Wayback machine.

This is a Really Real Trauma Post.

Lots of things have been taking me back lately.

A friend who recently lost her husband. Someone else who is facing homelessness and looking at their options. Spotify giving me a list of music from the last 10 years. Even raising a kitten takes me back to a time in my life before.

My life is split into before and after in so many ways.  Not only did Parker die on that day in 2016, but the person I was died at the same time. It seems like my life has done a radical 180 since she died.  No more traumas, no major crisis (except the internal, mental health kind), no more catastrophes.

It seems unfair that she missed this. But I’m not sure this would have happened if she hadn’t died. And it’s not like I can change any of it anyway.

But things have been taking me back.

I’ve been reliving the emotions, with some distance put between me and the pain. I can view yesterdays tragedies with today’s knowledge. At times I feel like I’m stuck in my history again, except I know I’ll make it out alive.

I smell smoke and feel like I’m running out of a house on fire.

A sleeping pet or person doesn’t react to a sound and I feel like I’m going to face death again.

I pay a bill late and remember the stress of shut off notices month after month, struggling to stay one step ahead of a dark house.

Earlier this month I went to a Christmas Party thrown by Healthcare for the Homeless. It was held in the same building as the homeless shelter. Lots of the residents attended. It was the same shelter I spent months in, however they’re in a new building now (which made it a bit easier).

I remember being there. I remember being that person.

So many things that are reminding me of where I’ve been.

What I’ve survived.

What I’ve overcome.

But feeling that fear again, deep into my bones, is one of the harder things about trauma. I never get to fully escape it I never get to lock it up and put it away.

It’s as much a part of me as widowhood is.

Christmas Eve

This is a Really Real Widow Post.

It’s now Christmas Eve.

Being a few years out from the year of firsts makes things easier, but they still aren’t easy.

I’m living a life I was never meant to have. I’m celebrating holidays I was never meant to celebrate without her. I’m making new traditions that don’t include her.

But her memory is still here, in everything I do.

Holidays, special events, things that are out of the ordinary, will bring her memory into full focus.

I miss her.

When I wake up in the morning, I’ll make a turkey, something I did almost every year, no matter how broke we were. I’ll make the sweet potato souffle that I learned from her mom, one of her favorite things to have each year . . and it became one of my favorites too.

This time of year is hard for me anyway, and then adding the layer of grief, just makes it a little harder.

Grief does that.

What would she have wanted for Christmas this year? Would I have had the money to get it for her?

I can’t remember what I got her the last year she was alive.

I can’t remember what we did for Christmas that year.

So many little memories that just keep fading.

The fear doesn’t fade though.

I made a noise in the bedroom this morning and Wonder Woman didn’t stir. It scared me. I stood perfectly still and made sure I could still see the rise and fall of her chest.

I’m living a life I never thought I would live.

I’m afraid of going through that again.

I’m happy with this life. Even with the widowhood that’s woven through the fabric of everything I do, I’m happy with the life I’m living.

But I miss her.

And I wonder.

What if?

Who would she be?

Who would I be?

I don’t have some grand point to this post, no final point that I was leading up to.

I just miss her.

Another holiday in my new normal.  No matter how great this new normal is, there will always be that Parker shaped hole that nothing will ever fill.

But, I’ll keep living life around it.

I still get mad.

This is a Really Real Mental Health post.

I still get really, fucking, angry sometimes.

The rage building up over the stupidest things.

The fucking Tupperware cabinet.

That, fucking, Tupperware cabinet.

Some back story here.  Back when Parker was alive I physically couldn’t get down on the ground (or I wouldn’t get back up) and therefore it was almost impossible for me to organize the Tupperware cabinet.  I asked Kidlet and Parker to keep up with it. They didn’t.

I did the dishes a lot of the time (from what my memory recalls at least) and I’d go to put Tupperware away and it would all fall out at me, and I’d throw a temper tantrum.

I’m sure most of you have a cabinet like that. At least I hope it’s not just me.

Parker and I used to play video games and use voice chat to talk to our friends, and one day she was on the group chat, and I was putting away dishes, and that fucking cabinet attacked me.

And I went off.

Throwing things, screaming, yelling, cussing, generally acting ridiculous.

And our friends heard most of it.

Whoops.

For at least 3 years after that they would send me every damn Tupperware meme they could find.  They were even making their own memes to send me.  They would yell “fucking Tupperware” whenever they died in game.  It was the biggest (most embarrassing) joke we had in that guild, for a really long time. I still have one friend from that group who sends me a meme once a year or so.

Fast forward to today.

I can get on the floor to organize the Tupperware cabinet, but I be damned if I feel like doing it.

So today the Tupperware attacked me.

A few things had happened before it (can’t remember what) and I was just grumpy.

But grumpy turned to Really Really Pissed.

I may have cussed a little.  I may have repeatedly thrown lids and containers back into that cabinet with something falling back out at me a few times.  I may have slammed the door shut.

But it lasted all of 30 seconds.

I’m sad that I reacted that way, but I’m glad it’s not the norm anymore, and I’m glad it doesn’t last like it used to.

I’m glad I don’t treat people like that anymore.

I’ll apologize to Wonder Woman when she gets home, not because I directed anything at her, but because it wasn’t right for me to put that sort of anger and tension in a space we share.

Anger is fine, frustration is fine, but throwing and slamming shit isn’t fine.

I’m a lot better than I used to be. I have a lot of skills that I didn’t have then and generally, less frustration in my life overall.

I think I’m going to go organize that cabinet now.

Grief gets easier.

This is a Really Real Widow post.

One benefit to writing these and posting them on Facebook is that as the memories come up I can see how far I’ve come.  I can remember the past and see where I am compared to then.  I can see what lessons I didn’t learn in the moment.

I remember, when Parker first died, people told me it would get easier.  I couldn’t believe them. They told me I’d stop noticing the anniversaries and that eventually I’d even forget what day she died.

I couldn’t believe them.

I wasn’t ready.

It felt too raw.

It’s three and a half years later.  I no longer notice each 8th of the month, even though I haven’t forgotten what day she died.  I just had to count back to see how long it’s been, I’m no longer counting the months as they go by.

My birthday was a huge grief trigger, even last year.  I am getting older and she is not. I’m older then her and that wasn’t supposed to happen.

This year, I remembered Parker on my birthday (I remember her almost every day). I noted that I was, yet again, adding another year over her.  I had those pangs of grief.

But they were just there.  I was just the grief that’s woven into the fabric of me.

The pain didn’t define the day.

I didn’t spend part of the day in bed crying.

It is fully integrated into this new normal.

I just couldn’t believe it when people told me this early on.  I didn’t believe it would get easier.  She was so big in her life, and I expected that it would stay that way in her death.

But, most of the time, I’m comfortably widowed.  It is a part of who I am but it no longer defines my existence.

I have a friend who was very recently widowed. I would never begin to tell her what path her grief will take. Every journey is different. I will sit with her in her agony, as it is now.

I still remember those early days.

Through Facebook memories I still read about those early days.

I see my pain coming through my words.

The despair. The hope. The need to maintain connection. The realization that life as I knew it would be entirely different without her.

It does get easier.

I just read something that said grief doesn’t get smaller, we get bigger.

The Parker shaped hole in my heart is much easier to live around.  The edges have smoothed and I don’t trip over them so often. My heart is much larger, giving me room to avoid that hole.

Birthdays can be about me.

Birthdays can be about life.

Birthdays can be about the present.

About the moment I am living in.

The life I am living.

Grief gets easier.

But I will always miss her.

It’s been too long.

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

It’s been about two weeks since I’ve put fingers to keys.

Tonight I told myself I would write but it took a lot of pushing myself to follow through. As soon as I put in my headphones and started my writing music, I realized how much I missed it.

I’m still fighting this never-ending, low-key depression. I feel better, but I also have to constantly remind myself to do things like, plan dinner, feed the animals, take a shower.

I’m just kind of existing, but at least I’ve been leaving the house again, which feels nice.

It was scary being stuck in the house. I don’t want to go back to that time in my life.

Athena (the new kitten) has helped a lot. She keeps me on my toes whenever we let her roam free. “Nope, don’t do that . . . wait, get back over here . . . don’t climb the wires . . . where did you go, now?”

It’s loads of fun!

But, she’s so sweet and cuddly and falls asleep on my chest when I hold her and pet her at night.

It’s nice that Wonder Woman and I are raising a pet together, instead of just having the ones we came into the relationship with.

Athena is ours.

I finished my holiday cards and they got mailed out today.  Over 50 handmade cards.  It kept me going through my depression and now I’m looking for the next activity to immerse myself in. I’m sure I’ll have another project dreamed up sometime soon.

Crafting is a lifeline during the dark times. It works as a distraction that I can one-mindfully involve myself in. It feels more productive than my time spent playing video games, although I do that, too.

I still don’t have a whole lot to write about.

Things just . . . are, and that’s the hardest time for me to write.

It’s easy to write about the extremes.

But it’s been too long.

I’m glad I put fingers to keys again.

 

It really is this good.

This is a Really Real Relationship post.

I’m all about radical vulnerability. Being wide open, and raw, and honest.

And I realized that while I’m showing all of the sides of mental illness and widowhood, it feels like I’m offering a Facebook version of my relationship.

And that’s not who I am.

It’s not what I’ve ever meant to do.

And honestly, I want people to know that things CAN be good, even with shitty mental health and a shitty traumatic past, and even with a relationship that’s just, almost, perfect.  I deserve good things, and things don’t have to be perfect to be good.

Wonder Woman and I have a really great relationship.

Over two years in and we haven’t had a single fight. We haven’t raised our voices at each other or said harsh words to each other even once. We apologize almost immediately if anything has even seemed passive aggressive. We even apologize if we’re grumpy or in a bad mood.

We really are sickeningly sweet.

But.

We have hard talks about hard things. We have some areas of our lives and our relationship that are really hard to work through. We are polar opposites in a few areas.

We are gentle with each other about those areas. We are respectful. We are understanding.

And, we get help with navigating those areas from a couples therapist, because the view from the outside is much clearer than the view from within.

It helps, and we always come out of our sessions with ideas about how to move forward, together.

I think there’s this view that couples therapy is for couples that are falling apart.

That it’s a last resort.

It was one of the first things we went for when we realized we were hitting road blocks in some areas of communication.

Don’t get me wrong. We have GREAT communication. But some areas are just HARD when we are so different. Different histories, different traumas, different preferences.

Different ways of communicating.

So I’m writing this post for two reasons.  One, is because I realized I was offering this “facebook reality” of my relationship, and I just don’t like that. And two, is to help with normalizing couples therapy, because really, what’s wrong with getting an unbiased outside perspective?

Vacation

This is a Really Real Widow Post.

But also a bit of Mental Health thrown in there.

We never took vacations.

It’s one of my big regrets from Parker and I, but also from Kidlet’s childhood.

There was the year we traveled from Maryland to Florida to see our families.  That was our only family vacation in the 8 years we were together.

I think once we came from Florida, to Maryland, tagging along with my mom.  I guess that was a vacation. During that trip we managed to go over to DC for part of a day. Parker had never been to D.C. and she absolutely loved it.

A few years later when we were living in the homeless shelter up here, we met her family in D.C. for the day while they were on their vacation.

But vacations weren’t really on our radar.

Keeping the lights on, paying off the rent before the eviction notice expired, stretching the food stamps by making it to the food pantries on time. Making it to countless doctors appointments.

Those were the things we worried about.

But not vacations.

Wonder Woman and I leave for vacation tonight. I can’t count the number of overnight trips and vacations we’ve had in the 2 years we’ve been together. This is a belated anniversary trip, something we wanted to do, but couldn’t quite afford to do in September, so we were able to put aside some money and make it happen a bit late.

We’re going to a cabin in the mountains. The mountains are Wonder Woman’s place, she loves the cold. Mine is the beach and the warmth.

We’ve done lots of beach trips, it’s time to hit the mountains. I guess I can bundle up for a few days.

We have a fireplace in our cabin, and there are fire pits in the resort.

I guess I can handle that.

I still have great memories of going to the beach over Christmas on our first vacation. Hanging out in front of the fire together.

I look forward to repeating that.

I still feel weird taking vacations. I still have to remind myself that I deserve nice things. That I deserve happiness. That I deserve to travel and have these experiences.

That I deserve stability.

I’m so used to struggle that it’s hard to settle into stability.

It’s hard to feel comfortable with packing for a trip. It’s hard to avoid overthinking it.

It’s hard to find the balance between “bring absolutely everything you might need” and “if you forget something you can just buy it.”

It’s hard to find the balance between over planning/letting anxiety win and waiting for the last minute/letting anxiety win.

It’s hard to find the balance between being thankful for what I have now, and grieving what I didn’t have then.

We never took vacations.

I deserve this life.