Thursday, October 15, 2009

And the Scary Thing Is!

There are some down sides to the fall. With the fall comes football (good thing) and the upcoming holiday season (bad thing). Already I am being assaulted with reminders of the holidays on the radio and by my mother-in-law. I didn't really need reminding. I knew what lay ahead from the beginning of this awful nightmare. I knew at some point I was going to have to face unwrapping the tree ornaments and finding the one Mother bought for Kelsey her first Christmas, and shaking off the mothballs for the stockings that Greg's mother had so carefully and elaborately embroidered for each of us and seeing Kelsey's there, like a silent accusation.

Candidly, if it were just Greg and I, we'd be off on a trip somewhere over the Christmas holiday. I would fully be planning on our running completely and utterly away from it. Maybe we can face it next year, or the year after that, but we've had enough reality for this year, so... But, it's not just the two of us, so we have to soldier on. This has been weighing heavily on my mind for a while now. But, first comes Halloween. Why is that an issue? This holiday designed for kids and/or adults who have a secret bit of Adam Lambert in them and get to indulge that once a year with no consequences? Well, nothing other than the inevitable march of time that draws us ever closer to the really hairy holidays where Kelsey's absence will be the elephant in the room. But, like a good little soldier, I bought my treats and actually plan on dressing up in costume for work that day to compete in the annual competition. And, it occurred to me when I bought my selections to hand out that I wouldn't have to hide them for the first time in a long while. In year's past when Kelsey was living at home, I would have to squirrel the Halloween treats away or she would binge on them. This year, my only worry was keeping them fresh and little four legged critters out of them. There was an odd sense of relief and sadness when I realized this. The scary thing is, life is in many ways easier without Kelsey around. Her bulimia was a monster that lived in the house with the rest of us and held her in its sway. And it was a hard housemate to live with. And an expensive one. As much as we miss and mourn her, we don't miss it.

Last year, I hid the Halloween candy in my closet to keep it from her. Otherwise, she would have torn through the bags in the matter of a single night probably. At any given time, I had half a pantry tucked away in my bedroom somewhere. Even the coffee wasn't safe. I kept it hidden under the doggie steps next to the bed. If I didn't, she would make multiple pots a day, causing me to worry that her compromised heart would burst with the caffeine. But, I couldn't keep everything from her. I went to the store almost daily to try and replace staples she had sawed her way through. Peanut butter being the most precious commodity and the hardest to keep. On the positive side, it was a good source of protein for her. And that's the argument she used to try and keep it in stock, but the down side of it was that it was easy to throw back up. She put it on everything. Bananas, bread, rice cakes, bagels, crackers, or just straight off the spoon. Oatmeal was another favorite of hers, also easy to regurgitate. We went through at least two large containers of peanut butter a week and one of oatmeal, when I would agree to buy it.

And that's the thing with this particular disease. It is, and she would have agreed, just sort of disgusting. And it was stressful on all of us. Marissa would call me if I was out and beg me to come home, telling me how many times she'd watched her sister march into the kitchen. I would get up on many a morning to be greeted by a sink full of dirty dishes that had accumulated in the middle of the night while she was binging rather than sleeping. The entire upstairs had the acidic and rancid smell of human emesis. After she died, I found a grocery bag of vomit and candy wrappers hidden under her bed. I could tell when she had gone through a bad night when she would come down in the morning with red knuckles and red marks around her lips where she had stuffed her hand down her mouth to force herself to throw up. And why she had to do that, I'm not sure because her gag reflex was so acute, keeping food down was actually a chore. She was disgusted and embarrassed by her own actions, which is fairly typical, I am told, but it was also in complete and absolute control of her. I am reading a book by Ann Rice currently about a family of women who are in control of a spirit who in truth controls them and leads them to ultimate ruin. I couldn't handle reading traditional books on grief, but this book is perfect for me now because I relate completely to these ill fated ladies. Kelsey could have been one of them. At first, she reached out to it to have some control over one single thing in her life, and in the end it controlled her completely, and held us hostage at the same time. If you look closely at my kitchen, you'll see holes that have been patched over the wood frame next to the pantry. That's where Greg installed a latch so he could lock it. He wrapped a bicycle lock around the refrigerator too. We lived for a time in a fortress meant to keep Kelsey from binging. If you asked him why he did it, he would have responded that it was to save his daughter from being able to binge and purge. But, the truth of it is that all it did was alienate all of us. We resented having to make it so hard to access or own pantry, and she hated being treated like some criminal in her own home. I don't think locking cabinets and refrigerators is really the course to take, but I know the kind of frustration that causes a parent to do it. Ultimately, bulimia is a disease that will man handle everyone living under the same roof with it.

I literally have a mental image of it. It's a black, dirty, smelly beast with blood shot eyes and smelly breath from filthy, ill kept teeth. It's hair is black and matted and stinking. I called it The Beast, and it seemed to be the most dominant force in the house. The Beast died when Kelsey died. At last she was free of it, but so were we. I will see that weird mental image probably the rest of my days, but now I don't have to contend with it in my house. And it's hard to know how to think of that. Would I welcome it back if it meant I could have my daughter back with me? If I say no, does that mean I'm secretly glad she's dead? I miss my daughter. I don't miss The Beast. I refuse to believe they were one in the same. But it did live wherever she did, and I hated it. I don't miss it. I wanted it to die. I just wanted it to leave my child behind, like a soul exorcised of its devil. Marissa always believed that would eventually come to pass. The scary thing is, I wasn't sure anymore. What does that say about me?

1 comment:

  1. It says you are a perfectly normal human being. You feel love, loss, compassion, and understanding. You also feel fear, anger, frustration, exhaustion, and relief.

    Some of the most effective means of torture isn't extreme pain but the constant application of what is considered "medium" stressors and the dread of anticipating those stressors over time. A drop of water on your forehead doesn't seem so bad, a drop of water on your forehead every 10 to 30 seconds over a period of hundreds of hours? Standing still? How hard is that? Not hard for a few minutes, an hour? two hours? three?

    What you went through over a period of not just hours or even months, but years was more than a "medium" stressor. If, in the tremendous loss you have had to suffer, you can find even some measure of comfort, take it. The best of who Kelsey was and the essence of her that still lives on would not begrudge you that and would want to give you at least that.