life

For me, being brave was continuing to live…


So I kept It on the inside – as it was the safest place to hide…”

                     * 1972 *                                 * 1976 *                          * 2019 *                                     * 2020 *           

The title and sentence above were not originally intended to be at the top of this post. Moreover, they were never supposed to be there at all. This post was originally about my observations surrounding how we have adapted to a new way of living in light of Covid-19. It was going to be about how we’ve found ourselves at home doing an array of activities that had previously been pushed to the side with an, I’ll do it tomorrow mentality.

As I have a degree in journalism, and like to consider myself a writer, countless essays, articles, poems and short stories remain unseen and unedited in a ‘drafts’ folder in my WordPress account. So I soon found myself doing one of those ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’ tasks and started trolling through my drafts, instead of researching content for my Covid post.

I discovered drafts that were funny, some that gave anecdotal accounts of my travels, and some that were raw and poignant. One in particular, written a few years ago, was particularly confronting. Confronting because I no longer recognised the person who’d typed those words. Yet I still remembered her, and a wave sadness swept across my body.

As I read, those feelings that had held me captive for most of my life began to resurface. Yet not in the way that they had in the past, for they no longer had control of my being.

At that moment I knew this post would no longer be about Covid and its affect on our lives. This post would be about that young, smiling girl in the image above who, beneath that smile, had hidden immense sadness. 

This post would be about that young girl who had became a woman who lived in fear. About a woman who had then been brave enough to confront that fear, and who had learnt to love herself.  I knew I needed to publish my words. In doing so it would complete my closure and hopefully allow others who may be experiencing similar feelings to begin their healing journey.

On reflection, I cannot pinpoint the moment when that awful sense of self-loathing had stopped completely. Rather, there were a succession of ‘moments’ that lead to me being who I am today.

It began when I attended counselling sessions after being diagnosed with Depression in 2013: a diagnosis I kept relatively private. Those sessions helped immensely, however I truly believe it was whilst walking part of the Camino de Santiago last May that truly awakened a new way of thinking.

Today, I’ve combined that release with yoga and meditation practice, I no longer feel ugly, unloved or inadequate. I now love who I am, and deeply respect who I am as a woman. And my profound love extends to my sons, my son’s girlfriend and my precious dogs, who are without compromise, my family and my dearest friends. And it is all that love that shapes me today.

And what I’ve come to realise is how fundamentally important the relationship you have with your ‘self’ is. It is the melody to your life’s lyrics. Never be afraid to be different, never be afraid to be disliked, for the only, truly, important relationship in life, is the one you have with yourself 🐾❤️

What follows is the draft I wrote 3 years ago, raw and unedited:

Would you care?

Many, many, years ago, after being chased through the school yard and cowering in a corner I was told, ‘no one will ever like you Jenny C——, you hear me, no one.’

Whilst I thought Id forgotten those hurtful words, I now know I never did.

I believe they have been my hidden mantra, surfacing to remind me whenever I’m in the company of others.

This is not about pity, it is not about wanting a reaction, and it is simply truth, a truth that has followed me through life. It is a pattern that has been with me always in every job, friendship and social situation I have encountered.

I’ve always yearned to be one of those people who everyone adores. Someone who is quietly confident, humble, yet hilariously funny and warm. I know those people, they have been in my life and I admired them from afar.

Let’s start with school.

I was in Grade 4 when my parents told me we were moving.  Throughout that year, I went to 3 different schools. My first school was Warrandyte Primary where I remember being bullied to the extreme by kids in years 5 & 6.

I distinctly recall running from them before climbing a tree – I don’t know why I did that, as it was no means of escape, rather it was fodder for their taunts, but I was so scared and cried in that tree as the taunts continued.

I never said anything to anyone, I just spent my days hiding and running and being scared. Always.

The final school that year became the one in which I stayed. Keilor Primary. I have a strong memory of walking into the classroom on my first day and being so scared of being the ‘new girl’ yet again.

Maybe that fear drew attention from the haters. And hate they did, which caused me to withdraw, and as such I became vulnerable to my tormenters.

Weeks later I was being taunted by a group of girls, who finally cornered me, and one girl chanted; No-one likes you Jenny C——. And no one ever will.  And again, ‘no-one likes you and no one ever will. This became her mantra and at any and ever opportunity, she would say those words, over and over. 

I began to believe them.

Years, and many failed personal and professional relationships later, those words are embedded in my psyche, and as such, I’ve found it’s so much easier to just distance myself from everyone, that way I can’t get hurt.

Can’t get told how much someone thinks I d be a great supervisor, flight manager, photographer, journalist, blah blah, blah: only to be told, or rather not told, that I’m no longer of any interest.

Or to have someone continually ‘pump’ me up for promotion only to find out that her true intention was to hurt and manipulate.

That pattern has repeated itself a few times. Whilst at Virgin Australia that feeling of being rejected was at its worst.

I was selected to be part of the start up team that would help the new company get its aviation license. There were 27 of us that trained vigorously for 2 weeks to ensure we knew the inside and out of every procedure. At the end of those exhaustive 2 weeks, we were gathered into a room and told who would be doing what role. 13 would be part of the evacuation drill, 13 would be part of the test flight. As they called out names and people gathered in 2 sections of the room, I waited. After 26 names were called there was only one person left.

Me.

The two groups were quickly ushered away, and I was left standing in that room alone. Some looked back, but quickly looked away. Instructors pretended not to see me. No-one seemed to care. I stood there alone for a few more minutes, thinking, stupidly that maybe it was a joke, they’d come back and tell me I did, after all, have a job to do. But no, no-one came. I left that room and walked back to my accommodation with tears streaming down my face and sobs racking my body. I did not understand. What did I do to deserve such treatment? I was bitterly hurt.

‘No-one will ever like you J…. C……; and no-one ever will…’ 

And the beat goes on.

I’m a nothing to everyone.

I’m not liked, I’m not tolerated, but I don’t know why.

A family member calls me ‘the creature’. I’ve been told this is because I asked for help to pack up a unit, following his death.

And apparently for that I cannot be forgiven.

I try so hard to be kind, but maybe I am that creature she speaks of.

A nothing, a nobody, just a horrible creature who is despised by so many.

A creature people shun from, hide from and who is deliberately taunted and teased.

I’ve tried so hard and also been told I try too hard and many years ago, a ‘friend’ told me I’m too needy, but what would you do? If you spent your life continually being ‘the last person picked’ the one who isn’t called, and the one told no one will ever like, wouldn’t you try hard to change that too?

I’ve seen many people in my life be the one that is adored.  What must that be like to never have to worry about people liking you?

I’ve thought many times about ending my life, but I know I couldn’t do it.

I couldn’t do that to the people I really love – regardless of whether they love me.

Max, Rob, Kassie, Mum, and my beloved boys Oscar, Stanley, Simon & Eddie.

I couldn’t leave them.

Yet I don’t want to live this life anymore. A life that is filled with people who don’t like me and never will.

I don’t know what to do; I don’t know where to go

I’m so, so tired of pretending I’m happy

I’m so, so tired of wanting to be liked and loved

And I’m so, so tired of being rejected.

What if I posted unhappiness?

What if I posted that I’m so unhappy and so sad?

What if I posted that I want a life filled with love and laughter?

Would you care if I said that I don’t have a life filled with love and laughter?

Would you care that my life’s filled with nothing but sadness and pain? Nothing but rejection and loss. Nothing but failure and fear.

I am that creature she speaks of. I am nothing but a bag for others to punch…

N.B.  If you know of anyone who may be suffering from Depression in silence, please reach out to them. As Wil Wheaton states below, it is an ‘unexplainable nightmare’…

Depression is just pure evil that convinces you everything is wrong, including yourself. It gets inside your body, and your mind, and your soul, and it cuts you down to your very core. Depression is lonely because it’s only understandable to the people who have fought through it themselves. It’s an unexplainable nightmare you keep waking up from, but you never actually get out of.’

Wil Wheaton ://wilwheaton.net/2018/05/my-name-is-wil-wheaton-i-live-with-chronic-depression-and-i-am-not-ashamed/
life

Remembering Meg…


At approximately 4am on October 29, 1995, Dr Derek said, ‘I’m sorry, Meg just died’.

I don’t recall what I said, but I vividly remember every detail of that moment seeing her, in her bed in Melbourne’s Royal Children’s hospital Intensive Care Unit. It was if my mind took a snapshot of that exact moment when Meg, my first child left this world and my life changed forever.

And like an old album, every now and then, I dust off my mind and remember.

I’ve only shared the memory of that early morning with a couple of close friends over the years, not necessarily because of the pain recalling that traumatic time caused, it was more about how people would react. I would see pity in their eyes and whilst well intentioned, I simply didn’t want to feel like that person.

I’m not sure why I’ve decided to write about it here, now. Maybe it’s because her ‘anniversary’ recently passed, or maybe it’s because I simply need to write about a time that had a profound effect on my life.

Meg was born with a severe heart condition known as a Tetralogy of Fallot: a combination of 4 defects, three of which included Tricuspid Atresia, Sub-Pulminary Stenois and a Ventricular Septal Defect.

Her prognosis was not positive, however cardiologists advised that her condition could be managed with a shunt, followed by intense medication with a view to perform an operation know as a Fontan when she reached 2 years of age.

At 6 weeks old, surgeons performed the shunt operation, and in the 8 months following, Meg did quite well despite the daily medications and regular visits to the hospital. She was on drug called Warfarin, which causes thinning of the blood and her doses needed to be closely monitored.

Despite the traumatic hospital visits that required injections and echocardiograms, she was a happy baby who seemed to have an uncanny ability to draw people to her. For example, if we were out shopping, people often commented. I recall one lady smiling as she walked toward Meg. When she reached us she said to me, “I’m sorry if this sounds strange, but I simply had to come over and see your baby, it’s as if she’s calling me…”.

It did sound strange, yet this happened often. Meg was not any more beautiful than any other baby, but she had something about her. I sometimes thought she knew her time on earth was short and therefore radiated this, which drew people to her.

Due to her condition, she did not reach the usual milestones. She did not crawl, nor was she able to roll easily as young babies do. She could however sit upright once we had helped her to the position. She loved to just sit and either watch me doing whatever needed doing, or just playing with her favourite toys.

Sadly though, her time away from ICU was short-lived. At 8 months old she went into heart failure, which revealed a shocking diagnosis: mitral valve regurgitation that required immediate open heart surgery to replace the valve. To say this was a major setback is an understatement, this diagnosis was catastrophic for it meant there was little chance of the future Fontan operation being performed. However the medical team did not reveal this to us at the time, I guess it served no purpose, for whilst this diagnosis left little hope for Meg’s future, there was still a fragment of hope that we all, medical team included, needed to hold onto.

The following day Meg underwent the 6-hour operation to replace her Mitral Valve. The risk involved in performing this procedure on someone so young was high, and there are no words to describe the emotional turmoil we felt during those 6 hours.

Later, after being told all had gone well, we were taken to see her in the ICU. And whilst the medical team had prepared us for what to expect on seeing Meg post surgery, I saw past the numerous tubes and beeping machines that enveloped her, and simply saw my sweet, beautiful baby.

She spent the next few weeks in ICU, gaining strength with each passing day. And in the months following her surgery, she began show small signs of improvement and there was a glimmer of hope that she may grow into a beautiful woman, whose life would be filled with love and laughter.

This was not to be.

On October 28, 1995 I noticed Meg’s colour was bluer than usual. Her breathing was very laboured and she was not able to sit upright. I have vivid memories of that morning and my reaction. It’s been said a mother’s instinct is intensely strong and now, when I look back, it was that instinct that delayed my trip back to the hospital. As I sat on the lounge room floor nursing her and looking into her beautiful blue eyes, I knew. I knew if I took her back to the hospital, she wouldn’t come home.

But I made the call and Dr Fong said he’d send an ambulance, but I decided to drive her myself.

On arrival, she was re-admitted into ICU and placed on a ventilator. Throughout that day she fought hard, yet in the early hours of the following morning we received a call in our hospital accommodation. I will never forget those six words.

“Jen, come quickly, Meg’s taken a dive…’

Strange wording, yet the team in ICU had become friends, with staff adoring Meg. It could be said the wording was not professional, but it didn’t matter to us as we hurriedly dressed and raced downstairs to the ICU.

Walking into her room was like walking into a nightmare.

The floor to the left side of her bed was smeared with the remains of a blood bag that had been accidentally dropped. Dr Derek stood beside her bed, the frayed edges of his jeans stained red from remnants of the broken bag. The buttons on his white, collared shirt had been incorrectly fastened, making his shirt look oddly ‘uneven’. He’d been the doctor on call when the buzzers went off, dressed quickly, and as a result misplaced buttons.

Again, I do not know why or how I’ve remembered this tragic time in great detail, as I wrote above, it really is as if my mind took a snapshot and it’s now stored in my memory forever.

Across from Derek was a female doctor I’d not seen before, she was frantically working on Meg and I could hear her saying, ‘fuck, I cant find it…’. Alongside her there were a number of other medical staff calmly, yet methodically adjusting tubes and checking monitors.

I walked around to the right side of her bed, gently kissed her forehead and placed my mouth to her ear. I clearly remember my words. “It’s okay Meggie, you can go if you need to, I’ll understand…”. I do not know why I said those words, and for a very long time after her death, I blamed myself. If only I’d asked her to fight harder, would she have still been here today?

I now realise that was not the case. I loved her deeply and maybe deep down in my heart saying those words was some kind of acceptance. I don’t know, I really don’t. I only know that my heart broke into a million pieces when a few minutes later, Dr Derek spoke those six words I’d never wanted to hear.

At that moment, my world fell apart. And in the months that followed, the grief I felt was indescribable. But the old adage, time heals, is true.

A few months after she died, I remember reading a story about a man who’d lost his teenage daughter. His words resonated and they are words I have carried with me and lived by.

When tragedy strikes your life you can be one of two things: bitter or better. I choose better”.

Today, 24 years later, I have put the pieces of my life back together, knowing I am a better person for having had that beautiful soul in my life. Meg taught me many things and I’m so, so grateful I had the honour of being her mother.

Remembering Meg: a gentle, wise and magical soul…

Note: There may not be many who do read this post as I lost all of my followers last year due to a massive faux pas when trying to upgrade my blog. But it’s not about who reads it, it’s more about documenting digitally, knowing it will be here when I need it.