It was humbling being asked to tell my missing story on Songs of Praise and to have such a painful time in our lives treated so gently and with such dignity by those who filmed and created the piece, yet another example of the kindness of strangers. We hope that it will help others in some way just as in telling it we have been able to take another step toward recovering from it ourselves. Each time we return to this painful episode in our lives we are reminded that unlike us, so many still have missing loved ones or are missing themselves and that will always be at the forefront of our minds, everyday somebodies worst nightmare is realised may we always remember that.
We hold very strongly to the notion that you can’t be a missing person unless somebody misses you and the concept of ‘missing’ for me personally was such a shocking one, I was too ill at the time of my breakdown to consider my own status and during that mental health crisis I had no understanding that I myself was considered to be a missing person. You see, I didn’t ‘go missing‘, I was already missing. Being a missing person was a status given to me in my absence by concerned others, the church cafe where I was given a drink, the police searching my home, those in authority, my friends. That is why the Missing People Choir played such a key part in my own return because on that day when I had received a text message from the missing people bureaux telling me that I needed to let them know that I was safe, the realisation that I was considered a missing person was an immobilising one, I went from being unconsciously lost to being consciously terrified of being found, thats when the grief turned to trauma, it was a dangerous time, running scared. The only safe source of reference in my distressed state was the choir and as I sat in the park that evening reading a text that in effect informed me that I was a missing person I knew that I wasn’t alone despite the paranoia at the realisation that I was not only battling with my own mortality but now also being actively searched for.
Music connected me with the present in a way that nothing or nobody else could, I had given up a musical career when my dad died because I needed to look after my mum it was the one thing that could always cut through, the thing that had been a constant friend throughout my complex life, throughout mine and my mums lives together, music shared by people who knew pain and yet sang through it with a depth and a resilience that gave me hope. I trusted no-one and yet felt in the pit of my stomach that I wasn’t alone.
It would be an understatement to say that such a short period of time has been life changing as it wasn’t until everything that had once defined me had gone that I was afforded the opportunity of starting all over again, literally one day at a time, reinventing myself. The tiny steps have been tangible, invaluable and strangely comforting, some have been far too abrasive and sore but all have played their part in recovery, teaching me what is really important in life. This last year has been a million miles from the crazily busy world of my past for in so far as I have often spoken of the kindness of others, the biggest lesson has been learning to be kind to myself and to embrace each day with a pragmatism that ushers in the present and respectfully accepts the past.
Walking to London was physically exhausting and yet emotionally liberating and after a year recovering from the foot injury acquired along the way I’m fortunate to be having surgery soon that will mean I can return to exercise, an essential pre- requisite for good mental health. Writing has been a great way of reflecting and as it has continued, a blog has now become a manuscript and through it an autobiographical novel has evolved. I have no idea whether or not anyone will want to publish it but in some respects that doesn’t really matter because life isn’t about achievement anymore, its about reverence and breath and the privilege of having been able to love and be loved even when at times that love has been cripplingly heartbreaking.
I don’t know what life holds for me now. I have spent the majority of the last year quietly at home venturing out only when absolutely necessary, thankful for life and quietly being family to my wonderful partner and our beloved animals and a friend to those precious people we have in our lives who know us well, we value our friendships as indeed we also value those who have helped us along the way both professionally and personally. Our joint prayer now is that we in turn might be able to be a bridge and offer a helping hand to someone else who may be sat in a doorway somewhere either virtual or actual being told to move on because “decent people use this place”. We are all ‘decent’ people, some of us have got lost and those who are still lost need nothing less than kindness, empathy and love to get them home.
This song was written with love to The Missing People Choir
Ever thankful , Ju xx