It Always Happens To Someone Else.

The news seems to be always in your face.

Walking down the street, there are signs outside the Newsagents advertising the daily papers often with gruesome headlines about someone else’s misfortune.  But we don’t seem to really notice, we just take it all in our stride. That’s life.

I rarely buy a newspaper now, as it appears that all I’m doing is reading about someone else’s troubles, when at times it seems that I’ve got enough of my own.  If we watch television for any length of time we are bombarded with adverts for the news, some channels even have the rolling banners at the bottom of the screen to tempt you into watching their bulletins.  Because I’m a bit of a footy tragic, I’ve been getting quite a bit of air time lately, although that will all end after the AFL Grand Final on Saturday.  But, as a rule, I don’t like to watch too much telly as it is so unproductive – except when I can crochet and produce something useful.

We’ve become accustomed and desensitised about natural disasters, bombings, murders, suicides and terrorist attacks.  We may feel some sympathy for the victims, express our horror at what is being done and then go about our daily lives.  Perhaps we may even discuss some event with friends over coffee or wine, but generally it is forgotten rather quickly.

Until it happens to you.

For me, suicide was something that happened to other people. I’d never had any close experience of it, and really it wasn’t something that was spoken about very much.  I do recall hearing about a colleague who had lost a child to suicide, and felt very sad for her. But as she worked on another unit, I didn’t see her very often so I didn’t think about it too much.  Plus, I’d coped with both of my daughters attempting suicide, and though it was extremely distressing at the time, it seemed that it wasn’t too big a deal when both girls were getting on with their lives again, seemingly okay.

On the surface – which I learnt too late.

Then when I had to face the awful reality of it with my own child, it was devastating.  Why didn’t I know about this before?  How did I get beyond my children’ teenage years – and surviving two suicide attempts – without realising the catastrophic impact it has on your life.  Not only your own, but the lives of those close to your family and the victims friends.

I think Kelly was the first – and I believe only one – in her group of friends and it left them shell-shocked.  They had no idea how to deal with the death of one of their own. I watched them after the funeral; they seemed to have difficulty expressing themselves around us. Then when we had Kelly’s twenty-first birthday party, we encouraged them to talk about her, to tell the stories they fondly remembered. It seemed the dam had burst, when – after the initial hesitancy – they really let their hair down and laughed together over their remembrances. It was cathartic and healing.

So, yes, it does happen to others, but there is a new compassion for others in their grief, now that I’ve experienced my own.




I think the car roof racks need dusting today.

Then I need to go to the library to collect those holds before they put them back on the shelf, and I should go now, while I’ve got the time.

The dishes need doing, and I really love doing dishes – not! So I’ll do the dishes and clean the stovetop too. The sink will be shining and benches cleared, with the kitchen looking good.  Well I guess that’s a good thing, although not really life-threatening if they don’t get done immediately.

Or – I can’t work when my workspace is messy / dirty / untidy etc.

I’m not sure why I continually do this, as it doesn’t make for a very peaceful existence. Maybe it’s my default mode!  Avoidance. If I just did what I had to do, get it over and done with, then I could get on with other things – like reading a book or doing the housework instead of pretending I am doing it for a really good reason.

But in reality it’s procrastination. I have discovered I am a master at it, especially when I have a deadline or something important that needs to be done.  I can keep myself really busy doing – whatever.  I think I’ve even got a degree in it – but I’ll look for that paper later.

Surely I’m not the only one in the room who does these kinds of things?

From my observation of people, there are a few others who do a similar thing. Making time to do the unimportant things, tasks that could wait until later is some form of coping mechanism. By doing all the unnecessary things, then I can justify why I haven’t done the important task. I was so busy doing x, y and z, that I just haven’t gotten around to it!

For me, it’s a way of distracting myself from facing reality. Keeping busy can be a way of coping with life, especially when it’s a difficult time. After my daughter Kelly died, I often found myself keeping ‘busy’ in order not to think too much. But I’d focus on all the irrelevant and unimportant things, and miss doing the priority ones. Then I’d beat myself up for not doing it ‘right’ and the whole cycle would start again.   I’d make myself so tired that I’d flop into bed and sleep – for a while – and then I’d wake and start thinking. The more I dwelled on the problem, then the less I slept until it became a vicious cycle.

Perhaps it’s really fear – fear of making a mistake, or not looking good, which is very closely related to perfectionism.

However lately I’ve discovered that when I do what has to be done promptly, I can enjoy myself more and even have better sleep. So I’m gradually learning to manage my ‘Busywork’ although I still slip back into that mode quite frequently, but I’m learning to recognize it a lot sooner.