We Missed Out

This is a Really Real . . . well, a lot of things, post.

TW: Suicidal Thoughts Mentioned. Death Mentioned.

I’m sitting at an antique kitchen table, the light overhead the only one illuminating the expansive and open area.

Wonder Woman is asleep in a recliner in the connected living room. The Mountain Goats are playing quietly on the portable speaker that she was thoughtful enough to bring with us.

I almost fell asleep on the couch, cuddled up under my favorite blanket that I brought from home. Unfortunately I can’t fall asleep without my CPAP. But time slipped away as I laid there with my eyes closed.

Now the music has ended and I hear Wonder Woman snoring ever so quietly. The tap tap tap of Siah’s nails against the old linoleum floor. I wish she would relax and lay down some place, the constant noise of her nails makes me anxious.

I’ve wanted to write all day, but couldn’t quite figure out what to write about. I didn’t want to interrupt our quiet time together anyway.

My brain has been quiet for over 24 hours. The dreams and nightmares I had last night just quietly passed by, without the anxious reaction that they normally cause.

I didn’t realize how loud my brain has been since I went to my dad’s house, nearly a month ago. First there was worry about caring for him, and then there was the trauma of his death.

I mentioned to Wonder Woman earlier that I felt more connected to her than I have in awhile. Not because anything was wrong with us, or because we’ve done anything differently, but because trauma takes up so much emotional space that it’s hard to find room to truly connect.

I would notice how loud it was and how much space it was taking up when it was distressing. The times when my Facebook posts were quick and terse and scary. The times when I wasn’t sure I’d make it through this. At those times the noise is apparent.

But during the times when it’s just there, when I feel like it’s quieted down and is just gently simmering in the background, I didn’t realize how much space it was still taking up.

I suspect that some day I’ll look back on this vacation and see that it’s still taking up a lot of space.

But right now it seems quiet. It’s quiet enough that I can lay still and awake on the sofa with my eyes closed. I don’t feel the need to fill every moment with, something, until I pass out full of medications at night.

But there’s still a quiet thought in the background. Something completely unrelated to my current trauma, but a reminder that past traumas are always with me.

I walked into a game and toy store that sells wooden toys and puzzles and games. It’s a store that we came to last time we were here and I was so glad to see that they were still open, they had just moved one street over. I was talking to the owner, a woman who talks about so many different things because she’s just happy to have company for a few minutes. I told her, “My son is nearly 21 now, but this is exactly the kind of place I would have brought him to when he was a kid.”

Back when Parker was alive.

I wish we could have come to a town like this. I wish we could have experienced the long drive through the mountains to get here. I wish we could have seen the sun set over the rolling hills in the distance. I wish we could have seen how different the colors are, just from the difference in elevation.

I wish.

And I feel guilty for thinking about Parker, and thinking about old times, and thinking about how things were . . . while I’m on this amazing vacation.

But those times make me appreciate what I have now.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re still pretty poor, and it takes family help for us to experience these sorts of things, especially when it’s been a month since I last worked.

But this is a different sort of poor. This is the kind of poor where I can afford to buy something I forgot when I was packing for the trip. The kind of poor where we can stop for something to eat on the road instead of packing a cooler.

I’m sad that Parker died without experiencing this kind of poor with me.

I’m sad that Kidlet grew up without experiencing this kind of poor with me.

My bottle squeaks as I open it and Wonder Woman jumps awake to make sure I’m okay. I feel bad that I woke her up from that peaceful evening nap.

But she’s already fast asleep again.

It’s so quiet here. The music has stopped playing, the dog is finally resting on the carpet, and I can hear the bugs outside. I hear the wind gently blowing through the long grass in the field just beyond the little cottage we’re staying in.

This is a kind of peaceful that I don’t get to experience often.

And my brain is quiet.

I wonder if Wonder Woman jerked awake because she was afraid that she’d left me alone too long.

But the suicidal thoughts are quiet.

We talk of future trips and visits overseas and she says “But you have to stay alive that long.”

We’ve eaten at a restaurant within a local resort and Wonder Woman mentioned that she could see us vacationing in a place like that when we’re old and want everything close by.

“But you have to stay alive that long.”

I feel guilty that she even has to say that. I feel guilty because I know those thoughts tear us both apart. They aren’t just scary for me, they are scary for everyone around me.

But they are quiet right now.

I shiver slightly as the cool night air blows through one of the still open windows. I don’t want to get up and close it because I don’t want to disturb her again.

We’re both experiencing a sort of peace here that we rarely get.

I know there’s always the possibility that the peace will be broken before we leave. I don’t get to decide when trauma will speak up and remind me that it still exists.

But right now I’m going to sit here and enjoy the sound of the bugs, and the feel of the cool breeze coming in the window. And I’m going to listen to Wonder Woman peacefully sleeping.

And I’ll deal with everything else, when it gets here.

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.

Still a Widow

This is a Really Real Widow post.

Widowhood is weird.

Like, it’s no longer really a noticeable thing every day.

Well, I mean it is, because it profoundly changed me, and this version of me only exists because of it. But it’s not something where it is in the forefront of my mind on any sort of a regular basis.

And then some anniversary rolls around. Her birthday, her death day, our wedding anniversary.

And these next two.

The anniversary of the day we celebrated her life, and the anniversary of the day we met.

Each anniversary brings with it different memories. Memories of when she was alive, memories of that whirlwind year after she died.

It’s so strange sometimes, the way I end up with a foot in each world. One world where I wonder what would have been if she was still alive. One world where I’m so happy to be. A world surrounded by chaos and a world where there is stability.

Somewhere in the basement I have a scrapbook with her recollection of the first time we met. It was a book she planned to add to, giving me her side of our story, because I was the one who normally told the stories.

At one point, after she died, that book was always on the coffee table. I read it often, it felt so comforting to have her words to hold onto.

And now, it’s packed away in a box, probably along with my baby book. Things that I can dig out and look through, but not anything to concern myself with on a regular basis.

Sometimes there is guilt in this. Did I really love her if I’ve been able to pack those memories away? Did I really love her if she doesn’t have a predominant space in my home? Did I really love her if I’ve been able to more forward?

I know the answer is that I absolutely love her. Not only in the past tense, but now, still, always and forever.

The Parker sized hole in my heart has smoother edges, and I’ve learned to live around it. Her death forever changed me, I see her influence in things that I do every day.

Often I have some grand point in mind when I start to write these posts. And with this one, there wasn’t really an ending in mind. I just felt the need to put fingers to keys.

She will always be a part of me.

I miss her.

Four Years Ago Today

This is a Really Real Widow Post.

TW: Talk of Suicide including method and post death graphic stuff.

Four years ago today.

Four years.

My new normal started 4 years ago today.

I still replay the movies in my head. I remember waking up earlier than her.

I remember going in to wake her up so that I could bring her something back for breakfast.

I remember the way her skin felt, that eerie cold that didn’t feel quite right. I knew the second I touched her that she was gone.

I remember the rigidness of her limbs.

I just knew.

I remembered hearing the rustling of her pills the night before. I thought she was just taking her night time meds. The bag that held her medications was empty. She took every last one of them.

I remember sending a message to my closest friend and neighbor, asking her to get Draven out of the house while I was on the phone with 911. I didn’t want him waking up to the chaos. I wanted him safe from the new reality.

I remember making phone calls that changed lives forever.

I remember sitting in my desk chair lost, numb, unsure of how to process the way my life was changing.

I remember my mother sitting here, strangely she was up from Florida, strangely she was going to take me to breakfast that morning, strangely she came into the house as the first wave of paramedics did.

I was so thankful she was here.

I remember taking a drive, to Burger King, to get us out of the house as the coroner took Parker’s body out.

I remember ordering food that went uneaten.

I remember being thankful that Draven already had therapy that day, and that I was able to get in for my own appointment.

I remember crying more tears then I ever thought possible. The feeling of my eyes being so raw from wiping them.

I remember.

Four years.

Four years ago today.

It’s that month

This is a Really Real Widow Post.

TW: There’s no direct mention of suicide, but there is mention of the questions surrounding it including questioning her thoughts leading up to it.

It’s that month again. Of course, it’s pride month, and apparently it’s PTSD awareness month, too. Both of those things are close to home for me.

But, Parker’s deathday is also this month. From the night of the 7th into the morning of the 8th there are a whirlwind of memories that hit me like a ton of bricks.

But even as far back as June 1st there are memories and with those memories come questions. So many questions.

What could I have done differently? Were there signs that I didn’t see? How could I have supported her better?

Would she still be alive?

This month is hard for me. So very difficult.

Four years ago I was posting on Facebook that I was overwhelmed, scatterbrained, unable to keep up. Four years ago I remember being so frustrated at how much things had changed because of her surgery. I didn’t know how to keep up around the house without her help.

I remember being so frustrated that she wouldn’t stay off the damn leg, that she kept accidentally standing up on the wrong one.

Four years ago.

Four years ago.

I wish I would have realized it was one of the last times I’d ever see her face.

I wish I would have known it was one of the last times I’d ever get frustrated with her in person.

I wish I would have known that when I get overwhelmed I yell, and that it isn’t necessary. That communication goes so much better when I stay calm.

The stress of our lives had gotten to us, it had broken us down. It was tearing us apart. We weren’t as kind and loving as we had once been. We were pushing at each other, trying to trade blame about where the stress was coming from.

It was around this time that I said to Parker and Kidlet, “We’re going to be okay, we can pay our bills.” I had no idea that paying my bills would be the least of my emotional worries in just a week.

Just a week.

I didn’t realize that in a week I’d have to start learning how to live without her.

I realize now that it wasn’t just her help that was missing, it was her emotional support. She had withdrawn. We had lost sight of the love that kept us going.

Of course, the love was still there, we had just forgotten to lean into it when times were tough.

Just a week.

I wonder, had she already decided ahead of time? Was it a momentary decision? Did she already know the end was near?

This month is so so hard.

I miss her.

I Lived

This is a Really Real Widow post.

With some mental health thrown in, because they are completely entwined.

This time of year is incredibly hard.

Yesterday was the 7 year anniversary of a major accident that Kidlet and Parker were in. The pictures show up every year, reminding me of the horror of that day. Deep open wounds and the two people I loved most in the world strapped to stretchers. The screams I heard coming from my son in the ambulance that day are sounds I will never forget.

Sounds I never want to forget for the same reason I let the pictures show up in memories every year.

We survived that shit. Parker took a motorcycle to the head and Kidlet caught it, and they lived.

The reminders of Parker’s ankle surgery a few years back show up this time every year, too. It’s the beginning of the countdown to the day she died. That surgery and the restrictions after it were the final straw that broke her. Her death date is now less than 2 weeks away.

The last video I took just went through my memories the other day. The last photos will be any day now. The post where I tell everyone she died will be a few days after that.

I could delete them, block them from my Timehop memories. But I don’t.

We survived that shit. Kidlet and I lost one of the most important people in our worlds, and we lived.

I recently saw my first firefly of the year. The first was in Florida and I’ve seen one since coming home as well. It’s another reminder that it’s this time of year. A bittersweet thing as she was my firefly, it’s nice to have that reminder of her, but also, it means that day is coming.

Each year this time passes with a different set of feelings. The first year was a sense of urgency, a sense of needing to get to that one year anniversary so that it can just be over and done with. The lead up is always worse than the actual day.

Each year the pain has lessened. In earlier years I’ve felt the need to do something to remember her. A trip to the beach, normally. I’m not sure that’s so necessary anymore.

This year the reminders are there, but the feelings are different, yet again.

I’ve been trying to figure out what’s different, why does it feel so different.

And then it came to me. It feels less traumatizing this year. That’s the difference.

In the past it was a punch to the gut with each picture or facebook post, or even a just a general look at the calendar to see the date. This year it just is. It’s a calm, gentle reminder that it is part of my story. Part of my life.

Part of what got me to this point.

I’m super down on myself right now because I feel like I’ve undone years worth of work. Years of work that were so important as I tried to live in ways that Parker couldn’t anymore. I had to get better, I had to save myself, or losing her was in vain.

But this is part of my story as well. And that’s okay.

This is okay.

I’ll survive this shit. Life has thrown me curve ball after curve ball, and I lived.

I lived.

See you in my dreams

This is a Really Real Widow Post.

Parker was in my dreams last night.

I was in some class, where we were all sitting on a giant bed together instead of desks, and the teacher had McFlurry’s delivered for everyone.

Don’t ask me, fucking weird ass dreams.

But then after class I went to the office and Parker was just standing there.  She saw me and got one of her big smiles (the ones that make her eyes squint).  We talked for awhile. Mundane conversation that I can’t remember the details of. I knew she was a ghost and at one point I asked her “Why are you staying here instead of being with me?” And she asked “Who says I’m not with you?”

I’ve been thinking about her more lately, which is why I had a dream about her, I’m sure.

I’ve been remembering little things that I haven’t thought of in years.

She didn’t like mint toothpaste, so I would search for other flavors and buy 3 or 4 tubes at a time. We were so happy when Crest came out with an orange flavored, but eventually they discontinued it.

I’ve used mint toothpaste since she died, just switched without realizing it, but I might go look for another flavor next time.

I’ve also remembered the specific way she liked her boxers and bras folded. She didn’t care how I folded anything else, but those two had a specific way of being folded.  I used to laugh, they’re fucking underwear, who cares, as mine would be half balled up and thrown into the drawer.

But since she died I fold my underwear just like that. Something I didn’t even realize I was doing until just recently.

There was more to the dream. Friends I haven’t seen in forever, friends I’m growing distant from.

At some point it changed completely and Wonder Woman was there. I wish I could remember more about that part.

Being a widow is strange sometimes. Remembering the little things that catch me off guard.  How did I forget that. How did it slip from my memory when it was such a big deal for all those years.

It makes me wonder what else I’ve forgotten.

What else is missing.

Besides her of course.

I’m happy that I’m living this particular life, but sometimes it really hurts that she’s not here too.

But then I remember this version of life only exists because she’s gone.

That doesn’t make it hurt any less.

So, I’ll just be happy for that rare moment that she pops up in my dreams. That moment when I get to see the smile that goes to her eyes. That moment when I get to see her face light up one more time.

I miss her.

Still a Widow

This is a Really Real Widow Post.

I wonder how she’d be handling this?

We didn’t leave the house for weeks at a time when we were at our worst, but I still wonder how Parker would have reacted to a pandemic and social distancing?

How would she have reacted when we lived in florida and we were close to her friends? Would that have made a difference? We were pretty isolated up here anyway, we didn’t really spend time with anyone.

How would she have calmed my fears? What jokes would she have made? Would she have broken down?

She was always the stronger one from the outside looking in.

What foods would she want, knowing we needed to shop as little as possible? Which comfort meals would she want me to cook?

What kind of order would she need around the house?

We were used to being in the same space all of the time. That was our normal. Neither of us could work most of the time, neither of us had lives outside of our home. We were inseparable to a fault. That would have come in handy right now.

I also wonder how horrible this would have been if we lived in the homeless shelter while this was happening?

What precautions are they putting in place?

How scary is it there right now, knowing that this could infect the entire shelter in a matter of days? So many vulnerable people in such a small space.

I’m so thankful my life is where it’s at right now. I’m glad I live in my own space. I’m glad I can buy groceries. I’m glad I don’t have to worry about keeping the lights on.

I’m thankful she’s missing this particular part of life. I’m glad she doesn’t have to struggle through this. She doesn’t have to be afraid that her mom will get sick, or her aunts. She doesn’t have to worry about losing a friend or loved one.

Widowhood is in every facet of my life. It’s always there, quietly whispering. It’s here too. It’s in the middle of a worldwide crisis. It’s in the middle of social distancing. It’s in the middle of a pandemic.

It’s always with me, and it makes me wonder.

How Far I’ve Really Come

This starts as a Really Real Mental Health Post.

And ends as a Really Real Widow Post.

I can’t really believe how far I’ve come.

Each day that I work, I can’t believe I’m really doing this. I can’t believe I actually earned this money. I can’t believe how much earning this money really means. I can’t explain how good it feels.

Each problem I solve, each new task I conquer, and each fear I overcome, I’m amazed that this is who I am now. That this is what I am accomplishing.

I remember when I realized I couldn’t work anymore.  I remember the shit storm that lead up to that moment. I remember the heartbreak that came along with applying for disability.

I remember.

At the worst of this, I couldn’t leave my house. I couldn’t be left alone.

I remember.

And the truth is, I will probably end up back in the hospital some day. I will probably do another round or three of the partial hospital program. I will have countless more hours of therapy.

But I’ve come so so far.

So far.

I can see myself going further. I can see myself working full time. I can see myself becoming more comfortable in my own skin. I can see myself getting better at ignoring the constant anxiety running through my head.

It’s a big deal that I can see a future with further recovery.

It’s a big deal that I’m seeing a future without disability.

Without being disabled.

And there’s another side to this.

I remember watching Parker push through her own struggles to go to work and support the three of us while she was barely making it emotionally and physically.

I remember.

I love my life and I know everything that has happened has brought me to where I am now.

But still, I wonder.

If I could have worked before. If I could have shared some of the load. If I could have helped more. If I could have taken some of the weight off of her shoulders.

Would she still be alive?

If we had the money to pay the bills. If we had the money to keep the lights on. If we had the money to avoid the eviction notices. If we had the money to keep food in the fridge.

Would she still be alive?

I’ve come so far, and I’m doing so well. And I know her death is a big part of what pushed me towards my recovery. I know that I wouldn’t be where I am if things hadn’t happened exactly as they have.

Every success, every bit of growth, with every push towards recovery, is served with a small side dish of sadness.

But I can’t really believe how far I’ve come.

And I can’t wait to see how far I go.

In My Dreams

This is a Really Real Widow Post.

I don’t dream about her that often anymore. To be honest, I never did have all that many dreams about her.

This one was about missing her. This one was about how long it’s been since I’ve talked to her. This one was about how impossible it is to get to her.

The details don’t really matter all that much, I guess. But I remember the moment in the dream where I realized “It’s been too long since I’ve sent her a message. It’s been too long since I’ve called her.”

It’s been too long.

I was afraid she’d be hurt by my distance. I was afraid she’d move on. I was afraid she’d forget me.

I’m afraid I’ll forget her.

I remember, in my dream, wanting to send her something in a video game we played.

In a video game where I left her a hidden message the night she died. A message that’s still there waiting for her to find it.

In a video game that played a part in her Eulogy.

I remember wanting to send her something.

Something that should have been instant. But instead the game said it would take days.

It would take days because it was hard to get to where she was.

It was hard to reach her.

I woke up and my chest hurt. I truly physically hurt. It was dark in the room and I could just barely make out Wonder Woman sleeping peacefully beside me. I wanted so badly to wake her, to ask her to hold me, to ask her to comfort me.

It’s still a very strange feeling to want my fiancee to comfort me over the memory of my dead wife.

I didn’t wake her then.

I laid there and contemplated getting up and starting my day. I was still thinking about it when I woke up a few hours later.

It was really hard to get moving this morning.

I told Wonder Woman about my dream. She held me for a moment before settling back in for more sleep.

It’s hours and hours later and I still feel that ache in my chest. The ache that was such a big part of the early days of widowhood. The ache that isn’t as constant and is never as intense. The ache that still catches me off guard sometimes.

It’s been too long since I’ve sent her a message.

It’s been too long since I’ve called her.

It’s been too long.

I miss her.