Naked in front of the crowd

 

stagefrightI thought after the last few days of heavy posts that I would put something a little lighter up today. Maybe share a laugh about Nolan. I do that. I get so far into the dark spaces that I have to let some light shine through. Sometimes I use humor or sarcasm to do that. Sometimes I use beer or wine. Don’t panic, I’m not an alcoholic, but come on. We all do something. Sometimes I use loud music. In this instance, though, I feel like doing so would be running scared. I feel a major breakdown coming on. Saturday will mark 3 months since the World went Dark. My plan was to share the details of Nolan’s passing on that day. I’m not sure if I can. Now I’m wondering if I even want to. We have been so open about everything in regards to Nolan that the last private moments we’ve kept are the graphic details of what actually happened that night. I know I said I promise I would tell you his story, but now I don’t know if I can keep that promise. I think I will just have to wait and see.

I have bared my Soul to you 3 days running now. You have reacted with nothing but compassion, support, and love. I owe you more than running scared. So I will stand before you, naked in front of this crowd, and tell you why I really started this blog.

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Another family who lost someone to a Brain Aneurysm was holding a fundraiser. They were selling sweatshirts that were designed to honor their Hero and raise awareness. My family worked closely with the Kat-Walk and Karo 5K for Maine Brain Aneurysm Awareness in September. https://www.facebook.com/KatWalkKaro5k. We brought them a team of over 130 people and raised over $7500 in funds to go towards their efforts. I bought the sweatshirt from another suffering family to support their efforts to raise awareness. And I felt like a hypocrite.

Here I was talking about what happened to Nolan and what happened to other families. Here I was going around talking about the signs and symptoms of brain aneurysms. I was touting statistics and treatment options…and I was keeping this secret. I’m carrying that same silent killer inside me.

I told my older kids about how I felt like a hypocrite and thought I should just come out with it. One of my daughters suggested starting a blog rather than just put it out on Facebook. It felt right. One of my daughters shared her concern about how people are still staring at her in public and she didn’t want even more attention. I tried to assure her that people aren’t staring like “OMG Do you see what she’s wearing???” I tried to assure her that people are looking at her in awe that she has the strength to be up and out and still moving. I think people look at all of us and wonder how a body can contain and carry such heavy Grief. Still, my amazingly strong daughter said she supported my sharing this personal journey.

So, Did you catch that? Typical of me, I slide something really important in and then move right along hoping you miss it. I can’t let you miss this. Here it is again. I’m carrying that same silent killer inside me. I, too, have been diagnosed with a brain aneurysm. There. It’s out there. Folks, this can happen to ANYONE.

I have seen a neurosurgeon who suggested I wait a year and see how it goes. That was good enough for me and my friend Denial. For some reason, I keep hearing a whisper between breaths that I shouldn’t wait and I should go for the further testing now. Denial doesn’t like that plan. It’s only in honor of Nolan that I am listening to this whisper. I wish I wish I wish I had known the symptoms and taken him to the doctor. I’ve been told time and again that there really was nothing that could be done. His condition was so severe that no doctor would touch it, and even attempting to would most likely leave him in a perpetual vegetative state if not killing him instantly. Mine is not nearly such a big deal. Denial says it’s not a big deal at all!

The day of my initial test, I made a comment that came across as hurtful to one of my children, but I didn’t mean it to be that way. It was an honest statement. I said “I almost hope I do have what Nolan had that way I won’t have to worry about living another 60 years without him.” In hindsight, that was a horrible thing to say. But it was true that day.

The old cliche is true. Be careful, my Friends, of what you say and what you wish for. You just might get it.

Dentist Day

I had this whole post started about my 2am turmoils and what it is like for me to get through the night. I was going to tell you all about hearing a male voice during the night that didn’t belong to anyone in my house. I was going to go on to share a dream I had shortly after Nolan passed where I think I experienced his Death. About 300 words in, my Mother stopped by to visit. I, of course, took that opportunity to escape what I was doing. That’s another thing I was going to tell you about – how I am the World’s Best Avoider of Difficult Emotions. I was going to tell you all about Busy Days and Breakdowns. Then something else happened.

This afternoon was our Dentist Day. Every six months, my family overtakes the Dentist’s office for the afternoon. It used to be all 5 of us, but then M got old enough to go on her own. We were down to 4. With us, we brought a playful spirit to that office. It really was fun. Little N played with all the toys, I chatted with the staff, Nolan questioned everything, and DH was just Darling. We took up their whole block of appointments for that time frame. Twice a year for the last 8 years, this was our routine. My boys love (loved?) getting their teeth cleaned. Nolan used to say he would have them cleaned every day if he could. This from the baby I had to sit on for the first 3 years of his dental visits. Didn’t see that coming!

When the appointment reminder showed up in my calendar this week, I just closed it out and didn’t look again. I felt a little lump. I’m good at avoiding (did I say that already?), and just pretended it wasn’t happening. I mean really, it’s the Dentist. It’s not a holiday or an anniversary. It shouldn’t be a big deal, right? Well it was.

I had a minor breakdown before we left and quickly took an anxiety pill. I know I put my Disclaimer out there, but sometimes I just don’t want to cry! The pills help, but I still cry. When we got to the office and I went into the back and laid in the oh-so-comfortable chair, I was holding it together pretty well. Or so I thought. The Dentist came over to offer her support. She had lost her brother at a young age and shared with me that in time, the memories and thoughts of him no longer held the same “sting.” I have heard that from others. “Sting” is about the biggest understatement I’ve heard in 3 months. Try more like a sledgehammer, chainsaw, chinese star, harpoon, machete, gunshot, poison arrow, and high-heeled shoe impact plus about a bazillion percent and we’re on the way to understanding the “Sting” of losing a child. But I digress.

Can you tell what’s coming? Yup. I lost it. Silent tears poured down my face. I’m at least glad they were silent because I am an ugly crier. The sobbing, hiccuping, sniffling, scrunched up red faced kind of ugly crier. So silent tears were likely the benefit of that little white pill I was smart enough to take.© Copyright 2010 CorbisCorporation

There I was, laid back in that chair with the bib surrounding my neck, the bright light shining directly on my face. The Dentist in a mask with only her eyes visible, trying to offer me words of comfort and my mascara is leaking into my ears. (Oh yes, I even put on makeup in an attempt of looking half-way human today. Not going to bother with that nonsense next time.) I felt like I was in some kind of horror movie. Truly, my life IS a horror right now.

So what did I do? Did I get up running away screaming from the injustice of it all? I sure as Hell wanted to! No, I stayed and thanked her profusely with my outside voice while my inside voice cursed and ranted and, for once, stayed inside my head. I attribute this to that awesome little white pill I was smart enough to take. Yay me for that.

Enter the Hygienist, who happens to be a friend of mine. She was my Savior today. She simply handed me a tissue and said she was “Only going to say this. I think about you and your family every day.” That simple statement gave me permission. That simple statement said she understood to the best of her ability having never gone through such an experience. I thanked her, and this time it was sincere. Both my outside voice and my inside voice concurred. I told her that I was just going to cry through the appointment because Nolan was supposed to be with us today. She said that was absolutely fine. And you know what? It was.

Most people get really awkward around Grief. There was nothing she could do to make it any better and we both knew it. She simply held space (and cleaned my teeth; no cavities; yay me) and let me pull myself together.

It hurts like hell right now. When I made this appointment 6 months ago, the thought that Nolan would die had never crossed my mind! I never thought “I hope we are all still alive and together in 6 months.” That would have been absurd. As I made the next appointment for just the 3 of us, <insert more tears here> I prayed. I really did. Please God, Goddess, Beings of Light and Love, Jesus, Joseph, Mary, and Whoever the F*** Else is in charge up there – PLEASE let the 3 of us still be alive and together in 6 months.

What else can I do?

Things I’ve Learned about Grief

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After Nolan passed, I started noticing all sorts of weird changes in myself. We all know the stages of Grief;

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

What I felt didn’t always fit neatly into one of those boxes. It still doesn’t. Grief is also not so easily navigated through one phase to the next. You might typically start with Denial, which I absolutely did and still deal with, but the process is more circular and winding back in on itself all over the place. I’ve spent a great deal of time with Denial, starting from the moment Nolan lost consciousness. I Bargained my way through the next two days he spent on life support. I haven’t hit Anger yet, or at least full force. I’m not an angry person, so maybe I won’t. There was a period, and my Darling Husband might say I’m still in it, where I snapped at him unwittingly. I wasn’t angry at him, but I suppose I had a very short fuse and my compassion took a hiatus.

So, I had all these feelings and odd things going on and I decided to write them down. I left the list on my kitchen table for DH to add to, but he never did. Writing has been my thing, not his, so I understand. I was hoping, however, that it would bring us some common understanding of where we each were. We are polar opposites and having vastly different experiences in dealing with Grief. I can’t speak for him, so these are the things I’ve noticed in me.

  1.  It’s completely and utterly overwhelmingly exhausting. The simple act of opening my eyes feels like too much of an effort. Simply taking one breath after the next is a monumental task.
  2. My mind has become unfocused. It’s impossible to think about any one thing for any length of time. Wandering aimlessly from room to room has become a regular thing.
  3. Every task takes longer to complete. This is probably because my mind is so unfocused.
  4. Food tastes different. It’s like everything has lost its flavor. Life has become bland. (Side-note on this: I have seen people in Grief lose lots of weight very quickly. Me? I eat next to nothing and haven’t lost an ounce. Where is that Death Diet??? Can I not get at least one little bit of  help here???)
  5. This should probably be number 1, but it was number 5 in my notebook and I am copying verbatim. MY LIFE IMMEDIATELY DIVIDES INTO “BEFORE” AND “SINCE.” I capped all that on purpose. A long, deep, dark divide has crossed my path. No matter what comes next, every single thing will be either “Before” or “Since” I lost my son.
  6. Grieving differently than my spouse is very lonely. I need quiet and solitude. DH needs to be even busier than “Before.” Nobody else in the world has the same pain as the two of us. Dealing with it in opposite ways makes it so that we are not sharing. We are not going through this together. We are grieving alone even in the same room. I fear the chasm this has started to create. In all honesty, my marriage was in rocky shape “Before.” The statistics on a marriage surviving the loss of a child are not encouraging. This scares me.
  7. Long car rides are a really, really, REALLY bad idea. There is just too much time to get lost in my thoughts. Those thoughts are never good. Down the rabbit hole you go.

I’ve learned from a class in Bereavement that at the moment of Trauma (yes, it deserves a capital T), more than 100 chemicals and hormones flood into your body to absorb part of the impact. That’s what triggers Denial. It will literally save your life because your body could not handle the full impact of the Trauma. I have to agree. I know I couldn’t handle it. Still can’t. Anyway, it can take 3 to 4 MONTHS for your body to BEGIN to process through all those lovely little helpers. You will likely stay a little numb or in Denial during those months. It is approaching the 3 month mark “Since.” I think about that and go blank. Thank you Denial. It seems we aren’t done with each other quite yet.

I now come with a Disclaimer.

I’m new to this whole blogging thing. I’ll be honest, it’s not something I had planned on ever doing. I have been a journal-writer since I was 8 years old. Writing has always been my way of processing my world. It’s never something I ever imagined I’d share with anyone. Everything I thought I ever knew about myself, the world, life, and the natural order of the Universe disappeared in a heartbeat – or more accurately, with the ceasing of a heartbeat.

On July 18, 2014 at approximately 10:15pm my 14 year old son Nolan stopped breathing. I will get into his story in another post. I promise. This is merely me saying to you, whoever you are (and does anyone actually read these blogs?) I’m here, I have a story to tell and a Journey to share. Before we get too far along, you should read my Disclaimer, so here it is:

If you see me, I may cry. If you talk to me, I may cry. If you look at me, I may cry. THAT’S OK. Please don’t let fear of my tears stop you from being around me. I might also, not cry. We might talk and I will run out of things to say. That’s ok. It’s not you. Seriously. You might be afraid of saying the wrong thing to me. Don’t worry. I’ll more likely say the wrong thing to you. My filters are GONE. If you complain about how your “life sucks,” I’m probably going to point out that your kids are alive. Your life doesn’t suck. My perspective has changed. On everything. Go ahead and say Nolan’s name. I will. I might cry, but THAT’S OK. If you see me out, I probably look like crap. I don’t care about my appearance or what I wear. If you’re lucky, I’ve showered. Don’t judge. I’m using every ounce of energy to just get out of bed. I don’t have any to spare on pretenses. I’m different than I was, and I don’t even know myself well right now. I will probably offend you with some of my opinions and thoughts. Too bad. I will never knowingly say something hurtful, but my Journey is emotional and raw and honest. It’s likely that I will say something that will trigger your own issues. That’s your problem. I have enough of my own.

So there you have it. A disclaimer. A warning. I don’t know where I’m going, and this is not going to be a pretty view.

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