Fighting Shadows

I make a little home in a shack in my best friend’s yard. It’s a cosy space with a big bed, leafy plants, my workspace and my comfy yellow armchair. We are home here with the incense burning and Alba playing on the rug. The beach is just down the road. Alba catches the school bus with the kids in the mornings and I spend the days working.

It’s hard to focus on my work. There is an underlying feeling that things aren’t right. That someone is missing. I suppose that happens when you lose someone who was always there. I call Bee too much. We talk for hours every day and I try to act like I’m feeling a lot more settled than I am. That I never really needed him. That life is better now.

There are moments where it is better. I go grocery shopping and dance in the aisles without caring. I find myself talking to strangers. I take Alba out on dates. I smile as I walk to my favourite cafe to work, backpack on and listening to podcasts.

But nights are never better. Nights are horrible. My anxiety swings quickly from nothing to everything. Breathing is hard and sometimes I have to scream into pillows and shake my body because otherwise I might explode.

I’m grateful my anxiety waits for Alba to fall asleep before setting in. I’m grateful she has the kids to distract her and that Bee calls her every day. We miss him. I always forget how painful it is to miss someone until I do. I miss the littlest things. The way he always brought me tea and the illustrations in his journals and the drum patterns he’d absentmindedly tap on my leg.

For the anniversary of my brother’s death I throw a Deathday Party. I decorate the house with balloons and bunting and invite my family who drive three hours to make it. I naïvely hope that if I make it a celebration it won’t hurt. But night rolls around, as it does, like a black heavy blanket to suffocate me. And the hurt comes.

I leave the party to curl into a ball in my bed. My cousins cuddle me, these girls I used to mother when I was a teenager are bigger than me now. From in-between them both I call Bee in tears. He always helped me carry this grief. From the very moment Zake died. He was lousy sometimes at knowing the right things to say, but he always loved me hard through the worst waves. It all makes it even harder. Like I’ve lost the two men I love most.

I’m afraid I’ll forget Zake. I am afraid this guilt will never lift. I’m afraid it’s true that he’s gone. Maybe that sounds crazy but there is a part of me that even still refuses to believe I will never hug him again.

I don’t really sleep, instead I relive memories. Even the most beautiful are darkened by the night. I remember all the times I let him down. How cruel I was to him when we were kids. The calls I ignored because I didn’t have the patience for his philosophical rambles.

Dear god what I’d give to answer one of those calls now. He knew I loved him and I know he loved me but I wish more than anything that he never left. I am crying writing these words, remembering too vividly his gorgeously crooked smile and the way his eyes lit up when he saw me. It was me and him. Now it’s just me.

Mornings are a treasure buried in the night. I know that if I can just hold out until the sun rises it will all be okay. There’s Alba with her singsong voice, waking me up. There’s uniforms to be dressed in, breakfast to be made, lunch to be packed. The chatter of the kids in the backseat, the conversations and laughter with Georgia. The potential of blank hours waiting to be filled with meaningful work and daily errands.

One night I download a dating app. I don’t want to date anyone seriously. Not for a long time. But I want to be distracted and romance has always served as an easy distraction for me.

There’s something exciting about peeling back people’s layers and knowing their hearts. It’s hard to admit but it’s good to feel wanted too, especially after being left. You’re not supposed to need love, you’re supposed to be enough on your own. I’ve gotten better at being alone, but I’ve always needed a lot of love. It’s just another flaw that is difficult to admit.

I meet just one boy. We climb a tree together and sit high in the branches with birds all around us. We talk about our childhood and when he kisses me it’s both strange and sweet.

Later I feel terribly guilty and I call Bee about it. He pretends to not be jealous and says it’s really great that I’m moving on. I’m secretly and selfishly happy that he is jealous even though it was never my intention. The truth is I still want him to love me, of course I do.

I’m at a festival, Alba is fast asleep beside me in the tent and I’m whispering to Bee on the phone. I can tell he is nervous. That there’s something important he’s trying to say. It makes me nervous too.

Bee tells me he made a big mistake in leaving us, that he’s tried to fill every day since getting home because of his regret. He explains his headspace when we broke up, his depression and being so far from everyone he knew, feeling like it was the only choice. The way he stubbornly clung to his decision every time he doubted it. The way he romanticised going back to his friends and his freedom but how empty it feels without us.

I want to say duh, because I’d seen it all unfolding in my head before he even left but he said it all so earnestly. He says that he doesn’t expect me to forgive him but he wants to be a better lover and parent. To commit totally and weather all the storms together.

I want to scream yes, to dance around the tent, to tell everyone in the world. How many times did I stop myself from begging him if we could be together again? But I don’t scream yes. I quietly thank him for being so brave. I tell him we miss and love him as much as he does us. I say I don’t know. To give me time. And he says of course.

The tree climbing boy is here at the festival too and I like him, he’s calm and sweet. I feel like I can let my guard down with him. I know he wants to cuddle me and kiss me but I just can’t. I don’t want to hurt him but I also want to be honest. We lay on the grass and I tell him about Bee and my heart and the whole conversation is painful. He asks, “So do you think you’ll get back together?” And I just shake my head and say, “I’m just not sure.” It’s like I’m forever hurting people. But he understands.

I put Alba to bed early so she gets enough sleep. It means that once the music begins I am already in bed beside her. On the last night I lay awake for hours aching to dance, longing to be out there. I could ask Georgia to listen for her but she already has her kids to worry about. I don’t have anyone else I feel safe asking. I cry in my tent. When you are a parent you are constantly making sacrifices and sometimes they all just add up.

One night my anxiety is so terrible I call Bee and admit I’m not coping. The next morning he books tickets for Alba and I to Perth. He doesn’t tell me because they are expensive and he knows I wouldn’t have let him. I’m upset with him at first. He tells me he’s wants to help me and there isn’t much he can do from the other side of the country. I have a lot of friends in Perth and maybe I need a break.

It works. My nightly anxiety turns into anticipation. My days have this sense of waiting, that I’m just going through the motions of life until I board that plane. His texts give me butterflies. It’s like the time I was touring across America and he was road tripping across the country and we’d obsessively text and text and text. I write pros and cons lists. I ask everyone what they think, my mother could have cried of joy. And yet I’m not sure. Not yet.

I always knew I’d be happy spending my life with Bee; this goofy man who never once raised his voice toward me, who has all the time in the world for the people he loves, who lives to create. I just don’t want to get back together because it’s easy or because we miss each other.

I spent all this time convincing myself breaking up was the right thing. I created this story to move on. I focused on all the ways we didn’t work and the better man who would cross my path and all the reasons I needed to be alone right now. Now I’m unravelling all the threads, trying to uncover the right answer. But the truth is there is no right answer, there is only my answer.

I see a doctor about my anxiety. She asks if I’ve had traumatic experiences and I don’t know where to begin. I talk about my stepfather, my uncles and an ex boyfriend. The sexual, emotional and physical abuse that started in my childhood and continued into adulthood. I talk about my brother’s suicide, the call I never made and how alone I feel without him. I notice I’m clenching my fists so tightly my nails are leaving marks on my palms.

She said she was surprised I was coping with parenting and working. Surprised that I’d never seeked help. I guess I always thought it wasn’t a big deal, that I could manage it. Just having a stranger acknowledge that it is a lot is reassuring. It makes me feel less crazy for being overwhelmed by life.

She asks me what anxiety feels like and I say it’s like I’m being crushed from every direction. I can’t breathe properly and my mind is dark and loud and scary. I have compulsive thoughts about horrible things like losing Alba and even when I’m not thinking my body is tight with fear. She takes my blood and books me counselling.

‘Last night I stood beneath the sky as it stretched its arms wide above me. The moon was growing full. Stars were hand poked between moonlit clouds patterned like a cheetah’s spots on dark velvet. It caught my breath. It was magnificent and it was just there above me. Painted across everything so perfectly and so unassuming. There was no man in a suit charging me to gaze up at this giant masterpiece, no lines to wait in to see it, no crowds staring up in awe alongside me. Just me in the backyard on the wet grass with my neck craned for so long it began to hurt, willing myself to believe in the immensity of the universe. Not just believe in it but feel it, in my bones.

Today I sat in a cafe writing in my journal. My writing scrawled across the page in a secret hope my fears and flaws might hide behind the messy marks, illegible to anyone but me. But I stopped the pen and I paused the mess of my thoughts, letting them still. I wrote carefully, the ink dancing as I wrote the paragraph above about the sky. I forgot how beautiful my handwriting could be and how much loveliness there was in that very simple act. I felt the sun pierce through my jeans and the weight of my body here on the earth. I knew that the magic of everything wasn’t waiting for me somewhere in the future, it was here and it was simple. ’

My head is clear. I feel a quiet sort of happiness. I exfoliate my skin until it feels like silk and I dye my hair purple. I do yoga every day. I meet deadlines and miss deadlines and post prints all around the world. I watch the sea and I listen to the rain on the roof of the shack at night. I cuddle Alba close to my body on the coldest nights. I write and write. I count down days.

37 love notes

  1. Everything I want to say is already said above 🙂 You’re so strong Nirrimi! One more thing, I also want to say that what Bee said to you on the phone (about making a mistake) is really strong. Saying your were wrong is never easy and then also admitting it to an other, pfoe, so so strong! And that you had to think about it shows how far you have become. Big big hug to you all! <3

  2. I just want to say ‘thank you’ for writing this. Thank you for your vulnerability. Thank you for showing me I am not the only one. Thank you for being you.

  3. Thank you for booking counselling for yourself, Nirrimi. It’s a huge step and a brave one, and I hope it will be an important layer in your support and recovery. Your marvellous and brave.

  4. Your words are so beautiful Nirrimi, thank you for being so honest, so real. Everything you say is so pure and powerful.
    Wishing you nothing but the best.
    Love from Dominican Republic.

  5. As always, your honesty makes me feel better about my own sisters death. I have the same guilts and stand in my own way of healing too. I should get some counsel on it like you are doing. I am patiently awaiting how things progress with Bee. I am so glad you see how your daughter is entitled to being an innocent child throughout all these trials and tribulations. A lot of parents are not able to do that. Pat yourself on the back for that. Your sharing with us who grieve loss and have suffered similar tragedy is appreciated. You write so clearly, it is refreshing and inspiring.

  6. Hi Nirrimi,

    it’s largely comforting to keep up with your journal. I’ve been reading since 2012/3 ( I worked at Format that summer and emailed you re: setting up your account).

    It’s funny that since then, my personal life has followed a similar trajectory to yours and I saw myself entering and exiting two serious relationships which left me with a boatload of feelings to process (one of which is anxiety). I feel deeply connected to you this way.

    Like all the others, I am happy to see that you can have the support of a counselor now, and that you know your immediate next steps. We are all here to support you.

    Take good care, and please keep writing to help us all heal.

    Hugs and kisses from Toronto, Canada.

  7. Nirrimi, I have been following for about a year and unlike other “bloggers”, I feel like you are ‘real’. I don’t know if this makes sense, but your words speak so much to me and you are so honest that I could almost feel like I know you.

    I am glad to read that, for the first time, you’ve seen a doctor for your anxiety, and I hope you can start seeing someone more regularly. You say it yourself “Just having a stranger acknowledge that it is a lot is reassuring”, funny thing is that this is exactly the first I’ve said to myself and to my friends when I first started seeing a therapist. I suffered with anxiety a few years ago, not as bad as yours, though, but still. I still remember that fear of going to bed, because I knew that this was when it was the worst. But sometimes it happened during the day too, during classes at school, or when I was with friends. I just couldn’t help those bad thoughts from going through my mind again and again, and it eventually drove me to tears. I remember being so lost, so overwhelmed by all those different things I was feeling. I remember all those questions I was asking myself: why am I like that? what is wrong with me? is this really going to stop someday? how long am I still going to be that sad and confused for?

    Talking to someone neutral, who wasn’t a member of my family, a friend or anyone I knew, was probably one of the most helpful thing that got me passed this phase. I still have bad thoughts crossing my mind sometimes, but it is nothing compared to what it used to be, and somehow, I am able to calm myself down (most of the time). Having someone aknowledging my suffering, telling me that I had the right to not be okay and that it was only temporary, helped so much. Now I don’t see anyone anymore, but I still remember some of the things she said to me and I am constantly reflecting on her words and for some of them, it’s only now, after 3 years, that I understand what she meant.

    I almost deleted all of this and didn’t post anything, but for once I really felt like sharing something of my own. I don’t really know what I am trying to say or what’s the point of this.

    I wish you so much happiness, and thank you for your words ♥

  8. I’m sorry you’re hurting. I think you’re very brave. It’s okay to fall apart sometimes. 

    I encourage you to read Sarah Wilson’s book “but first we make the beast beautiful”. It’s about anxiety and befriending it, sitting with it. I think you would love it. 

  9. Hi, Nirrimi.
    I had a prepared response to your post but I got shy after reading few another comments, because people are actually going to read mine.
    My first thougt was that I notice how as you grow you look more like your mom and Alba more like you 🙂
    Second was that on every continent there are a lot of sensitive young girls, who have been let down by the world and we just don’t have a clue how to live from now on.
    I guess we should just support each other and remember we are not alone in this scary world.
    You are a wonderful, beautiful and kind person, I wish you all the best.

  10. Nirrimi, your courage, strength and wisdom, along with your willingness to share your vulnerability and inner journey with us is such a gift and inspiration! I’m so pleased to hear you’ve sought some support. Life is tough and you’ve endured so much! This kind of support can certainly help. I hope, whatever path you take with Bee, leads to joy and happiness for all 3 of you. I have absolutely no doubt you will navigate this to the right place. This reminds me of a quote from Miles Davis: “Don’t fear mistakes; there aren’t any.” Sending you lots of hugs and love. 🤗💕

  11. I’m struggling with anxiety too.  And I use to love to write and I use to blog but I’ve lost the courage… look at you though, opening up to all of us that have done nothing to deserve your raw honesty. 

    I ran into an old acquaintance that I hadn’t seen in years and she told me “I feel like I know your sons from all your writing.”  It scared me.  And here I am, feeling the same… like I know you, just a bit anyways, and there is no love or courage flowing back to you for all that you give to me.  

    So here is me saying, if you ever find yourself in the states, and you’re in central Ohio… you have a friend.

    Also, back to the anxiety… I’m on medication.  It use to bother me considering I want to be holistic and natural.  I use to go off my meds all the time thinking I could handle it, but I am a better mother, wife and I like myself more on the meds.  Hugs to you.  You deserve to be free of the chains. 

  12. Your writing has made me cry on many occasions. Nirrimi you are by far on the top of my list of creators who inspire me. Thank you for your sweet and honest words and for sharing some of the most soul healing information this earth has to offer. You are a beautiful beautiful lady. 

  13. I love the way you feel things*, Nirrimi. Your sensibility and your capacity to turn It into words amazes me. I’ve been following your work from years now, It begun when Alba was just a baby – still cant believe how big she is. I’m really happy you asked for help and i’m sorry things are overwhelming sometimes. You shoudnt feel like a crazy person or make excuses because you are sad or hurt. You can feel.
    Thank you for sharing your think thoughts with us.
    Lots of love from Brazil
    *My autocorrect tricked me on the last coment

  14. I love the way you geral, Nirrimi. Your sensibility and your capacity to turn It into words amazes me. I’ve been following your work from years now, It begun when Alba was just a baby – still cant believe how big she is. I’m really happy you asked for help and i’m sorry things are overwhelming sometimes. You shoudnt feel like a crazy person or make excuses because you are sad or hurt. You can feel.
    Thank you for sharing your think thoughts with us.
    Lots of love from Brazil

  15. there is something soothing about reading your life stories. your anguish and your beautiful way of describing an unsettled yet crystal clear state of mind resonates with me. i hope to follow your journey forever and wish you all the best x

  16. Dear Nirrimi, I’m sitting on the other side of world from home and am missing the Australian trees and the sound of kookaburras and cuddling my mum. Your words brought me to tears but also made me want to be more honest with myself and those around me. That my words and thoughts may be riddled with doubt and anxiety has always made me scared to acknowledge them to myself and to others but I am trying to write everyday now. Although your words ache they are beautiful and fill be with an acceptance of myself and as silly as this sounds it nice to know someone through their words and the honesty you bless us with. Thank you for being sunshine ☀️ 

  17. This post is very timely. I am overwhelmed right now with a lot of things too. I think I want to speak with someone. This post encourages me to speak to a doctor as well. Thank you so much Nirrimi. I wish you well!

  18. I think you are so strong, you writing is beautiful and delicate like knitting something delicate and precious and we can see the anxious there, lying behind, but you seem so strong for stand still. I recently had to leave therapy that been helped me for the last 3 years and im looking for, kinda like you, construct some kind of health life but is so hard and I don’t know why, there are times that my head just dont cooperate with me 🙁  
    Everyday is a struggle but I keep trying anyway 🙁 I’m looking for stuff like podcasts about living a healthier life, or yoga thru YouTube or apps for organization, I dont know but how do you manage to live a life, have such wonderful work and be a single mama EVEN with anxiety?
    kisses nirrimi (and sorry for the bad english)

  19. Nirrimi, your honest words always touch me. Although I often find myself in tears while reading your life, I really do appreciate the fact that you are willing to describe it so sincerely and raw! I wish you the best of luck in anything you do! Greetings from the Czech Republic 🙂

  20. What I love about blogging is it is so easy to feel that you are alone with your “faults,” and then you put it out for the world to see and suddenly you realize you are not alone. I have always struggled with anxiety but denied it for 22 years because I didn’t want to show any sign of mental unwellness because of my mothers mental illnesses. I surprised the pain for so long that when it would poke its head up I would think to myself “oh it’s just this one time.” The truth is, it doesn’t go away until you talk about it. You are a beautiful gift. Thank you for your vulnerability. 

  21. Dear Nirrimi, your writing really touches me. And I agree with the others commenting here; trough your writing, I already feel you’re on your way. To see the magic in the world, piercing through. I really resonate with the image you painted when writing in the café. Take care <3

  22. Viva !!! Super happy for you here ! Anywere will be great and seems magic is already unfolding for you once again ♡ Tricky thing this Life, right ? Always this game of letting go to keep us sharp and truly alive ? Lots of love from a portuguese single mama (me 🙂 raising her boy in Moçambique

  23. I am writing this from the other side of the word, Portugal.
    I read your posts everytime. And follow you since you were 14.
    This was another amazing post with the most special words.
    16 May 2017, the day i turnt 25! Thank you so much for your inspiring me daily.

  24. Nirrimi…if you write a billion words a day, I will read them, every one. Your soul and your feelings and your love are safe with us. I believe we who love you make up a big family for you and A and Bee. Thank you for letting our love in your heart.

  25. Today I read your post during a boring early morning uni lecture and not only woke me up but made me filled with hope. The hope of love overcoming and not fading away so easily as it does (seemingly^^) for so many.

     Its strange how excited one can get about a post, a life one does not know and at the same time beeing so close to an aspect of it.

     I love your blog, I love your stories, I love your writing. Please keep on going! 🙂

  26. Lot of people love you from the tinyest corners of the world. You are touching hearts with your soul. After all these years you are still an inspiration Nirrimi! We are all connected here, you do it magically. Thank you for sharing your life with us.
    I’m sending you a lot of love from Hungary. ♥

  27. Dear Nirrimi,
    I’m reading your words from the opposite side of the earth and they touched me so hard. I know that feeling,when someone returns and you just knew they where wrong all the time. You just let them free to go and live their lives. And then when they come back is like everything you believed and cried for just makes sense again.
    I don’t know you but we feel the same and this makes us closer.
    Love and hugs from Italy dear Nirrimi.

  28. I think starting therapy was a good choice. I’m sure it will help you to figure out how to fight anxiety. I also have struggled with it 3 years and it’s getting a bit better. I try to fight it doing the things i’m scared of the most, the things i’m sure would lead me to anxiety attacks. Also, I think you’re doing the right thing following routines. It could help in periods when you don’t have a reference point, when you feel like something or someone is missing, when it feels like you’re not settled but you need to be. At least this is how it works for me. I hope you will fell better and better and that one very near day you will realize you’re not dealing with anxiety anymore. It will be a powerful and freeing feeling. Lots of love and hugs from Italy. Come visit if you want to free your mind. I’ll be happy to help you.

  29. Dear Nirrimi,

    You are so beautiful and special. I believe that you will find your truth and happiness.

    So much love to you!

  30. Hi Nirrimi, your story really resonates with me, and after 3 years of experiencing extreme anxiety and i’d say misdiagnosed post natal depression, i’m finally starting to see light at the end of this particular tunnel. When you are in the thick of it though it’s so hard to see any the end, but if you believe it will get better it will.
    Good on you for getting help and surrounding yourself with things and people that you love and who love you. It’s so important to have someone to talk to about all the crazy shit in your head.
    What you said about the nights though is what really got me. Even now, after months of sleepless nights and panic attacks, going to bed is a much more peaceful process for me. But when i put my baby to bed, the minute he falls asleep, i long for the moment he crawls into my arms again, whether its at midnight or 5 in the morning. The time in between feels like lost time.
    I hope you feel more hopeful soon, keep up the beautiful work xx

  31. Dear Nirrimi your words made me cry, i’ve been reading your blog since 2010, so been following you story and i feel it so close, i don’t know maybe because of the anxiety and that sense of not knowing what it’s gonna happen and how you describe the insecurities after suffering abuse, i really feel it, and in some kind of wierldly way it makes me feel i’m not alone, and i’m not strange or weird for casting spells at the moon or falling in love and feels everything like an adventure, making mixtapes and send them secretely, i’ve learnt a lot from you, and more than an inspiration you’d been a companion. thank you so much for that! hope you feel alive and fully of life every moment, don’t miss that feeling that you mention at the end of the post, thats the key. Sorry for my bad english, lots of love.


  32. The way you described anxiety and need to be loved – so true. Thank you again for your honest and beautiful words. I wish you happiness <3

  33. I could read your writing forever.
    Thank you.
    For showing us beyond the highlight reel. For showing us that its ok to not be ok, and parenting and working is hard.

    Life is hard. Thank you for being an inspiration even if some days you dont feel you are.

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