It has only been a short amount of time since you decided you couldn't go on anymore; choosing to end your suffering...
"Beautiful fake smile. All it takes is a beautiful fake smile to hide an injured soul, and they will never notice how broken you really are."
~ Robin Williams
Not long ago our families lives were flipped upside down, drop kicked across an NFL football field, and then deflated. Just recently our family has found our life and started putting air back into it. Now comes the hard part of flipping it right-side up and dragging back across the field to where it belongs. Thinking back on the last time I had to do this and was truly this sad was in 2006 and 2008. In 2006 I lost the best person in my life due to a tragic car accident, and two years later I lost his sweet sister the same way. Losing them was the hardest death I have ever dealt with. There are multiple reasons behind this, but this was the last time I felt so much pain. I had so much guilt when I knew there was nothing I could have done to prevent it. Waking up and functioning was miserable; I drank, cried, and slept for what felt like an eternity. I was a mess. However, I could be a mess. My responsibilities were minimal. I am not saying this is the correct way to cope. I just understand the desire to want to numb the pain. During those difficult times, I found a support system. I had friends that weren't suffering. They were able to keep me distracted. Distraction was good...
After everything happened, my first thoughts were "How can we help prevent this? How can we help others? Should we be using our voice for mental health? Addiction? Gun violence?" All I wanted was for no one else to experience the pain we have. No one else to experience our nightmares. I didn't know where to start, so I started writing. I find writing to be a therapeutic outlet for me, and maybe my writing will help someone else. When I started writing this particular blog post, I set out to write to specifically help others. To write about mental health and addiction; not from personal experience but rather what I saw and how it affects a family. How sad that the thought of getting (mental) help was such a taboo, or even talking about it was frowned upon. I wrote and wrote and wrote. I had over a thousand words within a few minutes. Then I realized...I'm so angry. I'm writing out of anger and sadness. Lots of it. I'm still angry. The truth of the matter is, I'm no expert on any of these topics I wanted to address. I cannot prevent death, no matter what way it presented itself. This was not my first experience with death, having a loved one with an addiction, or knowing someone that suffered from severe depression. Somehow this was much harder.
It wasn't harder because it was a loved one. It was harder because we can't pause life. Everyone else was able to go back to their life, except for us. Our home and our life will never be the same. I have so many questions that I do not know how to answer. How do I grieve as a parent? How do I pick up my loved ones when I also need to be picked up? How do I grieve when I am told I am not allowed to have feelings on this matter? How do I stop my Tiny's nightmares after what he saw? What do I do when I do not have my support system? How do we grieve as a family? I just want to erase the pain... I quickly realized I was no longer writing this blog for someone else, but rather for myself. In past experiences, I was able to grieve on my terms. This time, being on my terms is not possible. I have to be strong for my kids, my husband and pretend that what happened was "natural" or "normal" for others. Somehow balancing all of this while finding time for myself. Here I am, again, reminding myself of mental health/ self-care still applies to me. I wrote a blog a while back about being selfish. Being selfish, or rather self-care has always been hard for me. I have always thought how can I help others before thinking about how can I help myself. The truth of the matter I can't help someone if I can't help myself.
"You can't pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first."
A few weeks ago I started my journey to figure out how our family will answer all of these questions. Looking back on past experiences of hardship, and struggles with emotions. I reminded myself of when Trey was sick, who showed up, who didn't, and as a family how drastically different we digested him having cancer. What I have learned over the years on how people handle trauma is two things:
1. People's reactions to a traumatic event depend on how close or distant they were to the person/experience.
2. During hardships, people naturally focus only on themselves. Getting people to respect your feelings and respecting theirs can be difficult.
Not one person during the time of Trey's cancer or this death felt the same emotions that I felt. Why should they? Nobody was as close as we were. With our latest tragedy, we were close. Too close honestly. So here I am. Searching. Learning how to accept what it is, and how to help my family move forward together.
"Peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is, rather than as you think it should be."
~ Wayne W. Dyer
I sometimes feel alone in my journey, even though I'm not. I found that I needed to distance myself from everyone else's emotions. If I did not, I would have focused on theirs rather than focusing on me. During this voyage distancing myself from my family has not been easy. Being a social person I enjoy being around people and I feed off other people's energy. With everyone's energy in our family being low the atmosphere hasn't been comfortable. Trying to distract me has been equally as difficult. To be fair trying to find "positive" in this issue is impossible, not much positive came from this event. I tried diving headfirst into our old life, but our old life was no longer there. I tried staying busy, constantly surrounding myself with friends, hoping they could keep my mind off my current life. Despite seeking distraction, distraction wasn't the right answer for this. Distraction was just postponing the inevitable of facing my feelings. Even though my journey has only been a few weeks, and I haven't answered any of my questions. I actually may never answer my questions, I may forever be hurt, or have feelings of resentment... yet I feel what I am doing is moving me, our family, in the right direction. Two weeks ago I started crawling my way back into things that gave me pleasure. Last week was the first week I went to the gym every day, and this past weekend our family took a much-needed getaway into the woods. Focusing on us only, unplugging, and telling the world it can wait. These little victories and breaks seem to be just what we needed. What I needed. Slowly, about at a snail's pace, we are coming out of our dark hole. Taking every day one day at a time. Working our way to being able to look ahead vs. looking at the now. Our life is messy at the time being. It will be for a while, but that's okay. I once gave someone the opportunity to take care of themselves; now it is my turn to take care of myself and my family.
"Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, 'I will try again tomorrow.'"
~ Mary Anne Radmacher
For those that are speaking out and talking about mental health, whether from personal experience or other, thank you. Thank you for bringing mental health to the forefront. Thank you for fighting to end the stigma of mental health, and pushing others to talk too. Let's talk about it. We need more people like you.
If you or someone you know needs someone to talk to, please reach out. You are not alone.