Thursday, June 30, 2011

Today I smiled...

It is interesting how you have certain ideas about yourself, and then a lesson creeps up, smacks you in the face, and shows you that some of your preconceived notions were completely wrong. When this happens, it shakes your axis. Makes you wonder if anything you believe to be true really is or if you're existing in a parallel universe.

Last week, for whatever reason, with all ready too many reasons to be sad--Father's day and my dad's birthday coming up--I decided to read Jill Bialosky's memoir of her sister's life and death History of a Suicide. The book, Bialosky's writing specifically, is hauntingly beautiful. The subject matter, unfortunately, was too much for me to handle in what was all ready a fragile state. I cried for days. Relived my brother's life...and death. Asked all the same questions that I'd all ready asked 150,000 times 100 more times.

Brad asked me, "Why would you read that book? You know it's going to make you sad." I don't know why I felt compelled to read it. I guess because I wanted to know how someone else experienced this kind of tragedy. I needed to know how someone else felt, and dealt with, and got past that kind of horrific grief. And that's the part that made me the saddest was that she never "got past" it. There was a quote in the book, and I can't remember who said it or the exact wording, but the idea was that time doesn't heal grief it just makes living more bearable.

People who haven't directly experienced this can't understand why, if I talk about my brother 15 years later, I still will tear up. Suicide takes one life and destroys  many. I have a wonderful husband, a good life, three terrific children, but always over my head hangs that black cloud. Part of me will always be broken.

So in the midst of missing my dad, reliving my brother's death, catching my husband smoking--yep, putting that right in the same category--I found myself in a depression out of which I could not snap. "Think positive thoughts," "Choose to be happy," "Count your blessings." I did all of those things and still found it was an effort to smile. What do you do about that? I prayed, read, prayed, willed my despair to go away, begged God to lift it, and finally, when I found myself feeling like maybe the world would be better off without me, went to the doctor. Don't get me wrong; I wasn't suicidal. I would never destroy the people I love that way, but I found myself wondering why I was here when I wasn't bringing any good to anyone.

After telling all of this stuff to the doctor, taking the same mental health screener I used to administer, I was prescribed a "anti-depressant/mood stabilizer," and joined the ranks of the medicated. I have only taken the pill for a few days now and can't say that I notice any difference. I feel less sad, but not exactly happy. I feel some hope. Is it the drug? I don't know. Maybe. I think it is the knowledge that I have taken a step to get better rather than actually being better. I'll take it. Whatever it is. Today, I smiled without forcing it.

Monday, June 6, 2011

You have a beautiful heart and black lungs.

Quitting smoking was a really empowering experience. After years of being a slave to cigarettes, it was so freeing not to have to get up every morning and smoke--not to have to go outside in the freezing cold, rain, whatever elements to get a nicotine fix. To be able to run for more than 20 seconds without feeling as if my lungs were going to explode. Although as far as addictions go, mine certainly wasn't the worst you could have, it was the worst I had. Seven months later, I can still say that quitting smoking was one of the best things I have ever done.

When people ask me how I quit, usually I say, "I just quit." By that, I mean I didn't use any nicotine-replacement aids. I prayed. I quit for a few months here and there before using the patch, but I always went back. I always fell into the addict's trap: I beat this, so now I can just have one cigarette. I can never just have one cigarette because that, for me, is a slippery slope. I know people who can just smoke socially and they're fine. Never waking up at 6:00 craving nicotine. I'm not, nor can I ever be, one of them.

When my dad died, one of my first instincts was to go buy a pack of cigarettes. No one would judge me. And maybe for a few minutes, I would feel okay, I would feel happy, I would feel that artificial rush of endorphins instead of the dull, sickening, overwhelming sadness that I felt. Fortunately, God strengthened me. He gently reminded me that smoking wasn't going to bring my dad back. And ultimately, it wasn't going to mend my broken heart.

I have a lot wrapped up in quitting smoking. It has taken on more significance than perhaps it should. So when I caught my husband yesterday on the side of the house, smoking, well, he might has well have been having sex with another woman. Actually I'd almost rather he'd been having sex with another woman. That I could compete with. I can't compete with nicotine.

My husband has been the most consistent person in my life for the past 21 years (minus that year he was on midnights, but I've managed--almost--to repress that.) He's nearly always in a good mood. He rarely gets angry. He always loves me. He's extremely, sometimes annoyingly, predictable. All of this feels very safe for me because my life has had too many unpleasant surprises. For years, Brad didn't understand why I would get so upset and worried if he didn't call or was five minutes late. The day I called him on a random Tuesday afternoon to tell him my brother had committed suicide, he started to get it. Too often, the unthinkable, has been my reality.

So, I don't know where to go from here. I don't know what to do with these feelings. I don't know how to be supportive and helpful and loving when I'm so FUCKING pissed. I know this certainly isn't the worst thing you can face in a's just the worst thing I'm facing today.