Things aren’t awesome. Fuck, I hate starting things off that way.
Maybe I should start off differently. I should start off with the fact that for a long time, things were indeed awesome. They were stupendous, even. I was able to hold my grief in a healthy way. I was able to be sad when I wanted to, and really, truly, live each day in a positive way. My PTSD seemed to completely disappear. I didn’t have a bunch of anxiety. I didn’t worry endlessly about allllllllll of the horrible things that could happen to me or my family. At 5 years post-losing our son, I honestly was doing so well that I often felt guilty at how great I was doing. I felt so good that I thought something must be wrong with me.
Anyway, all that bad shit came back recently.
It didn’t really crop up all that slowly, either. Over the course of a couple of months, thoughts just started creeping in that I hadn’t had to deal with in a long time, and it was the exact same anxiety that I dealt with years ago. A few fun examples:
-I’m taking a trip alone with the kids for a week: I will get distracted while driving and get into a horrible accident that is all my fault.
-I will be somewhere with my children and fall down dead, saddling my children with a terribly sad life story that will haunt them forever.
-Daughter playing in ocean while I watch my son on the beach: I don’t immediately see her, oh my God she’s drowned and it’s all my fault.
Typing this out shows a very clear theme that rolls back to the second we lost our son. When he died, I had the Con, which means I was looking after the kids. I was doing lunch. I had made the decision that taking Jay out of his chair wasn’t a good idea because I was afraid of him going up the stairs and falling when I was busy trying to get my daughter settled in with her own meal. So, I left him in the chair, and the chair fell back, and he died. My fault.
In nearly every instance of anxiety I have, it is again my fault. Even if I am afraid that I will drop dead randomly in the middle of the sidewalk, it is still my fault. It is still an event where I am responsible and my children are left to pick up the pieces. This is all guilt from watching my then four year old daughter having to work through losing her brother from an event that occurred because of an in-the-moment decision I made on a random fucking Saturday back in 2013. I didn’t see the actual fall, but if I had to guess? He got bored. He got bored and he started kicking the table and he fell back. Had I taken him out a minute beforehand, he’d be here. I didn’t. He’s dead. Anyone can tell you that it’s not your fault, but when a one year old ends up dead, that’s not a consolation that helps you sleep at night.
I was so clear headed for so long, and now things feel like a God damn mess. I haven’t written for a long, long time. Honestly, I felt so good that I didn’t feel I needed to do so. Writing wasn’t missing from my life. And let me be clear, I don’t think that me not writing was the reason for me feeling a mess. I wish life were that simple. But writing is the thing that gets me back to center. There is a quote from Emmanuel Berl that says, “I don’t write to say what I think but to know what I think.” That quote has always resonated with me to the nth degree. Sometimes I don’t even know how I feel until I write. Even if I don’t write about grief, the simple act of writing about anything helps me put my mind in order. It’s the therapy that has always worked for me. What is your therapy? What is the thing you need to go back to to put yourself back in order?
“I don’t write to say what I think but to know what I think.” I think I’m the same in this way. Sometimes I speak or write or paint or listen to music or cook or clean. Either way, I tend to do something in the outside to better understand my inside.
I’ve learned that even though I’m introverted, I sometimes spin out on cyclic thinking and in those moments, I like to turn to trusted loved ones to give me alternatives to focus on or validate feelings I’m having.
Yes! I find that cleaning helps clear a certain type of anxiety for me. It’s so funny how specific actions can serve such a helpful purpose. When I’m at my lowest, writing is the only thing. At other levels, cleaning, painting, listening to music, even driving can give me the space I need. Dancing is a big one for me, too.
Oh ya I forgot driving! Lately I’ve added more stopping and exploring to my driving, like recently I found a peaceful spot along a river to just listen and watch the water.
Do you ever see those beautiful lookouts near a lake or a cliff, and people are parked there alone in their cars? I always see that and know someone is working out some deep ass shit.
Totally. I stopped at this dam one day recently and there was already a car parked. I felt I should give them space to probably do what I was there for so I didn’t pull in all the way. It felt like a sanctuary.
Running is therapy for me, when I am exhausted and leave everything out on the road. But I recently realized I needed someone to talk to…like “real” therapy. Life is not so simple, we just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
I too love running as therapy. I miss running trails on the weekends; it’s been a long time.