Mental Health

♥ Coming to terms with the impending death of a grandparent ♥

After 21 years of being fortunate enough to not have had to deal with the death of anyone close to me, I have recently been told that my eldest grandfather may only have a couple of months left to live. Yep, this is a fun one…

So I am currently in the library attempting to study for my final exam next week and thought maybe writing down my feelings would help to ensure that when the time comes I am mentally prepared. Of course, I’ll be devasted but I suppose I am lucky to have a warning. Coincidentally, my master’s degree in Medical Law and Ethics has introduced me to the medical world and the concept of death. I was so reluctant to choose modules relating to the ‘end of life’ at the beginning of the year as I branded it ‘too depressing.’ However, I quickly changed my mind when I realised that this reason was ridiculous! The module was popular and controversial (just like me! Just kidding – I am not popular,) and I am delighted that I changed my mind and did a module called Ethics at the End of Life. Basically, it taught me to grow the f*** up and come to terms with the bleak reality that we’re all going to die. Or even worse, end up in a Persistent Vegetative State. That sounds really depressing (and word of advice: have a think about what YOU would want in such a situation and consider signing an Advance Directive, or at least tell your loved ones clearly,) but I do think the module gave me a more positive outlook on death, and whilst some of my modules made me decide I want to be healthier and try to live to 100, this one forced me to contemplate the harsh reality of life. People will die. People you love will die. YOU will die. AND THERE AIN’T NOTHIN’ YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT!

I did some coursework on ‘ageism’ in healthcare and whilst my initial reaction to the question of whether resources should be allocated using age cut-off points was in favour of such policies, my view rapidly changed as I thought more about the meaning of life. Who has got a right to tell you when your time is up? Who has got a right to tell you how to live, or not live? In reality, whilst I started eating vegetables with the intention of living until 100, my grandparents seem to have rather different perspectives. They claim to have done all they have wanted to do, and seen everywhere they have wanted to see. I have no doubts that in my grandfather’s lifetime he has seen it all – he was a doctor in the British army, has lived, worked and travelled all over the world, and lived long enough to know all of his grandchildren when they are old and mature enough to really get to know him and spend time with him. He’s even stuck around long enough for the birth of his first great-grandchild! All whilst having Type 1 diabetes since his 40s.

I’m sure most people out there have been through a similar loss (or losses) before so maybe this is deserving of an eye-roll. Poor me! 21 and has all grandparents and has never experienced a huge loss! I admire everyone who has been through such things and managed gracefully. This is me trying! Though when the day comes I really have no idea if I will be mentally prepared or glugging a mixture of wine, snot and tears… I think with a touch of spirituality, an ounce of weed* and as much time as possible spent with my grandparents I should be able to make it through this with a grateful smile, a stronger family and ideally…. a training contract?

 

*Don’t smoke weed kids. Comedic effect.

Scars: A poem to anyone who has suffered from depression or self-harmed (and also those who haven’t, I suppose)

I have scars.

We all have scars

Memories that never fade, blemishes that are here to stay

They’re like souvenirs

Skin memorabilia, your own Wikipedia

Your silly secrets branded on your sacred flesh.

There are some that are happy.

Scraped knees from playing kiss chase in Year 1

That one friction burn from your first love fun

The time you drunk burnt the nachos, then yourself

The painless marks caused by your shameless student self.

Then there are those which expose your identity

Expose the lowest of lows in your life, your hidden history.

When you have grown so much and come so far

Some scars show just how frail we are.

“You’ll have those on your wedding day,”

Dad said as I shook with shame, only myself to blame.

That’s what I felt like.

Some say it’s for attention but I have never wanted more deflection

Than in the moments that expose my secret even to those who I am closest to.

It’s been years. Years since the tears that I cried on that bathroom floor.

Years since teenage me, so lost and confused, had no clue what to do

No clue how to deal, how to feel, how to figure out whats real and what’s not.

No clue why I, someone so lucky and so blessed, could be selfish enough to feel this depressed.

It has been years. Years of wearing long sleeves, just wanting to be

Myself.. without silly scars.

Years of buying bracelets to cover the truth, to hide the struggle with my insecure youth.

And it’s silly.

I shouldn’t hide the scars on my knee, on my elbow or wrists

I am at one with the blades and the kiss

That I got in Year 1, along with the scar that came with it.

I am so happy and fortunate to be alive and to be me.

Sure, learning to meditate doesn’t solve the uncertainty

But I am certain that the wanting to hide does not come from the shame of the scars that don’t fade.

The wanting to hide comes from the fear

The fear of what lies behind concerned eyes, being naked and exposed and deconstructed and reconstructed,

as if seeing scars has somehow made me a different me.

It hasn’t.