April 24, 2012
Grief Therapy 8, ME Newsletter, Vol. 5, Issue 17
January 11, 2012: Shock and Trees
I’ve always loved trees. Their comfort knows no season: breezy whispering green spring leaves, cool lazy summer shade, gently rustling fall leaves, even artful winter branches reaching to embrace the sun. Thematic, you’ll find them all over my house and me. I tend to stick to earth tones. Love big open fields dotted with solitary trees. Even though solitary implies alone and trees references plurality, I’m most interested in the ones that are significantly far away from each other; way far enough away to never run the risk of casting or standing in each other’s shadows.
Q: How much time do you spend thinking about Jeff?
A: Blink, blink. (Silence.) Blink! None. I spend time thinking about me; me without Jeff, me lonely, me unsatisfied with my life, me depleted.
Q: When was the last time you just sat and thought about him?
A: I can’t remember. Oh, my GOD. I can’t remember the last time I just sat down and thought about Jeff.
Q: If Jeff could speak to you right now about your life what would he say?
A: He’d say, “We talked about this. You’re better off without me. This isn’t what I wanted for you. I want you to be happy. Get going.”
Q: You just need to find your happy place…
A: My happy place is buried under a ton of shit. That poses a problem. I think this is “it”: I’ve lost my sense of self, I guess.
And through the awful quiet of expectations, cerebral contemplations and held breaths, keeping pace with the ticking of time, a shocking calm mists in. In the diminishing wake of lost momentum, the surface smoothes, mirroring up a stunning unspoken conclusion, reflecting a shocking truth I never considered:
The problem isn’t that I no longer have Jeff.
The problem is that I no longer have me.
A little more about oak trees… the wind may have the strength to take their leaves, but most often it does not. Contrary to appearance, they push their leaves off, purposely deciding when to let go. In a conscious release, when the timing is right, when the possibilities are most fertile, the oak lets go; casting off what is no longer useful, and with a last rush of soon to be dormant energy whispers to them “Go.”
The suggestion I walk in the woods to observe and reconsider makes therapeutic sense, and sounds strangely appealing even though it’s cold and winter. I head home knowing I won’t do it, but hopeful that imagery might work. The barely there wind rustles late summer leaves and I am in a peaceful place. Every direction from this spot is wide open; a huge bright green canvas of unexplored territory and arrhythmic, celebratory confetti-bursts of wildflowers. Above, wheel-spoke clouds provide shadow-line paths; possibilities radiating away from this place, encouraging exploration.
It comes to me then. What I need to work on is forgetting who I once wanted to be.
Just do what I have to do. Take what I can get. Get by. Have no expectations. Stay out of trouble.
Oh, yeah… and probably not read quite so many romance novels.
April 17, 2012
Grief Therapy 7, ME Newsletter, Vol. 5, Issue 16
It went on this way for a while. Me, struggling through each day. You, with only minimal information. For the second time, I accidentally left my phone off for a few days. I was hurt by the reaction. In my mind there never was a choice. So, I guess in a way that was my choice – to keep going. I was angry that anyone could even consider I would harm myself. I felt let down by the lack of confidence. I worked so hard to keep going, to keep up the facade. I pushed my way through Christmas decorating, at the office, at home. I made an effort even though I suspected doing so might make me unhappier. I figured that would be better than ending up mad at myself for not being strong enough to handle seasonal normalcy. I started with a gift from last year’s Secret Santa: a ceramic cookie jar in the shape of a stack of presents. I changed out the placemats from chickens to red and green plaid, plopped the jar in the center of the kitchen table and called it good. A little later, I glanced over and realized I liked what I saw, so I did some more. I brought out the snowman card basket and placed a jingle-bell wreath on the balcony railing. Even later, I went back and pulled out some garland to add to each side of the wreath. That was my best decision. Brightly reflected by the solar lamp glow, the view from my couch is festive, and not as painful as I imagined, but I am also very aware it shouldn’t have been so difficult, so consuming, so abnormally laborious.
Over the course of those few hours on December 5th, I argued with myself a lot. I berated and cajoled and forced myself through the steps required to do those few things. Open the pantry, find the box, open the box, take the item out, close the box, close the pantry, find the tie-wraps, go outside, hang the wreath, secure the wreath, etc. I rested in between monumental tasks. When I had done enough to satisfy myself and portray the image of actively living, I considered my self-driven mission a significant success. But then things changed; they always change at night. I hate drifting off to sleep because that’s when the hallucinations are the strongest. The same one has haunted and taunted me; over and over. I physically feel my mother’s face hovering over mine, facing outward - like a mask two inches from mine, sliding closer. It’s the same feeling you have when your eyes are closed and someone passes a hand in front of you. Even my teeth felt superimposed. Awake, I catch myself unintentionally mimicking her mannerisms, inflections. I’m afraid of the way my smile feels tight like hers. It didn’t always reach her eyes. I know mine doesn’t go there. I’m afraid the magnetic draw of the mask will stick. I’ve never felt like this before. I’m sure it isn’t right, but that would mean having to admit to the severe abnormality of hallucinations. That would mean I couldn’t get past it myself. That would mean a failure of self control. I refused to fail at self control. But, as the weeks continued, I continued slipping. In the end, it was only my failure to beat these feelings and side-effect research that saved me.
I stopped taking the Celexa on December 23rd. I drew my own conclusions. I didn’t ask, consult or tell anyone. It had to be done; I had to be done. Because I have a history of drug sensitivity, I keep a list of medications tried that I will never take ever again. Among the ones that made me feel not right: Lipitor, Neurontin, Demerol, then Prozac, then Cymbalta, and Ambien. The last three were prescribed after Jeff died to take the edge off and help me sleep. The Prozac made me jumpy, the Cymbalta gave me muscle cramps, and the Ambien kept me awake. I added Celexa to the list. At my already scheduled MD appointment January 7th, I explained. My medical chart now contains the notation that I am allergic to the class of medications known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) which also includes Prozac and Cymbalta. I was reluctant, very reluctant, to try anything else, but allowed myself to be talked into a trial of fast acting, lowest dose possible, made even lower by splitting the pill into two tiny crumbly pieces,non-SSRI. Within three days, I noticed a difference. I was insanely happy to be normally unhappy instead of destitute, discouraged, disheartened, deadly depressed. At the same time, the better I felt, the more scared I became; of where I had been.
April 09, 2012
Grief Therapy 6, ME Newsletter, Vol. 5, Issue 15
11/25 – What not to wear. Nine hours, two very helpful hands, eight large black plastic bags, a milkshake and a glass of wine later… it’s a little bit embarrassing, but… I gave up the size 28, 26, 24, 20 clothes. 142 pieces in all. The closet is under control. I can appreciate that less is more, especially when it comes to not having to make decisions. It’s a beautiful thing. Hanging on to the 18’s just in case I have one of those days were the 16’s don’t feel comfortable. With some insistence to my resistence, we hung pictures, rearranged the dining room to make it a bistro area. It’s cute and airy. Hanging pictures was nice. That didn’t upset me as much as I thought it would. Maybe sometimes, just little changes are all that I need, but in my case, big ones are in order.
11/30 Yes, I’m in limbo, but it’s a nice view from here. Everywhere I look are options that I don’t intend on pursuing. Buying a bed would be setting down symbolic roots, I’m not interested in that. Having to make goals… that was tough. Accountability is something I have been missing. Being accountable to myself doesn’t always work. We toss around some light weight goals; exercise, cook, work on my book. Work on crying less. “What about socializing?” the therapist asks. Not interested in working on my people skills, and I say it – lol. Ten minutes a day of garbaging the box pile in the “bedroom”.
I continue to get raised eyebrows about not wanting to buy a bed. I don’t need one. I land where I land. Some days I walk in and make it to the couch. More than once, I have not. I don’t suppose you know what it feels like until it happens to you. You just don't care to go any further, so you drop everything – coat, lunch bag, purse – and fall to your knees. It occurs to you that the coat would make a good bed so you roll up a sleeve and tuck it under your head. You curl up in a tight shivering ball and pull the rest of the grey wool in around you.
A curious cat licks at my tears. I don’t know which one because I don’t open my eyes. I don’t really care either. A few hours later, I slowly come to the waking realization that I have to pee. Still, unmotivated, I lie there until it becomes an absolute necessity. Then rolling into rising stages, straining muscles, I barely make it to the bathroom. I wash my hands and check my reflection. I consider washing my face and brushing my teeth but I don’t. Instead I stumble stiff-legged into the kitchen and glazedly gaze into the refrigerator.
After an eternity or a few seconds, I realize I’m not hungry. So, I decide I must be thirsty. I actually make the effort required to address that problem. I pull out the milk and place it on the counter, retrieve a glass, and a spoon and chocolate syrup, pour, stir, drink, return the milk to the fridge, but leave the syrup where it is. I’m exhausted and it’s pill time again. I wander back to the bathroom to find the little wonders. Again, heading back to the kitchen, I’m disjointed and disoriented, and I discover another dilemma. Struggling through short moments, I didn’t anticipate my needs. I now wish I had some chocolate milk left to wash it down, but I don’t, so I swallow it without liquid, and shuffle to the couch. I feel pretty good about getting to my “real bed.” Fully clothed, I crawl up against the back pillows and sink into twilight, not really sleeping, but definitely not awake. Hours creep by, and at some point I know I must have slept because the alarm is going off and it’s time to drag myself up. Although morning is easier because I have a routine and expected behavior, I am beginning to see that something is clearly wrong. I’m supposed to be getting better, feeling better, not worse, not so much worse.
April 04, 2012
Grief Therapy 5, ME Newsletter, Vol. 5, Issue 14
Following directives, suddenly I’m a zero-to-sixty, nothing-to-all, ninnyhammer. All in one week: a concert and reconnection, an early morning coffee date, an early-to-late evening shopping trip, church again – on time this time. Dentist, doctor and therapist appointments. Weekends filled with traveling, hair revision, lunching, shopping, dinner and a movie, church, hair re-revision, heart-to-heart talks, Sunday supper – ethnic foods with a side dish of laughter, lunch with friends, dinner with friends, catching up with myself, leaning back to admire my efforts, and nodding off to sleep, semi-contented which is more than I have been for a while.
I credit what I assume is the effects of the medication. I’m full of sage advice, and I freely pass it on. Just ask me how and I’ll tell you. It’s a lot easier to fix other people’s lives, I laugh, poking fun at myself and everyone else who has tried to fix me. My therapist says “I enjoy laughing with you.” And it occurs to me, I can only laugh at the past. I wonder how long it will be before I am capable of present tense laughter, again.
I forgot to turn the sound on the phone back on yesterday, all day. It rarely rings, anyway. Didn’t think anything of it. Luckily, for some reason though I thought to check it. Almost missed an appointment reminder call. It bothers me that my memory is non-existent. It's like my brain is full. If I don't add whatever it is to a list, it ceases to exist.
Had an interesting conversation with the therapist yesterday regarding apathy and lack of any type of motivation and extreme tiredness. For example, Harley Blu knocked all the magazines off the coffee table three days ago. I spend most of my time on the couch and I can easily see them there. I don’t care. The therapist says I’m not tired. I’m sad and I can’t tell the difference between the two.
The repeated suggestion/solution is to try once more to: “embrace the darkness, observe it, learn from it.” He suggests I should write about it. I said I have been, for four years straight. Perhaps not entirely honestly, though. In any case, I decided instead of running errands yesterday I would go home and lie on the couch. From 2:30 – 8:00 I sleep, completely passed out. The medication makes me groggy. I rouse myself enough to eat a Lean Cuisine, take my pill and go back to sleep… until 4:00 am in the morning. I don’t feel any more rested, so maybe it’s true: I am sad. Supposedly it’s a phase of grieving.
The phases are well defined but the steps are not. I’m trying to live the cliff notes version of grief. Just want to get it over with.