My perception has always painted my grief a monstrous, ominous, seemingly insurmountable sharp-edged mountain, surrounded in black clouds, towering in front of me, growing ever larger and ever darker, each time I have attempted to climb up and over. But that perception has never stopped me from trying, again and again, succeeding a little bit more with each try.
I think I may have had as close to a real major depressive episode as I am capable of having this past week. Generally, I’m a pretty sane person, and I’m aware that depressive episodes are very serious, which is why I provide this disclaimer. Because I listened to myself, and figured out what I needed, I was able to smash away a huge portion of Grief Mountain with my pick axe, and watch it separate from the rest of the rock, and fall to the ground where it disintegrated into a harmless cloud of dust.
I don’t know how my thoughts became so twisted. I doubted my future, calling my engagement and eventual marriage to Jonathan into question, along with my ability to laugh, to sing, to be my own person, and to feel free from the heaviness I had allowed to encompass my heart. I was ambushed, once again, drowning in my horror of what happened to Chris. I cried at work, at school, at home, all the while finding ways to masquerade as a happy and healthy fiancée to Jonathan. By mid week this past, I had convinced myself that I was better off not being anyone’s fiancée, and seriously began to think about jumping off the relationship ledge. I had returned to a place of great pain, and in doing so, forgot that people who have experienced loss can be happy, again. Each and every one of us deserves to be happy, again. And the people whose lives we touch, merely by existing, also deserve to have us in their lives.
I took two personal days off of work this past Thursday and Friday. Most of Thursday, I spent in indecisive turmoil, lamenting over my loss of almost six years ago. My pain over the occurrences of Chris’ illness and death returned full-force…no, more than full force, a flashback of sorts…wrapping around my ankles, tripping me up, and sending me crashing to the ground. I wanted out of my new life and back into my old life with Chris so badly that for the first time in a long time, I felt incapable of handling the intensity.
During my two-day sabbatical, I did things only for myself. I returned to singing. I ran. I cooked. I tried to breathe, although I wasn’t very successful.
During the late afternoon, this Thursday past, I drove to the boxing gym, which now takes over thirty minutes, lifted weights, and took a 5-mile run. When I was finished, I grabbed my stuff from the locker room and left. On my drive home, I had an epiphany: I no longer need to go there. I don’t box, anymore, I never really did, anyway. I just needed to release my anger, anguish and shock. Boxing provided me a most effective method of doing just that. I had thought about joining a new gym for a while, but never really could let go of my old gym, which had become a surrogate husband to me. In a sense, the gym became my handle to Chris, his hand, a way for me to hold onto him, which is why the thought of leaving the gym, in the past, had sent me into mother-bear mode, protecting my right to hold on to my husband, the boxing gym. The mind's ability to make sense where there isn't any is very powerful.
My decision to leave the gym empowered me. I began to spring back into existence, the Robin I used to know began returning to this stage we call life.
Last week, I explained to Jonathan, my difficulty in moving forward with him, reassuring him that I would eventually be able to do so with ease. I described my vision to him, which is a vision of Chris dangling off of a cliff, holding onto my hand as I try to pull him to safety. In my vision, my grip weakens, and I try with all of my might to hold onto him, but he slips, my eyes widen, and I scream, “Nooooooooooo!” as he plummets to the bottom of the mountain. I fail in that vision, as in life, to save him. The thought takes my breath from me. Jonathan identified survivor’s guilt in my vision, and he was right. Even though it’s not possible for one human being to give another human being cancer, I carry a secret stash of guilt and responsibility for Chris’ demise.
Tonight, I shared my new epiphany with Jonathan, explaining how the black piece of rock cracked, broke from the mountain of grief, and fell to the bottom of the ravine. I shared another vision of mine with him, one of the boxing gym becoming dim, gray and covered with cobwebs immediately followed by a vision of Jonathan's house, our home, lighting up and filling with warmth.
After six weeks of living here in my new home, six weeks of fighting forward movement, feeling alienated, and wanting to run home to Cambridge, the city I love, but really wanting to run back to Chris, to my life alone, where I was free to indulge in my past. I am free. The gear has turned. I’m here by choice. My new gym is a five-minute walk from home, and I’m ready to let go of the blanket I knitted out of the grief I expended at the boxing gym these past three years. I feel ready to knit a new one, now, out of happiness, hope and my new love.
This event is a huge one. I can see the sun, once hidden by the giant piece of rock that broke away, peaking over the mountain, and the mountain keeps getting smaller.