Thursday, August 12, 2010

One Day at a Time: Kindness to Self

Daryl said it best: "It's good to see you blogging again!"

I appreciate that I didn't lose everyone over these last 15 months. Yes. I was pretty much out of it for 15 months, aside from false starts and a few posts here and there.

What you didn't see during that time was a mother losing her mind to grief. I'm not being dramatic here; I really believe Stephanie's death changed who I was. Or maybe I just forgot who I was for awhile. It wasn't pretty.

I wanted so badly for things to be like a fairy tale for D and I. Truly, I did. I think now that's why I put up with things I would have never put up with in any other relationship in my life. I became unhinged when Stephanie died, because I was still early (less than a year) into my recovery process from co-dependency. My feeling of losing the very gravity that held me to the earth allowed me to make some very poor decisions. Would things have been different if D and I had had chance to get to know one another again? How many times - in the heat of an argument - did she say or did I say, "I should have done this differently"? We never even had the chance to be a normal couple. Would I have found out she wasn't the girl I thought she was? Would she have found out I was too aloof and withdrawn (great qualities for a writer, I think) for her taste? Would we have discovered that we had very little in common other than our intense mutual attraction to each other? Indeed, I wonder if I'll ever find anyone who awakens the feelings in me that she did, but that isn't a very good basis for a lifetime relationship.

But it's too late to ask all those questions. It is what it is now. It's a shambles. It's over.

Where I blame myself is in not listening to the people who had walked through that year of recovery with me, who saw what was happening to me, who saw how I was becoming so unhinged. They tried to talk me into slowing down. I shut them out. They tried to reach out to me. I shut them down. Soon I was avoiding everyone who might try to talk some sense into me. I wanted to be with D no matter what.

About a week after we moved in together (which was about three weeks after I drove down there, and only about nine weeks after Stephanie died), I began to have the sensation of being outside my body. While I was feeling love and passion for this woman, I was also feeling that I had left too many things undone.

"Has the dog been walked?" I wondered. "What did Sean have for dinner? Did the electric bill get paid?"

My personality felt as though it were splitting between who I had been and who I was becoming. For so long, though - eight years - I had randomly plugged D's name into search engines and social networking sites as they popped up, hoping to find her. I began searching for her when Paul and I were separated the first time, and I just kept searching and hoping. So when I found her, regardless of the circumstances, I felt it was a sign. I felt as though opportunity might not knock again.

It didn't help that she told me that if I left and went back to Maryland, she didn't know if she could handle a long-distance relationship. I felt cornered. If I did the "right" thing and went home to end things the right way, I might lose her. If I stayed with her, I was cutting the throat of the father of my children, with whom I had just lost one of them. Love blinded me. Passion paralyzed me. I did the wrong thing. I couldn't think. I believed that she could see me through the grief in a way Paul couldn't.

But that sensation of splitting was horrible. I thought I was losing my mind, and indeed, I guess I did on some levels. Who wouldn't, if they lost their child? I was entitled to lose my mind a little. I experienced all of the worst sensations of grief: uncontrollable crying, fatigue, chills, tremors, insomnia, hypersomnia, and so on. I swung between eating too little and eating too much. I tried to talk to my therapist, the one I'd been with for several years, long-distance, but I never had any privacy to talk freely about those feelings I had. I monitored and edited myself. I allowed myself to be told what I could and could not write on Facebook and blogs, lest we appear to be a less than perfect couple to the outside world.

I never got a chance to fully grieve, because I was walking a fine line, trying to keep my woman happy and taken care of. I forgot to take care of myself. What she saw as "therapy" - cleaning out the barn, riding horses, watching DVDs, and keeping to ourselves - was hell for me. I was cooped up and hemmed in. I felt I was told what to do and when to do it. Yes, I could have asserted myself, but I was in no condition to do so. As recently as two weeks ago, when her cousin started talking to me about mountain biking as an alternative to street biking (after I complained I had nowhere to ride my cruising bike), she shouted from the other room, "No! She is not doing mountain biking and that's final!"

I laughed it off, but it was a symptom of a much bigger problem. I felt I was no longer allowed to make my own decisions and think for myself. I was a writer who didn't write. I was a mother who rarely saw her son. I was a lover with no freedom, because D had been "hurt" - as if we all haven't been hurt. Any move I made was suspect.

When I found a local therapist, I was grilled after every session so that she could determine if the therapist was any good - but really she wanted to know whether I was talking about her. That gave me more cause to talk about her. As recently as last Wednesday, she told me that the therapist - she was sure - was a lesbian and was after me. I had long since stopped going for therapy, though, because the visits and the grilling afterward were causing me more stress.

After being off blood pressure medications for years, I found myself back in the doctor's office, then the lab, then the ER with chest pains, palpitations, and high blood pressure. I stopped sleeping much. My weight went up a bit (not too much, but enough to make my waistband tight). I felt suicidal. She began to convince me that I was crazy. I often stared at the bottles of pills I had. Only the thought of my son's grief stopped me from taking them.

But I saw no way out of my situation. I was in an abusive relationship, and I knew it. It was the most co-dependent relationship I had ever had. I loved her - that was without question.

Yes, I was crazy. I was - I am - a bereaved mother and am entitled to be crazy. You didn't see me fall apart over the last 15 months, because I didn't write it out, as is my normal response to almost any life experience. It wasn't pretty, as I said. I didn't hold it together very well, and I'm surprised that between my grief, my stress at home, and my ups and downs I still have a job. I managed. I kept to the deadlines. I worked my ass off.

But I lost myself. I'm trying hard to get myself back.

One of the things I'm doing is being much more tuned in to how I'm feeling. Last night I met Paul's new woman. She is so cool. She is cute and funny and warm and talented (she's a singer). All the things he needs. And it's obvious that my son is nuts about her. We all went out to dinner and had a very good time. It was a little weird watching my son interact with her so freely and easily, but I know that's a good thing. I just can't help feeling a little possessive of him. He's all I've got left.

However, I was invited over to her place for a family barbecue, as I said in my previous post. Part of the reason for it is my son's birthday (which is on the 20th). As the day approaches, I have begun to be quite apprehensive about it, even though I really like this woman. There's the matter of her parents, who will be there, her kids, and other people I don't know. I don't think I'm ready to walk in, being the ex-wife. Given that most people think exes are supposed to hate each other, I'm not sure I'm ready for any askance looks or awkwardness or questions. Though it is not making my son happy, I've decided to skip this family gathering. It wasn't originally going to include me anyway, so it can go on perfectly well without me. I just don't want to put myself through any additional stress right now. I need to be kind to myself. I may call up a friend and go out for coffee. Then I will do something nice for my son on his actual birthday, like go out and shoot some pool with him. Make it special. Just us.

I don't want it to seem that I'm isolating. I'm not. I just want to give myself permission to heal from this awful experience and to do some serious writing and face-time with my friends, most of whom have stuck by me, even when I was out of touch, even when I couldn't call them or see them.

Which brings me back to Daryl. She actually cared that I'm blogging again. Do you know how good that makes me feel? I'm a writer again. And I have an audience who cares. I'm getting myself back and I'm going to be okay.

Peace - D


Syd said...

I think that you are going to be okay too. Glad that you got yourself out of a toxic situation. Too much toxin can kill the spirit. You are free now to make good choices and to enjoy living.

Maggie May said...

I am also glad you are back. I feel you are REALLY back now. I felt I had lost you as a blogging friend.
I am so pleased you are REALLY writing again.

Grief takes people in many different ways and you just have to go along with it and hope you come out the other end as a stronger person and I guess this is just what has happened to you.

I think you were wise to skip that party.

((Hugs)) Maggie X

Nuts in May

Akelamalu said...

That was a bad experience for you but you're out of it now - look forward. I'd just like to say I'm glad you're back too and this post sounds like the old you. x

Mental P Mama said...

You sound better every day. Take good care.

Daryl said...

I do care. I missed you. I was worried .. others who know you were too ... I agree with your choice of not attending, I do not think anyone will look at you oddly but I do think if you think you wont be comfortable you shouldnt do it.

However I dont think I agree with 'aloof and withdrawn' .. I suspect thats something Denise said .. take it with a grain of kosher salt .. (good qualities for a writer or not) xo

Baroness von Bloggenschtern said...

'I'm trying hard to get myself back'. Just know that it's not a race; be kind to yourself, and honor what your soul wants for you. Your pace is yours and yours alone. I don't think the path is always a linear one - and there's some pretty interesting stuff out in the tangents...