Hello, I am Colleen Songs, the alter ego of the woman ‘INHALE’ is about.
It has taken a lot of time and blind faith to write this story.
You see, it’s not an easy one to write.
With mental illness and suicide so prevalent over the years I was afraid to speak out from the point of view of the loved one, the abused or the caregiver.
How could I make clear the reality of ‘living inside the life of’ this cruel and lethal dis-ease of the mind?
At the time there was so much information and support for the patient, but what was there for the caregivers?
There may be lots of support now, (and I urge you to SEEK IT OUT) but at the time this happened to me, there wasn't much.
When I would ask about whether my Children and I should stay or leave, to seek some sort of wisdom in my state of panic and blur, I was only asked the same rhetorical question by every therapist and counsellor…
“You wouldn’t leave your husband if he had cancer, would you?”
We barely understood what was really happening, but we were expected to endure this terminal suffering?
I was hushed.
I was told not to say how I really felt for fear of thrusting him deeper into a tirade, manic depression, or worse… suicide.
So I stayed silent, only telling bits and pieces to my dearest and closest confidants.
I would try to sleep at night with sorrow buried in my heart.
Every day trying to stay positive while skidding along the edge of broken glass.
I was naïve to the vast array of abuse that a narcissistic personality procures and what the fine line was between narcissism and mental illness.
Abuse to me meant physical beatings or being cheated on by your spouse.
I didn’t real-eyes that abuse included multiple levels of psychological control and manipulation.
From intimacy to verbal comments.
Isolation to public embarrassment.
I believe that everyone should read this story.
Caregivers and families of loved ones with mental illness are not supported enough!
We’re not given the honest, eye-opening truth.
Without truth one does not have the means to make the best decisions.
A quote from my book says it all:
“Thought is the smallest particle of creation. When it becomes dis-eased it becomes a warped sense of reality where the dwellers who love you reside.”- Inhale by Colleen Songs
After finally leaving him I spent months pouring it out on paper through song writing, my medium of expression which I have always used to purge my thoughts.
Songs tumbled upon each other like a mass of metal in a wrecking yard.
Some songs were angry.
Some songs were heartbreaking.
Some remain hastily written phrases I can barely understand, doodled webs of scribbles, or torn and crumpled pieces of rubble screaming from the bottom of my trash can.
But no matter how many songs I wrote to release the pain, the story kept nagging at me to be told.
The songs weren’t enough.
I had to get the words alone literally out of my body!
No amount of music could soften them.
I had to take the chance and tell my story in a way that would help the readers feel the feelings, imagine the hidden torment, and become more aware of those who are left unheard.
To encourage you to listen to those “little red flags”, demand being heard when you ask for help as the caregiver, especially when Children are involved.
As I began to write the words began to take shape and I became lighter and freer.
Those who know me are stunned by my story, and quite honestly, so am I!
She was another woman entirely from the one I am now, but without her I wouldn’t be where I am today.
Time heals, but in the words of Maya Angelou:
“There is no greater agony than a story kept hidden inside you.”
It simply torments you.
So on February 19, 2013,
in our present place where we both felt safe,
we set our fear aside and reached deep within the heart of Colleen.
Together we sat down at my desk and I allowed her story to flow through the best format she knew:
lyric and prose.
We left emotion to form the melody.
I used my talent of 'wordsmithing' as her source of bravery
and she opened up.
One word at a time.
I wrote from the moment,
by sharing the thoughts that kept her there
and the love that kept her going.
I prayed regularly for honesty and clarity as so many memories and periods of time were lost to her.
I wove several experiences into one.
One chapter at a time.
I cried with every paragraph
and still cry when I read it
but with fresher eyes,
a lighter heart,
and a sense of freedom from the telling of it.
And I hope it can answer that imminent question that every abused victim receives:
“Why did you stay?”
Sharing her thought patterns was the only way I could answer that curious, judgmental enquiry.
“Just tell the story,” I would encourage her every time fear would arise.
There are memories still locked in a bowl of jello, too congealed in that foggy pool called ‘autopilot’ that she had to live on for so long.
One by one they were buried peacefully trusting that the memories that did come to light would help someone else find their courage.
Names and locations have been changed to free those who were involved and to protect her from those not too happy about my writing this story.
That’s why it took me so long to begin:
worried about what others might think.
You can’t make everyone happy.
You can only be the best you that YOU can be
and stand on your truth.
This story is meant to open Your eyes to the outside circle around You,
to the Ones looking in,
keeping vigilance over You;
the ones affected by Your every breath,
and the ones on the invisible sidelines of each and every one of Us.
I hope to make them visible.
I hope to provide comfort and encouragement
that You are not alone,
that You are understood,
that You cannot do the work for another human being.
I write to remind You to breathe...
to “secure your own mask before assisting others.”
For You I share this story...
In sickness and in health.