How do I find myself once again driving down the freeway shaking, screaming and growling. Growling, that deep guttural sound that a wounded animal can make, that rises from the pt of my stomach and escapes my mouth in moans.
How can that be?
Here’s the thing you don’t know about grief unless you have been there; this is not a surprise.
It may take me by surprise whenever it happens, but I always know it can, it’s waiting for me.
Today. What triggered it today? It’s never one thing, it’s always a culmination of events, a perfect storm, even when that perfect storm in my mind looks like any other day, or few days, to anyone else.
I decided to do an “artist date” and plant some pots for my little balcony. I had a date last week and another this week. Last night online I tried to be diplomatic with someone who was clearly judgmental about someone else’s sobriety and grief…”It’s been 5 years, she’s milking it”. Today I drove out to MY Target, just blocks from my old house, not just to go there, for other reasons, but the other reasons didn’t happen. On the streets, as I was driving I saw 3 ambulances in front of homes, 3 separate homes.
And on the way home I found myself screaming.
It feels awful this PTSD. I was diagnosed with it after Tom died, the sudden and shocking way he died made the diagnoses relevant for me. I never took any drugs for it, I avoided that for the longest time. But I became aware that I “might be” self medicating with the booze, so I gave anti-depressants a shot. However, I kept drinking, and this particular anti-depressant has the weird side-effect of actually making you able to drink more. And so I did, rendering any positive effects it might have useless. Since I have quit drinking I can sort thru the feelings better, and do, I really do. Life is so much better.
Except today I just don’t care about any of that. Grief and I need to be done with each other, and that is not going to happen anytime soon. Really? Really.
So sometimes I scream in my car. Or catch a glimpse of a photograph and have to stop and yoga breathe to calm myself down, to remember that it is real.
I was berating myself the other day, lying on the couch and watching TV. I could be going through the zillions of pictures I have in boxes in my closet, taking up valuable space. They need to be gone through and some just gotten rid of, yet I find it so hard to face them. I’m not sure I can. When I moved I just threw them all into boxes to deal with later, that unknowable later. When is that? I have a box of VCR tapes that need to be converted to DVD. I have a chest full of stuff that serves as my coffee table, but really is a repository of another life. I sometimes feel I have such a tenuous hold on my serenity, on my sanity even, that I can’t afford to invite in a disturbance in the force. So I procrastinate and move piles around. It all looks good from the outside, but don’t open that chest, stay away from that closet.
I didn’t invite in today’s, but it is surely here. I felt hungover, on the verge of tears, tight, wound, scared. Writing here helps me, a lot. Spewing things that really only are there for me to dump, but at least I have a place to dump them. It’s a way of self-soothing. I should have gone to yoga, but when I got home I was incapable of changing my clothes or even getting up from the couch. I will say that now I am up, have eaten, am dressed and ready to go out and feel so much better, seriously. These episodes tend to pass fairly quickly, thankfully.
The thing is, and I guess this is what I wanted to say…. no matter how this whole episode started, it did. It happened. And I’m not writing this for sympathy, but for understanding. Those of you who can relate will get it, those that don’t may learn something. The online discussion was, I think, the real triggering episode. This woman I was talking to was confused and wanted to protect herself in this situation with a friend who is a widow and who drinks all the time. I measured my words very carefully, fully encouraging her to NOT go anywhere near her friend today, because that kind of judgement wouldn’t help, and if this women succumbed to her demons as the widow was, then she would blame her. The widow needs no blame, or judgement. She needs compassion and understanding, someone to listen, someone who may not have been in the situation but can at least be present for her.
And this friend was not capable of being that person.
Look, in my experience 5 years is nothing. Frankly, 5 years in is when I suddenly got clear enough to recognize the way I was self-medicating and retreating from life and into my drinking, and to finally do something about it. The last 3 years have not been a fucking cake walk. Stuff I drank away came back. I moved, changed my whole life. The feelings are crazy, all the time. ALL the time.
Those feelings do not go away in any proscribed amount of time. Seriously? I don’t think these feelings ever fucking go away. Never. I will miss and mourn Tom until the day I die. I will be driving again, or trying to go to sleep, or walking by a fucking old picture and it will come back in all it’s glory…the day, the death, what I lost. It is not going anywhere anytime soon.
The other day a woman I know, a widow, said that the difference for her now is that, for the most part the loss stays inside her rather than walking beside her. I get that, that is true for me too. But every once in a while it comes out to deliver the shock and awe. 5 years later, 8 years later, 20 years later….
Look, it’s today