I did, I was out like a log! I was awake from 9 am, and home just after 2.30pm!! Mam had made it home before me but it was good to see her in her groggy state, still in as cheery and positive form as ever!

In short- I will definitely be back to the Willie Clancy festival, but preferably when I’m in the mindset to fully enjoy it, although it was a great distraction!! And if it happens I can only go a night or two again- I will without a doubt be avoiding the Wednesday night!

Slán go fóill!!!

Judy Garland

A legend. An inspiration. A hero.

Such a sad story, and such beautiful talent. I wish I’d known a world that Judy Garland lived in. She is my favourite singer and actress, a style icon and someone who helped shape the world of stage and screen.

She is and was loved down throughout history and her legacy will live on for many moons to come!

BeFunky Collage.jpg

The ‘C’ Word

Post 2

So there’s a second post. Obviously not the best news, but still good!

That was genuinely the longest week of my life. I was doing OK trying not to think about it, but on the day of and the day before, my mind kept going to the worst places. I thought Tuesday would never come.

When it did, the day dragged. I raced home from work only to find the house empty. My sister eventually joined me an hour later, but it wasn’t until near 7 that evening that Mam came home.

Myself and the sister kept ourselves amused. Making resources for school, playing with the dogs, putting on mindless TV and chatting, or looking out the window at the miserable weather that seemed to be mirroring our mood. Every so often one of us would joke about how long they were taking to get home, or the waiting being torture, but aside from that didn’t mention the fact that it was literally all we could think about.

When we heard the car in the driveway we went straight to the kitchen and waited. We didn’t want any more time wasted gathering us all together.

Mam came in and talked to us. Dad and my brother stayed out. Dad had been with her and they had picked my brother up from work on the way back, so they must have told him in the car.

‘The lump is cancerous’ she told us. But it will be removed next week, and once she’s recovered from surgery, they’ll begin radiotherapy. No chemo. After the surgery they’ll do another biopsy and see if it’s spread. If so she will need chemo, but they’re thinking that won’t be the case. And even if it is, they’re all still pretty positive.

Mam has been amazing. Very matter of fact and optimistic. She hasn’t stopped living her life as she always has. She even went out for a drink that night.

So as far as cancer goes, it’s the best news we could have hoped for. And although there’s never a good time for it, I’m glad it’s starting while myself and my sister are on our holidays, at least we can be around for her.

Once again, keep everything crossed and say lots of prayers.

I won’t lie, it hasn’t been easy. I’ve been in a bit of a daze since getting the news and I’m still trying to process it. But I am thanking God every day that it’s not as bad as it could have been!! I know we’ve been lucky!

The ‘C’ word

Post 1. And fingers crossed the last post.

Yesterday mam called us all into the kitchen. She said ‘I’m going to say something, and I don’t want there to be a panic.’ Then she told us she’d lied about where she was that morning. She had actually been to the hospital.

You see a few months ago she had had a routine breast check appointment. It’s a normal procedure once you get past a certain age. I was aware the letter had arrived, knew the appointment was coming up, and then that it had been and gone and I didn’t think twice about it. It was all routine.

As it turns out something showed up at that appointment, and mam was asked to come back. Yesterday she went in for a biopsy.

‘Whatever it is, it’s very small’, she told us, ‘and I won’t know anything else until Tuesday.’

She may need surgery. She may need chemo. Chances are it’s completely benign.

She claims to feel great, this came as a complete shock to her. I asked how she was feeling in herself and  she said ‘ah, a bit nervous’.

The woman never felt the need to tell us if she had a cold, or her back was bad. She’d go through life and carry on as normal regardless. The fact that she wanted to tell us, to prepare us in a way, tells me she’s worried. And I hate that because I can’t make it better.

My mam, the absolute backbone of our family, the one who holds the house together and keeps everyone sane, the woman who has only recently retired, is starting to make the most of her life, and for the first time ever do things for herself, and not for her parents, husband or children, does not deserve this panic, this worry, or any suffering.

I asked a million questions, trying to process it, also knowing that it was my only chance. I know her- give her a day or two and she won’t want it mentioned. My brother made jokes and didn’t really acknowledge it too much but that’s just his way. My sister was a bit like me, but where as she was trying to stay upbeat and positive, I was trying to stay matter of fact and not make it real. And my father was getting annoyed at us for all the questions. I told her to please not feel like she’s to bottle it up, and it’s ok to tell us if she’s scared or worried.

Nobody mentioned the ‘c’ word. But I know it’s what we were all thinking.

I always said it was a horrific illness, and the amount of admiration I held towards sufferers and their families. But today I have a new found respect.

The idea was to not think about it til Tuesday. But last night at rehearsals someone left early as their brother in law had had a stroke. In work people were talking about an old colleague who’d passed away from the ‘c’ word. Someone else mentioned their own mother being unwell. Mam text me to see did I want dinner and I just thought about how amazing she was. Not all of these things connected to my mam, but it was obviously at the forefront of my mind, as each time I’d to take a step back, take a few deep breaths and then try to carry on as normal as I don’t want to talk about it yet, to worry about it, unless there’s something to worry about. For all I know my mam is absolutely fine. There’s as much of a chance of it being benign as there is anything else, I’m sure, and she said it’s small so surely that can only be good in the grand scheme of things. But I keep thinking of those moments of panic- the fear I felt, my eyes welling up, getting short of breath, wanting to leave a room, or shout at people for speaking, and any form of chat being too much noise- and right now I have nothing to be panicking over. Those people who suffer, and those  around them, they must have those moments constantly, multiplied by a thousand, a million. And I’m sure they fall apart, and I’m sure they struggle. But anyone I have seen go through it, always shows a smile, talks openly about it, picks themselves up and gets on with their lives. Those people who have every reason to stay in bed, give up on happiness- they get up, they go on, and are the bravest, and strongest of anyone I have ever met. I can’t even imagine how they feel, or how they do it, and I hope I never have to.

But this scare, this teeny tiny minuscule insight into what they go through- whatever respect and admiration for them I ever had has now quadrupled.

I hope this is the last post I write on this topic. It feels like Tuesday will never get here. A part of me wants it to stay far away, while another part wants an answer, a plan.

Keep your fingers crossed, and say a prayer!

Depression- As honest as it gets!

I was diagnosed with depression in 2013. Even when I got the diagnosis I didn’t believe it. I always knew I was overly anxious. A worrier. Went through bouts of sadness. Was a deep and sometimes dark thinker. Empathetic to the point of it being a fault (I would carry around the burden of other people’s problems, sometimes long after it ceased to be a problem for them.) But depressed? No way! Depressed people never left the house, cried constantly, planned their death and couldn’t hide their sadness from the world, right? I was just short of being naive enough to think everyone with depression wore black constantly and lived in rooms with bouncy walls!

I had been seeing a counsellor for a little while at that stage. I had been struggling with unemployment and coping with the constant feeling of rejection, and I thought seeing a counsellor might help me talk through these things. She eventually recommended I see a doctor. I wasn’t sleeping much at the time, and was overly anxious with the constant worry of what the next day would bring and how the world saw me. I thought the counsellor was hoping I’d get some sleeping tablets, or maybe some anti anxiety tablets if things got really bad. A part of me felt like she was pawning me off on the doctor. That she dealt with people with ‘real problems’ on a daily basis, and that I just needed to get over myself.

I went into the doctor (weeks after the counsellor suggested it, I kept avoiding it!) and told her quietly,’ I’ve been feeling a bit down lately and have been seeing a counsellor and she recommended I talk to you.’

I thought I’d be in and out in five minutes. The doctor was very professional, but kind. She told me she had to ask me a series of questions, and would need to type as we talked. Even as she asked the questions, it never really dawned on me that the answers I was giving were not the ‘norm’. Yes I worried a lot. Yes I felt sad or anxious quite often without a reason. Yes I really believed that people would be better off without me. Yes there were times in my life when I self harmed- never deep, and never anywhere visible though, just enough, and only as a last resort, to relieve any built up anxieties and allow me to sleep. Yes if I was in an accident tomorrow, I wouldn’t really care- I was too tired to care. But I was able to put on a smile and tell the world I was fine, and I definitely wasn’t suicidal- surely depression didn’t even come in to it! Plus, I knew this was all job related. Once I got a job, the feelings would go away.

When she said the word depression I could have laughed. I really thought there was no way. But she explained it to me and went through possible symptoms of depression and I realised, bar being suicidal, I ticked every other box. My sleep, weight and appetite had changed, I was constantly tired, I had lost any interest in things I used to enjoy, I had negative thoughts and couldn’t seem to control them, I got upset or angry easily, and often couldn’t explain why I felt that way, I couldn’t concentrate, I hated myself and wasn’t making an effort with anyone because I genuinely believed they all felt the same way about me.

I can’t say having the diagnosis helped. Depression wasn’t a ‘real’ illness- or so I’d been lead to believe. It was made up, attention seeking, or then only something crazy people had. It wasn’t anything visible. Everyone gets sad from time to time. It wasn’t something I could ever tell people I had. And even when I got a job- a job I loved more than any job I’d ever had, the feeling never went. In fact, it got worse. Unemployment meant I had a reason to be depressed.. And when the reason disappeared and the feeling didn’t I was terrified. I think that was the first time I really did believe in my mental illness.

Telling people was hard. I took me a year to tell my family and I only told them because I was referred to a psychiatrist, and my VHI would cover some of it. Unfortunately we’re all still on the family VHI, and I had no option but to tell them. They have been supportive, in their own way, but their understanding is limited. Mam always wants there to be a reason I’m sad. If I go through a depressive bout, there has to be something that caused it, something she can either fix or help me get over. I tend to try hide the bouts as much as I can as it’s draining trying to think of an excuse as to why I am sad. Dad doesn’t believe in depression in young people- thinks we’re all spoiled and can’t cope with tiny struggles of the world, in his day people just got on with it. That was something he had always told us. Thankfully, he never talks to me about it and I’m grateful for that. I think that’s the best thing he can do. I would only be hurt if he told me how he really felt.  I don’t blame them for it, they come from a different generation, and they try to understand in the best way they can. There was a point I used to feel so angry towards them for ‘not getting it’ but I can see they really are doing the best that they can, and that is all anyone can do.

Since my diagnosis, I’ve come a long way. I went from the counsellor, to the doctor, to a psychiatrist, and now I’m getting CBT therapy. I’ve been on copious amounts of anti depressants that never worked. (I think medication is great if it works and I applaud anyone brave enough to take it- I am on an anti psychotic drug at night to help me relax and sleep,  I still haven’t learned to sleep without them, but it’s the first time I’ve slept through the night, and function the next day in years- I am happy to take them as long as I need! Unfortunately bar that, medication never worked for me.) I have a constant feeling of anxiety in my stomach. I didn’t even know that that’s what the feeling was until my therapist helped me figure it out. My mind races, all the time. It’s like there are constant thoughts bouncing around in my head, and it’s always loud. These things never go away. But they go through phases of getting better and worse. Sometimes, and lately it’s most times, I can cope with them. Sometimes I can’t but that’s the nature of the game.

I started writing this because very recently I was in a bad bout where I couldn’t cope with the simplest of things.  Not the worst I have ever been, but bad all the same. There was no reason for it. It came out of nowhere, the heightened anxiety, exhaustion, paranoia…

During this, my sister questioned me on the way to meet an old friend for dinner, on how I was feeling. When I said I was feeling exhausted, and a bit irritable, she  told me all I had to do was look across the table at our friend, who had recently got the all clear from cancer, and realise that things can never be as bad as what she went through. Well this was like a punch in the stomach. I spend so much time feeling guilty for not having ‘real problems’ and how others have so much worse things going on, and I really have no right to be upset, and my therapist has worked very hard on getting me to realise that depression is a ‘real illness’. That is why I feel sad or lost at times. Just because it’s not visible, doesn’t make it any less real. I spent that entire meal looking at my brave friend who has overcome so much, and feeling guilty for feeling sad over nothing. There was no reason to feel guilty, it wasn’t like I was shouting about feeling down, or had even told anyone at that table (bar my mother having told my sister) about my illness, and there was no point in even comparing cancer and depression, but all I could think was ‘you selfish bitch, look at how much this woman has come through, and is still smiling, how dare you feel down over nothing’ If I knew someone was having those thoughts, I would be annoyed at them for feeling their problems aren’t justified, but for some reason, I find it ok to talk to myself like that. During that time I did wish I had someone who ‘got it’, and that there was someone I could talk to. So I’m writing it down now because it does feel like I’m getting to talk it out, at the same time hiding behind the mask of the internet which I like!

When things are as bad as they were a few weeks ago, I find myself almost wishing to just collapse some day, or to be in an accident, or have a mild heart attack or some kind of sickness that I can say to people ‘Look, this is why I can’t meet up today, or go  out drinking next weekend, or why I have to spend all my time in bed. This is what’s wrong with me. You can see it. I have proof from the doctors/ hospital. You can understand. I can lie in bed. Guilt free. And no one can question it. If I feel well enough to go out and meet people tomorrow, that might take its toll on me for the rest of the week, and that is OK, people might even be proud of me for making it out that once!’

That bout lasted about three weeks. Sometimes it’s months, other times it’s just a day.

At my very worst every little thing felt like a chore. I haven’t the energy to shower, brush my teeth, wash my hands, cook dinner or get off the couch. Some days I can’t even get out of bed.  I have awful thoughts. I fantasize about suicide- not ever wanting to follow through, just giving me a bit of relief to imagine jumping in front of that train, or taking that hand full of pills and not having to feel these feelings any more. I can’t stress enough that I have ever wanted to follow through with those thoughts, I have thankfully never been suicidal, but I have felt the longing to not be here anymore. To not wake up.

I always thought of suicide as selfish- in a way it is, but I can understand how a person gets to the point where they can’t think outside their own bubble- all they can see and feel is their pain and it’s the only way out. When I am in the height of my depression, I can be quite selfish. I don’t necessarily think about how the things I say or do could affect others. My emotions and feelings are heightened, and for someone who can be so empathetic towards others, it’s like my brain completely switches off those feelings and all I know is the pain and the darkness that I’m feeling and nothing else matters. When I come down from that state of mind I do feel guilty. It means that when I’m in the height of it, I’m aware that it’s a possibility I’ll upset others, so I avoid them as much as I can, spending the majority of my time in bed.

When I come out the far side of a bad spell I cringe that I ever had those thoughts. I hate that I wish badness on myself. I’m aware those thoughts are illogical and a tad crazy, that if people knew I had them they would seriously worry about me, but during the rough patches those thoughts seem completely normal- sometimes comforting.

I find it hard never feeling like I can open up to anyone. That can get lonely and add to the low moods. I hate the stigma that’s attached to the word depression, and the attitude some people still have towards it!

I love the Green Ribbon campaign- I think it’s so clever and every time I pass a box of the green ribbons I make sure to take a handful and give them out to people. I tend not to tell people still about my own mental health, but I like to let people know by wearing the ribbon that I am open to a conversation.

People’s attitudes need to change. People with a mental illness need to be able to talk. Need to be able to say ‘this is what’s wrong with me.’ People need to be better educated in dealing with mental health.

I know this country has taken great steps when it comes to mental health and I hope the next generation will find it as easy to tell people ‘I have a mental illness’ as they would to tell them they had a physical illness, and that those living with, or friends with people with a mental illness will start to understand that there may not always be a reason, but that doesn’t make it any less real, and sometimes the most helpful thing a person can do is say ‘I’m here, I care’ and listen.

Remember it’s OK to not be OK, and that old proverb- ‘this too shall pass’. Every feeling, every moment is fleeting. Enjoy the good ones and make the most of them, get through the bad ones as best you can and hopefully they’ll become fewer and far between!

The Importance of Being Earnest

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” – This play summed up in one quote!

Bar rehearsals this is the first piece of theatre I’ve seen in 2016, in my all time favourite theatre, The Gate in Dublin, and it’s safe to say, it didn’t disappoint!

I am due to take part in an Irish mockery of this play over the summer, playing a character based on Gwendolen, so I figured having a rough idea of the story line we were trying to take apart, might be best!

I invited a friend who will also be in the play, playing a character based on Cecily, to come along, and my sister and cousin came along too! Then bragging to our director that we were ‘doing our homework!’, he invited himself, and then the rest of the cast to join us!

We all met at 2pm in the bar at the Gate. With the shape of the bar and the circular windows, I always feel like I’m on a boat. It’s rare you get a seat, and most are along the window and not at tables, so you would think it’s hard to sit around and have a chat and yet the atmosphere is always excellent! To add to the occasion the director handed out our scripts, so we had a brief look and a quick chat and catch up before the show started at 2.30.

The rest of our cast were up near the front in what we thought would be better seats, but as it turned out, myself, sister, cousin and friend were past the middle isle in the centre and our view was excellent! The others were all straining their necks to lean up, so we were pretty chuffed with ourselves. The show was introduced by a woman telling us about the intervals and to keep our phone off, a touch I really love in this theatre- no recorded messages over the intercoms!

The set was simple and elegant. Oscar Wildes ghostly face overlooked the whole show, which was particularly poignant when the character John spoke of his brother dying suddenly in Paris, France, reflecting the tragic end of the play write. The simple set was brought to life by doors and walls that pulled out and revealed more behind them, such as views from a window, another room, a drinks cabinet etc. We were particularly impressed with the little steam train that ended the first act, and hoped it would return!! Whoever is responsible for set designs in the Gate should be highly commended- I have always been impressed by their sets, and it is quite often the first thing people notice.

The cast themselves were phenomenal! All very stereotypical Oscar Wilde characters portrayed extremely well!! During the first act, I was just a little bit unimpressed with Lisa Dwyer Hogg (Gwendolen)and Rory Nolan (Algernon)- feeling they may have been trying too hard to ‘Wilde’ themselves up and that sometimes less is more. Hogg in particular seemed to be struggling to gain stage presence and overdoing it with facial expressions that I felt were a bit much. But as the play went on, I started to love Nolans eccentric side, and Hogg seemed to calm down and really became the part. Whether the beginning was struggling to find her feet, a fault of the director, or just me being unnecessarily critical, by the beginning of the second act I was blown away by her performance as Gwendolen, and thinking if I could do half the job she did, I would be happy. And as no one else seemed too bothered by anyone’s performance, I think I may have just been looking for things to criticise. Two roles I really enjoyed were Lane, played by Bosco Hogan, and Merriman, played by Des Keogh. Two small and seemingly insignificant parts, brought to life by two very talented actors with amazing stage presence- they walked across the stage silently and in the back ground and your eye couldn’t help but follow them.

The interval was as lovely and relaxed as ever. Those who had ordered interval drinks went straight to the bar. The queue for the toilets was not horrendous. The teas and coffees were served separately in little china cups, just to the add to the feeling of a fancy day out, and we all gathered for a quick chat and analysis of the first act, before going back to our seats.

The script itself was wonderful- many quotes I’d heard on numerous occasions I finally realised where they came from! This one in particular I liked- “All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does, and that is his.”

After the play, myself and the three girls had booked ourselves into The Hot Stove Restaurant on Parnells Square West. Quite often coming out of  a theatre, we tend to be hungry, find that everywhere is full and end up in Mc Donalds! So taking advice from a quote in the play – “I hate people who are not serious about meals. It is so shallow of them” -we decided to take our dining seriously and plan in advance. My cousin suggested this restaurant and it was the perfect end to our day. The food was gorgeous and reasonably priced for such a fancy place. Even the coeliac menu was properly thought out and not an after thought, as it is in some places. We arrived early and they sat us at the bar. Myself and my friend had a glass of Malbec, and my sister and cousin had a cocktail each- all of us pleased with our choices. We ate salmon, venison and pheasant between us and there was not a morsel of food left on anyones plate. Possibly the highest compliment you can give a chef! The service was next to none and all the little extras (the bread at the beginning, the ‘compliments from the chef’ before our meal and the jellies, macrons and fudge with the bill – all with gluten free options) just added to our dining experience.

We briefly discussed the plays, and our views, then caught up with family drama and friend gossip and all the romance and relationship stories since we’d all seen each other last. And no, nothing to report on my end from my series of possible dates! But as my friend quoted to me from the play: ‘The very essence of romance is uncertainty.’

….I think drama may be the only romance I need right now!

I hate dating…

I have just returned from date number three, and I wish I had something more to report!

Date 1:

He suggests the one pub where I know the owners and all the staff. I suggest anywhere else would be better. He agrees. We go to selected pub. Me in the lounge. Him in the bar. When we realise this and eventually do meet, we laugh. The conversation goes from there. It goes non stop. There’s never a silence. We talk about our old primary school, theatre, rugby, his PhD… We stay for nearly 3 hours. We walk across the road. His bus is in three minutes and I live around the corner. He doesn’t offer to walk me home. Loss of brownie points there. I keep talking. A mile a minute. I’m afraid he’s going to kiss me and I don’t want my first kiss to be  at a bus stop. His bus comes. He hugs me goodbye and says I’ll text you. I walk away relatively happy but a little unsure. You can never judge from a first date!

 

Date 2:

Date 2 was a little unplanned. We had been texting. I made a comment about coffee being uncool. He said I’ll take you for one and prove that it is cool! We agreed to go on Thursday. Then texting on the Tuesday I tell him my rehearsals have been cancelled. He says if you’re free we could meet up. So it was a little spontaneous. We go to one of his locals. I only have one as I’m driving. We chat and laugh. Mostly about him not having a smart phone. And the annoying ‘be like Bill’ meme. Random. But it’s fun. I drop him home. We chat away non stop. He gives me an awkward car hug. Then gets out. Still nothing. Now I’m feeling a little confused.

 

Date 3:

I text him to tell him I’m home. He still talks about Thursday as if it’s happening. Bit of a relief, but still slightly confused. He doesn’t text me Wednesday. I don’t text him. He texts me Thursday. We’re still meeting up. He says it’s probably too late to grab a coffee but what about dinner. I panic. Dinners a lot harder to get out of than a drink. But I agree. We go to a local pub. Less pressure than a restaurant! We eat, drink, I pay for one drink – first thing I’ve paid for with him, and not for lack of trying. We talk all night. He wants to move in to the bar. He wants to stay for one more. It’s going really well. I think this has to be it. Nothing. Maybe on the walk home. Nothing. Chat the whole way. Get to the bus stop. His bus is in 4 minutes. Doesn’t walk me home. More loss of brownie points. His bus comes. I get an awkward hug. I leave a little stressed.

 

So I have no idea where I stand or if he’s interested. I’m sure by date three he’d have kissed me if he was. But why continue to ask me out. I think I’ll give up on this one. I don’t want to be coming home from every date wondering what the hell that was.

 

Sorry this post wasn’t more exciting!

 

I think I’ll go back to my theatre filled spinster life. It’s fun, it’s easy and I know where I stand!!