Opposite of speed

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Breathing with awareness, walking with mindfulness, meditating with heart-fullness and intense silence with loving-kindness.

As if life switched from super-fast to ultraslow. Placing the right bare foot gently on wet grass. Bristly softness tingles. First the heel, then the outer edge of the foot. Some green tips manage to tickle the arch. Then the toes grasp hold of the ground. I am aware of tiny bits of the sole between toes and foot which never come in contact with anything. So cool! The entire sole buzzes like a guitar.

An aeroplane whirrs in the sky. Ears catch the Doppler effect. Fluffy shapes in white, blue and grey traipse the space above. Birds make jest. The wind continues to waltz with trees. Eyes watch life sprouting in seemingly dead places. The Being notices the breath.

The left foot lifts off the ground, preparing itself for the excitement of landing. Toes go first. They rub noses with the green tips before plunging in. The ball of the foot descends and the rest of the foot follows. It feels different. The heel hits the grass abruptly. The ground is uneven, not warm, not cold. It oozes the love of Mother Earth. Dew-drops cushion the impact. The green of the grass is a conglomeration. At least 6 different types of tiny foliage lining the ground, masquerading as one. Yellow flowers standing up on tender green stems dot the lush carpet. Some of them are being visited by bees. This luxurious texture invites the right foot back. It’s moving in slow-motion mid-air, presently at the top of an imaginary semi-circle. I put the breaks on and halt its progress as much as I can without falling over. It follows through the curve and makes contact with the earth one milli-meter at a time.

Flowing eastern movements of ‘Swimming dragons’, ‘Cloud hands’ and ‘Lions playing with a ball’ (Qigong) bring into balance the Yin and Yang. The more I slow down, the deeper I immerse in the ‘Now’. I actively deflect all adjectives. I don’t want to call it good or bad or silly or slow. It’s just walking. The rustle of leaves is just falling into my ears, the cool breeze is just brushing across my face, a few yellowed leaves are just falling off trees like twinkling stars descending from the skies. Everything just is.

Never before have I experienced walking in this way. To think that I have been walking all my life! I feel I could walk all around the world for the rest of my life.

Three years ago, at this time of year Saagar was really ill. For many years before that, autumn was my favourite season. Then it was my least favourite. Now it’s just early autumn. Another roll of the dice of time.

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Noble Silence

Would it be best if I took myself to a mountain top where I didn’t have to say anything, hear anything, understand anything, process anything or feel anything? Is there somewhere I could be free of the wrath of time? Where my heartstrings wouldn’t constantly tug at me. Where I could find the much-conceptualised ‘perfect balance’. Where I could wash off those parts me that ache non-stop. Where I could find an oasis beyond ‘I like’, ‘I don’t like’. Where none of the facts of life would hold any power over me.

My 51st birthday is the 3rd one without Saagar. That’s how it is – two significances attached to one day. Aren’t years supposed to bring wisdom and clarity with them? Do they? Possibly in unnoticeably miniscule doses in my case. I could take myself to a mountain-top but the snag is that the source of the restlessness and pain will come with me – my mind.

Looking for peace and respite from my mind I made my way to the serenity of a Buddist Monastry just outside London for a 5-day Silence Retreat. The first few verses we chant are Buddha’s words on Loving-kindness.

“Be one who is skilled in goodness
And who knows the path of peace:
Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech.

Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied,
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
Peaceful and clam, and wise and skilful,
Not proud and demanding in nature.

Let them not do the slightest thing
That the wise would later reprove,
Wishing: In gladness and in safety,
May all beings be at ease.

Whatever living beings there may be,
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small.
The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to be born,
May all beings be at ease.

Let none deceive another
Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will wish harm upon another.

Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings,
Radiating kindness over the entire world:

Spreading upwards to the skies
And downwards to the depths,
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.

Whether standing or walking, seated,
Or lying down – free from drowsiness –
One should sustain this recollection.
This is said to be the sublime abiding.

By not holding to fixed views,
The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision,
Being freed from all sense-desires,
Is not born again into this world.”

If there is just one thing I can take from these wise words, it is –
“Be at ease.”
“Relax.”
As Saagar would say in his notoriously funny south-Indian accent,
“Mamma. Chhillax.”
I think that’s a good place to start.

Day 898

A blank page and me. A bit scary. Not sure what happens next. No distractions of a laptop, a dictionary, a thesaurus, e-mails or facebook messages. Just me and the unruled paper. Both blank.

The click and clap of the cat-flap sounds like a bold red brushstroke on a bleak soundscape. The whirring of the fridge makes for a somber background of magnolia. The crunchy munching of cat food forms clusters of bright yellow daffodils scattered about. The distant low-pitched monotone of an aircraft marks the horizon, half land, half sky. Wonder what the pilot sees and hears at this moment. I look for the word count at the bottom of the page but all there is, is a corner. 

The sweet sound of a smile drips into my ears from the eyes of a black and white picture on the shelf. It’s twinkling and naughty. It’s the life of the canvas. Like a patch of elegant and shy blood red tulips, gently dancing in the wind. Thus I navigate the map of my silence.

“Out of such abysses, from such severe sickness one returns newborn, having shed one’s skin, more ticklish and malicious, with a more delicate taste for joy, with a more tender tongue for all good things, with merrier senses, with a second dangerous innocence in joy, more childhood and yet a hundred times subtler than one has ever seen before.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

Day 782

For a long time I didn’t understand why Saagar couldn’t speak to me about his suicidal thoughts. I felt terrible about myself – untrustworthy. In short, Bad Mum. I thought we were close. When he took his own life, I felt betrayed and shunned like an outsider. He must have known that I cared for him deeply even if I didn’t always know how to show it. I am sure he felt the vastness of our love as much as I did. It glued us together and carried us as one through thick and thin. It was the most solid part of my life, unwavering, undying and unfaltering.

What stopped him? Why couldn’t he? In the early months it nearly killed me, the utter and complete sense of failure as a parent. How alone must he have felt! Was he embarrassed? Ashamed? Confused? Did he feel trapped? Why couldn’t I see it? Was it out of concern for me that he didn’t share? Did he know that I would probably freak out if he did? Could he feel my pain as I watched him suffer? Could he see how lost and powerless I felt? Was his silence his way of being kind to me? Did he really believe that I would be better off without him? Did he even know the meaning of what he was doing?

All these unanswerable haunting questions coming back uninvited! But now, I can understand. 

ps: If you are concerned about anyone close to you, please call PAPYRUS for help and advice. I wish I knew of them when Saagar was ill. (https://www.papyrus-uk.org/)

Ref: http://www.speakingofsuicide.com/2013/05/29/parents-and-teens/

 

 

Day 759

“My daughter, Frances, developed severe clinical depression when she was in her second year at university, aged 20. She started to self harm, cutting her arms and 3 months later attempted to take her own life by taking an overdose of paracetamol. She was taken to the general hospital in Derby and was released to us 3 days later with no follow up treatment of any kind. The depression continued and we were constantly terrified that she would attempt to take her own life again. She moved backwards and forwards between Derby and home for several months, still clearly very unwell, and was eventually admitted to a psychiatric ward in Addenbrookes hospital in Cambridge (fortunately now closed down) where she only stayed 5 days as she was badly bullied by a psychiatric nurse and forbidden to access either food or drink unless she went to the dining area, which her catatonic depression and severe distress prevented her from doing.

After leaving the hospital, she was offered no further treatment and was not even assigned a CPN. We continued struggling for 3 more years, desperately trying to get the appropriate help for my daughter to survive and cope with the debilitating depression. In 2006 Frances became very severely depressed again and came home after splitting up with her boyfriend, leaving her extremely fragile and deeply depressed. My husband checked the memory on our computer and found out that Frances was actively researching suicide sites. I called our G.P practice and begged for an appointment for her with our G.P, who had been very understanding when we were able to access her. I had complained numerous times that it was often impossible to get an appointment with our G.P as one of the women on reception always insisted that Frances should see whoever was available and she repeatedly refused to give her access to our G.P. On that fateful day, 6 June, 2007, access was once again denied and Frances was given an appointment with another doctor. I went with Frances, as she was catatonic at this stage, and begged the G.P to refer her to hospital. I stressed, repeatedly, that Frances had already made a serious attempt to take her own life and was currently researching suicide sites on our computer. Despite my entreaties, the G.P insisted that Frances should have a prescription for a halved dose of anti depressant, prior to changing it to another one, and sent her away with a leaflet on counselling. Only 5 days later on 12 June 2007, Frances attempted to hang herself. She survived after 6 months in hospital and was left with a severe brain injury, unable to do anything for herself and requiring 24/7 care at a huge cost to Social Care and the NHS.

Frances lived a life with very little quality for a further 9 years and died this year of breast cancer.

I have actively campaigned for many years to improve mental health provision, especially for young people, who are most at risk. I have helped Papyrus and the Samaritans with media work and research and also campaigned for Headway. Over the past 9 years, I have listened to countless parents telling me their story and I have learned that my daughters experience with a G.P, just before attempting or completing suicide is sadly very common. All doctors, and particularly G.P’s, should have a mandatory day’s training on suicide awareness. The training for doctors is long and rigorous, but currently has nothing with regard to suicide prevention. As G.Ps are the gatekeepers of the nation’s health, and are usually the first point of health care access, it is particularly essential that this training becomes mandatory.”

Just one days training in suicide awareness for all doctors could potentially save thousands of lives every year. Teachers, too, would benefit from this training and young people in secondary schools should be taught about mental health, how to protect themselves and to feel able to confide in a trusted adult if they self harm and or have suicidal thoughts. As a teacher, myself, I am well aware of the considerable emphasis on physical health, taught as part of the PSHE curriculum, at primary and secondary schools, but there is nothing in the current national curriculum regarding safe- guarding mental health and so the stigma still remains. Many young men, in particular, suffer from severe and devastating depression, yet tell no-one except,their G.P that they have thoughts of self-harm and suicide. Their parents and families often say that they had no idea that their son or daughter was suicidal until it was too late.” – RW

Another lone voice in the dark joining up. Watch out for the big clang. It’s coming. It’s long overdue. We will be heard. I promise you Saagar. Things will have to change.

 

Day 741

As an eleven year old I often felt like I was born in the wrong country with the wrong nose, wrong hair and wrong skin colour. It was all a bit awkward but not much could be done about any of these things. So, the hair was cut short and stayed so for most of my life.

It’s normal for those with dark hair to want them light and vice versa and for those with curly hair to want them straight and vice versa. This is a small example of a much wider discontentment and dis-ease within humans.

We travelled for 36 hours, including an overnight stay at Dar-es-Salaam, 5 take offs and thankfully the same number of safe landings to get here. 3 of these were on the smallest plane I have ever been in. It sits about 14 people including the pilot. It reminds me of ‘Out of Africa’. The engine makes clicking sounds in response to the subtle mechanical actions of the pilot and the scenery is out of the world. Sapphire blue deep waters with turquoise shallow edges dotted with emerald islands with golden crescents along the curved margins.

This is the north of Tanga, a point jaggedly jutting into the Indian ocean with a white sliver of surf marking the reef’s edge. The noon-tide was so far out that it was nothing more than a soft whoosh but we woke up from our post-prandial coma to the rhythmic roaring of the sea that had arrived right up to our doorstep.

The smiles that greet us with ‘Karibu’ are happy and a bit shy. There is no running water or mains electricity. The internet connection comes through a generator and solar powered router, best described as flimsy.  Yet, something about being here brings the word ‘contentment’ to mind. This is what it must feel like.

Saagar would have loved this place – a little piece of heaven.

(Sorry, no pictures as very narrow band width on the internet. May be later.)

 

Day 740

It is a bright rectangular 3-D space, the sanctum sanctorum of my home. As I stand at its door I get a full blast of green through the huge clear glass panes that extend from floor to ceiling and from wall to wall. I recognise the return of autumn in the random touches of auburn and yellow scattered across the garden. As I gaze at nothing in particular, I notice a brown leaf fall from its tree in the periphery of my vision. The grass is still an inviting carpet, just beginning to fade. The birds must be resting as silence is all I hear. It is exactly the way I like it.

Back in the room, lives a luscious brown leather sofa. Sitting or lying on it feels like being warmly hugged by it. This one piece of furniture transforms the room into a safe haven. It emanates an old earthy smell. Its roughness is ever so slight that it captures enough air to make it soft. Innumerable cups of aromatic Darjeeling tea have been savoured on it. It allows words to flow from a real place. It brings out the gems of secrets we keep carefully wrapped up in silk and folded away, stored in the bottom drawer of our being. It creates space for sharing, loving and healing. It has housed many ailing hearts. It has brought them calm and comfort. It makes them feel at home. It lets them breathe. Feel. Acknowledge.

On the other side of the room sits a big table made of a dark wood called iroko. It has five colourful chairs hap-hazardly scattered around it. Now I can hear the purring of the fridge and the whirring of the dish-washer. On the table is perched a laptop, open and charging. A pale yellow bent orchid and a few upright pink gerberas look at me from the far corner. A few unlit white candles, big and small make it look like a well-sculpted garden. A half empty, half full, refillable glass of water waits on a plain cork coaster. Unopened letters, a to-do list with a few items ticked off, three coloured felt tip pens, a cordless phone off the hook… each one a piece of evidence of pottering. Me in my kitchen. Again!

Day 726

Sarah Fitchett is a neonatal nurse and a lecturer. She is also a mother bereaved through suicide. Like me, she is affiliated with PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide Charity by way of fundraising and awareness raising. This is an e-mail from her:

“I delivered an awareness session to GPs in Birmingham last week and they were desperate for more training.  They were literally asking me,
“What should I say?”
“What if the answer is yes?”
“What am I looking for?
“There are no services available to signpost young people to – CAMHS is so stretched”
“How will I know?”
“How do I cope with losing a patient to suicide?”
I really hope they will come on ASIST.  Such a lot of work is needed. One of our young volunteers, a mental health nurse from Bristol self-funded a place on ASIST because she had no idea how to help someone at risk of suicide, neither did any of her colleagues. Her training hadn’t covered it and there was no training available to her.  A WM police officer self-funded a place on ASIST and used her annual leave to attend because so very much of her role is attending people in crisis.”

This is an article she’s written about the absence of suicide prevention training on the nurse’s curriculum and the stigma associated with suicide within the medical community: http://theconversation.com/even-nurses-arent-immune-to-the-stigma-of-suicide-66008

11th October 2014 was a saturday. I had tickets for the Omid Djalili show for us. Saagar loved stand-up comedy and I thought it might help him. He sat on my right. I watched his responses. He appeared to be under a cloud. He did laugh but his laughter was subdued. At break time I bought him a drink and for some strange reason it felt like a significant happening, like an unforgettable scene in an iconic film. It was the last time I bought him a drink. It was the last time we went for a show together.

Let us do everything we can to save young lives.

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Thank you Omid for bringing him some happiness. Even if it was short-lived.

But then, everything is temporary, short lived! 

Day 717

Sunday lunch at the start of autumn on a warm day of blue skies and a warm sun, sitting under a wise old carob tree with supported branches and multiple dried brown beans hanging from a wide umbrella of dark green leaves with friends and strangers making introductions followed by conversations, smiles and laughter, references to this and that, occupations, travels and hobbies, daughters and mothers, food and wine, so on and so forth …. as if straight out of a film set infused with a sweet subtle smell of eucalyptus.

All of it completely meaningless, empty, futile, feckless, inane and pointless. Words, words and more words! Exhausting! I had to get up and walk away with my i-pad and take pictures of something. Anything.

In 2 weeks time he will be dead. Around this time 2 years ago he was scoring max on his depression scores and he gave it in writing to his GP in the form of a PHQ-9 form but got no help. No escalation of care. No attention. No mention of ‘suicide’ to us and yet holding a firm belief that a safety plan was in place. Sent home with the suggestion, “It will get better. Give it time. Rome was not built in one day” and a piece of paper.

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It was early autumn then and it is early autumn now.
I lived in what I thought was our world then.
I live in a world of my own now. It sort of overlaps with this one in places but most of this one is irrelevant to me.

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Day 708

suicide_homicide_warA survey of 500 people revealed that a third of people didn’t feel comfortable at all talking to someone at work about mental health related issues and only 15% have had a colleague speak to them about their mental health.

The survey also uncovered an interesting trend: nearly a third of all male respondents have never had a friend, family member or colleague speak to them about their mental health. Worryingly, this statistic rises to 42% for males aged 45 and over and increases yet again to 60% for males aged 54 and over.

( Source:  www.team24.co.uk/suicide-prevention-day )

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“I would say that the vast majority of people who die by suicide, don’t necessarily want to be dead—they want to end their suffering and don’t know what else to do. We know from our clinical treatment research that suicidal suffering can be effectively treated. There is hope; suicidal states can be effectively treated and people can and do recover from suicidal suffering.”

David A. Jobes, Ph.D., ABPP. Professor of Psychology. Author of Managing Suicidal Risk

Prevention starts with a conversation.

Let’s start the conversation.