6 months; I wish I had known

Tomorrow will be 6 months since I lost my wonderful husband.

I REALLY don’t keep track of this stuff. I was talking to my dad’s wife. My dad died 5 months before Michael. We were talking and figured out it’s going to be a year next month that we lost my dad. I know I’m 5 months behind her, and I counted the months. It’s going to be 6 months, not 5. And for some reason that really upset me.

The more time passes it seems, the sadder I become. The sadness is completely overwhelming, and it’s getting worse. I miss him terribly, and maybe the more time passes, the further away he feels. I don’t know. I just know that the emptiness is too much for me to bear some days.

In talking to my dad’s wife, turns out she went through a really dark time right around the 6 month mark. Another widow my daughter knows went through the same things right around 6 months. What I’m talking about, is a complete and utter breakdown.

Yes, me. The past couple of weeks have been REALLY hard. REALLY hard. Impossible to describe really except to say that there is no relief from the underlying black sadness and despair I feel. I’m getting worse, not better. I can’t look at his photos without losing it. I can barely bring myself to remember him without overwhelming pain. I cry myself to sleep every night. I’ve been recording myself in my sleep to see if I have sleep apnea, and I have discovered that I frequently call out for him and sob in my sleep. I’m forgetful, slow, sad. Stuck.

So last week I reached out to my health care team and told them I was in trouble. I wanted to end my life. I was ready to go. I couldn’t find my purpose. I couldn’t escape my reality. Accepting reality is impossible for me to comprehend. And so, I just wanted to end it. My plan was ready to put into action.

I made my therapist and primary care doctor aware that I was suicidal. I saw each of them in person, and we all agreed that inpatient treatment might not be a bad idea. We also all agree that we all trust me right now, to take myself to the hospital if I’m feeling like I’m in trouble again. We all agree that this is one day at a time.

The past few days have been better. The GK party on Sunday was good for my soul. The setup was fun, and the volunteers always remind me of the good work we do and how blessed I am to have this rescue and these people in my life. We’re rescuing more than 15 dogs this week. We have new foster parents. I got through the worst suicidal feelings I’ve ever had, and I kept my head together enough to seek help. I’m pretty proud of that.

The world was looking a bit brighter and then…I realized it’s 6 months. I don’t know why this upsets me but it does.

In talking to my dad’s wife and learning that she, too, went through this, really helped me and convinced me that I need group support. Not a single person can understand this unless they’ve experienced it. I gain so much comfort and strength talking to other people who have been through it. I am trying to find more bloggers who write on the topic. Today’s neat article find is this one. If I can’t find an in-person group that suits my needs, I may try to create one. Lots of good tidbits in this article, and the one I love the most:

“For months after my husband died, I didn’t want to leave my house. I felt like the whole world was watching me. It’s as if what happened to you is what everyone else is afraid of, so they just stare and pray they won’t become you one day.”

Still waiting on news about my health insurance which is a fricking nightmare and so so stressful. My sister will be arriving next week. And the last stressor I haven’t shared with you guys yet; I decided to take the first contractor that did my floors to small claims court. He just received his summons today, so I’m waiting to see if there’s any backlash. Court is Feb 22 if anyone wants to come and support me!

In other news, this cold is awful for everyone but especially for a newly diagnosed RA patient who hasn’t started receiving the big gun drugs yet, it’s more than awful. I’m just staying inside for the a couple of days. Thursday I need to go rescue some dogs, so I’ll bundle up hard for that.

So, for now…I guess for always…one day at a time. But especially now. I’m making it through, I’m in tune with my state of mind, and I’m not afraid to get help or check myself in if I need to.

I told you in the beginning that this blog was an experiment. I didn’t know what I would write or do with it. I wasn’t sure how open I would be, but I decided if I was going to hide things I shouldn’t blog. I really hope this post doesn’t make me regret that. I don’t think many are actively reading the blog, but if you are – I’m not suicidal so I don’t want or need anyone to be alarmed. I’m just being honest. This shit is hard and I wish I had known from those who walked before me! It’s not okay that people who are going through this feel they have to hide it. We’re better than this. Aren’t we?

I wasn’t going to talk about this because I worried that the gossip train would start rolling, or that my volunteers may lose faith in me, etc. And then I decided I’m going to talk about it. Because people NOT talking about it is the reason that there’s this whole fucking stigma about mental health. It’s NOTHING to be ashamed of. You would treat a broken arm or an internal illness, why wouldn’t you get treatment for psychiatric issues? And why aren’t more widows talking about this? If this makes people lose faith in me, then they don’t know me at all. At all. I have survived and walked through literal hell on this earth. I’m waking up every day and choosing to walk through a fresh new unknown hell. I’ve gone through more than most people can begin to imagine. And I’m still alive. I am actively involved in the rescue, and this week we are saving more than 15 dogs.

Life goes on. Even when we may not want it to. One moment at a time. ❤

Peace,

~ Lisa

Hungover

Subtitle: It’s not what you think.

It’s been a long and hard week at the casa. I saw a neurologist, my regular doc, had a sleep-deprived EEG so I went almost 40 hours with no sleep, saw my grief therapist, the polar freeze is just absolutely unbearable on my swollen joints, some painful relationship stuff with my daughter, and last night I just has a breakdown of epic proportions. The biggest one I think I’ve ever had. I just absolutely lost control, could not calm myself down, and had to reach out to a safety-net person to talk me off the ledge – or rather, to listen to me without trying to fix anything, until I talked myself down. I passed out from pure exhaustion before 8pm and slept for 11 hours. Woke up today in a fog. Head throbbing, nausea, swollen eyes. I feel like I’m hungover.

Let me back up. I’ll start with the neurologist. I like her very much. She has a great bedside manner and she is very attentive. She isn’t willing to say I have MS and she isn’t willing to say I don’t. She ordered a sleep-deprived EEG and an MRI of my thoracic spine. That’s the only thing they haven’t imaged yet. Ugh. She said my symptoms could also possibly relate to something damaged in my mid-spine or a number of other auto-immune conditions, not just MS. The MRI isn’t until mid-February, but I already had the EEG done. The results of that combined with my soon-to-come MRI will dictate next steps. In the meantime, I’m still putting any spinal fusion on hold until we can figure this out.

Therapist: She’s providing me with some really useful tools for working through the moments that feel unbearable, how to get myself unstuck if I feel stuck. We talked about cumulative grief and secondary grief. And then, there’s also complicated grief which seems to be more about the DEPTH of your sorrow and your ability to manage it.

  • Cumulative grief is experienced when someone experiences multiple losses. especially in a short period of time.
  • Secondary grief relates directly to the loss of the person who passed away; but it’s grief for the LIFE you had, not the person himself. It’s grieving the loss of a partner, the loss of someone to plan things with, the loss of your lifestyle, the loss of your memories and inside jokes, the loss of your identity, the loss of your faith, in my case the loss of my health…I think you get the picture.
  • Complicated grief is basically grief x 10. It’s more about the griever’s process and how it affects them.

We discussed my very newfound extreme sensitivity to anything Michael-related and my uncontrollable sadness. I’m having a hard time even seeing his photos right now. And then she said something that hit me like a 2×4. She told me to brace myself, because I haven’t even begun to grieve Michael.

Huh? Are you fucking kidding me, lady? That’s all I do. ALL. I. DO. And then she reminded me, nope. I was supposed to take 2 months leave, but I was working/ connected the entire time. I moved my daughter in amidst a lot of drama. I learned I have a painful disease that’s impacting my quality of life dramatically. I also learned my spine is a hot mess and I need surgery. I dealt with floormageddon. I pulled off standing in front of 130 people at a Gala 2 months after I lost him. I’m sure I’m forgetting stuff but again, I think you get the picture.

She talked and I believed her. I think the real pain is yet to come. When I came home and looked up complicated grief (the article linked above), the description fits me to a tee. And while I KNOW it’s still fresh and I KNOW this process will take a lifetime,  and I’m not looking for or desiring shortcuts,  I also know I feel stuck/ like I’m moving backwards. This is literally the hardest, most painful experience I could ever imagine. There’s no textbook. There’s no escaping that the core of your being is just gone. There are no instruction books for starting your life all over again, against your wishes.

My loneliness is pretty intense. My sister will be arriving soon and that will help a lot. Nights alone are dangerous for me sometimes. I let my mind go to really dark places and have nothing to distract me from it all. I’m not really comfortable going out in this cold – it REALLY fucking hurts. I’m also super stressed about my health insurance. Long story but it’s very stressful. I’m headed towards some trouble if I don’t find some solutions soon.  But the flip side is, I AM trying to find those solutions. I haven’t given up.

In happy news, I’m looking forward to Sunday. It’s our annual GK holiday party and I have some super fun stuff planned for the volunteers. It will be a double-edged sword: I’m really looking forward to it because I love love love my volunteers, but I’m anxious because I KNOW it will call so many memories to mind. Last year, we held our holiday party in our new office space that was still under construction. We surprised our volunteers that this would be our new home, and Michael was SO proud. When he got diagnosed, he said he was going to beat this because he couldn’t wait to see what Good Karma was going to accomplish. Last year was a huge celebratory time in our lives. If only we’d known. 😥 But I will do my best to face the day and enjoy the company of these wonderful people, and be grateful to be surrounded by my tribe for a short period of time.

So, the recent mantra: “I will get through this.” I no longer say I’m okay, or I’ll be okay. Because NOTHING is okay. But I WILL get through this. Even if I can’t take a step, I will hold my ground and stand on both feet. Most of the time. ❤

When will I get it?

I’m going through something fresh where I cannot stop thinking about him. I wonder what Michael would think of this, or I remember when Michael said that. I should text Michael. I should ask him what he wants for dinner. At the store, I still have to stop myself from buying his favorite things. I need to ask him this. I need to tell him that. Why can’t I get it through my head that he is GONE? He has disappeared. He no longer exists. His ashes are in our bedroom. He’s gone, Lisa. Just gone.

So, I paint. Woodwork is coming along. This is my living room window.

My last post about PTSD relates to this pic. My daughter has the full-blown flu. She’s staying in her basement apartment for the most part, and I got the flu vaccine so I think I’m safe, but my immune system isn’t worth shit so I can’t take chances. The first time I wore one of these was last January when my dad was dying. Then I didn’t see them again until Michael was dying. Putting them on now brings it all back. And honestly, how much does it suck that I happen to have a stock of these?

As promised, my dogs for those who don’t know them yet. All rescued of course.

Cass: My troublemaker crazy minpin. She’s about 9 we think. She came to us about 7 years ago now ❤️. She was pregnant when she arrived and had SIX gorgeous puppies.

Rosie: my sweet girl. She died on my guest bed and I gave her CPR. Two vets told me to euthanize her, I obviously told them to go to hell ❤️

Bella: my grumpy old lady. She’s ancient, partially deaf, losing her vision, and I think she’s going senile. She came to us 7 years ago and seemed old then! Lol She’s very sweet and funny. ❤️

And Baby Faye, my superhero puppy. Her story is too long to tell tonight, but she’s a miracle puppy.

I see the neurologist this week and I’m also going to try to get back to therapy.

I’m finding myself feeling cautiously hopeful about the rescue. Good Karma rescued two dogs this weekend, and we are planning a rescue run in a couple of weeks. We’re saving again and it feels good. I questioned whether my heart would be able to get back into it, but that’s no longer a concern.

That’s all my news for now. Thanks for following and caring. ❤️

Peace,

~ Lisa

Thrown into the Ocean

Well, this week really feels like the week I’m back at work full force. I never really took complete time off; it was just time off of Facebook and the day-to-day operations. It doesn’t just feel like I was thrown into the pool. It feels like the ocean. 

wave

Board meeting, volunteer survey, lots of things that need to be addressed as a result of the aforementioned. 

It feels like everyone has forgotten. My entire life is different than it was just a few months ago. But for everyone else, life is normal. Everything is back to normal. People who are upset are not afraid to tell me so. One volunteer who quit this week told me I was an awful person, when I had been back at work for mere hours. Something that happened when I was away somehow became my fault. But I digress. 

It’s as if I’m expected to be the person I always was; I’m expected to say and do the exact right things. I am expected to have everyone’s answers and solve their problems. I’m expected to jump back into the rescue and make up for months of decline, and recruit new volunteers. People have needs that they are expressing to me. My sister sold her home and is asking for a lot of my suggestions and help in planning her move. My daughter is trying to sort things out in her life. And I don’t have the answers everyone seems to need from me. 

My health is very much up in the air. Nobody asks about it. Nobody talks about Michael. Nobody asks how I’m doing without him.  I can tell they’re tired of my story, tired of my situation, tired of feeling awkward about it, and no more “special” treatment is due me.

While everyone else is ready for Lisa to be back and everyone else expects complete normalcy, logic, and unwavering leadership from me, I’m nowhere near that place. I may never be. But regardless, we keep fighting.  All I can do is what I can do. I will do my best, but it requires more than that. Time will tell. I can’t speak for “them”, but MY vibe is that “they” all think I’ve had enough time. I need to get over it and move on. Life keeps moving and I better keep up. Or something like that. 

Here’s a newsflash. I don’t want to keep up. I want my husband back. I want the life we had. I want to eat dinner with him. I want to sit on the couch and do nothing with him. I don’t want this new reality without him, and I’m not the person I was before I lost him. I have no desire to be part of this post-Michael world. 

Nothing new with my health. I have a neurologist appointment next week and hopefully that will point me in the right direction. The neuro issues I’m having are tough and not improving.  Emotionally, I’m struggling. I saw Michael in Target the other day. He was across the store…I whipped my cart around to try and catch up to him, and ran smack-dab into my estranged son, his pregnant wife, and their children. I feel he was there to be my strength through that encounter. I’m feeling him around a lot lately. I can hear him warning me to keep an eye on myself and keep myself in check, and telling me not to take on more than I can deal with. 

I have to do better at saying no. Not “no”, as much as “I’m sorry, I can’t help you with this. You need to figure it out without me.” I guess I’m just bummed that I have to say it at all. 

Peace, 

~ Lisa 

 

Health and Home

Hi friends 🙂

There’s a lot going on right now. We’ll start with my health.

Rheumatologist appointment on Tuesday and that was kinda bad news. My RA is not improving (which I knew), so now it’s time to add “biologic” drugs to my treatment. There are two to choose from, and they are running things by my insurance company because they are very expensive (the nurse told me as much as $3000/month?!?). But, if the insurance company doesn’t cover it, they have copay cards to give out. Both of these drugs are pretty hardcore with a horrifying list of side effects per usual, so that sucks.

Rheumatologist increased my poison pills to 7 a week instead of 6. So I took those tonight. I’m tolerating them pretty well. Some nausea and sickness sometimes, but overall not too bad.

drugs
Which drug will it be? Both of them have several-page pamphlets filled with medical jargon and warnings… Hmmmm…..

I’m also still experiencing a wide range of neurological symptoms so I’m seeing a neurologist in a couple of weeks (first available appt).

And through it all, I’m reminded that all of this is grief. Losing Michael. Some people die of a broken heart when their mate passes away. I guess the powers that be don’t think I deserve to have that peace yet. So, instead of dying of a broken heart, I’ll live with a broken heart and broken body. The stress of losing him was just too much for my system to bear. It had been pushing back these diseases when I was a stronger person, but the overwhelming loss and stress that came with saying goodbye to the love of my life finally broke the dam. Happily or sadly, depending on how you look at it, none of my conditions are life-threatening. Just life-sucking and life-ruining.

In other news, my daughter is moved in and settled. I’m making friends with her kitties. I’ve introduced Baby Faye and Cass to them and both dogs did GREAT meeting them. The cats aren’t so sure yet. I’ll post pics of my pups in a new post soon so that those of you who don’t know my dogs can meet them.

kitties
Charlie (orange) and Lucy

My sister is officially putting her house on the market this weekend and will be moving out to MN soon. She’s going through so many life changes and it’s understandably overwhelming for her at times. She’s lived in the same state all her life and she’s 9 yrs older than I am, so this is a big deal. It’s a big deal for her and for me.

Things are so, so different now. I think back and realize that in the span of a few months, my entire world has changed. Our home no longer feels like “our” home. In a FEW MONTHS, I’ve gone from a secure, very happily married woman with a partner and a plan and a home and life I loved and a successful rescue – to an overwhelmed widow with soon-to-be two new roommates, two cats, a house that’s completely changed, new health issues that are affecting me greatly, a rescue that is struggling to stay alive, a body that doesn’t work sometimes…just an entirely different life and big picture than it was a couple of seasons ago. How in the hell could ANYONE wrap their head around all this? My mental state is so out of whack.

Work in the house continues, depending on my motivation and ability to hold a paintbrush. Here’s a sneak peek! Our house has a TON of wood. Solid doors, window frames, door frames, banisters, ALL in that lovely 80’s Golden Oak I believe it’s called? Well, I’m taking it white and bright. I tried it with the matching stain, but it’s so much work and I’m not able to do all the sanding and prep work required for SO much staining. I kinda reluctantly decided to go white and quickly realized I freaking LOVE it. Here’s a sneak peek! Old door in the background, new door in progress in the foreground 🙂

door preview

I have SO many doors to do, both sides. the hallway is full of doors. The white is dramatically changing the look of things. It’ll take a bit of time. I’ve been low on motivation and kinda bored with this project so it’s taking longer than it should. It’s just WHITE paint. Boring. And it’s on doors so it needs to be perfect. It’s super easy for paint to pool in the panel insets and then it drips, no matter how careful you are. You have to catch drips and if you don’t, you have to sand them and paint over them again. You have to remove hardware or paint around it. I’ve been using a kids’ watercolor paint brush set for the details and edges. I tried a roller but it left roller marks; almost a “texture” to the door that I didn’t like, so brush it is. It’s a little labor intensive but man…it’s gorgeous when you see the whole picture with the paint and the floors.  Oh and for what it’s worth, for any DIY’er: SPEND THE MONEY for GOOD paint. I’ve been using Sherwin Williams which is super pricey, but it DOES make a difference. This particular paint is zero VOC so there’s NO paint smell, and it’s super thick for doors and cabinets. I also like Dutch Boy low VOC paint. But for projects where you need lasting results like doors, windows, baseboards, etc., Sherwin Williams. Spend the money. You’ll be glad you did, trust me on that.

Here’s another before and after. Golden Oak to White. Also, fresh (darker) grey paint on the walls.

blinds before

Another cool project I did was the banister and the handrail! I LOVE how it came out; do you? Buh-Bye, Golden Oak.

banister before

Other projects include my daughter’s apartment downstairs. I can’t show you the inside yet because she’s still unpacking, but I converted a mess of a basement into a really cute apartment for one. The front door was a fun project. Purple front doors rock. Note the doorbell and the “porch” light? I made the sign myself with separate components.

alyssa front door

So, this is how I spend my time when I need an outlet and when my hands and body allow. I get very cabin fever-y in the winters because I can’t get outside and spend time in the dirt, so I need some sort of creative outlet.

And yet at the end of the day, I sit and I see all the changes…and none of it matters, does it. All the work, all the colors, details, fine lines, accessories, special touches…in the end, it doesn’t matter. It’s just a way to pass time, really. A distraction. And I guess that’s okay too. Anything to get through each day. It’s truly, indescribably, unbelievably, seemingly insurmountable, ongoing horror. Each moment of each day. It’s a bad movie I can’t walk out of. A nightmare I can’t wake from. A reality I don’t think I’ve truly processed or accepted yet.

Lastly, a friend sent me this today. Please take 4 minutes and watch it. It’s so perfectly true. I remember when I first lost Michael. Everyone was saying all the things we say when someone passes away. Everyone was saying what we were all TAUGHT to say. And then, there was my girlfriend Lynn. And she was the true embodiment of this video. She literally just said “OMG Lisa your life fucking sucks”. And at that moment, I fell in love with her all over again. Acknowledgment.

And that’s all my news for today. I will post pics of my dogs soon. Thanks for tuning in.

Peace,

~ Lisa

Random Update

Hi everyone ❤

My MRI was Wednesday, and on Friday I learned that they detected no lesions in my brain or cervical spine. This is good news and bad news all at once; what it means is more doctors, more tests, more questions. My doctor referred me to a neurologist so that will be the next step. The symptoms aren’t improving; most specifically, my thought and logic process. I have a very hard time connecting the dots. I’m also having serious issues with balance.

For reasons unknown to me, yesterday was a complete meltdown day. Complete. I write about it because people should understand what I’m going through but also anyone going through the same thing should know that sometimes, for NO reason whatsoever, you WILL lose your shit. You’ll cry, yell to the sky, you’ll want to give up, you’ll question how you can go on. I question this every day, but the meltdown thing is completely unpredictable. The only predictable thing is that it WILL happen. You just never know when, where, or what will trigger it.

My mental and emotional state aren’t improving at all. I don’t know why I’m here. I don’t know why the powers that be won’t gift me with a ticket out of this life, but I’ve been shit on by the powers that be so many times, I don’t expect any different. I’m going through the life motions as best as I can, and I get lost in my dogs and painting the woodwork throughout the house. Whenever my mind is still, my thoughts go to painful memories of the last few weeks of Michael’s life. That’s not the Michael or the marriage I want to remember. I want to remember the good times. I was hoping those memories would seep in and overpower my PTSD, but it’s not happening yet. And for the record, same story with my dad. My dad’s memories aren’t as painful because he didn’t suffer in the way Michael did. But they are there. If you’ve ever been the primary caregiver to someone you love who is dying a painful death, you understand. I’ve seen far too many souls that I love, take their last breaths. And it has changed who I am. If it didn’t change me, I’d be worried.

The New Year has never meant much to me. It’s just another page in the calendar. I don’t do resolutions, or predict that “this year, I’ll (fill in the blank).” I never really look back at the year that just passed. But this year, I did. The changing of the calendar was pretty sad for me. I truly still cannot believe all I lost in the span of a few months.  I can’t believe how much my world, my life, my heart, my personality, my home, and my outlook have changed. I don’t even recognize my reality any more. I don’t recognize this life of being single, sharing a home with someone I’m not married to, a different routine, a complete hole in my life and in my heart that doesn’t seem to be healing at all. I miss him. I miss our life. I would give anything to have him back.

The rescue is in dire straits. When I returned to work this week, I came back to the reality that almost all of our foster parents are unavailable. We’re in danger of shutting the rescue down very soon. Again, I can’t believe what I’ve lost and feel like I’m still losing.

What is meant to be, will be. I’ll continue to do the best I can, and I’m hoping that within a week I’ll have amazing pics of the house to show you. I’m hoping to be done with the woodwork soon!

Thank you as always for reading. ❤

Peace,

~ Lisa

A Random Day in the Life

It’s been a long day. I had an MRI on my brain and my cervical spine. Testing for MS. That plus dealing with my life in general is just exhausting.

There’s so much stress. Financial. Emotional. Physical. Stress. And sometimes I don’t know if it’s all going to work out. I’m not accustomed to being poor. I’m not accustomed to being rich either, but I always knew I’d have whatever I needed. Now I don’t have that comfort any longer. I could write paragraphs and pages about the stress, but I don’t want to give it that much power. Let’s just leave it with, I’m going through unimaginable stress about countless things that I never thought I’d have to face.

This shit is not for the weak.

I stepped back into Facebook today. I’m keeping it light. I didn’t install the app on my phone and I don’t plan to. I also stepped back into rescue. I need to wake things up and keep things moving.

Time heals all wounds is a bunch of shit. I know it’s still very new and I’m still very raw, but I miss him more with each passing day. Each day just marks one more day since I’ve heard his voice or felt his touch. One more day since he existed. One more day apart and I only miss him and our life more and more.

So much has changed in a few short months, that I don’t know if anyone could process it all live-time. I feel like it will take me months or even years to wrap my head around my year and all I have lost. So much has changed that my life is barely recognizable.

I don’t really keep track of how long it’s been since Michael left (you’ll find most widows don’t really mark monthly anniversaries, at least in my experience), but I know that as time passes, it makes me more sad. It still feels like it was yesterday to me, but the world around me has moved on. I’m locked in a time-warp and I feel like I’m getting more and more out of touch with the world that is passing me by.

Tonight is my weekly major dose of poison drugs. I’m tolerating them pretty well. They don’t seem to be helping much yet, but I’m told it can take up to 8 weeks to see results. Tonight is Week 6.

So there you have it. A day in the life. Try not to be too jealous. 😉

Peace,

~ Lisa