Daily Archives: June 22, 2015

Too Tired to Write

Living with mental illness while parenting a child with chronic health issues is a balancing act. When my son was very young, I tried working as well, and ended up hospitalized. I could only juggle so many roles. Recently I’ve been…

Mental Health Recovery Isn’t Always Daisies, Puppies, and Rainbows (And that’s OK)

marypoppinsA lot of folks are surprised when I tell them that, despite having a great combination of meds and coping skills, bipolar recovery, for me, does not look like complete and total stability.

I still have ups and downs, and sometimes those mood swings are more intense than you’d expect for someone who calls this phase of their disorder “remission.” I wallow, and I cry, and sometimes it takes a minute before I’m back on my feet.

I say this because I want people to understand something: There’s this idea that mental health recovery is supposed to be some kind of fantastic, magical place where we never experience a negative emotion ever again. But it’s a myth, and a lousy myth at that.

I will probably always feel more intensely than neurotypical folks do. I will have some inexplicable sadness from time to time. I might find myself anxious about a worst case scenario that I know isn’t going to happen. I may even have to take a day or two off of work to get my shit together again.

My recovery has not been daisies and puppies and rainbows. And to my surprise, I’ve found that most recovering folks that I’ve talked to have not experienced the puppies or rainbows, either. We’re all just doing our best to cope — we are, by no means, “cured.”

One question I get asked often is, “How do I know when I’m on the right track?” We try out so many different coping skills and therapies and medications that we start to get a little lost; our baseline can change so drastically that it becomes difficult to understand at what point we should seek out help, and at what point we can call ourselves “normal.”

What is normal for mental health recovery and what isn’t? It’s a question I think about a lot.

My recovery goals have changed significantly overtime. I used to crave a kind of recovery that meant I would never have to think about bipolar disorder or anxiety ever again. But I am not the poster child for “normalcy” as I’d once hoped I would be, and having had years now to reflect on this, I’ve learned to be okay with that.

What does recovery look like for me? It’s a series of questions:

  1. Do I have enough stability and energy to meet my needs and pursue my desires (within reason)?
  2. Do I feel like I’m in the driver’s seat of my life? Do I feel like I am in charge?
  3. When my mental state shifts, am I riding the wave or do I feel like I’m drowning?
  4. Am I able to cope effectively when confronted with a stressor? What do I do when I’m stressed?
  5. Am I in survival mode, or do I feel like I’m truly living my life?

Ideally, I’d bring these questions to someone who is involved in my recovery to talk it out – whether it’s a partner, a best friend, a therapist, a doctor, a healer. I need to bounce my answers off of someone who can help me think through them, and let me know if they’ve seen red flags that I haven’t.

What does my mental health recovery look like right now? Here are my answers:

Lately, I’ve had enough stability and energy to meet my basic needs. I’m able to perform at my job, make myself food if I need to, get myself to appointments, and I’ve been showering regularly (for those of y’all who have lived through it, you know how big of a deal that is).

I also have enough energy to pursue my desires – I’ve been applying for better-paying jobs, going out with friends, taking on new work responsibilities, seeking out new volunteer and travel experiences, and finding a lot of satisfaction in the activism that I’m doing.

I feel, for the most part, that I’m in the driver’s seat; when a mood shift happens, I feel like I’m very much on top of that wave. When I’m stressed, I have plenty of ways that I can deal – Netflix, coloring books, talking through it with my partner, going for a walk, reading a book.

And now more than ever, it feels like I’m living a life that I’m proud of, instead of surviving within a life that I don’t want to be living.

So for me, my bad moods lately are more like bugs. I still have mood swings, but they are more like your common cold – very annoying and sometimes messy, occasionally so much so that I need a few days off – but not all-consuming, very infrequent, and nothing that I’m worried about.

Do your episodes feel like an ongoing disease that you’re battling, or like a bug you pick up from time to time? There’s a big difference between a disease and a bug. Namely, the impact, the frequency, and the severity.

Who knew that figuring out if we’re healthy could be so complicated? Physical health might be less complicated for most of us, because we have a baseline that we’re familiar with. But when it comes to navigating mental illness, sometimes we aren’t sure what an acceptable baseline is if we’ve never actually experienced one before.

I spent the longest time unsure of when I could call myself “recovered” because I couldn’t remember the last time I was mentally healthy, if I ever was. Not to mention, there weren’t many resources that could confirm what “recovery” feels like.

When you have no sense of an acceptable baseline, it results in creating unrealistic expectations – that we’ll never feel intensely about anything, that anxiety is a thing of the past, that we’ll be able to get out of bed every day with a spring in our step.

You’re not Mary fucking Poppins, okay?

Are you setting up some of those expectations? Because it’s time to let them go.

I can accept my sensitivity, my moods, and my intensity, as long as it still feels manageable. This is subjective to some extent, and scary, too, because mental illness often teaches us not to trust our instincts. But here’s the bottom-line: If it isn’t disruptive, dysfunctional, or distressing, it’s likely just part of the process.

It was a relief when I realized that mental health recovery does not always look like complete and total reformation. Sometimes there are bumps in the road, sometimes there are hiccups – it doesn’t mean you’re back at square one.

After all, a mental health crisis can be traumatic – and even after we’ve leveled out, there’s still trauma to unpack and deal with.

The fun never ends, right?

Let go of the expectation that you should be aspiring to some kind of “normalcy.” Because, hey, there are plenty of repressed folks that would swear up and down that they feel “normal” until you get them to start talking. There are lots of “normal” people who wait until the divorce to fall apart. Appearances aren’t everything.

I promise you, “normal” is really deceiving.

Give yourself permission to have ups and downs; give yourself permission to still have “issues.” Give yourself permission to be a flawed, confused, and feeling person. As long as you’re in a space where you can deal with it in a way that doesn’t consume or harm you, I’d say you’re doing just fine.

The reality is – pardon the cliché – that recovery is a journey and it’s not a destination.

It’s especially not a destination that resembles a tropical island or a luxurious resort.

It’s okay to be unsteady. You’re not doing a “bad job” at recovery and it’s not a “setback.” It’s all part of the process and it’s totally, 100% fine. Every journey that’s worth being on is a little messy. Take it from somebody who knows.

 Sam Dylan Finch is a queer activist and feminist writer, based in the SF Bay. He is the founder of Let’s Queer Things Up!, his blog and labor of love. With a passion for impacting change through personal narrative, Sam writes about his struggles and triumphs as genderqueer and bipolar with the hopes of teaching others about his identity and community. When he isn’t writing, he’s probably eating takeout and dancing to Taylor Swift.

Connect with SDF: Website ; Facebook ; Twitter ; Tumblr

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Your Writing Sucks!

It glared at me, scrawled in blood-red pencil, across the title page of my Master’s Thesis proposal.

My first impulse was to tear the damn thing up and stuff it in the nearest dumpster.  My writing sucked!  My thesis advisor, who was also the department chair, had written it large and red!

But then, it made no sense.  None of my previous writings in the six years I’d already been his graduate advisee had sucked.  Or if they had, he hadn’t said as much….

So I hightailed it, still bawling, to my favorite committee member’s office.  Thank goodness, she was in!  I dropped the hated document on her desk, hid my face in my hands, and bawled some more.

She flipped through the pages of my manuscript, exclamations of disbelief alternating with heavy sighs as she read the many other profanity-laden comments that I thankfully had not taken the time to read.

“This is serious.  Really serious.  Do you mind if I call on your other committee member?  Right now?  We need to have an emergency meeting.  This could ruin your career.”

I nodded dumbly.  Black spots danced before my eyes.  My head sank down on the professor’s desk.

A glass of water appeared in my hand, and I forced myself to drink it.  The spots cleared, and I heard the anxious voices of the two professors out in the hall, discussing the case and what to do about it.

They entered the room, tight-lipped and furious.

J. lead off.

“Laura, this is inexcusable.  In fact, it’s criminal.  But before we go off half-cocked, I need to fill you in on some background that the department has kept under very close wraps until now.  Promise me that not one word of what I am about to tell you will go beyond the walls of this room.”

I promised.

J. drew a deep breath and began.

“C., the chairman, is a very ill alcoholic.  He’s handled it well until recently.  Four some reason it’s taken him over.  now his wife’s left him.  And the department has given him notice.  He’ll be out at the end of this semester.  They’ve done him the kindness of offering him early retirement.

“This,” she said ruefully, picking up my defaced paper and passing it to A., who had not yet seen the thing, “is the product of his illness.  He was no doubt roaring drunk when he did it, and if you showed it to him now he’d be mortified…or not,” she mused, as an afterthought.

An hour later I left her office burning with rage, fantasizing about what I could do to C. if I were to take the matter to the Administration.  But I knew I wouldn’t.  He was sick, he was injured, he was to be gone and out of my life not at the end of the semester, but NOW.

In J’s office I learned that she herself was to replace C as department chair, and she offered to be my committee chair as well.  I jumped at the opportunity.  J was a brilliant scholar, an exacting mentor, but fair and kind.  She would see to it that C and I would not cross paths again.  I wept again–this time, for gratitude.

My thesis made its way through many a revision, guided by my new committee.  A new third member was added, in the person of someone whose work I idolized.  I could not have been happier, except that when copies of my final draft arrived back in my inbox, my writing idol had written, in blood-red pencil, in neat letters across the top of the title page:

I want to write like you write.

Dish Chronicles

Finally forced myself into the dish. Half hour trip, tops. My kid kept yapping and complaining, which makes concentrating on driving rather harrowing. Stopped by the shop for that FedEx package. Turned out, he didn’t have the RMA printed out, didn’t have the box packaged or the bar code in place. To say I was irked is an understatement. Won’t buy a fucking printer so he expects me to use my library card and money and time to go print it all out, then buy my own packaging tape to get it ready to go, then drop it off at FedEx. I said fuck it, for once. He wasn’t amused but fuck him, too. My mood is shit, my cramps, which should be dying down, are lingering, and I am just…borderline ready to jump in front of a bus.

Went to the store for sugar. Cashier manager lady there informed my kid sugar doesn’t make you hyper, caffeine does. Then told Spook that when her grandsons get hyper she gives them Mt Dew and they calm down. So now my kid thinks she has ADHD and I should give her Mt Dew and all the sugar she wants to calm her down. Thanks a lot, bitch. Caffeine calms kids with ADHD, mine is not, it just makes her aggressive.Well meaning people need to die in a fiery plane crash. My life is hard enough without that shit seeping into my kid’s brain and usurping me some more.

I cannot believe a simple jaunt into public can be so…awful. It shouldn’t be. And sure, my mood and anxiety probably distorted it but seriously…I’m at my breaking point. I swear if that doctor says my Trileptal just needs increased, I am gonna go off all the fucking meds. It’s not worth it. If I am gonna commit hari kari, let it be because my brain is naturally sending the wrong messages. NOT because some know it all doctor won’t listen to a patient who is desperately circling the drain and needing help. The medications will NOT kill me. Even if I die by my own hand, it’s gonna be au naturelle, not induced by their stupid cures.

The ray of sunshine has left the building, obviously. I don’t have even have stabby black rays of sunshine to give today. I’m drowning. I think I see the doctor next week but rather than be hopeful, I am filled with dread. Like he’s finally gonna be the one to push me over the edge by not listening. I don’t care if a zillion others had no problem with this Trileptal. I AM HAVING PROBLEMS. And how about the anxiety that he and every other doctor have been blaming everything on for the last year, yet none of them have done a fucking thing to help me with it.

Am I not right to be frustrated? Throw in a kid that is screaming at me constantly no matter how hard I try…I’m a powderkeg. And logic dictates just quitting the Trileptal but when I see him…I want him to see just how bad I am doing. I want him to witness how far down the rabbit hole I’ve gone in spite of his med changes.

In the space of one month…He stripped me off Prozac in three days. The Latarda fucked me up endlessly. He tossed in the Trileptal. He decreased my Lamictal by 50 mg. Started Cymbalta, 30 one week,  6o on week two. I’ve been battling hormonal imbalance and physical pain.

Does any of it count? Nope. It will be my fault, too low a dose, blah blah blah.

I’d like to just have a complete meltdown and cry it out. Crying can be cathartic. But no, the meds have robbed me of even that. In this mind frame,I am a danger to myself. I want to quit all meds and tell the professionals to go fuck themselves. The only person this hurts is me because Lamictal has been my life saver. It’s the depressions that never get better but he’s totally blowing that off. He’s fixing the part that ain ‘t broken except his fix has made me so much worse. I need meds.

But being suicidal, even if only by ideation, while fully medicated…That’s the definition of asinine. And sad. It’s just fucking sad.

Hopefully by next week when I see him I won’t be feeling so fragile and like a kicked puppy. I need to stand up for myself. If I were to see him today I’d probably start screaming furiously then collapse into tears and beg to be hospitalized. Even though I’ve been there, done that, and it didn’t help either. About the only thing it would do to help would be to shield me from the dish. Which will still be there no matter how long they lock me away.

I need to…breathe.

I just want to curl up in a dark quiet closet and sob.

St. Louis

So we’re back from vacation and back in the swing of things.  We had a good trip, considering the flooding going on in the area.  We had some attractions we couldn’t get into, like the Arch and the Basilica, and others that for one reason or another were inaccessible.  But we did get to Hannibal where Mark Twain grew up and spent the day there learning about his life and writing.  We spent one day going along the Missouri RIver visiting small towns such as Defiance, where Daniel Boone spent the last years of his life–we visited the Boone house and enjoyed that quite a bit.  We ate in some interesting places such as an Italian restaurant in Louisiana, Missouri and a really classy steakhouse outside St. Louis.  We spent a whole day driving up and another whole day driving back, so that was a lot of togetherness discussing the issues of the day and other topics.

I held up pretty well.  I got tired easily but went to bed early every night to compensate for that.  We did just enough to keep busy–Terrie got sick Saturday afternoon and we had to go back to the room to let her rest for a while, which gave me the chance to take a catnap as well.  But we had a good time in our own way and are ready to get back to normal life until my surgery in July.

I go see my counselor tomorrow and get to catch her up on things.  I’ve read up on the updates for  my MFA program and learned quite a bit last night about what it’s going to be like.  I hope I’m up to the challenge–I’m having trouble wading through the first book I’m having to read and wondering if my attention span or my comprehension is gone for good.   Maybe once I have my surgery I can slow down enough to concentrate on what I’m supposed to be getting out of them.  We will see.

The Big O

How’s that for a provocative title? Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with orgasms. I’m on so many meds, my sex drive should be on the side of a milk carton.

No, this big O is OVERWHELMED.

Once again I’ve occupied the same dark mind space for so long, that depressive abyss where motivation and lucidity escape me, and now…I am buried alive under all the stuff I’ve let go. Without even realizing I’d let it go so far. Bills not paid? Nope, got that. Yard work not done? No, took care of that. Kid uncared for? No, got that down pat. Cats? They’re good.

It’s the housework. The bane of my existence. In addition to the fact my vacuum doesn’t work well, I’ve become frightened of the noise. Yes, frightened. Not as in scared it’s gonna go all Stephen King Maximum Overdrive and kill me. It’s just loud noise, obnoxiously loud noise, and I can barely stand to turn the damn thing on. It sets me off, like music has been doing for months. I’ve actually, a couple of times, gotten down on the floor with a lint roller and tried to clean the worst spots of cat hair and debris just to avoid the vacuum’s horrendous sound. Still…Walk on  the carpet a few minutes and your feet develop into hairy hobbit feet. It’s gross. I don’t know what to do about it. I’ve been telling myself to suck it up for weeks. If I can’t even stand the music that is normally my lifeline, how can I force myself to endure noise that’s nerve grating even for the most steel nerved?

And ya know, it’s not like I have purposely sat around and let things around the housework realm get bad. Every day or so, I do dishes, run the laundry through, clean cat boxes, sweep the kitchen. It’s just never enough. Now that I am running fans it doesn’t matter how much I sweep and wipe things, it’s stirring up the sabretooth dust bunnies in every crevice. I thought so I’ll dust, won’t be a problem. But it just keeps coming. I cannot keep up, never could. I am buried alive here.

Were the powers that be interested in helping me with my problem areas they’d have someone come in once a week to help with the housework. That’s where my big problem is at home. I can only juggle so much and live creatures like kid and cats take precedence over dust bunnies. It’s the spork theory. I only have so many and must prioritize. I have no one to delegate to when I start going under so this keeps happening, my whole life. And it’s not like the place is necessarily unfit (except to ocd vacuum nazis who think a speck of dust is the end of the world). Aside from my clutter and unfolded laundry, I try to keep clear walkways, clean dishes, clean cat boxes. I TRY. My best efforts count for fuck all. Then I see others who work full time, have cats, company, and still, their houses are close to immaculate. What is so wrong with me that I can’t keep up???

Yet when I am stable or manic, it’s not an issue. So why can’t anyone see this is a matter of being depressed and anxious for so long that I’ve just gotten behind. It’s not an excuse. It’s just mental illness. I remember times in the past when I was in my twenties and married and I’d get so far behind on my laundry because I couldn’t force myself to the laundry mat so I’d take ten black trash bags to my mom’s and she’d wash and dry and fold them for me. (Mind you, not without a whole bunch of shaming and name calling about being lazy, immature, et al.) I get overwhelmed and there’s just no going back until I reach a different mind frame. It’s been months and multiple meds and nothing’s changing and the doctor treats me like it’s my fault and it’s not a big deal.

Enter my current apathy because I can’t truly feel things…I’m so screwed. Not self pity, just a realization that…The current regime isn’t working. Rather than have the doctor make feel like it’s somehow my failing to respond to his wonder med…I’d almost rather stop meds. I won’t but damn…

Adding to the psychological Jenga tower is my uber defiant  kid. She came back from my mom’s yesterday copping an attitude the size of Texas. Right out of the gate she asked for ice cream and I said no, she hadn’t eaten lunch yet (yeah, two thirty in the afternoon and mom hadn’t fed her lunch.) Spook just went bonkers, started screaming and hitting herself and swinging punches at the door. And I wondered, why did I miss this kid again?

It didn’t improve. I put her to bed at 8:30. She screamed for almost an hour and half, bawling, wanting to sleep in my bed. I usually cave but after the way she treated me all day…No. I let her cry. I let her cry it out when she was two and had these fits, she grew out of them. Briefly. One visit to my mom’s where her every wish is granted and I get satan child back. I couldn’t stand it anymore. I felt like a monster briefly but eventually she went to sleep. Honestly, how much am I expected to take? A kid who punches herself in the face over being told no to ice cream before lunch? Seriously? What am I supposed to do with this shit? How long before she tells people I punch her? And if you think it’s unfeasible…Saturday after the Father’s Day dinner, after I left…Stepmonster apparently bumped Spook with her watch and Spook burst into a screaming mimi and went and told my mom that stepmonster had “cut her on purpose.” Which started war and mom started screaming at everyone for “abusing” Spook.

I’m scared of my own kid.

I am scared, period.

Last night I even ventured into the very dark place, feeling so overwhelmed, so incompetent and unappreciated by my kid who I bust my ass for…I started thinking, hey if I were to get her a sleepover, I could easily get a bottle of whiskey, drink it dry, then cut my wrists and bleed out before anyone could save me since no one bothers with me. I’d cut vertically and hit the right spot and be done with it all…

That’s not normal thinking. And it was a fleeting moment of frustration and exhaustion and I brushed it aside because I knew it was asinine and pathetic. Still…The fact it was there disturbed me immensely.

Everyone (and don’t get me wrong, I love comments and interacting and banter) keeps telling me the new doc is crap and I should get a second opinion. The thing is, I live in a fairly rural area, and I have tried all FOUR of the psychiatrists available. The ones out of town won’t accept my dual insurance. I’ve done everything I can do here. Maybe if I were in a better mental place and not so anxious, I’d have other ideas. I’m tapped out. Besides, the new doc is so nice and I want it to work. You go through enough shrinks and they start blaming you, saying you can’t get along with any doctor because they won’t tell you want you want to hear. Never mind you’re not getting better under their care. It’s YOU, always YOU,because you’re mental and have no valid point of view.

(Many apologies as this was not intended to be a long rant but I am so stressed I have to get it all out.)

Per usual, I had a tough night. Couldn’t get to sleep. When I finally started to drift off, I started jolting awake, as if terrified what would happen when I did sleep. Then Spook was up and I just wanted sleep so I let her in my bed. (I know, I am an enabler and I suck.) Once asleep, the dreams came. Weird, weird dreams. In one, I was in an episode of Supernatural chasing ghosts from Pirates of the Carribean (which I’ve never seen) and at the end, Dean died, and I was left with Sam and there were corpses and…WTF???

I woke from that one at 5 a.m. Said noo way am I getting up this early. Went back to sleep. Next I know the spawn is asking if I am gonna get up. It was 9:30. I’d been lolling for two hours, making sure she was in my room watching shows, yet not moving. Once I did get up, she started in on me. Do this. Want that. She built a tent and then has been having a screaming fit for two hours because it keeps falling in and I suck at building tents and it’s all my fault and she’s bored. I turned on music to drown her out and that set her off. “Your music sucks, I don’t like it, turn it off!”

It’s gonna be a lovely week. I still need to do a dish trip. I promised to drop something off at FedEx for R over the weekend and they were closed so I didn’t do it. He’s probably foaming at the mouth. I also still have his credit card from where he had me order ant killer for his wife, bet he wants that back. I need sugar from the store. Meanwhile, I can’t even work up energy to get dressed and…



I keep going through my actions, seeing if I am doing something to self sabotage. I’ve cut back on caffeine, get out of the house, get sunlight, force myself to socialize. I enjoy a drink a few times a month and I’m never gonna consider that a fatal flaw. I do everything the professionals say will help fix me and it’s…useless.

Clown shoes.

Music’s been on twenty minutes, and I am starting to freak out. Need to kill it. GRRRRRRR. I want my life back. I want me back.

But I’m buried alive without a shovel. FUBAR.

It’s been a while………..

It’s a while since I picked up a pen, or danced my fingers across the keyboard to do anything other than check my bank balance (depressing) or see who sent me emails I don’t need/want/require/or are of any benefit. Although … Continue reading

hey that’s no way

“Grief has no distance. Grief comes in waves, paroxysms, sudden apprehensions that weaken the knees and blind the eyes and obliterate the dailiness of life.” Joan Didion

The music, books and art that I have carried with me since childhood, were all handed to me by my mother. She is also responsible for my absolute love of the Lord of the Rings; the only level above me there, are the people who LARP and speak elvish and so on. I’m saying that now, because the songs in this post, from kitsch to sublime, are directly from her.

An old friend who phoned after mum died said “your mom was always your best friend,” and I thought “bloody hell, she’s right”. It had never crossed my mind before that. It’s two and a half years ago now – many of you held my hand through the second anniversary. Two and a half years is about a week in grief-time, the total despair is no less total, its attacks are less frequent though. The sweetness of my old friend and your kindness astounded and touched me, but idiocy can be astonishing too. I crashed badly after my bushveld holiday, it was manageable at first, and then it sucker punched me. My neighbour walked in on me while I was desolate and crying those hot tears that spill with zero effort required. She bleated at me with panic in her eyes, “It’s gone on too long now, there must be something else she can give you”. She meant the grief and medication. It was particularly fuckwitted given that she lost her true love eight years ago and she understands the weight and longevity of grief very well indeed. Perhaps she just feels it without analytical thought, it’s possible. She rushed off and I trudged back to my couch, holding a little more despair. Thing is, the crash wasn’t all about my mother, it was about loss. Losses. Plus, obviously, I am bi-fucking-polar. I was fine with leaving her assumption alone; it was a logical one and besides, the rest of it isn’t something I’d talk to her about. She’d just look worried and say “oh sweetie I’m so sorry,” and as well intentioned as it is, it would irritate me hugely.

I have solid reasons stemming from a very young age, to be conditioned to being almost comfortable with a certain level of sadness. What I don’t get, however, is the numbers. My family has nearly been wiped out and and many of the other losses, whether by death or by distance, are open wounds. I’ve applied the get over it and get on with it principle to a lot of them, but the rest hurt, and they should hurt; it’s the amount that crushes me. Ja ja ja, my perspective and notion of context are fully functional; there are a hell of a lot of people who have it worse than I do, and no doubt many who handle it far better. Everything is relative though, one man’s hell is as real as the next. The numbers are further confirmation of my disbelief in karma, equilibrium, justice and any god around.


(It’s not a big thing in my life though. I’m still fond of my mind and its logic.)

Unless it’s a death, I fail to cope by failing to convince anyone that I am tough, and gritting my teeth till it hurts. I incubate migraines and tears and the night sweats reek of fear. It triggers my ghosts and oathbreakers and they line up to stare baleful at me. Apparently it also ignite the most purple of prose and florid metaphors. I can’t help it (I don’t want to). It seems logical to me that each fresh loss triggers the old ones.

The ghosts that haunt me / won’t leave my mind (the The).

Nothing has ever hurt as much as my mother’s death, which startled me, because she wasn’t the first close one. It kicked me into  immediate nostalgia and a lot of my days are full of fond memories. I’m immensely glad of the fact that past conflicts etc melted away; during the first year, I kept thinking and saying, “and at the end, there is only love.” I still believe it, it doesn’t erase tragedies or grief though. Of course it doesn’t.

I wake up still crying the next morning. I didn’t know it was possible to awaken from a state of sleep in tears, but I do. It is my 34th birthday, but Facebook doesn’t understand that I’m not in the mood to celebrate anything ever again and that all the messages being posted on my wall are those of condolence. Every time I log on, a window pops up with this exploding fireworks graphic and a happy birthday banner that displays all the wall posts about my brother’s death. I tell my husband to take my birthday off the calendar for the duration of our lives. Pieces of Grief

And today the migraine has emerged from incubation to drill into my cranium and make me nauseous. But! I’ve only wept once, it’s late in the afternoon – that’s serious progress. The other day my therapist asked, “did you cry at the time of your mother’s death, or did you suppress it?” I did one of them hollow laughs and told her how the tears waterfalled then. After that she made me laugh by saying, “you know, in black African cultures, it’s okay to throw yourself on the floor and weep and wail and scream, but Caucasians…” It’s true – we are right up our own asses with repression in that respect. Stoic, stiff upper lip… all that crap. I said, “nah, I’ve been in Africa long enough to shake off that sort of Eurohabit, I’m patient and I know how to cry.”

Do I ever know how to cry. And cry. And cry.

I suspect that whatever the grief is about, what is actually being grieved, is the loss of love. Then again, I believe that everything is about love.

Dunno how long I’ve been writing this post, it sits in drafts and I add to it when I think about death, loss, love, grief and goodbyes. It’s not even just people, is it? We can grieve places and stuff too. I’m hoping that, as with the bipolar stuff, writing all this stuff out will bring me more clarity and context. Losing my mother kicked my ass in ways I never dreamed of, and there were important losses after her. I’m still struggling and throwing emotional tantrums about it all in my mind. I have another 20 weeks free CBT too. The Ugandan is my favourite therapist so far. Maybe it’s because she’s almost a psychiatrist. Anyway.

Time heals,” is bullshit. Nothing heals, grief is like bi-fucking-polar in that respect. The goal is not the absence of grief, it’s the manageability of it. The part time plays is creating wider spaces between each punch in the solar plexus. I suppose you could destroy your memory in order to banish grief, but that’d banish you too. As lovely as that might sound, it’s all too unsustainable. I think I’m over the loss of my purple crayon when I was three, but tbh all of the meaningful losses are still with me. Years might go by without them disturbing me, but then something reminds me. I don’t cry for every single one of them, but the common denominator is a feeling of being covered by a blanket drench in desolation.

My mind quotes the queen at me frequently, “the price of love is grief,” and it’s true. It’s only really helpful for the feeling of injustice that grief brings. I sigh to myself, “yeah, it was worth it”. I try to remember to remind myself of the thing I say to everyone who weeps for a loss, “you honour them with your tears”. Yes, yes, I know I can be a pompous ass. We all find comforting mantras though. I think of my mother every day and miss her. Some days the smallest thing makes me weep, I get through other days with gritted teeth – and some days I’m level about it and free of it. That’s just how it is.