Sunday, March 27, 2011
We now interrupt this program for a short descent into Hell...
Yesterday was one of the worst days I've had, especially in regard to the hopelessness, depression, and anxiety that have come and gone during the last two years. I wish something, somehow, would work to get through to the tender parts of my soul.
Yesterday, I came as close as I care to come to bringing about an end to my pain, but the people I love would have none of it. For the last 3 days or so, I've been in such a state that I could barely function. I took the last 3 hours of the day on Friday as sick time. I've spent a lot of time in bed, though sleep is fleeting. As I write this, it is 3:40 a.m., and I've been awake since around 1:30. This is how it happens, even with the strong sleep meds I take. The grief is the sea, breaking down what I thought was a carefully built sea wall. First it began to seep through the crevasses, and now it is washing the whole thing away.
I sent out a message on Facebook, asking for someone to please talk me off the ledge. I tried calling friends, but initially I could reach no one. I left several tearful messages for my therapist, begging to get an emergency appointment, which I've never done. The receptionist called me back at some point and left a voice mail telling me to come in Sunday at 9:00 a.m. (This should tell you a lot about my therapist.) I tried talking to my son (who was on his way down to Raleigh to go apartment hunting with his dad), but I finally said, "Can you just put your dad on the phone?" Sean was understandably worried that his mom was crying.
I told Paul how I was feeling, how unsafe I thought I was, and he said, "Should we turn the car around now?" I told him no, to go and get Sean a place and get him set up. This is Sean's big moment, with a new "real" job in his field and a spot with a great company (the one I've been working for the last almost 7 years).
I knew the sitter was coming, so I went about packing up some things, including my cat. I gathered all my meds and toiletries in plastic bags. I got a change of clothes or two. I packed up my laptop, phone charger, and bills in my backpack. The more I packed, the more I cried. The boys were downstairs watching TV, but every now and then, they would pop up to check on me. "Whatcha doin', Dora?" "Why's CC in the bag?" I felt horrible, but I was in no condition to be their mom right then. I needed to go off and figure things out.
Kim and I had been at odds for a couple of days, because Thursday night I was absolutely horrible to her. I was up most of the night -- couldn't write, couldn't sleep, couldn't calm down -- and I took it all out on her by badgering her. The one thing I kept saying over and over was, "I just wanted you to hold me!" But she had been tired after our date night out, and all she wanted was sleep.
It wasn't her. It definitely was not her. It was me with my constant companion of grief, with it weighing a little heavier and a little sharper right now in the week leading up to the anniversary. Like last year, I sense the inevitability of it all. No matter how many anniversaries or birthdays come and go, Stephanie will still be gone.
I've been trying to make amends to Kim for "losing my shit" Thursday night, but as my friend Linda told me yesterday, when she was trying to decide whether or not to call 911 for me, all I can do now is a living amends, showing Kim that that was not me or my true self, and it certainly didn't represent anything about my feelings for her.
What I was trying to ask for, what Kim finally "got" from talking to her friend Katherine, is for her not just to hold me but to crush me. If you've seen the movie Temple Grandin, you'll remember the calming machine that Temple used to get mechanical hugs to calm her anxiety, because she couldn't stand human touch. Well, I wanted human touch in the extreme. I needed for Kim to pin me down and listen to me. I needed to feel her entire body over the length of mine. I needed for her to let me be pissed off and rage and vent. She was the only one who could do it. The closest thing I ever had was when the last and final break-up happened with Denise, when I was feeling as though I couldn't piece myself back together, Sean grabbed me up in one of his bear hugs and would not let me go for anything. He just kept holding me there until I stopped crying and fighting. That's what I needed from Kim, but in my own lame way, I was just asking to be held, and that didn't match the intensity of the feelings I was displaying.
So yesterday, when I was stretched out on Sean's bed (my old bed) with two bulldogs and a cat, Kim called from work. She asked if she could come see me. I said yes. When she got there, I could immediately sense a change. It was as though she "got" it. She hugged me for the longest time, a good hard hug that seemed to calm me. But then she lay on the bed with me and pinned me down.
"Fight with me," she said. "Let all those awful feelings out on me."
"I can't fight with you," I said. "I love you too much."
"Then tell me about what you're feeling, please."
The first thing I said was, "If one more person tells me to celebrate her life, I'm going to puke! Her life SUCKED for most of the time she was on earth. She was physically and mentally ill, in and out of hospitals and surgeries, in and out of mental wards, and if I try to talk to anyone about how hard it was, trying to find someone - anyone! - to help her, they tune me out. La la laaaa.... They want to put a bow on it. They want to give me these pat responses that mean NOTHING!"
I continued, "No matter what doctor, hospital, therapist, shrink, mental health service we tried, everything FAILED. Everyone failed her, and it feels like I failed her by not getting any help that did any good!"
By this point I was crying again. "Where was science and medicine and all their promises when my little girl needed them?"
This went on for some time, with me raging about what happened to Stephanie and with Kim holding me there, continuing to tell me that she loved me, that the boys loved me, and that no one wanted me to "check out."
Slowly, her message got through to me and I began to run out of steam. My eyes and nose were swollen from crying. My hair stuck out in all directions. And I finally felt like someone had heard me. Kim didn't give me any pat or trite answers. She didn't say, "Let's throw a birthday party for Stephanie to celebrate her."
No. On this anniversary, I feel the full weight of what the world wasn't able to offer my daughter, what she wasn't able to take for granted. Those last couple of years? When her lupus was in full flare but we could get no health insurance for her? They were bad. She had to have a central line put in whenever she was hospitalized, because she would throw clots. Every IV site they tried would close up within minutes or hours, requiring her to be stuck over and over. She had strange cysts that would come up and sometimes had to be surgically opened and cleaned. She once spent 2 months in a mental health center without letting us know where she was. When I asked what led her to do that, she said, "I wasn't thinking right and I knew I needed help."
That was code for, "The voices are back, telling me to hurt myself."
What it comes down to is this - No one knows Stephanie's story better than the people that walked it with her. No one can tell me how to grieve. No one can make it all better. It isn't about anyone fixing me or fixing the grief. It's about someone listening to me and pinning me down to let me rage and feel alive when it gets bad. It won't last forever, which I know. No one needs to tell me that either, but parental grief is messy and complicated. It comes and goes, and you don't always know it's coming. You turn around from building a sandcastle, and the whole ocean engulfs you and pulls you away from the shore. You can see the shore, but you can't get there. You can feel yourself drowning, but you fight off the hands reaching to pull you up.
I finally stopped fighting yesterday and allowed Kim to pull me up into the boat. I still have a little anger in me, but it is no longer consuming me. I can breathe again, and I know I'll make it through the next week.
My final statement was, "I think I need to eat."
For the entire day, I'd had coffee, a little water, and pills. I could barely function.
I did what I had to do at the townhouse (clean and feed the bulldogs, give Lily her shot, and repack my things), and we went to "our" restaurant -- Mimi's Cafe. We had a good time and a good, long talk. Things said became things forgiven. Neither of us wanted to hurt the other, but carrying around grief like this is like carrying about a mace or a cat o'nine tails. With every swing, you risk taking someone's head off. The best friends know exactly where to stand in order to avoid the battle. My battle is really not with them. It's with my own memories.
Yes, I know she's gone. Yes, I know I have a living son, and I talk to him at least once a day and helped him find this job. Yes, I realize that I need to celebrate Stephanie's life at some point and stop mourning so heavily -- but from what I've learned, every situation is different. Losing a child is so personal, so completely foreign to our expectations that it does consume us. It can't help but consume us. No one saying, "It was her time ... at least she's a peace now ... she's with God" helps me at all. It makes me angry. The anger stage is fully back in control right now, as to the grief, but I know it will pass. I know that this stage will someday be over and I'll get into the acceptance mode, acceptance of a life without Stephanie, acceptance of a world that doesn't make much sense to me right now, and acceptance of the fact that medicine is not an exact science and could not make the insurance companies pay nor make Stephanie take her medication regularly. Someday. That day is not today.
I have to be up in a couple of hours for the day, so I'd better leave this as is. I hope it makes sense, and I hope that maybe it will reach some other parent who is feeling the same way. Peace - D