Tag Archives: trauma

Losing Weight

Losing Weight.jpgGrief is heavy. You carry that weight in your body, in your heart, and in your Soul. Some people are lucky enough to experience what I call the “Death Diet.” These lucky bastards are heavy emotionally, and yet they lose so much physical weight they become unrecognizable. Not so much for me. I’ve wrapped myself in comfort food. I’ve eaten my emotions. This sucks. It’s another facet of Grief that changes you. There’s no quick-fix, miracle diet that can help. The heaviness weighs more than pounds, more than tons. Sometimes you don’t even realize how much you are carrying until, one day, it begins to lift.

I know I’ve talked about the physical experience of Grief. I capitalize it because, really, Grief is an entity. It’s more than an emotion. Grief has substance and presence. It has characteristics and influence. When Grief first shows up in your life, it brings its close friend Denial. They work together to make their way into your body a little at a time. Grief is too strong to manage without the numbing influence of Denial. Occasionally their cousin PTSD sneaks into the mix unseen and hides. He’s an asshole. Grief changes every cell of your body. During my first year Since, I would forget people’s names. Even people I had known for years – even people in my family! I couldn’t hold a thought in my head, and I constantly forgot words I meant to use. I could hold a conversation with someone and shortly thereafter have no memory of what we talked about. There was a point where I really did think I had early Alzheimer’s or Dementia. It turns out that “Grief Brain” is a real thing. Seriously. MRI’s show that a person experiencing profound Grief has changes in their brain function. It used to drive Nason crazy having to repeat himself all the time. Thankfully, he’s a pretty awesome kid, and when we explained what Grief Brain is, he accepted that Mom and Dad were just going to be clueless for a while.

Eventually, Denial makes way for Reality to come in. Reality can be a jerk. It hurts. It takes the blinders off and lifts that numbing fog that surrounds you. Reality has a sidekick named Anger. Luckily for me (and everyone around me) Anger doesn’t mesh with my personality and never really took hold. Reality makes way for Acceptance. Acceptance is the hardest to allow into your life. Acceptance means that you give up the fight against What Is. You give up the hope that this is a nightmare and will end someday. You let go of the dream you had for your child’s life; for your family’s life. You allow for the fact that this is how life is going to be. Here’s the kicker that you don’t expect – It’s going to be ok. It will never be the same. It will never be what you wanted. Sadness will live in every moment of every day forever, and even with all that, life is still going to be amazing.

I knew pretty early on that I couldn’t heal living in the house that Nolan died in. Every morning I awoke in the bed where he spoke his last words. I got showered in the bathroom where he took his last breath. I would pass by the spot where he would lay on the floor and sleep in the afternoon sun. I would see where he stood in the kitchen looking up new recipes. I sat on the couch he slept on for a month. I put pellets in the stove he nearly blew up pouring lighter fluid in. I went up the stairs he slid down in laundry baskets and blankets. I put clothes down a laundry shoot he would climb up and play in. He was everywhere, and yet, he was nowhere. His room was frozen exactly the way he left it. Dust settled on everything because I couldn’t even walk upstairs to go near it.

Ray had a different experience of the house. He found comfort in living in the space that Nolan was so happy in. It was really hard to manage between us. I avoided being there, and he never wanted to leave. At one point, I told him I was moving and hoped that he would come with me, but even if he didn’t, I would be moving out in order to heal. It took some long talks and patience for him to get on board with moving. It took time for Nason to be ok with it as well. We had to promise him, cross our hearts, that we would not leave the neighborhood. We do live in a pretty awesome neighborhood, but houses here don’t come up too often and don’t stay on the market long.

It took a year for us to find a house that would feel like home. It’s tiny. I mean, really tiny. To downsize from 7,000 square feet to about 1,500 (and that might be an overestimate) is an undertaking. It’s been a leap of faith. We didn’t want to miss out on this new home waiting for ours to sell, so we had to just dive in head first. Carrying two mortgages is scary! In theory we could afford it if we budgeted carefully, but Reality seldom works out the way you plan. (If anyone wants to buy our old house, now would be great!)

We’ve been in our new home for a few weeks now. The strangest thing has happened. The air fills my lungs again. The music reaches my ears. Beauty is returning to the world. I didn’t realize how much weight I was carrying with me. I was used to the constant struggle to keep my thoughts from darkness. I was used to gearing myself up to enter those walls every night. Now everything feels different. I look forward to coming home after work. On my days off, I don’t want to go anywhere. I wake up in the morning, and the first thing I say is still “Good morning, Nolan,” but the tears don’t flow right away. When I go to bed, the last thing I say is still, “Good night Buddy. I love you,” but then I rest peacefully. Sometimes losing weight has nothing to do with pounds.

 

 

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Bye Felicia

bye felicia

2 years Since. It’s really hard to believe it’s been that long. This time of year will always be difficult for me. Difficult is an understatement. It’s torture, really. PTSD is on screech. I relive those moments over and over and over again. The waves roll in and pull me under. After it all, however, I’m still standing. I’m not left curled in the fetal position wishing for Death’s cold embrace. I’m standing tall – as tall as my 5’3″ can be – with my feet planted firmly on the ground, looking towards the light that I know will come out of the dark. I feel proud of myself for how far I’ve come in the last 2 years.

I was recently told by someone I care deeply for that Ray and I were “stuck in our grief, filled with negativity,” and they couldn’t be around us anymore. They needed to “move forward with their life,” and that didn’t include us.  I’ll be honest here. My first reaction was “@!#$&*% *%#@%* !@#@$*&^!” <edited to protect your sense of propriety, ok, not really, but I was so mad, even I didn’t like the words coming out of my mouth> I eventually calmed down and sat to reflect on whether their words had any truth to them. I tried to be brutally honest with myself.

I tried to look at where their perception was coming from. Facebook? I do post a lot about Nolan. After being thrust into a parent’s worst nightmare, the next greatest fear you have is losing another child. After that, it’s the fear that people will forget your child. That’s why I post a lot about Nolan on Facebook. He will always be part of my everyday life whether or not he takes a breath! The memories feature on Facebook is a blessing and a curse. I love finding snippets of conversations I forgot about, or pictures I don’t have on my new phone. I love sharing them even when they make me cry. It helps to make sure people will remember my son.

I suppose if you don’t see us on a regular basis, you may not know. You don’t hear the laughter that still reigns in our home. You don’t see how easily I go from tears to laughter. You don’t see how losing Nolan has enriched our relationship with Nason. You may not see how drastically we’ve changed our priorities and our lifestyle to make the changes in our family that Nolan wanted. I suppose if you’ve never been a parent, you couldn’t imagine how this feels. Even as a parent, you can’t imagine.

A by-product of losing Nolan has been my ability to let people go from my life. I used to try to keep everyone close and everyone happy. I used to say “that’s ok” every time someone said or did something hurtful to me. I’ve realized that I don’t need to do that. I can’t fix anyone else’s relationships. I can’t heal anyone else’s heart. I do need to be sure to surround myself with people who bring light into my day. The people who have remained close to me and the people who have become close to me are of a very different substance than those who have walked away. My heart is open to everyone I meet. I am quick with a smile and a compliment. I am finding more of the old me every day. I support each person around me with any struggle they may be having, but I do not encourage those who vibrate with a sense of drama and negativity. I refuse to participate.

It’s not easy to let people go who you have been close to and love dearly. I remain steadfast in my support should they ask for it. My love is unconditional. I am a work in progress, but I am working every day to be better than the day before. I will always have moments and always have days that are impossible. That is part of the life that comes after losing a child. Here’s the thing, though. Life still comes after losing a child. If you can’t get your head out of your ass to see that, then I only have two words for you.

“Bye Felicia.”

I am the Fire

I am the fire

I made it. I survived another winter; another season of hibernation where the depression is at its worst. The holidays start my downward spiral. With the darkness encroaching and cold creeping in, my thoughts always seem to go to desolate places. I spend a lot of time alone, crying. I avoid everyone and everything. I managed to make it to work every day anyway. There was just one day near Nolan’s birthday that I had to leave because the ptsd was in full force and I couldn’t bring myself out of it. Another day, I needed an hour to pull myself together and went to talk to HR about options for LOA hours. I certainly qualify, and my employer is more than supportive of seeing me through this, yet I still have not applied. I don’t want it to be easier to fall into the darkness. I don’t want a crutch. I have to continue to pull myself along even when I have no strength to do so. I’m better at work than at home anyway.

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We celebrated making through another winter by going on vacation to Florida. Ft. Lauderdale to be exact. During spring break. Maybe we didn’t think that through – bringing our 12 year old son to Ft. Lauderdale during spring break. We are either the worst parents ever or the coolest. Either way, it was certainly a learning experience for Nason! It was good to get away, though. We laughed and argued and had a lot of fun. We saw signs that Nolan was with us everywhere.

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Each day still ended with me crying in the bathroom so nobody would hear – so nobody would see. I think that’s just going to be a part of my life now. Tears. Waves of sadness that will wash over me at the end of each day. I know Moms who are further along this path that say the tears still come, yet not every day. I don’t know if I will be able to say the same, and I don’t know whether to hope for that or not. To be so used to the constant pain that it no longer brings tears, seems even more sad to me.

As is the case with every winter, with every hibernation, spring slips in and makes me start looking outside myself again. I did more work within the darkness than I realized. I feel different than I did last spring. I feel stronger. I feel lighter. Maybe not physically, but I ate my emotions for 3 months, so what can I really expect?

Meri made a comment to me a few weeks ago that really struck a chord. We were in the car car talking about messages from Nolan, and she made an off-hand remark about starting to feel like she was getting her Mom back a little bit. I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. The kids lost so much when Nolan passed. They lost their brother, a future, their family as they knew it, and both of their parents. Truly Ray and I are not the same parents now as we were Before. We aren’t the same people. Hearing Meri say out loud what I had thought in my head was heartbreaking. Yet, it was also comforting. She felt the shift in me. She saw glimmers of her Mom again. She could see me fighting my way back to her. I think, perhaps, she’s the only one who has noticed.

I am finding my way back to my children, to my husband, to myself. It’s a conscious choice every single day to stay positive. I watch myself very carefully to catch my thoughts before they drift down that sad path. I focus on Nolan’s life, not on life without him. I can’t look at pictures of him too long or I begin to dissolve. I can’t allow myself to acknowledge that I will never see him again for the rest of my life. That I will never feel his arms around me. That I will never hold his hand or hear his voice. I will never know the love of his child or see him become a husband. It’s too much to bear, and the sheer panic it evokes is unimaginable. So, I simply don’t allow myself to go there.

I’ve found that with handling PTSD, controlling thoughts helps in controlling the body. Triggers abound and sometimes catch me off guard, but so much less now than ever. When you learn to control your thoughts, you can control your attitude. I try daily to let my spark grow. Yes, the spark of “Me” is still there. Not the same, but still the same. I’m not sure that would make sense to anyone who hasn’t suffered a tragic loss. Parts of me will never be the same again. The innocence of “it could never happen to me” is forever gone. When I sit down and remind myself of all the rotten shit I’ve lived through, I’m amazed at myself for still being here. I have survived so much in my life. Childhood abuse, life on the streets, drugs & alcohol, emotionally and physically abusive relationships, betrayal, abandonment, and so much more, the worst of which is losing a child. And yet…I still want to laugh every day. I still want to bring a smile to those around me. I still want to suck every ounce of adventure out of this life! I want to learn and grow and shine brightly. I want to share my light and see the light in every single person around me. This part of myself is, perhaps, the very basic core of who I am. It’s who Nolan is. We share this thirst for life, for love, for experience. By allowing myself to be Me again, I stay close with him. I feel him the strongest when I am laughing at something I know he would laugh at too.

I am my own spark. Nolan is my inspiration. I aspire to be a Mom he would be proud of, to be a Mom all my kids can be proud of. I failed miserably over the last 20 months. I let them down in so many ways. I can’t change that. I’m here now. I’m stronger. I am getting stronger every day. I am the Fire.

Mixed Blessings

mixed blessingsThings you should know about me:

  1. I am a horrible texter. I’m one of those annoying people that will see your text, answer in my head, and forget to actually text you back.
  2. I never return phone calls. I don’t why. I don’t even listen to my voicemail. I think about it but I never do it.
  3. I am an unreliable friend. I get lost in my head, in my own struggles and get lax on keeping up with yours. I’ll be there in a minute if you say you need me, but I’m not reading between the lines anymore to hear what isn’t being said.
  4. I am a bad blogger. Here I went and invited all of you along this awful journey of mine and then left you behind. It’s not intentional. I blog in my head all the time. Sometimes I’m awake all night blogging in my head. When it comes down to it, I sit at a computer 10 hours a day at work, and the last thing I want to do at home is sit at a computer and confront all the feelings I work so hard to suppress. Still, I promised you the ugly truth, so here it comes.

It’s been 19 months Since. I can’t even wrap my brain around that. 19 months. 19 MONTHS. 585 days Since. How is this even possible? Isn’t Nolan just at school right now? Won’t we argue about putting his laundry away tonight? He’ll fight with his brother and I’ll have to scold them both later. Right? Wrong. He’s not going to be in the crowd of kids flowing through the doors at 2:36. His laundry is packed away in bins. The only one his brother will fight with later is me. Each day these realities hit me and it hurts just the same as it did on day 1.

Things that haven’t changed Since? The tears. Every day. Every. Single. Day. I believe I will cry every day for the rest of my life. If I think about Nolan for more than 3 seconds, the tears flow. I’ve timed this, actually. No joke. Nolan is the first thing on my mind in the morning and the last thing on my mind at night. I say “I miss you Buddy” about 8,000 times per day. My biggest wish is to have him back, even for a single heartbeat. I still feel lonely no matter who is around. Sometimes I’m the least lonely by myself. The guilt is still there – that somehow I could have saved him. If only I had known…If only I had pushed for an mri…I think that will stay with me forever.PTSD still rears it’s ugly head. If I hear sirens or see an ambulance, I’m lost back in that night. If I smell the hospital disinfectant, I’m lost in that night. If I’m not vigilant about my thoughts, I’m lost in that night. PTSD isn’t just remembering. You re-experience the event. The hormones and chemical response in your body is the same as it was the first time. I’ve experienced Nolan’s death hundreds of times and it doesn’t get any easier. For the span of the flashback, I am back on July 18, 2014. I feel him crawling in my lap and hear him say “Mommy it hurts.” I see him lying on the bathroom floor unmoving. I feel my hand on his chest and his heart fluttering beneath my touch. I feel when he exhales and then doesn’t inhale again. I see Ray doing CPR. I hear Nason screaming for help. I see everything happen all over and I know the outcome and am helpless to stop it. I see the neurologist in his minion t-shirt at 2am, and I hear him telling us that Nolan isn’t going to recover. I hear the screams of someone being torn in two, of their insides being torn asunder…and then I realize those screams are coming from me. These things may never change.

Many things have changed. I’ve gone back to work full time, and it was the best decision I’ve made Since. It helps the hours go by and keeps my mind occupied. For the most part, I’m able to hold it together at work. Except yesterday. I woke up in the midst of the overwhelming grief and couldn’t get myself together. I cried all morning. I cried on my way to work. I went to talk to my boss and started crying again. I couldn’t stop. I took my emergency pills, but they didn’t help. I couldn’t get myself out of that night. I couldn’t stop the tears or the panic. I actually had to leave the office. I was incapable of holding myself together to get any work done. It was sad. It was embarrassing. I try to be so much stronger than that. This month is hard. Nolan’s birthday is on Saturday, and I’m so lost in where he should be that I can’t deal with reality.

Nolan’s friends come by less frequently than they did. I understand this, and it’s good for them to keep moving forward. Being here brings them back to missing him even more. I know they still think of him even when they’re busy with other things. Still…I miss the sounds of teenagers making a mess and cooking all my food. Nolan’s girl has another boyfriend and has for a while. I’m happy for her even though I hate her boyfriend. It isn’t fair of me since I’ve never even spoken to the kid. I hate him because he’s not Nolan. Who’s to say they would still be together by now anyway? It’s healthy for her to keep moving forward. I can’t help hating the boyfriend though.

I’ve moved past the “passive suicide” behaviors that colored most of this past year. I stopped drinking and self-medicating. I’m not putting myself in situations that could go horribly wrong. I don’t have the overwhelming urge to end this life. I still welcome death should it come naturally, but I’ve stop pursing it. My head has cleared enough to see – truly see – my other kids again. The horror of knowing their Mom would choose death with Nolan rather than life with them is something I could never put them through. That’s probably the biggest area of growth I’ve had Since.

I’ve learned to laugh again. I smile easily. I look at everything differently. I appreciate the beauty of a single moment more than I ever did Before. Handprints on glass, a sticky table from life with a toddler, 3 pairs of shoes by the front door all make me smile. Our house is filled up again with Meri and Eli having moved home. I can dance in the middle of a restaurant with Nason and not care who’s watching. Amongst all the joy I’ve let back into my life, there is a heaviness too. Each giggle is tinged with sadness. Each new adventure is tinged with regret. Every new memory holds an empty space where Nolan should be. Mixed blessings. Maybe that’s the best I can hope for.

 

Necessary Joy

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When your child dies, every day is the hardest day you will face. Colors are muted. Laughter is muffled. Taste is bland. There’s a bleakness that surrounds you and creates a barrier between you and Life. You exist in a fog seemingly forever. A wasteland, desolate, dry, harsh. Your life stops with your child’s last heartbeat. Their last breath takes all the oxygen out of this world. You stand in a vacuum. How long you stay in this place is anyone’s guess. Some people stay forever. I refuse.

It was a simple comment from Ray that really resonated and started my steps along a stronger path. We’ve planned a vacation for March, and I casually commented that it’s a good time and that it gives me something to look forward to. I stated, “I’ve survived Thanksgiving. I’ll survive Christmas and New Year’s. Then I’ll survive Nolan’s birthday. Then right after I’ll get my toes in the sand and take a break from Grief.” Ray sat quietly for a minute and responded. “You know, someday I hope you’ll be able to do more than just survive. I hope you’ll be able to feel some joy around the holidays. I don’t want Nason to grow up associating the holidays with sadness.”

I felt a lump in my throat. A hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach. The absolute truth in what he said hit me like a ton of bricks. He’s right. I’ll probably never live down uttering those words, but it’s true. He is right. I can survive. I have survived and will continue to survive. For Nason’s sake, I need to find joy. It’s necessary. Necessary Joy.

Last year I refused to put up the Christmas tree or decorate. This year we did. It was20151129_153003n’t easy. Meri came over and helped take my place. It was always my job to pass out the ornaments to the kids and reflect on how they were at the age they made them. I couldn’t do it this year. I took Eli to play and Meri took over for me. She’s the strongest person I’ve ever met. Nason commented to me later about how I didn’t do my job. It bothered him. I was simply honest and reminded him that last year I could12348070_10153820289199640_3965445487099618801_nn’t even put a tree up. Next year maybe I’ll be strong enough to face each ornament, each memory.

Passing the tree each day is a struggle. Some days I avoid looking at it. Nolan has made more of the ornaments than anybody else. Sometimes it makes the emptiness so vast. Other times, I am able to take an ornament in my hand and remember him at that age and smile. I cry, always, but sometimes I smile too. Like when I found this written on the back of an ornament. I don’t remember noticing that Nolan had signed it before. Maybe it’s a message from him for all of us. Even at 11 years old, Nolan understood what was really important.

I’ve given Nolan his own tree. It’s a work in progress and we will continue with the tradition of adding an ornament each year. Nason helped me decorate it this year. We were able to talk about Nolan and think of what kinds of ornaments we would put on it without tears. We laughed at some memories, and it was exactly what we both needed.

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I’m still struggling each day with each breath, but I’m getting stronger. I have to find honest Joy in my life. For Nason, for Eli, for Ray, for Meri, for Heather, for Nik…for Nolan, and for me. Nolan and I shared this zest for life, this spark for experiences. We shared a passion for nature, for laughter, for music, for love. If I don’t find a way to allow that back into my life, I’ve lost yet another connection to my precious boy. Nason also shares that same zest. It connects us with Nolan. I don’t want Nason growing up seeing nothing but sadness during the “happiest time of the year.” He’s my touchstone, and I refuse to allow his childhood to be miserable because of this tragedy. He deserves better, and so does Nolan.

For both of my boys, I choose Joy. I choose Life. Until I can feel it wholeheartedly, I will take the little bits that come as progress. Sometimes I forget how strong I am. On the days I can’t feel it, I look at Nason, and he reminds me. Joy is absolutely necessary.

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Nolan’s Hands

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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.