Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Five years ago I was a happy, energetic married mother of three beautiful daughters, and although I am still happily married with three beautiful daughters, but I was no longer happy or energetic.
When my baby sister died in January 2005, my life went downhill fast, into a swirling, liquid, non-stop flight of depression and grief. I eventually quit my job as a Registered Nurse because I was suddenly unhappy with my work – or was it because my sister had been in nursing school and we had plans of her joining me at the hospital where I worked? Although I don't regret leaving my job for a single minute, I have isolated myself away from the world, surrounding myself into a cocoon of grief.
I used to love working in my gardens, but the past five years, my poor gardens have been terribly neglected because I haven't had the energy or desire to take care of them. My home is also not as clean, my meals not as delectable, and my volunteer work has blown to the wayside.
My wonderful hubby accepted me for who I was and loved me unconditionally, but I knew he was worried about me. The same goes for my three daughters – gone was the mother who participated in every aspect of her children’s lives, replaced by the shell of a mother who was just barely hanging on.
Up until about four years ago, I was the "take charge" person in every crisis, methodically working through the problems to find the right solution. Only after the crisis was over and everything was going back to normal did I allow myself a moment of panic. But since the death of my sister, the "take chargedness" has left me. Suddenly I am a person who falls apart at the first little hint of trouble, and when things really get bad, I melt down and have to go to sleep. Sleep is my new coping mechanism, protecting me from having to deal with situations or problems that cause me great stress.
For the past five years, I have been running from life - running from the grief of my sister's death. Her passing left a huge crater in my heart and it has been difficult to leap over the wide expanse of pain. My family has given me space – given me time to come to terms with my heartache and for that, I will always be grateful.
Just when I think I’m ready to jump back into the real world, my mother dies. For three weeks, on and off, she was in and out of the hospital and with the exception of one night, I stayed with her every night. If I hadn’t stayed, my Dad would not have left her sight and I knew he needed his rest. And after all, I had been a nurse for 20 years.
Again the pain and grief came crashing down on me. The only difference is my Momma had been sick for a long time, and I was comforted by the fact she was no longer in pain. I miss her terribly, even still pick up the phone to try and call her before I remember, I won’t be able to talk to her again for a long time.
My bottomless pit of misery didn’t last as long this time, probably for two reasons. The first is as soon as I realized how sick my Momma was, I worked with my psychiatrist to change my medications to help me deal with the depression, anxiety and anti-social behavior that still plaque my life. I knew I would be in and out of hospitals, so my anxiety had to be more under control so I could be more in control. The second reason, I think, is because my sister’s death was so sudden, unexpected; she had just turned her life around. Amy had changed her life; Momma was very sick.
Now it is time for me to begin living again. This year I am trying harder to pull my life together and enjoy the small things in life. Last year at my husband’s encouragement, I signed up for a writing workshop at my local public library. This was one of the best things to happen in my life for several years.
Not only did this workshop jumpstart my writing career, it has made a huge difference in my attitude on life and has given me a network of other writers to lean on. For someone with a severe anxiety disorder and phobia of being in large groups of people, I have been forcing myself to participate in public readings.
To say these activities scare me to death is an understatement, but I can actually see myself growing as a person and a writer, instead of always hiding in the shadow. I realize that in order to introduce myself back into society, I am going to have to put effort into going out in public.
After five years of self-deprecating pain and grief, I am now running toward life with new hopes and dreams. I'm still struggling, but the baby steps are turning into toddler steps and for the first time, I'm catching glimpses of my former self.
The shadows of my past are still leave scars upon my soul, but some are lightened with age; some are still fresh like a huge, gaping wound. The trials and tribulations which have shaped my life have been a mixture of feelings and hope, emotions and tears, lessons and sins. I have clawed my way up from the inside out, testing and trying to find the right way, hoping the shadow of painful memories will stop cutting me too sharply. I’m learning to stand tall again, learning to live life again and learning the mysterious lessons presented in my life.