Thursday, May 22, 2008

And Just Like That...

I woke up feeling wonderful, yesterday, and the feeling stuck. Just as quickly as the ambush occurred, the enemy retreated and I am feeling happy, again.

I have decided to do a solo cabaret show for which I have begun to prepare. The decision is an indication to me that there is truth in the phrase “2 steps forward, one step back.” I have been wanting to perform my own show for a few years, since before Chris died. In fact, he used to get irritated with me for talking about the song list for years and never doing anything to turn the dream into a reality. Since his death, I have pondered the idea a few times but have not been able to commit to the task. Plus, I had been holding onto a concept which included telling the story of what happened to Chris and singing a song or two to support the idea. At this particular moment, it appears as though I may not mention Chris at all. That’s progress. I’m better at comedy that I ever was at tragedy, anyway.

I’m excited. The only time I ever feel absolute absence of all things sad is when I am singing a song, telling a melodic story, disappearing into the subtext and giving everything I have inside of me to an audience who I bring with me, along for the fantastical ride. I’m targeting September for a date. I just have to find a venue, hire some musicians and put my nose to the grindstone.

I’m going to put down my laptop and enjoy the feeling of my body, finally in as much of a relaxed state as its muscles ever get, which is still moderately aroused. Oh well. I’ll take what I can get, just as long as this respite from grief lasts.



Tuesday, May 20, 2008

"Dont make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."

Last night, I dreamed Chris proposed to me again, and that we were going to be married. I think I may have had that dream once before since he died. As usual, I felt my entire chest cavity fill to capacity with love, goodness and emotion for which there are no words, just as it did during the time we shared.

I awoke feeling calm, like everything is okay, but even so, I also had to swallow my tears on the bus to Harvard Square.

Lately, I have been prone to grief-meltdowns during the time I spend alone, which is most often at night. I’m still not certain what causes the constant ebb and flow of despair at such a late stage in the game. I only know that my grief is never really gone. The sadness and anger go on hiatus, and consistent cheer and happiness stay for extended visits, but I don’t believe grief ever leaves for good.

While trying to understand what grief feels like for me, one of my friends likened my state to that of a multiple personality disorder or possibly to a “Jekyll and Hyde” story. I corrected her, stating that what little I know about schizophrenia seems more accurate, even though I don’t suffer from the disorder. I, myself, feel like the portrayed character of John Nash in the movie, "A Beautiful Mind." Grief lives alongside me, like the people in his dillusions that he, ultimately chose to ignore. Most of the time, I'm able to ignore my grief and the flashes of images from my experience that try to haunt me. I'm not always effectively able to, though, so I end up collapsing under their weight, like an accused witch being pressed to death.

"You're sad! Admit it!"
"No! I'm not! I'm fine!"
"Admit that you're grief-stricken!"
"Admit to your sins!"
"Okay! I'm sad! I'm still sad!"

But I get nothing for having admitted to my sadness, except a crushing meltdown that either leaves me shaking on the sofa or passed out from sheer exhaustion.

The character, David Banner, from the 70's show, "The Incredible Hulk" (“Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”) is another good analogy. He, like I, spent his days searching for the scientific answers and the antidote that will end his transformations into the beast he becomes and allow him to return to a normal life.

I don’t feel like two different people. Instead, I feel like a person who is constantly sitting, standing and/or walking next to a black storm-cloud filled with what happened. The cloud, pregnant with images, memories, despair and un-granted wishes floats next to me. My course of action has been to try to ignore its presence and keep on moving.

Anyone who has experienced soreness in a muscle or an extremity and kept touching or moving the injured body part to see if the pain was still there, can understand how I can end up, repeatedly, floating into the cloud and into the pain.

This latest onset of repeat-grief is particularly menacing. As I have mentioned before, I may have ended my therapy in haste. I don’t want to return to Clay. His job is one well done.

I may begin to try to work with a woman psychologist I have found who specializes in loss, cognition and behavior, and hypnosis. I have never talked with a professional whose specialty has been grief. Every time I found those credentials in someone, I was told I was too far out in my grief process or not far out enough. I was even told by a grief-counselor I met with (she also lost her husband many years earlier – seemed a perfect match for my plight) that I could expect to receive some literature from her in the mail and that she would call me to set up another appointment. She did neither. I’m not sure of the reason(s), but she never contacted me.

Still, every ounce of help I have received has made a difference for the better. I don’t pretend that my situation is an easy one to help. I give kudos to any therapist who attempts to lend an ear.

So, I suppose I’ll make the phone call and begin, once again, to tell my story. I need to tell my story, repeatedly. There is healing in the telling.

And if healing is my goal, then I suppose I ought to begin retelling.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Lynching

I know the dangers of studying psychology - a student’s tendency to diagnose herself with a new disorder with each passing chapter. Still, I suffered from anxeity long before I began studying anxiety disorder. So which came first? My anxiety, or my psychology text book?

I have to admit, reading about post-traumatic stress disorder, last week, caused me to lose traction in my treck upward. Even though nobody seems to think I suffer from PTSD, I could have been reading about myself in my text for all of the similarities between the pages in my book and the pages in my own personal story.

For example, in talking with my brother on the phone last night, after a very slight (by comparison to clinically-diagnosed folk) panic attack that began at the mall (even though I’m usually ashamed to admit that I even set foot into a mall -- but Macy’s, man, y’know?) I popped the cork on some pent up angst I had been experiencing for the better part of a week.

I have spent the past three weeks preparing for and then working, day and night, at a conference, attending marathon rehearsals for the show I’m doing (which is opening this Satruday evening), studying for and taking two psychology exams and then scrambling to continue my reading so as to not fall behind for the next two upcoming exams, plus managing to get in three workouts a week, all while working full-time.

I’m never one to admit that I have taken on too much. Usually my friends think I have, even though my capacity to handle many activities at once is unbreakable. I have been practicing and thriving on such a schedule for many, many years. However, since Chris died, I find that when I don’t leave myself time to think about him, grief begins vying for the spotlight, pushing its ugly head up, up, up, competing for its place on the stage.

Yesterday, as panic set in, I began to feel completely exposed, fat, sloppy and unattractive. I needed to get out of the mall and get home as fast as possible. Because I identified the anxiety, I wasn’t freaked out by the symptoms. I began breathing and walking to the train station, telling myself everything is okay.

What happened then is what makes me think I have some semblance of PTSD-like symptoms. In the middle of telling myself, “Everything is okay,” my chest completely bottomed-out and I lost my breath. My very next thought was, “Except that Chris is still dead.” In one-second’s time, my brain unscrambled the message,”If everything is okay...and Chris is still dead...then what I’m essentially saying is that it’s okay that Chris is dead.” and my thoughts formed a cord that wrapped around my neck and instantly strangled me.

What happened? A flashback? A typical grief-reaction? Exhaustion? I’m not really sure. I’m not a person who is controlled by anxiety, but I was yesterday.

I don’t know what my next course of action will be. Maybe I was hasty in ending my therapy. I may benefit from talking with somebody new and trying to change some of my cognitions about life and death and about how much I deserve to be “okay” without “okay” meaning I have forgotten about Chris.

Friday, May 2, 2008


41 today. Chris has been gone for three and a half years. He would have been 37, but according to God’s plan, Chris is forever 34.

What’s different this year, from last year? First of all, I’m the one who designed the celebration and invited my friends to dinner, this year. As far as my birthday goes, grief is nonexistent.

I have a wish. Six, or so, of the courses I have taken at school have been taught by the same professor. I like his classes because his life experience in his work is extremely fascinating. The man works at Dana Farber Cancer Institute, which he announces at the beginning of each class, as was the case the first time I ever took one of his classes.

The second he announced his employment, I experienced a fusion in my mind. He was there, working, at the same time I was getting the news that my husband was dying.

I’m not sure what that means. Something psychological happened and I’d like to understand what that something is. Transference? I don’t know. I’m not opposed to asking him, as long as I can do so sans emotion. A simple e-mail would take care of that end of things. His job, in my world, is professor, not therapist. The trouble is that because he is a therapist outside of his teaching job, I keep feeling a pull toward him. I suppose there are worse things in life than recruiting my professor to lend a little bit of his day-life expertise to me. He offered his help in the past when I asked about missing class to attend a grief-support group.

That’s my very simple wish, easily granted if I choose to request.

Beyond that, my grief is manageable. The guilt I feel about my grief being manageable causes me 2nd-tier grief...or should I say 2nd “tear” grief.

Happy Birthday Me