Valery Milovic, Grief (http://brokentoyland.com)
I had the worst day yesterday that I've had for a long time. Why is it that the terrible days are the ones that never seem to end? As you might have guessed from Tuesday's post, I was sick to my stomach all that day and into the night.
I wasn't nauseated, my stomach just hurt and I could feel stuff moving around inside like I was a bubbling cauldron. In the night I had dreams about the raw grief I seem to still have over the death of my mother and really her decline in the years before her death. There was a lot of crying and screaming and wailing. When I woke up I felt like all of that had really happened. It remained with me all day. The kids woke me up by climbing into our bed again at 6:30AM. I really wish they would stop doing that.
Somehow I was supposed to spend the day caring for my three-year-old son and myself and also do regular chores like grocery shopping after falling apart all night long. This was completely beyond me. I wasn't even sure I could make it through the first hour. I couldn't stop crying. The world was completely closed in. There was my pain, like the way your stomach feels right before you vomit but without the nausea or vomiting part, just that heavy, bloated, raging pain, and everything else was sort of less real. I could hardly keep my eyes open. I guess I was shutting out any additional stimuli. The world was too much. My husband suggested my son and I go up downstairs and settle in with a documentary on the Sun. He knows me so well. All the way down my inner critic railed at what a terrible mother I was because yet again he was going to watch TV all morning. I didn't care. I couldn't care about anything except escaping the pain. My husband left for work. He would have stayed, but I couldn't let myself let him. I couldn't admit I was that bad. My son could only take 2/3 or so of the sun, so then the harsh sing-songing of Diego's caterwalling voice overwhelmed me. I cowered on the couch, swooning from episode to episode.
Then the boy wanted something to eat. The boy wanted orange juice. I fumbled up the stairs to get them, then back down to our basement rec room whose withered Christmas tree still stood in silent testimony to my failure as a wife and mother. Well, not completely silent, every once in a while an ornament would clatter and tinkle down to the ground. (I know. It's a new record for us.) My husband called to check on me. I was a crying mess, but no, he shouldn't come home. If he did, he warned me he was going to drag me through the motions of life and I couldn't handle that. The boy wanted to go upstairs, so we did. I collapsed on the couch. He kept wanting things. I couldn't do it. His needing me to get him to the bathroom did get me up, but too quickly and upon my return from turning the light on for him I got a headrush and fell to my knees, dizzy. Back to the couch.
The boy colonized me and snuggled in. He fell asleep, blessedly. Then so did I.
My sister and I were rushing into my father's arms in the basement of our (now sold) house, in tears over our mother's death. All of physical symptoms of my anxiety were back, the nauseated and tight stomach, waves of cold running down my arms, sweating, and a strange sense or unreality. Then I was somewhere else. I couldn't handle going back to work! I couldn't handle things as they were, how was I going to go back to work?! I was imagining it and feeling sick. Then I was on an orange floor, writhing and screaming and waling and sobbing and it would not end. Mom was dead and I would never be a child again and I could not handle any of it.
I woke up two hours, or maybe three, later, changed. My head was a bit clearer and I became really aware of and frightened at just how unwell I had just been that morning. My son woke up and we both got dressed and I picked my daughter up from school. They played at the playground while I sat in my car horrified at myself and alternately scanning the scene for my kids and sobbing. My husband would be home early for the elementary school's math-a-thon. So there was that.
When he got home I went into the bathroom for the relief of a moment of privacy, and completely fell apart. My world was grief. Grief for my mother. Grief for my lost, treasured childhood. Grief for my nuclear family, now dispersed. Grief for my lost childhood home, now inhabited by strangers. Grief for being the person I was instead of someone better. Grief for my husband, who continually had to step up and be the grown-up in the house. Grief for my kids who would not have a normal, sane, happy mother who enjoyed caring for the family and the home. Overwhelming grief. Too much to bear. I rocked and remembered how I used to rock myself when I was a baby (I have crib memories), and then cried at that time being lost. During a pause I cleaned myself up, surprisingly quickly, and went downstairs. There was the damn Math thing at the school and my husband was volunteering and couldn't handle both kids. I couldn't bear for my husband to take my daughter and leave me at home alone again with my son, so I had to go along. We walked. I stabilized a bit.
I knew that in the crowded gym no one could read my thoughts, but I also knew that I couldn't, or wouldn't, hide my expression behind a happy mask. I've never really done that. I'm not willing to expend that much effort for a stranger. So I must have had a very sour face. Someone who knew me commented on what a great time I must be having. I sat on a stack of gym mats while my husband guided kids through a math game that involved tossing balls into cups. I mechanically played with my son. My husband asked if I wanted to take the boy around to the other tables and do activities. No. I did not. And I didn't. I imagined how shocked everyone would be to know that what I really wanted was to rip my flesh open and hurl my insides at them, making scarlet streaks on the enameled cement block walls. I wanted the gravity of my pain to be known, like it is for an amputee or someone who's lost their jaw to cancer or something. I told myself not everyone there was happy and well balanced. Finally, the boy wanted to go home. We walked home through the darkness. I faked "the pleasant if not happy mommy" all the way home, the best I could do for him, where we went back downstairs and watched a documentary about Mars until the other two came home.
You might notice that there was no dinner in any of this. That would be because I did not go to the grocery store like I desperately needed to do that day. The kids turned up leftover pizza, and my husband won't eat it as he's on a strict diet. Frankly there is nothing currently in the house that my husband can or will eat. I don't know what his plans were about that. He said he would take care of himself and not to worry about it. I took him at his word.
FINALLY there was the long, dragged out bedtime routine that is typical of our family. Then it was 10:00PM. We really need to get them to bed earlier. But I was in no position to modify any routines tonight. I silently cried on my son's floor until he was asleep. Then I came in here to write this down before it all got fuzzy. And to think, just this week I had worried that I would forget what it was like to be in crisis and find it hard to write about it.
So why did this happen?
I didn't change my meds. I did get sick on Valentine's day. I also talked to my dad that day, which is unusual. We hadn't talked in months, not for any reason, just hadn't. I hadn't been meditating on my mom or anything lately though. I didn't think it was in the front of my mind. Any of you that have been following this know that I've actually had a very good past few weeks, not that it got my Christmas tree taken down. (I can't even say how horrified I am about that.) But I was busy going with my newfound interest in writing and even other things. I did have my dreams of moving out of this house dashed by having a realistic talk about it with my husband over lunch. After that was when I started feeling sick, but that could've been the garlic bread from my salad too or the stomach flu I nursed my son from a couple of days before. I don't know but it was some kind of "perfect storm", and I am still capsized.