Sitting in the living room listening to my oldest and my youngest play a video game together while the second oldest hums along with whatever he’s doing on his laptop… A “normal” evening but it feels anything but for me tonight. This visit has been a lot of ups and downs as always.
Watching my youngest son last night at Karate was a surprise crash. Not really sure how it was such a shock to me though… being back in a Karate Dojo and seeing Kata practiced brought back so many memories. Willie was so good at it and so proud of how well he did at gradings and tournaments. He had a knack for Kata; his movements precise and sharp, his mind so focused when he was performing them. He achieved his brown belt before he gave up Karate… that was really at the beginning of when he started to first show signs of mental illness. Signs that, at the time, we thought of as nothing more than adolescent behaviour. He stopped Karate; his worsening moods and conflict with his step-father (who was his Sensei at the time) a major reason for him giving that up. I remember him and I talking about his decision and I tried to get him to agree to go to a different Dojo but he was done with it entirely. His anger at his step-father was what he used as the reason for pulling out. He wanted nothing more to do with it.
Taking Willie’s younger brother to Karate last night… watching him practice with the same determination and focus… seeing how happy he was that he was doing well and that I was there to watch him… the memories and the tears came flooding forward. They caught me off guard and I wished more than anything that I could leave but I knew that my son would be upset, so I stayed… I smiled and nodded at him when he looked my way. My eyes full of tears and my heart breaking – seeing Willie in my mind’s eye as he was. Anger filling me as I screamed inside at how unfair this all is. Hating myself for how badly I just wanted to be out of there. Mad that my ability to enjoy this moment with this son is hindered and tainted by what’s been lost when Willie did what he did. Trying to push away the sadness and focus on my son who is still here and so excited to have me here to see him.
Karate ends and we pick up a few groceries and head back to his older brothers’ place where we’re staying while I visit. Tending to bedtime tasks and readying for school in the morning. The normalcy of the evening magnifying the emptiness I feel with three instead of four around me. The truth that one will always be missing weighing on me heavy this visit …
The flip side on my mind as I settle in to bed for the night. The day was filled with fun laughter and conversation with the oldest 2 as we hiked earlier that day. A sweaty and demanding hike with amazing views in the quietness of nature calming my mind. The sheer joy of realizing that not only are my two oldest responsible and mature but they are fascinating, articulate and interesting young men with great senses of humour and sarcastic wit that makes for an afternoon of out-loud laughter and camaraderie. The smiles on my face sincere and heart-felt as I look at them chatter with each other and know that I’m proud of how they have turned out. The peace of sitting with them waiting for the youngest to get out of school. Us reminiscing about days long past when they were at the same school as little boys. Happy talk and memories in the sunshine as we joke about how small the elementary school kids look. The secret thrill that I have when I see my youngest catch sight of us and run – passing me to grab onto his brothers instead first. Tears spring up suddenly as it floods me how good it feels to be with them all – but knowing that Willie isn’t here.
The truth is that both the joy and the grief exist in the same blink of a second; and they always will.
I recently started watching the series “Dexter”. I find lately that I can’t make it through a 2 hour movie with any focus so I have been watching tv series. Without the commercials I can usually make it through an episode without more than 3 or 4 pauses to pace or wander the house or scroll facebook for a mental break. Depression is great for messing with mental focus and attention span.
I am only a few episodes into the first season but I have noticed a disturbing yet not surprising connection between how I feel every day and how Dexter describes himself and his inner “feelings” I use that term in quotations because he accurately and succinctly describes his utter lack of feelings as what makes him the way he is. He is a sociopath and a serial killer. There are actually a lot of similarities…
Depression has made me into someone that I don’t recognize. I have character traits and behaviour patterns that aren’t “me”. I force myself to go and out very rarely actually want to socialize or be part of an event or get together. I make myself go and I make myself make plans with people because I should and because my therapists and my friends and common sense all tell me it’s good for me. I can’t just sit at home and isolate myself; that’s not healthy. So, I go out with friends and I attend parties and social events and I try my best to be “normal”. I smile when I’m supposed to, laugh at jokes when it’s appropriate, nod and “hmmmm” when it’s the right time in the conversation. All the while my conscious mind is calculating and analyzing and finding my “feelings” lacking. They just aren’t there. It’s like I am dead inside and there is nothing there where it all used to be. I look around and feel the enormity of detachment between myself and everyone else around me. I feel the loss of the connections that I used to feel and that I know I should… but it’s all cold now.
I know that by writing this I run the risk of a large number of my friends saying “fuck it” and walking away from me for good. I am quickly getting a reputation as someone who doesn’t follow through or who cancels plans last minute and I completely understand why. I keep trying to force myself to be “normal” and my ability to keep dates with friends is tenuous at best. When I do make it out, I find now that in groups I am quieter and less involved. My desires to engage in activity are almost non-existent so I hang back and just observe. I am constantly encouraged by people to just keep coming out, that my company and my energy is welcome and missed and that I am wanted but I feel like I am not adding anything of value to any get together, so why bother?
I find at times that I’m lonely. Yet I also don’t want company. I can’t face the energy it takes to even just be in the same room with someone. I have wonderful friends who I know want nothing of me other than for us to spend time together but the truth is that it take so much out of me to try to be even remotely “normal” that it’s exhausting…and I feel like I am a fake and that’s not fair to my friendships. I have few close connections with people and they are sporadic based on my ability to connect – which is not very consistent or reliable. For me to be truly “me” right now around someone is not well accepted most times. People want to make me happy or at least make me less sad … and while I appreciate that, it places huge pressure on me to BE less sad or to be happy around them so that they are validated that they did want they set out to do. I hate letting other people down and I hate making other people uncomfortable so when I know someone who I’m out for coffee with or a walk just wants to know that they have left me better than when they found me that day… I feel like I have to oblige. The option is, be honest, tell them that while I may have enjoyed our time together, that no, sorry, I’m not feeling better… I’m not able to see the light at the end of the tunnel now…that leads to me turning down future attempts to meet up or get together because I just can’t face the pressure of what they need from me.
Now this may sound like I never have an enjoyable time with friends or that I never have fun when I go out but that’s not true. I do…but it is rare and fleeting. I may have a blink of a moment of a sincere laugh at a joke or a 5 minute conversation that clicks and I connect with a friend and I feel good. I may have a walk at lunch with a new friend who doesn’t have that pressure aimed at me – who just is with me and me with her as we talk and walk and I DO feel better at the end of the walk… I do sometimes look forward to a coffee date or a movie … It does happen, but those moments are the exceptions. I keep hearing that eventually those exceptions will become more and the cold, detached times will become less and the balance will tip and I will “feel” again.
It’s hard to see that most days though. But I try… I try so hard to keep dates and go to get togethers and not feel worse after because of not feeling anything at all.
To my friends, those newer and those who have been with me longer… to each of you read this… Those of you who know me, really know me, know that I am not cold and detached and emotionless – I am far from that … I’m making my way back… I just need time and space to get there. Hugs.
You left this world so differently than you entered it
You arrived a week late, in a rush and with a suddenness that surprised us all
Your birth so fast and surrounded by so many who loved you before you were even here
Your first night I held you as you screamed with such force and life
I was shocked at how strong and determined you were right from the beginning
Your life and time with us marked with such extremes
Such strength and confidence twinned later with so much pain and confusion
Your leaving so long and yet so short, all at the same time
Days, weeks and months going by with each moment feeling like both an eternity and a blink
You left us by your choosing, quietly slipping away by your own decision
That moment you left so unlike the one you arrived
Your silently penned goodbyes leaving ripples louder than you ever imagined