Awoken with a bang

This is a Really Real Trauma post.

TW: Mention of Gun Shots. Mention of Completed Suicide. Mention of Suicidal Thoughts.

It really sucks when my brain awakens me from a deep sleep with a bang.

For a moment after waking I’m dazed, confused, scared. I know I just heard the gunshot, but I’m safe in my bed, we have no guns here. It was just a memory.

I’m too awake to sleep now, but I’m too afraid to leave my bed.

I cuddle in against Wonder Woman, holding her tightly, hoping the contact between us makes the sound go away.

She stirs to ask me if I’m okay and offers to turn some lights on in the house, to make it a bit easier to get out of bed.

I appreciate it, but also hate that my trauma woke her up as well.

We’re leaving for vacation today, a vacation I’m having a hard time being excited about. I feel like this is just going to follow me, and I don’t want it to ruin an area that was so peaceful for me last year.

I turn on music and start working on the dishes. I hear a sound, like a tiny pop, and I search for the origin.

The cat is playing in a bag, and crinkled it just enough to spook me.

I watch her play for awhile, frustrated that so many sounds remind me of that one fatal shot.

Last night we went out for modified Parking Lot Beers with some derby people. It’s tradition to stomp on the cans and rate them, seeing who can get the perfect smash.

I ask them to warn me before crushing cans. I hold my hands over my ears.

They stop crushing cans, waiting until I make a run to the bathroom to continue with their game.

Damn it, my trauma got in the way of someone else’s fun.

I spent most of yesterday in bed. Ready to give up this god awful fight.

I’m tired.

So so tired.

This is a marathon again, riding the waves and trying to keep up. Trying to heal from yet another blow.

Afraid that I’ll just get hit again.

Mad because there’s no rhyme or reason. I didn’t do anything to deserve this.

I almost wish I had done something wrong, because then there would be an answer to “Why me? Why again?”

Today feels better so far. Even though it started with a bang. I feel productive, I’m out of bed, I have coffee in hand.

Coffee=Life

When all else fails, give me a coffee and I can fight a little longer.

I forgot the sweetener in my coffee this morning, again. I’ve done it so many times that I almost like the bitter taste.

I remember when I had a bit of coffee with my sugar. Over time I’ve grown to like the taste of pure coffee though.

Over time I’ve gotten used to previous traumas and I’ll get used to this one as well.

Over time.

It’ll just take some time.

Creepy Dreams

This is a Really Real Trauma post.

TW: Mention of Completed Suicide. Mention of Suicidal Thoughts. Mention of a Gory Dream.

After a pretty good day or so, last night and this morning were rough.

Yesterday my therapist had to cancel on me. I totally understood why, her dog is sick and ended up in the pet ER. While I wasn’t mad at her, I was mad at the situation. The anger, which is becoming familiar, boiled up inside me. It’s likely that she won’t be able to see me until I get back from vacation, and it had already been almost 2 weeks since she had seen me.

This was just crappy timing.

I laid in bed for awhile, suicidal thoughts running in and out of my brain.

I felt ridiculous. There was no reason for this sort of reaction to such a minor thing. I have group therapy as part of the partial hospitalization program, almost daily. It doesn’t bother me that I’ll be missing THAT during vacation, why did it bother me so much to go an extra week without my individual therapy.

But anger is just part of my response to almost everything right now. And judging myself for the anger was part of what brought along the suicidal thoughts.

After calming down some I went for a walk with my friend. It was a short walk, after taking a few days off due to my stomach issues, I had no stamina again. But it helped.

Being active always helps.

I cooked Pho for dinner. We used boxed broth and pre-sliced meat which made it a super easy meal, but right now it’s one of my favorites.

I went to bed early, I was so tired and couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore.

Even with the nightmare medication, the nightmare started almost immediately. It wasn’t about my dad this time. However, it was weird and twisting and reminded me of an episode of Dexter, a show that I never really watched but heard in the background for months as Parker worked her way through the seasons.

I woke up, and when I fell back to sleep I was in the middle of the same series of events.

People being killed and different ways to hide their bodies. Graphic visions of dismembering bodies and removing fingerprints. It was so gory and every time it felt like it would end, someone else would end up dead.

I woke myself up a few times, falling back into the same dream as soon as I closed my eyes.

I woke up at 2 am with a blinding headache. I got up and took some meds, staying awake until Wonder Woman was ready to go to bed, I couldn’t handle being alone with that nightmare anymore.

I think I got a couple of hours of decent sleep before the nightmare started again. I would toss and turn and fall back asleep right into the same dream, over and over and over again.

At least it wasn’t about my dad.

This morning when I woke up to use the restroom I was panicked. Alone felt horrifying, the bathroom was filled with the sound of gunshots.

I went back to bed, at least Wonder Woman was there and I wouldn’t be alone.

Every time I dozed I was back in the same nightmare, but laying awake was panicky and filled with anxiety. I couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed to come to the living room. I felt again like I’d be blindsided from every angle.

It was rough.

Finally I woke Wonder Woman up and asked if she would get up with me, I couldn’t handle being alone anymore.

I felt so guilty for disturbing her sleep but the alternative was seemingly impossible.

We cuddled for awhile before getting up and leaving the house. Lunch at a new-to-me restaurant, outside on their patio. Stopping into a few stores looking for a longer leash for the dog on our vacation.

Of course we went for coffee.

Now we are back home. Going into the bedroom to get changed back into my around the house clothes was anxiety provoking. And the bathroom seems to be the perfect place for flashbacks.

I still have a headache, the same one from last night. It is just below the surface, peeking up occasionally to remind me that it’s there.

But it felt good to be out of the house for a bit. Writing has helped me get more of the anxiety out. Hopefully I can catch a nap today without the same dream coming back to haunt my sleep.

Some days are good, other days are hard, and I’m just here riding the waves.

Even the bad days aren’t quite as bad as they were.

And at this point I’m 2 sleeps from vacation. I’m looking forward to mountain views and animals that roam the property where we’ll be staying. I’m looking forward to walking back to the waterfall we saw last time we stayed in that area.

I’m looking forward to getting away.

Hopefully I can leave all of this behind for a few days as well.

Good Day, Loud Sound

This is a Really Real Trauma post.

TW: Mention of Suicidal Thoughts, Mention of Gun Shot, Mention of Completed Suicide, Some Gory Description.

Today was a really good day.

I got a few hours of halfway decent sleep before the tossing and turning began. Finally at 6 am I got up, instead of letting myself continue the cycle of dozing and tossing and dozing and turning.

Getting up early is good for me, when I can force myself out of bed before my alarm. It gives me the quiet early morning hours to do my morning routine, and on those mornings I even manage to do the dishes from the night before.

Generally, waking up that early just sets a good tone for the rest of the day.

But I can’t always do it.

This morning, however, I hopped up and got on with my day.

When I did morning check in for group, the leader mentioned how my mood seemed brighter. While we were going through the list and rating things, I realized that other than a quickly passing and easily brushed aside thought last night (while I was so angry), I hadn’t had any other suicidal thoughts in the past 24 hours.

Even last night’s anger didn’t last all that long, the edges softening before it fully took hold.

It’s been getting better. Both time passing, and the addition of Abilify has made me feel like my feet are on solid ground once again.

At least some of the time.

I’m able to be alone.

At least some of the time.

But the trauma is still there.

It’s always lurking just behind the shadows.

The quiet is the worst.

Today I was in the bathroom when the shot rang out in the back of my mind. I immediately smelled the gun powder.

This time, when I peeked around the corner I saw Wonder Woman sitting in the wheelchair.

I ran into our bedroom.

“I just need to see your face for a minute. It was you this time, it was you.”

She softly held eye contact with me and held my hand.

“It’s okay, we don’t have any guns in the house. It’s okay, I’m right here.”

I felt like I was on the verge of tears.

The gunshot was so loud, the smell of gun powder was so vivid. The gory image that followed looked so real.

As a whole, I don’t really see my father in the wheelchair when I have a flashback. There’s a fuzzy shadow where he was, I can’t quite recall what the blood looked like running from the front of his face.

Even though I know it was there.

I do remember his dog, pacing in front of him and looking scared.

The dog he was so happy to see when she came home 24 hours before.

The dog with the belly he was so happy he could reach from the wheelchair.

His selfish act traumatized her too.

Today has been a good day, with a bad moment.

It’s not a good day that turned bad, it was just a single moment.

I’m sure I will have other bad days. I’m sure I will have other suicidal thoughts. I’m sure there will be more days where I can barely stay out of bed. More days filled with a deep seated rage.

But I’ll focus on the days like today. The days where I craft and write and make tea.

The days where I plan to cook my current favorite meal for dinner.

Days like today give me hope again. Hope that I can get back to stability.

Hope that I am okay.

And I am, okay.

So Sleepy

This is a Really Real Mental Health post.

TW: Mention of gun violence and gore. Mention of suicide.

Apparently my posts are just going to keep being long for awhile. Thanks for hanging in there. And thanks for all of the kind words and support.

Sleeping at night is hard. Even with the new nightmare medication they started me on, I’m still awake constantly, tossing and turning and barely dozing off before tossing and turning again.

At least with the medications I’m not dreaming and ruminating of shots going off and bloody faces.

When the sun starts to come up I settle into sleep, which is broken when my alarm goes off to get ready for PHP.

I yawn with heavy eyes all through the first group, trying to catch a quick nap during the thirty minute break, before yawning through the second group.

I drink coffee, made at home. And some days I run out for a treat at Starbucks, to celebrate another day that I have survived.

I still yawn.

And the afternoon I often nap. Planned one hour naps that turn into two or three hours. It’s so much easier to sleep when the sun is up to keep me safe.

Of course, I know this is just perpetuating the problem. Sleeping during the day makes it harder to sleep at night, which makes it easier to sleep during the day.

I’m so so sleepy. Even writing this I’m yawning with eyes watering, wanting to climb in back in bed again.

And it’s not just the fact that I’m not sleeping at night.

Living with fresh trauma is exhausting. Working through trauma is exhausting.

With the addition of the Abilify to my medication I’m much less reactive, which is nice, but I’m still exhausted.

And still irritable. The smallest thing making me grumpy and agitated.

But that irritation is no longer filled with rage.

I talk in group therapy and others who follow me often say “What I’m going through doesn’t compare at all to your situation but . . . “

And that bothers me.

This isn’t a competition, anyone who is struggling is struggling for their own reasons, their fight isn’t less important or less strenuous than mine.

We talk about the underlying emotions that connect all of us. Fear, Sadness, Anger, Guilt, Shame.

Those emotions are the ties that connect each of our stories.

Sometimes, when we’re telling the story of our situation, the therapist will have us focus on the emotion that’s underneath of it. While someone may not be able to relate to their father shooting himself while they were in the next room, they may be able to relate to the guilt I feel for leaving him alone. Or the sadness I feel because I’ve experienced yet another trauma.

Often they relate to the shame of feeling like I’m too much, like my emotions and my tragedies take up too much room.

That’s a common theme in my therapy. Being too much. The group therapist in PHP is the same on that runs my once a week group, and is also a therapist I saw individually for a short time.

She can pick up immediately when the theme of my emotions is that shame of being too much.

She doesn’t try to fix it, neither does anyone else in the group, but just pointing out that the thread underneath it all is that feeling. That core belief.

It’s enough to show me that it’s still there, still something for me to work on.

Today, I was told by someone that they hope I can put this behind me and get on with my life.

I wish it was that simple.

I spent a lot of time after Parker’s death talking about how I will always move forward, but I will never move on.

And I think that stands true for most trauma as well. I will keep moving forward, I will keep healing, but there will never be a finish line, a line where I say, this is behind me.

The trauma of my abuse growing up still shows up when I make myself smaller after hearing harsh words or a violent scene in a movie. The trauma of poverty shows up when I spend money incorrectly, and then panic at a low balance or overdrawn bank account. The trauma of hearing my son scream in the back of an ambulance shows up when I recoil at the sound of a siren. The trauma of the house fire shows up when I strongly react to an unplanned smell of smoke, or panic when a smoke alarm goes off.

The trauma of Parker’s death is there when I check that a loved one is still breathing.

And the trauma of my father’s death will live on in its own way.

My reaction will decrease, my tolerance will gain traction.

And I will forever be resilient.

But I will never get over all of these scars, and so many more.

It’s no wonder that I’m tired. This trauma just brings with it, the rest. Just like a new grief will bring up the old ones.

I wonder why these difficult things always find me. Always land at my feet.

I don’t think there’s some grand reason, but it’s hard not to think that I’ve done something wrong to deserve it.

People talk of my resilience as one of my biggest strengths. But my resilience was forged out of necessity. I have to stand up one more time than I get knocked down, no matter how often I get knocked down.

And each time it’s both a little harder, and a little easier to stand back up.

It’s harder because I’m exhausted from repeating this same pattern, through no fault of my own.

But it’s easier because I’m just using muscles that I’ve already used. I know how to stand back up, I know what help to reach for, I know which parts I have to do on my own.

I know that the sleepless nights and the napping all day will pass.

I know I’ll get back to work eventually.

And I know I’m strong enough to do this again.

And there may be an again after this.

And after that.

And I will never be ready for it when it comes, it will always catch me off guard as trauma often does.

But I will always stand back up.

Lost Stability

This is a Really Real Trauma Post.

And a Really Real Mental Health Post, because the two go together.

TW: Mention of Suicidal Thoughts. Mention of Completed Suicide.

These have been long lately, thanks for those who are reading along.

First for the good news.

I’m wearing headphones and not freaking out, for the first time since that shot rang out.

I also turned off the hallway light tonight after we got home, without waiting for something to jump out from behind the shadows.

Slowly, I’m healing.

I’m taking note of the little things because maybe they’ll help me stop focusing on all of the bigger things.

Today I talked to my psychiatrist, she started off talking about raising my antidepressant, which we had been talking about a month or two ago.

I told her that was no longer the concern. The minor depression I had still been feeling when I was stable before wasn’t anywhere near as important as the current desire to end my life.

Or the sleep deprivation and nightmares.

And I realized, that’s part of what’s pissing me off so fucking much. Not only did this traumatize me, bringing with it, the previous traumas in my life.

Not only did this make me wobble in a really big way.

It did it when I was in a place of pretty solid stability. Yes, I was still slightly depressed. Yes, I was having problems focusing on work or other projects. Yes, it wasn’t perfect, but I was stable.

My feet were planted on solid ground and we were just making minor adjustments.

Today after PHP I laid in bed, unable to nap, but unwilling to be up. When Wonder Woman started mentioning going for a walk I got so angry with her. A rage that made me want to scream and yell at her. A rage that made me snap at her via text because I couldn’t trust myself to talk to her in person.

I haven’t felt that sort of rage in a long long time. I hate that side of me. I hate that it even exists.

I remember when I was finally fighting through the trauma of Parker’s death I sat on the kitchen floor and kicked the side of a shelving unit in. Using all of my force to release the rage brewing inside of me. So deep and solid with nowhere else to go but out. I started by drawing lines on my skin and by the end I was digging the pen in with all of my force. I remember that day, and I remember it being the day I measured my successes against. At least I wasn’t that bad anymore.

Today when I was talking to my psychiatrist, I told her I needed to be back on Abilify. The same medication I fought so hard to get off of because it makes me eat the house.

But I’m back to needing to be fat and alive rather than skinny and dead.

And it fucking sucks. I was so proud of myself for being able to brush away any suicidal thoughts that I had, even without the help of that medication. I was so proud of myself for being able to ignore them, or distract myself from them.

And now they are back with a vengeance. That rage turned inward taking away my will to exist.

I just want to go to sleep and never wake up, unless waking up means this never happened.

I see myself with a gun to my head, I hear the gun shots that no longer sound like bangs in the back of my head but now sound like the pops that they truly are.

The sound of gunshots in the back of my head were always the first sign of a suicidal downswing. Hearing how those sounds have changed, and seeing that it truly would be a viable way out, if I had a gun. Now I not only relate a way out to pills, but also to guns. They are ways that I know will work, I’ve seen it first hand.

And I was stable.

I was stable.

Now the thoughts have a tight hold around my neck, squeezing tighter and tighter. The bed is my safe space. Holding the blanket tight around me means I can’t act on the urges.

The other day Wonder Woman, in reaction to a suicidal post, told me she knew that if I looked hard enough I could find what I needed around here. No matter how careful we are to keep things locked up, if I tried hard enough, anything in this house could be a tool for my death.

So when the thoughts are bad, I put myself in bed. As long as I don’t step foot out from under those covers I can’t do any harm.

And while I’m there the shots can ring out in the back of my head, and the urges can come all they want, but I can’t act on them.

But that same survival mechanism allows for the thoughts to twist and turn and get stronger and stronger and louder and louder.

Being in bed is both the best and the worst place for me.

I’ve started walking late at night with my old gym buddy. We are doing super short walks for now, but plan to build up our strength and stamina again. Maybe one day soon I’ll be back in the gym where you can’t tell the sweat from the tears. Maybe I’ll be back to working it out that way.

But for now we just walk our little circle around the neighborhood, sometimes talking, sometimes silently, becoming accountability buddies for each other.

Just like before.

Just like the last time I healed from finding someone dead.

This sucks, but sometimes I can see myself getting back to stability. Sometimes I can remember that I did this once, and I will do it again.

Sometimes.

The rest of the time I just have to fight to hold on. Live from one Starbucks trip to the next.

Just make it one more day.

One more hour.

One more minute.

One more second.

And to think, just a few short weeks ago, I was stable.

He took that from me with the same shot that took his life from him.

Suicide doesn’t end the pain, it just gives it to those who are left behind.

I guess there’s a reason for this rage that keep building up inside of me.

This isn’t fair.

But I’m okay.

Or at least, I will be okay.

Music

This is a Really Real Trauma post.

TW: Quick Mention of Completed Suicide by Gunshot.

I inherited 3 more alexa echo dots when Dad died. We had bought them to set up throughout his house so that I could drop in and hear him where ever he was hanging out.

I was listening in on the one in his kitchen when he shot himself, which was part of what made things echo back and forth so much. But, that’s beside the point.

We already had a couple of them here, but with the addition of the ones from dad’s house, we have one in every room except for the spare room that Wonder Woman sees clients virtually in. Even in the bathroom, which is pretty awesome for playing and switching music while showering. (Or making those notes to myself that I inevitably think of while covered in soap and water.)

I almost always have music playing when I’m cleaning, and especially when I’m alone. If I’m moving throughout the house it’s usually via wireless earbuds.

Right now I can’t handle being cut off from the world via headphones, and even one headphone makes me feel vulnerable from that side. (One of many little things that are driving me nuts about this trauma).

Today I realized I could play music across all of our echo devices. No matter where I walked in the house I could hear Lizzo (my music of choice this afternoon) as I scurried to clean the bathroom and the kitchen (which of course, due to ADHD meant 100 little side trips to other things). But I could play it low enough that I still heard the doorknob as Wonder Woman got home from a quick grocery run and getting us Starbucks.

I apparently said something in PHP the last time I was there, that has stuck with a good friend of mine. I had forgotten about it, but she often brings up how she uses that tip on a regular basis.

If you can’t find the way straight through your struggles, find a way to work with it, over it, or around it.

This particular trauma is going to take a new set of work arounds as I learn the different triggers. It will take some stops and starts and it won’t be as quick or as easy as I want it to be.

But when I can’t push straight through, I can work with it, over it, or around it.

Fair

This is a Really Real Trauma post.

It’s not fucking fair.

Prior to 2016 we were constantly looking for “baby sitters” for me because I couldn’t handle being alone if Parker went out of town for more than a day.

Hell, even when she worked for part of a day I’d have a hard time being alone.

Even when she was asleep in our bed in our house I’d have a hard time being awake without her. Unless I was interacting with someone online or on the phone.

I woke her up so many times just because I couldn’t handle being alone long enough for her to nap.

I fought and I fought HARD to get over that after she died. I fought with everything I had, sitting through discomfort and anxiety and fear.

I started to look forward to my mornings when I’d wake up and the house was quiet. My time to feed the animals and wash the dishes and play my own music without worrying about who it might bother.

When Wonder Woman and I started living together, I would be gone all day doing my appointments, and she would be gone all evening working.

I loved this setup, because as much as I missed her, I enjoyed the time in solitude.

And then covid happened, and I had to adjust my expectations. There was no time in the house alone but I still enjoyed my mornings when she was sleeping and enjoyed the evenings when she was holed away in her makeshift office.

I took a nap this afternoon, I knew it was safe because I could hear the TV playing in the living room, I knew she was right there. It was still early in the day which is easier for me.

Then, as I woke up, she was ready to lay down and nap before her night time appointments.

I pouted and then cuddled up against her. I wasn’t tired anymore but it had hit that time of night where the world suddenly seems scarier.

That time of night when the shot rang out.

That time of night where the light in the sky starts changing.

That time of the night leading to darkness.

She said she would get up with me, but that’s not fair to her. She needs her rest because I’m so much . . . more . . . right now. She needs a break too.

And eventually my sister texted me, a beautiful thing that needed to read. I told her I was stuck in bed, because I couldn’t bear to be alone in the house.

She asked why, and as I was typing the tears started flowing.

If I’m alone and a shot rings out there will be no one there to comfort me. If I’m alone and I’m blindsided again, I won’t have anyone to hold me. If I’m alone and the world is suddenly scary, there won’t be anyone right there to hug me.

I fought really hard to stand on my own two feet.

And now those feet are shaky. Those feet are afraid. My knees wobble and want to buckle.

Even when I play music I hear the silence underneath. I’m afraid to wear both headphones because I might miss something. Something might sneak up on me.

Something may catch me off guard.

It’s not fair that I did all of this work and with one gunshot he left me behind to work through it again. He got to leave his pain and he brought mine back with a frenzy.

And no, I’m not back at square one, I have a head start over last time.

I know that there’s work to be done but I’m bitter.

And I’m sad.

I don’t want to be a trauma queen again. I want to go to sleep and wake up as I was.

I want to have enough emotional energy to do the work I need to do on my self AND to work a job that I worked so hard to be healthy enough to do.

I know I’ve got this. I know I will make it through this. I know I’ll be back where I was.

But damnit. I worked

So

Fucking

Hard.

It feels like he took all of my hard work with him, with that one gunshot.

I’m sitting alone writing this, literally glancing over my shoulder every few lines. I can’t play music because I might miss something. I need to pee but the effort it will take to walk down that hall feels unbearbable. Something might catch me off guard from one of the rooms.

Another gun shot might ring out.

I worked so hard to not be afraid anymore.

So.

Fucking.

Hard.

It’s not fair.

It’s really not fair.

Silence

This is a Really Real Trauma post.

TW: Mention of a gunshot and completed suicide.

This is another long winding one as I get my late night thoughts out.

Night time is hard. I feel like something is going to jump out from behind every corner. Daytime makes things seem a little more open, but in the dark there are shadows and I feel like I won’t see what’s coming.

It was daytime and I was sitting at my computer, in my dad’s house. I didn’t have any music on. I was listening to him in the kitchen through my ipad. The occasional shuffle of something on the table where he always had a stack of snacks.

Wheelchairs move absolutely silently, I didn’t hear him move from the table, around the counter, through the door separating the kitchen from the dining room.

I didn’t hear him open the drawer and retrieve the gun.

I was just at my computer, which was sitting on the end table that I had spun around to use as a desk off of the side of the bed.

I was responding to an email from Wonder Woman. We were discussing the best way to work our couple’s therapy schedule since the therapist wouldn’t see us while I was out of state. I was detailing what schedule had been worked out for Draven and I to switch off. Flipping between my email window and the calendar, typing up exact dates so that we could have 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off with the therapist.

I was proofreading the email, making sure I had the dates right, and checking for grammar.

It was silent.

And then it wasn’t.

The gunshot echoed repeatedly. It took a long while for it to become totally silent again. At about the same time the room filled with the smell of gun powder.

I knew I didn’t need to look, I knew exactly what had happened, but I just had to look, something made me check.

“I wish you didn’t look.” Aimee has said to me a few times now, in person and in text.

I’m not sure what made me look.

Tonight Wonder Woman has the TV playing in the background, we just ate dinner together. Behind me, or off to my left, depending on which way I’m facing, is the rest of our tiny apartment. A small hallway, a bathroom, 2 bedrooms. I can feel the darkness coming from those rooms. I could just leave the lights on, but then there would still be shadows and I’m not sure what’s worse, total darkness, or the hidden shadows.

I reach far out in front of me to hit the light switches as I move throughout the house. I don’t want to step into the dark.

But back to the TV playing. I still feel the silence underneath. The silence that could be broken at any second. I feel like I haven’t fully relaxed since that shot rang out.

I’m waiting, waiting, waiting.

My Partial Hospitalization Program is done through video chat. One of the people in our group participates from her car, probably because it’s the only place she can have privacy. Today she had to sit her phone down get out of the car for a minute. She didn’t turn off her video. I could see her steering wheel, a bit of her seat, and her drivers side window.

I kept waiting for the loud pop and her window to be splattered with blood. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her little square on my screen. I was frozen with panic for absolutely no logical reason. Nothing she had said would have lead me to worry about that. Eventually she came back and I could breathe again.

But I’m waiting to be blindsided. If I worry about every potential trauma, then I won’t be caught off guard next time.

Of course that isn’t how this works.

Kidlet asked me this afternoon, “Hey ma, can I ask you a potentially insensitive question?”

“Of course.”

“Have you made popcorn since you’ve been home?”

Popcorn is my all time favorite snack. I had just made some earlier today, before he asked his question. I commented out loud to Wonder Woman that each pop sounded like a tiny quiet gunshot.

She rattled off a few other things that sound like popcorn.

Popcorn doesn’t scare me. The sudden sound of the blender does, even when I’m the one turning it on.

This afternoon Wonder Woman opened a door slightly differently than normal. The towel rack that hangs from it popped back against it. It wasn’t all that loud, but it was sudden and it caught me off guard.

I was too frozen to yell out and ask if it was her.

A few moments later I heard her feet shuffle towards me and I released the breath I had been holding.

I’ve mentioned before all of this, how thankful I am that Wonder Woman goes out of her way not to startle me. She shuffles her feet whenever she walks throughout the apartment. And now, when something makes an odd sound she lets me know what it was.

I’m lucky to have someone who is so trauma aware and so thoughtful.

She just went to the bathroom and paused the TV. The silence is deafening.

I’m exhausted all of the time now. Being tense and on edge will do that.

After Parker died I found myself checking that people were breathing whenever they were still. Slowly, over time, that need faded. I trusted that someone could be still and alive. However, even now, 4 years later, I still have those odd moments where I stand absolutely still and watch a sleeping Wonder Woman, waking her up if I don’t see the rise and fall of her chest.

I wonder what this new anxiety will be like in 4 years. I’m sure it will slowly become part of my new normal. I’m sure I won’t need to turn on lights ahead of me, and I won’t hold my body tightly whenever it is quiet. I’m sure I’ll stop clenching my jaw.

But that time can’t come quick enough.

This trauma is new, exactly a week old today, I need to cut myself some slack, but I expect myself to heal immediately. I know, logically, this isn’t likely to happen again. Not this exact trauma in this exact way.

But I’m still holding my breath.

Still waiting for the next gunshot to break the silence.

Road Trip

This is a Really Real Mental Health post.

TW: Completed Suicide including some description.

I picked my sister up from the airport late last night. She had a choice between flying in last night, way past her bedtime, or this today at noon.

“I just need a hug.”

“I’ll be there tonight.”

Yesterday while I was still at dad’s place, I asked if we could fly Wonder Woman in, so I didn’t have to do the drive home alone. Wonder Woman quickly realized it would be $700 and 3 layovers for her to get here yesterday or today.

That just seemed excessive.

While Aimee was on the plane, texting back and forth with me, she had the idea that she could drive with me back to Baltimore, and fly further north from there.

We were both giddy with excitement over this idea. We rarely see each other, I think it’s been 3 years this time, and we’ve only done one other short road trip together, 17 years ago.

On the ride back to the hotel she made a list of things that needed to be handled before we could leave this godforsaken state. Tying up a few odds and ends, paying the boarder who will train Willow and then find her a new home, thanking the neighbors who have gone above and beyond.

We realized we could be on the road this afternoon, making it at least a few hours north before getting a room for the night. Aimee isn’t a drive all night kind of person, and honestly, it would be a horrible idea for me to let myself get that worn down right now.

I need my strength for fighting through the restless anxious nights ahead.

Last night Aimee got herself a room with 2 beds, just in case I couldn’t be alone. I slept in my own room though, leaving a light on in the bathroom because the dark seemed too scary. Comedians playing through my phone, as a reminder of home.

I, thankfully, didn’t have any nightmares, but I tossed and turned a lot, and each time I woke up I’d start ruminating about what I’d heard and seen. I’ve pieced together the scene before he died. The movie replaying in my head of him shuffling his way to the dining room, fighting to open the drawer where yet another handgun was hidden, I even see him hold his the gun in his shaking hands and put it in his mouth.

Of course I didn’t actually see these things, and I don’t know exactly how it played out, but minds are good at trying to fill in the blanks.

More than once I knew I wouldn’t be able to fall back asleep, figuring that 3 hours was all I’d get. And then that 4 hours. And then that 5 hours.

I actually slept until 7 this morning after going to bed at midnight. I call that a success, given what yesterday looked like. I haven’t slept through the night in more than a week, at some point that would be nice.

We will drive to the funeral home so that Aimee can sign some papers and we can arranged for dad’s cremation. We’ve discussed chucking the whole urn off the side of a bridge.

He’s always liked the water.

I feel like I can go back into dad’s house. The police said that there was just some spots on the rug, any carpet cleaner would get them out. We’ll have that room cleaned, and the bedroom where he pissed all over the floor more than once.

And if I can’t go in, I’ll drive over to the next middle of nowhere town and hang out while I wait for her to clean out the fridge, arrange for the disposal of hundreds of guns, throw away the still wet sheets and clothes in a dryer that never finished spinning.

I wonder when my head will stop spinning with these images, both imagined and real.

I won’t shed any tears over his death, good, fucking, riddance. But I may shed tears over what I heard and what I saw.

His one last traumatic gift to me.

But I’ll be okay.

I am, okay.

Loud

TW: Completed Suicide, some graphic description of the event.

This is a Really Real Aging Parent post.

Although, I guess that’s not the right way to put it anymore.

I’m going to repeat this . .

TW: Completed Suicide, some graphic description of the event.

Gunshots are less of a bang, and more of a pop.

I’ve known this for most of my life, I have memories of shooting in the back of my dads yard back in Maryland. Gun safety being drilled into me from such a young age.

We knew he had a gun in his endtable, it’s been there for as long as I can remember. My first suicidal thoughts reminding me that if I died that way, I’d just become one more anti-gun statistic.

Back then I felt very strongly about gun rights. Even from a young age.

Not so much anymore.

But back to the beginning. Gun shots are less of a bang, and more of a pop.

I never realized how loud they would be indoors. The sound echoing off of the walls on all sides of me.

I knew immediately what that sound was, but I had to go look.

His sweet dog was standing there looking scared, and as I turned the corner I saw him slumped over in his wheelchair.

What looked like dark, thick, blood was hanging from his face.

I didn’t go any closer. I didn’t need to check if he was alive.

If he was, hopefully he would be gone before anyone got there.

I called my sister first, I don’t know why, I just needed to hear a voice other than 911.

I’d made that call to 911 before.

I’d been asked the questions and told to go try CPR.

I listened the first time, touching Parkers cold, dead skin. She was long gone by the time I found her.

But I knew my dad would still be warm, and when 911 told me to go check for a pulse I refused.

“But he might need CPR.”

He has a DNR, I’m not doing that.

Aimee got a neighbor to come over. By then I had locked myself in the bedroom where I was when this happened. Some irrational fear that he was going to come shoot me next.

I knocked on the window as the neighbor walked to the carport.

“He’s in the dining room,” I yelled. “Please remember he has a DNR.”

I wanted to make sure everyone knew, because no one deserved to live the way dad had been living for the past few days.

With his daughter wiping his ass after helping him from wheelchair, to bed to get his pants down and diaper off, and from bed to commode, and from commode back to bed to help him clean up and get him dressed again, and finally back into his wheelchair.

A routine we had mastered, even in just a few short days. A routine that wore us both out.

But that wheelchair was his final resting place.

He had been mostly quiet today, but we had fought over a tube of chips. He wanted to open them and I wanted him to wait until I had gotten him back to the table. I don’t want more mess to clean up.

I used dad’s voice on him. I yelled, furious that he wouldn’t just relax and work with me. Furious that things still had to be his way.

We had gotten very quiet and tense, and eventually I went to my room, setting my computer up at the little makeshift desk i had created from an end table.

I set up the monitor so I could easily hear if he yelled out for me.

The gun shot reverberated from the monitor and through my closed door.

Or was it open.

It’s a blur now. As happens after a traumatic event.

The neighbor came back to my room. “He’s gone. There’s no pulse.”

I’m so thankful that he didn’t suffer in those final moments.

I wonder what was going through his mind.

The house filled with EMS and the Sherrif’s office. So many questions that I’d been asked once before. I knew this routine.

“Please warn me before you take him out, I don’t want to see that.”

I remember going with my mom to Burger King when Parker died. I don’t think I ever ate what we bought, but I couldn’t be at the house when her body was taken out.

I closed the blinds in my room, it became my safe haven as I called and messaged more people than I can remember.

I remember making those calls after she died too.

“Sorry, I shouldn’t have dropped that like that, I should have given you some warning.”

I remember saying the same thing after she died too.

Once all of the questions were asked, and my hands were swabbed for gun powder (“Just a formality,” she said.) I hastily packed my clothes. My sister rented a room for me, far out of that backwards ass middle of nowhere town.

I wonder if that gunshot silenced his voice in my head once and for all.

I wonder how long I’ll hear that gunshot, less of a bang, more of a pop.

I wonder how long I’ll see that dark red blob hanging from his face.

I wonder why my life is so filled with trauma.

But I’m okay.

I really am, okay.