About Me

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London, United Kingdom
Holly Searle is a writer and an artist who was made in Soho and thereafter born in the heart of London. She has been blessed with two quite remarkable children and grandchildren whom she adores. She enjoys the company of her friends and the circus that is life, has a degree in Film and Television, and has exhibited her artwork in several exhibition.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Marmalade By Holly Searle

I love marmalade, especially Tiptree. I place my love for this bitter sweet jelly firmly at the feet of my father who introduce me to it many years ago. Even now, when I feel like treating myself I will spend quite a while pondering the vast selection on display at the supermarket until I select one that I either a) feel happy with or b) I have never tried before.

I then look forward to eating it, on toast, the following morning for breakfast. Bliss.

I was so taken with it, that one year I decided to make my own. How hard could it be I wondered ?

It was an exercise that I soon discovered required a lot of deconstruction in order to reconstruct something else.

It took a long time. The process involved sourcing not only the ingredients, but also vast amounts of jars into which the eventual product could be housed.

It was a labour of love, one that was hard work, but nevertheless, productive and enjoyable with a positive outcome in the end.

In May 2010, I became very unwell. At first, I didn't realise how unwell I was, but looking back now, I can clearly see just how sick I was. I suffered both a mental and physical breakdown. It wasn't nice and it was the bleakest moment in my life.

When something like that happens to you, you have no control over it at all. One moment you are spinning plates and juggling balls and then the next you are scratching your head and staring at the floor wondering why there are broken pieces of china and balls all over the place.

You have no recollection of who you are.

At that moment, everything came to a full stop in my life and I spent the days, weeks, months and years that followed, deconstructing it all, in order to reconstruct something else. I started making marmalade.

The day I first went to see my GP, I was on autopilot. She is and will forever remain the primary heroine of this tale to recovery, because without her help, I doubt I would be telling you this story today. She took me in hand and offered me all the support I needed.

I didn't want to take any medication as I was having trouble at that point even remembering where I lived. It was pretty scary stuff. I have no recollection to this day of the first few weeks after its initial occurrence at all. All that I had known, simply vanished.

Time passed and I returned to see my GP again. I was still raw and incredibly vulnerable and at that point she introduced the idea of speaking to someone that would assist me further. I agreed and it was arranged.

What you need to understand, is that I was this powerhouse of a human being. I had a well paid job in which, I was seen as a productive asset. My life was fixed and regimented and for five days a week, it was the same. Get up, get dressed, get my son ready, walk him to school, walk to work, work, walk home, collect my son from his after school club, walk home, make dinner, bed, sleep. Next day, repeat. At the weekends I cleaned up and prepared for the following five days.

I would take a holiday twice a year during April and August, months with only A's in I used to joke. I was a hamster spinning in a wheel, that span and span and span, until one day it fell off its axle.

When you suffer a breakdown, your mind goes blank. It is like your hard drive has been wiped clean and you have to learn how to function all over again.

A good day for me consisted of being able to do a load of washing successfully. I was so tired. I became scared of leaving the house as the thought of taking a bus or a train or even having to speak to other people was a nightmare. My actions became over exaggerated and I found it hard to even speak to anyone on the telephone.

I lost all sense of myself completely.

The appointment to see the counsellor was horrific. I walked into the office and felt ashamed for being there. I had no idea what to expect and I wasn't prepared for what did.

The man who I saw, asked me to explain to him why I was there. So Told him that several weeks before, I had been up a ladder clearing my loft. My daughter was helping me. I had been passing down boxes to her that needed sorting through and she observed how I much stuff there was. At that point, I thought “Well it is a good job I am sorting this all out now as I am not going to be here much longer.

I cried when I told him that. He then asked me to outline my life in the remaining forty minutes of the session. A big ask. I gave him the abridge version. We made another appointment during which he ripped me to pieces. How a person can do that after only spending just over an hour with a stranger is still beyond me.

However, out of a negative a positive follows. He gave me a booklet that listed all of the local Mental Health organisation and suggested I call one in particular as “They always answered.” So I did. I called them and that is how I started to get better.

Meeting my first counsellor was the best thing that could have happened to me. To be able to speak to someone who was not there to judge me, was the most liberating experience I have ever had. It enabled me to share with them things that I couldn't share with anyone else. I was astonished at the amount of stuff I had to get off my chest. My mind palace had become a rather unsavoury squat in which all sorts of insecurities and hoarded unwanted rubbish had began to pile up. It wasn't pretty, but speaking to her, helped me to make sense of it all and taught me how to tidy up and put things in order.

There were peaks and troughs, it wasn't a sprint, it was a long distance race with no clearly determined finishing line.

I was devastated when I could no longer see her as she had finished her six month intership at the institution. I still needed help and I eventually met the second person who enabled me to see that the end of my journey was both plausible and possible.

From beginning to the end, I spent over 18 months seeing my counsellors. When I arrived, my life was drained of colour, when I eventually felt ready to leave, the world looked bright and vivid to me like a new place that I had never seen before and I wasn't scared any more.

They extended an open invitation to me too return if I needed too and that was the most apt safety net that anyone could have strung below my tightrope wire.

And here is what I learnt. The recipe I had been following to make marmalade was all wrong and I had to find a new one. So I used my recovery time wisely. I did all the things I hadn't been able to do before because I was constantly caught in a series of ever decreasing circles. I reconnected with old friends, I went to places I had never been before, I made new friends, I started living again and more importantly I began to rebuild my life.

Even though I lost my job, I didn't loose my home and I am proud of the fact that throughout this whole process I never once miss a payment on my mortgage. The most import and astonishing thing I realised, was that certain aspects and functions of my old life were so unnecessary and without them, I still able to maintain a reasonable standard of living without all the stresses of the hamster wheel. The fear that had kept me imprisoned for years was just that, a fear, as the reality of no longer living under its regime was surprisingly manageable.

It has been a long journey that at times has been incredibly painful and relentless. It forced me to look at and to deal with situations I wasn't always ready or able to deal with. But, I am better and stronger now and if I ever feel indifferent, I recognise why straight away and by taking a mental deep breath, I am able work out how to deal with it.

I am now new and improved, a fresh batch of marmalade and a successful product of my own reconstruction and for that, I will always be, eternally grateful.

As a postscript, I would like to thank the following people, without whom I would never have got here.

Dr Lucas and Dr Pigett, my wondrous female GP tag team who put me back together.

Matt for calling me ever day to make sure I was okay. Tom for the cuddles.

The stupendous Margaret for listening and forming a super glue fixed bond that will remain with me forever.

Renee for all her vim and infectious view of the world.

All of those at the MCPS.

Yvonne for all of the support you gave me.

Red for all your endless longdistance support and love.

All of my friends who rallied around and checked in to check me out.

All my Cyberspace Pals.

And to my beautiful children, thank you for baring with me until I got all the water out of the sinking boat.


Anonymous said...

This was a very honest and brave account and I was moved and inspired at the same time. I really liked the analogy with the Marmalade too,cleverly written. Note to self Hol keep on writing XX.

Yvonne Power said...

I forgot to leave my name Hol ... Yvonne lol! XX.

Holly Searle said...

Cheers Vonny! Thanks for the comment. It was time to thank everyone, I find it helps to exercise it all by writing it down. Had some great feedback. Hopefully it might help other people that may be in a similar situation.

Big love


Tom Murphy said...


sonia shuter said...

Fabulous, honest , moving .I and many others I am sure could identify with many parts of this blog. I love reading your blogs