Judgement

“So, Lola, have you been cutting up your arm?”

That was the comment from the Customs and Border Patrol guard at the USA/Canada border last Friday.

While my partner and I sat in our car and answered the usual questions, that one was unexpected. We were all set for the usual questions about her status as a permanent resident and her non-Canadian passport. All ready for the direction to park the car and head in for her to get the required entry document. All set for that. Standard procedure for crossing the border for her.

Not at all ready for the question directed at me regarding the scars on my arms.

I had no choice other than to answer his question though. So a simple answer of “yes” and I hoped that he was just a not-so-sensitive person who chose to make a not-very-appropriate comment and that would be that. No such luck.

It was followed up with, “Looks like those must have hurt”. Again, my measured and as-simple as-could-be response was provided.

“It was so long ago, I don’t recall”. Trying to hide that I am incredibly uncomfortable with this attention and line of questions. He, I’m sure, knows exactly how uncomfortable he is making me though. Which starts the feeling of anger that I know is not going to be helpful.

He flippantly hands back our documents and directs us, as expected, to park and head in for my partner to get her document.

 

As we park and walk, I try to pull myself back together from the shock of the two questions and my partner and I agree as we chat that it was out of line and inappropriate. But, we also agree, what can you do? They can ask what they want. There is a huge line up inside and it takes enough time to get to be seen that we have both calmed a bit.

 

We approach the guard to have the usual done. The standard questions of where are you going, what’s purpose of your trip,how long are you going? His demeanor is a quiet mix of boredom, annoyance and general irritation towards the entire process. He dismissively tells us to sit and he will get back to us. He keeps our passports and documents and the paper I had given him with the address of where we are heading for the weekend.

We expect the next step will be, as usual, my partner to be called back up for fingerprints and a picture and the paper slip to pay and then we will be on our way.

Not today though. After a few minutes, he calls me up.

“Lola, come here”. I look at my partner and we both are a little taken aback but I get up and go to the counter again. The questions come fast and bluntly.

“Tell me the story of what’s up with the cuts on your arms?”

There’s no story. They are scars from some cuts.

“You need to tell me more.”

I’m not sure what you mean. They’re old scars from cuts, that’s all.

“Were they self-inflicted”

    Yes

“What medication are you on?”

None

*He looks up from where he is sitting and tilts his head*

“You expect me to believe you aren’t on any medication?”

Yes, I’m not on any medication.

By this point, my heart is pounding and I am doing my best to keep my voice level and my mannerisms as normal as possible. It is becoming very clear where he is going with his questions and my mind is racing along with my heart.

“What’s the name of your psychiatrist?”

I don’t have a psychiatrist

*again, he looks up at me and sighs*

“The name of the physician whose care you are under?”

I’m not under a doctor’s care

“Were they from suicide attempts?”

No *I briefly think of making a joke that if they were, I could win the prize for worst attempt ever for where I cut, but I think better of it and just go with the “no”*

“Then why did you cut yourself?”

It was a particularly rough time in my life and I just did

“Were they done more than 5 years ago?”

Yes *lying, it’s clear at this point that I am actually running a risk of not gaining entry is how it is starting to feel*

“If I check your permanent medical file, will I find records of suicide attempts that you have not told me about here?”

No. There aren’t any.

*He sighs loudly and asks me to read out loud the address where we are going that is printed on the paper we are heading* I do so and think the questions are done. No, they are not. He’s not giving this up that easily apparently.

“What do you do for a living?”

I manage a clinic. A paramedical clinic in Victoria BC

*He smirks a little* “You hold down a job huh?”

Yes

 

Now at this point I am seething with anger inside but trying to stay calm. He then starts asking again about medications in the car etc and brings my partner up. After some standard but still insulting questions, this time directed to her (“16 years in Canada and STILL not a citizen huh?”), she is fingerprinted, photographed, pays her fee and we are on our way.

 

There ends the most blatant example of judgement and what I took as a personal harassment.

 

When I try to take apart the layers of what exactly it is that I am so angry about in that interaction, I find that it is so many things.

 

The fact that two border patrol guards felt that they could openly and without any reason, interrogate me on something that has nothing to do with my legal request to enter the country is clear. They felt that they have every right to question me, or anyone, on anything – no matter how personal or applicable (or not)  to the situation. The disgusting truth is that they can do just that. They hold the power to deny entry, to turn you away. Possibly for more than just that one time even. As my partner pointed out when I asked “who the hell does he think he is???” … he has the uniform and the gun and the power. It really is that simple. And it really isn’t right, but it is the way it works.

 

It was tears that I held back as we left the building and made our way towards the car to leave. As we walked past other guards I made a point of smiling and chatting and looking as unaffected as I could. Acting as opposite as I felt inside. The overwhelming sense was to just get as far away from there as I could, as quickly as we could. I felt embarrassed and I felt shame, but most of all anger was building up.

By the time we reached a rest stop two minutes away, the tears hadn’t come and they weren’t going to. Instead I had discovered just how furious I was over the questioning. Who were they to make a judgement about who I was based on my scars? Because the truth is, that is what they did. They saw scars that are clearly from self-inflicted cutting, and they made an immediate and decisive judgement that I need to be, essentially, screened. Screened for what? To determine if I am mentally ill? If so, how so? Am I going to be a danger to myself or others? Am I going to harm myself – or kill myself – while in their country? Is my mental health status something that should be a deciding factor in whether or not I can be given entry to go camping in their country? If I go by the questions that I was asked, then the answer to that is yes; and that is disturbing.

I have struggled with shame about my scars. I do hide them at work, and for reasons similar to this. I know people judge and assume when they see them. I know they are viewed as physical evidence of mental instability or weakness. So I keep them hidden when I am at work because I am in a position of management. I can’t be seen as weak or incapable or unstable. All things that we all are, from time to time, and all things that these scars are perceived as proving. My moments of weakness do not, in any way, diminish my strength. Ever. Yet that isn’t how our culture sees this.

So we drove away and I was angry and felt violated in a way. I was offended and indignant at how I was treated and questioned. I am a 44-year-old woman, I know and own my strength. I know what demons I fight and what road I walk every day and I am finally at a point where I hold my head high and rarely ever feel shame anymore. I have my moments but they are fleeting. What if I had been a young person though and had to face that? What if I was still very much in the midst of trying to not look at my scars because of the repulsion I felt towards myself when I saw them? What if I already was judging myself and feeling myself to be unstable, shameful, broken and wrong, like those guards tried to make me feel? What then? Who gives them the right to humiliate and belittle and almost casually decide to cause that kind of hurt to a person?

I could walk away and, while those feelings swirled and whispered, they were silenced and soothed by my resolve that I know I’m not those things. Even with that resolve though, I slipped on a long-sleeved shirt today to go into the store. Last week I wouldn’t have. And that makes me angry. Angry that no matter how I may see my scars and no matter how much I know I cannot be judged by what society says they mean – I still will be.

End the stigma of mental health concerns? Still looks like there is a hell of a long way to go.

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The path of my grief

I have sat down so many times over the past month trying to write…trying to get some of what is inside out…trying to vent. Needing to. Wanting to. Unable to.

Going through the process of opening a new document to write in brings me through folders with dates…2012,2013,2014,2015. With each click I’m brought more aware that the hours that I never thought would pass have become days then weeks then months and now years. Years since that day that Willie left. Years since his struggle with being ok ended and he chose to not continue that struggle anymore.

Grieving sucks. Everyone grieves differently. Some need immersion in life and to be enveloped with it. Some need exclusion from it. I’m the latter and this is what that looks like when it can’t happen.

There have been ups and downs over the last three years. It wasn’t really until just after the two year mark of his death that I was able to realize that I needed to actually move into the grief rather that skirt it and try to get by with it. Along with that realization came the awareness that this grief needs to be reclusively attended to and felt. I am a solitary introvert – the introspection in solitude feeds my energy and healing – I know this from past experiences. After my divorce many years ago, it was a week away where I spoke to no one and spent time hiking, meditating, feeling…restoring… that was what allowed me to settle and regroup and come back to “me”. But it’s not an option right now for a number of reasons. So started the fight to keep going. Work days spent holding it together. Social events that have become harder and harder to force myself out to. Craving and knowing the need for an extended, solitary time to give attention to the grief, the pain, the hurt and the loss. Feeling the need to attend to what I have spent over three years either in shock from or in denial of trying desperately to live with.

But there’s no way to do that. Life demands attention. The day to day presses forward and focus is given to all that needs it – except for that which needs it the most. The coping mechanisms are faltering and the day to day is becoming harder and harder. Days at work spent functioning and performing flit by to blend into evenings spent alone and isolated, by choice. Weekends loom now with the knowledge that with two days off will come a rollercoaster of emotions that I don’t have time to let out entirely because I don’t have the luxury of time to feel before Monday morning is here and they need to be shelved so that I can attend to those things that are less than needing it but that must have the attention. A cycle has been in motion and deepening for months now. Looking to scheduling and finances and the realization that the attention to grief will have to wait wears on me.

You can only ignore and shelve what needs to be dealt with for so long. I can’t let the feelings out when I know that I need to pull them back at the end of the evening. Or the weekend. It’s like telling an addict that they can detox and rehab in an evening or a weekend. Processing and facing grief and moving into it to be able to start to heal demands more. And I just don’t have it. Time or resources.

So I keep going, because that’s what I do…and sometimes, many times now, that means every moment not necessary to function is spent trying to be safe. It’s all I can do for now.


That’s my grieving.

“And he turned out just fine…”

It strikes me sometimes how far-reaching and entangled mental health issues can be and how it impacts me in so many ways.
How it alters so many aspects of life. How Willie, and his life and his death are enmeshed in even simple interactions that seemingly wouldn’t have any connection.

I was talking with a colleague today who is in the process of working out details of coming back to work after a maternity leave. As it happens with a couple of people who have the common bond of having had children, talk turns to commiserating on sleepless nights and teething and general craziness of infancy and toddler behaviour.

She is the new mother of her first child, a son. Her and I have a good work relationship with a friendship bond as well. She is one of the very few people at work that know that I have lost a child, and that it was to mental illness ending in his suicide.
Amongst the laughter and the sharing of frustrations and story telling of common moments shared of parenting, I offered the simple encouragement that it does get easier. That while the nights of no sleep and the endless-feeling days of wondering if you made the right decision are taxing, it’s all so worth it – and that even the hardest and most challenging kidlets turn out just fine. A simple and heart-felt – and sincere – shared thought.

There was a moment when she said that she wasn’t sure he would ever sleep through the night… I started to say that Willie was the worst sleeper I had, he was awake every night for hours and it went on for months but that eventually he settled out his rhythm and became a great sleeper… I started, then stopped…. and purposely changed it from “Willie” to another sons name. Why? Because the stigma still sits heavy. Because I am too scared of what her reaction will be when I tell her that Willie had the same behaviour as her son has. Because I’m too scared that I will put that thought in her head of “what if?”. Because the I don’t want to risk the look on her face that will say “but he DIDN’T turn out ok, did he?” So I changed the name… and she didn’t notice, why would she?

It strikes me that maybe I shouldn’t have changed the story. Maybe I should have spoken up and taken that moment to help force the acknowledgment that how Willie was as a baby wasn’t indicative of what was to come. Being a rough sleeper is not at all uncommon and not something to think of as a herald of mental illness. But the fact remains that I couldn’t utter the words “and he turned out just fine” now could I? Because he didn’t.

So another encounter that has no apparent relation to mental health or suicide plays connect the dots again for me. Leaving me wondering how and when and if it will ever be different. Or easier. Or better.

The Seeking Spirit

I came across a term today that struck me and inspired me to put to words something that has been on my mind for the last year or so.
“The asking animal”, a term used to describe the human animal. What it is that makes us different from the other animals that we share nature with. Got me thinking though… are we all “asking”, or as I phrase it, seeking?

There are those of us who are seekers. Those who hunger and thirst for the “why” and for so much more that the status quo in life. Those who aren’t content with just accepting. Those who see where they are, not as the destination, but as just part of the journey. Not to say that this is the same as being always looking for the next best thing or the greener grass just on the other side of the fence. I’m talking about seeking and journeying towards more intangible gains. The striving to understand, to grow and become “more”. To desire to expand and experience rather than to be complacent. The wanting to be a better Self, a more aware Self, a more realized and actualized Self.

There are those who simply exist and bumble along in their lives. Like someone who simply drifts in the canoe down the river while the oars rest in the bottom of the boat. Maybe enjoying the ride and even looking around and appreciating the view. Happy with the direction of travel but not in control of where they go or how they get there even. They never wonder if there is a different stream to travel; one that might offer an alternate environment. They never think to take time to rest in a nook, to get out of the current for a bit. They never pick up the oars. They never even think to, never mind act on the thought. They never think of the even more radical idea of getting out of the boat altogether and striking out on foot for the mountain in the distance. The live aimlessly and complacently with whatever comes their way.

It didn’t take me long to realize that the option of simply drifting isn’t for me. Seeking and growing is who I am and how I live my life. It goes beyond just acknowledging that I am in control of my reactions to what comes my way. It’s an awareness that , in most ways, I can orchestrate how my life is lived and experienced. I may not always have control over what comes my way, but the reality is that I, we, have more input than we think we do.

To seek, to yearn and be in a constant state of growth. This is who I am. Life took a bit of a veer off for me in my twenties as I stumbled through a bad marriage and trying to live as I “should” but about 15 years ago, I made a choice to change the way I was living. I embraced who and how I am. Embraced that the striving and constant yearning to seek is me…and that it’s how I need the people who I keep close to me to be as well.

This past couple of years, living with grief and pain and finally seeing that I am the builder of my life, again. Putting it back together again after it had been torn apart by loss. Part of that entailed rediscovering that my Self craves holding the rudder and oars of my vessel. That it’s who I am. That I am happiest when the people I hold dear to me not only accept but share this embodiment of living. Choosing to cultivate relationships with the people in my life as purposely as I need to craft the rest of my environment for my Self to live. Making choices in drawing closer to those who grow and feed my spirit through friendship, chosen family and loves. Persons who support me and nurture me and accept me, as I do for them. The joy of being with those who lift me up and who I delight in seeing thrive in their travels through life. Hard choices also being made to release from my life those who merely drift and whose path encumbers mine in an unhealthy and suffocating manner. Understanding that for some, the oars will never be used and it’s time to wish them well and watch them drift away.

It means being happy and content with what and where I am but knowing that to stagnate here and to stop yearning and growing and opening my mind and my heart is to die.

No, not kitten scratches

Kitten scratches? That’s how my therapist/colleague addressed the scars on my arms today. I had to change into a gown at work today to have some work done on my neck and the gown had short sleeves, exposing my arms.

I’ve been pretty open on this blog that cutting has been something that I have done over the past couple of years. This, https://truthfreedomjoy.wordpress.com/2014/03/04/a-story-in-scars/ has some explanation, but to summarize; I have cut. Cut enough that there are scars and the scars are very visible.

I was alone in the room with the Physiotherapist and the concept that the scars on my arms had been caused by kitten scratches was ridiculous and I knew he knew that. So I was honest and I said they were caused by self-cutting. And every bit of fortitude that I had went out the window. As his manager, I am in a position of being seen as competent and strong and in control. Cutting doesn’t exactly exude those qualities and I found myself feeling like crawling under the bed instead of the usual sense of strength that I have at work as I tried to give him an understanding of the issue. He was understanding and we had a brief conversation but I could sense that he was somewhat uncomfortable so the discussion was short. It isn’t any different from it ever has been; discussions surrounding mental illness makes people not all that comfy.

I was brought face to face with the fact that there is no way to explain or describe the “why” of cutting without sounding like it, and you, are pretty much “crazy”. No matter how much I know that it is a safer outlet for dealing with the emotional pain of loss, grief and depression…safer than a more permanent option to get away from the pain…when you try to offhandedly explain it to someone you are suddenly very aware of just how not “normal” it appears.

My psychiatrist worked very hard with me about not feeling shame or embarrassment about the cutting. He took so much time to explain that sane, healthy, “normal” and rational people cut. That cutting is a coping and processing mechanism. That yes, how I described the need to transform the emotional pain to a palpable, tangible form of pain to process is valid and is not “crazy”. That’s all well and good but the truth is that society and our culture and the vast majority of people I will ever run across will look at the scars and hear my attempt to explain and they will see it for what it is perceived; a physical representation of weakness, instability, unreliability and mental illness. The truth is that mental illness is still equated with all those attributes and that doesn’t bode well for those of us who know that we aren’t any of those things.

Yes, I live with mental health issues. The majority of people do at some point or another in life. Does that make me unstable or weak? No. Do the scars scream that to people. Yes, sadly. What’s even worse though is that, regardless of my journey and my education in these matters and my work within myself, there are times that I see them for that. And I feel the embarrassment and the shame. I feel the weakness that they proclaim to everyone else. I feel that deeply and intimately, and it hurts. Today is one of those days.

How far we’ve come? I think not.

I’ve had this blog bouncing about in my head for the last week or so and have been so emotional and upset that It’s been “stuck”. Let’s see if I can shake it loose… settle in, this is a long read …

Mental health and how we handle it in the workplace is something that I have lived with for a while now. Personally, it started back when Willie became ill and I found that I had no idea what to say when people asked how things were going. So I didn’t say anything. I went through months of hell while we struggled privately as a family to try to get Willie help and later, to try to keep him here and stop him from the suicidal thoughts that plagued him.

No one knew except for my very close colleagues who were also my friends. I shuffled my schedule around and had the blessings to have understanding people who supported me and helped me to be where I needed to be. They accepted that there were days that I was in the bathroom crying more than I was at the desk… and I am grateful for them.

When Willie died, it was many weeks before I went back to work. When I did, it was beyond what I could face. The silence and the looks. The hesitancy of anyone to even acknowledge because no one knew what to say. I finally elected to leave my job that I loved. I felt unable to explain what happened if someone did ask.

Flip to a year later and I am in a new city with a new job that I love and I find myself spiralling down quickly. Grief has turned into a depression that had me barely able to make it to work every day before getting home to fall onto the couch and not move until the next morning. Day after day of struggling to not make the same choice that Willie did. The pain more than I wanted to feel. The cutting started to try to stem the thoughts that I was having to do worse and more final things to myself. Eating and sleeping were almost non-existent. I finally went to my doctor and shared how I was feeling and what I was doing. I was terrified and ashamed and the only reason I did that was because of how scared I was of what I might do to myself. There was still a part of me that was not wanting to be gone.
I was lucky, my doctor saw the crisis and before I got home that day I had an appointment made with an urgent intervention center.

What followed was a year of counselling and eventually medication for a short-term to help with severe depression. Throughout it all, I functioned at my job. Barely. Looking back, I don’t know how really. My psychiatrist suggested and strongly encouraged me to take time off, that he felt I needed to for my own safety and to be able to focus on getting well. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. I would explain again and again that, as the manager at my office, I would be jeopardizing my job to go in and explain and admit that I wasn’t “ok”. Why? Because the admittance that I’m not well – mentally and emotionally – still carries a very real and large potential to threaten job security. I’m not stupid, I know that we have laws now that say you can’t be fired for that reason. I’m also not stupid and know that companies have ways around labour laws. A drop in job performance, an unacceptable increase in sick days… there are many ways that depression and mental illness can affect you that you can be fired for. My psychiatrist finally convinced me to talk to my supervisor and explain that I was under care for depression and that I was getting help. His reasoning was that if there was a record that I had been open about it, then it was better than trying to hide it and ending up being fired for performance issues and then trying to save my job by divulging the depression.
My company was understanding and supportive but certainly not overly so. I was told that I had holiday days and could use them as needed for days when I wasn’t well enough to come in. And that was that. I regretted immediately saying anything as the “feel” was different from the words of support.
Time went on and I slogged through. Months have passed now and I function. I still have bad days and days that I just can’t make it in. Days that I have a “migraine” or am “just under the weather”. Wonderful euphemisms.

Which brings me to where I am now with a work situation.

A practitioner at work has been slipping in performance for many months now. Without going into details, it has been apparent that job duties have been lacking and it has seriously affected her performance to the point that it was impacting other practitioners and something had to be done. Repeated meetings and deadline for improvement were met with seeming disregard and a lack of respect. Deadline after deadline passed and finally I set up a meeting to discuss termination. It was at that meeting that she finally told me, in sobs so hard I couldn’t understand her even, that she was struggling with a depression so bad she was seeing medical help and had been advised to take a leave of absence. She explained that this had happened years before and she had pushed through and ended up being hospitalized for her own safety and that this time, she was trying to avoid that. She was apologetic… she was exhausted and she couldn’t hide it anymore. I assured her that her job was safe, she could take a medical leave of absence and when ready to return, we would work that out. Her relief was amazing and I left that meeting drained and emotional, feeling both glad that she finally came to me and told me but also sad that she held it in for so long out of fear of not wanting to admit that she “wasn’t strong enough to be ok” (her words).

So here’s where the issues come up. I have been stunned and shocked by the reactions and responses to this situation at work. I had really thought that we, as a society and as compassionate people, had come farther… but apparently not.

One staff member in particular who is privy to the fact that it is a medical leave due to mental health issues shared this info with just about everyone in the office. I had explained it as a “personal medical leave of absence” but office gossip travels faster than wildfire and by the time I talked to the last person I had to, they already had heard.

Here are some of the reactions;
“You know what her problem is, she’s single. Too much time to think. She needs a social life then she’d be fine”
“What she really needs to do is just hunker down and focus and stop dwelling on being sad. What does she have to be sad about anyways?”
“It’s not like there’s anything actually wrong with her. She’s not sick, she’s depressed. Nothing a walk around the block and some change in attitude won’t fix”

These are well-educated people who work in the paramedical field. People who are nice and caring and considerate people. Yet the prevailing sense is that with mental health, it’s not a “real” medical issue. It is, quite simply, all in her head and she should be able to get over it.

The matter worsened for me when I went to advise my supervisor of the development. What I thought would be a simple act of me reporting and letting her know that the other practitioners would cover her hours and that it was all taken care of turned into a nightmare meeting.
I was advised to terminate her contract. Immediately and to replace her. When I explained that wasn’t appropriate I was given clear direction that she had given us just cause by not fulfilling her job duties (she’s a contractor, not an employee) and that we could, at any time, for no cause even, chose to terminate her contract. Again, I reiterated that letting her go because she is taking a leave for mental health issues is morally and ethically wrong.
I was advised that she was a liability now. That she has shown herself to be unreliable and that we can’t be sure this won’t happen again.
I argued that if she had come to us and said that she needed a leave of absence for a physical medical reason like cancer that we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. The response was that was true, but mental illness affects her ability to perform her job in a way that a physical ailment wouldn’t. That we can’t risk someone who is “unstable”.

I am mad and I am more sad than anything else in some ways because the truth is that we, as a society, haven’t come anywhere near as far as we celebrate. Even myself today, working from home because I couldn’t bounce back from the night of tears and depression last night… I didn’t feel that I could say I was having an emotional day and needed self-care. Why? For all the reasons already shown to me. It would make me appear unstable and unreliable and a liability. That my ability to do my job would be questioned. All because it’s mental health and not a physical ailment that afflicts.

So let’s stop patting our collective selves on the back for all the gains and see things for how they really are.
As a note, the practitioner still has her contract and is not being replaced. I am, after all, the manager and I’m sticking to the fact that it hasn’t to start somewhere if we’re going to change this. She’s taking time off to heal and will be welcome when she is ready to return.

Letting him leave

A funny thing happened lately. Not funny ha ha, but funny odd. I let someone I love, leave.

That’s odd because I didn’t even know I was holding onto what it was that I let go of.

These past two and a half years have brought me to the place where I found myself a couple of weeks ago. Seeing that a corner was there to turn. I thought, and felt, that the guilt, the sadness and the “what-if’s” were needing to be released. As I stood and screamed and pulled against the hurt inside of my heart what I found was a drawing in instead. A drawing close, to hold, then let go.

My son, Willie made his choice on that morning two and a half years ago. He stood strong in his convictions of what he felt was the right choice for him. I have struggled with not feeling anger at him, not even able to understand how I could be angry at him for that… he was mentally ill, it wasn’t him, it was his illness, it was out of his control. Even though I know from his writings that he knew what he planned, he knew the finality of it, he knew, and he wanted it.

Then feeling that anger, eventually. I felt it consume me and overwhelm me and fill me with guilt. Guilt added to the already heavy load built on how I failed to keep him safe, to help him see it could be ok, to make him “better”. Then I let it go. I forgave him and I understood. My own path through grief and pain finding me in that same place and finally seeing and feeling how badly it hurts to not hurt at all, to not care, to just be so tired as to want it all to be gone away. That path giving me the gift to be able to let go of that anger towards him.
Replaced, again, with the heaviness, the sadness, the pain of him being gone.

All of that stays with me, and will always be with me. Just as he is always with me, and always will be.

That is the clarity. It’s him that needs to be released, not the memories, not my love for him. Not to let him go, because I never can, but to let him leave. To honour his wish and to say goodbye to him. He wrote his goodbye to me, but I never got to say goodbye to him. Never got to say that I understand and accept his choice. That was impossible at his memorial – too raw and filled with shock. It was surreal.

I sat on that hill then, a couple of weeks ago, and said my goodbye.. Him held in my heart for a moment, feeling him as I needed to, one last time. Feeling him in my arms as I have always needed to one more time. I held him close, memories of how he felt and smelled and looked filling my mind. Seeing his smile and remembering his moments of joy. He was with me as I said goodbye, told him it was ok, that I understood…then I let him leave.

Drawn in, held close.. and released.