Growing up, I was always a happy and confident child. I was the joker, the little comedian going out of her way to make silly faces and look daft in the hope of making people smile. Always putting on shows, dancing and joking.
As the years went by and I grew older, things changed somewhat. Mental illness hit from nowhere and wiped me out. It took every single part of myself that I knew and left the shell of a stranger. I lost my voice. For a long time, I spoke only to my mother, my grandparents and our Olga. It was a long few years.
But I had “my boy” – my light in the darkness. My one constant. From age 10, he was my reason for smiling. My little big shadow, always by my side.
And so as my mental health deteriorated further and further and my thoughts turned from I hate this world straight to, I should leave this world… I found comfort in my boy and in the moments I shared with family.
But then, my beloved Nanna, who always knew me without words ever needing to be spoken, fell ill. In what felt like the blink of an eye, she was gone. All that praying and wishing for it to be me had not worked – there obviously was no God. I lost my faith… but, I still had my mum and Grandad. In our conversations, we kept her alive.
But then, I got ill. I got diagnosed with Coeliac at a time when my mental health was starting to ease up. It felt like a kick in the teeth, battling every day to make it through only to then be given a life-altering diagnosis. What the hell was this life? I spent so many months and years distracting myself by taking photographs and concentrating on my boy. It was the biggest help, possible.
But then, things started to change. I got angry and I found some fire. I chased after some things that I wanted to do and I did them. I fought really damn hard to get into college as a mature student and take my GCSE’s. When they said ‘no’, I found somewhere else. I emailed and I emailed again and I applied despite being discouraged. I interviewed and I spoke to many different people who all had varying opinions on what they thought I could and could not do.
But then, my Grandad became ill. Months in the hospital with what started with a broken hip and later became two heart attacks, a blood clot on the lung, another possible stroke, a crumbling spine, heart failure and a diagnosis of vascular dementia, left me feeling unfocused and unwilling to concentrate on anything other than him.
And so after years of studying and fighting, I took a break. I left college after my last exam in mid-June with the intent to spend time with my Grandad and make sure all that needed to be happening with his care, was indeed happening. Less than a month later, he was gone. I felt lost. So completely lost. I spent my days keeping busy and distracting myself with taking more photographs. So many photographs that the people refer to my boy as the most photographed cat in the village.
I did everything that year. Every single thing that I could. I wanted work experience doing whatever job I could do. So I did it. I did retail, cleaning, administration, reception, volunteered, got myself a placement and had a miscarriage. I soldiered on, the worst had happened. My Grandparents were now both gone, the house I had grown up in was empty and I was now having to show potential buyers around it while simultaneously wanting to yell at them to get the hell out of my house.
But then, on a whim, I applied for a course. It had been mentioned previously but I never felt the time was right and I continuously put it off. I don’t recall what made me apply, just that I did it. A ‘why not, at least I’ll be doing something’ moment.
And my God, it was the best thing I ever could have done!
But then, on January 11th 2018, my boy died.
And 2018 became one of the worst years of my life. My light was gone and I was terrified of the dark. How do I do this? What now?
I have never been one for getting emotionally overcome, I am very stiff upper lip. I do not like crying in front of anyone – family, friends, in public.
In 2018, I cried more than I can ever remember crying. I have sobbed until I can no longer catch my breath, I have fallen apart on buses and in the middle of the street and I have not cared. My boy is gone, my heart hurts.
But, I have carried on.
Carrying on is what I do, it is what I have always done. Sometimes, most times, without knowing how I am doing it. This damn year has broken me more than I ever remember breaking.
This blog was anonymous, now it is not.
I am being my true self – whoever she may be.
This is me.
Hello, I am Chloe.