Tag Archives: Death

The loss of a friend


In this previous post, I wrote about my years spent travelling as an official on the professional tennis tour. If you don’t know about my earlier life, take a moment to go and read it, just promise to come back… I’ll wait.

All caught up? Good.

I don’t miss the on-court work or the constant travel (except when the kids are particularly annoying) but every day I miss the people that I worked with. I miss the core group of people that I travelled with and I miss the local people who year after year made every different tour stop feel like a homecoming.

We were all very different – different nationalities, different ages, different interests – but when we travelled together, we became a family. We were sometimes dysfunctional, but we were still a family. We looked out for one another on and off the tennis court. We supported each other when we had bad days and we celebrated each other’s successes. We laughed and cried together… but mainly we laughed.

I am reminiscing a lot today because last night I learned that a much loved member of our officiating family died. He was someone who laughed a lot and always had a good word to say. He lived his life openly and proudly and inspired others to do the same. Bruce Littrell was someone who always had time for his friends and he was a friend to all of us.

The news of his death was unexpected and it has hit me hard. Because Bruce was so much fun and lived his live with joy, fellow officials are calling for a celebration of his life rather than an outpouring of sorrow. I agree, but I still can’t stop the tears from welling up.

This morning a friend wrote to me on Facebook and said, “… becoming an official began with the love of tennis, but has long since changed to just the love of the people…” I think this is true for all of us and she helped me realize this is what is behind my tears. My love of the people.

I loved my tennis family when I travelled on the tour and I still love them today. Sadly, I will never see most of them again. We just live too far away and lead too different lives. Losing Bruce has driven this point home in a way that nothing else has before.

Bruce was one of the best of us. His smile was infectious, and now that I have shed my tears, I find myself smiling in remembrance. Rest in peace, Bruce.

To all of the corners of the world, wherever today finds you, I send my love… you know who you are.

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My fish are dead*

WARNING: If you are my mother, you may want to skip this post.

March is next week and I’ve just uncovered a pile of unopened Christmas cards in the kitchen drawer. I had a rough winter and things that I couldn’t face were pushed aside. If I open those cards, I’ll have to acknowledge the relationships they hold. Concede that there are people who care, have to care for them in return.

Life isn’t as easy to shove away as those colourful envelopes.

There have been too many lies in my life. I lie to cover-up my feelings and I lie to make people go away. Eventually the lies become too many; too many to keep track of and too many to care about. The lies are my shield, but they make me tired.

When I get too tired, I just want it all to end.

I now realize I’ve been depressed since my teen years. There were so many days that I pretended to be sick because I couldn’t go to school and face my small group of friends. Only now do I see I wasn’t pretending… I really was sick.

Everything came to a head in university. That’s when the people became too many, the exposure constant and the expectations too great.

It takes a tremendous amount of energy to act happy everyday when you aren’t. This energy gets sucked away and there is no way to recharge it, no way to rebuild the facade that gets you through the day. The only coping mechanism in my arsenal was avoidance.

Like the Christmas cards in my kitchen drawer, I started pushing the things I couldn’t deal with out of sight. I broke up with my boyfriend and cut off my friends. I was getting A’s but I stopped attending classes. I withdrew from daily life and spent my days hiding in a distant corner of an obscure building. I told myself that nobody missed me.

At home I lied that classes were great. All was fine, I was okay. I lied with every breath and I got tired.

When I got too tired, I tried to make it all end.

I lied to my doctor to get pills. I lied to my family so I could stay home that day. I lied to myself and was convinced it was best for everyone.

My family came home early and found me. No one can lie well enough to pretend that hasn’t left a scar.

Now that I’m older, I’m not as good an actor as I once was and my loved ones can better sense my lies. They feel me withdrawing and they pull me back in… I’m still depressed.

Recently there have been days when I’ve told myself that it would be better for everyone if I was gone. But now I have kids and that lie is too big to be convincing. Even I can see the truth, how it would fuck them up forever.

I’ve only just come out of the dark tunnel that I was in over the winter. New drugs, a new therapist and a trip in the sun have helped. I seek support and talk easier now than I did when I was younger… I have a hell of a lot more to lose.

Maybe tonight I’ll open those Christmas cards.

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Notes:
This post is a follow-up to a previous post about stigma and suicide. Stigma and disgrace have no place in a discussion about mental health, yet depression is still commonly viewed as a personal weakness. I’m embarrassed to admit that I have a mental illness called dysthymia.

Dysthymia is a long-term chronic depression that lasts years and typically characterizes itself as low energy and drive, low self-esteem, and a low capacity for pleasure in everyday life. Dysthymia may result in people withdrawing from stress and avoiding opportunities for failure. In more severe cases of dysthymia, people may even withdraw from daily activities.[1]

Dysthymia often goes hand in hand with other mental illnesses. In my case, I also have periodic major depressive episodes that are thought to be triggered by extremely low serotonin levels in the winter.

*If you want to read about how the “detached, meaningless fog” of depression feels like owning dead fish, please read Hyperbole and a Half’s “Depression Part Two”. Allie Brosh has truly captured what living with depression can feel like. I’ve never read anything better.

[1] “Proposed Endophenotypes of Dysthymia: Evolutionary, Clinical, and Pharmacogenomic Considerations.” Niculescu, A.B. and Akiskal, H.S. (2001). Molecular Psychiatry 6 (4): 363–366.

More than physical therapy

I'm bringing sexy back!

I’m bringing sexy back!

I had a physiotherapy appointment this morning. My sprained ankle from the beginning of August continues to be sprained. Everything is still swollen and is somehow both too loose and too tight at the same time.

The major issue is that I continue to injure it on a daily basis. I’ll take a step and my foot lands a little off kilter, or I’ll pivot and my foot stays in place. A couple of weeks ago, the doctor told me to “stay off it”‘ but then we both had a good laugh knowing that wasn’t going to happen.

Considering I have full insurance coverage, and I can see the physio clinic down the street from my front porch, there is no excuse for me not going for treatment before today. I just kept forgetting to make an appointment.

This clinic happens to be owned by someone I met through my work with ALS. Her best friend and business partner was a patient and they always came to the clinic appointments together. Today she was my physiotherapist. Continue reading

Should’ve talked about this a long time ago…

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One day, when I was in my final year, I was swimming laps in the university pool. I paused to catch my breath at the end of a set.

“Did you hear about _________?” The lifeguard had strolled over for a chat. We’d gone to high school together.

“No.” I replied, willing him to go away. I only had an hour until my next class.

“He killed himself.”

I lost my breath again and had to be helped out of the water. Continue reading

Eight

Our son is eight today.

Last night he joyfully washed the seven off himself in the bath and then stood in front of his mirror for moment to say goodbye. Finally, just before he jumped into bed, he climbed onto my lap so I could have a last snuggle and kiss from a seven-year-old. It was a farewell ceremony filled with all of the pomp and pageantry it deserved.

My husband astutely reminded us that we will have another seven year old to snuggle and kiss in a year’s time, but this seven-year-old is unique and I’ll miss him. Please allow me to indulge myself for a few minutes. I won’t nauseate you with the details of his birth but there are few salient facts which must be disclosed. Continue reading