Sunday, April 8, 2018

My Side of the Bed and Its Nightstand

In four days, it will be a year since my brother's suicide.  I feel as though I've written every drop of grief out of it, but there is always more.  As the day approaches, my mood has understandably fallen.  I'm staying in bed during the weekends and crying more.  I torture myself with songs that will be forever associated with a year ago.

I once wrote a blog about The Babadook movie, in which grief takes the form of a monster and stalks a mother and child.  My own babadook haunted one section of my couch and my side of the bed.  The monster has thankfully left my couch but returns to my bed often.  Yesterday, I noticed something else about my side of the bed.  The nightstand is overflowing with stuff - books, a lamp, my eye glasses, a bowl of nail polishes, a canvas basket of junk with no other place, and two other items that are perpetual concrete representations of my life as it is now.

The first item is a large plastic mixing bowl, which has been there for a few years now.  It is Trent's vomit bowl.  He sleeps with me every night, and I never know when he will vomit.  It is reflux, post nasal drip, and the weird predisposition to get an upset stomach in the middle of the night.  So I keep a bowl nearby and when I awaken from the sound of him swallowing hard, I turn on the lamp and grab the bowl.  Making it to the toilet will likely never happen.

The second item is a box of kleenex.  Before Chad, I did not keep kleenex next to my bed unless I had a cold.  Even during depressive episodes, I made do without it, instead just bringing a few pieces of toilet paper with me to bed.  Chad's suicide, however, has made it a permanent fixture.  Poetically, it sits in Trent's vomit bowl, which sits on top of the canvas basket full of junk.  I have to replace the box every other month.   This is more poignant in my head than I can put into words.  While the babadook is a figurative representation of my grief, the kleenex is a physical one.  That it needs to be replaced is an analogy of the cycle of grief.  Even as others feel it is past time for me to stop needing the kleenex,  it is not that simple.  Time does lessen the acuteness, and maybe the box will need replacing less often, but for now, it is necessary.

I am going to try to stop writing about Chad.  I feel myself becoming stuck and writing about it seems to no longer provide catharsis.  These things are always so hard to end when hope is running low.     

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Last Words

"Well, text or call if you need anything." 

He replied with a thumb up. 

The next morning, I messaged, "How are you today?" but he never saw it.  His last words were in a handwritten note of which I keep a photo in my phone, which is not at all smart as I forget it is there. Whenever I spend time clearing excess photos, it jumps out at me like a monster, frightening me and bringing darkness.  Also, my phone could break.

I have already written a blog about the things I would have said if I had known, but today I became fixated on the last words we say to people at the end of conversations.  We fight with our spouse and passive aggressively text "ttyl" or say "whatever" and walk away.  Or we say even worse things with no passivity, only aggression.  We get so frustrated with our children that we yell "go to your room!" then marinate in our anger for hours.  We have coworkers that we like tremendously but treat badly because we are so stressed with work and deadlines.  We forget to say "I forgive you", "Hey, you did a good job today", or a simple "thank you."

I'm not saying every conversation has to end with "I love you" and this echoes a Garth Brooks song, but what if there isn't a tomorrow?  What would you want your last words to be, either spoken by you or spoken to you?

Although "I love you" would have been better, I am thankful the last words I sent to him were to reach out to me.  

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Down syndome and Moving Forward

I got the trend Ds tattoo of the three arrows facing forward symbolizing the three chromosomes and progress.  It means something great to me, but it also brought pain.

I admitted to my husband today that although I would never take Down syndrome from Trent, I would be lying if said I am not exhausted.  The polite words of "How sweet, you will have a baby forever" when he was born are starting to feel like a curse.  He isn't a baby; he is a 9 year old boy, but in so many ways, he is like a toddler.  And no one, no matter how awesome the toddler years are, wants a toddler for 9 years.  I.AM.EXHAUSTED. 

And I will be judged for being exhausted.  We are not supposed to hate any part of this journey.  We are supposed to be the chosen few mothers.  Most days, I love the club I'm in, but some days, especially lately, I'm ready to have a child instead of a toddler.  I won't even hope for the 9 year old  child.

Currently, I'm trying to teach him how to work the controller of the playstation to watch Netflix or his DVDs.  No matter how much many ways I try to teach it, it just isn't sinking in.  This is a first world problem for sure, but it still hurts in ways I can't explain. 

I am exhausted with diapers, with temper tantrums, with not knowing if he has outgrown his shoes because he doesn't tell me, with not understanding much of what he says. 

He is an amazing kid so full of love; I shouldn't be feeling this way.  As the tattoo symbolizes, I should just keep moving forward, maybe silently.  But really, I'm exhausted.   

Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Earth Circling the Sun

I keep thinking 2018 will magically make my life better.  I feel as though the 8 replacing the 7 will change everything.  This isn't a new thought, is it?  Lots of people make resolutions and wax poetic about the new year.  I know, however, that tomorrow night will not erase my grief, guilt, or mental illness.  Nothing but the date will change.  Still, the earth did circle the sun and that must mean something.   

2017 started off well.  I entered into my last semester of grad school, and I felt proud of what I had accomplished up until that point.  I won an academic award for having a 4.0 each semester, which was a specific goal I had and reaching a goal is always worthy of celebration.

Early 2017 was also a great time of stability in my life.  My medications were working, and my moods were mostly healthy.

Then I got that call in April.  "Your brother took his life this morning."  I actually challenged her and said, "No he didn't."  The tears came.  From that moment, my life halved itself.  I still attended school, and I still tried my best, and while part of me was excited about graduation, most of me was numb and simply surviving.  I graduated in May, and my family took a trip to Universal Studios.  It was a sweet distraction that lasted only as long as it could.  During that time, I recognized that some people are true friends, through any and everything, and some people are there for the good times only.

The summer came, and I found other distractions, some healthy and some not, but all welcomed.  I rediscovered the way writing helps me.  In a short few months, I made and lost a friend who had a deep impact on me.   My marriage fell into a black abyss, and the last vestiges of my stability fell away.  The help I sought was barely enough.

The summer ended, and I began searching for a job, which came quickly.  Working again has been a positive experience.  I have supportive co-workers and supervisors, and I enjoy the job.

These last few months, stability has been returning, somewhat too rapidly to be believed.  The help I have sought is beneficial, and my coping skills are mostly healthy now.  My marriage is floating back to the surface.

I find myself saying "2018 will be better."  Truthfully though, there is no way of knowing, and it is wishful thinking to claim it.    It isn't pessimism exactly, just the knowledge that I have no control over what happens in a year.  All I have control over are my thoughts, behaviors, and feelings in response to what happens, whether good or bad.

I do wish everyone a Happy New Year, especially when it personally means beginnings and a sense of second, third, or fourth chances. I'm still making three resolutions:  To cope better, to read more, and to write more.     

The earth circling the sun must mean something.   

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Poetry Passing Time

Seeing the Alliterative Psychiatrist

A cedar ceiling and
Color of walnut shell walls
Secrets, hallucinations, horrors are
Told within these neutral nodes
As pitiful people tap their
Fingers, feet flutter
A fox betrays a bull pin
On a box betraying brevity.
Currently, guns gargantuan
Too soon or not soon enough
To talk tactics
Anxiety, like aromatic bread,
Warm raisin, rises.
Some stare, cramped neck at
a smaller box, cartoon caricatures
fake feelings real faces
can't contract.
Dignify my designation so
I can take my turn.
Tell my tale
Land Latuda
Verify Viibryd.
Manage monthly.
Fucking fuck.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Grieving When You Have Older Children Watching

My husband is home on a two week visit, and even though I have often said I just want him to hold me while cry, I still cry on my own. In theory, I don't really hide it. I usually cannot control the first few tears before I lock the door to the bathroom and sob in the shower or announce I'm going to lay in the bed and "get some of these tears out."  He seems to understand that although I don't want to grieve alone, the outward show of grief is somehow embarrassing for me, and when there are others around, I cannot be true to the grief in all its ugliness.  I need to be able to make noises as I run out of breath, and I need to make those contorted faces that come with the waves that make your stomach actually hurt like a contraction.  The fetal position in a bed isn't pretty, but it is the helpless infant we revert back to.

My husband and my daughter left to go to the store, and I could not join them.  I'm too randomly weepy.

The youngest child is not here, but the oldest is.  My bedroom door was closed, and he knocked.  "Mom."

"What?"  I gargled this word because I had just experienced a breathless contraction in my stomach.

"Can I come in?"

"No, the door is locked."  What I didn't say:  I can't get out of the bed to unlock it.  I don't want you to see my face splotchy, shiny, and wet.  He knows though.

He asked what he wanted to ask through the door, and he got the answer he wanted.  He moved on.

What am I teaching him?  That thought came next.  If I am embarrassed to be seen experiencing this pain, what was I taught growing up?  Or did I not learn this at all and it is more just a personal preference? I think maybe a combination of both, but I also know I need to have a conversation with him and the other kids.  Even if my actions do not match my words, I have to let them know that it is not a rule that one must hide in a room to cry.  There should be nothing shameful in loving others so much that when those others are gone, our face contorts, we can't breathe, and the tears just flow.  I don't know how to bridge that gap of processing this with them and actually showing by example, but I know they are watching. Perhaps the first step is telling, then building up to showing.  Maybe it is tagging them when I share this on Facebook.

I love Chad tremendously and the loss of him hurts me so deeply.  The loss of him brings up earlier losses as well, my mom, my grandpa, my godmother.  I do not want my kids believing that loving someone and losing them means secrecy and isolation.  I welcome suggestions and personal stories of how grief is expressed in your own family. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Sacred Tears, Holes, and Jokes

“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.”
–Washington Irving

“Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night. I miss you like hell.”
— Edna St. Vincent Millay

I wanted to call him today to tell him that in the shower this morning I randomly remembered a horribly corny joke that our step-grandfather told us when we were kids. 

You are trapped in the jungle with a gun with only bullet.  A camel, snake, and lion are all coming at you.  What do you do?

You smoke the camel, erase the lion, and shoot the snake.

(The joke rests on the teller having an accent when pronouncing "lion.")

I originally did not get the joke; I was too young, but our step-grandfather repeated it for years and one day, I got it.

So today I fell in the hole and the power is flowing from my eyes, which is not to say I have been immensely better.  I just have not been in a hole.