Me, my Self and I.
No, I’m not talking about multiple personalities or dissociative identity disorder or anything like that. I’m referring to how I relate to “Me”.
There’s the joke that it’s ok to talk to yourself… it’s not ok if you answer yourself ;). Yet, at the end of the day and at the root of it all is solitude and your Self. Regardless of anyone else’s influence or impact in your life, what matters and counts and is fundamental is your relationship with your Self.
You can be surrounded by people who give you validation and affirmations and lift you up but if you don’t have that coming from inside of you, it makes no difference and won’t give you what you need to be confident and comfortable with who you are, the way you live and the choices you make.
For me, that is a concept that it has taken me a lifetime – and a loss that has almost killed me – to start to internalize. After struggling with self-hatred and loathing for years, it’s a realization that it’s inside of me that I am finding the strength and the empowerment to love my Self.
Sometimes I need to let my Self have a day of tears and quiet and sleep … other times I need to accept and embrace and allow the laughter and the silliness and giddiness that overflows… sometimes its being surrounded by friends that makes me feel good… it’s the calm of a book and the couch… the raw sweat and heavy breath of a hard run… the fortitude to push through the edge of physical endurance … and the surrender of the softness found in the release of a stretch. All parts of a whole and all equal in importance to the fullness of my expression of Me.
My physical, mental and emotional Selves need solitude to grow and connect with each other and foster the strength that’s there… To be empowered to show the strength and the confidence that is so necessary to living the way that brings me joy. The strength and the confidence that is there, just buried underneath a lifetime of disconnect between Me, my Self and I.
It’s not a fractured view of Self but rather an understanding that it’s a team effort of one whole person together to live the life that I want and deserve.
This goes out to my Self… for my Self… I won’t give up on “Us”
Not necessarily for the younger or easily offended reader…
We all have different communication styles and ways of perceiving information that comes our way. We draw from past experiences and references and interactions that have shaped how we process and assimilate information and feelings and emotions that we experience.
Depression, other mental illnesses and so many more things impact how we communicate and how others can communicate with us. There are the brutal and derogatory phrases that float around like “don’t’ stick your dick in crazy” which essentially captures the sentiment that people with mental illness are incapable of having mature, coherent and meaningful interactions because of their mental health status.
It’s a crude way of stating what is done every day. Someone who is identified as mentally ill is marginalized very often. I mean, let’s face it, loving with and being partnered with someone with a schizo-affected disorder isn’t easy. Neither is living with someone with OCD that controls their lives. Even “just” depression puts huge strains on a relationship and even the most amazingly supportive partner(s) will run out of what it takes to dance that dance. PTSD has a knack for tossing grenades of hell into a seemingly great day or moment just for the hell of it with no rhyme or reason – that always makes for fun. It clouds a person’s ability to sequence thoughts and formulate emotional reactions at times. Everyone is affected differently by any myriad of mental illness.
I can attest that living with depression and PTSD is exhausting. It’s a rollercoaster that you don’t want to be on and that you are so sorry when you look around and see that the seats are filled with other people being dragged along.
Being in the life of a partner who has a mental illness is a daunting task. Dealing with emotional swings and drops is one thing but just watching what the person afflicted is going through is hard too. I used to cry just watching how much pain Willie was in with his mental illness… and that I couldn’t fix it. Now being the one who has partners and friends who I see are dealing with me – the guilt and self hatred for what I put them through is horrible. The urge to isolate and just not be around anyone gets overwhelming sometimes.
I have always considered myself a good communicator and someone who not only listens well but also is able to express myself clearly and rationally and with a lot of thought given to making sure that I’m not clouding communication with emotions rather than getting what needs to be conveyed out there. Recently a partner brought to my attention that because of my PTSD and depression, there are “ways” to communicate with me that will take into account how those issues affect my ability to communicate. Does this mean that I’m not actually able to communicate and interact as well as I think I am? AM I living in a delusion that I am a functional partner in a relationship? Maybe the fears and worries I have that I am the problem is true – regardless of how many times they try to assure me that I’m not.
This has made me think … was my original thought last year that I am too damaged and “broken” to be in a relationship accurate? If there is a “way” that I need to be handled and communicated with so that I don’t fuck up communication in a relationship…. Should I even try? Maybe I should be keeping it at light and fluffy and friends with benefits rather than trying to establish and maintain a committed relationship.
I ask myself if I have been deluding myself that I do communicate well… maybe my own judgement is so altered by depression and ptsd that I actually AM the problem in relationships and that maybe the “don’t stick your dick in crazy” isn’t such a bad idea after all. Maybe I am too “crazy” to be on the receiving end of said member. Not that any of my relationships are at that point anyways… I am still too messed up to get that close to anyone.
I have spent the last few days reading (and avoiding somewhat) the news stories and Facebook posts regarding the latest developments in the Amanda Todd case. While Amanda’s story is nothing at all to do with Willie as far as particulars goes it does drag up a lot of emotions for me and I have been contemplating a lot the past couple of days because of it.
I started this blog just after Willie killed himself. It was, in part, a way for me to express and vent what was inside of me; my grief and my hurt. It also was a way for me to feel like I was doing something to help. Help what,exactly? Maybe opening communication; sharing so that other parents and even teenagers didn’t feel like they were the only ones going through it; shining some light on deficiencies in the mental health area of healthcare… I don’t even know anymore.
The months have ticked by into years now and nothing has changed. Granted, I haven’t done anything other than write and share so who am I to complain? As so often happens, time moves on and lives move forward and the “tragedies” are left behind and nothing changes in the system and everyone keeps voicing how bad things are… and nothing changes. I have all the medical reports (well, most and some partially redacted) and Willies journals and the Doctor’s notes (what there is from the family Dr) and it changes nothing. Persons and agencies that made errors in practice or judgement just go on and are not held accountable. Why? Simple, because there is no way to hold them accountable. I could look at legal ramifications; malpractice or negligence, but mental illness being as variable as it is – it is impossible to say with the certainty necessary for a legal case whether the outcome would have been different had his care been different.
Today, anger is welling up that Willie is gone and that for all intents and purposes, it happened with nothing coming of it. The doctors, agencies and school administrators who dropped the ball or simply were eager to wash their hands of him are unaffected and will be untouched by the outcome of their actions and inactions.
To be honest, I am frustrated.
I’m going through papers this morning and finally organizing a little box I have of magazines and books that I am always going to get around to reading. I came across a magazine that I barely remember my counsellor giving me a few months ago. It’s turned to a story about a young man who killed himself and the article is about how his family is moving on. She gave it to me to read to help me see that things do get better and move forward. I finally sat down to read it this morning. First, it’s heavily slanted to a religious bent as it is a Minister and his wife who lost their son; so the entire article is about how god is helping them through… so, not too applicable to my life and journey, but to each their own.
One line struck me though as I read… “If love could keep a mentally ill child alive, he would be alive” No matter all of the differences in the story or the types of comfort this family is finding after the fact – that simple truth is universal I believe for all families who have lost a child to suicide.
This is something I still struggle with on a daily basis and it is something that cripples me in moving forward. The grief that I “should” have been able to save him from himself. That I failed in my one fundamental job as his Mother to keep him safe. It’s an irrational grief and guilt and I know this but it doesn’t change that it’s how I feel and that it haunts me.
The saying is that the first step is acknowledging the issue… it’s taken 2 years of me verbalizing that I have no guilt to finally come to the stage that I can admit – to myself more than anyone else even – that the guilt is so heavy. Maybe now I can start to move through this and let it go, and move forward.
I was at my son’s baseball game tonight. Sitting on the bleachers with all of the other parents and just watching… and listening. Since I live in another city, I am very much an outsider when I show up to these events now. I know one or two parents from before I moved but mostly, no one knows me. So I am left to sit quietly and am usually not included in conversation. This suits me just fine. Small talk is not something that I enjoy now much and to be honest, I feel so removed and detached from the lives that these people live that I just have no urge to connect.
Sitting today with the sun on my face, I closed my eyes for a moment and lifted my face up to the sun and felt how good it was to be warm and relaxed with no immediate schedule… listening to the kids warm up on the field and the sounds of the ball in the gloves and kids laughing. Then something else caught my attention… the parents. Not all of them… not even most of them… just a few. Now keep in mind this is pre-game – the criticism of the calls of the umpires was still to come (and that is, sadly, expected). It started with a simple question “do we have girls on the team?” and escalated from there to a discussion on the gender norms and why the one boy had such long hair and why the other girl was bigger than most of the boys…”I hope they put her in something more girl appropriate so she doesn’t get butchy” “he should put his hair in a ponytail, or maybe his sister can braid it for him if he’s going to wear it like a girl” how now they had to watch the “you throw like a girl” jokes. Hahahaha. The laughter and joking made me turn around and look, incredulous that in this day and age there is still the slamming that goes on that I had hoped would be gone. Sad that these are the parents of the children that my son will grow up with. Scared and concerned that these biased “jokes” will creep into the oh-so impressionable ears of their kids and be planted like seeds. Seeds of thoughts that will do nothing towards making our society a more welcoming and accepting place for everyone to grow up and be who and what and how they are. I wanted to give these people a shake and tell them that they need to realize that the amazing beings their kids are doesn’t link one bit to what they look like or dress like… that the physical manifestations of how they choose to express who they are should be celebrated and embraced, not critiqued.
One of the hardest parts of grieving is accepting and learning how to move forward with life now that it has changed so fundamentally since Willie’s death. It’s compounded also by some major life changes that I made in the months after his death which have resulted in my day-to-day life and my lifestyle being radically different in ways other than just having lost one of my children.
Going from Oct 2011 where I had a job I loved with a company that I had been with for 7 years and a home life consisting of a great rental house filled with a cat and a dog and my 4 boys to how things are now is a massive shift for me. Every aspect of my life changed over a 6 month period. Looking back now over the period of Oct 2011 to July 2012 I don’t know how I made it through it… but I did and I’m here now. Maybe not unscathed, but still here.
Since I moved to Victoria in June 2012 my life has been a roller-coaster of job changes, relationships ending and more loss it felt like at every turn. Depression taking hold and grief feeling insurmountable for the last year has sent me spinning in trying to even get a foothold of how my life is now – unrecognizable and yet malleable to how I chose to make it.
The last few months rough again as the 2nd anniversary of Willie’s death passed by and the reality sinking in that grief over a life and a lifestyle lost does give way to moving forward. Learning to say goodbye in a different way… a way that accepts the permanence that he is gone and that life as I knew it IS gone forever as well… and the understanding that it’s time to consciously move forward, letting go of the grief a little, but not Willie.
I did something last week that I have avoided doing because of what it signified to me. I put up a couple of pictures of my sons and of me with my sons that have been taken since Willie died. Pictures that have only 3 boys instead of 4. I have not been able to do this until now… face the reality that there will never be another picture of me with all 4 of my boys… that I will always look at pictures of “us” and see one missing… see 3 instead of 4. The hurt that comes with that is hard to feel but it’s also time to look at those pictures and see the 3 that are still here and not just see the one who isn’t. To be able to see the happiness and smiles and “us” that still remains and still is moving forward is a huge step for me. One that wasn’t without a day of melt-down last week, but I got through it… and now my desk is adorned with not only the pictures of all 4 of my boys together but also the “new” pictures of life without Willie in it physically. Life as it is and as it has to be lived… not how I want it to be, but still able to be lived with joy and love and happiness – different than before but still able to be good again.