lowercase letters

Every night after midnight, or first thing in the morning, I check facebook memories.  A few times a year there’s a little gem from Parker, not just a meme she shared on my wall, but something she actually typed.  It’s typically in all lowercase, not a capital letter to be found, something that I never understood about her, that even annoyed me most of the time.  Now, I treasure every lowercase letter.

This morning when I woke up, there were two of them from 3 years ago, two lovey memes she shared to me, each with their own little notes.  I’m trying to think where our lives were 3 years ago and I can’t quite place it.  I wonder what made her send those two notes that afternoon.  Was it the last time I was hospitalized?  I didn’t respond to the notes, I couldn’t have seen them at the time.

All day today I’ve lived in two worlds.  One foot firmly planted in today.  Volunteering at United Way.   Cuddling with Wonder Woman, loving her, caring for our home, cooking us dinner, planning our life.   The other foot trying to remember where I was 3 years ago, loving my late wife, missing her.

I don’t always live in two worlds, mostly, like I’ve said before, widowhood is just woven into the fabric of my life, but sometimes I straddle both worlds, the before, and the after.  Sometimes it catches me off guard when it happens after a mostly grief free period.

I miss Parker.  I miss the little quirks that used to annoy me.  They aren’t such a big deal anymore.  They were what made her, her, and they were what I fell in love with, but over time, we tend to forget that about our partners.  At least I did.

We used to say “Where have you been all my life?  Becoming the person you fell in love with.”

In order to be the person I am today, I had to survive all I’ve been through, and that includes losing Parker and now that means I sometimes straddle two worlds.  That includes reading notes with lowercase letters from a person I will forever love and miss, while sitting beside the woman I love today.

Widowing ain’t easy.  Sometimes I’m not really sure how I do it, but I just keep doing it.  And I’m thankful for those who love me along the way.


I write a lot when things aren’t going well, but it’s not as often that I write when things are just typical.  That’s partly because there isn’t really a typical, but it’s also because my typical seems boring to write about.  Especially right now, I’m not doing a whole lot of anything that I think would seem important to most people.  However, I’m slowly realizing, again, how important these things are to me.

I’m reading and working on projects that require me to sit quietly for periods of time without my mind wandering.  This is a huge accomplishment.  It’s partly due to medication, and partly me learning to slow my brain down and not fight against thoughts as much.  Some people can meditate, mine needs some form of activity attached, at least for now, and maybe forever.  Right now that activity looks like diamond painting, but sometimes it’s chainmaille, both take place while listening to a Brené Brown audio book and working on my own thoughts.

I’m cooking more nights than not.  Taking care of my house which is something I love doing.  I love having the time and energy to be a homemaker.  I love that I found the word to describe what it is again, I’m not a house wife anymore, and I’m not a stay at home mom, but I’m still a homemaker and while I’m so much more than that, it’s still one part of who I am and I enjoy this part of my life immensely.  I had felt lost when people would ask “What do you do?” and I couldn’t answer.

I’m back to volunteering at United Way one day a week.  It’s exhausting after 3 months away.  The staff was happy to have me back and it was nice to feel like a valued member of the team there.  It was nice that they remembered me.  I feel like the fact that I went back after putting it on hold for so long is a major accomplishment for me, normally I would have just walked away completely.

And as usual, I’m going to doctors appointments.  With public transportation, a 15 minute appointment downtown for psych medication takes half of the day twice a month.  My therapist moved downtown as well but can only see me on a different day, so that’s another long day.  Fortunately I have care providers that I work really well with, so the trip is worth it, but it’s still a very long and exhausting day.  Mostly my physical health is staying calm for the time being, I still hurt and deal with flare ups, but mostly I can handle it without medical interventions, just the normal follow ups and check ins as far as all of those specialists are concerned.

I try to make it to the gym 3 days a week.  I walk, Wonder Woman and I have ridden our bikes together when it’s not a sauna outside.  I’m not as great about all of this as I once was but I’m getting there.  I have some friends who have gone to the gym with me a day here or a day there.

And I’m running a local mental health meetup twice a month, and an online group that I try to interact with daily.   I’m putting myself out there to try and get this off the ground, but it is something that needs to exist and it won’t unless someone starts it.  I feel like I’m meeting what I always felt was my purpose in life, helping others.  I always thought I was meant to do that in some paid capacity, but this is giving me a chance to do that in a different way.

I’m bummed that I’m not going back to school this semester but I also understand why I’m taking the semester off.  I did finish making the requests to transfer my records over to the community college so that when I go back it can be around the corner.

Life is kind of boring in a please-let-it-stay-this-calm way right now.  I’m not waiting for the other shoe to drop with my moods.  I feel like my coping skills and my medications are working well together.  I know that I can handle the next wobble when it comes and I’m just enjoying the calm.

Super Widow

Most days, being a widow is just part of the fabric of who I am now. I don’t wear it like a cape every day anymore. It doesn’t wrap around my throat, threatening to strangle me if it gets caught on something. It’s not out there, waving visible. It’s not always a shield that I use to separate me from everyone else. I don’t always feel the need to wave it around saying “Hey LOOK, this horrible thing happened to me and it was unbearable and I still can’t quite function right because of it, so please excuse my weirdness.” It’s also not as much of a superpower anymore where I can push through anything because, this horrible thing happened and it propelled me through the first 18 months afterwards with super speed because I had to run away from my grief.

Now it’s just a woven part of the fabric of me. Little threads with widow written on them. It’s changed so much of me. I stare and try to capture so many little moments. I try to remember the little things, but they often slip through my fingers like sand because my memory is still shit. I love harder, I try to live bigger. I appreciate more.

I used to think that certain songs were Parker speaking to me, sending me some message. That happens far less often. I don’t really see her, or hear her anymore. I almost never talk about ghost wife, although I think about her often, I don’t feel the need to verbalize it. I make a silent little nod to a memory, or some connection I’ve made and I don’t need to bring it into my current life. Sometimes I’ll send a message to Kidlet, or someone else who knew her, and ask them if they remember. Mostly I just let it be my own private thing, and that’s a new thing for me.

There is still a Parker shaped hole in my heart, but the edges have smoothed and I trip over it less often. The hole hasn’t shrunk but my heart continues to grow as I live and love so there’s more room to walk around it.

And sometimes, I still pull out that cape. Sometimes I need the comfort of it, and that’s okay too. There are no rules to this widowhood thing.


Money is a serious trigger for me.  I spent years counting pennies, not knowing where the next bill payment was coming from, asking family for help, praying some government agency or church would come through with a few dollars towards the cut off notice or already turned off utility, moving every 6-9 months to avoid the eviction notice that would eventually come because we couldn’t stay caught up on rent.

This often meant trips to the grocery store started with me trying to add up everything in my head while I was shopping.  When I put things on the belt they were separated into need and want.  And when it was time to pay there were times where a card was declined and I had to play the “what can we go without” game until the card finally went through.  This happened while the people in line behind me got increasingly pissed off, and I got increasingly more embarrassed and worried about how we were going to make it through the week or the month on what was left.  In some of the worst cases where I really miscalculated, the account was overdrawn and I left with nothing.  Some bill cleared that I wasn’t expecting, leaving me in the negative (and paying the compounding fees that go along with that).

I’ve left stores without diapers when Draven was an infant, left without much needed tampons, left without milk or meat, and all of those are things that you don’t find very often at food pantries.

Even worse is having a card declined when someone you know is with you.  It’s one thing to play that game when there are strangers behind you in line, it’s another thing when you’re standing beside someone you know.

I’m thankful that for many reasons I haven’t had that problem in awhile now.  I’m slowly getting better with money, I’m getting better with budgeting and I have more help to make ends meet.  I’m not in danger of being evicted, having the lights shut off or running out of food.  I can buy what I need and if I get into trouble I know I have places I can go for help.  I really am okay now.

Unfortunately, the fear is still ingrained deep inside me and today it was reactivated with a simple message on the credit card machine when we were checking out.

“There is a problem with the card.”

I knew there was money in the account, or at least I thought I knew, I started wondering, where did I miscalculate, my thoughts started racing as I ran the card again.

The card went through that time, it was only a problem with the machine and not my card, but it was too late, I was already panicking and spiraling and having an anxiety attack.

I realized that every time I swipe my card somewhere I hold my breath waiting to see if it goes through.  Even if I know there is money.  Even knowing that I have emergency savings and places I can turn and that I’m not where I was, I still hold my breath every single time I go to pay for something.  The amount of anxiety that goes into shopping, it’s like the reverse of playing the slots, instead of hoping for a win, I’m praying the card doesn’t get declined.  Except it’s just bullshit anxiety that has no basis in reality any longer.

When money comes in, I feel like I have to pay for everything that needs to be paid, I have to buy everything I need, and sometimes even everything I want, because eventually, that card will start getting declined, the account will be overdrawn.  That isn’t true anymore, but I have to resist the urge every single time I get paid.  I have to fight not to spend every single cent before it’s gone.

Until you’ve been there for years and years and years, it probably won’t make any sense, how can money be gone without spending it, and if I’d just stop spending it, it wouldn’t be gone so quickly . . . but when there are more bills than there is money every single month, you sometimes learn to spend it all as quick as possible or it’s gone before anything gets done.

Unfortunately, then I end up making really shitty decisions which just restarts the cycle.

And today, I was afraid I had done it again, even though I’ve been so careful and tried so so hard to unlearn old habits.  I was afraid that Wonder Woman would be the one standing there while a card was denied.  I remembered all of the times that I was left making decisions about what I had to have in order to get that card to go through.

But I’m not back there, and it’s all still okay, and I’m not broke or broken.  And today I was reminded, yet again, that I’m not alone while I heal from all of this.


Stability is scary stuff after a major mental health relapse.

Is it for real this time or is this the beginning of mania.  Did I just forget my medication and so I’m swinging some different way?  Is the wind just blowing in the wrong direction?

Once I figure that I might be stable I feel like a house of cards.  I’m afraid for a long while.  Will the wrong amount of stimulation push me over.  Too much sleep or not enough.  Do I head to this gathering or make myself stay home, which one is more beneficial?

Have I really been stable, or am I forgetting some episode and not remembering how recent it’s been.

And why exactly am I over analyzing all of this?

That last one is easy to answer.  I can’t remember the last time I’ve gone more than 3 months without a medication tweak.  This level needs to go up, this one needs to go down, we need to add this or take that away.  Some of them can be checked with blood tests but others are based on my moods and stability.

Mood journals are great in theory but having the follow through to do them is hard, and how do I describe my mood on so many different axis every day.  How do I begin to actually chart that out and follow it.  How many times a day would I have to ask myself these questions?

Rate the following on a scale from 1-10.






How many times a day would these things change?

Mania and depression seem like two opposites but at my worst I’m both at the same time, and often don’t realize it until it’s too late because they mask each other and almost  seem like stability.  Where does anxiety cross into paranoia?  Where does rational anger over a situation cross into general irritability that needs to be noted?

Anxiety over falling backwards is another reason I constantly analyze this.  I feel like I’m doing better but am I making the right choices?  I feel like one wrong choice could be the last wrong choice I make.  That feels like less of a threat the further away from the suicidal ideations I get, but I know that they could come back so so quickly, it’s been weeks since they were so bad I was barely functional.

That’s a sobering thought.

But for this weekend at least, I feel like I had stability, and I’ve enjoyed it.

Maybe I should just do the best I can to prepare for the next waves instead of constantly trying to fight them off.

Safety Plan

This month’s 8th of the month post . . .

I’m writing this one because I have something important that needs to be said.

Have a safety plan.

Know your warning signs.

Even if your thoughts don’t typically get “that dark” and you don’t think you’re a danger, who would you call if things did slip into suicidal territory?

What are your warning signs for depression, for mania, for unhealthy behaviors, for slipping back into a relapse of any sort. How do you know you’re walking away from the healthy behaviors that have served you well.

Have a safety plan.

Right now, I know that any of my dangerous medications can’t be under my control. I keep enough for a few days, and the rest are locked up out of my reach. I have to ask for what I need.. If I start wanting to hoard them, I tell on myself and make sure to get them out of my hands. People know when I’m going to the pharmacy so I have accountability.

I don’t keep any medication in my room, it’s too easy.

I know who I can call when things get bad and who won’t be helpful, I have the hotline numbers saved in my phone. I’ve texted the crisis text line and called the suicide hotline when things are not overwhelmingly bad so that I’m more likely to text or call when they are overwhelming. I’ve had long talks with my therapist about the fact that she’s willing to get texts off hours.

I have the local crisis response number in my phone and they have my information on file in case I need a crisis response team to come out. I’d rather call them instead of 911 because their police response is trained in dealing with mental health care. Do you have a crisis response team near you? Do you know how to reach them?

I keep pictures of loved ones on my phone, inspirational quotes on my walls, I have things around me that remind me to live and why I live.

I keep a running list of things to do instead of ruminating on suicidal ideation, I try to distract myself with those things.

I am constantly working on keeping myself safe and alive. But a lot of us don’t think about a safety plan until we’re in a crisis that we think will never happen. Take some time and think about it, what are you going to do if you face a mental health emergency. For some people, suicidal thoughts come out of no where, especially if you have any history of mental illness, but even without a history.

Just some thoughts as another 8th of the month passes without Parker in this world.