Trigger (not)Happy

When I started this blog, it was because I was in an indescribable, unbearable amount of pain. Writing was always an outlet for me, but never more so than when Michael was dying. I found that updating the Caring Bridge site was helpful to more than our followers. Just writing it out, processing it, re-thinking it, helped me reframe the world I was living in. It added some logic and order to a world that was completely out of my control. It slowed down the hell ride and took me away from the unbearable torture that was my life. When I write, I focus on the topic like an outsider. It’s weird, but it helps me.

Anyhow, when I started this blog, it was about being a widow. Well, it was about grief. Which was directly connected to being a widow.

But something and someone got lost in the mix.

I miss my dad.

Well first there was Father’s Hallmark Hell Day where you have to aggressively work to avoid being reminded that your dad AND your husband are dead. Well, I shouldn’t say be reminded. Because you never forget even for a second. I should say, have it rubbed in your face.

Then, Sunday was my Dad’s birthday. I didn’t even realize it until I asked someone what the date was. Because I suck.

And here’s a fun widow word: Trigger. Basically any date or event that means or meant something can be a trigger. I’m heading into trigger hell. This is going to be a really, really hard month.

In a couple of days, it will be one year since I took Michael to the hospital for what would be the last time. It was the start of the marathon stretch at the U of MN. It was when talks began between Cindi, Warren and me about possibly having to go and physically take him out of the hospital against orders because I promised him I wouldn’t let him die in a hospital. It was the beginning of the end. 😥 It was the start of me sobbing in the front yard because Cindi saw me pull in and was walking over to check on me. It was the start of so many horrible things.

Yes, he did come home from that hospital stay. But in my mind and in my heart, June 28 was the day I lost my husband, and his wife. It was the day we both died.

July 4 will forever be an awful holiday for me. Last July 4, Michael was semi-comatose and I watched fireworks from his hospital room. I’m really glad I left the states before that party starts up.

Tonight, I learned that someone very dear to Michael and to me is in hospice. Michael’s aunt Marlene, also my surrogate mom. I can’t say enough about Marlene and Dave. They’re warm, accepting, loving. Marlene is the mom everyone wants. She has all the qualities that you want in a mom, but that my own mother did not have. Warmth, a true selfless love for me and a desire only for those she loves to be happy, nurturing, funny, sarcastic, and real. Don’t let the word surrogate fool you. This woman is the mom I chose. I’m losing my mom. And another tie to Michael.

I got to video chat with Marlene tonight. It was so emotional. I walked the beach alone before the call and again after. I wish I could make sense of it all. I love her so much. And this isn’t about me. But god dammit.

I’m jumping into the new job with both feet as soon as I get a car. Hopefully next week. It’s a very busy month of July for the rescue. I’m nervous about the upcoming deathiversary. It hasn’t even been a year. I can’t believe how much life has changed.

I’m proud of myself for acknowledging the loss of my dad finally. It hurts a lot but it’s a necessary process.

I’ve been on a good upswing for a bit, and I knew when the craziness died down, reality would still be here. I’m proud of myself for knowing this and being prepared (as prepared as one can be for gut-wrenching emotional agony). I’m proud of myself for letting my process flow and not trying to control it. This results in me being an emotional hot mess at times, but believe it or not I’m proud of that too. I’m not worried about what anyone thinks. When they go through what I’ve been through and lose all I have lost, they can decide if I’m over emotional. Until then, they accept me or they don’t. The Lisa that died would have never broken down in front of others. The Lisa that died didn’t cry at work. The Lisa that died was a different person. What’s left of me is what I am. Broken and trying really really hard to rebuild something. I don’t know what. Rebuild something that resembles a content life on my own. I just didn’t know that I was going to lose my chosen mom too.

Peace,

Lisa

You saved me.

As I’m packing up my life, going through memories, trying to sell things off, unpacking boxes that I thought I could ship on the POD that has now been cancelled, trying to convince myself that maybe that antique desk that Michael had is JUST a thing and it doesn’t matter 😥 and of course crying, reminiscing, evaluating what matters; as I head to a new place with new people and new ideas and a new role; as I experience growing pains and different communications styles and hurt feelings and closing the door on some unhealthy relationships; as I practice the art of LETTING GO OF EVERYTHING….well I’m having a nervous breakdown. I’m a mess. I’m not okay on any level. And I’m not exaggerating. I’m having a nervous breakdown.

I’m experiencing events from a year ago as if they’re happening now. I’m panicking. Not sleeping, Crying. Screaming. Dropping to my knees and begging for him to come back. This shit is not for the weak and it’s not anything I would wish on anyone, ever.

But that’s not what I want to talk about. I really can’t talk any more about it. It’s so deep and vast that I can’t go there.

What I want to talk about is LOVE.

I watched the HBO documentary about Mr Rogers the other night. His whole thing was that everybody, every single one of us, needs to know that we are lovable and that we are perfect JUST the way we are. That telling someone that, can change the world.

I am so afraid to name people because I know I’ll forget someone, but I want you to know that so many of you LITERALLY saved my life.

Thank you to those who ignored my requests to be left alone and showed up anyway.

Thank you for answering my PM’s and helping me find mental health help NOW when I was ready to end my life.

Thank you for hearing my story and hugging me and thanking me for being authentic.

Thank you to those who emailed me or wrote me time and time again even if I didn’t answer you. Thank you for pushing me until I answered.

Thank you to anyone near or far who sent me a text saying they loved me or they were thinking of me.

Thank you for not comparing your pain to mine or mine to yours.

Thank you to anyone who listened to me cry and didn’t try to fix it.

Thank you to anyone who showed up, left something at my door, and didn’t even ring the bell.

Thank you if you made me a meal. Thank you for NOT making me a meal when I said no more meals. lol

Thank you for texting with me in the middle of the night.

Thank you for inviting me places and understanding when I said no, and continuing to invite me to more places.

Thank you for not minimizing my pain or telling me what I must do.

Thank you for inviting me over.

Thank you for checking on me.

Thank you for calling me EVERY TIME I messaged you and asked if you had a minute.

Thank you for loving me the way I needed it, not the way YOU needed it.

Thank you for loving me enough to let me sit in my pain alone when I needed to, and for knowing when I was in trouble and shouldn’t be alone.

Thank you to the early group that rallied around me when Michael was diagnosed. Who protected me, guided me, loved me, and looked out for me. Who heard me. And who are still my tribe of badass women.

Thank you for loving me, just as I am. There are so many of you that I won’t have time to see before I go, or people who are long distance that I don’t see regularly.

But you have saved me. I owe my life to some of you and you don’t even know it. There was more than one text that saved me. More than one interruption to a horrible thought pattern.

If you gave anything of yourself to help me in a moment of physical or emotional crisis, thank you. You made me feel lovable if only for that moment, and that carried me until the next moment.

You saved me. ❤ And even though there are crickets on this damn blog and perhaps nobody gives a shit anymore about what I have to say. But I needed to put this out into the universe. For me. And for the universe.

mister-rogers

Quicksand, Lessons, Indescribable Friendship

Hello faithful friends ❤

So much. So much to update. I’ll try to keep it brief and coherent.

Let’s see. Where to start.

My health sucks. I’m doing the best I can. The warmer weather does help what I call “statue body” where everything on my body freezes or seizes, so that’s good news. The not so good news is that my insurance sucks and won’t cover the one drug all of these experts are prescribing to me – Lyrica. I also still haven’t gotten Xeljanz because of the same sucky insurance issue, so I’m flying without a net as far as pain management goes.

My life. Wow. A lot.

I’m most likely selling the house at some point in the not-so-far future. It’s too expensive and too much for me to keep up with.

My sister is moving back to Colorado. She will be leaving in about 3 weeks. She’s not in love with my plan (for her, she’s very supportive of me though) and she’s not in love with Minnesota, so she’s heading back to try to make things work in CO again.

I’m taking a vacation soon. I’m not sharing details about where or when, because I’m a paranoid freak now that I am single and I don’t want people knowing when I’m not at home. I will post amazing pictures and stories upon my return.

In the grief department, well what can I say. It’s quicksand. It’s constantly swimming against a strong slushy undertow. Some days I exhaust myself just to stay put in one place. Some days, I’m immersed to my head. Some days, I climb out a little. Some days, I find myself deeper than I was the day before. It’s a moment-to-moment swing that very few understand.

This is actual footage of me*.

quicksand

Grief is not a journey. It’s a permanent state of life. It’s not something to get through or with an end. It’s something you have to learn to walk with, life with. It’s a part of you. The emptiness is permanent. The heartbreak is irreversible. It is who I am. I am a widow. I am a widow before my time. I’ll never make sense of why. Some days, I accept it and I really have a good state of mind that my relationship with Michael is strong and powerful, it’s just moved to a spiritual level. Some days, I wake up and it takes me a few minutes to remember he’s never coming back. The nights are the worst. Everyone goes to bed around 10-10:30 here and then it’s quiet. Then the distractions, the dogs barking and playing, the conversations, the TV, and the noise of the day stops. And then I’m alone. With Michael. And my fears. My memories. And my racing mind.

I still have frequent nightmares. Well actually I would call them night terrors except they aren’t. I wake up almost every night (usually a few times a night) to his cries for help. I wake up almost every morning in a panic that he called out for me last night and I slept through it. Those are those blissful few minutes I referred to earlier when I think he’s still alive. My dreams, when I remember them, are filled with the pain of those last few weeks watching the man I love deteriorate and lose his battle. In my waking hours, the memories are nice. At night, they turn evil on me.

Lessons

I’m learning so much. I’m learning about who I am without the attachment or title of wife. I’m learning that I need to live alone. It turns out I’m not an easy roommate. I’m not difficult on purpose. I’m just grieving. And it’s hard for people to understand, impossible for me to explain, and definitely harder for people to live with someone who is unpredictable. I don’t feel I’m ever unkind. But I do weird things like change light bulbs at 10pm. Change my mind 100 times a day and make it impossible to keep up with. Get a whim and pull everything out of the shed for the yard. Go through phases where I eat nothing for 2 days, then eat junk food for a day, and so on. Get a burst of energy and trim the bushes. Be extremely lethargic and fatigued and stay in my pajamas until noon. It’s difficult for roommates to follow my vibe, and difficult for me to explain it to them. So the lesson learned is that Lisa needs to live alone for everyone’s sake.

This is the actual book that is being written about me.*

roommate

 

Indescribable Friendship

If one thing good came from losing Michael, it was this. Although many people have followed my story and many people reached out with kindness, one person shone through. I had never met her. She wasn’t an adopter or a volunteer. She wasn’t an old friend. She bought wreaths from the rescue Xmas fundraiser the year before and met Michael very briefly when she came to the house to pick it up. But she saw my story on FB, and she read about Michael’s passing. And she reached out to me to tell me how he had impacted her in that short meeting to pick up wreaths.

She kept reaching out to me. We exchanged lots of emails. She is a widow too, and something compelled her to KEEP reaching out to me. Sometimes it’s just an email saying she’s thinking of me. Sometimes it’s a quick comment on one of my blog posts. Sometimes more.

She’s become my confidant. She was my safe place. Close enough to understand but JUST far enough removed that I could share things with her without fear of judgment or information leaks ;). She understood and understands me and all I’m going through. She’s walked before me on this road. She knows the pain. She validated me and made it okay to say what I needed to say. Challenged me, held me accountable, but always did so with a no-nonsense loving nature about her that made me feel I’d known her my whole life.

Yesterday, I met her face to face for the first time. A quick coffee date turned into almost 3 hours of talking about the past, the present, and the future. We talked about dreams, she helped me sort some thoughts out, offered to help me in some pretty amazing ways with the rescue, and filled my soul. She touched me so much, because she paid attention. She knew my deal. She knew what I liked and didn’t. She knew what I feel. And she was never scared. Even when I’d post a bitchy blog or call her out on something, she never flinched. And now, through the pain and loss of Michael…I’ve found a lifelong friend and soul sister who I think is going to be a strong influencer in the rest of my life.

friend-quote-true-realize

A long time ago I gave everyone who said “I think about you a lot, I just haven’t reached out because I don’t know what to say” a free pass. I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable, and I’ve easily let them go. I have enough to wrap my head around and enough to worry about without worrying about how my loss makes other people feel. It sounds cold, but the reality is that if my husband passing away makes you uncomfortable, unfortunately there’s nothing I can do about that.

I’ve made/ strengthened some amazing friendships and relationships since Michael had to say goodbye. I’ve lost many too, and that’s okay. I’m focused on what I’ve gained, and one thing I can say – one gift I’ve been given; I really, really know that my circle of friends loves me. I really, really have fine tuned my circle and my social bubble to surround myself with people who love me, and who I love. People who accept me, and who I accept. People who will do anything they can to help me, and people I will do anything I can to help. There’s no time for anything else.  And that is one thing I can say I never had until everything and everyone in my world including me was put to the test. I now know who my “family” is and that’s a really, really good feeling.

Thank you, Michael. ❤ Always and still, forever…looking out for me. Just like you promised. ❤

Peace,

~ Lisa

* No, it’s not.

 

 

PTSD 101

PTSD is most often associated with those who have seen battle and war. But it’s a very real condition that anyone can experience after a traumatic event.

My PTSD started almost immediately after Michael passed away. My mind was flooded with images of my father and Michael in their worst dying times. My heart was overflowing with what if’s and omg when I rolled him over did I kill him and wondering if I did a good enough job caring for them. My mind raced all over the place, searching for things I didn’t say or didn’t do. Wondering if our last goodbyes were what they should have been (yes). Wondering if I helped them leave this life peacefully (I hope so). Wondering where they are. And when I would close my eyes, the haunting images and memories of very painful and difficult times overtook me. Then, the panic attacks started (first time in my life I’ve had panic attacks or anxiety). The middle of the night wake-ups to Michael screaming, even though he wasn’t there. Jolting up in bed because I think I hear him calling me. Reliving the horrific hell that was the last few weeks of Michael’s life. Images of my dad thrown into the mental slide show just for fun.

This ticker-tape slideshow runs constantly in my brain. Every time I close my eyes, the movie is playing. Even if I blink too long. The horror movie is always playing if I just pay attention.

My crazy energy is back, for now. I’m painting in the middle of the night again. PTSD. I have a hard time falling asleep unless I’m pretty medicated. I wake to horrific sounds, and then can’t sleep. Get up. Make coffee because why not. Paint. My hands can’t hold the paint brush for more than a few minutes, so I’m switching hands a lot. This woodwork is going to take me forever!

Here’s the bitch. Studies have shown that therapy and medications are the best treatments for PTSD, but nothing cures it. PTSD CHANGES your brain. First, the area of your brain that helps you make decisions, the pre-frontal cortex, is altered in people with PTSD. It’s the part of your brain that calms you down when you realize you aren’t in danger.  Cognitive therapy can teach me how to put those memories away and find a mental place for them, but I personally believe I need to experience this in order to move past it. I know I’ll never forget, nor do I want to. But I DO want to get to the happy memories and move past the pain that we all endured.

Secondly, the part of your brain that alerts you to danger, the amygdala, triggers the “fight or flight” response and is there to ensure survival.  Those with PTSD tend to have an overactive response, making it hard to think rationally.

And finally, the part of your brain that regulates memories, the hippocampus, is working to remember the event accurately and make sense of it. People with PTSD often times find they cannot stop thinking about the traumatic event because they cannot make it make sense. It’s an involuntary obsession that you can’t stop.

I think it’s important to acknowledge this component during my journey. I think people use the term PTSD too lightly. It REALLY is a real condition. It’s MORE than having bad memories of an event or struggling with understanding something tragic. It’s more than “just” an emotional condition. It’s a mental AND physical manifestation of pain and trauma that’s so unbearable, that your brain changes to help you accommodate it all. And it’s lasting. It’s not the sadness that comes after any loss. It has very little to do with Michael being gone, and everything to do with watching him and caring for him while he died. It’s deeper than grief. It’s the real deal.

And along with everything else, I take this one moment at a time. I’m doing the best I can, and that’s all I can do. I tell myself this every single day. ❤

Peace,

~ Lisa