A letter to my mum


Mum,

We are fast approaching your 10 year anniversary. Can you believe that? I still remember the day you left us like it was yesterday and as hard as it is not to have you here with us now I am glad you have had your pain and suffering taken away.

I often find myself questioning things, like why you got cancer, why you died, why we couldn’t just have a bit more time with you and I always come up with the same answer every time and that answer is that everything happens for a reason. Everything happens for a reason yet I’m still struggling to find the reason for you dying, why I was left without a mother at the tender age of 10 when I needed you the most. Everything happens for a reason but what could possibly justify a 10 year old having to watch her mother die?

I know it’s not your fault that you died and it certainly wasn’t your fault that you got cancer but when you died I couldn’t help but be angry at you. I couldn’t understand why you would leave me, why you couldn’t just fight for a bit longer but in truth I had lost you before you even died. In the weeks up to your death it was clear you weren’t the caring, kind, loving, unique mother you once were. What you had become was a frail, pain stricken women who needed her suffering to end. I see that now and I understand that now, my anger towards you is gone and I can only hope for your forgiveness for having so much anger and resentment towards you for dying.

I’m not entirely sure what my stance is on religion and to be honest it’s not something I have thought much about but I know you once had a special place in your heart for religion and I can only hope you have made it to heaven. I like to think that you’re somewhere right now with your mum and dad, hopefully looking down on me. I really do hope I have made you proud over the years despite all the pain and suffering I have caused the rest of the family.

There are nights where I lie awake crying because I miss you so much, wishing for just one more day, one more cuddle, one more conversation and a chance to see your smile just one more time. It hurts knowing that I will never see you again, never get to hold your hand again. It hurts knowing you won’t be there on my wedding day, knowing you won’t meet your grandchildren and most of all it hurts knowing that I will never get to hug you and feel 100% secure like I once used to.

You were my rock and you are my idol. I can only hope I will become half the women you once were. Still today I meet people who knew you and it brightens my day when I meet these people because I know that you have left an imprint on more than just your family and that you will never be forgotten!

There is not a day that goes by where I don’t think about you, where I don’t miss you and where I don’t wonder why you had to be taken away from us. Every day I look in the mirror and try and find similarities between our faces hoping I can be as beautiful as you. Not a day goes by where I don’t question if I am making your proud and if I am becoming the young women you once hoped I would be. Not a day goes by where I don’t think of your smile and feel your love rush through me and not a day goes by without me wish for my mother back!

10 years is a long time and soon we will be officially marking the 10 years since you have passed. It has been a hard 10 years and even now I am still trying to comprehend that it has actually been 10 years. Its hard to accept that you are gone, that you have missed half of my life but I know you are still with me, somewhere and always you are with me. I hope I have made you proud and I hope to make you proud in the future. You were truly a one in a million mother and nothing will ever change your uniqueness.

I love you to the moon and back,

Love Siobhán xxx

Display or Disguise?

As someone who used to engage in self-harming behaviour I am now left with marks all over my body, marks which will remain on my body for the rest of my life. These marks were once something which I looked forward to seeing, something which I felt I needed in order to get through the day and something which I wanted but now, now this is not the case and these marks are for life.

I try very hard not to let my past define but it is hard, how can I not let it define me when the pain and suffering which I experienced is written all over my body in the form of scars? Lines from my knees to my hips, from my stomach to my chest and from my wrists to my shoulders. Lines which symbolise a time in my life where I experienced nothing but pain, I struggled to see the good in each day and a time when I was ready to take my own life in the hope of finding some peace and removing myself as a burden to my family.

These lines aren’t just any lines, it’s clear they are scars and it is clear that they are scars from self-harming, I can’t hide that fact, it is obvious what they are! But I’m letting them control me, I am letting my past keep me from moving on. For fear of being judged and ridiculed I hide my scars as much as possible but I can’t hide them for the rest of my life. Yeah from time to time I will wear a t-shirt without long sleeves, when I’m competing in athletics I will wear my singlet without sleeves and if I am too warm I may roll up my sleeves or take off my jumper but then things get awkward. Then people begin to stare and it is clear what they are staring at. I try hard not to let it get to me but it is hard, very hard. What’s even harder than dealing with judging me and staring at me is knowing when it is ok to not cover my scars.  I question wheatear its ok for children to see my scars, it is ok for me to expose young people to self-harm so early in life, even if they are not aware of what the scars are from?  And is it ok that I am lying to them when they ask what they are should they see them? 

When I volunteer with an organisation and even in my job I am usually open and honest about my previous self-harming behaviour and two out of the three organisations I volunteer with have told me not to tell anybody who asks that it was self-harm. Is this right? I know that really young children will not understand self-harm and for my own benefit more than theirs I usually make up a story nut for older children, for young people, for people who know what it’s from should I really avoid using the term self-harm? Should I make up a story? It’s like I’m being forced to be ashamed of my past, like it’s something to be hidden and if I continue to hide it am I not feeding into the stigma surrounding mental health? And it’s more than just being ashamed or feeding into the stigma it’s the lying about what my scars are from. I spent most of my teenage years hiding my scars and cuts and lying about my self-harm and I don’t want to go back to those old habits and again it goes beyond that, it’s the trust I have built up with young people and to lie straight to their face, what kind of youth worker does that make me?

I still have a long way to go in fully accepting my scars but being told not to admit to what has caused my scars limits me that bit more from accepting them. I understand the damaging effects a person seeing scars like mine can have should they be experiencing self-harm but when I look at myself, when I move beyond all my scars and really look deep down I see what I have accomplished, how far I’ve come and I see that I didn’t let my mental illness and self-harming destroy my life completely and I see that I gained back control. Sometimes I feel if a young person can see I came out the other side then it’s worth not covering my scars, even if it only gives them a glimpse of hope that things can and really do get better.
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