Um, Exuse me… When does this ache stop and where the hell are the milk duds?!

Walmart. 

The place of late night grocery shopping. The place of sweat pants, messy buns, stained shirts and last minute school supply shoppers. At least, last night anyway, that was me. 

It’s also the place I seem to find myself breaking down …. a lot. 

In Walmart. Again. Awesome. 

I forgot to order my daughter’s school supplies from staples at the end of the school year. Something I regret not doing and something I will never forget to do again. 

Though most of her supples had been gathered hectically the week before at Staples, the crowd was insane, and I felt overwhelmed. I left without the Ficsar scissors and the USB saver thingy(I can never remember the names of these things.. Anthony would be laughing right now) to avoid the elbow bumping, cart smashing, and losing of the child in aisles. 

So, there I was, searching for the thingy and the scissors while gathering some lunch snacks in the grocery section. All of a sudden, it’s as though I’ve been plucked from my present and thrown back in time. I’m unsure of what the trigger was; a smell, a sight, Walmart itself  or the first day of school, but I was having a flashback of my sweet husband on one of our evening shopping trips. 

 No specifics really. Just him running up behind me and smacking my behind like he used to. It infuriated me when he pulled stunts like that in public, at home though, I openly loved his playfulness and flirting.  And, maybe secretly, it really didn’t bother me when we were out and about, but I worried others would see it as inappropriate. 

It felt so real. I could see him.  I swear I felt his swift, large hand smack me and I even laughed for a second. When I realized I was standing alone in the aisle I gasped sharply, and then, my stomach turned. What the hell? Why this? Why now?  And then came the tears. 

Awesome.

I need milk duds. NOW. 

I held back the tears as best I could, anxiously running my hand through my already “crazy lady” dishevelled hair. Milk duds. Where are they? I need to calm myself down and I need the milk duds to do this. 

As inconspicuously as I could I wipe the tears from my face, and continue on filling my cart with the last few items on my list. A well meaning Walmart employee caught my eyes and began to approach me. 

I could imagine the conversation ” Excuse me mam, is there something I can help you with” 

Me: nope. 

Employee: Are you sure? 

Me: Unless you can tell me when this ache stops and where the hell the milk duds are, nope. You cannot help me. Unless you can bring back my husband or at least help me with the jobs he took care of like getting the library card every year, then nope. You cannot help me. Unless you have a bag of milk duds and a bottle of Vodka, nope. You cannot help me. I cannot help me right now. 

The conversation never happened because I ran down the aisle before she could approach. 

They’re probably in the bulk section. 

A stood in front of the orange bulk crates staring at the milk duds. They don’t look that good. I slipped my hand in the bucket and quickly threw one in my mouth… and they certainly didn’t taste that good either. Damn it! I took one last plunge into the chocolate macaroon bin, and decided they weren’t really what I wanted either but they would do the trick. 

Pay. Leave. Eat. Cry. 

About 7 minutes later I found myself in my car in the baron Walmart parking lot full on ugly crying filling my face with chocolate macaroons. 

I miss him. Peter, I miss you. She misses you. Our son misses you. 

Sometimes I feel like if I scream his name over and over again, he might just come back. I want to be back in that moment where I felt him, where he was inappropriately flirting with me in public. I want that moment back so I can feel him again. 

But I can’t go back. I can only move forward, and my daughter needs her things for school tomorrow. 

The next day I get up, we get ready for school and life moves forward. 

It’s been a year since my Firsts post. What I’ve realized and am having difficulty accepting is, this was the second  first day of school without him. Our second anniversary, his second birthday… then there will be thirds, and fourths….. they won’t stop because he is always going to be gone. 

Thank you second year of grief. 

Thank you Bipolar Disorder. 

We’ll just have to keep moving on and through. It just kinda sucks. 

He loved milk duds. 





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What will happen….

It’s just me now. 

Just me.

What the hell was he thinking when he took his life? 

I’m going to need a moment to get angry. 

What went through his head when he decided to end his time here on earth? No more daddy, no more husband, brother, nephew and son. He just walked off the stage and left all his roles with cliffhangers that would continue to be just that. . . Cliffhangers. No goodbye, no final hugs, no bow to his beloved audience to acknowledge the show was done. No warning.

No apology to his children for walking of stage to soon. He left them with me. Just me. 

What was he thinking? 

Don’t get me wrong.  My support system is big, and strong and wonderful. The family and friends I have in my life are a blessing and have lifted me many times this past year. They are there to help me and our children through this, and they are the reason I have survived this trauma.

But at the end of the day, it’s just me.   Their mom.

The worst part? I am human. I could die. Today. Tomorrow. Three years from now. I am fragile.  

What would happen then? What would happen to the kids? How would they do without me? 

I sit on the couch after school/work someways; after I’ve picked our daughter up at the bus stop, walked home, done dishes( no dish washer in the rental) swept mopped and made dinner, and just watch them. Our daughter sitting at the kitchen table watching utube videos on how to draw before she gets ready for soccer practice and our son standing at the counter listening to the Ricky Gervais show while he gets ready for his evening out with friends. 

Do they know how fragile I am? 

It makes me panick. I used to be afraid of death. So much so I would avoid living. Now, I’m not afraid of death so much as leaving them behind when they are not ready. Or them leaving me. 

It makes my heart hurt and I have difficulty catching my breath. Am I totally fucking them up? Am I enough? Am I doing a good job at this parenting alone? What will happen to them if I’m not? 

I do what I can to take care of myself so I can be there for them. I’m eating healthier(oh how I miss chocolate chips), going to the gym a minimum of four days a week, blogging, and am in counselling. I do not drink alcohol often, and I do not use drugs. I take my anti-anxiety meds every night. 

What will happen if this is not enough? I know I don’t sleep enough and I certainly smoke way too much. I’m cutting back on caffeine to help with the sleep issue. But what if these changes aren’t enough? 

I’m scared. I feel lonely. He left me alone. And I don’t know what is going to happen. 

I have no control over any of the outcomes. I choose my attitude as best I can so the children will learn resilience but is that enough? 

I’m so angry at Bipolar right now. Fuck Bipolar. What will happen to my children if Something were to happen to me? Thanks a lot asshat Bipolar. Thanks for leaving me alone.  

I know I don’t have control over my future. I know all I can do is let go and give it to god. It’s not an easy task, especially after trauma. Especially after your husband dies. By Suicide. 

I once again have to remind myself to breathe and trust no matter what, those two of my babies will be ok. We will be ok. And just keep moving forward through the fear and know that even through our past experience and though We cant predict what will happen tomorrow we will be ok. There is no other option.

Mother’s Day Without Him

“I hope you have a happy mothers day. You have been so strong for the kids, and I can’t tell you enough how much I appreciate it and am thankful that my children have you as a mother.”

This was one of the last messages he sent me before he took his own life. Eight days later in fact. 

Happy Mother’s Day. 

This Mother’s Day was actually an amazing weekend spent with family and the kids. We played games, had a fun dinner, exchanged gifts, and spent time together.  It was great, and still, there was something missing. 

Actually, the last ten Mother’s Day’s since his mom died something has been missing. Every year I’d ask him what he wanted to do to remember her by. Only once did he request to visit her grave. He said he wanted to celebrate me with the kids and focus on what he did have to celebrate. 

The first suicide attempt I was aware of occurred the day after Mother’s Day.  This time of year was a trigger for him. 

And now, this was the first Mother’s Day without him here. In a few days, it will be the one year anniversary of his death by Suicide. 

Happy Mother’s Day… 

Before bed last night, I scrolled through our texts the last few months of his life. Those texts are one of very few of the things I have left of him, and one of the things I cannot seem to get rid of. I scroll through them on the particularly bad days; I imagine his words are a blanket that I can wrap myself in. They are proof of his previous  existence and the love we still had for each other. 

The message above met my eye. I hid in my room for a brief moment away from the kids, and family who were also getting ready to settle for the evening. The strength he was referring to was my guidance with the children in the chaos caused by Bipolar Disorder. 

What he didn’t know was how weak I felt and what a failure of a mother and wife I believed I was during that time. I was a coward. I couldn’t save the house. I couldn’t stop his psychosis. I couldn’t protect him anymore. 

I was a coward. 

I was scared to let him back in our lives without his being medicated and in regular therapy. I was worried what more the disorder would do to the children. I was scared because after all that happened I loved him anyway. I felt like a failure because I couldn’t stop the illness and our family fell apart. The children were both hurting in very different ways; and there were days I could barely function as a parent. 

The message made me feel ashamed of myself. After all he had been through he still was wishing me a happy Mother’s Day. Me who would only allow him safe visits. Me who put up such boundaries, while he opened himself wide open in ways I couldn’t even imagine. 

I mustered up a thank you, and had our daughter call him later that evening. 

Despite the shame I feel, some how, the message he sent indicated a kind of understanding. I made those decisions with love. For the kids. For myself. For him. As I re-read the message again while gathering myself enough to rejoin the family, I felt a sense of understanding and forgiveness. Whether it was from him, or within myself I don’t know; but I read the message differently than I had in the past. Instead of ringing guilt, it brought comfort and peace. 

I missed him dearly this past Mother’s Day. The kids did too. They missed his helping to plan the day, and making breakfast in bed. I’m thankful my family, including my own mother was there to celebrate and take the sting of the day away but It certainly wasn’t the same without him here; not for me or the children. 

Somewhere deep under the pain and grief, what I can say this Mother’s Day is that I’m forever grateful for that message, and the children we shared together. 

Happy Mother’s Day❤️️

Dig Deep and Sing

http://likesuccess.com/topics/32594/deep-pain

I was just barely 21, a single mom, and full of dreams when Anthony and I first met. I needed something to pass my time alone before we met, so in the evenings when my boy was asleep, I’d make myself a drink, write and play guitar. I’d sing my own songs, and those musings of others while I sipped on Bacardi and Coke. 


Trust me, I’m not that good at it, but I love the sound of the strings and the flow of words. I took pride in  my calloused fingers and steel tinted skin. My little hobby brought me to life in my loneliest moments. 

Anthony taking a picture while I played

I sang for Peter the first time about four months into our relationship. I never felt so vulnerable and exposed. I remember the look on his face, and the twinkle in his eyes. He used to love listening to me pluck away pointlessly; I never did improve much in playing, but he was my biggest fan. He encouraged me to continue playing and I even performed at small coffee houses on folk or open mike nights. He was there to support me. 

Then over the years as we travelled more and had our daughter, I slowly quit playing. Barcardi and music gave way to Netflix, and breast feeding. My guitar became my son’s favourite past time, and man, he had a talent for playing that I, to this day, could only dream of acquiring; so I gave the guitar to him. 

When we separated, and the love of my life left to live in his vehicle, I was desperate for something to bring me to life again. Something to break up my obsessive worry about how ill he was and how to get him help. I needed something for me, that I could do at home and that wouldn’t cost a lot of extra money. Something to break up the tears. 

I bought a guitar and a mutual friend of ours hooked me up with an instructor who, conveniently would come to the house to give me lessons for cheap. I played, and practiced and loved the sound  of the twang coming from the strings beneath my fingers. I began to sing again, and for brief moments, I wasn’t consumed by mental illness, grief, thoughts about how to get the psychiatrists to listen, over my ending marriage, his possibly dying by suicide, carelessness or murder, and the anger I was feeling about being left. I was no longer being eaten by the shame I felt when my co-workers and old acquaintances started asking about what was wrong with my husband(I was never ashamed of him, I was ashamed at the time because I felt I hadn’t done enough and was responsible for his well-being). 

For a brief time each evening I began to feel free. 

For a brief time each evening I could express my feelings and not care about being judged. This was for me. 

I continued to play through our moving, between calls to the hospital, between the police and fire department calls to me, between hurtful conversations, with family in and out and running the kids around to their programs. At night alone, the kids asleep, when the pain was the worst I’d play and sing and be free and feel hope. 

Then I got the call. May 16, 2016 at 5:02pm. 

Anthony on a bus tour we took in 2013. He had just finished Electric Shock Therapy(ECT)

The music stopped that day. 

I hadn’t even realized I quit playing again. The black leather guitar case became a shadowed decoration in my room; sitting in the corner by the door collecting dust. Nights playing and writing were replaced by tears and grief. 

Last Saturday evening, I sat alone in my room restless and wrestling with my guilt. I sat at the end of my bed head in my hands just missing him. In my blurred peripheral, I caught the black shadow in the corner, and lifted my head. 

The skin of the case was cracking and now blanketed with a layer of dust. I wiped the case down with a damp cloth, carried the case to my bed, took out the wooden instrument and held it for a while. 

I swear I could hear him “sing Ker, play for me”. I could almost see him as clear as I did that first time I played for him.

I loved his eyes and lips. He had dimples on the sides of his mouth when he smiled. His green eyes were bright and filled with life when he was happy. Damn I loved that man. 

I dug deep. I felt the pain, hurt and guilt well in my chest and I sang for the first time in 11 months. I pictured him there with me, peering up from his book, his eyes welling with happiness. And underneath the release of all that pain, hurt and guilt, there was a well of love, peace and life. 

I dug deep, and I felt a little more alive that day. Maybe he was trying to show me this. That each day if I dig deep and “sing”(metaphorically)I can peel back the layers of the grief I feel from his being gone I can see in some way he’s still with me, helping me to remember we were once happy, and in love. Our relationship in someway still exists, it’s just evolving into something different. . .

Tell me about your digging deep? What does that mean and look like for you? Together we can dig deep and ‘sing’ and move through this difficult time. 

I can’t fix this

Becoming a single parent, like a real single parent, has been challenging. I don’t have a partner to discuss situations with the children, I don’t have the insights he had. I make the dinners, plan the medical apts(most of mine which are missed because my mind these days is not working the way it used to!) coach, clean, plan, model, run errands, manage the budget, walk the dog(when I can find the time) and try my damnedest to help them grieve. 

But I am not him. He can’t be replaced. I cannot fix that for the kids. I want too, but I can’t. 

I cannot even imagine what it must be like for my children. I’m struggling trying to figure out this grief and the carryover grief from the illness changing him. My daughter was to young to remember him being really sick, but my son remembers more than I would have liked him too. Things that I haven’t told many about because of stigma and not understanding the illness, delusions and behaviours that accompanied the Bipolar diagnosis. If it’s that difficult for me to process some days, I can’t imagine how hard it must be on them. 

The other night my son was talking about some of the struggles he’s been having socially  and economically. When I asked about an argument he’s had with friends he said, ” Mom, it’s not something I can talk about with you. I just want dad. Now I have no one to look up to. I want to talk to Dad but I can’t.”

I can’t fix that. I can’t replace his father for him. I can try to do my best as his mother, but I can’t fill the role of his dad, their deep conversations and the relationship they had. 

I’ve never felt so helpless when it comes to my children. This is new territory and it’s difficult to navigate. All I can say is I’m sorry or what do you need and make sure they know I love them? Even then, it feels like an insignificant effort. 

My son’s biological father had very little to do with him as a child. By the time my son was two, his biological dad had abandoned him only to appear and disappear from his life as he grew older. By eight years old, the already fragile relationship had broken, and though now that his dad is older and more mature, my son wants nothing to do with him. 

Now this. I can only pray the experiences will make him a better father and stronger role model for his future children. That he will stay unwavering in his battle in becoming a man. 

I’ve accepted that I can’t be both parents; I try, but I just can not. I can only be here in ways that I know, as their mother, and try to be the best I can by being a good role model, and keeping an open ear and eye. I pray he’ll find his own path, the right one, and will build a happy life for himself. 

In the meantime, I’ll keep making (and sometimes missing and then rescheduling) appointments, cleaning the house, making meals, guiding and modelling and hope I doing and being enough for them to get through this. Even though I know, I can’t fix this for them, I know I can help pick them up when they need lifting and listening when they need to be heard. 

This is part of my promise to him. That I will try to be the best I can be as their parent and help them to remember him as he was before bipolar and suicide took him away.

I miss that morning coffee

I have a mental picture of Anthony in my head. It was Feb 1st, 2015, almost two years ago exactly. He was wearing his dark green t shirt and blue checkered pj pants. We were separated at the time, but I was hopeful he would return home to us. 

He came for the week to stay with us, get the house ready to sell, and go out with the kids and I for dinner on my birthday. 

We were struggling with saying goodbye to our home, for me, it symbolized the end of what once was a beautiful marriage. The home we built, renovated and created together with our children. We scraped wall paper, painted, built a fence, started landscaping the yard, and made it our own. Yes, there were many arguments, a lot of sweat and tears, but there were successes, wonderful memories and it was the sanctuary we created together, with love.

The decision to sell was not easy, but I felt we had no choice. Separated or not, it was too much work for us, and too much stress on him. The illness rendered him unable to work at the time leaving the much needed renovations to the kitchen and bathroom somewhat unattainable. 

Though he was still taking his lithium, he had quit taking his anti-depressants cold turkey(unbeknownst to me) and he was still not himself. His use of an illy prescribed medical marijuana card rendered the lithium useless. He was in and out of lucidity but at the time he was at the house he hadn’t smoked it in over a week. We were getting along better than we had in months though he wasn’t the same, I still loved him, and I had hoped he wouldn’t go back to smoking. I hoped we would resume our lives together and work together towards recovery. 

The day we spoke with the realtor, the reality of dissolution of our marriage dawned on me. He would be leaving at the end of the week and I would once again be left with the upkeep of the home, taking care of the children, paying all the bills and now making sure the house was ready for showings. All of this on top of having to say goodbye to my husband again, knowing our relationship would not likely survive much longer. Despite my being able to hide my pain in front of Anthony the days before while he was down visiting, I couldn’t keep it in any longer. I cried in front of the realtor. I broke. 

The next morning was my 33rd birthday. We had planned dinner with the children that evening and I would be meeting with friends later on. When I woke that morning, I found him standing over my bed, holding a fresh cup of coffee as he had so many mornings before; before bipolar, before the arguing, before all of the stress and chaos, before ECT and family separations. I loved those moments in the morning that were brief, but they were just for us. They were our quick escape before the kids woke and the hustle and bustle of the day began.

“There he is” I thought, “there is my husband”. 

” I couldn’t afford to get you a gift this year. I hope this will do”. His green eyes matched the color of his dark green shirt. He had a smile on his face that warmed my heart and I felt a wave of hope wash over my body. Maybe, we can survive this. Maybe, bipolar won’t destroy us. Maybe he’ll decide to stay. I remember just staring at him, taking in the moment, the feeling of hope, the aroma of the the coffee and his cologne, his green eyes fixed on me and dimples denting the sides of his smile. At the time I knew I had to mentally record this moment because in a quick second the disorder could take over again. 

“This is the best gift you could have ever gotten me, Thank you”. The coffee was sweet with creamer, just as I liked it. He stood for a moment longer, and I watched him turn to leave the room and walk away to let me get up and ready for the day. I wanted to freeze that moment. I don’t know if he knew how much that cup of coffee meant to me, or how much all the previous coffees meant. They were one of my most treasured moments of the day.

Next week is my 35th birthday. The second birthday I will spend away from him, and the first one where he is no longer here in body. My 34th birthday was spent mostly alone, worrying about him and feeling helpless as to how to get him help. I met up with a small but close group of friends that evening for drinks and tried to make the best of it. The kids and I had gone for dinner. I just had to keep moving forward. 

Just like I have to keep moving forward now. 

I really really miss those mornings and that coffee. As painful as it is to have to do those coffees alone, especially on my birthday, I am however, forever grateful for the nearly 12 wonderful years that I got to share those coffees with him. 

I’m Sprinting through the Grief 

About four weeks ago I woke up, got dressed and looked at myself in the mirror. I didn’t recognize the person staring back at me. 

This person who was once happy, fit and young at heart, had aged, looked tired and had moved towards 220 pounds on the weigh scale. Everything in that persons life looked completely out of control. All of it. 

Because most of it wasn’t in this person’s control. Her husband left. Lost the house. Abandoned the children and insisted she was the ill one, not him. He didn’t need help, she did. He left. He lied. And then he took his own life. She didn’t have any choice in the outcome. He died by his own hand. 

Now she’s left here, cleaning up the mess and sorting through the emotional baggage that has become a metaphor for the weight around her waste, the bags under her eyes, and the unkept hair. The bags of chocolate chips and days of laying on the couch in tears have caught up with me. 

Fuck this. This is NOT who I am! And though I may not have control over much of this life, I do have a say in bettering my own health. That morning I added to my own self care to the list of small steps I can take to keep my promise to my husband who was taken by bipolar disorder. 

The stress the disorder caused in our family was now being worn inside and outside of me. My therapist believes the last few heart breaking years has taken a toll on my own mental health … in the form of Post Traumatic Stress. 

These memories I wake with most mornings, the flashbacks of moments I had forgotten, the replay of irrational arguments, and seeing the suffering in his eyes and the fear on his face, the words exchanged with family; are all part of a larger problem and I need to find peace from it. 

So I’ve started Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing or EMDR in short. I’m writing, and practicing mindfulness. I’m doing what I can to heal my own brain. 

That morning was a turning point for that girl. Not just physically but mentally. I made up my mind to go to the gym and start investing in my health. I stumbled. A lot. At first I just started the couch to five k, three days a week on the treadmill… twice while running I cried. I imagined the emotional pain leaving through my feet and the pieces of my broken heart coming back together as my heart rate increased. 

Then, one evening I was reading a study about Veterans who had returned and been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The study was simple, yet fascinating. 

In short, the study looked at the effects of aerobic excercise on the brain of people who were affected by PTSD. Trauma decreases the volume of the hippocampus which controls emotion, autonomic nervous system and memory. Aerobic excercise can increase the volume of the hippocampus and aid in emotional regulation, nervous response and aid in better memory. The study concluded that those Veterans who had included regular aerobic excercise in their PTSD treatment were less likely to relapse, and recovered quicker than those who only took medication and attended psychotherapy.

So, I switched it up and interval sprinted instead.  The first week I just about died. The second I noticed I was feeling better, tired, physically, but better, and then I noticed a change in my moods and overall feeling.  

On my sprint days, I imagine anger. I let it energize me, when I feel like I want to quit, I dig deep and find the red zone; the anger I feel about him being gone, about how his sister treated me over the last several years, about the mental health system’s continuous failures, about suicide, and above all the hate I have for bipolar disorder and I use this to push for a few more sprints. 

When I’m done, the anger subsides, the sadness is still there, but it’s dissolved atleast for a while. For a few brief hours after, I feel better. 

I’m doing what I can to heal. As much as I wish I could sprint past this stage of my life I can’t. I know this. I can’t ignore it either. So, I’ll just have to keep moving forward and metaphorically sprint through the grief, slowing down when it’s too much, but always moving forward towards healing.