Masks

I took a few really great pictures this weekend of me smiling and having a great time.

They weren’t a lie, but they were taken during the moments where I was able to put on the mask that I wore for about half of the weekend. The other half of the weekend I spent hiding in the car, or in the hotel room, too tired to keep my eyes open. Falling asleep across the bed with my shoes still on because depression has set in so fully that, while I know there are reasons to live, I can’t always feel them.

Riding home, Wonder Woman points out an amazing city skyline, Philly I think, and normally my heart would want to explode with the beauty of it, right now, I appreciate that she pulled me out of my own head to tell me, but I can’t FEEL it the way I normally can and that makes me so so sad.

I can wear the mask and smile and fool lots of people but I can’t make myself feel the way my face appears to be feeling.

Apathy is a horrible emotion.

A beautiful sky still looks beautiful and I can appreciate the colors and the beauty that is the sunset. I’m glad I’m alive to see it, but I also would be just as happy if I wouldn’t wake up to see another one.

And that makes me sad. It also terrifies me.

But I put on the mask all weekend because it wasn’t about me. I knew enough to keep myself safe. I had lots of friends supporting me from afar..

One of them saw one of my selfies and was shocked when I told her how I was really feeling. Guess how many rejected selfies it took for me to capture one where the mask was adequately covering my real feelings.

The mask is exhausting for me, and the more I wear it, the harder it becomes to reach out. The harder it becomes to tell people I’m in danger.

I’m starting to understand how those who wear it all the time can’t reach up and find a hand to grab. Maybe it’s time to take the mask off for awhile. Maybe it’s becoming too comfortable. Pretending is exhausting but it’s almost easier than being vulnerable and telling someone just how nice it might be to drift away.

The Pink Girl

Really real mental health post . . . also, will touch on what a day is like in the partial hospitalization program (php) that I’m in, because a few people have asked.

I have distinct periods in my life where I can put my emotions, or the feeling in my head, my mental health, with that period in my life.

The time period right I got disability, 4 years ago, was one of those times, that super low depression that wouldn’t go away. The void that never ended. I wasn’t sad, there was nothing.

And then there was this time last year, leading up to the 1 year anniversary of her death. So much was happening. I was focusing on all I had accomplished. Trying to push myself to keep going and to make it. Trying to pull myself out of the depression that had happened at the 1st of the year. Hypomania bordering on mania was happening . . those are the times that I say I feel crazy because my brain can’t keep up with my thoughts.

But what makes those times worse is that more than anything I want to be understood. The thoughts are going so so quick, and I’m making connections that seem perfectly valid (and may or may not be). And I feel like I can’t make anyone see things the way I see them.

And when I’m trying to explain my needs to people, trying to explain my illness in that moment, that’s even harder. Last year I knew that I needed stability, I knew that sudden movements and sudden changes felt like they hurt my soul.

I felt crazy inside and it came out in a jumbled mess. I needed gentle, and unfortunately, what ended up happening is that for whatever reason, the whole situation profoundly changed my relationship with someone and it has ended up feeling like another loss for me to grieve. I can’t decide if this one is my fault, or if I did the right thing by saying what I needed or if it just doesn’t matter, because, it is what it is anyway.

I’m glad that the new medications are slowing down my thoughts and helping me feel less crazy but php is still hard, hard work. It’s back to back 30-60 minute long groups with a 10-ish minute break between each one, and a 45-60 minute lunch in the middle of the day. There are about 20 of us in the program, split into 2 teams who mostly stick together.

The groups are everything from how did you sleep last night, and rate your pain/depression/mania/anxiety, when we first come in, to “what are your weekend plans” so that we have a plan set up before we leave on fridays, to traditional group therapy, and things like relapse prevention, medication education, illness education, etc. There’s also a bipolar/depression support alliance meeting, dual diagnoses meeting and a ton of other stuff I’m forgetting.

Great place, but I come home exhausted and still have a lot to do around the house and in real life.

Also, I went in yesterday and someone commented “You’re wearing purple, what’s going on?”

Fuck, less than a week and I’m already the pink girl.

Someone find me a new color!!!!

Smile through it…

One of the things that hits me over and over again as my memories come up, is not just how often we had shitty things happen, but how often Kidlet is smiling in the pictures I took of him . . smiling in the face of really shitty stuff.

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That really became apparent after the accident. He wanted pictures of everything, from the wounds to the Xrays, to the various casts, he had a plan at the time (and it needed to be documented for insurance anyway), but it meant lots of opportunities to have the camera out. We have so many pictures of him in various stages of healing, throwing a grin for the camera.

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And the truth was, he was laughing and happy through most of it. There were shitty moments but we found ways to be happy.

I talk about resilience and grit and how I have a sense of humor in the face of all this. I talk about finding the joy and laughing when I want to cry.

Sometimes I wonder which one of us started that, did I learn it from Kidlet, or did he learn it from me?

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I know he went through a lot and I know these smiles weren’t just for the camera. I remember the first time after each major thing where I’d hear his first real belly laugh. Mostly it was with his online group of friends through the computer or the Xbox, and I’d finally release the breath I’d been holding. By the way, these are the same friends he still has, some of them have been commenting on my posts and holding me up now.

But the smiles typically came within moments or hours. Even while he was still laying on the ground after the accident he smiled and cracked jokes. Even in the trauma room he was making jokes through the morphine . . .okay, that was drug induced probably. In the days after, figuring out how to get him into the house and how we were going to make it work, he was joking about how crazy our luck was. And smiling.

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We fell apart, we screamed, we raged, we cried, but we came back together and smiled.

We found the joy in all of it.

Dirty Poetry

Really real widow post. Although I swear, right now, widowhood and mental health and relationship and love and life and all of the every things is just who I am.

One of the things about being a widow is the way my heart is torn between the past and the present. As amazing as it is to remember the love we had, it’s also so so painful to know she’s gone, to know everything to led to it, and sometimes, when I’m hurting as much as I am right now, I seem to feel all of those emotions at once.

And then, add in my feelings for Wonder Woman and my life now, and my belief that I wouldn’t be where I am now without everything that I’ve been through. And feeling all of that at once. It’s overwhelming, and when I’m hypomanic, everything is intensified so my already strong emotions are put through an amplifier.

Today I’m cleaning out a room, making space for Wonder Woman, and I come across a poem Parker wrote. Her handwriting, talking about the good days, the earlier days, of our relationship.

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I don’t remember when she wrote it.

And by the wording, she probably wrote it during one of the harder times of our relationship when we were fighting to find the good again, which we did so so often.

She mentions dirty fridge poetry, and I remember when we bought fridge magnets, and every time Kidlet would go to his dad’s we would put the “dirty words” back out for those 2-3 months, and then when he’d come home we’d put them away. Each time he we be a bit older and could handle stronger and stronger words. I was so excited when we bought those magnets because I’d wanted fridge word magnets forever and couldn’t justify buying them.

Why didn’t we ever buy them again when we moved up here?

Things that I thought were so important to bring back from this latest trip to Florida, now aren’t as big of a deal and have been thrown away, something I painted years ago, that I don’t even remember painting. But at the same time, I wish I still had those stupid fridge magnets.

I forgot how many times we wrote things, how many different people came through the house making sentences.

I’ll end up buying another set, do they have it in unicorn, roller derby, fart jokes or pickles? They all seem more appropriate for my current relationship.

Tension

Really real widow post:

The memory posts are getting closer and closer to the two year mark but I’ve felt it in my chest for weeks. My anxiety is making me nauseas and as much as I know I need to live and thrive and not revert to survival mode it’s taking everything in me just to put one foot in front of the other.

I feel like I’m functioning within this constant whirlwind. I’m making the motions, I’m doing the things but my head is screaming to get out. Run. Every noise is danger. Every sudden movement is something I need to react to. I’m on edge. I want to puke. My brain is so so loud. I’m afraid of messing it all up.

Everything feels like tension and tension is palpable even where it has nothing to do with me. But tension is triggering as fuck for me.

(Trigger warning: Talk about Parker’s actual death here (but not suicide really)…. more than some will be comfortable hearing but not actually graphic, just the kind of shit our society doesn’t talk about)
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Parker and I fought before she died. The kind of verbal fight that had us going to our own corners to chill out. Except, the only “real” conversation after that was a text she sent me saying “I love you, I’m sorry”

Later when I went to bed and she was already sleeping I remembered thinking “she must be okay, she must understand, the tension is gone.” But typically it never mattered if she was sleeping. If we were fighting the tension stayed until we talked it out.

The next morning when I went to wake her I realized she was dead.

Ghost wives are no longer angry and so there wasn’t tension.

Tension is hugely triggering and while it’s always been a problem for me, I hate seeing people around me upset. Now, that tension in the air, that fight or flight response….

Right now I shut down. I’m on edge and I don’t know how to respond. Stores make me feel agoraphobic again, I want to lock myself in the house and not leave.

I am feeling everybody’s everything’s.

What if it’s my fault. What will the outcome be.

When will the next feeling of tension cause the next snowball of events like that time did?

My body is waiting for that need to react.

And meanwhile I’m sitting in a car, typing this, posting it, so I can put on a totally okay face and NSO another derby event because while all of this is happening and I’m trying so so hard not to lean too much on anyone, especially those closest to me because that’s how people die, that’s how I push them away, that’s how I become too much….

I keep putting one foot in front of the other and trying to live and thrive and not just survive because I have seen the alternative.

Tension fucking sucks.

Widowing Ain’t Easy.

(No time to edit, pardon typos please)

5.17.18 part 2

So, I went, drove into the parking lot, left, came back, sat in the car for 15 minutes, and then finally talked myself into actually going in, even though I was late.

My boss was amazing as usual and spent about 30 minutes just chatting with me, and pointed out to me how amazing it was that I kept in touch with her each day I was supposed to work, even while trying to keep myself out of the crisis unit (and at the time she had no idea it was that bad). I took the time I needed to get back on stable ground, and still came back once I was doing better.

That’s the part I wouldn’t have stuck with before. . .I never would have gone back.

And the thing is, when I decided I was ready for something like work earlier this year, I knew that I wanted to go with volunteer instead of paid work, first, because of the chance of something like this happening. And I knew that working in this field, and in the right office would be important because a supportive environment will make the difference for me. A paid job would most likely had to fire me at this point, but this was really good practice at how to handle a situation like this and next time (if there is a next time) I may be able to push through a little better, or come back a little sooner, and at least I know I can go back.

The same thing with school, I’ve been working towards my bachelors degree for 20 years now, and just now crossed the halfway mark. I never went back after I failed out of a semester of classes . . and i never managed to drop the classes if I was getting over my head (controlled crash and burn) . . and I keep going back, figuring out what I can change and trying again. I’m only moving inches at a time, but I keep trying. Eventually I’ll get there.

My boss just kept reminding me that I’ve come so far, and that I’m doing it one inch at a time but still making huge progress. I’m fighting against my brain every moment of every day.

Two years ago I couldn’t leave the apartment alone, and I couldn’t be left home alone for any significant period of time.

Two years ago I couldn’t walk around the block without stopping to catch my breath. I couldn’t walk up to my apartment without using the rails to drag me up.

Almost 2 years ago my world stopped turning, the bottom dropped out,

and I realized I could fly.

I used to post every time I walked a block, every time I went to the gym, every time I went to an appointment alone or got on a city bus. Now those are things I do without thinking twice.

And I know what I need to keep moving towards my goals. I knew what I needed when I took this volunteer job at United Way, and I know what I need to keep doing now. I’m getting there, one step at a time, even when some of those steps feel like they are backwards.

I just have to keep doing it.