Before I start writing the main theme of today’s post I wanted to follow up on yesterday’s post. Sometimes I post things here that aren’t necessarily easy to understand. Though I write this blog for public consumption, there are definitely portions of it that read more like a diary. As such without having to write page after page of back story, it isn’t necessarily possible to understand the context for which I am writing. Much of yesterday’s blog post concerned the interaction between me and one specific person. Therefore there’s a good chance no one else really got it. Lastly, the comments I made about something happening in 11 days is an activity in which I am going to take part. I have only shared the details of this activity with 4 people and I don’t intend to say much more about it until then. It is something that is going to be really special to me. I can’t contain myself when it comes to talking about it in a general sense but for now it is something I want to keep private. I know that seems like a contradiction, but in one way I am having a hard time keeping my mouth shut and in another way I want to keep it all very contained and private. Sorry for that seemingly contradictory feeling! I will share everything about once it is complete. Sorry!
I often wonder what people think when they read my blog entries. There are a few who are very direct and to the point and send me blunt, direct e-mails and pretty much tell me to go screw myself. However, most of the comments sent directly to me in e-mail aren’t nasty. Most of the comments sent directly to me express some form of compassion for what I am feeling. A few have even expressed solitary with what I feel and have told me that my writings have helped clarify their own thinking and feelings. Those e-mails are gratifying and give me a sense of peace for all that I put out there.
Recently there have been some definite swings in terms of the attitude I have displayed when writing. Some days have been good and I have written in a positive, hopeful mood as I look towards the future. Other days – like yesterday have been filled with less hopeful writing and a general tone of sadness, bitterness and anger.
Before my life changed so drastically when Patty fell ill, my overall approach to life was typically upbeat, cheery, irreverent and happy. One of my favorite expressions from back then was the simple saying “It is what is”. I used that expression to shrug off the occasional disappointments and hardships of life. Back then my life wasn’t particularly hard in my opinion. Yeah – there had been some tragedy as both my parents died within a short time of each other and Patty and I had lost 5 babies – including one at six months to miscarriages. I also had to work extremely hard at my job as I was normally on the road for 2/3 of the year or more. But in general, life was pretty good, fun and happy. Whenever bad stuff happened I tended to shrug it off and just say “it is what it is”.
Even once Patty was sick I still managed to keep a pretty upbeat attitude. There were some periods that were more trying than others. But I generally kept things light, happy and somewhat fun. When Patty was in the hospital for 14 months straight before she died I got to know all the nurses in the bone marrow transplant/oncology unit. I came to find out that the nurses thought I was the most pleasant family member with whom they had to work. I was pleased to hear that because I felt it reflected the true nature of who I was.
After Patty died I still retained my light-hearted nature but I found more and more my feelings were subjected to swings of sadness, despair, bitterness and anger. There was a lot of unfocused anger running through my psyche and it would frequently flair out as I had to deal with Zack’s anxiety issues. Aside from the anger I found more and more that my moods were being driven by feelings of anxiety and desperation to which I could find no relief. Using logic I could determine that my feelings were absolutely unreasonable, but yet my mental/emotional tools that I had to calm these feelings just weren’t working.
Ultimately the root cause of these feelings came down to the fact that I was still grief stricken at Patty’s death. I understood that she was gone; I understood that she was never coming back, but yet the finality of her death and of the changes in my life left my soul filled with intense pain. I was and still am for that matter, so angry about all that I have lost. It wasn’t that I just lost my partner; it was that I had lost my whole future. Prior to Patty’s death there was a plan, there were goals, there were dreams, there were ambitions together as a family and then they all evaporated. I know for many people it may seem silly to the extent of what I feel I lost. Many people go through the losses of their spouse, or they get divorced and it doesn’t affect them in the way it has affected me. One of the reasons it had such an impact on me is that prior to this point my life had kind of run like clockwork. I wasn’t anal retentive about planning things, but in my head I had this series of plans of how my life was going to run. Patty and I had been together so long by the time she got sick that she was interwoven into every aspect of my day-to-day life and my future. And then it was all gone!
For a long time I managed to keep the swings between the positive moods and the depression, anxiety, bitterness and anger in relatively good check. Yes – I would have times when I would feel depressed but so does everybody. Now it seems my feelings swing back and forth between depression and a positive outlook almost every day.
When I stop and analyze what is actually happening I realize that my moods aren’t necessarily swinging as much as I think. When I write my blog entries I am pumping up my attitudes and moods and making them more pleasant. In general the light, easy-go-lucky, happy attitude that I used to have has been replaced with a much darker, introspective version of me. On a good day my normal mood is quiet, pensive and taciturn. On a bad day – you just don’t want to be around me as I am sullen, morose and filled with a very dark mood. I am not trying to be mean or nasty to anyone and for the most part I don’t think I am mean or nasty, I am just much quieter than I ever used to be.
My silence is caused by the fact that my brain is usually ten thousand miles away from what I am doing. The focus of my thoughts most frequently is wrapped up in a sense of loss and melancholy. There have been occasions when I have been at a party or at bar talking to someone and I am thinking to myself “If only this person that I am talking to knew the thoughts that were going through my head.” It’s not that there are bad or mean thoughts running through my head, it is just that my thoughts have nothing to do with the person I am talking to.
There have been times in which this sense of loss and melancholy goes away. I will be honest and admit that when I was with Shelly there were times in which those feelings would recede and I could start imagining a new future with her. However, in most cases the thoughts of a future with her would rapidly vanish because of the discord between us. In that case the differences between Shelly and I would cause us to argue and then it would just enhance my sense that I had lost so much. Though I was very much in love with her, Shelly’s ability to soothe my soul and diminish that overall sense of loss wasn’t the best. There were times when we could be very happy and I could leave that sense of loss behind. However, because of who she was and who I was, being together often created a greater sense of loss because we disagreed about so much.
The woman who I briefly dated after Shelly, Chris had no impact on these internal feelings. Though we got along really well and had lots of fun together the chemistry between us didn’t allow for her presence to lift me out of that sense of loss. The two of us being together didn’t make the sense of loss, bitterness and melancholy worse, it just left me unaffected. In my mind that is one of the primary reasons we stopped dating. There was no feeling on my part that gave me a sense of urgency that I needed to see her as her presence didn’t affect me and lift me up from the dark place my soul is in.
On the exact side of the equation from Shelly and Chris was Brenda. Her ability to impact my soul and lift me from the places of sadness and loss was profound. When we were together, it was like we were in a bubble in which the 2 of us and our immediate surroundings existed, but the sense of loss and hurt was left behind. With Brenda it may have been our shared experience of loss of a spouse and the resulting anxiety that made her able to lift me out of that place. Brenda had a saying whenever the melancholy or anxiety was building in me that would make it all go away. All she had to do was say “I’m right here” and it was like I would be transported to a different galaxy. Even if I wasn’t with her, those words would blow away my anxiety and pain. It was so effective because I knew she had been exactly where I was at one point. It was wonderful to have that sense of connection with someone. She really had an intrinsic understanding of pain, loss, anger and anxiety that would flow through me almost every second of every day. It sucks we aren’t part of each other lives. I really wanted to be with her, but it was my own fault that we aren’t together. I suppose at some point I should write a blog entry about her and what she meant to me. But that is for a later time.
There are several other things that I feel are driving the swings in my feelings. The first is the relatively constant physical pain in which I find myself. Though I have had 2 operations to solve my herniated disc, the pain is still there and I am starting to think it will be a permanent part of my life. The mornings are the absolute worst. When I get out of bed my right hip, butt and leg just scream in pain. By the time I reach the kitchen, I have to sit down as the pain is so intense I am on the verge of screaming. The pain fills my consciousness for almost 24 hours straight each day. Even when I sleep and turn over in the night, the pain will be so bad that it will wake me up. The only relief comes when I have enough pain killers and (unfortunately) alcohol in me. I believe this pain has come to influence how and what I think about. Often I find myself in despair because so much of what I want to do is now unfathomable because of the pain.
A secondary impact of the pain is the fact that I continue to take steroids to help address the problem. Over the last month I have taken some large doses of steroids. This drug has a significant outlook on how I see the world. As the drug enters my blood stream every day, I can feel its impact begin immediately. It is as though my blood is being set on fire and begins to boil. I know this drug can drag me from one side of the emotional scale to the other in a very short order and I hate it.
So where does all this leave me. I am left in a position that I am tested every day. The simple answer to what I face is to belly up to the bar at LoDo's or some other place once the work day is done. But it doesn't work like that. I have the responsibility of raising a son. That responsibility will never go away. So I wake up every morning and I face what I face and I deal with it. Some days I deal with it a lot worse than other days. Other days I deal with it like a super hero. Wednesday are normally super-hero days because I have to deal with others pain. These are the days that I volunteer at hospice and I see the people who are really in pain. It kind of bring a sense of reality to your system. Yeah - I feel sad and down and out, but guess what - it doesn't compare to what Mrs. XYZ in room 4 is facing because she knows she is going to be dead in a couple of days. It kind of puts things in perspective.
Well for a Wednesday evening I think that is all she wrote. Zack is in bed and the dogs are waiting for me to come upstairs and snuggle with them. So it is time to cut the evening short and go to bed. Tomorrow is another is another day and there will be other battles to be fought. But for now there is quiet and there is peace. And so with that I say good night!
Thanks and peace to all! ~J.