In August, I escaped to Cornwall with my boys. For the first time in a while I unplugged completely from social media and went off grid. It was our first holiday with O and we walked on beaches, we carried him along the coast path, we lay in the sunshine and took long lunches. It was bliss, yet I was also wracked with guilt.
I’ve escaped like this once before. In the autumn of 2010 we ran away to Snowdonia. We hid out in our cottage, climbed mountains by day, and got drunk every night. I didn’t post photos of what a great time we were having because in reality, I was broken inside.
Both these times left me ridden with guilt and shame.
On these occasions, I didn’t have a digital detox to consciously take care of myself. In reality I didn’t go on social media because I was too afraid of showing people what I was doing when I should have been grieving, when I should have been supporting my family.
The day we left for Cornwall was the day my mum had her operation to remove a brain tumour. She gave us her blessing to go on our first holiday together. We knew she’d be sedated for a few days and always planned to return after the long weekend, once she was awake. As it turned out she remained sedated over the course of the next few weeks.
When we ran away to Snowdonia in 2010, my little brother had just been killed. I’d stayed with my parents while his body was repatriated from Afghanistan, through the identification, the press intrusion, the post mortem, the funeral planning. But it was 4 long weeks before his funeral could take place. I felt close to breaking point, like I would struggle to carry on.
So I escaped.
Both times, I left my parents behind to face things. It’s something I’m not proud of. They probably needed me but I was selfish. All I could consider was how I was on the verge of collapse.
Escaping, being at one with nature, simple pleasures, helped me to reconnect. Removing myself from our normal day to day world helped me to come back, fresh and alive, ready to face what I needed to face.
It was therapy for me, there is no doubt about that, yet I’ve only just been able to be honest about this.
So now, I’m working through the guilt and the shame, I must make peace. This is my first step.