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.

Six Months

This is a Really Real Mental Health post.

So, I’ve been really torn about writing this. It seems silly to celebrate something that most people just, do. But it also feels like a really big deal, to me.

As of this week I’ve been working for 6 months.

I’m fighting the urge to minimize. Fighting the urge to say “I did it, but . . . “

But, the truth is, this wasn’t possible for a long long while. This wasn’t within the realm of my abilities. I could barely make it to doctors appointments, and then I could barely keep up with school work, and then I could barely keep up with volunteering. I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to work again.

And now, I struggle, I take mental health days, I’m not always at my best, but I’m holding down a job.

I’m working like a real adult.

And still, in the back of my mind there is the not-so-quiet voice telling me, I’m only kind of doing it. I work from home, I work for family, it’s just part time.

It’s not a real job.

I haven’t done anything special.

But also, I have.

Working is scary. Working is hard. Working leaves room for failure and mistakes.

Sometimes, working sucks.

And yet, I am.

I’m doing the thing.

It’s taken me a long while to get here, but I’m doing the thing.

Haircut

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

I’ve needed to get my hair done since this all started, months ago. My normally shaved sides were 3 inches long. My bright and vibrant unicorn hair was faded to a muddy pastel.

I couldn’t believe how much it was destroying my self image. Not only had I put on a significant amount of weight, but now my hair, something that was normally raved about, was unkempt and gross. I stopped working to bring out the curl. My hair lived in days old ponytails, the long sides tickling the inside of my ears.

But I had made and cancelled a hair appointment before. I had set up plans with family for an outdoor hair cut and that got cancelled too.

There was so much anxiety holding me back. Anxiety coming from every direction. I’m anxious about catching/spreading COVID. I’m afraid to leave my house.

But it also masks an underlying situation. My agoraphobia is rearing its ugly head again. My anxiety is becoming more than I can easily live with. I’m out of practice with pushing through it, so that mental muscle has atrophied.

My world has closed in upon itself. Even taking the dog out is scary and uncomfortable. Leaving my front porch seems like I’m walking through quicksand. The world is large and scary and feels dangerous.

And this is where COVID comes back in. The world is dangerous right now. So telling my brain that it’s safe, feels like a lie. But not feeling safe is what makes the agoraphobia worse.

Every anxiety imaginable comes to the forefront when I need to leave.

I’ve been here before.

Multiple times.

But I know the only way out is through. Pushing myself to go when the last thing I want to do is open that door.

So I pushed, and my bright pink and purple undercut is back. My smile is just that little bit bigger. My face feels a little less round. I feel like myself a little bit more. And this morning it was a little bit easier to push myself out the front door for a frivolous trip to Starbucks.

There needs to be more (socially distant) frivolous trips in my future. I need to work that muscle again.

I’m tired of being scared.

Where’s My Roller Coaster?

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

It’s been 2 weeks since I’ve written. Now granted, time is going super fast, so it feels like less than that, but it really has been 2 weeks. I wrote daily for a long time, I wrote at least twice a week for a long time. Now I’m lucky if I write every couple of weeks.

Part of it is Covid. Nothing exciting is happening in my life. It’s the same shit, different day, different week, different month.

But a bigger part of it is that I’m just stuck in this low grade, constant, depression.

I miss my roller coaster. The monotony of day to day life with mental illness was broken up by constantly changing levels of mania and depression.

Good news: we stopped the rapid cycling.
Bad news: we stopped the rapid cycling.

Mental health was an obstacle course before. Making it through this episode just long enough for the next one to kick in. It was exhausting, but it was interesting.

Now my mental health is a long marathon. Just keep functioning at some constant level, reserving energy for the long haul.

The benefit to the obstacle course was that the adrenaline, kept me going, The hypomania and the influx of serotonin that it brought, kept me going.

That said, I read the posts I made in years past and I know that it wasn’t all that comfortable riding the roller coaster either. The suicidal thoughts were worse (and more dangerous) during mixed episodes. The hypomania brought along poor decision making. The lows were so dark, so so dark.

But, this version of stability is its own type of difficult.

I mean, I should be thankful that I’m stable. The suicidal thoughts are fleeting. I’ve held a job for close to 6 months. I’m not constantly in crisis.

But I’m also depressed enough that I’m often doing the bare minimum. Just enough to get me through to the next day. I can’t seem to find the will or the energy to do more.

I have enough work available to easily pull 20-30 hours a week. Yet, some weeks I’m lucky if I do half that.

And it isn’t that I don’t want to. I sit here stuck. I want to work, I know what I want to work on, but I just can’t find the energy to actually do it.

And it’s not just work, so it’s not just that I’m avoiding that.

I have a list of cards to make for friends. The list was made in April and May. It’s July. I’m still only part way through this list.

Side note for those that requested cards, they will make it to you eventually, I promise.

I sit here, aimlessly scrolling facebook. I want to craft, I want to game, I want to do SOMETHING, but I can’t find the will or the energy to start.

This is hard. A different kind of hard than constant crisis.

I miss my roller coaster.

Just hold on

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

TW: Talk of suicide, including plan. Talk of weight/weight loss/weight gain.

There’s so much in my brain and I don’t know where to start. This ended up being super super long, but I need to get it out. Words of encouragement and understanding would be greatly appreciated.

Last night was really, really hard.

It started with boredom. None of my usual activities were grabbing my attention. I tried pushing through and making myself start something anyway. Just start, just design one card, just complete one quest, just plan one dish.

Just start something.

But I wasn’t able to. So slowly I felt myself drifting towards bed. Once there I couldn’t even bring myself to turn on the TV.

Laying there my mind was wandering. Is this the medication change, it’s supposed to make me less flat and sometimes it just doesn’t seem to be doing that. It’s supposed to help me eat less, and I thought I was, but yesterday morning I had gotten on the scale, and I gained another 10 lbs.

Inching ever closer to my heaviest weight. A weight I swore I’d never reach again. I worked so so hard to lose so much. Even at 300 lbs I was proud of my body and what it could do. I felt accomplished at the gym. I was far more at peace with my body, even though I still had a lot to lose.

I spent months working towards bariatric surgery, for the 3rd time, and right as I cleared the last hurdle, they thought that emotionally it could be very dangerous for me to move forward. I walked away from the program on the day I was supposed to set a surgery date. I still don’t know if it was the right decision.

That was when this latest weight gain started. I had already stalled with losing, due to the medication increase, but then I started gaining. We increased the medication more, and I gained more. First I noticed 10 lbs, then a couple of months later there was another 10. Then in the first couple of months of quarantine it just kept going up and up and up.

And as much as the numbers suck, even worse is that I’ve lost my ability to walk as far as I used to. My pain is worse. I get out of breath just getting adjusted in bed. Walking up to my second floor apartment feels like running a marathon.

I don’t feel proud of what my body can do anymore. I spent almost 2 years celebrating accomplishment after accomplishment, and now I’m back to living in my desk chair barely able to hold myself up.

And last night it crashed down on me. Weight is such a huge trigger for my suicidal thoughts.

It started with a quiet whisper. “You failed again.”

Then a little louder. “You’re right back where you were, fat and useless, and no matter how hard you work, you’ll always end up back here.”

With a little more force, “You’ll never overcome this, it’s not worth trying anymore, it’s not worth living.”

In the back of my mind I started telling myself. Get up, get dressed, go for a walk. You don’t have to give in to this.

“See, you can’t even do that, can’t even bring yourself to work on this. You’re such a fat failure and you’re just taking up space. The world would be better off without you in it”

Then the quiet voice again. Please, just get up, put on shoes, and walk. You don’t even have to change out of your pajamas, just get out of bed and walk.

There was a back and forth battle between the voice that wanted me to die, and the quiet voice trying to stand up and help me live.

I came out to the living room and checked some pill bottles. I don’t have enough of this, this, or that . . of course we keep most of it locked up, but maybe, maybe if I take all three different ones.

I started hoping that Wonder Woman would go in the other room. Go into the bathroom, so that I had enough time to take what I had. I know she’d notice if I took the pills into my room, and she’d definitely notice if I took them right there. I just needed to take them and go to sleep. Hopefully I wouldn’t wake up.

It was a calm sort of suicidality . I wasn’t afraid, I wasn’t rushed, I was just waiting for the right moment.

Just waiting in bed and listening for the moment when she got up from the sofa.

Quietly waiting.

Instead I sent her a text. A that small voice fighting to live. “I’m calmly but intensely suicidal tonight.”

She asked how she could help. I didn’t have an answer.

Eventually, I heard her get up. I was waiting to hear the bathroom door. It would finally be my chance. But instead she turned off the lights and came to bed. We talked.

I told her my plan.

She locked up more meds, and I felt like a child in need of a babysitter.

And then I felt defeated. I felt, and still feel, like there’s no way out of this mess I’m in. This mess that is me.

We went to the store this morning. She reminded me that I had to stay alive to cook the food we were buying. I felt the voice slowly fading away. Slowly backing off.

I’m worried that these thoughts are because we’re lowing the medication. But staying on such a high dose is just going to exacerbate my weight problems. It’s nearly impossible to lose weight when the intense craving for food feels like a drug addiction. I can not adequately explain the drive to eat that has been occurring the last 6 months or more.

And you can’t just quit food cold turkey.

I don’t have any answers. I don’t have any uplifting ending to this post. I don’t have any feel good words.

I just have me, feeling like I don’t want to continue to fight.

I just have me sitting here, getting my words out on the screen so that they don’t eat me alive.

Asshole Brain

TW: Suicidal Thoughts

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

My brain is an asshole sometimes.

Last night was one of those times.

Stuck in bed at 9pm, unable to fight my way out without help. Brain beating me up for everything I might have done wrong in the past months. Brain beating me up for my weight, my lack of motivation. Beating me up for existing.

Not wanting to exist any longer.

The suicidal thoughts were fleeting, but they were there, quietly humming in the background under a very loud chorus of self loathing.

I hate my body. I hate my brain. Sometimes it feels like I hate life.

Even though life isn’t all that bad, really. I mean, the world is going up in flames, but my own little bubble isn’t all that horrible, considering what my past has looked like.

Isolation is getting to me.

We were supposed to get out of the house today, taking a break from these four walls to visit someplace that wasn’t a necessity. Getting some fresh air. I was hoping for it, looking forward to it. And instead it’s going to storm.

I guess we’re staying home again.

These four walls are exhausting.

It doesn’t help that I’m hurting. Whatever is going on in my chest is this constant dull roar seeping it’s way into all areas of my life. While the hospital ruled out the most dangerous things, I’m still worried.

I’m still scared.

I’m still anxious.

I’m still feeling lethargic, unable to do much of anything before I’m exhausted.

Which makes me climb in bed.

Which allows asshole brain to speak up again.

Hello my old friend.

It’s almost, in a strange way, comforting to hear the quiet hum. Comforting in the worst sort of way.

It’s what I know. It’s what I’m used to. The constant roar of my trains of thought, underlined by the hum of wanting to die.

It’s also scary.

My doctor called in a med that, in high enough doses, could kill me. It took everything in me to speak up and tell Wonder Woman that she needed to take the pills when I pick them up, handing it out small numbers at a time, so that I don’t have access to it.

Another pill bottle in the safe.

I wanted to hold onto this one. Comfort myself with the knowledge that a way out was right there.

But that just makes the hum louder. It makes it more real.

It’s dangerous.

I have to be protected from my own asshole brain.

I have to be protected.

I have to be.

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.

Blah

This is a Really Real Mental Health post.

TW: Mention of weight being a problem for me, but no mention of dieting.

First of all, I realize I’ve slowed way down on my writing. I’m writing some short stuff for the Facebook page/group I’m a part of, but mostly, my writing has just stopped. (Link to page and group in the comments.)

Second, everything I have written, for awhile now, seems to deal with either my weight, or work, and how hard both of those things are for me right now.

And I really did plan to make this post different, maybe come up with some more interesting topic, or something new. Except my weight, and work are the two things that are most difficult in my life. Everything else is just . . . there . . . it doesn’t really bother me.

I mean, the dishes keep piling up in the sink, and I can’t find the will to cook. Showering, and even brushing my teeth are chores that are difficult to force myself through. I’m sleeping for 12-ish hours a night.

If it sounds like depression and looks like depression it must be nothing. This is fine, everything is fine.

Cartoon of dog surrounded by fire. Second panel has them saying “This is fine.”

Well, I guess the other things are bothering me, they just don’t feel as pressing, or has as much of a sense of urgency about them. They are just part of my current normal.

I feel like I have no will power to just muscle through this stuff. Weight and work included. I haven’t been able to make the changes I need to make. I haven’t been able to stick to a schedule. I haven’t been able to just “do the things.”

But also, I know this will pass. I will get back into a routine. I will slowly change these new, unhealthy, habits, back into the healthier habits I had before. I will go back to thriving with a routine, and find satisfaction in a job well done. Dishes and menu planning and straightening up around the house will go back to being just things that I do.

My current meds, probably the higher dose of Abilify, are muting my emotions. In an effort to keep me from rapid cycling and ending up in a mixed mood episode, we’ve made life kind of flat for me. Yeah, I don’t get hypomanic, and the suicidal thoughts are mostly controlled, but the world is kind of grey and 2 dimensional. I don’t feel difficult things as strongly, but I’m also missing out on the bright colors of emotions I’m used to seeing.

This is fueling my depression, I’m sure. When the world seems flat and made up mostly of various shades of grey, it’s harder to see the positives and feel hopeful. It’s hard to be excited about life.

When there’s no sense of accomplishment when I complete a task, it’s hard to keep repeating that task over and over again.

But, mental illness is hard. It’s an everyday battle. The constant fight is draining. Even just riding the waves without fighting against them is draining.

This too shall pass. Hopefully some slow med changes will help. Hopefully the warmer months and more sun will help (If I can get myself out of the house.) Hopefully continuing to adjust to this new normal will help.

Hopefully.

If I can hold onto that hope, I’m winning the battle.