Felix Culpa

First, Chad broke his neck as a teenager.  Disaster.

I got divorced from Bachelor #1.  Disaster. 

Me and Chad?  We met!  We got married.  Happy consequence!

I went crazy and almost died.  Disaster. 

I didn't die and I recovered.  Happy consequence!

Then, Chad died, for keeps.  REALLY BIG FUCKING DISASTER. 

I survived.  Happy consequence?  I'm getting to that place slowly.  

Some other bad stuff happened.  Disaster. 

6 month anniversary of Chad's last conscious moments.  Right now.  Happy!  Disaster!  Hmmmm.  I'll settle for calling it just a "consequence" right now.  

I WILL SURVIVE AND THRIVE despite the utterly inconceivable SHIT that has been, continues to be and probably forever will be - thrown my way.  I don't know why this is my road to walk.  But it is.  And now it's mine to walk alone.  

And I'm doing it.  

Fuck you life.  Throw more at me?  I'll fucking THRIVE.  I am strong and mighty and officially there ain't nothing I can't survive anymore.  So bring it on. I'll just show up, my usual strong-ass self and fight some more to thrive.  

Because that's just what I do.  I honestly don't know how to do it any other way.  I fight, fight, fight and fight and so far, I've never lost despite the battle(s) being unfair, pitched, long and ridiculous really. 

Felix culpa indeed. 

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On Not Falling Into the Abyss

Three nights ago, out of the blue, I missed him.  Really badly.  And I started to cry. 

Internally, I panicked.  I try really hard not to cry because usually it is a sign that I am doing badly.  And I cry typically for hours, like all night until 4 or 5 am if I start at 7 pm, which it was.  And then I will (even more) severely depressed for minimally for a week.  So I try hard not to cry. 

But I had started crying without realizing it.  It was a sneak attack of tears.  

Guess what though?  I cried for about 15 minutes and then I stopped.  

I just stopped. 

Maybe things are getting different.  

  

I Ate A Whole Meal

Omg I just ate an ENTIRE ENTREE (it was scallops so it was a very small entree of course, restaurants are cheap) and now I think I’m going to explode. My stomach has shrunk so much from NOT eating for 6 months that I am pretty sure I am going to die too 😂 (gallows humor people roll with it ♿️)

I am miserable.

But ... I am 99.99% sure I ate 1200 calories in ONE sitting which is what my doctor made me promise to eat every day as a minimum.

Yay me?

Thank You Note To The World

Dear all of you who gave to me of your thoughts, love, time, and in some cases, flowers or gifts, and to whom I did not write to already, and this includes my incredible new friends,

Thank you for the blessings you rained down upon me during the hardest and worst time of my life. You mean so much to me, your kindness touched my soul in a way that simply cannot be expressed in mere words. Your kindness was a feeling, a way to elevate, if just for a brief moment, out of the abyss of grief. Thank you.

With my sincere love,

The Mad Widow

The Nuclear Bomb: The Funny Farm

"And that's the sound of sunshine coming down"

 

I am back my very dear friends.

I took a break from everything in life to refresh my mental health as a voluntary inpatient for a week at Triangle Springs Behavioral Health Hospital (www.trianglesprings.com) here in Raleigh. I went for 8 days.

Doing this was one of the best decisions I have made in my entire life and I wish that I had not waited until I was at rock bottom before I went in.

I am now ready to move forward, out of profound, soul crushing grief into the sunshine (hence the sunshine song for the metaphor-challenged).

The kind, supportive, understanding, skilled and empathetic staff of Triangle Springs - and more importantly perhaps, the other patients there - made me realize that.

I am very proud of me for being brave enough to do this and to talk about it openly. I am so excited about the next chapter now. I no longer dread each morning that I wake up.

Bring it on life. I'm ready.

Chad ould certainly approve of this brave thing I did. 

I Am Alone. Really, Really Alone.

I was stung by a bee about a week ago and ended up in the ICU for 3 days at Duke, where you only go to the ICU if you are gravely ill.  Circling the drain kind of gravely ill.  Discovered some other health issues while I was there that require some care as well.  So now I'm home tonight, alone, as usual.  But it has hit me tonight more than it ever has before that....

I am alone. 

Really, really alone.  

I am too sick to get up and even get myself something to drink and eat.  I lost 4 pounds since I was admitted when my doctor checked today, I was severely dehydrated, my blood pressure was low, my heart rate high, and they couldn't even get a single vein to take labs.  She was extremely concerned about me, to the point that I got worried about me even.  She was specifically worried that I am alone.  

I have never been alone really.  As a child, I had my brother, parents, cats.  In college, a roommate.  In grad studio, ostensibly I had my own studio apartment but really I lived with Bachelor #1 my who became my husband later.  I was together with Bachelor #1 for 14 years.  

After he left, I had my son and also Chad came on the scene very shortly afterwards and we fell so hard, so fast, that I basically moved me and the baby boy in with him after a few weeks of dating and we lived happily ever after for 15 years.  

Then he died.  

And this time there is no other option awaiting me around the corner.  Because I have utterly and absolutely no interest in dating right now, like just none.  And even if I were dumb enough to look for love, it would be the worst possible disservice to whoever I would meet.  They would never ever live up to Chad in my present stage of grief.  

So it's just me, myself and I.  Sick.  

Being sick alone is an exquisitely awful experience.  You are miserable AND there is no one to say "There, there sweetheart, it's going to be ok, I love you".  Chad could not physically help me at all when I was ill, and it was extremely hard to be ill with Chad in my life because then I not only was sick but had to take care of him while I was sick too.  That suckkkkkkkked.  

I remember wishing so many times when I was sick "FUCKING A, I wish I didn't have to take care of Chad too".  I don't feel guilty for feeling that way even now that I'm alone and have my "wish".  I mean, no one when they are sick in any way wants to do their husband's bowel program (which is every bit as gross as it sounds like it is) every single day.  And feed him.  And turn him.  And get water.  And scratch his head.  And turn the pillow. And, and, and.  No, I do not miss having to do that while sick.  

But now that I'm sick, and he's not here, I really do have to say - I honestly would go back to dragging my ass in and out of bed to take care of him while I'm sick as a dog because .... well, there was someone to say to me.... 

"There, there sweetheart, it's going to be ok, I love you - you got this".  

My 5 Year Old Best Friend

Woke up with a headache, not a killer one that makes me wish life would just end and hide under the covers ... just an annoying one. 

So, my cure was sugar, caffeine, sunshine and ... MY 5 YEAR OLD BEST FRIEND!!! 

She is truly the 5 year old version of me (then and now). Spunky, quirky, HILARIOUS, takes absolutely no shit, talks as much as me (perhaps more, and those who know me in person, this is a tough feat) and god do I LOVE her. She is also the MIRACLE CURE for depression.

We went to a park where we: 

  1. Paddle boated for an HOUR.  Rather, I paddled, she dangled her feet off the back, laid around, and stuck her hands in the water, tried to find mermaids.  SHE is one, a mermaid, but I can't be one, she hasn't told me THE secret .... yet ... she is considering telling me how, cross your fingers, i REALLY want to be a mermaid like her.
  2. Ate ice cream. Twice. Before and after boating, which provoked this: "Mom NEVER lets me eat ice cream twice! (wide eyes) - Then me: "See, I'm not your mom so I get to let you!" Followed by a very, very responsible talk about how I don't let MY son eat ice cream twice so don't be mad at your mommy for not letting you have ice cream twice, this is just a special friends thing blah blah blah...  Because dude, i AM a mom and I would kill anyone who threw me under the bus like that when my son was 5!! 
  3. Waded in the lake which was against the rules technically but the staff conveniently "looked the other way" bless them, while smilely broadly at our adorableness.  Me with shoes on and her shoes off and then I carried her.  I sure got my exercise in esp AFTER paddle boating for an hour - note to self - paddling BACK against the current is much harder than essentially drifting out with the current, yes I'm a brainiac.  I carried her back to the bench to put on her sock and shoes with nice and clean rinsed feet at her request (aka insistence). Me, I don't care if I squish squish squish, those shoes are now known as "broken in". 
  4. Played our (yes our) butts off at the playground where we were alone because it was 96 in the shade (which the playground is not and is ... metal mostly, neither is the lake in shade I should note). I narrated her running "American Ninja Warrior" for an hour which made her thrilled and made me giggle endlessly.  She won Mt. Midoramiamo (sp) like, 5 times, each time winning more outrageous prizes such as a goat farm. And I got ever more creative in the "obstacles" such as playing chess, flying the Pacific, running a marathon and digging a hole. It was so fun. 
  5. Then we got lost in the woods. For reals. But SHE led us out. (see above referenced me being a brainiac). I am truly hopeless. Somehow, I navigated 3 girlfriends at age 19 across pretty much entire continental Europe (Athens to Scotland) with only a backpack and a PAPER map for 6 weeks in 19(mumble mumble). Swear to god. But that hasn't happened since, thank goodness for iPhone maps.  

Headache. What headache???? Depression? Never heard of it. And I sweat off 8 pounds.  

And we have a date for next weekend. Same thing but grilling out lunch, kayaks and upright paddle boards. (I am a former lifeguard - no, I am not crazy!) . We want to get IN the water!!!! And trust me, me kayaking and paddle boarding WILL result in us very very wet!!! 

Man, I am so freaking happy. It feels so good to be utterly and truly happy from the top of my hair to my toes. This the first PURE and total joy I've had since Chad died. 

So, I guess it is true.  Things do get better.  It took one week shy of 5 months to feel pure joy again.  

That was a really long 5 months. 

Walgreens

Scene: 

Me at Walgreens drive through, like 13,724 times in the last 14 years I've/we've lived here. The same core staff has worked there the whole time basically, the pharmacists anyway, and Michelle, the pharmacist was at the drive through today. 

Me: "Hey Michelle! Picking up I think 3 for me, and the usual, you know, could you check if there's anything for Chad as long as I'm here"

Her: "Sure thing!" (smiles brightly and off she goes)

Her (coming back): "Just 3 for you today! Any questions? It sure is hot today!" (blahblahblah finishes transactions with small talk and smiles)

Me, now at home, realizing what I'd done: ohhhhhhhh...... 

((( thank you Michelle )))

Obviously, my brain still forgets that it happened sometimes.

A Really Weird Thing Happened Today

I looked at a photo of Chad today and I really missed him.  But that was .... it.  I was sad, yes.  But just like, wistful sad, like, gosh, I miss him.  And then I just sorta moved on in my head.  A few seconds later, my brain afterburners kicked in and said 

WHAT DID YOU JUST NOT THINK???? WHY AREN'T YOU, LIKE, YOU KNOW, DOING WHAT YOU ALWAYS DO, YOU KNOW, BEING SUPER WIDOW SAD AND SHIT?

I started to feel super weird about not feeling being super widow sad and shit, then I realized, I think this means I am making progress.  As in, this is what is supposed to happen.  I can't stay wracked with grief for the rest of my damn life can I?  No.  So SOMEDAY has to be the first day that I look at a photo of him and wistfully shake my head and think "wow, I miss you" then just move along in my head without obsessing for an hour and a half.  

I guess that day was today.  

The Hater

Someone sent me a series of increasingly shitty messages today about how I am grieving too much, grieving the wrong way, and continued to amp it, culminating in this (verbatim):

"Keep chasing away people who tell you harsh truths and genuinely care for the paths you're taking. It never works out well, but I truly wish the best for you."

before I finally blocked him on every conceivable communication platform.  I have no idea why this person wants to tell me what he calls "harsh truths".  And they are his truths.  Not my truths.  I write and talk about my truths.  So why this person (or any person) would presume to think there is some absolute "truth" in the world that I need to be aware of, and disabused of "my" apparent non-truth, is baffling. 

But, as my friends summarized quite succinctly:

"His complaint essentially boils down to ‘the content you were producing on Facebook was not to my liking and your real life struggles bored me’. What an utterly terrible person!"

Yup, that covers it.  

Good god, when you grieve publicly, you attract some assholes who think they need to teach you how to grieve.  No thanks.  I am doing just fine on my own with my actual friends.  Crikey.

I also took a great deal of comfort in the fact that my late, amazing husband knew this guy and he would, if it were some possible from an afterlife, absolutely fucking annihilate this guy for hurting his grieving wife.  He. Would. Kick. His. Ass.  Chad was the most even tempered, chill guy ever.  Except - if you hurt his wife or son.  Then, get the fuck outta the way because you were gonna be in for the brunt end of his impressive ire.  And perhaps because it was used so judiciously, and due to his disability, had to be purely verbal, was something of perverse beauty to behold on the extremely rare occasions when it occurred. So when I got upset at this guy's words, I just imagined Chad, and what he would have said to this asshole.  

And I felt a whole lot better.  

 

I Sold Our Beautiful Home Today Chad

Most widows find comfort in their home after their spouse dies.  I don't.  Everywhere I look, I see Chad.  And my son.  And happy memories (and a few not so happy, like dying in our bedroom).  Everyone tells you not to make any drastic decisions for at least a year.  I tried not to.  I really did. But I immediately wanted to sell the house, and I resisted the urge for as long as I could, and then I decided to just listen to my instincts and save my sanity, and sell.  So, this happened today: 

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It Is Never Going To Stop Sucking

So son's senior year, final, marching band season starts in a few days and I just realized this whole last year of his high school is gonna suck. 

Chad will miss every milestone. Chad has been there since he was a baby in diapers and could barely walk and talk. And I don’t have anyone to go with I his stuff. I mean, I do. My parents go to his school events. My friends go. But it is not the same as going with CHAD, his stepdad of 15 out of 17 years. Ever since my niece's high school graduation a few weeks ago I have been dreading my boy's graduation a year from now.

God this year is gonna SUCK. 

Then my boys will move away to college and I’ll truly be alone. 

I wonder when life is gonna stop sucking. 

Never.

It's never going to stop sucking. 

Because he's never coming back.

My New Medication

I am seeing a new psychiatrist at Duke who is super awesome.  Unfortunately, he is a fellow in his 3rd of 3 years, so I will lose him next July.  That sucks.  But I will just focus on that fact that I have a competent and empathetic psychiatrist for the first time in many years.  He put me on a new medication that is helping me a lot.  It is a benzo, so it can be habit forming, and frankly, at the dose and duration I'm taking it, I will likely become physically dependent on it.  And when/if that happens, all we will do is taper me down slowly when I don't need it anymore.  No big deal.  These drugs are literally made for situations like mine - severe, extended grief and anxiety from the PTSD.  

So I decided to tell my mom that I am on this particular medication and that I am finally starting to feel some relief from the anxiety, my insomnia and I'm just generally feeling quite a lot better.  

Here's what happened. 

"Wow, Mad Widow, beloved daughter, I am so very very glad to hear that!"

Just kidding. 

Here's what really happened. 

(insert scrunched up face here, and put on a snide tone) 

"You're gonna get hooked on that ... stuff!"

Sigh. 

That Night That I Broke

I published this publicly on a writer's website and want to include it here too

I have experienced what even perfect strangers would deem a series of unfathomably horrific events serially for going on almost the past 2 years now. It culminated, or so I thought, on February 4, 2018 when my utterly beloved 49 year old husband Chad died unexpectedly, leaving me in absolute despair, adrift and struggling nearly to breathe, much less function.

Then, it got worse. The days after his death were indeed worse. But I somewhat knew to expect that. The days after his funeral were the very worst (I thought) after everyone went home, went back to their normal lives and I felt like I was standing in the ashes of a fire that erupted hot, burned fast, and left ashes of everything around me.

Then the night of May 21st, 2018 happened.

I was cleaning out the very last of the house to move, the closets, the one task I had forgotten to do. Unfortunately for me, I had to do it alone. Every friend I asked was unavailable or busy — which tends to happen when you say the word “move”.

So I went over to my house at about 7 after working all day, eating, changing and started clearing the closets out. But every damn thing had a memory because closets are where you jam stuff you don’t want to throw out, you want to keep, but you don’t really need to use.

It was hard, very hard. I managed not to cry until I got to this.

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“Mom’s tip jar” in the laundry room. Where I would humorously tip myself with all the stuff that ended up in everyone’s pockets before I put it in the laundry. I found about $27 in there, many lipsticks, lots of rocks, and assorted hair things. It had been pushed back behind some things for many years and I had forgotten about it.

Despite my best efforts, tears started streaming down my face.

Not 2 minutes later, in another closet I fled to avoid the remainder of the laundry room, I found the blanket that we brought Chad’s service dog Stanley, as a puppy, home from the airport in. Right under that was my son’s space themed crib sheets and his space themed twin bed sheets he slept on until he was 15 years old. He would make me wash them and put them right back on, there was no spare set for that boy, it was space-space-space and he’s off to college soon to do something space related.

That last set of sheets is when I 100% lost it. I Lost My Shit, trade marked and all. I hugged his space sheet set, tossed aside my glasses and sat on the stairs and sobbed. And I don’t mean cried, or regular sobbed. I mean body breaking, painful, cannot even fucking breathe, and I was very sure I would never survive pain this horribly deep.

It broke me.

Everyone has their limits. And honestly? My limit is higher than any person I know. But, I hit mine.

That pain was worse than when Chad died, worse than after the funeral when I felt stranded and alone. Now, all of my loss hit me at once: Chad, my son, my dog, Chad’s dog, my house, Chad’s caregiver. I had even started a new job only weeks before Chad died so absolutely nothing in my life was the same anymore. In a word: my entire life was gone. Just. Gone. In a few weeks time, my entire world turned upside down and everything fell out.

The enormity of that hit me all at once, on those stairs, hugging those sheets. I sobbed so long and hard that the entire sheet set was completely drenched wet. I have no idea how long I sat there. I have never before, and I hope to Christ, to never ever wail like that again. Loss this profound is unfathomable until it happens to you.

The best analogy I can think to describe how I have fundamentally broken and will not be the same ever again is of a piece of paper.

I used to be a piece of paper that had lots of writing on it, colorful and crazy and fun, many wonderful things were written on it, some not so great things, lots of drawings — it was full but had more space, that piece of paper. Looking at it made you smile. And the piece of paper that was me did have a few folds and wrinkles here in there, but for the most part, it was intact.

That night, May 21, 2018 is when the universe crumpled that piece of paper that is me up, wadded me into a very tight ball and discarded me like a piece of trash.

Slowly, I have managed since to untangle a little bit, to straighten myself out a tiny bit, and I am in the process of trying to be a regular readable, recognizable piece of paper again. But I feel so much worse than I ever did before. Before it was a mixture of numbness and sadness. Now it is real. Not surreal. Real-real. Too real. Devastatingly achingly real.

And even if some magic English butler found the piece of paper that is me, carefully flattened me out, steamed me, and pressed me with an iron back into a perfectly flat piece of paper …. this piece of paper will always be visibly and obviously wrinkled and damaged from what she has been through.

And in a cosmic twist straight from the most demented Disney movie imaginable, that night, May 21, 2018 is the eve of the 30th anniversary of Chad’s catastrophic spinal cord injury at age 19 that left him paralyzed from the shoulders down later that night at 2 am on May 22, 1988. So, on May 21, 2018 as I sat on those steps, 30 years ago, Chad was taking his very last steps on the earth for a few hours before ending up in a wheelchair for the remaining 29 years and 9 months of his life. I wonder how many times he relived that last night of walking in his head?

I wonder how many times I will relive that night that I broke in my head?