Apparently these days I’m a time traveller. It came as a surprise to me too, believe me. all of a sudden I’m finding myself being transported back to the past, reliving bygone days. It’s pretty cool, apart from the fact that I have no control over when it happens or where I go. So for the past ten nights I’ve been warped back down my time line against my will and forced to witness the desolation that was my life after my dad died.
Ok, enough ‘clever’ word play. Basically, I’ve been having nightmares again. I thought that I’d managed to break through it while I had my job at the uni. Sleep came so much more easily and bed actually felt like a relaxing, comforting place to be rather than one that filled me with dread. Now when I think of the comfy mattress and snuggly duvet, all I see is a yawning blackhole of despair. My bed time has gradually become later and later as I put it off but now I’ll actually admit that I don’t want to go to bed.
My nightmares all have a reoccurring theme; the loss of my friends after my dad died. In every dream I find myself back at high school or a weird hybrid place made up from school and Uni, but my closest friends A, E and H are there. In one dream a highly complicated task was set with an incredibly short time limit. Everyone split off into groups to search for items but I found myself alone. I began to run about trying to find the things I needed but they always disappeared as soon as I got to the place I thought they would be. I saw my friends A and E were working as a pair so I went over to try and join them. They looked at me with such distain and then turned away and ignored my desperate pleas to not let me fail. I was heart broken. Loneliness swept over me and felt so intense that I began to feel more and more desperate. I remember saying to them ‘Please! I loved you, I still love you! Why did you leave me?’ They turned round to look at me but said nothing. I woke up and found myself sobbing my eyes out.
My most recent nightmare last night was set back in my high school. I was in a classroom, I think it might have been a science lab. I was trying to find a seat but no one would move to let me sit next to them. The teacher started to get angry at me because I wouldn’t sit down, even though I pointed out that I couldn’t. I looked at my friends A, E and H, imploring them to let me join them, but they were with their new friends and didn’t want me. I tried to speak to H, begging her to speak to me. Although she looked sympathetic, she didn’t say anything back to me. I woke up and enjoyed yet another morning cry.
In another nightmare, it was my last day before finishing high school for good. I was upstairs in the language block looking out of a window into the quad below. Everyone was milling about saying goodbyes and I spotted my friends. They were laughing and joking with their new friends, hugging each other as they began to move off to leave the school grounds. I tried to call out to them, asking them to wait for me but of course, as it was a dream, my shouts were pathetic and no one heard me. I tried to go down the stairs but a combination of jelly legs and liquidation of the floor made that incredibly difficult. I think I finally managed to move outside by squirming along on my tummy. Of course, by the time I got there, everyone had gone and I was alone. Begin the morning crying ritual.
Of course all of that is fantasy. So what was the reality? I touched on that a bit in my post ‘chapter 1 – let’s begin at the start’, but here are some of the key moments I remember.
I remember not really being able to function very well after my dad died. It was a month before I went back to school and quite often I’d burst into tears, skip classes or just not go in to school at all. I couldn’t see the point to life if everyone just dies anyway. I was submerged in a fog of pain and fear and I just shut myself away. I was a completely changed person.
A few months later, when I began to look for an exit out of the fog, I found I wasn’t the only one who had changed.
I remember trying to talk with my friends but found I wasn’t the same funny girl I used to be.
I remember watching A and E split off and find separate groups of friends. A became friends with some of the religious people who made me suffer during my dad’s death. E became friends with a girl who didn’t seem to like me being around much.
I remember in jokes and conversations that I was left out of and feeling pushed further out to the edge of the friendship group.
I remember going to find my friends at lunch time so we could spend time together to find they’d already left with their new friends.
I remember instead spending my lunch times in the girls toilets crying because I was alone and it was the only place Boyfriend P wouldn’t follow me.
I remember a girl in my year seeing me crying and telling me that the reason I didn’t have friends was because I was too depressing to be around.
I remember my eighteenth birthday. It was lunch time and as usual my friends weren’t around. I was walking through the corridors when I bumped into a girl in my year who had the same birthday as me. She had a stack of pizzas she’d ordered for her and her friends to celebrate. In an act of unbelievable kindness, she asked me if I wanted to join her. I don’t care if it was because she knew I was lonely or if she never really intended for me to say yes, I was just grateful that I didn’t spend my birthday alone.
I remember my last day of school. All the girls came to school dressed up in fairy wings, colourful tights and knee high socks. Everyone apart from me that is. No one had told me that this was what we were doing because no one was really bothered enough to speak to me anymore. I smiled, signed people’s leaving books and tagged on to the other friendship groups for pictures.
I remember pawing through all the notes me and my friends passed in classes, all the doodles we’d done in rough books. Just all the nonsense, crazy things we used to fantasise about and crying as I realised that the magic had gone. It had evapourated while I’d been stuck in the fog and there was no way I was getting it back.
I know I sound like I’m full of self pity, and shamefully I probably am. But I know It wasn’t my friend’s fault, like I say I had changed and I know saying that I was difficult to be around is an understatement. Friendships evolve and end all the time, I know it’s a part of life and it’s happened to me many times since high school. I just wasn’t prepared for it when it happened. When my dad was ill, all I could focus on was his impending death. I didn’t really consider life after that event, at that point in time I couldn’t comprehend anything beyond my dad’s exsistance. However, as it does, life did go on, but I didn’t want it to. I didn’t want anything to change, I just wanted it to back to how it was before. I hadn’t realised that while I was looking the other way dealing with my grief, it’s already lost my old life for good.
So now it’s nine years later and I’ve been through so much more since high school. I went to Uni, made new friends, played some epic Quidditch and met a most excellent Burly. I’m planning our wedding and picturing a future together. So why is my brain dragging me back to the past?
The thing is, I’m not even mad at my brain. It’s not one of those typical ‘scumbag brain’ moments where it feels like my mind is deliberately going out of its way to humiliate and hurt me. It feels more like my brain is a small child asking me ‘why?’ It just doesn’t seem to understand what went wrong. It’s gesturing at my broken past life, tears in its eyes, begging me to fix it. All it seems to know is that before *gestures wildly* THIS happened I was happy, therefore I need to fix *sweeping arm movement* THIS. According to my brain, fixing the problem is simple. I just need to travel back in time to high school and reunite with my friends. That’s why it’s been taking me there every night. It’s probably my destination again tonight whenever I get round to going to sleep.
I want to help you brain. I wish more than anything that I could go back to before, back to my previous life. I miss my friends so badly, I miss the laughter and the silliness. I miss feeling so carefree and only being concerned about who was more fit, Orlando Bloom or Viggo Mortenson (A, you were right, Viggo is more attractive now that I’ve lost my prepubescent eyes).
But brain, the sad reality is I can’t time travel. The past is set in stone. Even if I met up with A and E now I know it wouldn’t help. You’re mourning for a life that’s long gone, a life that I’m not going to have ever again. You want past A and E, you want the good feelings you had when we were together. You want to go back to life before Dad died, before everything changed. You want to feel normal again. I’m so sorry brain, believe me, but I can’t ever take us back to the past.
The thing is, when it comes to death, all anyone ever thinks of is the loss of the person who is dying. I don’t think people truly realise that it’s so, so much more than that. Of course you lose them but you’re also robbed of your future together and the life you used to know. When I mourn for my dad I mourn for his voice and hugs that I need to comfort me today, I mourn for the conversations he and Burly could have had about sports and I mourn for the life I used to know with him around. Present, future and past; grief ripples through them all.
The most we can hope for is to move on together into a new chapter of our story. We can create new moments together, meet new friends. We shouldn’t live in the past but we don’t need to forget it. We can take what we’ve learnt before to help us and gradually it will hurt less and less.
Who knows, maybe one day we may even feel normal again.