The most impactful things on your physical health – and weight especially – are sleep deprivation, dehydration and mental/emotional stress. No wonder I am feeling like I’ve been run over by a truck almost every day for the last while.
When you are stressed your body produces hormones to help deal with the stressors; cortisol and epinephrine are two on the main ones. If you exist in a state of constant stress, these hormones; which are designed to be produced and then dissipate quickly as the stress is dealt with, build up and start to create havoc with your metabolism and can also cause damage to your organs and cell structure. It’s no wonder that I see the effects in myself because of this… I have been, and continue to be, in a state of constant fight or flight feeling for months now. Depression, PTSD and grief have brought me to a point where more than 3 hours of sleep at a time is almost unheard of to me anymore. Weight gain in the absence of significant (or even “normal”) food intake has left me more despondent over how my body feels and acts. The simple fact that the best way for a body to process and remove cortisol and epinephrine is by deep sleep is an irony that is not lost on me.
I see the minute changes in my body… my hair is more coarse and frizzy, my nails always brittle and weak – are now ridged and don’t even seem to grow at all anymore. Joints that hurt and muscles that ache all the time. Energy that is non-existent most days coupled with sheer exhaustion that leaves me unable to make even the most basic of moves towards self-care and nurturing. I make sporadic attempts to get my body back to feeling like “Mine” but it feels futile as the depression and grief slam my reserves of strength daily. I’ve had all the blood work that can be done as I check to make sure that nothing physical is “wrong” with me… everything came back wonderful – my doctor impressed that even with minimal eating, high stress and lack of sleep I am checking out as in great shape… better than most 20-somethings as she put it… on the one hand that rests my mind; yet it also then clarifies that there’s nothing to be “done” to “fix” how I feel…no simple remedy, no test to measure when I’ll be better.
The question is how to affect changes physically when mentally and emotionally I feel captive in a cycle of more down than up – again.
The desire to simply not exist anymore
Not to be dead, but just to no longer be aware or feeling
The numbness and detachment from almost anything
So much energy to display the appropriate expressions and remarks
Inside, the well of emptiness running deeper every day
Filling my spirit with a void that is cold beyond words
The creeping tendrils of nothingness expanding and encompassing
Every day the struggle to keep going gets more challenging
The whispers in my mind of “why” become more convincing
Days passing with apathy, sprinkled with tiny sparks of interest
Sparks too small to accumulate before being blown away
Plans made and desires yearned for, fleeting
Leaving me as quickly as they come
Wants for companionship and interaction gone before I can grasp them
The drowning consuming desire to isolate and escape stronger with every moment
Paralyzing me with panic; coupled with a rage to run and flee
Hatred and anger at so much that it turns inwards and expands
Burning hot and screaming for release.
My attempts at loosing the hurt ineffective, leaving scars of failure.
Connection and love alternately drawing me in and yet repulsive to my very center
That tenuous grip on moving forward slipping ever so slightly as the days pass
Replaced not with sadness but with nothing and blankness of being
fernweh (pronunciation: FEIRN-veyh) – (n): an ache for distant places; the craving for travel
Sitting on the ferry the other day, watching a cargo ship cross our path and move along in a different direction. My eyes scan the horizon and think of what it would be like to be on that ship. I wonder to myself where it’s going and what the lives are like of the people on the ship.
It brings me to thinking of my own life. How I’ve always wanted to travel and see places and experience what a day in the life is like in other countries and cultures.
What’s it like to wake up in a courtyard bedroom in a village that has streets too narrow for trucks…How it feels and smells and tastes to eat a meal at a pub old enough to have stood before electricity and running water…To walk the halls of a castle and touch rock walls that have been there for hundreds of years before me and will stand long after I’m gone…To doze in the hot sun on a beach and listen to the sound of waves lapping on a different shore…to eat food that is not only foreign to me but that I can’t find back at “home”…
A wanderlust that only gets stronger as the years pass. A yearning to be elsewhere… To taste and touch and see and smell and live “OTHER” than what I have known and what I call home. To be able to drink in sights and sensations far from my place on this planet. To have my spirit find the energy that is flowing in places it has never been…
To know what it is to be going home after having known “away” … yearning for that.
Broken. It’s not a bad thing. The connotation is that “broken” equates with the negative. Understandable. Broken insinuates that the thing or person that is broken is no longer whole or the way that they should be. That they have been altered or changed in a bad way.
When I was decorating my new kitchen years ago I had a friend who was an artist. He offered to do the backsplash for me in tile, custom and unique and a gift from him to me. I was thrilled… even more so when he arrived with a box of stunning italian tiles. He laid the tiles out on the deck on a drop cloth and I watched, intrigued… thinking he was planning a pattern or simply laying out his material. I walked away for a moment and went rushing back when i heard breaking tiles. He was seemingly randomly smashing the tiles with a mallet, leaving behind shards and chunk of tiles – broken and no longer what they were. Horrified even more by the smile on his face and the obvious glee that he was enjoying. He laughed when he saw how I was reacting and explained to me that he was going to put them together again piece by piece and they would be something amazing. He was right. That backsplash was outstanding. Each piece laid by hand and placed meticulously. Every tile broken and no longer what it “should be” but in the end creating something far more than they would have been had they been whole and unbroken.
I say often that I am “broken” and those that love and care for me reiterate all the time that I’m not, but the truth is that I am.. and it’s not a negative. I am starting to see – and feel – that now. My life was shattered and blown apart. With that, so was my belief in so many things in my life that I held as truths. An integral and core part of me is unscathed… the base of what and who I am is there and always will be. Just like the pieces of tile are still, essentially, tile… I am still, fundamentally, me.
Don’t try to tell me that I’m not broken…I know I am and I am starting to own that and see the strength and beauty in the pieces. Broken does not equate weak or un-whole or incomplete… it is simply not what it was… and that is all right. For the first time I am looking at the pieces and seeing the perfection and beauty in my brokenness. It is part of me… not who I am, but part of my path. Not bad or wrong or taking away from my strength but instead simply another facet that has made me who I am today… and that “Self” is someone who I am starting to like… so when I say I’m “broken” when I am having a moment, know that it is, deep down now, a mantra to myself of my strength and wholeness…Acknowledging a truth of all that I am and what I’ve gone through to be where I am now. Denying that truth belittles the hell I have gone through, and still do, to be here and to live – and I refuse to do that.
Broken can be stronger than what it was to begin with. I know I am.
“It has been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world – Chaos Theory”
As the two year mark since Willie’s death passes I am thinking on cause and effect and where I find myself in my life now.
There are times that we make conscious decisions to do something that we know will have an effect. Other times, we are unaware of how what we do affects others.
I’m someone that has been blessed to have many friends in my life who have helped me in the past, I’ve been the recipient a few times of anonymous “angels” that have provided for me at a time of need; I arrived home once after moving after separating from my husband at the time to find a bag of groceries on my doorstep. To this day I have no idea who did that for me and I hope they know how much of a difference it made to me… not only that week but to this day. Having a friend and client approach me one day and tell me simply that they were going to fix my transmission for me… because they could afford to and I couldn’t – and they cared for me and my family and wanted to help. Being able to buy a house because of help from people who share that belief that if you CAN help, then it’s right to do so. I believe strongly in the premise of “paying it forward” and even if I can’t do something on that scale, I do what I can… always have.
I count myself as incredibly blessed and lucky in my life in so many ways – even at my low points I recognize that I have it pretty good, comparatively. I have a place to live that I can afford without concern. Enough food to eat and my bills always paid on time. Beyond the material things in life, I have a life filled with not only friends, but acquaintances that I enjoy spending time with. I have a lifestyle that I love that I have finally made a reality after years of wishing to live differently. I recently have been lucky enough to have found love again – in spite of my protestations that I don’t want or need it in my life – and again, in a lifestyle format that is what I want, with more than one partner to call “mine”.
This past weekend was spent connecting with old friends and making some new ones… as well as a turning point in a great direction in new relationships. Emotionally draining and exhausting but renewing and empowering at the same time.
The many moments of overwhelming emotion this weekend that were caused by the knowledge that as happy as I find myself in so many moments… I also have that depth of grief and loss that is still there and still felt so profoundly. Ruffling every blink of joy the same way that a butterfly’s wing tip can cause a fury of destruction.
I hope only that those close to me – and those new to me – understand that the smile on my face and the love in my hugs is just as sincere as the tears of hurt when they flow. Both part of me… and neither lessened by the existence of the other – coexisting and balancing in my life. When the tears stop, I am grateful for those still with me to enjoy the laughter that DOES flow just as freely now – finally.
The truth is that in order to heal you have to let the pain be felt. The question is how do you feel AND function when the pain is so great that it’s all-consuming when it is allowed out to be felt?
I am expert at keeping emotions and feelings bottled up, to be dealt with “later” when I have time or when it’s convenient. My first thoughts when I was told that Willie was gone were that I needed to be with my other boys and tell them and make sure they were ok. I pushed any reaction other than shock away to do what had to be done at that time; and in the weeks and months that followed.
Since I moved and have been on my own I have found ways to keep emotions at bay and to not face and deal with grief. This, obviously, doesn’t always work and I have spent the last year swinging in and out of depressive episodes and grief-fuelled spirals. Facing the reality that in order to be able to move forward that I have to stop trying to turn away from the hurt and actually let it in and acknowledge it and experience it.
Couple this awareness with well-intentioned people who keep telling me to not dwell or think about Willie’s death and that I need to just put it behind me and you have a recipe for disaster.
The pendulum swings inside of me between the extremes of despair and hopelessness and the public face of “I’m doing better”. I have learned the new art of not trying to be “fine” necessarily but instead letting just enough show so that people will think I’m doing ok. The reality is that inside, the hurt is still the same. Yes, I function better… Yes, I have more “good days” than bad… Yes, I laugh more easily and do have joy in my life again. I’m thankful for all these things and do recognize them. Inside me though is still the pain and the hurt that I can’t even describe because it’s so much and so deep.
Inside and hidden, is the fear that comes with knowing that I’m still taking that hurt and just burying it. That I haven’t grieved… all I’ve done is pushed it down harder and with more resolve to not let it affect me. That I AM moving forward, but not because I’ve dealt with the loss… but because I’ve just managed to figure out how to hide it even better than I ever have before… than I have been able to with anything else before this.
The fear that comes from knowing how overwhelming it is when it does peek out. When a glimpse of what is there is seen and felt… that glimpse brings fear of how to cope with it and IF I can cope with it if I let it out. The panic overcoming me at times as I fight to keep the emotions down enough that I can keep on doing what needs to be done. Panic of whether it will one day just be too much and break the dam holding it in no matter how hard I try. The fear knowing that I need to let it out if I want to heal. A seemingly no win situation that results in me turning away, again, from the glimpse and looking forward more resolutely as I ensnare the loss and pain even more firmly in the grip of ignorance within.
Thinking about Willie this weekend as I passed the second anniversary of his death. Thinking on how he couldn’t see past where he was to when things would be different and better… how I tried so many times and so many ways to convince him that it WOULD be different and better someday… the realization that I carry guilt that I feel like I failed him in that I couldn’t make him better. Knowing that the guilt isn’t accurate does nothing to lessen it.
After his death, reading his journals and hearing.. really hearing… for the first time maybe, his voice and the strength of his belief that not only would it not get better, it was probably only going to get worse. Talking with psychiatrists and counsellors and understanding that with mental illness, especially psychosis, the reality is that it may NOT ever have gotten better for him… that he may have been right… that it might have only gotten worse. Coming to the realization that all of my assurances were really just based on me wanting to make him believe it – regardless of reality.
Because the truth is, we had nothing to go on. No diagnosis other than depression and anxiety technically. A diagnosis based on what Willie chose to share with his doctors and not based on what he was sharing with others close to him or what he filled his journals with. We can look now at his journals and what he did share with a few people and see that it was far beyond depression and anxiety… that he was exhibiting symptoms of early psychosis – symptoms he was incredibly adept and determined at hiding. The facts are that I had nothing to base my promises on other than my desperate desire to believe that it was true that it would get better. Because the option that it wouldn’t wasn’t possible in my mind. When he would insist that suicide was the only option for him I fought that with everything – trying to make him believe that he was wrong… the strength of that belief based solely on my fear of loss and the inability to even conceive of a life spent without my child in it. But not based in fact or truth… just hope…
How ironic now that hope is the one thing that eludes me…as it did Willie. Ironic because I so adamantly held to hope then and now it feels out of my reach most days. I glimpse it every now and then and even feel it from time to time but the belief isn’t there. I want it to be, but I don’t feel it.