Sunday, 13 September 2009


2002 Crisis
I look back at the last bumpy 7 years. I might be repeating myself. In the dawn of 2002 I had just got out of a rough teenage-hood, only just starting to feel confident and secure about myself, to enter into an unexpected series of hellish, nightmarish events. My mother had become seriously mentally ill in response to my father's departure to start a new life with a woman he was secretly seeing for 14 years. Her transformation was sudden and terrifying. She had become so depressed she did not care about anything or anyone. She was terrified of everything, even the most mundane, small things in her life such as cooking or dressing were horrifying to her. She became extremely irrational, violent, antisocial, and completely oblivious of her own behaviour or of people around her. She developed dark and complex magical thinking that would creep the hell out of anyone. Her life was a living hell and without knowing it she had created a hell for everyone that cared for her. It is unclear to us or to science how the pills were affecting her but soon, she became obsessed with one thing - to kill herself. It was not long before she ended up in the hospital having her stomach pumped after taking large amounts of pill cocktails. The events that led her to the hospital are buried deep within my brain but I do remember her waking up later in a creepy manic state telling me that it was all over. Little did I know back then about manic states but it was clear that it was far from over.

After this almost successful attempt, attempted suicides had become her hobby. It was almost like a game, she would try to kill herself in increasingly creative ways, only to hold back the last moment or to be caught in the act. For me and my grandparents, suicide and depression had become a horrendous routine, every time she would disappear we would take the cars and search for her, usually to find her on the rooftops of buildings contemplating a jump. My grandmother would hide all the keys and sharp objects from the house and administer her medication. Frequent visits to the emergency room, psychiatrists, psychologists, and even group therapy had become the norm. By the summer of 2002 she was institutionalised in a psychiatric ward that looked like a set from a horror movie. Two weeks later, after a hardcore medicine treatment, she was out and the next few months passed with intermittent suicide attempts, creepy manic episodes, general depression and many many suicide letters.

2003 Fire
As 2003 slowly crept in she seemed to stabilise in a constant monotonous depression and the attempts seemed to come to a halt. Just as we settled into a depressive 'normality', she carried out her most carefully crafted plan: burning herself alive. Over the months she had somehow managed to buy large amounts of pure alcohol and possibly gasoline and had written dozens of suicide letters. She carried out the deed at around 9 in the morning in the room next to me while I was in bed. Waking up I found coal-like pieces scattered around the house before I finally found her covered in a black crust in her bed, with her eyes wide open. Silently crying I used moisturiser to remove the black crust off her face. To this day, this remains the most traumatic experience of my life, so deeply engrained within my memory that I remember every single stroke I took while cleaning her face. I can even recreate the same feeling of emptiness, shock, and plain brain damage that I experienced that very moment. Possibly the second most traumatic event in my life was visiting her at the hospital a few days later to find her completely swollen up and deformed, Elephant Man style. In fact, it seemed to me that I was in a fully-fleshed living Lynchian nightmare. She was in intensive care for two weeks, the doctors almost sure she wouldn't make it, but she did. During that time she tried to kill herself by removing all the tubes and the nurses refused to watch her which meant we had to be there 24:7 by her side.
As for me, I had reached the disturbing point where my mum's death was almost desirable. First of all she was a completely different person, that to me she was already dead. She had come so close to dying so many times that I had been through every possible emotion one can have about one's death. She was suffering so much and made everyone suffer that perhaps it would have been better if she died. We all secretly thought about it. If she succeeded in her suicide attempts, it would hurt, but the nightmare would be over. We all seemed to relish the relief of her passing away – a most disturbing and soul destroying state to be, to wish one's own mother or daughter to die. The surviving of her self immolation on the other hand, reinforced the feeling that this nightmare would go on forever, becoming worse and much more disturbing. We all fell trapped in this hell, and there seemed to be no way out and it seemed nobody could help – the psychiatrists only seemed to gamble various pills hoping some combination would do something. She was finally released from the hospital, burnt all over and wearing a specially made metal cage around her torso that was meant to stretch her burn marks to prevent them from completely shriveling up. Within a few days she somehow managed to burn off the plastic surgery implant she had on her neck using pure alcohol completely destroying it. The routine continued once more, with mother immersed in a silent, dark depression that was so soul destroying she had no will to kill herself or at least she did not have the strength to do so.

All these events meant that I had to put myself completely on the side, so by the time I went to England September of 2003 I had completely forgotten the concept of thinking about oneself. I started counseling at uni and worked with the therapist to regain my sense of self and the concept of putting myself first before others. As I started recovering she disappeared one day, witnesses having seen her with two tanks of petrol. After two or three days of anguish, the police finally found her in a hotel in a random town. She said that she could not go through with it in the end and had given up. That was the last time she attempted to kill herself that I know of, and after that her condition slowly improved giving everyone the chance to slowly heal.

2006 Depression
Three years had passed since then, and life became good again. She had returned back to her normal self, she had taken up many old and new interests, got her old position at work back, made new friends and became an active member of the family and of society. She literally turned everything round and started a brand new life of positivity. 2006 was a great year for everyone, and me, well I had finally reached a state of happiness I had never experienced before. Everything felt right again and I was having bouts of euphoria and no sadness or depression whatsoever. I really felt the worst was finally over, I could move on with my life and my bright future and finally make my biggest dream come true: live in a happy routine. Just like my mum I had finally turned a new chapter in my life and I was ready to take on the world with my talent and imagination. Most importantly I felt great gratitude for all the great lessons I had learned from this experience, feeling stronger, more mature, even enlightened in some way. Boy was I wrong. By the end of 2006 my closest friend, whom I regarded my soul mate and who was also my housemate at the time started entering a depression of her own. The setting was eerily familiar, the gradual descend, the inertia, the aggressive behaviour, the obliviousness and forgetfulness and the irrational thinking. It was not clinically serious like my mother but it was still bad.

The way this disease slowly crept up meant that I unconsciously entered again the vicious circle of the depressive routine I had previously experienced. You would think after all the great lessons I had learned I would have been strong and wise enough to put myself out of the loop and even be supportive to my friend. Instead I found myself deeply immersed within the depression desperately fighting to not go under myself, literally feeling forcibly pulled into the darkness once more. What's more, I stupidly tried to hold on to that glimpse of happiness I had experienced earlier that year – I simply did not want to go back to that state. It was not long before I caved in and became depressed myself, my friend's condition becoming a constant fear and nightmare I could not escape from as it took place once more in my own home. There were weeks that I would cry myself to sleep every night, desperately begging God to bring an end to this. I would pretend to go somewhere just to go to the park nearby and endlessly sob. I would unsuccessfully try to hide any emotion to avoid upsetting her. Instead, my continuous struggle to drown my emotions, made me mirror or identify with the exact feelings perceived which was even more upsetting to both of us. By the summer of 2008 when she started recovering, our relationship had become bruised. I had developed a deep fear of her emotional imbalance and had become so traumatised that I had constant nightmares about it and was obsessively preoccupied with every traumatic event that had happened those 2 years we lived together. She on the other hand was very disappointed with my seemingly immature behaviour, weakness and inability to be emotionally supportive.

2008 Mania
After we parted our ways I barely had time to recover, reflect and tend to my new wounds. It seemed that what had happened was just a little teaser, a preparation for what was coming next. Mum had entered a very serious manic state that followed textbooks by the letter. She exhibited rapid speech, insomnia, fascination with thought patterns, delusions, bouts of rage, hyper-religiosity, magical thinking and grandiosity, until she finally entered complete psychosis (due to the lack of sleep). This was the worst state I had ever seen her in. She was completely and utterly mad. Something was different though, this was the first time I was an outsider as I was not there to enter the 'loop' I had entered the other two times. That experience with my friend helped me realise that the only way to help someone with a huge problem is to be detached from the situation altogether. Not emotionally detach like I tried to do previously, but detach from the setting, just like a psychologist approaches a patient with emotional sensitivity but is not involved in the life of the patient directly. Of course the previous two times I did not have the chance to adopt such a role as I was an integral part of both of their lives and thus had allowed myself to become a victim of the situation just like them. Now being far away in England when the mania started, I was in the position to adopt this outsider view I wished I had with my friend and my mum in the past. It was clear to me that what had happened with my friend prepared me for this moment of crisis, and I was finally ready to help! And so I did.

With sensitivity, calm and tactic I helped her to see how her behaviour was different and persuaded her to take her pills. When the situation got worse she was arrested and taken to the newly built psychiatric ward. It was not a place of terror anymore, but a hospital that accommodated people with sickness. Her disease was not horrifying but was just an imbalance of chemicals within the brain that made her suffer. I would sit with her and talk to her like I should, not like her emotionally distraught son that could not handle the nightmare that was – god forbid! – brought upon him but like the emotionally sensitive son that recognised the illness of his mother and would calm her down with his acceptance rather than his rejection. I had reached clarity in more aspects than one, having discovered that what she had was a serious case of bipolar disorder that affects thousands of people and was not something 'special' that was just happening to us. We also discovered the great role the doctors' irresponsibility and unprofessionalism played in all of this, as well as the backward system and lack of support in this country, but I will not get into that. We all, including my grandparents and sister, made it right this time. We had been through this before and we now knew exactly what to do – without repeating the mistakes of the past – we had all visibly grown. It was much harder on the rest than it was for me as they were already part of that loop, part of her life, but they still reacted in the best possible way. It seemed that this crisis was a catalyst for everyone to redeem themselves, even my mother. It helped us all to come to terms with the past, and it helped her to become aware of her own condition. It was a very hard time and it felt like going to hell and back, but I felt stronger. I honestly felt that this was the last test, the chance for everyone to finally fulfill this lesson and then it would be over for good. And it was.

2009 Death
2nd of May 2009 she poured two tanks of petrol in her car and blew herself up. That was it. After years of trying, after years of everyone waiting for it to happen, it did. Death is so abrupt, so final, it's just over and nothing can be done about it. There's no undo button, and no amount of pills in the world can bring her back. She left without saying goodbye, no letters, nothing. No one has seen the body so it is almost like she disappeared. The only symbol of her death that we were given was her coffin, and the whole ceremony of the coffin going inside the earth was just horrific. Yes death has brought the slight relief everyone was expecting, we now know that we will never go through this again, at least not with her. It is a very bittersweet relief though and I would probably choose she was still alive even if she was still sick, although perhaps that would be a bit too selfish considering how much she was suffering. She was an amazing, beautiful, sweet and caring person – and that is why she will be thoroughly missed. She loved children and besides being an active member of unicef she took many orphans under her wing that she personally took care of. She was a complete mum, taking care of us with pure love and always making sure we had everything we needed. We were very close to her and would share with her everything about our lives without any need for censorship. She was a funny and excited person, with many elaborate interests and many friends that adored her. It is hard to think of something negative about her, although if I had to pick one it would be that she cared so much about other people that she would go a long way often to her own detriment to help them. She was indeed very pure and very kind, and I am really not idealising her because she is dead. She was so kind and obliging that she was often taken for granted which sometimes hurt her. If you brought her the smallest gift she would jump up from excitement and gratitude.

Here I am in Cyprus, going through her stuff, scattered objects left behind by their owner that have lost their meaning and have become themselves dead. Her most recent diaries are filled with nonsense she wrote during her sleepless manic states - hundreds and hundreds of pages about her spiritual revelations and the amazing connections she thought she was making. In the peak of her mania she developed an obsession with certain random objects and she makes lists of these objects over and over again, together with time and date of when she sees these objects. She thinks she can manifest paper clips and that the indicators of the car show her where to go. She thinks that her burn scars are disappearing and that she has new scars which are stigmata. She believes that she is the reincarnation of Mary Magdelene who had the baby of Jesus, which is me, and I am Mark the Evangelist while Irene is the Virgin Mary who has given birth to Jesus who is Panos. These are all things she kept repeating to everyone so there's nothing really new in these diaries – just the distorted ramblings of a very disturbed individual.
Going through the stuff I hope to find a glimpse of life, a feeling that she is still somewhere near me but all I feel is emptiness and everything seems empty and dead. My grandmother tells me "I might talk and laugh, but inside my heart has melted" and I know exactly what she means. We have all become zombies, going through the notions of life, being more or less the same as we were before, but inside we are completely empty and lifeless. The void she has left inside each one of us is great. I could at any time now give up everything and become a hermit, or just do nothing until I die from hunger. But I choose to pretend that I care about life, that I give a damn about petty little problems or mundane everyday preoccupations. I mechanically laugh at things and robotically have conversations with people. I dutifully follow the same patterns I followed before only now they're just that, patterns of a lifeless life. I guess what I am trying to say is that I feel dead inside. A huge part of me has died and that it is no exaggeration. She was the first person I've ever known, physically connected to her insides for 9 months, and spiritually connected for 25 years. For 25 years we exchanged unconditional love between us, pure mother-child love which is simply irreplaceable. I think the emptiness within me is obvious to people just like I have observed this emptiness in people that have had deaths in their families. I have had many dreams of her, in the beginning she would appear as a hollow ghost, an effigy, then she became just the distant reflection of an image. I feel so sorry for Irene, being pregnant when this happened, and then giving birth and raising two kids with this constant feeling of emptiness. At least she has the kids to keep her busy and to give her hope and strength, although knowing her she has probably entered emergency mode just because she has to raise these kids and who knows when she will be able to think about herself once more and deal with her wounds. As for me I have nothing really to keep me going but my creations. I continue to create and imagine but always under the gloomy shadow of her death. One day things might become bright again but I can't see any way for the shadow to completely disappear.

My greatest wish right now is to establish some sort of connection with her, a hint that she still exists someway or another. It is funny how the outcome of the first crisis with her led me to become a very spiritual person and believe in the existence of the soul while the second and final crisis led me to doubt this completely. The shock of the disconnection was just so great that it is very hard for me to believe that she exists in another form. I don't know if it is because she was my mother but I always sensed her presence even when we were miles apart, now that feeling is gone – I certainly cannot sense her here but I also don't sense any hint of her flame somewhere else. A psychologist would tell me that I should make a connection with the past, the memories I have of her and appreciate her great contribution in my life instead of obsessing about her spiritual existence. I would then answer that her mania and death were a great shock to my belief systems and that if I don't find a way to reconcile the conflicting experiences I've had I would have to reconsider my whole world view once more. The way I see things now is that all the spiritual symbols and belief systems are metaphors that can be traced to electro-chemical interactions with the body and the nervous system, which is all fine. The conflict lies in the fact that scientific terms such as electricity, chemicals, energy etc. are just as symbolic and fleeting as their spiritual counterparts and can be seen in reverse metaphors of the spiritual systems. In effect science is a belief system just as any spiritual system, with its own dogma, symbolic imagery and that certain secret agreement between its followers to avoid things that don't make sense or give them religious names such as the Big Bang. So both views are symbolic, metaphoric and fleeting, which again is fine as it is established how the brain works on qualia, packages of subjective metaphors that are infinitely open to interpretation. The problem is that if everything is metaphorical, it means that everything in a way is fake or unreal, which is exactly how I feel right now about everything. If only I had a glimpse of reality behind this apparent random sea of metaphors, a connection to a world that is real and pure perhaps I would come out of this seemingly eternal feeling of emptiness. I am sure I will make some sense out of this one day. Perhaps what I need is a huge bag of weed. Or acid. Mum I miss you, without you I feel like nothing, and no matter how much I rationalise, how many blog entries I write, how many metaphors I find to come to terms with what happened to you, nothing will change that. Love you M.

Having written this massive entry, I know feel very much relieved, albeit the feeling of emptiness is greater now that I've all this out. These are all things that I needed to tell someone so I could hear them myself, and writing them down does help a lot. Some obvious patterns: me coming to a peak state in confidence and self-empowerment only to have it crashed or put on hold because of a (self-)destruction of a loved one, finding myself immersed, identifying with and unable to come out of said loved one's difficulty (the loop), loved one finally starts to recover giving me breathing space to recover and pick up my broken pieces just like them. A certain identification and mirroring behaviour can be seen here, even at my mother's death I find myself developing a feeling of death inside. Out of this identification and immersion then stems a need to escape or avoid the problem, and because the source is seen to be external, there is a struggle to flee from the external causes rather than the internal causes within. In all cases participants come out wiser than before, so the negative experience is always seen to have a positive outcome. I wonder if I have now escaped the loop of such experiences or whether it will come back to haunt me once more. Somehow I am not convinced it is over just yet. If seen from a personality cluster perspective, ie. other people are just different facets of the same self, then within this microcluster a 'fault' is developed in its biochemical makeup (mum) which is then spread throughout the healthy cluster (family), healthy cluster filters out the fault and attempts to fix it while the faulted bit tries to self-extinguish itself. The correction mechanism leads to an evolution of the cluster as a whole, in effect the fault is in itself a mechanism that triggers evolution. Eventually in this microcluster the faulty bit sacrifices itself to make way for further evolution of the rest of the cluster, and perhaps return (as in reincarnated) or make space for new parts of the cluster to build on the lessons learnt and continue working for further development.

I'm tired of this crap. What I want is to be normal again. I want to stop thinking about my mum's death. I think about it everyday. Constantly. The first thing I think about when I wake up. The last thing I think about when I go to bed. It's really exhausting and soul-crashing. Everything around me is a reference to her death. Every little thing or word can spark the memory of her death in me. I keep thinking about the things I could have done differently. The things I've done that I shouldn't have, or the things I didn't do that I should have done. I keep thinking of the beautiful things she did for everyone. Her kind nature. I keep thinking what a waste it is that this person has gone, when they were making everyone's life so beautiful. Yes when she was sick it was hell, but the good she did when she was well far outweighed that. Yes I would rather go through hell with her every now and then and have her around in her good times and the bad times until she died from old age or from a natural cause. I wish I had quit my job and stayed with her until she got well. I wish my brain would think of something else besides her. I need peace. Yes I would consider ending my life now if I didn't know how it affects other people. I keep thinking of my last days with her, in the psychiatric ward and the events that led to that. They were horrific and traumatising yet I relish those moments because she was still alive. I miss being with her, even when she was in the hospital talking complete absurdities and attacking everyone. I think about the last conversation we had on the phone, she was telling me about her irrational fears that terrorised her, yet I relish that last phonecall and all I think about is her sweet melancholic voice. When I dream about her I recognise that it is just a ghost, a figment of my imagination, yet all I want is to hug that effigy and express my love to that hollow image. I fantasize about possible scenarios of her return and how I would react and what I would tell her. Every night I try to communicate with her, begging her to send me a sign. I desperately want to be normal again. Yet I know that what she has done is mark my scars permanent. It is virtually impossible to get over the suicide of a loved one, especially one's own mother. Before the suicide I was sure I could get over all the attempts and the fire, but now I have been stamped for good. Her actions will define me for the rest of my life, and although I might be able in the future to appreciate the lessons I have learned from all this nothing will change my yearning to see her again. I keep repeating myself in this blog, and in my head, well these thoughts have been recurring since she died. Everything I have written in this mega entry are things that I am constantly preoccupied with, even the spiritual-existential stuff, which represent my way of trying to come to terms with things. And although the spiritual stuff have been sufficient in the past for me to deal with what I was going through, now I'm in need of a different truth, a world-view that can accommodate this tragedy, that can justify this loss. Irene told me the same thing today, ever since mum died she stopped believing in reincarnation, the after life or anything spiritual and has become a complete nihilist. I am with her on this. Thanks mum for rocking our belief systems and shocking us for good one last time, I am sure we shall learn a great lesson from all this that will probably occupy the rest of our lives. Thanks for this opportunity. Now please come back. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please.

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