Flashback

This is a Really Real Mental Health post.

TW: Gunshot, completed suicide, some gore, violence on TV.

This is one of my longer ones.

I’ve been having horrible flashbacks the last few days.

Remembering the moments and hours and days after he died.

Remembering that first post I wrote.

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

And the thing is, that sound is so loud that it sucks the rest of the sound out of the air.

Like a vacuum.

Emptiness where the everyday sounds of life were existing a split second before.

That pop is no longer so loud in my head, but the silence afterwards is there.

I remember the police swabbing my hands.

Just a formality, the calm, gentle woman in front of me had said.

I’m remembering the next day,

my sister scrubbing brain matter and blood out of the carpet.

The carpet cleaner bringing in a jug of chemicals especially meant to remove blood.

I remember him asking if Dad had fell, prying for information about what happened.

The mess could have been worse.

Much worse.

And the flashbacks have been coming more and more.

Yesterday, while trying to distract myself from them, we drove to do some errands.

Some window shopping.

We went through an area of the city that smells like oil.

But in my brain the strong smell reminded me of gun powder.

The way that smell filled the entire house a few minutes after he was gone.

Wonder Woman has been watching a violent drama on TV.

We share a common space, with my back to the black square with moving pictures and loud sounds.

I mostly block it out.

Sometimes I wear headphones.

Lately I’ve been getting sucked into the drama.

I really don’t like this show.

But the storyline is interesting and it draws me in.

Yesterday there was a scene where a character was shot at close range.

The screen blacked out the moment the gunshot happened.

Luckily they didn’t show the aftermath.

And the gunshots don’t sound at all like the one that ripped through the air the last moment he was alive.

I don’t think the TV can capture that sound anyway.

Or that absence of sound after the shot rings out.

I wonder if the TV show is contributing to the violence I see in my head.

But we share a common space.

We spend a lot of time coexisting in the same area.

It’s hard to ask her to pick something else when there wouldn’t be much time to binge this particular show.

There isn’t much alone time in these covid times.

And I’m not sure I really want her to watch something else.

There’s comfort in the normality of the types of shows she watches.

In that background sound.

And I can always put on headphones.

But I feel like headphones put up a wall between us.

It’s hard.

When the flashbacks come I try to box them up,

tape them up tightly,

stick them up on the shelf inside my mind.

It helps.

Yesterday when they were particularly strong, I wrapped the boxes in brown paper.

I stuck them on the highest shelf.

I padlocked the closet door.

They stayed quiet just a little bit longer.

But in the back of my mind,

I still see that coagulated stream of blood,

hanging off of the front of the wheelchair.

Images that don’t want to leave.

Images that won’t leave me alone.

Seriously,

Fuck Him.

Chicken Caprese

This is a Really Real Mental Health post.

I made Chicken Caprese tonight.

I’ve been cooking more often but it’s been quick oven meals, slow cooker meals, or dump and go instant pot stuff.

None of the really good food that I used to make.

But this week I menu planned, and added back some of the yummier stuff that we’ve always liked.

I’m still in this weird period of flux where I’m doing

so

much

better.

But at the same time,

I’m not.

I woke up at 830 this morning,

fought and fought to get myself out of bed.

Tried to bribe myself with activities or coffee.

Pushed and pushed and pushed.

And woke up at 930 when my alarm went off, signaling an upcoming appointment.

I snoozed.

I snoozed.

I snoozed.

And then I begrudgingly rolled out of bed.

After my appointment I wanted to climb back in,

but we had other things scheduled for today.

I can’t figure out why it’s so hard for me to wake up.

I’ve cut out most of my sleeping meds.

The only one I’m still taking is my nightmare med,

which shouldn’t make me that tired.

Because I’m not taking the sleeping meds, it’s taking me a really long time to fall asleep.

I typically get up after an hour, and try again an hour later.

But I’m still not going to bed all that late.

I just need

so

much

sleep.

But tonight I cooked Chicken Caprese.

I stood at the stove and mixed the fragrant ingredients, setting timer after timer to keep myself on track.

It was hot and miserable, but still fun and enjoyable.

I miss cooking like that.

I like that I’m getting my old self back.

The one that finds enjoyment in life.

But I wish it would happen quicker.

Give me my life back, damnit.

He showed up in my dreams again last night.

I can’t remember most of it.

But I remember him standing there, rigid and stern.

The look he got when he was about to lose his shit.

The look he got when I messed up,

again.

Today when I was cooking,

and really when I do much of anything,

I fear messing up.

I fear the disappointment,

or the wrath that might come.

But it’s not coming from anyone near me anymore.

I’m surrounded by love and light.

People who accept me for me.

People who love me as I am.

People who love me,

even when I mess up.

It’s hard to internalize that love though.

It’s hard to recognize that I don’t have to be perfect to be lovable.

That sometimes, people even love me because of the times I mess up.

Unconditional love is hard to understand,

when I grew up feeling like I was only loved when I was perfect.

When I met someone else’s standard of being.

But I’m learning to give myself grace.

To love myself even when I mess up.

To love myself.

Sleep

This is a Really Real Mental Health post.

I feel so so much better.

Except I don’t.

I’m sleeping too much.

Way too much.

And I’m having a hard time getting myself into the shower.

But my dishes are done.

Meals are planned around food we already had in the freezer.

I’m cooking more often.

My kitchen still isn’t clean.

Clean pots and pans are stacked on a stove that is covered in crumbs and spills.

But the dishes are done regularly, and that’s a big deal.

The spices sit all unorganized on the counter instead of in the cabinet (where they no longer fit anyway).

The bottles are spilling over onto the stove.

The kitchen is kind of a disaster, honestly.

But I’m finding more joy in my activities.

I’m leaving the house regularly.

I’m brushing my teeth.

Things that I shouldn’t feel like I deserve an award for, but I do.

Because they are hard.

Hard, hard.

I feel like PHP is at the end of its usefulness.

But I also don’t feel,

healed.

But I’m not sure I’m going to continue healing in PHP.

I’m not sure I need that to keep moving forward anymore.

I’ve come a long way since the day the silence was broken by a gunshot.

I’ve healed so much.

And now it just feels like the

normal depression is still holding me back.

But I’m not sure what to fill my time with if I’m not doing PHP.

My boss isn’t ready to bring me back to work, he has his own stuff going on that needs to be straightened out before he can rehire me.

I don’t want to look for another job because I need the flexibility that came from working for family.

I need the level of understanding that came with that job.

The ability to take a day off here, and work extra hours there.

Or just take a day off without making the hours up.

I need the boss that checked in to make sure I was still doing okay.

That there wasn’t too much piling up

(even though there normally was).

I miss working, and I’m ready to go back.

But what do I do if I’m not working, and I’m not doing PHP.

I did that for years, and I can’t remember what it was like.

I feel like it’s existing without purpose.

It’s a big deal that I’m not ready to go back to nothingness.

It’s a big deal that I need something to occupy my time.

For years I was happy existing with no structure.

No ebb and flow to my days.

Nothing but doctors appointments that seemed to never end.

But now I’m afraid to leave the program behind without having something to take its place.

I have grown so much over the years.

And that day the silence was broken by a gunshot knocked me down a few steps.

But I feel like I’m finally climbing up to the top.

Old Houses

This is a Really Real Mental Health post.

I’ve been dreaming about my dad a lot.

The dreams always take place at his old house, the one I helped him build, the one I spent every other weekend at for most of my childhood years.

We made a lot of memories in that home.

I was sad when he sold it.

I remember climbing on the roof putting shingles on.

I remember him throwing a priced pencil set across the room because I didn’t put it away.

I remember playing in the giant hole where the foundation was dug out.

I remember being called Butch when I got my hair cut short for the first time.

I remember laying bricks, learning how to put just the right amount of mortar on.

I remember realizing Dad was racist, when he was talking about his brick layer.

I remember playing on “Mt. Tina,” the giant pile of dirt where they dug the basement out.

That’s the house I envision when I envision my father.

I only visited him a handful of times at the Florida house.

So that’s not where he is in my dreams.

I dream about him every few nights.

Dreams that take place after he shot himself, but he’s still alive.

A weird dichotomy where I know he’s dead, but I know he’s alive.

The dreams don’t really upset me, most of the time.

But, he tried to kill me in one of them and I screamed out,

scaring Wonder Woman who was sleeping beside me.

I’m pretty upset that I dream about him so often.

In the three months since he’s died, he’s shown up in my dreams more times than Parker ever has.

And she’s been dead for four and a half years.

This wasn’t what I planned to write about today.

I planned to write about pulling out an old hobby.

A friend gifted me a small diamond painting and it reminded me of how many hours I spent doing them a few years ago.

I didn’t realize I missed it until I started doing it again.

Relaxing in a meditative sort of way.

An activity that I get completely immersed in,

focusing on matching each symbol in turn as I work my way around the canvas.

It’s a silly activity.

One that will leave me with giant canvases full of plastic “diamonds.”

Art that I will never do anything with.

But it occupies my mind and my hands.

It gives me something to do on these long winter nights while Covid keeps me trapped inside.

I texted my cousin this week.

Told him I was ready to come back to work a few hours a week.

When he has something for me to do.

It feels like an achievement.

Like I’m healing.

Like I’m getting my life back.

It’s about time.

Happy Thanksgiving!

This is a Really Real Mental Health post.

I haven’t written in a few days because I just haven’t had anything to write about.

I don’t want to just post a day by day accounting of my life.

I like the posts that have substance,

meaning,

direction.

I’ve been dreaming a lot about my dad recently.

Weird dreams that take place after he died, but he’s still there talking to me.

Dreams where I’m giving him advice that I am trying to give to myself.

Telling him it will take time for his antidepressants to work.

Telling him he needs to slow down with spending money.

Also telling him how he traumatized me.

How he inconvenienced my sister and I.

How much work it’s been since he died.

I keep trying to look at the positives that will come from his death.

I no longer have to force weekly phone calls that are boring and uncomfortable.

He’s no longer making people miserable.

He’s no longer degrading me and telling me how I’m not good enough.

And, he may be buying me a house.

But that seems like such a foreign concept to me.

The idea of owning a house.

I don’t feel like I’m adult enough to own a house.

I still have a lot of research to do about my benefits,

my disability and my health insurance.

I have to make sure they won’t penalize me for actually owning something.

God forbid someone starts to pull themselves out of poverty,

I have to make sure they won’t rip the rug out from underneath me.

But at the same time I’m excited.

And it feels good to be excited about something.

It’s still months away before I can really start looking.

Probate takes forever, I’ve learned.

But I’m browsing on Zillow, looking at Real Estate websites, searching for homes within my price range that have pictures.

Starting a mental list of what’s important to me.

Of wants and needs.

I know I’m hyper-focusing,

I know it may end up never happening.

And I know I’m anxious even thinking about the idea.

Because I’m not adult enough.

But what if?

What if?

What if I don’t every have to worry about being homeless, ever again?

What if I never have to worry about someone taking my home away?

What if I never have to worry about being kicked out?

What if?

Maybe, just maybe,

something good can come out of his fucked up death.

Maybe he can give me some sort of financial stability.

Maybe he can take away some of my worries.

I remember, when I was younger, he would threaten me with taking me out of the will.

He planned, for the longest time, to give me less than he gave my sister.

And he made sure I knew.

He didn’t want me to get his money when I couldn’t take care of myself.

I didn’t deserve the help, he felt.

Well, fuck him.

Fuck him.

And it would be nice if one day I can say,

fuck him,

while I’m sitting in my own home.

Day 21

This is a Really Real Mental Health post.

TW: Mention of suicide, mention of gunshot, mention of gore.

I skipped a day again.

But missing 2 days this month isn’t really all that bad, and I don’t really have something to write about every day right now.

I slept till almost noon today.

Didn’t even do my wakeup at 7am to roll over and go back to sleep.

I just slept.

I feel bad for sleeping so much. I’m in bed by midnight at the latest, and sleeping at least 12 hours almost every night.

Partly it’s the sleeping meds.

Partly it’s depression.

Partly it’s still healing from trauma.

It feels like it’s taking so long.

I’m shaming myself for all the things I can’t do, and it’s hard to focus on what I am doing.

For all the things I can’t do, yet.

I keep trying to remind myself that it’s okay that I’m not back to where I was.

I’ll get there.

Apparently, it’s just going to take more time than I like.

My therapist said yesterday that this may not be as much depression, as it is shutting down from the trauma.

Still blocking emotions out.

I feel so flat.

Even things I normally enjoy are just,

flat.

I don’t want to get out of bed in the morning because there’s nothing to look forward to.

It’s nice not being suicidal, but I miss,

living.

I was living my best life, and now I’m just struggling to get out of bed each day.

And I’m trying to be gentle with myself, while also pushing enough that I keep progressing.

But honestly, it’s hard.

It’s hard not to feel like I’m failing.

It’s hard not to feel like I’m letting people down.

It’s hard not to feel like I’m letting myself down.

Healing is exhausting.

And I’m still angry.

Fuck him for taking my stability.

Truly, fuck him.

It’s quiet in the house right now.

I keep forgetting to turn on music but yet, the silence allows the intrusive memories to come.

Fuck him for making every memory of that week turn into a gunshot.

Into a gory image of him in a wheelchair with blood dripping from his face.

Into an image of blood caked on the front of the wheelchair.

Into an image of my sister scrubbing the remnants out of the carpet.

Fuck him.

I’m having bbq, bacon wrapped, shrimp for Thanksgiving.

Wonder Woman hates seafood, hates the smell of it, so I only really cook it when she’s out of town.

My dad used to have seafood for holiday dinners.

It was nice because I’d have a traditional holiday meal at my mom’s house,

and then I’d go to my dad’s and have a seafood feast.

He always made the bbq bacon wrapped shrimp.

I miss it.

It’s been years and years since we’ve had a meal like that.

Years and years since he said “Dad is great, dad is good, lets thank dad for this meal.”

Years and years since he screamed at me for not cleaning fast enough before my sister got there.

Years and years.

I don’t miss him.

I don’t miss the forced phone calls that I tried to make each week because he was an old lonely man who had no other contact with the outside world.

I don’t miss the overwhelming anxiety when I would go for a visit.

I don’t miss the sound of him screaming because I didn’t do things the way that he wanted.

I don’t miss him.

Fuck him.

Fuck him for setting me back so far.

Day 14

This is a Really Real Mental Health post.

I’ve been working on cards all day.

Slept in and then jumped right in finishing cards I started yesterday.

I got tired of being in the house so I left for a drive alone out to a Starbucks (duh) that was further away than my normal one.

I just wanted to be out of the house.

That’s an improvement.

Now to get myself back to walking.

But it’s getting better.

Slowly.

Too slowly.

But I need to be patient.

I don’t really have much to write about today. But I’m 14 days in and I’d hate to miss a day now.

My machine is cutting a material that has to be cut at a low speed.

Normally it’s loud and almost jarring, but right now it’s a musical rhythm. Calming, soothing.

Makes me want to go to sleep. But it’s too late for a nap, too early for bed.

I’ve been tired all day.

But also restless.

And somewhat creative, but I’m getting bored of that.

Not really sure what to work on next that will interest me.

I’m still blah.

But it’s getting better.

Slowly.

Too slowly.

But I need to be patient.

I’ve been having more flashbacks about my dad.

Memories of the week he was home.

Getting frustrated with him for making my job harder.

For being so fucking stubborn.

Fucking asshole.

And every memory ends with the gunshot.

I keep packing them away in my virtual box.

Taping it closed and putting it on the shelf.

It helps for a little while, but inevitably it comes back.

Another memory from that week.

Another gunshot.

It will get better.

Slowly.

Too slowly.

But I need to be patient.

Healing takes time.

Day 5

This is a Really Real Mental Health post.

I’m not suicidal.

I’m ridiculously depressed.

But I’m not suicidal.

Normally they come together. And I’ve had the passing thoughts, but they are quiet and go away quickly.

My new tools help them pass along.

But I’m depressed.

I’ve been telling myself I have to take a shower for a few days now.

Really, just take a shower.

But the fog is getting deeper.

I walked yesterday. Sent her a message in the middle of the day saying “I’m dressed and I think I can make myself get out of the house if we go right now.”

So we walked.

This morning I woke up early after a weird dream about getting my father on antidepressants.

I went out for a bit and had breakfast with a friend.

I came home and went right back to bed. Hours later I still didn’t want to get up, but I couldn’t sleep anymore.

Now I’m just staring at facebook. Seeing the same posts over and over again because I’ve been looking for so long.

This will take time to lift. Changing medications is hard and they made so many changes while I was in there.

I’m hungry, and I can’t tell if I’m hungry because I’m actually hungry, or if I’m hungry because I’m depressed.

I still have hope that this will get better. It will. I’m not filled with dread over the thought of this continuing. It’s just a passing phase and it will get better.

I start PHP on monday and that’ll help.

I have therapy tomorrow and that’ll help.

But this isn’t a quick fix. Antidepressants take weeks to kick in.

I’m on so many pills right now. Between medical meds and mental health meds and vitamins.

So many pills.

But, they keep me alive.

And I’m glad to be alive.

Day 4

This is a Really Real Widow post.

I don’t feel like it’s a big deal this year.

I mean, her being gone is always a big deal. She left a hole in a lot of people’s hearts.

But this year her birthday isn’t ripping that hole bigger. Maybe it’s just because so much else is going on.

But today I went and bought cheesecake.

Tonight I’ll get on video chat with our son and talk about her life.

That’s a tradition I hope to continue each year. A few moments remembering the wonderful person she was.

So many memories are slipping away.

The sound of her voice rarely comes to me anymore.

I no longer remember her smell.

I have one shirt of hers left that I wear regularly, but it doesn’t hold the emotion that it once did.

I did intentionally take it with me to the trauma unit though. So I guess there’s so emotion left in it.

She spent her last birthday in the hospital, the psych unit, because of a change in medications that left her reacting violently to me.

She even raised her fist, which was the moment she decided to check in. She was there for almost 2 weeks.

I had balloons and decorations on the walls when she came home. A belated birthday celebration.

A belated celebration of her.

She was dead before her next birthday came around.

I can’t remember how old she would be now. I’m sure I could reach back in my memories to remember what year she was born and do the math, but that doesn’t seem important anymore.

Her mother still sends me the occasional Pineapple Upside Down Cake recipe. It’s my favorite cake. She would bake it for my birthday every year.

We talk for a few moments about life and how we are doing.

A superficial conversation that still leaves much unsaid.

I’m sure today is hard for her. I can’t imagine what it’s like to celebrate the birthday of your child that is no longer with you.

I hope I never experience that loss.

I just sent her mother a message. Letting her know that she was in my thoughts. Another small connection between two people who were left with holes in our hearts when she died.

She is missed. She is loved.

I wish she had lived to see the better side of life. The life where the lights don’t get shut off and we aren’t in fear of an eviction notice.

The life where there’s enough food in our cabinets.

The life where there’s even an occasional vacation.

I still wonder if we ever would have seen this life together.

Or if we would have always struggled.

Today isn’t as hard as it used to be, but it’s still hard.

I still miss her.

Grief

This is a Really Real Trauma post.

TW: Completed Suicide Mentioned. Gun Violence Mentioned.

I was just laying in bed, starting to doze off, mind still wandering.

And I thought of my dad.

Now, this isn’t strange anymore. The latest brain trains have lead me down a road where I think of something about caring for my dad.

Transferring him from bed to chair, or him screaming “Mom” wanting to get out of bed in the middle of the night, or cooking shrimp for him in a way that I never would have thought of.

And that thought is followed immediately by a “pop” and a blurry image of him dead in his wheelchair.

I think of him a lot. Sometimes it fucks with my brain, sometimes it’s just a passing intrusive thought.

But this time was different.

I thought of my dad back when I was young.

The dad that I worshipped.

This time I thought about the times in between the abuse.

I thought about the times that we went crabbing.

The times that I really looked up to him, like when they called him in to teach navigation to my boating class.

The times when he was so proud of me, like when I passed that exam.

The times when we would sit behind his friend’s Florida time share, when he would grill hamburgers (until they were flat, dry, pucks of meat) and heat beans up in the can.

That time that he took me on a plane to some random airport, just to turn around and fly back home, because I had never been on a plane but I always watched as either he or my adult sister would leave on a flight.

I have lots of good memories with him.

And then I realized. I’m not grieving the loss of him. I don’t care that he’s gone.

I remember having a conversation with my sister. We both wondered out loud how we would react to his death.

I was ready to walk away from my relationship with him, but I felt I would regret it when he died and I didn’t want to feel guilty for another death (heh).

But I figured, no matter how little I felt towards him when he was alive, I’d grieve him when he was gone.

And obviously, as time would tell, I felt a great deal towards him. Otherwise I wouldn’t have done what I did.

But still. I’m not grieving the loss of him.

A very, very, horrible, person is no longer in this world. He can no longer treat me like “less than,” he can no longer treat anyone that way.

And he treated everyone that way.

Now, don’t get me wrong.

I am grieving the lost of my stability.

I am grieving the addition of another trauma to my history.

But I’m not grieving his death.

Even those good memories ended by the time I was 14. Once I had an actual mind of my own, my opinion was no longer tolerated. It wasn’t about building a relationship in between the abuse anymore.

It was just about shutting me down and reminding me to stay in my place.

Maybe not directly.

But by judging me so harshly, and making sure I knew it.

By calling me “butch” constantly when I cut my hair short, even though I had no idea what that meant. (I wonder how he felt when he realized he was right.)

By pointing out every thing I did wrong. Making sure I remembered it.

By making sure I remembered how often he was right. And it didn’t matter what the truth was, he was ALWAYS right.

By throwing things and yelling when I stepped out of line.

By doing the same just because something around us went wrong.

I don’t grieve the loss of him.

Actually, I celebrate it.

And I almost,

almost,

feel guilty for that.

But, fuck him. He spent long enough hurting me.

He hurt me with his final fucking action.

With his final selfish thought.

He doesn’t get to hurt me through grief, too.

Our goal is to live so someone actually gives a shit when we die.

And very few people give a shit about him.