|Posted on August 19, 2017 at 12:20 AM|
I wish someone had told me how profoundly my expectations of myself would have to change. I wish I had known that it would be years before I recovered some semblance of equilibrium. I wish someone had told me that grief can't be scheduled, that I would not be able to cry at his funeral but would burst into tears randomly at the grocery store or driving on the highway past trees whose leaves were changing color for the first time since his death. I wish I had known it would not go faster if I scheduled time off for the specific purpose of grieving, that more often than not on those days I would feel fine, only to find myself unable to get out of bed to pour and drink a cup of water the very next day. I got sick repeatedly the first year. I stopped sleeping through the night. I had flashbacks awake and dreams asleep. I went through phases of dreaming about him as if he were still alive and dreams of him in which we knew he was dead, and phases of dreaming not of him at all. I woke up to check that my cat was still breathing. I was deeply afraid for a long time of losing another loved one, and sometimes it manifested as a hesitancy to open my heart and let myself care. At other times I was so desperate I would attach myself to the first safe person within range, revealing a depth of vulnerability to near-strangers (most of whom then became close friends) I would never have imagined myself able to before. I also went through times of feeling very withdrawn, unable to reach out or interact. I didn't feel safe being alone in the house, but when people came by I hid in my room. I was filled with tender awareness of how precious and fleeting life is, and wanted to live every moment of it to the hilt, and I was also utterly unable to do so...for months...sometimes it was as if my body couldn't understand how I could still be breathing in this world where he no longer breathed. Those days, it was hard to exist. I remember lying down on the floor, or the couch, or in the bathtub under a blanket that I'd dragged off my bed, breathing and trying to make sense of being alive. Nothing seemed to help consistently, and my motivation for doing things that were hit-or-miss helpful waxed and waned like the moon. Sometimes sticking to a routine was soothing; sometimes it was utterly impossible. Like my immune system, my resilience to change declined to zero overnight, and seismic changes promptly happened, one after another, in my personal life, my professional life, housing, housemates, work, etc. That first year my favorite professor, my cat, and the wife of the guy I worked for died. People died, relationships ended, and the person I had been would have been up to handling it all but the person I had become couldn't even deal with forgetting a book at home. Little things like that set me off. Things would quietly get better, and then I'd relapse into acute grief and despair of ever regaining the ability to do my life. I felt like I hated the person I'd become, or I would if I had the energy left to hate. I made promises I could not keep. I ran late, and had to cancel scheduled appointments. I had incredible inertia: it was hard to get started and equally difficult to stop once I began. My sex life went to hell at this most inopportune time...I needed touch, needed to be touched and reminded that I was alive, and paradoxically I also could hardly abide being touched, could not be aroused and was resistant to physical contact even when it was not erotic. I used alcohol for the first time in my life, self-medicating when the insomnia drove me up the wall and drove my partner from my bed. Eventually my period started acting up too. Deciding to do something about it was hard because with every healer I would have to explain it all again which sometimes stirred up feelings and symptoms that may, given enough time, settle down on their own. I felt like a broken record sometimes, skipping and repeating the same story over and over. I couldn't remember whom I had told what. People ran out of patience with me for various reasons. Some left, cutting me out of their lives. I ran out of patience with myself. If I could have taken a break from myself I think I would've gone too.
And now, over seven years later, I am closer than ever to the person I have always wanted to be. I still dream, I still have nights when I startle awake, my ability to feel still fluctuates, and I still go to therapy. I get acupuncture weekly and take Chinese herbs daily, working on my metrorrhagia. But I am also almost done with a doctoral degree, I'm teaching a subject I love at a school with students who give me reason to get out of bed in the morning, and I can honestly say I love my life, which I'm living as hard and bright as I can, savoring each moment.
It never goes away. But it does get better.
(Thursday, August 17, 2017 11:12am)