My family is vital to my mental health: my two guardian angels, daughter Gracie, and Mum, Flo; and my black fur-baby, Blackie.

My daughter’s love reached deep into my dark heart which felt bereft and utterly defeated after separation and illness. As a helpless baby her trust and love of me meant I struggled on despite predicting further failure. I wanted better for her. For some reason I could appreciate the cuddles and gurgles and development of my baby. I knew she would be my only child and I wanted to cherish the experience of parenting. Somewhere deep inside me I felt warmth in my heart when she clung onto my finger, raised her arms toward me or giggle when I kissed her nose.

I adopted a black puppy many years before I met Gracie’s father. Now Blackie has a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. Uncle Frank and Aunty Margaret convinced my parents that a dog would be helpful for my mental health. My Uncle and Aunt thought I’d choose a smaller dog, but my parents were taken with the picture perfect Labrador cross, so he joined me at their place and moved with me to my various accommodations. Nothing like Churchill’s nemesis – he was allowed to visit me twice in hospital to cheer me up.

Blackie sleeps on my bed, cuddles me all the more when I’m sad, requires nothing more of me than to be loving and caring and enjoys simple pleasures like walks along the beach.
Being responsible for two beings who didn’t ask to be here and who need me made me get up, feed them and provide for their needs. My first thought of the day was not “I’m a failure”. Gracie’s cries would make me think “I need to feed my angel and black dog”. Gracie’s needs in particular structured my day. Both of them remind me of my importance to two individuals in the world. At this point in time I’m waking up looking forward to the day with these two lovelies.

Mum is my main support, my dearest friend, and has walked alongside me and propped me up along this treacherous pathway. I’d like to share her experience in this blog as in some way it’s her story too.

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