Tag Archives: Panic attack

Rock Bottom

rock bottom

Sometimes after you think you’ve hit rock bottom, you realize that you were wrong. There is so much further you can fall. That’s happened to me. I thought I had passed the worst. I actually wrote, “The draw of Death has released it’s iron grip on me. A little. I still think about it, but I know I made it through the worst.” How naive I was. How blind. Shortly after writing that, I learned the bottom can still drop out of rock bottom. You fall deeper into an abyss you didn’t see coming. You should have seen it , but you’ve become such an adept liar that you lie to yourself as much as everyone else. That’s me. The most adept liar I’ve ever met (and I’ve met some doozies!!)

I thought I was gaining ground, truly. I had found that adrenaline was a great escape from the Grief. I thought it was a healthy escape. It kept me active, engaged with my friends, enabled me to laugh, helped me feel the blood flowing through my veins again. Turns out the adrenaline was actually the dizzying affect of such a downward spiral that it turned me upside down, backwards, and inside out. I was in constant search of that rush. It was alluring and captivating. Incipient of the destruction to come. It began innocently enough, with a day filled with friends, laughter, and mayhem. A day unplanned. A day where the laughter flowed so freely and I felt like the Old Me again. It was the Old Me, but not the recently inhabited Old Me. red dress

This was 16 year old Amy come back from the recesses, from the darkest parts of my past, grabbing me in her arms and doing what she did best. Avoid feeling. 16 year old Amy is a nightmare wrapped in glitter and spKISSandex. She shines brightly, laughs boisterously, loves freely, engages easily, draws everyone in to her web. She’s hedonistic. She is the quintessential party girl. She’s a master manipulator, a liar, a deceiver. She has a selfish heart, and it’s only purpose is to avoid pain. She pays no attention to the misery left in her wake. I embraced her completely, not even realizing she was back. black dressThe psyche is a very clever entity. It creates all these self-defense mechanisms from trauma. 16 year old Amy is just that. She was created from years of trauma, mixed with a natural tendency towards mischief and needing to rebel against authority. She was born of internalized anger and rage. She was my Protectress. She is my restless spirit incarnate. She both saved me and nearly destroyed me when first she emerged. She did no different this time. 16 year old Amy has no business being anyone’s wife. She has no business being anyone’s mother.

When I found myself at the deepest, darkest bottom I have ever encountered, I had no choice but to look around at what I had done. With the depths of despair came the words from my Husband, “You need to leave.”  I hurt those that I was tasked with protecting. I hurt those that I love most in this world. I disappointed those who looked up to me. It was pretty sobering. Literally – as in it’s been 19 days since I’ve had a drink.

I reached out and begged for help – from the Universe, from Nolan, and from (finally) a grief counselor. Truthful truth is I had been crying out desperately for help for a long time. It’s not an easy thing to own up to your failures, but that’s what I’m trying to do. Being brutally honest with a counselor is so difficult. I don’t want to look in that mirror, but I have to. For as open as I’ve been about my Grief and this Journey, I hide 1000x more beneath the surface. The PTSD has been out of control for a long time. I’ve been self-medicating until a blackout blissfully removes all feeling from my heart. I’ve been told that my behaviors are a “Passive Suicide.” I can’t disagree with that.

I have failed utterly as a wife, as a mother, as a friend. I can’t take anything back. I know more than most that there are no magic time machines. No matter how desperately we want to go back, time moves in only one direction. It’s time I moved in that direction too. Forcing myself to face the feelings is something I battle every day. I want to avoid. I want to hide. I want to deny. I want 16 year old Amy to whisk me away to where the music is so loud you can’t hear yourself think. I want her to take away the pain. I can’t let her. I have to heal that part of myself as well. I’m learning that new trauma often brings up old forgotten traumas. Things you thought you had dealt with years ago resurface in a different light. <insert sarcasm font> It’s awesomely fun.

I’m taking baby steps forward. Tentative steps on broken glass. I know it will hurt, but I’m trying to tread gently. I took Nolan’s picture off the background of my phone and put Nason’s in its place. I’m hoping this will help keep my focus on him rather than my loss. I’ve given my notice at school and accepted a new full-time job. I have so many mixed feelings about this. I will miss the kids and the teachers so much, but school is fraught with triggers for me. I hear Nolan’s voice echo down the hall. I catch a glimpse of him out of the corner of my eye, and it cuts me off at the knees every time. I need to spend my days in a place with no memories. I need to fill the hours. Home isn’t my safe place anymore.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to salvage the wreck I’ve made of my family. The only thing I can do is to take care of myself better so that I can take care of them. Please don’t tell me I’m strong, because right now I’m not. I’m broken. I’m bruised. I’m vulnerable. Maybe I will get strong. Maybe I won’t and this “passive suicide” thing will rear it’s ugly head once more. I don’t know what the future holds. I only know that right now, in this moment, I’m trying to be a better human being.

NB13: The Nolan Berthelette Story

nb13

I was approached a while back by a young film maker in New York who got wind of our story. Ashley Robinson grew up in Pittsfield, and she lived here until she was 8. Through mutual friends, her Mom, Rachel, found my blog and she began to read and follow my journey. She shared it with Ashely and it touched her deeply. She wanted to share Nolan’s story with the world. That was the humble beginning to an immense project.

Since then, we have met and filmed, shared and talked, cried and laughed. Ashely and Rachel have become part of our family, our Tribe. I feel like Nolan was the puppet master pulling the strings. There are so many parallels in our lives, and an instant kinship was formed. This process hasn’t been easy. Bringing up all of our memories has been hard. Even the happy ones brought us tears.

When we filmed my interview for the documentary, it was the first time I had shared the full story of what happened That Night. I’d given the basics to people who asked, but not many specifics – like the moment Nolan stopped breathing while my hand hand was on his chest; like immediately having to make the choice between the child I knew I couldn’t save and the one standing next to me; like seeing blood pour from his nose in torrents, like seeing the color leach from his body and the grey pallor of death fall over him. I talk about all of this and more in the film. It’s raw and morbid and so painfully honest. Going through all of it was the hardest thing I’ve done Since. But it was healing too, eventually. Bringing up all the details did cause a downward spiral at first. I was sucked into the depths of despair and spent many Grief Days in bed hiding. There was no help for it. Grief is a very physical process, and my body needed to shut down and just concentrate on breathing.

There were times when I sat in my car in the garage just willing myself NOT to turn it on. I tried to filter out the voice that told me I could see Nolan in just a few minutes if only I was brave enough to turn the key. I thought about just not feeling this pain anymore. Then I thought about Nason, Li’l N, (no use in using initials anymore since we’ll all be outed in the film anyway). I thought about him having to hear that I had left him, by my own choice. I was pulled right back into that moment when Ray started CPR on Nolan, and I had to choose between the child I knew just died and the child standing traumatized beside me. It was the same thing. I could go to Nolan, but there’s nothing I could do for him. I had to choose Nason. If he lost me too, I can’t even imagine how he could carry the pain, especially knowing I chose death over life with him.

Eventually I began to come out of it – and stronger than I was before. Laughter came and sometimes it wasn’t even forced. The draw of Death has released it’s iron grip on me. A little. I still think about it, but I know I made it through the worst. The temptation was strong, but I was stronger.  I’m getting there. Nason is my Light.

I am including some links here. If you’re reading my blog, then you are already a brave traveler on this journey with me. I hope you’ll help us spread the word about this documentary. Nolan’s life here has passed, but his work is not done. It’s up to all of us to carry his torch, and be a part of Nolan’s legacy.

YouTube trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pt4vvlQyGdA

The documentary Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/NB13Doc?fref=ts

IndieGoGo Campaign (help fund the film!): https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/nb13-the-nolan-berthelette-story

The Documentary Website: http://imaginechanges.wix.com/nb13

Smoke and Mirrors

smoke

When your child dies, you don’t lose them all at once. You lose them by increments, microscopic particles, little by little, bit by bit, second by second, hour by hour, day by day, month by month, year by year. The immediate absence of their physical body is shocking; traumatic. I imagine this is the same whether your child suffers an illness or is ripped from your arms in sudden tragedy. Even if you know it’s coming, nothing can prepare you for that moment when their breath stops, their heart quiets, and a silence fills your Soul never to have sound again.

This is what I’ve been going through and why I’ve been on hiatus from this blog. It’s been too much to carry – to heavy for words. I survived Mother’s Day. I survived a birthday. We survived Father’s Day. We managed to make it through Nolan’s one-year anniversary. The days continue to be wrapped in darkness. The panic attacks are back in full swing. The nights are filled with terrors only to awaken to find that is has become my life.

I’m losing Nolan in pieces. Sometimes it feels like he’s just not home, and I have to remind myself that he’s not coming home. I look for him everywhere, in everything. In every tree, in every leaf, in every whisper of the wind. I try to see him in every cloud and bird. I search each rock and flower and blade of grass to find something – something – that calls out to me from him. I was laying at the lake last week, just watching the clouds and talking to him in my mind. I could swear the clouds spelled “LIVE,” and I started to cry. The eagle chose that moment to soar over the lake, and I almost believed it was real. Part of me knows that he is still trying to reach me, but the bigger part is so wrapped in pain that it makes those signs easy to rationalize away.

Pieces of him drift away. Slowly, quietly. The emptiness is becoming familiar, routine. I still cry every day. Every. Single. Day. Endlessly. I see all the posts about Grief online and they don’t help. Grief is the price of love and all that nonsense. I call bullsh*t on that. Love has no price, especially the unconditional love for a child. Grief is what rises up and engulfs the energy that you used to spend on that child. All those thoughts about them, the physical energy in taking care of them, the emotional devotion directed towards them, your hopes and dreams for them – it all just hangs there like a specter hovering in your heart. It becomes Grief incarnate. It takes over every aspect of your life.

I am beginning to see the understatement that “New Normal” really means. It’s that Grief encompassing every part of you – mind, body, and Soul. It pushes out all color from your life. You actually become used to it. The constant battle of railing against the pain and trying to find the sun – and your Son – begins to feel familiar. Your shoulders slump under the weight of agony, your back curves, everything hurts, but you begin to desensitize yourself to the sensations. The fight is gone. Surrender is the only option.

All this goes on behind the smile and the “I’m ok,” in response to your “How are you?” All this happens behind the laughter of a joke you told or a memory you shared. Smoke and mirrors. People become more comfortable with that perception. They want you to be ok. They want you to be happy. They want you to laugh, and so you do. Only those who look beyond that surface, only those brave Souls who travel the same path really notice the laughter never reaches your eyes. They notice you always deflect questions about yourself. They know it’s self-defense. Self-preservation. Even with all my devotion to being brutally honest about this Journey, I have somehow become a Master of Smoke & Mirrors.

Nolan’s Hands

hands

Recently, I went to pick up Nolan after he spent the night at a friend’s house. I remember pulling into the driveway of this house I had never been to before and being so desperately excited to see him. I could not wait for him to come out of the front door. I missed him with a ridiculous intensity that made no sense. He’d only been gone one night, for Heaven’s sake! When he finally came outside, I nearly shrieked. Ok, maybe I did a little bit. He walked casually to the car with that lovable smirk on his face. He was wearing his favorite plaid shirt with the sleeves rolled partway, and a pair of jeans. I remember looking at him and thinking what a stunningly handsome man he was growing into. He got to the passenger side of the car and slid in next to me. He looked at me and grinned. I said to him, “Nolan, I missed you! I had the most horrible nightmare that you died!” I held his hand up to my cheek and kissed it. I remember the feel of his warm hand against my face. When I looked at his hand in mine, I got confused for a minute. He didn’t say anything to me, just smiled a soft little smile, like he knew that I was going to fall but he couldn’t help me. He couldn’t save me from it, but he was loving me through it.  All of a sudden it came back to me. THIS was the dream. My life was the nightmare. I woke up in a sea of tears that I still can’t seem to stop.

I’ve always loved Nolan’s hands. From the moment he was born, I’ve had this bizarre fascination with them. The way he would hold onto just my one finger when he was an infant, the way he studied them himself as a baby, the way he learned to use them as a toddler all left me in awe. When he started building things and drawing, I would sit for hours with him and watch his hands. I always thought they were the most beautiful hands I had ever seen. As he got older and they started to become the hands of a man, I would still look at them and think about them holding his own child someday. I would think about those hands touching the face of his wife someday. No matter how old he got, Nolan would always let me hold his hands.

When I first was able to hold Nolan’s hand in the local hospital That Night, I knew he was gone, but in my deep shock, I thought there was a chance he’d wake up. I kept telling myself that when he was life-flighted to the next hospital, we would get there and find him awake in bed. There was no other vision I let take hold. When we got there and I held his hand again, I knew. I was still insistent that the doctors made a huge mistake and he would be fine. I remember thinking the neurologist couldn’t be taken seriously. I mean, he had a Minion shirt on! How could I believe this man when he said my son was not going to recover, that he had already passed away, while he was wearing a shirt with a MINION on it?? It had to be a horrible joke. His heart was still beating. How could he have already died?

It wasn’t until Nolan was settled into his room in the ICU and I crawled into bed with him that it hit me. When I had to physically lift his head to put my arm under it, and I had to physically manipulate his fingers to lace into mine, the reality broke through the cloud that he was, in fact, already deceased. As people came in to say goodbye, I talked to them as if Nolan wasn’t already….well….deceased. I didn’t want the kids to think of that while they said their good-byes. His heart was beating steadily, his body was warm. I know he was in the room, but he was not in his body or in that bed with me.

I spent the next two days staring at his hands. I saw the signs of death slowly taking over his body. A grayish substance began leaking from his nose and mouth. I would lovingly wash it away and apply chapstick to his lips. His coloring began to change. The scent of his body began to have a subtle tinge to it that I will always smell in my mind. His hands began to get smaller, thinner. I couldn’t lie to myself when I was witness to these changes all while his head lay on my shoulder and our hands linked together. Our bodies were pressed so closely, our legs entwined as if he had just fallen asleep with me as he had countless times before.

I remember seeing Nolan in his casket and thinking his hands were wrong. They were thin! His fingers were always so strong and his hands slightly wide. They had lost that and his skin clung to his bones in such an alarming way. They were freezing! I held his hands so long, the warmth from mine leached into his and they became warm again. For as long as I live, I will feel those icy cold fingers in mine.

I don’t think I have the words adequate to describe the feeling of waking from what you thought was a nightmare to find the actual nightmare is your life. I’ve been exceptionally fragile since The Dream. I’ve had to go into the bathroom at work to cry a number of times. I have a hard time being around the kids right now.  Controlling my thoughts is exceedingly difficult. Leaving work one afternoon, I had to stop as an ambulance went by. Hearing the sound in the distance getting closer immediately threw me back to That Night and waiting outside, screaming for help, and finally hearing the sounds of the ambulance in the distance. I wasn’t in my car anymore. I was trapped in That Night all over again. I’m not sure how long I sat there after the ambulance went by reliving that horrible night. Eventually, another car came up behind me and beeped. I’ve said it before, PTSD is no joke. You really are back in time while your body simply holds space for you to return.

I went to a fundraiser for the football team knowing that I really wasn’t strong enough to handle it. It was important to DH, so I went with him. It was alright at first. I struggled but was able to make eye contact with people and even have a few short conversations. They played a video recap of the season that I had seen before and was forewarned would be played again. I knew it would be heartbreaking and that I shouldn’t stay to watch it, but knowing I would catch just a couple glimpses of Nolan on the screen made it impossible for me to walk away. Thankfully, as soon as it began, my Warrior Women surrounded me. I cried through it, ruining my makeup that I had carefully applied to mask my suffering. I sat there falling down the rabbit hole while 3 sets of hands literally held me up. It was a powerful moment. After the video ended, I ran from the room. I had a few minutes of breakdown and then I scolded myself to get it together. I think I fooled those Warriors. I went back to the function room and frantically searched my bag for my anxiety pills. I hardly take them but always carry them just in case. Well, except for that night, I carry them. I didn’t have them with me so instead of leaving, I decided to self-medicate. I know enough addicts to be well aware of what a bad choice this is, but in the moment, I needed the pain to end. I’m becoming very skilled at fooling people. To all outward appearances, I was laughing and dancing and acting silly and seemed to be having a good time. I wasn’t. I was dying inside but wasn’t strong enough to get myself the help I really needed. I continue to work on this.

I was successful in self-medicating to the point of complete blackout. I’m not proud of it, but I’m honest about it. I’m human and I am trying to figure out how to stay alive in a world without Nolan. Luckily enough for me, I have no recollection of the latter part of the evening. I know many teenagers are reading this, and I’ve hedged about sharing this part of my struggle, but I’ve sworn to myself to be brutally honest. Kids, this is a bad idea. It ends up being harder in the long run. You can’t escape the pain this way. In fact, it makes it a thousand times worse.

The floodgates are open and I can’t seem to close them. I’m still extremely fragile. I’m walking on very thin ice that could swallow me whole at any moment. I’m having a lot of flashbacks during the day. I don’t get much sleep at night. I gave up caffeine a week ago and have no idea why. Seriously. No idea. It might appear that The Dream set off a downward spiral and hurt more than it helped. While the downward spiral part is true, I believe The Dream is helping. It is making me face some areas that I need to really work harder to control. I pray a lot. I am watching myself more closely. I am committed to making choices that will help me become stronger each and every day. I don’t understand about the caffeine, but for some reason, I feel guided to do so. I’m following my intuition. I’m trying so much harder to trust the process. I’m trying to trust that Nolan really is loving me through this.

Last night after obedience classes with Ellie, I met the daughter of the breeder who gifted us with Ellie. We talked for a bit about Nolan and how Ellie has been such a blessing to our family. I’m thinking of having her licensed as a therapy dog since she seems to be able to tell when both Lucy (our epileptic rabbit. I know. Only in my family!) is going to have a seizure, and when I am brewing a panic attack. When I left, walking across the dark, muddy parking lot, I found a coin. I know it was from Nolan, acknowledging that he had heard all I said and was loving me through everything. I trust that is true.

While The Dream did send me on a spiral, holding Nolan’s hand again, even for a such a brief moment, is worth any Hell I have to walk through afterwards. He challenged me in life, and he continues to challenge me in death. Being Nolan’s mom is an adventure that never ends.

Sleepwalking

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I haven’t been able to get myself to sit with my thoughts much in the last few weeks. The crud hit my house pretty hard and it put me on a downward spiral that I am still trying to pull myself out of. It started with DH catching the crud. All 3 of us share a bed and were hopeful that the invisible barrier between DH and Li’l N would trap the germs on his side. We used the old invisible cootie spray, you remember that stuff from 3rd grade, right? It didn’t work. About a week after DH went down, I followed. Grief is exhausting on your entire being; body, soul, spirit. Barely having the energy to make it through a day anyways, the crud just toppled me. Then it hit Li’l N.

At 1:45am on a Tuesday morning, Li’l N woke up from lying next to me and said “Mom, I think I’m going to be sick.” I will never, ever forget this moment because it is exactly what Nolan said to me on that awful night. He was lying in bed with me, sat up, and said those exact words. Those were the last words he ever said to me. I immediately woke up in that nightmare. I didn’t see Li’l N next to me. I saw Nolan. It took a minute to clear my head and realize that this was a different child and a different night. I scooted Li’l N out of bed and into the bathroom. The same bathroom I scooted Nolan into. Bad idea. Li’l N went to his knees in front of the toilet, and I stood paralyzed at the door. I looked at him and saw Nolan in the same position. By the time I had cleaned up the mess Nolan had made, he was taking his last breaths. When I saw Li’l N in that room, in that same position, after saying those same words…well, I can’t even describe what went through my body. I was trapped in a double nightmare. PTSD is no joke. The worlds were overlapping. One minute I saw Li’l N, the next it was Nolan all over again. The horror of it was intense.

I was able to ask Li’l N if he could go into another bathroom. He turned and looked at me and asked why. All I could say was, “Because Nolan…” I felt awful. Li’l N was so sick and miserable, but like the amazing young man he is, he got up and silently walked to another bathroom that was smaller with a cold tile floor, which I’m sure was not comfortable for him. He found his place in front of the toilet again and said to me “You can go to bed if you want.” I felt like the worst mother in the world. How horrible it was for me to be wrapped up with his brother while he was so sick! What I should have done was wake DH and get his support. I wasn’t thinking clearly at the time.

Li’l N and I stayed in that bathroom for more than 45 minutes. In that time, his fever spiked and he went into seizures. We had to call the ambulance again and they took forever to come. In the hospital, they were unable to get his fever under control, and a seizure claimed his life. I had to sit looking at another of my babies on life support. I had to say goodbye to another child. I had to pick out another coffin. I had to bury my youngest boy.

Of course, that was all in my head. His stomach eventually calmed down, and I was able to get some medicine into him. His fever was 102.6, which is high, but not seizure territory. I think. The emotions that went through me were real even if the events were imagined. It was torture.

I was never an alarmist parent. Stitches were no big deal. My daughter had a couple of surgeries and I didn’t ever think of losing her. Nolan had surgery when he was 11, and it didn’t excessively worry me. I was pretty level-headed with the kids. Not anymore. I no longer assume that “He’ll be fine.” I don’t know that he will be. I know now that the worst can happen, and I am not naive enough to think that it can’t happen again. How do I learn to balance that with reality? The reality is that most likely he will be fine, whatever the situation. How do you stop those PTSD triggers? How do you stop the worlds from overlapping? These are things I’m trying to figure out.

In the meantime, this event threw me down the rabbit hole again, or still, or worse…I don’t even know. I can’t stop crying. I live that night over and over and over every day. I am carrying on a conversation with someone, but in my head, I am in that night. I don’t remember the conversation I held. It’s a strange feeling. I wish I could describe it better, but it’s kind of like having a Nyquil hangover. You’re groggy and kind of out of it, your body feels heavy and your head is a little dizzy. That’s what I feel like physically all the time, even when I appear to be fine. I’m living a double life. Actually, I’m not living a life at all. I’m just sleepwalking.

Cheese Platter from Hell

cheese platterI’ve been avoiding this – the revisiting of the first dreadful Thanksgiving Since. I anticipated it would be bad. Nothing prepared me for how gut-wrenchingly awful it would actually be. Maybe if I let the words out, I can also let them go. Here goes.

Every year Nolan would go to my sister’s house a couple days early to help her cook. That was a passion and a talent they both shared. It was wonderful to see her connect with my son in that way. Not having any children of her own, I think it gave her a brief glimpse of how amazing it is to see a child blossom under your wing. This year our oldest went to help her Aunt in Nolan’s place. They had fun, and that makes me feel good. Plus this happened. It made me laugh. (Remember to open in new tab!)

We spent the week in MA. DH was working, and I got to visit with some friends. That was good. I was good. I felt stronger. It’s always a little easier on me being away from home. Home hurts too much.

As much as I dreaded The Day, time is relentless and it dawned before me much against my wishes. I awoke in tears.  Li’l N was right there, as always, holding me. He doesn’t say a word. He doesn’t try to tell me it’s ok or make false promises that it will be ok. He simply holds me and lets me cry for as long as I need to. I’m in awe at his ability to instinctively know how to comfort at such a young age. I wonder if I let him comfort me too much sometimes. Then I think, perhaps his comfort and my acceptance is a gift to both of us. He is powerless to change the situation, and as a child I imagine he feels that magnified. Knowing that his care does help, I think maybe that gives him a little bit of empowerment too. Or I could be completely wrong and I’m letting him take on more than I should. I have no idea. But I digress.

The day dawns and eventually I get myself out of bed, dressed, and somewhat composed. We went to watch my nephew’s last football game as a Senior. I know I sat through the game. I must’ve watched it. I didn’t see any of it. My mind, my heart, my Soul was elsewhere. I both wanted the game to end so I could curl into myself privately and I wanted it to last forever because I knew what came next. Again, time is relentless.

I struggled the whole ride to my Sister’s house. I prayed and prayed and prayed for help to stay strong, to face this day with grace, to find some moment of joy amidst the sorrow. Some prayers just aren’t answered. Maybe they are always answered and sometimes the answer is “No.”

I knew I couldn’t let anyone touch me. I was barely hanging on by a fraying thread, quickly unraveling. If anyone touched me, I would lose all semblance of control. I was open and simply said “I’m not hugging today.” My family, at least 99% of them, are wonderful and accepting and supportive. My proclamation was met with a simple, “Ok.” Phew. I thought maybe I could do this. I was wrong.

I walked into the kitchen where we typically gather and was immediately brought to my knees by a cheese platter. A g*d-damned friggin cheese platter. You simply cannot account for what will devastate you. I have nothing against cheese. I like cheese. Nolan, however, LOVED cheese. He used to say “Cheese is my weakness.” He would hover over that platter and inhale its contents with smiles that lit him from within. Ahhh the power of cheese. I looked at that seemingly innocuous platter of dairy and my world spun out of control. It looked like I was in a kaleidoscope. The room tilted on its axis. I felt dizzy and nauseous. The floor opened up beneath me and the black abyss of Grief pulled me under with no warning. It was instantaneous. I was lost before I was even able to register what happened. I tried to hide it. I’m not sure what I said or if I said anything out loud, but I blinked and found myself sitting on a corner of the couch in the living room, alone. I think I did black out for a minute. I didn’t faint, but my mind clicked out. Kind of like a drunken blackout without the benefit of the drunken part. There was a glass of wine next to me, and I still have no recollection of how it got there.

I stayed in that spot, on that couch for a couple hours. I think I might have talked to people, but I’m not sure. I remember being gifted with a beautiful journal by my Sister’s dear friend. It’s leather-bound and embossed with the Tree of Life. Perfect for me, and so touching that it brought my consciousness into my body briefly. I was in a fog, and I don’t remember all of that hideous day. I have glimpses. I have sound clips. Bursts of laughter coming from around that damned cheese platter. It made me angry. Then I felt guilty for feeling angry. Then I felt sad for feeling guilty. At least I kept my mouth shut. I think. I remember sitting there and willing myself out of my body. I felt trapped, caged. I couldn’t get out. I couldn’t get away. I remember my oldest daughter sitting next to me at one point, but I don’t remember if we spoke. I was on auto-pilot and either I was so good that nobody noticed or my family was really good about not mentioning it. Either way or maybe both. I don’t know.

When it was time to gather at the table, I froze. I tried waiting for everyone else to situate themselves first. I had every intention of standing up and walking over. I knew I couldn’t eat, but I thought I would sit there at least. My feet were encased in lead. My legs became numb. My heart raced.  My hands tingled. My head spun wildly. There was no way I could get myself to that table. One minute I was on the couch and then next I was locked in the bathroom upstairs. I don’t remember what happened in betweeen. It’s blank. I sat at my Sister’s vanity and sobbed. I was wracked with painful sobs that tore from the very depths of my Soul. I heard laughter from downstairs. I heard DH’s laughter and it tore me to shreds. He hadn’t offered one bit of comfort all day and it ripped me apart. I knew he was doing what he had to do, even at the time. But still. I felt so terribly isolated and alone.

I don’t know how long I sat there. Eventually my oldest daughter and youngest son came to my rescue. I don’t know if they said anything, although they must have. I felt both of their hands on me and it was a lifeboat tossed into the churning sea of despair. I don’t know if I asked Li’l N to get my pills or if he thought of it on his own. I wish I had thought to take a pill much earlier in the day. I slipped one of those little tablets under my tongue and in a short while I was able to gain a little more control of myself. I knew I had to make my way to the table just because. Somehow I did. I had literally a bite of turkey and a bite of stuffing. I tasted none of it. I think I sat there for minutes before returning to my spot on the couch. Those pills knock me out, and I was so grateful for the darkness that crept over me. I was freezing even though the room was hot. I couldn’t stop shivering. I didn’t fight the pull of sleep. I had been checked out all day even with my eyes open. It felt good to let them close and the heck with anyone around me.

When I awoke some time later, (hours?) I felt better. Not much but a little. I felt hungry, actually. It occurred to me I hadn’t eaten all day. I fixed myself a small plate of leftovers and picked at it. It didn’t taste right to me. I’m sure it was the usual bit of deliciousness, but Grief robs you of your tastebuds. It twists your sense of smell. It dulls all colors in the world. I had to force it down. I think I was able to hold a conversation by this point, but I’m not sure who it was with or what it was about. My sister? Probably, but I don’t honestly remember.

When I next looked at the clock, it was after midnight. I don’t know where the hours went. It really was an odd experience. I’ve never been so in and out of consciousness before. I have clearer memories of the hospital than I do of that Dreadful Day. I must have been in shock or something. I simply could not handle it.

It was after 1am before I laid my body down. I took another pill just in case, which I haven’t done in more than a month. Li’l N snuggled in my arms. I remembered laying in the hospital bed with Nolan, knowing that the time left with him in my arms was dwindling. My Mother swept the hair out of my face and whispered close to my ear “Stay in the moment. Don’t think about what comes next. Right now, in this moment, you have Nolan in your arms.” I held onto that with Li’l N. I stopped allowing myself to think of what was missing. In that moment, deep in the stillness of the night, I had my youngest son, my baby, held safely in my arms. I felt the weight of him on my body. I smelled the soft scent of his cologne and shampoo. I heard the quiet sighs of his peaceful slumber, and I surrendered. I let the day end knowing the next would come and I would wage the battle once again.

4 Months

hourglassIt’s been 4 months Since. 122 days, 17 hours, and approximately 37 minutes as of this writing. Since.

Each day moves me a little further away from that moment. I’m trying hard to not let my mind wander back to that time as often. It’s a bitter, uphill battle. I’ve learned to be vigilant with my thoughts. I have a note taped over the kitchen sink that reads “Control your thoughts and keep moving.” I need that reminder. If I don’t constantly stay in control of my thoughts, I’m back there at that moment reliving the next 4 days of torture. Sometimes I’m not strong enough to be vigilant. I’m blindfolded balancing on a tight rope covered in oil over a pool of razors in a bath of salt water. I slip quite often.

Everything has changed. My life is a shadow of the richness it once was. I am but a shell of the person I once was. My playful, free spirit is weighted down. My wings are broken. My spark is drenched. My face has creases that weren’t there Before. I’ve aged at least 5 years Since. There are lines around and bags under my eyes. My skin is dry and thin. It feels like my outsides are beginning to mirror my insides turning me into a dry husk of a human. I barely eat yet keep getting heavier. My body is trying desperately to wrap me in layers to protect my fragile Self. The weight simply pulls me down deeper under the water.

I don’t recognize the woman in the mirror. Her smile is forced and it never reaches her eyes. The sparkle is gone. This woman before me doesn’t laugh as easily or stand as tall. Well, as tall as her slight 5’3″ frame once did. This woman can’t really be me.

This woman before me has no tolerance for petty drama or bullsh*t. She is empty inside but with a well of compassion that knows no bounds. Her thinking is at once clear and confused. She can’t understand why people get so upset about minor things. A car breakdown, a grumpy child, a fight with a spouse. She sees beyond the annoyances to what really matters. She has no filter. She will share her perspective on your struggles with a simple, blunt statement, not meaning to sound crass but simply unable to mince words. She would trade your struggles for hers in a heartbeat.

The people surrounding this woman have changed. She has been abandoned by those she thought to count on in her weakest moments. She has been hurt deeply by those who profess to love her. Yet, she is surrounded by people who are True, Honest, Authentic, Pure. Brave. It takes a brave person to walk in her orbit. It’s a messy, ugly space filled with obstacles and fragmented remains of a shattered life that can destroy you.

This woman before me spends a lot of time on her knees now, in sorrow and in prayer. She knows she is too weak to stand alone. She is somehow strong enough to allow support.

Time is different now. It seems like a second and a lifetime. I still wait for Nolan to come say goodnight at the end of the day. Every night I wait. I still expect to see him getting ready for school in the morning. Every morning. I find myself thinking about where he should be in that moment. Every moment. It’s not true that time heals all wounds. Time passes, that’s all. It passes too quickly and too slowly. I can’t wait to get to the end so we can be together again. I want time to stand still so I can hold Li’l N just the way he is. Nothing makes sense. I will wait for Nolan for every second of every minute of every hour of every day for the rest of my life. I will miss him. I will ache for him. I will Love him.

It’s been 4 months. 122 days, 17 hours, and approximately 37 minutes as of this writing. And yet, all that has passed is the blink of an eye.

 

Hurtful Hurts and Truthful Truths

grief2Someone very close to me shut off their filters and let their feelings fly. Alcohol short-circuited those filters, but I think the emotions they shared, or more accurately hurled like burning daggers through my heart, were sincere. According to this person who I do love and respect, I am selfish and self-absorbed. I am weak because I take “F’ing DRUGS” to make it through the day. I am lazy and lay on the couch doing nothing all day. I am failing my youngest son and am not taking care of him. I am “ruining everything and destroying what is left of” my family. I hardly to go the cemetery, and the worst of it – I wasn’t there for Nolan when he left this world.

Want to let that sink in for a minute? Imagine trying desperately to get your head above water and managing the occasional gasp of breath, and then someone comes along who you thought would help you swim but they toss you a cement block instead and it drags you down into the depths of the darkness where you lose all sight of what’s up and down, and you lose all will to keep fighting for air. Welcome to my Now.

Before you condemn this person, consider their point of view. We all say things when we’re drinking that we wouldn’t and shouldn’t have said otherwise. I’m not sure it makes the statements untrue, just that they wouldn’t normally say them out loud. We are all entitled to our opinions and feelings. Just because they hurt, well, that just is. So without getting angry, what do you do? What do I do with all of that?

I’m doing everything I can think of to make it through each day yet each day is getting harder to make it through. I’m reading books about how to deal with Grief, meditating, reaching out to a support group, writing about my feelings, letting others hold me up when I’m too weak to stand. It’s supposed to get better, right? I find myself surrounded by people I wasn’t close to Before and yet I can’t imagine making it through this without them. I’m letting people in and telling Truthful Truths, as someone very dear to me calls the hard things to admit. I’m choosing to only spend time with people who help bring me to the Light, and I’m being authentic. What else can I do? Why is it getting harder?

Here’s my Truthful Truth for today. I am drowning, and I have no desire left to swim. Perhaps Dagger-Person is right and my family would be better off without me. No, I’m not suicidal, but every time I get a migraine, I’m almost hopeful the Aneurysm will rupture so the decision is taken out of my hands. I’m not supposed to talk like that. It makes people nervous. I would never do anything to force the issue, but there it is. I spend more hours a day crying and reliving that horrible experience over and over and over than I spend doing anything else collectively. I’m exhausted with fighting to make it through. There is no respite. There is no peace when Death steals your child and your Soul.

3 Months “Since”

Nolan suffered his Aneurysm on July 18, at around 10:10 pm. He lacked any brain function at the time the neurosurgeon first checked him at 2am on July 19. There has to be a second evaluation for brain function at least 4 hours later before a person can be pronounced “Deceased”. I remember dreading 6am, knowing they would check again. I was able to put the doctors off until the afternoon of July 19, when I watched everything they did during the 2nd neurological evaluation. It was horrible, but I’m glad I stayed with him during that exam. It left no doubt in my mind that Nolan was already gone. So, in the late afternoon on July 19, Nolan was pronounced officially “Brain Dead” (although they had some kinder, fluffier term they used it means the same ugly thing). Because we chose to honor Nolan’s passing by saving as many other lives as we could, Nolan was kept on life support while transplant teams and recipients were gathered and prepared. He was taken into the operating room the night of July 20, and was finally taken off of life support in the wee morning hours of July 21.

Which date do you go by? Is it by the “official” time/date stamp on some stupid “official” certificate? Do we call it when his heart was removed from his body? It’s horrible. It’s more than just 1 day to survive each month. We have to survive 4 separate anniversary dates each month. Which do we pick as our own “Official?”

We (DH, me, and Little N) consider Nolan’s passing to be on July 18, 2014 at approximately 10:15pm. That’s when his heart stopped beating. That’s when his breathing stopped. CPR was able to keep his blood oxygenated, but he didn’t maintain a steady heartbeat again until he was somewhere between Pittsfield and Bangor on the Life Flight helicopter. By that point, we all knew he was gone. I knew before the 2 ambulances even got to the house that he wasn’t coming back. I knew. I just knew.

Because of the length of this ordeal, we have 4 days every month where we remember some part of the trauma more strongly. The night he “went down,” the day of his “official” date, the night he went into surgery, and the day he was taken off life support. I think this makes it even harder.

On October 18, I decided that I simply couldn’t handle this 3-month mark. I opened the door wide and invited Denial right in. I asked Denial to bring as many friends as he could to help pretend the night away. What I literally did was this (taken from my personal Facebook page):

3 months. I can’t do it, so I’m not going to. Here it is, this is my Bat Signal going up, rallying the Troops. I’m going to have a Denial Party at my house tonight because that is way more fun than a Pity Party. We’re going to pretend that everything is ok and that we can survive this. We’re going to pretend that Grief isn’t swallowing us all, and we’re going to pretend laughter comes easily. We’ll throw some carnage on the grill and pretend we still like to eat. If you can handle that (and some cocktails) come on over, bring your kids, a snack or drink, and we’ll open the door wide for Denial. Just for tonight. We can get back to Grieving tomorrow.

It worked. So many of our friends showed up with food in hand and a hug in their hearts to help us make it through the night. 10:15pm came and went without my noticing. Our house was filled with laughter just like “Before.” I couldn’t have managed that night without everyone surrounding me and helping me stand. Seriously. I am so thankful for everyone who answered the Call. So what happened when everyone went home?

It turns out Denial is a fickle son-of-a-bitch. That “F-er” left with everyone else. He left me stranded and alone at 3am. I am so lucky that my dearest friend, my Soul Sister, was staying the night. I crawled into bed with her, sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. She simply gave me tons of Reiki and love until I fell asleep.

The following few days were also horrendous. It’s funny how things only occur to you in hindsight that should be so obvious. It really wasn’t until I began writing about Nolan’s timeline that it dawned on me. You’re probably one step ahead of me at this point. No duh the next few days were so hard! I didn’t consciously think about each day’s representation, but my body knew. My heart knew. Now I know, and maybe next month will make more sense when I spend 4 days in bed crying.

Swallowed Whole

tears

This morning I spent 45 minutes composing a blog entry about a happy memory. I decided that after baring my Soul, I would give myself, and you, a break from the Grief. I think that’s important to do every once in a while. It was a fantastic piece of writing, if I do say so myself! Considering I’m not all that impressed with my writing, that says something! I laughed while remembering the great Slim Jim War. I planned to finish up and publish the piece, get dressed quickly, and spend my day in my new favorite place, Castine Candle Company. ( http://www.castinecandle.com ) Carrie and Micah, who own Castine, have become so dear to me. Their shop is my safe place to go and just Be. They let me help with whatever they’re working on, and most importantly, they make me laugh. I love them.

My writing was going so well, I decided to include a short video of Nolan being funny. I wanted you to hear his voice and his laughter. Inadvertently, I clicked a link which navigated away from the page. Yeah. Bad move. Everything I had poured my heart into, everything I laughed about, everything that made me feel good in that moment was gone. Simply and irretrievably gone.

The floodgates opened. I called DH to come help. I posted for help on Facebook and stepped away from the computer. I tried to hold off the panic, but it came full freaking force. So, trying to stay rational, I went and took a shower. I thought I’d just go about my day and not let it get to me. It’s frustrating to lose all that work, but it’s not the end of the world.

I found myself on the floor of the shower crying so hysterically you couldn’t tell which was water and which were tears. I couldn’t breathe. I was trying to tell myself that it was only a bunch of words and I could write them again but it didn’t help. My emotions didn’t match the event. Then it hit me. Nolan’s gone. Just like that. Simply and irretrievably gone. And I can’t get him back. There is no “undo” button. I poured my heart and Soul and every fiber of my Being into that Boy. I laughed with him, at him, because of him. I enjoyed everything about him, and as simply as I clicked away from a screen, he was taken from my life.

I don’t even know how I managed to get out of the shower or upstairs. It’s all a blur. I was having a full-blown panic attack. I have no idea how DH knew to come check on me, but thank God he did. Well, good for me, not him. He found me on the bathroom floor, in the very spot where we lost Nolan. I couldn’t stand and was hyperventilating severely. I had taken a half pill (under the tongue like you’re supposed to in an emergency), but my bottle was empty. No help there.

I don’t know how long I was on the floor. I remember almost calming down and my head spun so quickly, I passed out. I know I stop breathing when I pass out. I heard DH’s voice from what seemed like far away telling me that “This is not good for me. Get up. Get in bed.” It roused me enough for him to get me out of the room. God, it broke my heart all over again. I was the one on the bathroom floor with Nolan when he went into cardiac arrest and stopped breathing. DH was on the phone with 911 and came in to start rescue breathing, and then when we lost his pulse, DH was the one to start CPR. I grabbed Little N and tried to get him out of the room so he wouldn’t see. I can’t get into all the details of that night right now or even just the events of that room. I was in and out of the room and have those visions that replay on a constant loop 24 hours a day. It’s nothing compared to what DH has visions of. And there I was, in the same spot, on top of Nolan’s blood stains still marking the carpet, unconscious and not breathing.

I let DH get me to bed, and there I stayed all day.  I managed to get up long enough to pick up Little N from school and take him to the doctor. My head was still spinning so badly, I was nervous to even drive. I pretended like nothing was wrong, but Little N knew. He looked at me a little sideways and asked if I had remember to pick up my pills today. Little Bugger is quite an intuitive young man. As soon as we got home, I climbed back into bed where I remained right up until I decided to just let the words out, which was about 7:30pm. I cancelled my plans at Castine. I didn’t answer my phone. I watched bad reality tv all day. And I cried an ocean of tears. Instead of the respite from Grief I had given myself permission to enjoy, it sneaked right up and swallowed me whole.

Some days that happens. Tomorrow is 3 months “Since.”